Ghosts in northern Nevada aren’t of the ghoulish campfire variety. Here, they tell stories of the past … of the colorful characters of the Comstock-era, when silver was king and Virginia City was the cultural center of the Western expansion, or when getting a divorce required establishing residency in Reno during an extended stay.
Whether it’s Lake Tahoe’s smoky showrooms that hosted characters like Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra during the golden age of casinos, or the pioneer families of rural settlements like Genoa, the ghostly apparitions that appear to some today are a reminder of the connection between history and place. Believers and non-believers alike can fill their Sierra travel docket with offbeat experiences, chasing the ghosts of northern Nevada; they just have to know where to look.
Once a western metropolis, Virginia City is a history lover’s paradise where spooky sites abound. Check out The Silver Terrace Cemeteries with its Victorian-era plots. Piper’s Opera House, one of the most significant vintage theaters in America is also a center for the supernatural – the ghost of John Piper himself is said to appear in the building. Many say the Mackay Mansion is home to female apparitions busy walking up and down the stairs completing chores, and a former Colonel who likes to linger in the kitchen. For a guided tour that is sure to chill you, try the Silver Queen Hotel, offering tours every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. You might just see Rosie, one of the many lady apparitions of the house. The Washoe Club offers ghost tours seven days a week, and if you’re feeling really brave, grab a few friends and opt to be locked in the three-story building for an overnight investigation. Keep an eye out for the apparition of the young girl who was murdered in the basement and is said to frequent one of the second-floor bedrooms. For a walking tour around Virginia City check out Bats in the Belfry who offer ghost tours of the Comstock year round.
The “Jewel of the Sierra” is more than just a pretty place. Visit Thunderbird Lodge, the 1938 estate built by socialite George Whittell, where several ghosts are rumored to be roaming the grounds. At the Cal Neva Resort, fans of Hollywood’s heyday will be delighted to know the ghosts of Marilyn Monroe and Sammy Davis Jr. are still around.
Before Reno became the birthplace of gaming and the quickie divorce, it was a pioneer settlement during the westward expansion. The Hillside Cemetery is the resting place for many of the region’s first settlers, while the University of Nevada, Reno is said to be one of the most haunted Universities in America. Morrill Hall at UNR is rumored to be home to frequent paranormal activity and haunted by a woman dressed in 1920s attire. Legend has it that the Nevada Living Learning Community at the University is been built on top of land that was once a Native American burial site and students living on the top floor of this building have reported hearing talking and footsteps late at night. In the DeLaMare Library, the playful ghost of Clarence Mackay has been blamed for stopping clocks and turning lights off and on.
Nevada’s capital is home to some of the state’s best museums and of course its halls of government, but the real thrill may come for visitors at sites like the Brewery Arts Center, where a ghost believed to be that of community leader James P. Maar greets visitors. During the annual Carson City Ghost Walk (Saturday, October 20) visitors can encounter Carson City’s ghosts and historical figures played by actors in period costume.