Animatronic figures die over and over.
Animatronic figures die over and over.

O.K. Corral

Field review by the editors.

Tombstone, Arizona

Fans of old Western movies may be unaware that the O.K. (Old Kindersley) Corral is not an open-air, post-and-rail-fenced pasture out in the Arizona sagebrush. It's a small, enclosed yard in the heart of downtown Tombstone, hemmed in by surrounding buildings and sealed from prying eyes (and nonpaying customers) by a high wall.

O.K. Corral live reenactment.
O.K. Corral live reenactment.

The O.K. Corral achieved infamy-by-proximity on October 26, 1881, when some Tombstone lawmen (the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday) confronted some renegade cowboys (the Clantons, McLaurys, and a couple of cohorts) in a vacant lot a half-block away. A close-quarter gunfight erupted and spilled out onto an adjacent street. Tombstone, even back in 1881, was no sleepy Spaghetti Western village; bullets were flying within view of downtown businesses, city hall, and Tombstone's new opera house.

Stagecoach at the O.K. Corral.
Stagecoach at the O.K. Corral.

It lasted for maybe 30 seconds. Two McLaurys and a Clanton were killed, a couple of the Earps and Doc Holliday were injured. Despite the close quarters and firepower, four of the ten antagonists emerged without a scratch. And no shots were fired at the O.K. Corral.

The shootout dead.
The shootout dead.

So why does the Corral get the notorious glory? Bob Love, its long-time owner, told us that the Corral was frequently mentioned by supporters of the Clantons, because it implied that the cowboys were shot while innocently retrieving their horses, rather than lurking in a vacant lot. And when the Hollywood film Gunfight at the O.K. Corral came out in 1957, it sealed the Corral's fate. "Gunfight in a Vacant Lot" wouldn't have sold many movie tickets.

Modern-day tourists pay their admission at the Corral ("The Most Famous Ground in Arizona"), then wind their way back around several corners to the actual site of the gun battle, to "Walk Where They Fell" (Your ticket also includes admission to the multi-media Historama, which we highly recommend). Several times a day local actors reenact the fight at the attraction, with guns blazing and bodies crumpling. "In the old days people would just come to see the Corral," said Bob. "Today they want more." Dummies are on duty the rest of the time, and we found them to be just as enjoyable.

O.K. Corral dummy re-enactment.
Six-shooters elevate for action.

Push Button.
Historical mayhem at the push of a button.

Bob told us that the dummies, installed in 2006, were part of an effort by his family "to make everything at the Corral is close to the truth as we could get it." According to a map drawn by Wyatt Earp himself (and acquired by Bob Love), the dummies stand on the exact spot where the gunfight began, which is now behind a low iron fence augmented with nameplates of the participants. You lose some intimacy with this arrangement, but you gain something, too, as these dummies have motion-enabled arms and heads.

Press a button, and a booming narrator on a hidden loudspeaker tells the story of the gunfight. Disembodied voices of the various lawmen and cowboys enliven the drama, and the heads on the dummies slowly waggle when their characters emote from the loudspeaker. When the gunfight erupts, the arms of some of the dummies pop up, pointing their six-shooters. Bullets echo, actors' voices yell and groan, but the mannequins stand frozen. No smoke, no flashes. When it's over, the arms slowly lower back to the dummies' sides.

The wild-and-woolly gunfight at the almost-O.K. Corral, recreated with bare-minimum animated dummies. We loved it.

O.K. Corral

Address:
326 E. Allen St., Tombstone, AZ
Directions:
I-10 exits 303, 304, or 306, in Benson, then south on AZ-80 for 23 miles. Once in Tombstone, turn right at the green "Parking" sign onto S. 3rd St. Drive one block. The Corral entrance will be on the left.
Hours:
Daily 10-5; gunfight times vary. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
520-457-3456
Admission:
Adults $10.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

HistoramaHistorama, Tombstone, AZ - < 1 mi.
Tombstone's Main EventTombstone's Main Event, Tombstone, AZ - < 1 mi.
World's Largest Rose BushWorld's Largest Rose Bush, Tombstone, AZ - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Queen Mine Tour, Bisbee, AZ - 21 mi.

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