The Oliver House

Posted by george in Phoenix Ghosts
The Oliver House - Photo

Bisbee’s history of mining, labor strikes, and race riots make it an interesting part of Arizona heritage, but it’s also known to be quite spooky. Those traveling to Bisbee looking for a scare usually spend a night or two at the Oliver House, a haunted Bed & Breakfast overlooking the town. Most of the guests who stay at the Oliver House are very much alive, but there’s about a dozen spirits who have long overstayed their welcome. The Oliver House has a deceptively wholesome appearance, and its location on a forested hill makes it a great spot for birdwatching. But the building has a dark past. The building has seen 26 deaths, including a mass murder. The most known was that of Nathaniel “Nat” Anderson, who was shot right between the eyes by a debtor. The ghost of Nat Anderson still haunts the Oliver House, and he lives in the aptly named Room 13. Just about every room in the Oliver House is haunted, and guests are sure to encounter a few spirits no matter what room they stay in. There’s also the Grandma Room, home to the calm spirit of an elderly woman, the Blue Room, where a jealous cop went on a murdering spree, and the Purple Sage Room, where doors and windows open and close on their own. Guests of the Oliver House often report phantom footsteps, feelings of being watched, and the occasional echoes of a phantom party from rooms that are supposed to be empty. 

History of the Oliver House

Edith Ann Oliver was married to Henry Oliver, a mining tycoon. They thought the executives of the Calumet & Arizona Mining Company needed a space to live and work, so they began building the Oliver House in 1908. Edith had the building made out of brick, as Bisbee had frequent fires, and buildings were constantly being destroyed. Many of the city’s historical records were destroyed in the fires. While it’s known that 27 people died in the Oliver House, the number could be much higher, but since most of the records were burned, we’ll never know. 

Over time, the building eventually housed miners as well as executives, and the Oliver House became more of a boarding house for the local workers. In 1986, the house was bought by Dennis Schranz. He turned the Oliver House into a full on bed and breakfast. While Schranz was initially skeptical about the hauntiness of the Oliver House, it didn’t take long for him to start believing.

At first glance, the Oliver House is a seemingly quiet and unassuming building. It’s bright red, surrounded by trees, and sits atop a hill in Old Bisbee. But upon entering, you notice that it’s eerily isolated. The only way in is via a scraggly concrete bridge through the bush. Then you enter through a creaky gate, and once inside the house, you get hit with the otherworldly aura of a ghostly presence.

The Murder of Nat Anderson

In 1920, local miner Nat Anderson was staying at the Oliver House. He was also the lover in a fiery affair, sleeping with the wife of a man to whom he owed quite a bit of money. Nat was undoubtedly found out, and the man charged into Nat’s room and shot him right in the forehead, then again in the back as he fell to the ground. Nat was playing a dangerous game, and although it was fun while it lasted, it all came to a violent, bloody end.

The man who shot Nat tried to cover his tracks. He caused a commotion while crossing the bridge into the house. He stole a watch and some cash from another resident of the Oliver House. His aim was to make like a thief trying to escape. The ruse worked. Even though there were multiple witnesses, and it was well known that Nathaniel owned the man money, the murder remains unsolved to this day.

Nat’s ghost haunts the area around Room 13, where he was shot. Guests who stay in Room 13 often hear phantom footsteps in their room at night, cold spots, and the unusual feeling of being watched. The apparition of Nat has been seen as well. A DJ from a local radio station once took a $100 bet from a friend, betting that he wouldn’t be able to spend the night in Room 13. Thinking it would be an easy $100, the skeptical DJ made a reservation at the Oliver House, and upon opening the door to Room 13, he stood face-to-face with the ghost of Nathaniel Anderson. The DJ immediately returned the keys to the front desk and forfeited the $100.

Mass Murder at the Oliver House

Jealousy is a common theme at the Oliver House. In 1932, a mass murder occurred at the Blue Room in the house when a policeman discovered that his wife was having an affair. After hearing that his wife and her lover we’re getting freaky, he ran down to the Oliver House to see for himself. Upon finding the two lovers in the Blue Room laying in bed together, the policeman shot and killed them both. Then he went on to kill 10 other people in the house, before running to a nearby river and turning the gun on himself. 

Guests who stay in the Blue Room still feel the dark aura hanging over the room. They might hear phantom footsteps and disembodied voices. Some hear the sounds of gunfire and the echoes of someone crying for help. Staff also find that the furniture in the Blue Room is mysteriously shuffled around, even when they know that the room has been empty.

The Grandma Room

The Grandma Room is named for the ghost of an elderly woman who often appears sitting in a rocking chair. When she appears, they say that the broken coo-coo clock in the room chimes at 2 am. Apparently she died in the room, and still resides there in the afterlife. The woman is said to be a calm, benevolent spirit, and hardly causes trouble. 

There is one account of the woman becoming aggressive. When the Oliver House was bought out by new owners, they removed the rocking chair and coo-coo clock, which set Grandma off. The room was being redecorated for a small boy. When the boy went up to the room to go check it out, he came back downstairs crying hysterically. He said a mean old lady knocked him upside his head. His parents thought that it might have been his imagination, but the next day they found a large bruise on his forehead. 

Second Floor of the Oliver House

The second floor is the most active area of the house. Guests often report intense feelings of being watched upon arrival. Doors often open and closed with no warning. Some have also seen lights turning on and off on their own. Guests often complain about hearing parties in the middle of the night, and when they go to investigate, they find nothing. They also hear the sounds of a handyman doing work on a leaky pipe, and again when they investigate the sound, they find no source. 

Guests who stay in the Plum Room often feel unusual cold spots in the room, which they say border on freezing cold temperatures. They also feel a strange presence in the room, as if there’s someone else there with them. The shutters, doors, and windows in the Purple Sage Room open and close on their own. 

Learn more about the haunted history of Arizona! 

Arizona has a rich and bloody history. It’s a confluence of Mexican, Indigenous and American culture, which over the years has given rise to some very interesting folklore. The countless wars and bloodshed over land and precious metals has left behind many restless spirits. Check out the Birdcage Theatre for a taste of what the Wild West was really like. The three way brothel, theatre, and saloon played host to countless bar fights and shootouts. The place is still riddled with bullet holes, and the ghosts haven’t left either. Make a stop at Yuma Territorial Prison, where the ghosts of the inmates can still be heard begging for mercy. Maybe they were thrown in the dark room, the notorious torture chamber that was full of snakes and spiders. Catch a play at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix. The beautiful building often hosts plays and live TV shows, and the ghost of a young girl named Maddie is sure to give you a scare if you don’t stay quiet during the show. You can also read about the top ten most haunted places in Phoenix right here!