The Haunted Oatman Hotel

The Haunted Oatman Hotel - Photo

Oatman, Arizona, is a ghost town comprised of hardly 100 people and the spirits that haunt the old Oatman Hotel. It sits precariously amongst the Black Mountains off a stretch of road known as “Bloody 66.” Part of Route 66, this stretch comprises ten miles of curves and bends only fit for the most adept road warrior. The town was named after the Oatman Family, a family murdered by protective Native Americans 280 miles away. Their story enthralled the nations in the early 1800’s and their bodies now rest near Gila Bend.

Why is Oatman Haunted?

The Oatman Hotel has been the site of various paranormal sightings; old miners, housekeepers, and even famous couple Clark Gable and Carole Lombard haunt its rooms. Oatman was once a thriving gold rush town and even a vacation destination. But as the mines fizzled out and Route 66 was eventually closed in 1985, it slowly fell into disrepair. Today it is primarily a tourist attraction for those wishing to relive the days of the Old West. Some find more than gold in the old Oatman Hotel, as the spirits from the towns boom days remain. 

For more ghost towns and their ghosts, continue reading our blog. 

Ghosts of The Oatman Hotel

Oatman was founded in the late 1800s. Like many other small settlements of the West, it began with the promise of gold. Originally a small tent city, it quietly expanded as more and more prospective miners came west to find their fortune. The Oatman Hotel was built in 1902, looking to expand on the gold fanaticism America experienced during this period. It was initially called The Durlin Hotel, named after founder John Durlin. 

A vein totaling $13 million was discovered by prospectors in 1908, followed by a further discovery in 1915 of $14 million. Nearly $40 million of gold was found during this period, equaling $2.6 billion in modern times. Gold fever was alive in Oatman, and the population soon increased to 3,500. It peaked in the 1930s, hitting 10,000, and Oatman was put on the map. The money attracted money, and celebrities Clark Gable and Carole Lombard stayed at the Durlin for their honeymoon in 1933. Some say they never left. They are among the many spirits that haunt the Durlin today.

Brick hotel backdropped by a small hill and cloudy skies. Sign in front readys Oatman Hotel. 1902

The Haunted Oatman Hotel
Source: Wikimedia Commons

While the hotel is no longer available for overnight stays, functioning as a museum and tourist attraction, it is a registered national landmark. Many guests say odd occurrences happen at The Oatman. Carole Lombard died tragically in a plane accident in 1942. Many times spirits remain behind where they were happiest. Mysterious whispering is now heard from the room the two stayed in. Hitting it big on a gold vein also brings great pleasure to the living. 

The exact opposite if your luck runs out. An old Irish miner, nicknamed “Oatie,” haunts the hotel. He drank himself to death one night, likely in disappointment. He pulls sheets off the display beds and opens all the windows. An old chambermaid creates impressions of her body in the dust on the second floor. They are two among many. Toilets flush randomly, glasses fly into the air, and disembodied voices are frequently heard in the museum.

Who haunts the Oatman Hotel?

  • The spirits of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard
  • “Oatie,” a miner who drank himself to death in the hotel
  • A chambermaid who was likely murdered here as she frequently creates an outline of her body in the dust on the second floor. 

Olive Oatman and The Oatman Massacre

 Photograph of Olive Oatman in Victorian dress next to a letter

Source: Flickr

Oatman is named after the interesting and peculiar case of Olive Oatman. Olive was a member of the Oatman family. That Oatmans were part of a group of Mormons known as Brewsterites, a short-lived sect of the controversial religion. These Midwestern pilgrims encountered the harsh realities of the Southwestern desert as they headed West, splintering into smaller and smaller factions as they continued. The Oatmans continued to push forward alone. Ignoring the dangers of a dry climate, little water, and aggressive Natives. Royce Oatman, his 8 1/2 month pregnant wife and their seven children eventually made their way to the mountainous area near the Gila River. Little did they know this would be their final stop on their journey. Pushing their animals to the limit, they were eventually met with futility, carrying their supplies up half the mountain.

Their supplies had dwindled to the smallest of rations. Soon the Oatmans had found themselves face to face with the aggressive Natives they had been warned about. They were smack in the middle of Western Yavapais territory. A group of the Natives approached them, asking for food. The group was given what little bread they could spare, but their interaction soon turned violent. The Yavapais attack, displeased with the Oatman’s lack of tribute. The family was clubbed to death. Only Olive, age 14, Mary, age 7, and Lorenzo, age 15, survived. The two girls were taken as prisoners while Lorenzo miraculously managed to survive. Several days later, he returned to his former campsite to give his family a proper burial. Their graves are still there today, alongside one unmarked grave thought to be a Yavapais.

Meanwhile, their captors treated the two female Oatmans as enslaved people. Lucky for them, they were traded to a tribe of Mojaves after the chief’s daughter saw the abuse they were being subjected to. Living near Needles, California, they were treated as members of the tribe. But word had spread about the two, and many newly settled Americans were on the lookout for the two.

Olives Return

Mary-Ann died of starvation in 1855, but her sister continued to live amongst the Mojaves. She received traditional face tattoos and reportedly enjoyed her new life. But by 1857, a rescue had come for her return from Fort Yuma. They had heard rumors of a white girl living amongst a native tribe. Initially, the Mojave denied her existence. She even refused to return. But after violent threats and trade talks, she was returned. She and Lorenzo reunited, and their story soon became a national phenomenon. Their story became a famous book written by pastor Royal B. Stratton. The two even joined him for a national book tour. Their story is one of the more interesting relics of the old West.

Today, Oatman is a uniquely vibrant gold-mining town. The term ghost town hardly fits. The population still residing there intends to keep the desert town alive. Burros still roam the street. The Oatman Hotel offers a look into the old gold mining and gunslinging ways. Dollars line the walls, an ancient custom upheld by miners; a final dollar used to pay their tab when they had nothing left to spend. A final mark upon their venture west. Don’t make Oatman your last stop. But keep it in your sights when in the Las Vegas area.

Three Burros hanging out in front a green western styled store

Three Burros in Oatman, Az
Source: Nara Public Domain Archive

Looking for more adventures off the beaten path? Haunted ghost towns, mass burial sites, and more await. Read US Ghost Adventures’ blog to discover it all. 

Source: Picryl,miles%20west%20of%20Gila%20Bend.