January – February 2020
Part 1: Carson City offers a host of 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 will simply withstand the test of time.
Whether you believe in ghosts or not, there’s a strong case to be made that some buildings or areas can affect our senses in different ways. This certainly has been the case with myriad paranormal investigators that have spent countless hours in the Silver State searching for something spectral.
CARSON CITY MINT
As The Comstock mines boomed in Virginia City in the early 1860s, it became apparent that the region needed an efficient way of turning silver ore into silver currency. The mint was in its early planning stages in 1863, though it wouldn’t start turning out coinage until Feb. 4, 1870. Just several years later, though, the mint would come to bear the burden of a grizzly scene. On Dec. 12, 1872, a mint worker named Osborne Parker was working in the basement when some equipment fell on top of him, crushing him to death.
Parker’s unfortunate demise has reportedly been the cause of many ghost sightings at the mint, which now serves at the Nevada State Museum. Adding to the spookiness is the museum’s full-sized underground mine replica, which guests and museum staff report hearing footsteps inside. In addition, the museum’s elevator is said to occasionally operate by itself, which believers attribute to Parker’s lost soul still showing up for work all these years later. –Eric Cachinero
The creation of the Ferris Wheel isn’t the only thing renowned inventor George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. is remembered for. The Ferris Mansion—once home to Ferris Jr.—in Carson City holds a tale that takes people on an amusing ride.
Ferris Jr. died in 1896, and just four years later, a wedding took place at the mansion. But a third bride showed up, by all accounts, uninvited.
Guest of the wedding report that there were two brides attending, and even report speaking to the second bride. It was later discovered that there had been another wedding at the mansion years prior, and that the second bride was a ghost showing up to watch over the proceedings. Guests of the mansion today report seeing the ghost bride wandering the halls, and even peeking out of windows. Reports of a strong aftershave scent are also common, and it is believed that Ferris Jr.’s father was known for his generous application of the pungent liquid. –Eric Cachinero
ST. CHARLES HOTEL
On April 1, 1862, construction was started on the three-story St. Charles Hotel in Carson City. The same year, the “Silver Age” newspaper gave the hotel gleaming reviews, touting it as the, “the pleasantest resort in Carson and where everything kept by the bar is the best quality.” During the next decade, the hotel was frequented by famous Nevada figures, including renowned stage driver Hank Monk, and provided lodging for legislators and other upper-class Nevadans.
As The Comstock began to play out, though, so did the novelty of the St. Charles Hotel. In 1874, the “Daily Appeal” reported that a man killed himself inside the hotel by taking a fatal dose of strychnine—a highly toxic, colorless poison. Hotel visitors report hearing and seeing evidence of the tortured soul still roaming the halls to this day.
Additional reports include the apparition of heavyweight boxing contender Larry Duncan, who boxed under the name “Fighting Irish Pat Duncan.” Duncan lived at the hotel during the late 20th century, and is said to have died in his room. Many paranormal investigators claim to have seen and felt his spirit wandering the hotel. Also joining the other spirits at the hotel is a spectral feline, though all reported accounts claim they hear the cat meowing, but never see it. –Eric Cachinero
Millionaire Duane L. Bliss’ three-story home on Carson City’s west side was completed in 1879 and was home to Bliss and his wife Elizabeth. Bliss chose the spot for his dream home, never letting the fact it was the site of a cemetery sway him; some reports indicate it was an American Indian burial ground. He’s said to have had all the bodies exhumed and relocated before building, but some say there were many bodies still buried beneath the home.
Reports from visitors and people who’ve stayed at the house say the spirits of those people roam the house, as does Bliss, who loved his home so much, he apparently never left when he died in 1907. A child died in the house in the 1980s, and some have said his death was at the hands of the spirits that still live there. The home was a bed and breakfast in the 1990s but is now closed to the public although it does open for public tours and also occasionally hosts art and music events. –Megg Mueller
For the first 40 years of statehood, Nevada’s governors were responsible for their residences, but then Mrs. T. B. Rickey sold 1.8 acres of land to the state for $10. Legend has it she was upset with her husband’s lengthy business trips, and upon his return, he was unhappy but didn’t want to renege on the deal.
The Governor’s Mansion was completed in 1909, and Governor Denver S. Dickerson was the first governor to occupy the residence. His daughter June is the only child ever born in the Governor’s Mansion.
The mansion is said to be haunted by June and her mother Una, and former employees at the mansion have reported hearing cold wind blowing from an antique grandfather clock that also swings open periodically without assistance. Former First Lady Sandy Miller’s brother-in-law is said to have seen the apparition of a woman in a white gown. The woman is believed to be Una Dickerson, dressed for the mansion’s opening in 1909.
BREWERY ARTS CENTER
Built in 1865 by the Carson Brewery, the building contained a brewery and a bar on the first floor and the upper floor served as the Masonic Lodge from 1865 to 1919. It changed hands several times before closing in 1948, making it the longest running brewery in the state when it closed at 88 years old. With all that history, there’s no wonder there have been spectral sightings.
The most consistent haunting is said to be the work of a well-mannered and dapper maintenance worker. James P. Maar has been said to appear in a brown-checked suit and yellow tie, reminding employees to remember such tasks as turning off the lights and locking the doors. A member of the Masonic organization, he was also the caretaker and continues to oversee his duties to this day.
The building today is an arts center, open to the public. –Megg Mueller
CARSON CITY GHOST WALK
Carson City’s rich and intriguing history is explored and theatrically relived every year, thanks to the Carson City Ghost Walk Tour. It’s a spooky and enjoyable way to experience the city’s rich Victorian Era history, learn about lingering spirits, and hear haunted and paranormal stories.
Carson City’s most entertaining character, Madame Curry—wife of Carson City founder Abe Curry—leads the ghost walk. The fictionalized portrayal of Madame Curry is the work of Mary Bennett, who has been involved in the ghost walk since it began in 1993. She and her daughter Baylee Biber have run the business since 2011.
“The first time I did the ghost walk, many years ago now, I fell in love with the moments of history that were presented, the architecture, and the personalities,” Mary says.
As the producing artistic director at the Bruka Theater in Reno, Mary’s love of the theatrical was a perfect fit, and came to inform how she wanted to entertain and educate people during the ghost walk.
The tour includes the Governor’s Mansion; the Krebs-Peterson house where John Wayne’s last movie, “The Shootist,” was filmed; Bliss Mansion; and the home of George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., inventor of the Ferris Wheel. Tours are given annually in the summer months and in October.
For more information visit carsoncityghostwalk.com or call 775-348-6279.