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Everyone has heard of jailbirds and prisoners on the run, but who has heard of the jails themselves being on the run? Go to the Wild West ghost town of Jerome in Arizona and one can find a jailhouse on the run. The Jerome jailhouse has slid over 200 feet from where it was first built. The jail has slid down the mountainside and is today one of the ghost town's main attractions.

While the sliding jailhouse of Jerome is a quirky attraction, Jerome itself is worth visiting as a true Wild West ghost town. Arizona has a number of other ghost towns - perhaps the eeriest is Vulture City known as one of the most enticing ghost towns in America. Perhaps the most famous ghost town in the West is the well-preserved Californian ghost town of Bodie.


Story Of The Runaway Jerome Jail

The Jerome jail has been rendered unusable but has not been completely destroyed by earth movements from the many mining shafts in the area. The ground moved in 1938 with underground blasting with dynamite. The movements have left the jail over 200 downhill from where it was originally built.

  • Slide: Started In 1938
  • Cause: Underground Blasting Causing Earth Movements
  • Distance: Around 225 Feet

It was acquired by the Jerome Historical Society in 2017, and they have plans to rehabilitate the jail. The jail has been stabilized with retaining walls to prevent collapse.

Today the Jerome sliding jail has become one of the main attractions in the ghost town. The jail is a concrete cell block that was initially part of a larger wood and tin building, but it tore away from the rest of the structure as it made its getaway downhill. Other buildings in Jerome have also made a downward slide over the years. Now it is in the middle of one of the main streets.

Related: Wild West Ghost Towns: 25 Images Of Forgotten Places In The Desert

Jerome - The “Wickedest Town in America”

While Jerome is today a ghost town, it was once a copper mining camp. It was incorporated in 1898 but soon had its fair share of classic Wild West brothels, brawls, and saloons. It even garnered the unsavory reputation of being the “Wickedest Town in America.”

  • Reputation: “Wickedest Town in America”

So bad did things get in Jerome, that in 1917 following labor unrest, some 60 laborers were thrown out of the town at gunpoint by being loaded on a cattle car and shipped west.

As late as World War I, as many as 10-15,000 people lived and worked there. It was a period of the mining boom. Today gone are the gambling and gunfights as the population has shrunk to only around 400 inhabitants.

  • Peak Population: Around 10,000 (1920s)
  • Population Today: 444 (2010)
  • Industry: Copper Mines

But the boom times came to an end as the ore deposits ran out, and the mines shuttered in 1953 with the population plummeting to less than 100.

Related: 10 Forgotten Places In The US Worthy Of A Road Trip (And 9 That Might Be Too Much)

Visiting The Jerome Ghost Town Today

Today Jerome is famous for being a ghost town as well as for its local wineries. Jerome is located in the Black Hills of Arizona's Yavapai County. It sits at an elevation of over 5,000 feet (1,500 m) above sea level and is an easy day trip (100 miles) from Phoenix.

Today there are efforts to save Jerome from oblivion through tourism. Now there are art galleries, coffee houses, a state park, a local museum, and restaurants.

If one is passing through Arizona or looking for a day trip from Phoenix, then consider visiting Jerome.

Guided Tours Of Jerome

There are plenty of guided tours in Jerome. One example of a guided tour of Jerome is listed on TripAdvisor. On the tour one will discover Arizona's old mining history and the dark history of the sometimes lawless town. The small group tours explore the mining town and stop off at key spots along the way (like the sliding jail and the mining museum).

  • Duration: 1 Hour
  • Cost: From $39.00 per Adult
  • Family Friendly: The Tour Is Family Friendly

TripAdvisor has a number of other guided tours of the old ghost town to choose from. Get the most out of one's trip by visiting the ghostly site with a knowledgeable guide.