Walking down Allen Street in Tombstone, Arizona, the self-proclaimed "town too tough to die," it isn't hard to squint your eyes and imagine how the town must have looked back in the glory days of the old west. Near one end of the street you will find the famous Bird Cage Theater, standing much as it did over 100 years ago. In the 1880s it was not only a theater, but also served as a saloon, gambling hall and reportedly even a brothel. It was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - even on holidays. The New York Times called it, "the wildest, roughest, wickedest honky tonk between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast." That statement was well deserved, since the Bird Cage was the scene for twenty-six deaths during its eight years of business.

Today the floor of the Bird Cage has been converted into a museum, but the theater's namesake - the famous "bird cages" where ladies of the night sold pleasures to cowboys and miners - are still intact. You can see their red curtains in this photo. The old song, "She's only a bird in a gilded cage" by Arthur J. Lamb was written for the "tainted angels" of the Bird Cage Theater. In our world, though, a visitor can walk through the museum-floor and soak in the history of this wonderful old place. Historic figures such as Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Bat Masterson once walked on the very floorboards that you can.

The stage and original curtain are still intact, and while touring the theater one can walk through the backstage area. This theater and its famous stage has been portrayed in almost every telling of the Wyatt Earp and "Gunfight at the OK Corral" saga. Two entertaining versions are "Wyatt Earp" starring Kevin Costner, and "Tombstone" starring Kurt Russell, Sam Elliot, Bill Paxton, and Val Kilmer (who should have won an Oscar, by the way).

The Bird Cage closed its doors as a saloon in 1889, but it has not been silent. The sounds of laughing, yelling, and music have been reported to pour out of the theater at night. Visitors during the day have smelled fresh scents of cigar smoke and the sharp odor of whiskey, even though neither are allowed there now, nor have been for many years past. Testimonies by tourists and Bird Cage employees recount sightings of people wearing period clothing from the 1800s, and in particular, a man in black wearing a visor walking has been witnessed walking across the stage. Some of the sounds seem to come from the balconies above the main floor.

Walking down into the basement of the theater, the modern-day visitor is allowed to visit the rooms that held a perpetual high-stakes poker game. Rooms off of the poker room were where the higher priced ladies were said to have entertained their gentlemen guests. The longest card game here was said to have lasted 24 hours a day for eight years, five months, and three days, so perhaps some of the players haven't finished their game. It's no wonder that the Bird Cage's past reverberates throughout these walls. Between the main floor and the downstairs rooms, it saw just under 20 gunfights and 26 deaths - 140 bullet holes in the ceiling and walls stand witness to these events.

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