Shakespeare Ghost Town

Main St, Lordsburg, New Mexico 88045 USA

No Longer Maintained

This location is no longer maintained in Roadtrippers. Please confirm location details before visiting.

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“A privately preserved ghost town”

What started as an outpost for the Army Mail line soon became Shakespeare Ghost Town, which, despite its elegant name, was one of the most notorious towns in the Wild West-- and like most notorious Wild West towns, it's now mostly abandoned. Its history covers all of the classic tropes of any good ghost town-- outlaws, gunfights, mining booms and busts, and even scandal.

The Army chose this particular location for an outpost because it was located near a spring, then called "Mexican Spring", which was the perfect place to water up while riding across the desert. It was used on and off as a stop-off for various mail and coach routes until 1870, when silver ore was discovered in the hills. It didn't take these prospectors long to convince some very wealthy men, including William Ralston, president of the Bank of California, to invest in opening a mine and town to extract it. The town was actually called "Ralston" originally. Soon, all the silver had been mined, and the town, which had grown to about 3,000 was looking for something new. Rumors began to swirl that diamonds had been discovered on Lee's Peak, just West of the town. This was quickly revealed as a hoax, and people began to leave the town in droves, hoping to avoid being associated with the scam. The year was 1872.

In 1879, a man named William G. Boyle began to buy up the town to revive it. He even changed the town's name from "Ralston" to "Shakespeare" to further erase the association with the diamond scam-- and besides, naming your town after a classy author definitely makes it seem like a nicer place to live. He got together some money from backers in St. Louis and opened up the mines again, this time attracting slightly less rowdy miners-- although the town was never big enough to warrant a school, a newspaper, or even a church. This new town was also fairly short-lived-- a copper mine just South of the town opened, taking miners away from Shakespeare, and that coupled with the economic depression of 1893 and the fact that the railroad missed the town by a mere 3 miles for the settlement of Lordsburg spelled certain death for the town of Shakespeare. The town didn't have any good news to report until 1935, when a couple purchased the land for a ranch and decided to preserve as much of the town as they could. Finally, in 1970, the town was declared a National Historic Site-- probably the first time in the town's history that it was guaranteed any measure of protection and safety.

There's a good reason the town should be preserved. Despite the "respectable" name change from Ralston to Shakespeare, the town still attracted famous outlaws-- lots of them. Curly Bill Brocius was, according to local legend, the leader of the "hired fighting men" hired by the mining company to keep the town of Ralston in line, and after the diamond scam was revealed, he drifted off into the desert and disappeared. The Clanton family, of O.K. Corral fame, also had roots in Shakespeare-- after the Clanton brothers were killed in the shootout, the people of Shakespeared were saddened to hear of the death of their well-respected friends. Even a young Billy the Kid reportedly spent some time as a dishwasher in the local hotel in Shakespeare before heading off to Arizona to gain notoriety as an outlaw. Members of the Wild Bunch and Black Jack Ketchum's gangs also allegedly hid out in the empty mining tunnels and bought supplies in town, too. 

Today, if you visit Shakespeare, you'll be able to get an even more in-depth look at some of the town's most memorable moments with re-enactments of events like the hanging of Sandy King and Russian Bill and the time the Silver Nuggest (a traveling group of Can Can girls) came to town. Naturally, most of the re-enactments feature someone dying. The place is not commercialized at all, but if you bring a picnic lunch, you can enjoy it in the town's Grant House dining room before you explore the abandoned buildings. -Roadtrippers

Shakespeare is a ghost town in Hidalgo County, New Mexico, United States. It is currently part of a privately-owned ranch, generally open to tourists.

Founded as a rest stop called Mexican Springs along a stagecoach route, it was renamed Grant after the Civil War, after General U. S. Grant. When silver was discovered nearby it became a mining town called Ralston City, named after financier William Chapman Ralston. It was finally renamed Shakespeare, and was abandoned when the mines closed in 1929.

Walk the streets trod by Billy The Kid, John Ringo, The Clantons and Others. Walk a portion of the Butterfield Trail. See other points of interest. Hear stories of the Old West as it really was.

Shakespeare has a long and interesting history in the building of the South West. Shakespeare has also been known as: Mexican Springs and Ralston City.

Shakespeare's public tours are limited to specific days each month. Private tours are no longer provided under any circumstance. Unescorted walk-thru tours are not permitted due to liability & safety concerns.

This place is on private property. Listing for informational purposes only. Please do not visit without express permission from the land owner.

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Reviewed by
Nancy Sewell

  • 934 Reviews
  • 384 Helpful
March 12, 2016

2016 Tour Dates
Tours begin 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, Mountain Time*
only on the dates listed below.

March 12 & 13

April 9 & 10
May 7 & 8
June 11 & 12
July 9 & 10
August 13 & 14
September 10 & 11
October 8 & 9
November 12 & 13
December 10 & 11

* Shakespeare will close, for a brief period, after the morning tour and reopen prior to the 2 pm tour.
Please read Important Tour Information, below, prior to your arrival.
Regular Monthly Tour Admission $4.00 Adult - $3.00 Ages 6 Through 12.
Reservations or pre-purchased tickets are not required for admission to Shakespeare. Just arrive at the gate and you'll be able to have an escorted tour on a tour dates and times listed above.
Call, prior to arriving, to confirm these dates in the event there are unscheduled or unavoidable tour cancellations.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 8 Reviews
  • 22 Helpful
November 19, 2013

Cool looking but very closed off, we got some pictures of it from far away, but unfortunately specific tour times.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 4 Reviews
  • 1 Helpful
July 01, 2015

WISH I had known about the hours and making a reservation I would have loved to do this. We drove out and looked over the fence looked fun. Make sure you call and make the reservation.

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Shakespeare Ghost Town

Main St
Lordsburg, New Mexico
88045 USA

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