Two years ago, while on a road trip through the Nevada desert, we stopped in at the Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah, Nevada and peeked inside through the beveled glass of a side door. Built during the early 20th Century boom years of Nevada’s mining industry, back when Tonopah was known as “The Queen of the Silver Camps,” the old hotel and saloon had long been closed and was, at the time, for sale.
The hotel having long been rumored to be haunted, my traveling companions and I had heard about the “lady in red” who reportedly haunts the 5th floor. The accounts of who she was in life range from her having been a prostitute murdered in a jealous rage to a stage girl who collapsed during a performance, never to awaken. Other ghostly stories revolve around a pair of miners who are said to haunt the basement.
Standing outside the shuttered Mizpah Hotel that day in 2009, peeking in through any available crevice and gazing up beyond the windows of the 5th floor to the distinctive red sign on the roof, we wanted in… and we wanted in bad. But, it was not to be at that time. We had tried contacting the real estate agent handling the sale but were not able to obtain permission to go inside.
Fast-forward two years. We once again arrive in Tonopah, Nevada, this time as guests of a special pre-opening event of the Mizpah Hotel. We’d be spending two nights inside the hotel, with access to roam freely throughout the entire building for as long as we wanted. This was quite the turnaround from our first visit and needless to say, we were stoked!
The event was organized by Virginia Ridgway, along with author Janice Oberding and it was made possible by the gracious new owners of the hotel, Fred and Nancy Cline, who are in the final stages of renovations to the property as I type this. Guests of the event included paranormal and history enthusiasts from around the country.
Upon arrival, we were given room keys to our well-appointed (although not quite finished) hotel rooms and so the weekend began. We had plenty of time to explore the hotel during both daylight and nighttime hours. The hotel staff shared stories with us of their own experiences with ghostly phenomena at the Mizpah, including one story about the ghost of a young girl being spotted in the elevator.
Our investigations focused mainly on the 5th floor and basement areas. We did have some interesting experiences in the basement. One investigator was overcome by a feeling of being “rushed” by an unseen force and a few minutes later we heard an unexplained breathy voice(?).
During the course of the weekend, we ventured to another part of the Mizpah property – the annex building across the parking lot. As we learned, this building formerly housed a bowling alley and a saloon – and is also home to reports of paranormal activity. A worker there told us that he often hears unexplained noises from the basement at night. He also shared with us a story of another employee who quit his post there after being “pushed” by an unseen force. We briefly investigated the basement of this annex building and at one point we thought we could hear children’s voices, but we determined that the noise was likely from the street.
A fascinating highlight of the weekend came when Central Nevada Museum director Allen Metscher gave us a private tour of Tonopah’s abandoned and “cursed” Army Air Field and its decaying hangars. The Tonopah air base was once one of the Army Air Force’s largest World War II training bases. Sadly, during it’s operation from 1942-1945, 110 servicemen lost their lives there – mostly due to P-39 and B-24 plane crashes. This particularly high number of casualties and accidents led to the Air Field’s reputation as being cursed.
Mr. Metscher has a wealth of knowledge about Nevada history, including the history of Tonopah and the neighboring town of Goldfield. In fact, in speaking with him after the tour, he was able to shed some light on a few documented deaths that occurred within the Mizpah Hotel throughout its history. These included multiple documented suicides within the hotel.
Also during the weekend, we took a quick tour of a historic home known colloquially as “The Castle,” where past owners were known for conducting seances and where another miner’s ghost is thought to reside.
The overall experience of the weekend in Tonopah was fantastic. We felt very lucky to have had the opportunity to explore these historic locations and learn as much as we did about their history. Did we document the ghost of Lady in Red or the miners in the basement or perhaps one of their lesser known counterparts?
We can’t say with certainty. But we did visit with them for awhile… and we enjoyed their company.
To book the Mizpah Hotel, visit: http://mizpahhotel.net
For more information on the Army Air Field, visit the Central Nevada Museum: Central Nevada Museum Website