Unusual Tourist Sites: Tombstone, Arizona Part 1

About the unusual tourist site of Tombstone, Arizona home of the shootout at the O.K. Corral, history and inforamtion.

Tombstone, Arizona

How does a small community isolated in the Arizona desert ever achieve any notoriety? It's not an easy accomplishment, but Tombstone did it--the hard way. In 8 quick years in the latter part of the 19th century, Tombstone emerged from obscurity, its fame due to a heavy dose of Western violence. Many people died in the streets of Tombstone during that era. Others found wealth in the silver mines, but then quickly left town to protect their money and their persons.

Tombstone thus returned to being a ghost town at the turn of the century. Even today, its population is only 1,500 (about 13,000 less than at its peak), although many of the buildings erected in the 1880s are still standing. The town, nevertheless, still has some vitality left in it.

The commotion is particularly heavy during the annual Helldorado Days celebration. For 3 days in mid-October, townspeople re-create the notorious gunfights, hangings, and other blood-splattering events that marred the town's beginnings. It's one horror story after another, as visitors are "treated" to a program of events which includes "Shooting of Marshal White," "Lynching of John Heath," "Cold-Blooded Murder," "The Brisbee Massacre," and "The Gunfight at the O. K. Corral."

That battle at the O. K. Corral was the showdown in 1881 that left Billie Clanton and the McLowery Brothers dead, the victims of Virgil and Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Actually, the bloodbath occurred not at the corral, but in a nearby alley. Today, fiber glass life-size figures have been stationed in the spots each gunslinger stood that day. Nearby, a black-hatted dummy will challenge you to outdraw him--at 25 cent a try.

When the tourists aren't converging on Tombstone during Helldorado Days, the 4-mi.-sq. town is a quiet, mellow place whose prime appeal is its warm, dry climate, which lures sufferers with respiratory ailments or arthritis. The moral climate has changed there, too: For the 1st time within memory, churches now outnumber bars in Tombstone, 5 to 2.

There was one period recently when some fast-talking promoters moved into Tombstone and tried to commercialize and exploit the small town. One promoter attempted to sell square-inch plots of Boot Hill cemetery, but the City Council stopped him.

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