Doc Holliday: An Elusive Ghost of the Old West

Born on 14 August 1851 – John Henry “Doc” Holliday, gunfighter, gambler, and dentist in the American Old West. Holliday’s remarkably interesting life is filled with so much myth and legend that there is scholarly disagreement about almost every major event in his biography. Even the authenticity of most of the purported photographs of Holliday is disputed, hence my decision to post one that is spurious but also genuinely splendid.

Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday in "Tombstone"

Doc Holliday died on 8 November 1857, and he was buried in Linwood Cemetery, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. There is an “official” burial site in the cemetery, on which tourists place flowers, playing cards, and, occasionally, bottles of beer, but the exact location of Doc’s grave is unknown, a fact that seems perfectly appropriate, given the uncertainty surrounding so much of his life. This cemetery, like many in the Old West, is a poignant place, with crumbling, nearly-effaced headstones above the graves of miners and pioneers who died well over a century ago. During my only visit, I found a few small stone shards containing barely legible Chinese ideograms, an indication that Linwood is also the final resting place for some of the “Celestials” who perished while building the transcontinental railroads. Pondering the work of wind, weather, time, and human forgetfulness as they walk through Linwood Cemetery, sensitive souls might experience a bone-deep sense of their fragile mortality.

Marker on the grounds of Linwood Cemetery

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