Prior to opening the first casino in Las Vegas: Nevada was the home of many silver and gold mines. After each mine closure, residents packed their bags and deserted the area leaving many hotels, homes, even vehicles abandoned. Due to this, all eerie vibes resinate in the Northern area of Nevada, our dearly beloved Ghost Towns. For a friend’s birthday, we decided to take the good ol’ 7 hour haul up north. Here are our findings.
S A T U R D A Y
A quick turn off the roadside through a small, interesting town and you’ll be there - the Goldwell Open Air Museum and Artist Residency. The artists are known to have picked this desert space for their museum in order to allow creative freedom, much different from their previous work in Europe. It is the home of “The Last Supper” which was originally designed to last a mere two years. Over thirty years later and it is just as spectacular as the moment it was put in place. The perfect start to a road trip for thrill seekers!
With a current population of 200 people, the home of Nevada’s gold rush was gone just as quickly as it arrived. It is now marked as one of the most haunted towns in the country. The most prominent landmarks to visit are the the school, the bank, and most importantly, the Goldfield Hotel. The bank is now owned by some rich snob who opens it to throw exclusive parties to his closest friends, residents are just waiting for the day that he finally regrets it. Please note to do your best and try to stop in at least one bar in each town. Locals share the best stories, much like the one we heard at Hoist House Tavern of a family man who shot himself on the Goldfield Hotel steps just a month prior to our visit. It had been 10 years since his last visit, yet there he was at 3:00 AM - wearing a Mr. Potato Head mask and preaching of how he was haunted by the Goldfield ghosts. Side note: the Hoist House tavern ghoul resident doesn’t seem to care for stemmed glasses, so be sure to pack a few.
The Mizpah Hotel is just as charming as you would hope for in a small, not quite abandoned town. The fifth floor is romantic, much like the others, with a victorian couch on display alongside two single chairs and a coffee table. Directly around the corner from this sweet sitting area is where the tragedy is said to have happened. A lady of the night was brutally murdered in this small space by a jealous lover, then left for dead. Since then, extremely strange findings have occurred.
There have been shadows caught on camera with only one person in the room, guests claim to have been pinched in the hallways, typical whispers, it’s all fun and games up until we paid a visit to the Tonopah Brewery down the street for some fried okra. Turns out, our bartender was a former Executive Chef of The Mizpah, his wife is currently the Director of Food and Beverage. He had stories, one being that of a guest he knew staying in a room on the fifth floor. Exhausted, the guest went to his room and called his wife to inform her that he was going to bed. After a couple of minutes, he rushed downstairs and rushed a crowd back to his room. With the covers pulled back there were three clear markings, three wet bloodstains. Our bartender provided us with a photo of the incident, then moved on to the next image of two men having a conversation in the lobby - in the background you can easily make out a severed head with it’s body just below. Lastly, he told us the story of a guest who sat at the bar, ordered a shot of Macallan 25 and began to call a person who seemed to be his travel agent. “I don’t care where you put me, but I am not staying here tonight.” The Executive Chef began to worry, this was his property, after all, and decided to look into the situation. “Is there something wrong?” The guest delved into what had just occurred. He was making his way onto the second floor when he caught eyes with a young child sitting on the couch. “Are you okay - where are your parents?” She looked up. “Over there.” He glanced in the direction she was looking and repeated himself, “Where are your parents?” “They’re over there!” The child stood up, pointed forward and began walking up until she walked right through a wall.
Based on a recommendation, we made our way up the hill to a more recently opened spot called Bug Bar. Locals entertained us with stories of the mine shafts and celebrating every new year that took place based on other countries. It was a time.
We had dinner at the Pittman Café where our kind server quickly described how a child appeared in a photo of himself on the 5th floor. He doesn’t go up there anymore. After the wild, most perfect New Year’s Eve, we woke up and headed to Virginia City - not without making a pitstop at the Clown Motel and walking about ten steps over to the Tonopah Cemetery. It was snowing so the cemetery was slightly romantic, even the snow was sparkling. Off to VC.
S U N D A Y
After a few hours of driving through more desert or past massive lakes, we checked into the Sugarloaf Mountain Motel. A total of six mom-and-pop style cottages that used to be an entire prison for miners - who would have thought? We spoke with a man who I dubbed Papa Joe for a moment and headed out.
The Bucket of Blood was our first stop. The perfect view and only the best, most tasty Bloody Marys. Also - it seems that one VC shot is equivalent to two LV shots. Upon entering, we immediately felt that there was an event going on. Soon enough we were kindly informed that it became an Fridays and Saturdays became an unintentional tradition, a live band will perform and welcome guests to dress in 1900’s wear. Epic.
Red Dog Saloon was our next stop for good pizza and good conversation guaranteed.
One of the (maybe) five bars left open was the Silver Dollar Saloon. We spent most of the evening in this tiny cubby down a steep flight of stairs, with bras of all sizes and one dollar bills spilling from the ceiling. Surprisingly enough, this was not a strip club. Just a pleasant little bar. Think of the seven dwarves. Well, one of them is the resident bartender here with a torn white leather hat. They call him Hip. Conveniently enough, Hip’s sister is the overnight bartender at the spot across the way called the Mark Twain Saloon and Casino. When Hip is sick of your shit, he will start to shut down and send you to her. This isn’t a bad thing, this is where Twain supposedly started his career. There are multiple chandeliers and portraits hung from the walls with one theme - pistols. Old western enough, yet?
M O N D A Y
The next morning we headed to breakfast at the Canvas Café for omelets and hot coffee on a cold, snowy morning. I could have sat looking out yet another window for days, but I didn't. Instead we made our way to the VC Silver Terrace Cemetery. One thing I would not recommend is taking this stroll in the snow. It is uphill and the iced blacktop just sneaks up on you, next thing you know you’re on the floor. I’ve read this particular graveyard used to be covered in gardens and flowers, but that scenery has passed. Instead there are sky high tombstones and a beautiful view of the snowy VC hills.
It was a ten minute walk back onto the main street. We spent the rest of the afternoon antiquing. If there is one item I regret not being home, it is an antique pickle jar. They’re everywhere. They look like mini victorian lanterns and I spend my spare time glancing around my home, wondering where one would have fit in perfectly. Oh well.
The afternoon was spent recharging (mandatory nap). We then made our way to the only bars open on a Monday: Red Dog Saloon and Bucket of Blood. I began to get hungry and remembered that the Canvas Café would reopen for dinner at 6:00 PM. Turns out, this is no average Grandma-style dinner. The Café brings VC families and friends together once a week for a three-course meal. Tonight’s special would be home-made Pumpkin Soup, Pork Belly Pastry and finished with a caramelized apple and pear mixture. They even made a last minute adjustment to meet my friends’ vegetarian needs. As if it couldn't get better, the bill came out to $20 per person - sold!
Not willing to end the night at 9:00 PM like the locals, we were lucky enough to pop our heads back into the Mark Twain saloon. Even more lucky, we had the most ghoul-informed bartender with the best stories. He told us of the ghosts that haunt the streets rather than the buildings. From victorian women to children, he left us begging for anything else he could leave us with. He then said that the saloon is haunted by a recently-deceased bartender named Paul. Now, Paul is harmless, but he has been seen around town. He leans on buildings in the midst of the night and likes to mess with the remaining saloon staff. You know that friend that says, “If I die, I’m going to haunt you.” Well, that friend is good ol’ Paul.
Now that our new favorite bartender loaded us up with cocktails and terrifying tales, it was time to tank the grand walk back to the hotel. One step out and I wanted to start running immediately. Imagine a town legally bound to maintain the look and feel of western times on a snowy evening at roughly 2:00 AM. Terrified, we turned to the right and began to press our boots into the snow as quickly as we would. The light posts may have been the only thing in sight and each stood twenty feet from the other. Our twenty minute jog was filled with giggles, screams and me telling Chelsea not to go near “the house with the black windows.” Surprisingly, we were able to fall asleep.
T U E S D A Y
Our last day was spent making the 7 hour trip back to Las Vegas. We took an exceptionally long way stopping in Reno to grab a bite and check out the recommended brewery. After a sketchy, winding drive, our first stop was Peg’s Glorified Ham n’ Eggs. Apparently this is a locally-owned breakfast spot with just a few locations in Reno, Carson City and California. The restaurant has a great reputation for obvious reasons. I ordered a breakfast burrito and received a platter alongside pico, beans, has browns. All the mix. I must also note that the waitress did not say hello, she simply said, “Would you like coffee?” and I am completely okay with that. We made the must-pass-glance at the “iconic” Reno sign, but honestly after growing up in the Entertainment Capital of the World, not many signs are live up to their name. Depot Brewery, here we come. I sat down and chose their classic stout to satisfy my noon-beer craving. I was most impressed with the menu, seeing that some genius finally put pickled green beans on a piece of paper that I could purchase as an appetizer - literally iconic. By the force of curiosity, we snagged some beans and their mac and cheese then went on our way.
We have a thing for State Capital Buildings, so why not check out our own? Nevada's Capitol Building in Carson City was a sight for sore eyes. Small in comparison to others, yet the most impressive due to it's creep-level and the proximity that you are able to stand from the Governor himself at any given moment. After a six hour drive, we made one last pass through Goldfield in order to get a glimpse at night and were not disappointed. I returned home safe and sound with a sage stick stashed into my doorknob ...fitting.
I was pleasantly surprised by this entire trip. Being from a big city, you seem to forget how privileged you are. In smaller towns; events, neighborhoods, and bars are so much more intimate. Everyone has a nickname and you know the sister’s brother’s wife of the man who just walked in the door. It is entertaining to watch from the outside, in. My point is not to forget the little guys. Every city has a history that should be explored - especially if there are spirits involved.