Bisbee, we’ll miss you

We are on the move today, headed to Eugene to finish up some warranty items on the Airstream, and then we’ll be homeward bound. We had considered getting back to Arizona in time for our annual celebration of Halloween in Bisbee but decided we wanted a full three months on the road to give this Airstream gig a thorough test ride.  Bisbee, we’re sure to be there next year and are already working on costume ideas. Meanwhile, a look back on our good times will have to suffice.

As background, Bisbee is an old copper mining town located in the mile-high Mule Mountains of southeast Arizona just 20 miles or so from the Mexican border. Like most mining towns, it has a colorful past and seems to attract equally colorful people – lots of artists and folks who’ve decided they prefer a lifestyle uninterrupted by the necessity of regular work or regular anything-else, for that matter.

I’ve been coming to Bisbee for nearly 30 years, most of those trips solo by choice. Bisbee is one of my get-away haunts, a place to sit quietly, think and just be. I’ve made some of my most important life decisions nursing a Makers in the Bisbee Grande Saloon or walking the town’s narrow and winding streets and alleys.

Scott and I first came to Bisbee in 1999. Halloween fell on a weekend that year and we were amused and intrigued by the festivities around us. Nearly everyone was dressed in costume and it was clear these weren’t your standard-issue rental costumes. Highly creative and very detailed, it was obvious people had put some real thought into these.

Cafe Roka is a four-star restaurant and our choice for dinner every Halloween night.

Locals and out-of-towners alike wore their costumes to dinner, then into Bisbee’s small-in-number (but large-in-character) drinking establishments where live music blared and dancing was fun and fueled by generous pours. Around midnight, many congregated in the Brewery Gulch, a long and narrow avenue in Bisbee, best suited for foot traffic and so named for the German-Dutch breweries once located there.

One of my most vivid Halloween memories is standing in the Gulch that night and watching a young woman, dressed as a bat, flap her nearly 10-foot glittering black-velvet wings in a perfect and beautiful rhythm.

“We have to come in costume next year,” I told Scott. And we did … and the year after that … and the year after that. Since 2000, we have made our costumes and come to Bisbee for Halloween all but three times when illness or work prevented our being there. (Bisbee celebrates All Hallows Eve on October 31, no matter where it falls within the week, and unfortunately on a couple of occasions that work thang got in the way.)

Here are a few of our favorite costumes and memories:

In 2003, we came as gypsies. A couple of visits to thrift shops and we were flush with lots of clothing choices and accessories to mix and match. I remember being a redhead but the vivid hue in this photo surprises even me! Scott made the mistake of wearing this costume the following year for a Halloween potluck at work and was the butt of “puffy-shirt” jokes for years on end.

Halloween 2003


We got a late start pulling our costumes together in 2004 and decided at the last minute to be “Mr. and Mrs. Halloween.” Again, thrift shop visits ruled and Scott found my marvelous cape and the little blinky lights for our hats the day before we left. We passed out small candy bars to all we saw and even won third prize in the annual costume contest at our favorite dive bar, St. Elmo’s. We received $50 as our prize from the blues band, Buzz and the Soul Senders.

2004 – Mr. Halloween at Cafe Roka. Note the black twinkle lights on the hat and the orange beard. Thankfully, that stuff came out!


2004 – Mrs. Halloween. I’m pretty sure it was my mask that garnered us third place in the costume contest. I love it, and every year I get it out and put it on, just for fun.

We were a witch and her warlock in 2005. These are some of my favorite costumes. I just wish I could still fit in that slinky grey velvet dress!

2005 – Witchy Woman


2005 – Scary Warlock (Scott – is that really you?)


In 2008, Scott came up with the idea that we should be bees. We had a lot of fun with these costumes. He was a Worker Bee, I was the Queen Bee and together we were the Bis-bees – love that!

