The Palace Saloon

Excerpts from "Haunted Prescott" book by Parker Anderson and Darlene Wilson

THE PALACE SALOON                                               

For decades, the best-known and oldest business on Whiskey Row has been The Palace, for many years a saloon, but today is a casual restaurant.   It has been a staple of downtown Prescott business for generations.

The current slogan for The Palace is “Serving Arizona’s toughest customers since 1877.”  But according to Whiskey Row historian Brad Courtney, the establishment we know as The Palace actually opened on June 23, 1883 by proprietors Nathan Ellis and Al Whitney.  Some earlier newspaper references to “The Palace” denote an entirely unrelated business.   Under the management of Ellis and Whitney, The Palace was originally located on Goodwin Street, possibly one block from where it is today.

The original Palace was reportedly quite an opulent structure, and the proprietors hoped to draw a better class of drinkers and partyers than neighboring saloons did.   Folklore contends that the Earp brothers and Doc

Doc Holiday spent many happy hours in The Palace, drinking and gambling, before they left Prescott for Tombstone and infamy. 

But the Palace and numerous surrounding structures burned to the ground on February 14, 1884, during the huge Sherman Block fire.  Ellis and Whitney decided to rebuild, and also to move the location to the middle of Whiskey Row on Montezuma Street, the site where it stands today.   On July 4, 1884, The Palace held a Grand Re-Opening.

The Palace is fraught with folklore about various shootings and gunfights that took place there over the years, but these mostly have no corroboration. Bullet holes can be seen in the ceiling all around the dining room area. Happy cowboys celebrating their big gold fine.  An actual murder took place in

The Palace scarcely two months after it reopened.  A gambler and opium addict named Fred Glover, killed his lover in the saloon, a local prostitute named Jennie Clark aka Nellie Coyle, by beating her senseless, then throwing her to the floor and stomping her to death, while a saloon full of customers, the proprietors, and even a candidate for sheriff did nothing to try to stop it.

As difficult as it is to believe today, crimes against women were often tolerated in the male-dominated society.   Other men generally held the view that if a man did something horrible like this to a woman, she must have really had it coming, especially if the victim was of low repute, as Jennie Clark/Nellie Coyle was.   Prostitution was legal then, but the women who practiced it were viewed as parasites (while, of course, men who patronized them received no criticism at all). 

Fred Glover was tried for murder and sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted in short order, and then in 1890, Arizona Governor Nathan Oakes Murphy granted him a full pardon, and he was freed, only 6 years after stomping poor Jennie to death.

The Palace changed hands several times in the ensuing years, and by 1900, it was owned by Robert Brow.  On July 14, 1900, it burned to the ground along with the rest of Whiskey Row and other surrounding blocks when a great fire swept the downtown.  This fire remains one of the significant events in Prescott history.   The citizens pulled together to rebuild the downtown, and Brow rebuilt The Palace-----the structure that still stands today.

In recent times, The Palace has had scenes for movies shot inside it, most notably the 1972 Steve McQueen film, JUNIOR BONNER, directed by Sam Peckinpah.  Less known, the 1979 film WANDA NEVADA, starring Peter Fonda and Brooke Shields, had scenes shot in The Palace, including a scene with veteran character actor Paul Fix.

The Palace has long had a reputation as one of downtown Prescott’s haunted hot spots.  But who the spirits are is open to conjecture.  Could one of them be the unfortunate Jennie Clark/Nellie Coyle?

The Palace Saloon in 1901

There are SO many stories of hauntings at the Palace Saloon and something is happening ALL the time. Of course, the common stories are of glasses jumping off the shelf, landing in the floor and never breaking. That happens quite a bit to the person closing late at night. There were brass planters that sat on the top shelf behind the bar and when the owner walked behind the bar, a planter would fall almost hitting the owner. He had the brass planters removed. 

The owner had a beautiful porcelain mannequin dressed in period clothing at the top of the stairs. Located upstairs are the offices of the owner and partner now but use to be where two “ladies of the night” had their rooms, a brothel.  One day the owner came into work and found the porcelain mannequin shattered on the floor below the stairs from falling over the railing. So, he went out and bought “Annie” the mannequin seen now at the top of the stairs. Time passes, and the owner comes to work to find that Annie had been turned, completely around, so he thought people were playing a joke on him, so he installed cameras. Time goes by and he comes into to work and notices that Annie had been moved again but this time her head was turned as if watching the patrons below. So, the owner goes through his surveillance video and he sees Annie moving and her head turning but no one is there moving her, or anyone that he can see.                        

