Haunted Nevada: Something Spectral
March – April 2020
Part 2: Central Nevada delivers two spectacular and spooky sites.
BY MEGG MUELLER & ERIC CACHINERO
With an arsenal of abandoned historical buildings and eerie locations, Nevada can occasionally be spooky. Much of the energy stems from the state’s mining history, which got grizzly and dark at times. Mine fires and construction catastrophes are engrained in Nevada, as are Wild West-style murders. Some people attribute these factors to the reported hauntings at many of the state’s oldest mines and buildings.
Not everything paranormal needs to be scary, though. Many people believe in the presence of residents past, whose ties to a particular area simply withstand the test of time.
Whether you believe in ghosts or not, there’s a strong case to be made that different buildings or areas can affect our senses in different ways. This certainly has been the case with countless paranormal investigators that have spent countless hours in the Silver State searching for something spectral.
THE MIZPAH HOTEL
“The No. 1 Haunted Hotel in America” is not a moniker some properties would enjoy, but the Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah happily embraces the lure of its past. When “USA Today” readers chose the Mizpah as the best haunted hotel in its 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards, it was no surprise—the 113-year-old hotel has long been a hotbed of paranormal rumors.
Built in 1907, the Mizpah was—at five-stories tall—for 25 years the tallest building in Nevada. It was built while the town was enjoying the riches of the silver boom, and it was built to impress potential visitors from the east with the riches and luxury Tonopah had to offer.
In the 1920s, the story of The Lady in Red was born with, sadly, a young woman’s death. The tale goes that a prostitute was strangled in the hallway on the fifth floor by a jealous lover. Her spirit is the one most frequently discussed by ghost hunters and visitors who have claimed to have been visited by her during their stay. She’s reportedly visited male visitors in their sleep, floated in the hallways, and has even been known to leave behind pearls.
The room where she stayed was renovated in 2011, after the property had been shuttered for 10 years. Guests who spend the night may catch a glimpse of the Lady, or perhaps the two children that have been known to roam the halls asking visitors why they are there before running away, leaving small handprints behind. It’s also been reported that the spirits of two miners inhabit the basement. The two are said to have been murdered by a third who got greedy after the trio robbed a bank vault in the Mizpah’s basement. Workers have said the two miners live on in the hotel, playing tricks on unsuspecting folks.
A now-debunked story about Nevada Senator Key Pittman has drawn its fair share of paranormal enthusiasts, as well. The story went that Pittman died in the hotel just before the election of 1940, and his supporters didn’t want word getting out until the election results were known. They kept his body on ice in a hotel bathroom until the election was over, and while Pittman has been placed in Reno at the time of his death, ghostly visages of the senator have been reported.
As mentioned, not all locations enjoy the haunted status the Mizpah enjoys, but the hotel encourages guests to record any encounters they have with spirits in the hotel and has even been known to leave a friendly replica of The Lady in Red in closets for lucky guests to find. Why are they lucky? Because finding the Lady results in a half-priced room for the night. And don’t worry, guests are notified at the front desk of the possibility of a visitor in their closet.—Megg Mueller
THE GOLDFIELD HIGH SCHOOL
Goldfield’s magnificence echoes through time. Imagine the lavish lifestyles, avant-garde architecture, and gluttonous wealth that poured from Nevada’s largest town: first-class hotels, the world’s richest gold mines, opulent parades featuring exotic animals, prize boxing matches in the streets, and a saloon so large it required 80 bartenders to keep up with demand. In 1907, Goldfield truly was the epicenter of Nevada, and possibly the entire U.S.
Goldfield is not without its share of gloom, though. The town’s history is entangled in a host of murders, deadly fires, and abandoned buildings, leading to an environment of pungent supernatural activity.
On Aug. 4, 1907—under full Masonic ritual—the cornerstone of the Goldfield High School was laid using a trowel made from pure Comstock silver. According to the Goldfield Historical Society, “Mortar was spread on top of the stone, first pouring corn as the symbol of the heavenly bounty; second, wine as the symbol of joy and gladness; third, pouring oil, symbolic of divine peace and finished with a prayer.” By Nov. 18 of that year, the high school was completed at a cost of $100,000. The raising of the flag along with the release of two white doves marked the unofficial opening, followed by an official dedication on Jan. 31, 1908, when the first classes were taught at the school.
The three-story building held 12 classrooms, two bathrooms, an auditorium, and several storage rooms and offices, with a capacity of 450 students. The school success was short-lived, though. Goldfield’s incredible wealth began to fade several years after the school was built, with the ore production dropping and the largest mine in town boarding up its tunnels by 1919. Another major blow was dealt to Goldfield in 1923, when a fire caused by a moonshine still destroyed most of the town’s wooden buildings; the high school, constructed mostly of stone and brick on the exterior, survived. By 1953, the school became completely abandoned, due to a weakening foundation.
Today, the Goldfield High School oozes haunted ambiances. So much so, that the town offers paid haunted tours. According to Just Jeri Photography—the company offering the tours—guests of the haunted tour, “May hear footsteps of the long deceased teachers who taught there; and moaning from the principal who kept children locked in closets for misbehaving…Feel the spirits who haunt the school because of the tragedies that took place there.”
A portion of the proceeds from the haunted tours are given to the Goldfield Historical Society, which uses the money to provide major repairs to the historic school.—Eric Cachinero