Her mother stomped in, angrily snatching the Ouija board from Francine and her older sisters. She rushed outside, snapped it on her knee, and threw it away. Little did her mother know, the only way to close a portal to the ghost world is to burn a Ouija board. So began the decades-long haunting of the wooden house atop a grassy hill in Bisbee.
Stories like this, entrenched in both the historical and the paranormal, can be read in the new book, Haunted Bisbee by local author Francine Powers, released just in time for Halloween.
Powers, a Bisbee native, awoke one evening to see a ghost staring down at her. At just six years old, she saw her first apparition, which later inspired her career in ghost hunting, investigating and documenting paranormal activity.
Francine’s first book, titled Mi Reina: Don’t Be Afraid, was published in 2004. It’s a memoir about Francine’s life growing up in Bisbee and her experiences with the paranormal. Since then, she has worked with several local publications, sharing her ghost stories with the world.
Powers said over the past 30 years or so, she collected data from the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, the Bisbee Restoration Museum, the Cochise County Archives, the Bisbee library, and various newspaper articles documenting ghost sightings. She used her decades of research, in conjunction with anecdotes and personal experiences, to write her second book, Haunted Bisbee.
“I started researching Bisbee seriously, I would say, in the early ‘90s, so a lot of this book had research I already done, and I keep everything,” she said.
As a medium, Powers said she sees and communicates with apparitions. One of the ghosts she has interacted with is a deceased firefighter from Firehouse No. 2 in Bisbee. His story is well known among Bisbee natives, and people believe he is still saving lives, even after death. Other apparitions, she has met in her own homes.
Powers’ childhood home is known to Bisbee residents as the town’s “haunted” house. “We believe the basement was the original house in the 1890s because when my parents bought it in the ‘60s, there was paperwork saying that it was already 75 years old, but they built a house on top of that in 1928,” she said. “We believe the ghosts actually come from the original house.”
Since Powers’ family moved out of their “haunted” home in the '70s, it has been sold several times. Each time, the new homeowners vacated the premises shortly after they began renovations. The house has been empty and the topic of ghost stories since then. Now, Powers sees ghosts in her Tucson home.
Powers has a book signing from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Halloween at the Bisbee Tourism Center (the BTC) and said: “I will be giving specialty Haunted golf cart tours based on my book in partnership with BTC Lofts and Tours on the 30th and 31st.” She said three tours are scheduled each day.
Powers credits much of Bisbee’s appeal to its history with spirits. “Ghosts are a big part of Bisbee,” she said. Until 2016, Powers gave historical walking tours of Bisbee, centered on the town’s ghostly history.
According to Powers, some ghost stories are designed solely for entertainment. She said part of the allure of her stories is that they are real, and she emphasizes the importance of telling “true ghost stories.”
“Especially in Bisbee, since it’s a historical district, I think it’s very vital to keep that historic district intact by telling the truth because it is very frustrating and irritating when you have people who just tell stories, out of this world stories, and they have nothing to back it up,” Powers said. “I think it’s damaging to the town and to the paranormal itself.”