There have been numerous reports of chairs flying across the rooms as well as bottles by unseen forces, and the sound of glass breaking everywhere. The employees chalk it up to a prankster ghost recreating the bar scenes from the movie.

Some have witnessed the ghost of Nevin, who owned a mortuary and lost it to the Sheriff George C. Ruffner, along with all his other possessions. Many feel the he is there to repeat that ominous game hoping for a different outcome.

The gGhost of a woman is often seen at the foot of these stairshost of a woman has been seen numerous times standing at the bottom of the stairs. I (Wilson) took pictures in the Palace one afternoon and got the most amazing Orb. It looks three dimensional and the most beautiful turquoise color.              

I went upstairs and took pictures all around the Palace and got amazing Orb photos. One picture was of a family enjoying their lunch and one member had a huge orb over his head and a smaller orb on the back of his shirt.         

In that same area is an old buffet cabinet full of condiments. One day a group of teachers came in for lunch and sat at the round table under the Junior Bonner poster. The server took their order, came out later and told the ladies their food was ready, and he would be bringing it out. He goes back into the kitchen to get the food when he hears screaming. He runs out and his group of teachers are up and running towards the front of the saloon. He asked them what was wrong, and they said the condiments in the buffet came flying out hitting them. He checked the table and there were condiments scattered all over the table. He apologized, boxed up their food, charged them nothing and apologized again for the incident. One of the teachers wrote the owner a letter saying it was the best food they ever had but would not be returning to the Palace. The owner asked the server, ‘what the hell happened’ and the server said, ‘it wasn’t me boss.’

The Women’s restroom is haunted; oh yes, many ghostly things have happened in there. Many customers have seen Orbs flying straight at them, stall doors banging, someone trying to open the door when a person is inside and no one is there. And no one else is in the restroom.

One night a group of ladies on my (Wilson) tour wanted to go into the restroom but not by themselves, so I went with them. They are all getting pictures and videos of orbs flying. One lady said that a young lady wanted to use the restroom. All the ladies are leaving the restroom talking about the orbs and ghosts in there and now the young lady, about 17 years old, is afraid to go in there. I introduced myself and asked if she would like me to go with her. She said, ‘yes please’ and I lead her to the restroom. I asked if she would like me to wait outside in the hall and she said ‘NO’. So, we get inside, she goes to one of the stalls, shuts the door, locks it and then all the lights go out. It’s pitch black in the restroom. She came flying out of the stall and by the time she got to the door the lights came back on. I just said that wasn’t me, there are no light switches in the room. All the controls for the lights for the Palace Saloon are located in one area, up front in a locked cabinet.

The basement of the building is off limits to the public because of the dangerous areas, low pipes and it is empty. In one area in the basement was an opium den, there is also a staircase that goes nowhere. Another area was a speakeasy and another area home to a couple of temporary jail cells why new cells were being built at the courthouse. The energy in that area is very heavy and makes it hard to breath. There, is a  story that one man hung himself in one of the side rooms.

A recent incident happened to a young lady working at the Palace. She previously worked in the basement in one of the smaller rooms taking care of merchandising when her job changed and she now worked upstairs. With her new job she no longer had any reason to be in the basement. After several months of working upstairs she needed to get some merchandise from the basement. She grabbed what she needed, wasn’t down there but a few minutes, walked out towards the alley when she felt pain on her chest and stomach. She looks down and sees multiple scratch marks on her stomach and chest. The partner of the Palace contacted me and asked if I would call her, talk to her and maybe meet with her. I did, and we decided to meet several days later at the Palace and walk through her experience. When I saw her the scratch marks had healed but she showed me pictures that her mother took and there were numerous scratch marks on her body.  We talked for a while then we went downstairs where she took me through that day. Although we got several changes in temperatures and got a couple pictures of metallic orbs, nothing happened to her. We walk towards the alley, stop and chat and all of sudden I noticed a scratch beginning to show on her chest.  I believe that the spirit located in the basement misses her and wants her back working in the basement. He’s trying to grab her and keep her from leaving.

There has never been any pain or attacks by spirits before and I don’t think they would start now. I truly believe it’s someone wanting her attention and wanting her to stay down there.  What do you think?