Your survival depends on your knowledge of the Comstock and the spirits that haunt it. This is your guide into the depths of what makes Virginia City one of the most authentic living ghost towns in the world. Some of this history will lead you to victory, some of it will lead you to a dead end. Don’t overthink it. On your mission, you’re going to have to keep running.

A HISTORY OF VIRGINIA CITY

HAUNTINGS OF THE COMSTOCK

  • MURDER AT THE OLD WASHOE CLUB – The Washoe Club is the oldest saloon in Virginia City and is considered one of the most haunted buildings in the western U.S.  Built in the 1870s, it was a high-class, men’s only club for the rich. Its iconic spiral staircase was a discreet entry for the sexual services offered upstairs. A blonde prostitute named Lena has been reportedly seen hovering on the top of that staircase. She was murdered in a third-floor bedroom. Her killer then took his own life on the second floor. His apparition is also believed to haunt the building. But their troubled souls aren’t the most disturbing paranormal activity at the Old Washoe Club. Several guests have reported seeing the spirit of a frightened, little girl wearing a tattered, old-fashioned, white dress. Some believe she died in a carriage accident outside the Club when she broke her neck. Others believe she was murdered by a predator in the basement of the building. Many children allegedly died in that basement from abuse or disease because of their mothers’ line of work at the club, and many of their spirits are believed to still be inside the building. The Washoe Club is also the site of The Crypt. Bodies would be stored in the crypt when it was too cold outside to dig a grave. In 1874, during a typhoid epidemic, as many as 77 bodies were stored in The Crypt at one time. Several paranormal investigators say there are spirits who haunt this area as well, including one who frequently locks women in the nearby bathroom.These ghosts, however, are apparently not the only ones that call the Washoe Club home. Some paranormal investigators believe many of the spirits come from a more recent time. The Washoe Club’s heyday ended with the Comstock’s decline, and closed in 1897 after all of the millionaires had either left town or died. In the 1930s, the upper levels were converted into low-income apartments where numerous murders and suicides took place. One prominent ghost on the second floor is believed to have hanged himself in his apartment in the 1990s.

Haunted History of the Old Washoe Club

The Story of the Old Washoe Club

  • REVENGE OF A GHOST & A TRIP TO THE GALLOWS–  The Storey County Jail is now the Silver State National Peace Officers Museum, dedicated to the men and women who serve and have served. When it was built in 1876, it was the largest jail in the state of Nevada. It has two tiers and ten jail cells. Located in the Storey County Courthouse it was in the back of this building where the town would gather to see criminals hanged. Paranormal investigators believe many of their ghosts still wander around the area. One of the most prominent is Peter Larkin. Larkin was the chief of the Virginia City Fire Department, and Nellie Sayers’ lover. She was not faithful to Larkin. In 1877, he found Dan Corcoran in Sayers’ home. In a jealous rage, he shot and killed him. In an effort to cover-up the murder, Larkin and Sayers both claimed Corcoran had committed suicide. That’s when, according to legend, Corcoran’s ghost began haunting Sayers, urging her to tell the truth. Sayers recanted her original story and Larkin was sentenced to death. Since his trip to the gallows, Larkin’s ghost has been seen around the jail and the courthouse, and some say they’ve heard his cries. Several people also say they’ve heard what sounds like wood slapping against wood in the spot where Larkin was hanged.

The Story of Peter Larkin

The History of the Storey County Courthouse

  • DISTURBANCES AT THE SILVER QUEEN – Staff, guests, and countless paranormal investigators are certain that ghosts roam the 138-year-old property. Constant occurrences include tapping on walls, jingling doorknobs, sudden bangs, voices in unoccupied rooms, and strangest of all, footsteps on a wooden floor. The footsteps are particularly odd considering the hotel is completely carpeted. It is believed two female spirits are mainly responsible for the disturbances: a prostitute who reportedly slashed her wrists in the bathtub of Room 11, and a woman simply known as Annie. There is also stories of an epic fight between a man and a woman from the early days of the hotel being played out repeatedly by resident spirits. The haunted hotel and saloon is known for its namesake, the Silver Queen. At 15 feet tall, her gown sparkles with 3,261 silver dollars. The number of silver dollars was chosen to emphasize the depth of Virginia City’s Combination Mine Shaft (3,261 feet deep). The Silver Queen has stood for more than 140 years, greeting guests as they enter The Chapel. Her Chapel is home to more than vows of devotion and love. Directly behind the pew is a crypt, where residents would store bodies when the ground was too cold to dig a grave.  

Haunted History of the Silver Queen

The Story of the Silver Queen Hotel

  • THE SUICIDE TABLE – Three owners of this infamous table committed suicide. It was brought to Virginia City in the early 1860s for the game of Faro, the most played casino card game in the West. The first owner, “Black Jake,” lost $70,000 in one night and shot himself. The second owner, ran the table for only one night’s play. He was unable to pay off his losses and took his own life. The table was put in storage for several years because no one would deal on it. In the late 1890’s, it was brought out of storage and converted into a “21” table. A miner stumbled in half drunk one night and gambled a gold ring against a five dollar gold piece on the table and won. By the morning, he had won more than $86,000 in cash, a team of horses, and a stake in a gold mine – everything the owner of the table had in the world. Before the day was over that owner killed himself. The table, considered cursed, now sits under glass at the Delta Saloon.

The Curse of The Suicide Table

The History of the Delta Saloon

  • THE STREETS RAN RED WITH BLOOD – The Bucket of Blood is world famous. It was built in 1876, in the heyday of Virginia City. It was also a time when the saloons were the wildest places in town. Gunfights and barroom brawls would erupt almost nightly. The killings were so constant the Gold Hill Daily News wrote “The land runs fairly red with the blood of slaughtered men, and homicide has become so daily and hourly an occurrence in our midst, that when a day passes that is unmarked by ‘a man for breakfast,’ it is the subject of remark.” The blood that was mopped up in the morning would turn the water in the bucket red, thus the name the Bucket of Blood Saloon. The saloon”s masonry walls predate the Great Fire of 1875 and shadows of doorways recall a time when enclosed stairs led down to the Boston Saloon. That saloon was destroyed in the Great Fire and, until recently, no one realized the Boston Saloon lay under an asphalt cap to the rear of the building. Because of this, the Bucket of Blood is a National Landmark.

The Story of the Bucket of Blood Saloon

  • PARANORMAL INFESTATION AT THE MACKAY MANSION – Built in 1869, the mansion was home to one of the Comstock’s so-called Silver Kings, John Mackay. Entities connected to the family are said to still wander the grounds. The most famous are two little girls dressed in white, known as Emma and Lily. They are known to tug on people’s clothing because they want to play. They are also believed to be responsible for constantly disheveling one of the upstairs bedrooms. Johnny Depp, who briefly stayed at the mansion while filming the 1996 movie “Dead Man,” woke up to one of the girls sitting at the foot of his bed. The mansion is also allegedly home to the ghosts of two failed bandits. They were shot point blank in the chest by armed guards while trying to rob Mackay’s safe. The carpet where they fell, has never been changed. Mrs. Mackay can also apparently be seen sitting in the third floor living room. A servant ghost has been seen pacing up and down the stairs, hurrying to finish chores, and a former Army Colonel who once lived in the house has been spotted in the kitchen. Also, a shadow man has been seen throughout the home, which many believe to be John Mackay himself.

The Haunted History of Mackay Mansion

Paranormal Entities at the Mackay Mansion

  • PERFORMANCES OF THE DEAD AT PIPER’S – Piper’s Opera House once served as one of the cultural centers of the West. It was an important stopping point for theatrical tours of North America throughout the last half of the 19th and early 20th century. The list of luminaries who have either performed or attended performances at Piper’s includes President Ulysses S. Grant, Edwin Booth, Mark Twain, Maude Adams, John Mackay, Henry Ward Beecher, and more. Originally built in 1863 and purchased by John Piper, it burned down in the Great Fire of 1875, was rebuilt and burned again in a second fire in 1883. It was rebuilt a third time and included a saloon in the corner of the building, the Old Corner Bar. It is that structure that stands today. With its original backgrounds and much of its original furniture, Piper’s is the most significant vintage theater in the Western United States. Visitors claim its original performers and audience members remain in the opera house as well. The sound of audience laughter and applause has been heard emanating from Piper’s when it is closed to the public. A ghostly woman is also said to have been seen floating across the balcony. People also claim to have seen John Piper himself smoking a pipe and looking out from the second story window and from the theater’s box seats.

Haunted History of Piper’s Opera House

The Story of Piper’s Opera House

  • DEATH IN THE DEPTHS OF THE CHOLLAR MINE – Discovered in 1859, the Chollar Mine (later the Chollar-Potosi)  was one of the first gold and silver producing mines on the Comstock. For 80 years, miners blasted and carted out some $17 million in gold and silver. They did it, in some of the worst and most dangerous working conditions ever recorded. Miners risked being killed by explosions, suffocation, underground fires, cave-ins, and falling mining equipment. The shafts were also a hazard. In 1864 Joseph Rassett, a Chollar Company trustee, died when he fell 50 feet down the shaft. The original square-set timbering and much of the old equipment remains inside the Chollar Mine. So, say many, do the spirits of the men killed mining for riches for the owners. There are reports of roving apparitions and disembodied voices in this otherwise silent place. Visitors share accounts of being touched by unseen forces or experiencing the distinct sense of being watched as they pass through the old central shaft.

Haunted History of the Chollar Mine

  • MINERS ARE NOT AT REST AT YELLOW JACKET – The Yellow Jacket Disaster is the worst mining accident in Nevada’s history. On the morning of April 7, 1869, a fire erupted in the mine, flooding it with flames, smoke, and poisonous gas. The enormous fire was impossible to contain, and burned for weeks. At least 35 died, but some bodies were never recovered. There is also speculation that many single workers died, and their identities are still unknown today. The Yellow Jacket Mine is now abandoned. Except, reportedly, for the spirits of the miners left behind. The paranormal activity allegedly created by the disaster has made the hike between the Yellow Jacket Mine and the Gold Hill Hotel arguably one of the most haunted in the West.

Haunted History of the Yellow Jacket Mine

The Story of the Yellow Jacket Disaster

  • THE SPIRITS OF GOLD HILL – The Gold Hill Hotel & Saloon is Nevada’s oldest existing hotel with a long, haunted history. There is rumored to be a female spirit named Rosie who turns the lights on and off, and moves around guests’ belongings. The red-haired, tiny-framed woman dresses in 1800s apparel and smells of rose-scented perfume. Her room is widely considered one of the most haunted locations in the United States. Rosie was the housekeeper of former owner, William, another spirit who haunts the hotel. Guests report a distinct smell of cherry pipe tobacco when he is lingering. William is known for allegedly locking guests out of their rooms. The pair, apparently, aren’t alone. In 1869, a massive fire ripped through the nearby Yellow Jacket Mine. Several of the miners who were killed are said to haunt the rooms of Gold Hill.

Haunted History of the Gold Hill Hotel

The Story of the Gold Hill Hotel

  • APPARITIONS BENEATH AN OLD BANK – The Ponderosa Saloon was once the site of the Bank of California. Established in 1864, it is where miners obtained the capital that financed the most spectacular boom in mining history. Most of the nearly one billion dollars in gold and silver that was mined in the hills around Virginia City was stored in the bank’s infamous vault. The vault is 1042 cu. ft. and lined from ceiling to floor with 1/2′ steel plate. The outside walls around the vault are two-feet thick. It was robbed of $32,000 in broad day light in October of 1927. The armed bank robbers were captured quickly, but much of the loot was never found. It remains in a hidden cache, so it is said, somewhere in Six Mile Canyon. Behind the vault is the entrance to an underground mine. It is inside the Best and Belcher Mine where paranormal investigators have found signs of spirits. 

The History of the Ponderosa Saloon

  • A WORKING RELIC – The Gold Stamp Mill is the last two-stamped mill in the United States still operating. Built in the 1860s, it is filled with historical mining equipment and gives the public an up-close look at the process of extracting gold from ore.
  • A BAR BELOW AN ABANDONED HOTEL – The Silver Dollar Hotel has been abandoned since the 1980s. Even in its heyday, the hotel was never luxurious. Travelers could stay out into the wee hours of the morning, go upstairs and pick and room, then pay in the morning. In the 1945, a woman named Florence Edwards bought the Silver Dollar and upgraded it. Its believed its her ghost who is spotted in front of the hotel on certain nights. The location is also home to the specter’s of a little boy and a teenage girl. Though the haunted hotel is abandoned, its bar remains open for business. One must down a seemingly hidden and steep staircase to get to it. The back of the bar faces what was once the Red Light District. In the 1800s, prostitutes would make their living in small shacks that lined the streets, known at the time as cribs.The women were required to keep red-colored oil lamps hanging in their front windows. The area was affectionately known as Sporting Row.

The Silver Dollar Saloon

Red Light District Historical Marker

  • THE WHORE WITH A HEART OF GOLD – Julia Bulette is the most famous prostitute and madam to ever work in Virginia City. Her brutal murder and the controversy surrounding the trial of her alleged murderer catapulted her into legend. Bulette is described as having been a beautiful, tall, slim brunette with dark eyes and refined in manner with a humorous, witty personality. She lived and worked out of a small cottage in the Comstock’s Red Light District. An independent contractor, she competed with the fancy brothels and streetwalkers. Bulette was greatly sought after by miners and was a big supporter of firefighters. She was elected an honorary member of Virginia City’s Engine Company No. 1 – the tile was apparently granted in return for numerous favors and gifts bestowed by her upon the company. On the morning of January 20, 1867, Bulette’s partially nude body was found by her maid in her bedroom. She had been strangled and bludgeoned to death. Virginia City went into mourning for her, with the mines, mills, and saloons closed down as a mark of respect. On the day of her funeral, thousands formed a procession of honor. Her alleged killer, a French drifter, went to the gallows swearing he was not guilty of her murder, but rather only an accomplice in the theft of her belongings.

The Legend of Julia Bulette

The Story of Julia Bulette’s Murder

  • PROSPERITY BURNED AND BURIED UNDER CONCRETE – Three International Hotels once stood in what is now a blank hole in the center of C Street. The first hotel, a 14-room wood structure, was built in 1850 and dismantled in 1863. The second, a 100-room, 4-story brick building, was far grander than the first. An early advertisement proudly proclaimed “the building is entirely fireproof.” That was not the case. It was. along with more than two-thirds of the town, was destroyed by the Great Fire of October 1875. The third International was even grander, opening its doors in March of 1877 with 160 rooms on 6 floors, hot and cold running water, steam heat, gas lighting, and the first hydraulic elevator in Nevada. It was the tallest building on the Comstock and the finest the area had ever known. Rooms went for as much as $500 a month. Many notables of the day stayed there, including President Rutherford B. Hayes, who spoke to hundreds of spectators from its balcony in 1880. It also played host to opulent parties. On a cold December morning in 1914, the grand structure was reduced to a “magnificent ash” in a matter of hours. Due to the Comstock’s decline it was never rebuilt. It is now a parking lot. At night, some people have heard the faint sound of laughter and the tinkling of champagne glasses in the spot where the International once stood. The apparitions of men who died in the hotel have also reportedly been seen. When it was standing, room 160 was nicknamed the “suicide room.” An untold number of people killed themselves or were killed in that room. The last time the International burned, it was the only room still left standing.

The History of the International Hotels

  • THE GREAT FIRE – Virginia City was once the largest city in the state of Nevada and considered one of the richest in the country, but in the early morning hours of October 26, 1875, that prosperity was lit ablaze. The Great Fire burned for five hours, leaving in its wake a heap of smoking and falling ruins. Two-thirds of the city, some 2,000 buildings, were turned to ash. Water ran out and explosives from the mines were used to blow up buildings in an effort to stop the fire. Newspapers described it as if “the entire world was engulfed in roaring flames, “brick buildings went down like paper boxes,” “railroad car wheels melted,” and “virtually all of the fire equipment in the city was destroyed.” Ten thousand people were left homeless. Some were burned while others were injured by falling debris. Some died, buried by collapsing walls. A falling wall on Union Street killed Mike Malone. The collapsing walls of a brewery crushed James H. Ketton. The body of an unidentified man was found in a jewelry store. Another unidentified man was “left to his fate” in a burning toy store when he ignored warnings to get out and instead continued to throw toys out into the street. Witnesses said he appeared to be drunk. Some say the Great Fire sparked when two miners got too rowdy at Crazy Kate’s Lodge and knocked over a lamp. However, no one really knows what happened. There are several plaques around Virginia City, marking what was lost in the Great Fire. There is also a plaque marking the spot where the fire broke out. It lies across the street from the historic Cohen House and Cobb Mansion on A Street. Both were rebuilt after they were burned in the fire. 

History of the Great Fire

  • CHINATOWN – In the 1870s, Virginia City had one of the largest concentrations of Chinese immigrants in the West with a large Chinatown located east of the downtown area. This was one of the first urban Chinatowns in Nevada and at one time contained between 1,500 and 2,000 Chinese immigrants. Chinese, who came to represent ten percent of Virginia City residents, referred to Nevada as Yin Shan, or “Silver Mountain.” Chinatown covered several blocks and was made up of one and two-story wooden buildings containing lodgings and businesses such as laundries, noodle parlors, herb shops, and small mercantiles. Chinatown burned down in the Great Fire of 1875 and was subsequently rebuilt, but never completely recovered. 

History of Chinese Immigrants in Virginia City

  • BIRTHPLACE OF MUSIC HISTORY – In first opened as the Comstock House in 1893, but it is its time as the Red Dog Saloon that makes this spot iconic. In the 1960’s, on the stage of Red Dog, a music revolution was born and history was made. From 1965-1967, The Charlatans were the house band at Red Dog. The venue also hosted performances by Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, Jefferson Airplane, and more. Adorned with posters from iconic past performances, Red Dog has stayed true to its roots with a steady stream of live performances.

The History of the Red Dog Saloon

  • THE FACE UPON THE FLOOR – Named after Virginia City’s own literary great, the Mark Twain Saloon is one of the few places still in Virginia City where people can gamble. It is also home to some oddities from the past. One is the Face Upon the Floor. The portrait was painted on the saloons original floor in the 1800s. The person’s identity has been lost to time. While the floor has been redone, the Face remains under glass staring up at patrons. The saloon also has two giant champagne buckets. Weighing in at 110-pounds a piece, the buckets were made for the Millionaire’s Club at the Old Washoe Club. Only four were ever made. One is housed somewhere in New York City. The location of the fourth is unknown.

The Mark Twain Saloon

The Legend of Mark Twain

  • A LOVE THAT STOPPED TIME – The Crystal Bar was once named the finest in all of Virginia City. A big statement considering, in its heyday, Virginia City was home to more than a hundred saloons. First opened in 1885, the bar was a favorite spot for writers. Now home to the Virginia City Tourism Center, the giant crystal chandeliers still hang from the ceiling, and its believed ghosts from the past still remain there as well. Ghostly activity includes the flickering of the chandelier lights, misplaced items, and the strong smell of cigarette smoke in the non-smoking building. Many paranormal investigators believe it is all the work of one female ghost, perhaps the wife of the owner of the Crystal Bar. She died in the building. Those who work at the VCTC say the moment she passed, the giant clock behind the bar stopped ticking. It hasn’t moved since. The mirror clock, dubbed the Mystery Clock, remains on prominent display.
  • THE 601 VIGILANTE COMMITTEE – The 601 was a secret society of comprised of leading citizens and businessmen. It was formed in 1871 to combat lawlessness in Virginia City. They served undesirables notice to leave town. If that person did not leave within 24 hours of that notice, the committee would find them and lynch them. Since it’s creation, a bell or siren, has sounded at exactly 12 o’clock noon in Virginia City. In the days of the 601s, if the bells were heard at any other time, it was the community alarm for the 601 members to gather and for the citizens and local law enforcement to vacate the streets. It was also notice for the desperados of the time, regardless of their crime, that it was time to depart. Those failing to do so, despite the apparent warning, would quickly find themselves facing forced removal from the community, either by horse, by foot, by train, by wagon, or by casket. Since the organization was secret, little information to the meaning of 601 exists. The leading theory – six feet under, zero trial, one rope. The 601 Vigilante Committee is now a non-profit organization.

History of the 601 Vigilante Committee

Remember: Don’t Stop Running. Good Luck.

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