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Visiting the hangouts of the state’s spirited forbears.
Photo: Gary A. Reese (Goldfield Hotel)
We enter into a land of shadow, of bizarre sight and sound, perhaps another dimension. No, this isn’t The Twilight Zone. You’ve entered Nevada, the ghost-walk zone.
In glitzy Las Vegas, ghost hunters hope to catch a glimpse of the spirits of long-gone celebrities, such as Liberace at the piano or “Bugsy” Siegel roaming the Flamingo’s gardens. In smaller towns you can take a tour or poke around on your own in search of Nevada’s less famous spirits. Not surprisingly, as October rolls around interest in the paranormal peaks.
A two-and-a-half-hour haunted Vegas tour transports you by bus and walking tour to many spooky Sin City sites. One favorite stop is Carluccio’s Tivoli Gardens Restaurant, located in the former home of Mr. Showmanship, Liberace. The Haunted Vegas Tours guide, Jac Hayden, is a licensed mortician. He points out the strange goings-on at the piano in the main dining room. Liberace might be back for one last encore, as the piano has been reported to play all by itself.
Stops on the tour include 1700 East Flamingo Avenue, where rapper Tupac Shakur was shot in 1996, and comedian Redd Foxx’s house in North Las Vegas. Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel is said to visit the rose garden at the Flamingo, which he helped build in 1946. As they stroll the grounds, visitors hope to catch a glimpse of the gangster’s spirit standing beside the plaque bearing his likeness.
On the Saturday before Halloween, Carson City residents and visitors follow the Kit Carson Trail Ghost Walk. Starting at the Nevada State Museum, the 90-minute walking tour takes you on a self-guided investigation through Carson’s Victorian-era historic district. At each house docents in period costumes portray ghosts and entertain tour goers with anecdotes. Janet Jones, group sales manager for the Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, says, “It’s actually quite fun and humorous—not scary at all.” The tour ends with a refreshing witch’s brew at the Brewery Arts Center, which, according to Jones, has its own resident ghost in the theater.
Although no official ghost walks are available in Virginia City, that doesn’t stop ghost hunters from materializing. Virginia City, 23 miles southeast of Reno on State Route 341, is home to the historic Piper’s Opera House, the Washoe Club, the Silver Queen Hotel, and the city cemeteries, all sites that have been explored by paranormal aficionados. Piper’s Opera House artistic director Bill Beeson has heard reports of a 19th-century-garbed woman sitting in the left-hand proscenium box. The opera house is open to viewers during the day and is a working performance space in the evening.
Becky J. Orr, tourism liaison for the Virginia City Visitors Center, says one night she was using the upstairs restroom in the 1860s-era Gold Hill Hotel, an area landmark that has 20 restored rooms, a dining room, bookstore, and bar.
“It was winter, and there were no guests on the floor,” she relates. “I heard children running up and down the hall, giggling. I came out to tell them to settle down, and the hall was empty.” Orr says such a spirited ruckus in the corridor is common.
The long-vacant Goldfield Hotel appeals to ghost hunters—and filmmakers. The hotel, 183 miles north of Las Vegas on U.S. 95, was featured in Ghost Adventures, a documentary by Zak Bagans and Nick Groff of Las Vegas. The film made its network premiere July 25 on the Sci Fi Channel, which plans to air it seven times. Bagans and Groff also investigated Virginia City’s Old Washoe Club.
Built in 1908 by George Wingfield, the Goldfield Hotel has an aura of foreboding. Room 109 is commonly referred to as “The Vortex Room,” and legend tells of a young woman who died there. According to area tour guide Virginia Ridgway, who was interviewed in the film, the woman is said to be chained to a radiator. Ridgway also says she has seen a figure appear on the fourth floor.
The Stabber, a malevolent spirit who “attacks” people with a kitchen knife, is supposed to occupy the Gold Room, but he has never truly harmed anyone.
Haunted Vegas Tours
9 p.m. Saturday through Thursday, dark Friday
Kit Carson Trail Ghost Walk
October 20: begins at 9:30 a.m., every 30 minutes, last tour leaves at 2:30 p.m.
Piper’s Opera House
1 N. B St., Virginia City
Virginia City Convention and Tourism Authority
Goldfield Chamber of Commerce
MORE GHOSTLY ATTRACTIONS
The Haunted Gardnerville Ghost Walk will be offered at 6:30, 7:30, and 8:30 p.m. on October 19. The Douglas County Historical Society will hold the Mottsville Cemetery Tour from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on October 20. The Haunted Genoa Ghost Walk will take place on October 21 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
The exhibit “Undertaking the Past, Comstock Cemeteries and Victorian Dead” is open Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Comstock History Center, 20 N. E. St.
nevadaculture.org, 775-847-0419, 775-847-0281
Haunted Halls Halloween will be held October 31 at the Fourth Ward School in Virginia City.
The annual Halloween Haunted House will be held at the Horse Palace October 19-20, 25-27, and 31.
Carlin Spook Night will be held on October 30 at Carlin Chinese Gardens.
WORTH A WATCH
Visit myspacetv.com to view a Ghost Adventures trailer courtesy of 4Reel Productions and Las Vegas filmmakers Zak Bagans and Nick Groff. The film will air on the Sci Fi Channel at 2 p.m. on October 31.
WORTH A READ
Bagans will join Janice Oberding, author of “Haunted Nevada,” in Virginia City in an attempt to obtain more documentary material. visitcarsoncity.com