You might think only of Las Vegas or Reno when you think of Nevada. And that’s reasonable, since roughly 84% of Nevada’s 3.1 million residents live in those two areas. But there’s a lot more to the state, in terms of history and character, represented by the roughly 500,000 people that live in the rest of the state. The names of some of Nevada’s towns literally scream out, begging for investigation. Names like Ely, Winnemucca, Elko and Mesquite. How about Stagecoach, Jackpot and Virginia City? It’s enough to make your head swim.
So, when our traveling twosome first came to the Silver State, one of the first hot spots (literally) we visited was the Nevada mining town of Tonopah, located approximately midway between Las Vegas and Reno, at the intersection of Highways 95 and 6.
Tonopah’s main reason for existence was the Silver Top and Mizpah mines, now the Tonopah Historic Mining Park. Prospector, Jim Butler, accidentally discovered gold and silver here in 1900 and Tonopah quickly became a wealthy boom town with over 50,000 people. Once known as the “Queen of the Silver Camps”, Tonopah’s fortunes fell once the mines started to play out in 1906 and the town now has a population of about 2,500. There’s still some mining going on however.
Heroic Miner: Big Bill Murphy
But one of the big highlights for us was staying in the historic Mizpah Hotel. When we booked our room on the 5th floor, the top floor, somehow we neglected to do our research. We didn’t even notice that the hotel’s website proclaims in small print: “Voted the #1 Haunted Hotel in America by USA Today”. How could we have missed that? Built in 1907, the Mizpah was the tallest building in Nevada until 1927 and it’s fortunes have risen and fallen and risen again, just as Tonopah’s has.
The big draw for the hotel, which we had failed to notice, is the ghost of the Lady in Red. The legend is that a young prostitute who worked the hotel, was spotted one evening by a jealous ex-lover as she left the room of another client and was then brutally murdered in the 5th floor hallway outside Room 512. Her ghost apparently continues to haunt the hotel, and especially the hallway just outside the door of our 5th floor room.
Before we had even heard about the lady’s ghost, Tanya swears she heard creaking both inside and outside our room during the night. I told her, “Hey, it’s an old hotel, naturally it creaks.” But the two young women working at the front desk the next morning confirmed that not only the Lady in Red haunts the hotel but the ghosts of several others, including those of a pair of young children who run through the 4th floor halls, laughing. Does this sound like “The Shining”? One of the two hotel clerks told us about her boyfriend who was working on the hotel’s restoration in 2011 who felt one of the hotel’s sprits pushing him down on a hotel bed with cold hands and not allowing him to get up. There’s even a photo album in the hotel lobby with some photos taken by guests, showing shadow images of spirits in their pictures. Now, we’re not necessarily believers in ghosts, but one does wonder.
In any case, staying at the Mizpah was a fun experience. And, Tonopah is worth a visit.