What, you may ask, does a picture of Doc Holliday’s dental chair have to do with any ghost story out of the Old West? Besides the fact of which this pic might not be the actual chair but a mock-up! The chair might not be real. The same could be said of ghosts and ghost towns, despite multiple accounts to the contrary. Ghosts might not be real but many believe they do exist; having witnessed apparitions and experienced strange occurrences while strolling down ghost town streets in western history.

What facts might connect Doc Holliday’s dental chair with ghosts out of a time gone by? I’ve not read of any accounts of John Henry Holliday walking today’s ghost town streets, whether in Arizona, Texas, Kansas, or Colorado. History books are filled, however, with pages of Doc Holliday’s notorious life in the Old West. He lived and died there. He is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Colorado Springs. Everyone accepts the “fact” he fought alongside the Earp’s in 1881 in an alleyway nearby the O.K. Corral in Tombstone. Add to this the “facts” he graduated from dental school and practiced dentistry off and on; was a gambler, a consumptive, a drinker, an opium user, a crack shot with a six-shooter, expert with a knife, fast-friends with Wyatt Earp, and had an off and on relationship with Big Nose Kate. If you were on the other side of Doc Holliday’s gun or knife, you were already dead.

Maybe Doc Holiday killed one of the hundred murder victims buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville, Colorado; though this is unlikely since he had to be law-abiding in his later years in Colorado so not to be extradited back to Arizona. Still, there might be a body or two “not resting in peace” in the Evergreen Cemetery, at the hands of Doc. To my knowledge the number of men Doc Holliday killed remains unknown. It’s amazing he lived as long as he did in the two-mile-high, City in the Clouds. His tuberculosis returned in Leadville, where he also suffered bouts of pneumonia in thin, bitter-cold air. His weight dropped to 122 pounds, thin and frail yet his aim perfect. A popular figure, he suffered, too, from old rivalries and vendetta’s against him; all wearing him down.

While Doc Holliday wasn’t killed in Leadville between 1883 and 1887, I think his spirit was killed. He suffered humiliation and brutal illness and it tore at his body in ways that a part of him might well be buried in Evergreen Cemetery. Who knows? And, due to development in Colorado Springs nearby the Pioneer Cemetery, his actual remains are lost today; possibly in someone’s back yard.

During his “time” in Leadville, Doc Holiday stayed at the Delaware Hotel, along with other noteworthy visitors, including John Phillips Souza, Houdini, the Unsinkable Molly Brown, and Baby Doe Tabor. Ghost hauntings have been reported along its hallways; supposedly since its construction in 1886. Mary Coffey is a noteworthy ghost in residence, and there are innumerable accountings of seeing the lady in white; her top half only as her spine was severed by her husband’s gunshot. Phantoms roam famed Harrison Avenue in Leadville, as apparitions have been reported over time. Is Doc Holliday among them? I do wonder.

The key to unlock such mystery might be found in something as simple as the old-fashioned pocket watch. Clasp it close and it might reveal more than one graveyard secret, tying cemetery plots together . . . past, present, and future. Doc Holliday was a real person who lived an extraordinary life and was laid to rest in a real cemetery. His aftermath strikes a ghostly chord. Doc Holliday might have carried such a pocket watch just described, and found a timely portal through his difficulty to “Roam In Peace.”

ROAM IN PEACE, Ghosts and Ghost Towns of the Old West.

Best, Joanne