Chronicles of Tombstone's TurbulEnt Years

Tombstone History Archives

SHOWDOWN AT SCHIEFFELIN HALL

By Billy Johnson

 

(Old West Chronicle - Nov/Dec 2001)

 

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Introduction by Mark Dworkin:

Billy Johnson, known to all as BJ, is proprietor of BJ’s Tombstone History Discussion Forum, easily the most popular Tombstone and Wyatt Earp Internet site. Frustrated by True West Magazine’s lost opportunity to support western historical scholarship through it’s failure to place the events of the now legendary Scheiffelin Hall showdown in proper historiographical context, he has decided to tell the story of what actually occurred in the serious fashion the importance of the event merits. What follows is based on his own first-hand observations and the recollections of many others present that day.

 

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Prologue:

I initially offered this factual account to True West Magazine and it’s editor Bob Boze Bell, but he considered it to be inappropriate and rejected it as “factionalism”. Bell had written an account that was both inaccurate and incomplete, as he had other commitments and had departed Tombstone’s Scheiffelin Hall shortly after the events described below began. The following is the story that True West Magazine ‘did not’ want to publish.

 

Precursor at The Birdcage Theater:

This situation actually began on Friday, November 3rd, 2000 at the Tombstone’s famous Birdcage Theater, the evening prior to the Schieffelin Hall event. Several children of our event participants (the gathering of contributors to BJ’s Tombstone Discussion Forum), were playing outside next to the Birdcage theater, and were yelled at and told to play elsewhere by a Birdcage representative.

 

Bob Boze Bell later in the day was broadcasting his radio program live from this same venue. Bell had previously arranged for Allen Barra, a well-respected Wyatt Earp researcher and author, to be interviewed during this broadcast. I was standing next to Allen as he waited to go on when a very agitated female Birdcage employee, wearing an 1880’s costume, walked up to Allen and, sticking her finger in his face, began screaming at him to vacate the premises. Allen, to his credit, and loyally not wishing to embarrass Bob while he was on the air , quietly departed the scene.

 

I remained in the Birdcage awaiting the next radio commercial break, and informed Bob about what had just happened, that Allen had been ejected from the premises and would not be available for interview. To my surprise, I was informed by Bob, “that under the circumstances” he would not be able to interview me either. It might be noted here that the Birdcage is a prominent advertiser in Bob’s magazine. Later it would develop that under certain similar pressures Allen Barra, noted Wyatt Earp authority and nationally prominent journalist, would have his name removed from the True West masthead. It is hard to imagine these events are not linked somehow to advertising dollars.

 

Bob was visibly shaken by what I told him. However, he did not insist that Allen be returned for the scheduled interview. Apparently Bill Hunley, owner of the Birdcage, had significant influence over Bob’s decisions and although he eventually apologized to Allen, Bob chose not to counter the owner’s decision. Bob later, incorrectly, told Allen that he “did not know” that Allen had been ejected from the Birdcage Theater.

 

Saturday, November 4th , Showdown at Schieffelin Hall.

 

Upon awakening this day, our group pondered ominous storm clouds and rain on the horizon, and after some discussion decided to take our planned hike into the old ghost town of Charleston. The area was wet and our group returned from the hike drenched and muddy.

 

Upon our return to Tombstone we discovered that Danny Coleman, Glenn Boyer’s stepson, had been distributing flyers around town. The flyers were advertising the “Tombstone Senior Citizens Benefit Book Signing” ‘Free To Public-but your contributions will be welcome, whether Money, Mouth or both.’ This event was sponsored by Tombstone’s Official Historian, Ben Traywick, and in the days prior to our gathering, Glenn had trumpeted about it on other boards as a showdown.

 

Glenn Boyer’s book signing was advertised to begin at 1:00 PM but we did not return from our hike until after 2:00 PM, and it was close to 3:00 PM by the time everyone was cleaned up. We received news that Glenn was referring to our group, a group that included prominent Wyatt Earp authorities, some of whom had been instrumental in exposing Glenn Boyer’s non-existent manuscripts, as “cowards” for not arriving at 1:00 PM. Our hike had been scheduled months earlier, but this information did not seem to register with Glenn nor fit into his agenda.

 

When we entered Scheiffelin Hall and took our seats, Glenn began to play a cassette tape of a telephone answering machine recording that Allen Barra had once left for a local printer, advising the printer of legalities per printing certain information contained in Boyer’s ‘Earp Curse.’ It was not clear why Glenn repeatedly played this recording, since almost everyone in attendance was already aware of the content of the message. Glenn’s continued his provocative behavior and proceeded to read what seemed like a near book-length tirade at his critics, his perceived “enemies.” Included in Glenn’s rant was an ethnic reference against Allen’s presumed Italian heritage, wherein he stated something along the lines of how he fears Allen’s Mafia relatives.

 

Glenn’s wife, Jane Candia Coleman gave a very emotional appeal stating that the fighting was upsetting to her and she wanted it to end. Ironically, one of our group, Casey Tefertiller, attempted several times to make this same offer,” to end it now” but Glenn stated that he would “take it to the grave.”

 

Allen Barra, his wife Jonelle, and daughter Maggie arrived soon after and Allen was waving his flyer invitation and asking for Glenn Boyer. Allen and Jonelle had heard also that Glenn’s ‘investigator’ had discovered that Allen and Jonelle were divorced and that he was a single parent, and Glenn had posted this information on the Internet during the week prior to the events described. This was quite a surprise to Allen and his wife, happily married, and Allen asked Glenn for a clarification and retraction.