We couldn’t find shirts of the color we wanted, so we bought white ones and dyed them in the bright yellow. Black duct tape made for good stripes. We found great accessories – our antennae, my yellow-and-black eyelashes, striped tights, tiara, funny round glasses, and honey-bee purse – at Easly’s Fun Shop. Scott’s tool belt held a bottle of honey and we powdered our cheeks and noses with golden glitter. While sitting at dinner that evening, we were approached by Gabrielle Giffords, who was dressed as a sailor and running for State Representative against opponent Tim Bee. In light of our bee costumes, she asked if she could have her picture taken with us. We kindly obliged and wished her our best. She couldn’t have been more congenial and we were all the more saddened upon  hearing of her being shot in January 2011.

2008 – the Queen Bee


2008 – Scott, the Worker Bee. (And my public apologies, Scott, for my very poor photography. Never, never should one have a coat rack sticking out of the top of their worker bee hard hat!)


In 2009 we were inspired by our love of baseball to dress as the Arizona Diamondbats. I had seen in a magazine article how to make bat wings out of umbrellas – thank you, Martha Stewart! These were without a doubt our most ambitious costumes to date. We spent a lot of time making the wings – they had to look authentic but also allow us the ability to move and eat dinner in them, so we added bands of elastic around the wrists that we could slip off while at dinner. (Of course, klutz that I am, I slammed my wing in the hotel door on the way out, and we had to do a quick repair job – God bless the safety pin!)

While searching for bat ears, Scott came home with a kit to make custom-fitted fangs. It involved heating little plastic balls in hot water, pouring the liquid into a form and putting it on your teeth. The trick was to leave the form on long enough to get a good fit but not so long you couldn’t get it off your teeth. I got distracted while creating my fangs and thought I’d be wearing them for life. Fortunately, Scott was able to pry the form off my teeth, so I had fangs for only one night (whew … sigh of relief.)

2009 – The ultimate Diamondbacks fan


2009 – One of the Arizona Diamondbats


I have to say that was one of my favorite Halloweens in Bisbee and I ordered a D-backs Christmas ornament featuring this photo of us as a gift for Scott. We love putting it on our tree and laughing about those damn fangs!

Our D-backs Christmas Ornament photo

One year, as we were checking out of our hotel, we remarked to our innkeeper how much we enjoyed Bisbee’s “colorful nature.” She responded with “Oh, every day is Halloween in Bisbee.”

And we agree. When we pass through the tunnel carved in the Mule Mountains, we enter another time zone, one free of cares and worries. Bisbee is a place we love.

Mural on the Jonquil Hotel


Just one example of the Halloween decorations at the Bisbee Grande Saloon


Yes, that is a gargoyle, and it’s there all year long, not just at Halloween.


My favorite house in Bisbee is flanked by two angels sculpted in oxidized copper. Another photo I took of the one on the left graced our holiday card one year and received varying reviews. (I think my mother thought I’d joined a satanic cult.) Don’t miss the black cat and the jack-o-lantern at the top of the steps.


One thing I love about Bisbee is its chaotic nature. I love walking through the alleys and backstreets.


Happy Halloween!


Best wishes to all for a fun and safe Halloween. I’d love to hear about your plans – please share details and a photo if you’d like!





  1. Sandie
    Oct 31, 2012

    It wouldn’t be Halloween without featuring the “Janie/Scott costume” fest. What fun going back thru hallow- history. You two really know how to honor the day. It brings a big smile to my face! Happy Halloween wherever you are!!

  2. Ed
    Oct 31, 2012

    My favorite is the worker bees!

  3. Torre
    Nov 1, 2012

    wow – what creative folks y’all are!! you sure outdid yourselves: I love the bat costumes – very cool. I sure can’t top that and don’t usually do a costume – a bit of laziness LOL

  4. Colleen
    Nov 2, 2012

    The Diamondbats were my favorite.

  5. Janie
    Nov 4, 2012

    Hi Sandie – love to see you here on the blog! It just wasn’t Halloween without our being in Bisbee 🙁 But we are having a good time and soon headed for home. I will call you soon! Hugs, J.

  6. Danielle
    Nov 13, 2012

    Janie as a witchipoo is my favorite of all time.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *