Amargosa Opera House and Hotel: Life After Death (Valley)

Amargosa Opera House
Amargosa Opera House

In the middle of Death Valley – one of the harshest and most extreme environments on earth – stands one of the most unusual hotels in America. It is the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, and it is listed as one of the top 10 haunted hotels in the country.

The Amargosa, whose name stems from the spanish word for “bitter” (amargo), is located in a town called Death Valley Junction – Population: less than 20, Restaurants: 0, Gas stations: 0.

Death Valley Junction
Death Valley Junction, CA

In fact, the only thing going in Death Valley Junction today is the white-washed, sun-baked, and reportedly haunted Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, which was featured as a location in David Lynch’s Lost Highway and whose guest list has included the likes of Ray Bradbury, Red Skelton and magician Criss Angel.

Amargosa Hotel colonnade
Amargosa Hotel colonnade

The Amargosa’s story is two-fold. Not only does it have a haunted reputation, but it has a fascinating history as a beacon of artistic freedom and spirit. Both the opera house and the hotel were constructed in the 1920s by the Pacific Borax Mining company, who built the town to accommodate its mine workers. Since the late 1960’s however, the property has been owned by Ms. Marta Becket, a free-spirited artist and dancer, who gave up life in the big city to blaze her own trail of artistic expression in the desert.

Opera House Mural

Ms Becket, a dancer from New York City, stumbled upon the Amargosa after getting a flat tire while on a road trip with her then-husband. It was an incident that would change the course of her life forever. According to Marta, she peered into the run-down opera house through a small opening in the door, and she “saw the second the half” of her life. So, she bought the place, and breathed new life into Death Valley Junction, restoring the opera house for performances, and painting murals on all the walls. She has been performing at the opera house ever since, and still does today, despite being eighty-something years of age.

Marta during performance
Marta during a performance.

Marta Becket’s spirit and the Amargosa are inextricably intertwined. There is no doubt that she will remain with the Amargosa for as long as it still stands, and perhaps longer, as evidenced in this mural she painted in the hotel lobby, which depicts her spirit dancing and flittering around the ruins of the property.

Mural - Marta's Spirit and the Amargosa
Lobby Mural

We were there in Death Valley Junction to see if spirits live there now – and if so, who? There have been many reports of unexplained phenomena here – from phantom smells, to the sounds of babies crying to full bodied apparitions.

Our gracious hosts, property manager Rich Regnell and his wife, along with Marta herself, allowed us to explore the property. Rich provided us with a wealth of knowledge on the history of the town, and guided us to several of the reportedly haunted areas.

touring the property at night
Touring the property at night…

The nights are dark in Death Valley, and this night was also incredibly cold and windy. The wind screamed and dust blew into our eyes, as we dashed from building to building amidst the chaos of the desert storm.

We visited a building at the rear of the property with a sad history – a young girl had drowned there, Rich informed us. As we stood inside talking, several members of the group watched as a garden tool that was hanging from a wall started swinging with no visible cause. The wind was howling that night, but there were no major drafts in that room and the force of the swing was such that it should have taken more than a gust of wind to cause such a motion.

inside the opera house
Inside the opera house, Marta’s handpainted audience.

We also spent time in the opera house, where some of the stories of activity involve a ghost cat interrupting Marta’s performances. Surrounded by Marta’s hand-painted audience, we listened as odd noises emanated from the walls and watched as shadows outside moved across the opening at the bottom of the door.

hallway at Amargosa
Hallway inside the Amargosa

Back inside the hotel, we soaked up some atmosphere, stopping in to one of the haunted rooms before following the main hallway past the guest rooms to an abandoned, un-renovated section affectionately referred to by the staff as “spooky hollow.” This is the section where the miners stayed during the Pacific Borax days, and it includes the areas that were the old hospital and morgue.

The entire experience up until this point had been surreal, but spooky hollow took things to a whole new level of eeriness. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

spooky hollow hallway
Spooky Hollow hallway
spooky hollow - sun room
Spooky hollow – sun room

After roaming the halls of spooky hollow looking for the ghosts of miners, we returned to our rooms – we had booked the ones claimed to be the most haunted – and we tried to sleep. The sound of low voices could be heard throughout the evening, but it’s hard to say whether this was merely due to thin walls and restless neighbors.

Our investigation of the Amargosa didn’t yield much in the way of physical evidence of paranormal activity, however the personal experiences we had led us to conclude that the Amargosa is worth a return visit.

room 19
room 19

Besides, it is a deeply fascinating and enigmatic place. Amargosa touches the soul of those who pass through. Perhaps it is the desolate feeling that comes from being in a harsh, alien landscape, far from the trappings of society. Perhaps it is the momentary peek into the life of a woman who gave up traditional society in order to create her own world of artistic expression.

Perhaps it is the darkness of the night.


For information the Amargosa hotel and Marta’s performance schedule, visit their website: Amargosa Opera House and Hotel

To learn more about Marta’s inspirational story, check out the Academy Award nominated documentary Amargosa

30 thoughts on “Amargosa Opera House and Hotel: Life After Death (Valley)

  1. Am I the only one seeing the floating balls (orbs?) In the two photos of the Spooky Hollow section? I’m surprised they haven’t been addressed in the article or comments, you can’t miss em. They’re only in those 2 photos so I’m wondering if its a joke, (like added on) or is that real?


  2. I visited a few years back. This is the only place I can say for sure I have experienced things. I have felt a “presence” before, especially where I am living, but I heard and experienced some odd things in the overnight stay I had here. pots and pans clanging at 4am, baby crying, and a few others. It was only me and 3 friends in the entire hotel that night. Never believed until this place….


  3. I went to this hotel about a year ago not knowing anything about it. the “town” is just this hotel and nothing else. i took a piss in the lobby bathroom and it felt like someone was watching me the whole time. i ran out of there. walking down the hallway of rooms, it smells very old and musty. I would like to go back and stay the night to do some investigating.


  4. Good Evening,We are currently in Perth, Western Australia but this time next week we could be somewhere near Amargosa Not having ever heard of Amargosa and after reading about the”Haunted Hotel” it definately warrants a visit… By the way is Marta a Hungarian dancer?
    Kindest Regards Peter & Toni HALASZ


  5. Hi Jaclyn! The California Paranormal Private Investigators are having a ghost hunt in October at the Opera House. Check it out:

    Rich and Mary are always open to new folks coming over any time and staying at the hotel as well. Getting back into the other parts of the building that are closed off is not always possible but there are plenty of spooky goings on in the hotel and areas that are accessible.

    And of course you can always check out the DVD we produced on The Ghosts of Death Valley Junction.

    Hope this helps answer your question.



  6. Ted,
    My friends and I are “all things scary fanatics!!” We live in Las Vegas and have gone to various different sites that are believed to be haunted. We really want to visit the hotel in October.
    Do you recommend we speak to owner first to try and arrange a tour?
    Any advice or help you can give would be greatly appreciated!



  7. I stayed there with a friend in 2003 or 4 and had what may have been a paranormal experience. my friend and i were walking back to our room late at night, maybe 2 oclock in the morning when the bell in the bell tower started ringing like crazy – scared the hell out of my friend. Either someone was playing a joke on us or perhaps one of the local spirits was expressing it’s dismay at our frivolity.


  8. If you Google “Amargosa Opera and Hotel”, you’ll find a bunch of info about the place and Marta. Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures show also filmed there……a caught a lot of paranormal stuff. I’d like to visit because of Marta and because it seems like an interesting place.


  9. I saw many things while there a week ago, mostly as the sun was going down while driving thru DV toward NV. The word goblins kept coming to mind as I saw things. I found this site looking around to see if anyone else “sees” things out there. Thanks.


  10. I heard of the Opera House because one of our patient’s actually went to stay the night and told us about it. Although she herself did not experience anything out of the ordinary, she still did say there’s a weird feeling you get there.
    After reading the article and the comment Miss Mansfield left, I would be interested in learning more about the place. Maybe even hearing more comments from Kelly as to what she experienced while living there for almost 5 months.


  11. I just happened to bump into this site and read your article. I have to say it really got me interested. I would love it if I had the opportunity to do some paranormal reaserch like yourself. My grandfather lives along that way and if I ever get the chance to go out west again to see him I’m Definitely staying a few nights there!!! Thank you for your information.



    1. Hello Sir, I will be handling future ghost hunts on this property. We will be holding a few fund raisers in November and December of this year. Contact us if your interested. 602 370 3662 or


  12. Sorry that my visit last year for Mother;s Day week-end was not to be. For some reeason Miarta had to cancel the show. And now she has broken her hip. I am so sorry. Neverthrless, I am preparing a paper on her and the area for next month. “Twill be a 30 minute presentatiom and I look forward to sharing her story with 39 other woman.


  13. I used to live in the Death Valley Jct. Hotel in 1990 for almost 5 mths. all
    by myself. The place was totally shut down, except for the lobby, and that was only open on show nights when I ran the intermission. I lived there and worked for my rent. I was Martas secretay, cleaned rooms for took care of movie crews when they came in (alot in those days). i didn’t know if I believed in ghost/the paranomal before that, but after experiencing living there by myself, I definately do. I just don’t talk about it to many people, because they’ll think i’m crazy. or just “blow it off”. I experienced ALOT. anyway, i thought maybe 20 yrs. later, I think id be willing to talk about it . I have notes, and the memories are forever planted in my head.


    1. Kelly – we are an independent documentary company and we are producing a film on Death Valley Junction. Would you be willing to talk to us about your experiences? I am good friends with Marta and Rich and have been producing films on the Death Valley region since 1994. I am a legitimate filmmaker and historical consultant to a number of organizations in the region. It would be great to hear from you. Thanks. Ted


      1. Hi Ted. I’m sorry I didn’t respond to you before now. This is the first time I have been back on this site…since my first post. You can contact me if you want at I look forward to possibly hearing from you.


      2. Ted,

        I am fascinated by the whole thing. DP/Op/Still Photographer. Jennifer Ann Henry on IMDB. Please forward this info to your DP and let me know if I can hang out and help in the camera department.




      3. Hi Ted, i found your site and have a photo, i believe of what can only be, standing behind me, reflected in the big mirror at the entrance to Spooky Hollow, a woman with blonde ringlets and a pale blue dress on. There are balls around the ceiling lights too. I am from the Uk, and have been visiting Death Valley and Amargosa, and what is now the hotel since the mid 70’s. I sent this photo to Marta with an accompanying letter 4 years ago, but never heard anything back. I would really like to know who she was. If you are really interested, theni will email you the photo.
        Regards Tess


      4. Hello Sir, I will be investigating and restoring the Armagosa property this year. Perhaps there are things we can share with each other. James Brennan…..AzParanormalCowboys


    2. Hello Sir, My name is James Brennan. I have a society called Az Paranormal Cowboys. I will be working for Marta myself doing a restoration and clean up of the property this year. I would love to chat with you some time. 602 370 3662


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