 

Glenn Boyer, Ron Fischer, Ben Traywick and Danny Coleman stormed toward the now seated Barra family and surrounded them in an intimidating fashion. Glenn, Danny and possibly several other Boyer supporters were wearing guns and holsters. Gary McLelland closely followed, but his role was not clear. Some observers thought that he was making an awkward attempt to defuse the situation, although others were not so sure.

 

Ron Fischer was exceptionally aggressive in his stance and body language. Many cameras were snapping this scene and photographs that appeared in True West Magazine confirm this aggressive posture. He was very close to Allen, waving his finger in Allen’s face. Jonelle, Allen’s wife, tried to shake Glenn’s hand but Glenn simply ignored her. There seemed to be little concern for nine-year-old Maggie Barra, a little girl caught in the middle of a very tense and serious situation, surrounded by visibly armed men, on the part of Fischer and company.

 

Several members of our group, Max Roberts, Mark Dworkin, Larry Knuth and others, quickly stepped between the Barra family and the armed pack. I positioned myself between Danny Coleman and the Barra family, as I was most concerned about his unpredictability and his past history of displaying firearms. Jonelle and Maggie quickly departed this unsafe scene, whereupon Allen joined me in the front of the Hall.

 

Two off duty lawmen, part of our group, left Schieffelin Hall and summoned the Tombstone Deputy Marshal, who soon arrived. Glenn and his armed crew then returned to their panel discussion chairs and Glenn resumed reading from his written diatribe. Danny Coleman walked around the Hall, at various times hovering near Allen Barra and telling him to “shut up.” Whenever Danny stood with an aggressive stance next to or behind Barra, Allen showing his refusal to be intimidated by now sitting in the front row, I personally made it a point to stand next to Danny so as to cover Allen’s back.

 

Casey Tefertiller, with some assistance from Jeff Morey, debated and pinned down Glenn about the fake source material he had used in a number of his books, materials subsequently used in good faith by other authors before their exposure as fraudulent, and by the end of the session, Glenn appeared very fatigued, seeming to sink progressively into his chair. All the while Casey, standing directly and forthrightly in front of Glenn, offered both the olive branch or the arrow. Glenn continued to refuse any peace offerings.

 

Contrary to the True West article written by Bob Boze Bell in the winter edition portraying the Scheiffelin Hall event in a facetious and light-hearted mode, this was a very dangerous situation. Arrests could have, and probably should have, been made at this armed attempt at intimidation of the Allen Barra family.

 

Ron Fischer, who’s claims to have been the strength coach for the Los Angeles Rams Football Team have been disputed by Rams representatives, recently wrote in a letter published in True West as follows:

 

“It’s my considered opinion that the out-of -town shouters still don’t get the message. This was designed to be pure entertainment. And no one was ever in danger of being hurt. The Town Marshal was well aware of the players in this historic drama long before act one began. For all in attendance, the activists were recognized as such by anyone with an IQ above that of a moron. Unfortunately, as is always the case, a few mental midgets were in attendance.”

 

The following was recently submitted by an off duty Utah law officer, part of our group and present at the time described above, Randy Lish:

 

Just for information, this guy Ron Fischer is not being factual by telling folks (via a letter to the True West Editor) that the Marshal of Tombstone knew all those involved and what was going to happen. The Marshal of Tombstone is not a psychic and could not possibly know all those that would show up or the behavior that they would exhibit! If Ron Fischer’s statement were true, the Tombstone Deputies would not have responded as rapidly as they did in order to prevent the pending violence.

 

The Tombstone Marshal’s Office is a professional agency that would never allow the threatening behavior that occurred, nor would it allow Boyer to pull a ” toy pistol ” on crowd of people as a joke. It really angers me that Bob Boze Bell is writing scanty articles that gloss over the real danger of what almost happened at the last gathering and where the REAL blame lays; It came very close to a shooting with Boyer/Traywick/Coleman and Fischer putting a lot of people’s lives on the line by promoting verbally aggressive as well as physically (posturing) assaultive behavior. I’ve arrested people for far less violent actions in my career in order to prevent an actual physical altercation! Rod and I are grateful that the Tombstone Deputies showed up when they did (mere presence prevents more problems than we’ll ever know ); But that’s just my take on things………

 

Take care

Randy Lish

 

The showdown at Scheiffelin Hall was not only a pivotal event in Tombstone historiography, it was a dangerous situation. It was also a story about brave men and women, responding and coming to the aid of an endangered family. The quick responses of people including Max Roberts, Mark Dworkin, Larry Knuth and many others, might well have prevented another tragic shootout in Tombstone, this time potentially involving women and children.

 

Glenn Boyer’s Schieffelin Hall appearance was advertised as a book signing and senior citizen’s benefit. I have attended many book signings in the past but never have I seen the hosts of the event wearing guns and attempting to intimidate potential book buyers. Why would grown men feel so insecure as to find it necessary to go heeled to a book signing? The staging of this event defied the parameters of acceptable civilized behavior. True West magazine had an opportunity to accurately cover this signal gathering, an event already gaining legendary status amongst aficionados of the old west genre. After all, it’s editor was present for at least part of it and has access to many of the other participants and observers. But it was an opportunity fumbled away. Since then, I have often pondered how True West Magazine would have covered the famous gunfight near the OK Corral?

 

 

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