The Bird Cage Theatre was a combination theater, saloon, gambling parlor and brothel that operated from 1881 to 1889 in Tombstone, Arizona, during the height of the silver boom.
History of The Bird Cage
The Bird Cage Theatre opened on December 26, 1881, It was owned by Lottie and William “Billy” Hutchinson. Hutchison, a variety performer, originally intended to present respectable family shows like that he’d seen in San Francisco that were thronged by large crowds. After the Theatre opened, they hosted a Ladies Night for the respectable women of Tombstone, who could attend for free. But the economics of Tombstone didn’t support their aspirations. They soon canceled the Ladies Night and began offering baser entertainment that appealed to the rough mining crowd.
Once inside, customers could buy a drink at the long bar. Behind the bar hung a painting of buxom belly-dancer Fatima in an exotic Oriental outfit. The painting is still hanging behind the bar. It still has six bullet holes and a knife slash in it. The main hall contained a 15 by 15 feet (4.6 by 4.6 m) stage about 5 feet (1.5 m) above the main floor, and an orchestra pit. The stage was lit by a row of gas jets along the front side. There were fourteen cages or boxes on two balconies on either side of the main hall. These boxes, also known as cribs, featured drapes that patrons could draw while entertained by prostitutes.
Between acts, the dancing girls in short dresses and low-cut necklines served drinks and offered sex. Beer was 50 cents on the main floor and $1.00 in the boxes on the balconies. In the basement, a poker room was the site of the longest-running poker game in history. Played continuously twenty-four hours a day for eight years, five months, and three days, legend has it that as much as $10,000,000 changed hands during the marathon game, with the house retaining 10 percent. Some of the participants were Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson, Diamond Jim Brady, and George Hearst. The Bird Cage Theatre operated continuously, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for eight years, from 1881 to 1889. It gained a reputation as one of the wickedest theaters between New Orleans and San Francisco, prompting The New York Times to report in 1882 that “the Bird Cage Theatre is the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast”. More than 120 bullet holes are found throughout the building.
Employees and visitors of The Bird Cage have claimed to see spirits of men in cowboy hats and former prostitues. Some of even reported to have been pushed or touched by unseen forces. Strange noises occur through the night such as laughting, music, or yelling. The Bird Cage puts on ghost tours regularly