Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hunting Ghosts with Nancy J. Cohen

Today Nancy J. Cohen, author of the Bad Hair Day mysteries, joins us to tell us ghost hunting stories...

Have you ever watched one of those ghost hunting shows on TV? If so, you must have noticed the tools carried by the crew. I got the chance to do my own ghost hunt at the haunted Jerome Hotel in Arizona, when I did research for my next Bad Hair Day mystery titled Peril by Ponytail. In the story, Marla and Dalton honeymoon at a dude ranch owned by his uncle. Uncle Ray also owns a nearby ghost town that he’s renovating. Mysterious accidents plague this project. Workers feel the spirits of the dead are at fault. Ray thinks it’s a rival rancher aiming to put him out of business.

While in Arizona, we visited Tombstone, Jerome, Bisbee, and other towns with historic value. But in Jerome, we stayed overnight at the five-story Jerome Grand Hotel, built in 1926 as a hospital for copper miners. This concrete structure towers over the town at the top of a hill. You have to drive up a twisty incline to get there, and in one place, the narrow lane fits a single car at a time.

Jerome once boasted 15,000 inhabitants during its heyday as a copper town. Eighty-eight miles of tunnels still exist beneath the surface. When mining diminished, the hospital closed in 1950. It reopened, newly refurbished as a hotel, in 1996.

We checked into the hotel one afternoon during my research trip. Our ghost hunt cost $20 per person and began in the boiler room that evening with an orientation talk. The original steam boiler still provides heat for the hotel. Our guide told us ghost tales and the hotel’s history.

One ghost was a fellow who liked to visit the bar. When he didn’t show up for three days, a search ensued. The police discovered him hanging in his bedroom down the corridor. Another ghost was a man who had his head mashed under the elevator, which inexplicably stopped working. The coroner said that from the way he lay, the back of his head should have been bashed in, not the front. Had he been hit with blunt force, and his body positioned so it would appear to be an accident? Ghost number three was a 24-year-old female schizophrenia patient, who'd leapt from a balcony to her death. And finally, the fourth ghost was a man who shot himself in his room.

Then we were given our ghost-hunting instruments— a digital camera, an IR Thermometer, and an EMF meter that blinked red near electromagnetic sources.

The hotel lobby used to be the emergency room entrance. The wards were situated on floors two through four, along with an x-ray department, operating room, cafeteria, solarium, and psychiatric ward. The top floor had been reserved for wealthy private patients. We explored these sites on the ghost hunt tour. Visiting a hospital can be creepy at any time. Imagine visiting one with empty rooms and corridors stretching into the distance.

I didn’t find any cold spots with the thermometer, but I did take a ton of pictures and noted a few fluctuations on my EMF meter. Later, orbs showed up in my photos. Ectoplasm or dust molecules? See my Arizona photo album here:

For dinner, we ate in the hotel restaurant, glad to relax after our adventure. Then we retired for the evening. Despite my ghost hunting enthusiasm, I sincerely hoped an apparition wouldn’t visit us in the night. Fortunately, we had a decent rest, but other guests have written their paranormal experiences into a journal by the lobby desk. You get chills reading the entries.

Marla encounters her own spooks in Peril by Ponytail. She sees the apparition of a woman in white at the dude ranch where they’re staying. Her photos from the copper mines reveal orbs, and someone repeatedly taps her helmet when she’s underground. Then a psychic in Sedona confirms that someone is trying to send her a message. What do you think? Does Marla need her own EMF meter to carry around? Would you like to stay overnight at a haunted hotel?


Peril by Ponytail, a Bad Hair Day Mystery by Nancy J. Cohen
Hoping for a romantic honeymoon at an Arizona dude ranch, hairstylist Marla Vail and her husband Dalton arrive to find a series of mishaps plaguing the resort. A nearby ghost town is suffering similar problems. Is it mere coincidence that Dalton’s Uncle Raymond owns both properties? When Raymond asks for their help in finding the culprit, Marla and Dalton eagerly accept. Then news of a local forest ranger’s death raises the stakes.

With sleuthing more natural to Marla than horseback riding, she delves into the investigation. But as she digs deeper, she discovers skeletons in the family closet. Someone means to drive Raymond out of business, and the reason may be linked to his past misdeeds. Raymond isn’t the only one with secrets. The trail leads Marla from an environmental activist group to saguaro poachers to water rights proponents to an abandoned copper mine beneath the ghost town. She’d better saddle up, rein in the clues, and find the killer before she becomes the next spirit inhabiting the haunted hillside.


Nancy J. Cohen writes the humorous Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring hairdresser Marla Shore, who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun. Titles in this series have made the IMBA bestseller list. Nancy is also the author of Writing the Cozy Mystery, a valuable instructional guide on how to write a winning whodunit. Her imaginative romances, including the Drift Lords series, have proven popular with fans as well. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who's Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. When not busy writing, she enjoys fine dining, theme parks, cruising, and outlet shopping.

You can find Nancy all over social media at the following links:


  1. The Jerome Hotel sounds wonderful. I would love to spend the night in a haunted hotel!

    1. It was fun but a bit unnnerving. I would have jumped out of my skin if anything unreal happened. A log book in the lobby's tells of guests' experiences.