13 Ways to Creep into Nevada’s Haunted History
With a story defined by Wild West outlaw enclaves, caution-to-the-wind mining boomtowns, and other outlandish, uncommon chapters, it’s no wonder Nevada is considered by paranormal experts (and enthusiasts) to be one of the most supernaturally active corners of the country.
Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, the tales you’ll uncover here will show you why, after a visit to Nevada, plenty of people do. From haunted hotels and spirit-filled saloons to macabre museum collections and ghost hunt tours, discover how to get into the Silver State’s haunted history at these classic, trip-worthy haunts.
Come along and ride on a phantasmic voyage into the Silver State’s spookiest spots
1. The Clown Motel & Old Tonopah Cemetery
This one’s a double-dreader. If a clown-themed motel filled with a couple thousand clown figurines isn’t enough to freak you out, the spirits who’ve moved in from the 1900s-era miners’ cemetery next door might do the trick. Coulrophobics beware, it’s not just the lobby that’s crammed ceiling to floor with clowns (which you should definitely swing into, even if you’re not a guest). Each room features clowns on the doors and unique paintings of clown-ified rock stars and scary movie characters on the walls.
However, plenty of creepy credit is owed to the neighboring Old Tonopah Cemetery. Long before The Clown Motel put up its big top, this corner of town was reserved for the local graveyard. In this dangerous silver boomtown where accidents were commonplace, it only took ten years for 300 people (mostly killed in mining disasters) to be tucked into their final resting place—or at least what was supposed to be—before the lot ran out of vacancy. Countless guests have reported presences, often assumed to be spirits who’ve sought an upgrade from their hole in the dirt. Tour the graveyard all by your lonesome (if you dare) with Tonopah’s downloadable guide.
Afterlife Goals: “You’re just waiting for something to happen or to see something.” Take a peek inside The Clown Motel, the Old Tonopah Cemetery, and The Mizpah Hotel with Atlas Obscura:
2. The Mizpah Hotel
Compared to the hauntings just down the street, the reported hauntings here are rather…pleasant? Located in the heart of downtown Tonopah, this ornate five-story hotel was once referred to as “the finest stone hotel in the desert.” That’s still true. The still-lavish, 1907-built joint has preserved its grandeur, with some recent help from masterful era-specific restoration and a beautiful period-perfect bar. It’s also home to a famous guest who never checked out—the famous Lady in Red.
The popular lady of the night (albeit in a very different way back then) lived and received her customers on the hotel’s fifth floor until a jealous ex-lover strangled her to death. Despite her violent demise, she is said to whisper sweet nothings to men in the elevator and even leave pearls—supposedly from her broken necklace—on guests’ pillows.
Afterlife Goals: Maximize your chances of meeting the famed dame with a stay on the fifth floor, including in the luxurious “Lady in Red” themed room or her former digs in Room 502. Also, keep your ears peeled for several ghostly kiddos, known to play tricks on the maid service, and don’t worry about the angry miners in the basement—employees only. Whatever you encounter, swing by the front desk and jot down your experience in their official sightings log.
Tombstone and Dodge City may have the Hollywood fame, but here’s the thing: the outlaw snake pit of Pioche, Nevada (pronounced “pea-OATCH”) made them both look like Disneyland. With plenty of ore to mine and few laws to enforce (or, at least, men who dared to), bloodshed was so frequent here that 72 souls were laid to rest before anyone succumbed to natural causes.
Today, “Nevada’s Liveliest Ghost Town” is a tad tamer—at least, by day. Case in point? The Overland Hotel & Saloon. Although the “new” Overland was rebuilt in 1948 after a catastrophic fire, plenty of energy remained smoldering. Enough to attract the crew of Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, who recorded some of their most successful interactions with spirits here. In fact, there are so many reports of shadowy beings slamming doors and shaking visitors awake that the proprietors promise, “If you are looking for a ghost-free stay, please mention this to the front desk clerk and they will provide you with a room free of activity.” But what’s the fun in that?
Afterlife Goals: Resting beneath the Pioche Aerial Tramway, wander through Boot Hill Cemetery. Home to Murderer’s Row, 100+ gunslingers were often buried with their boots on and sticking out of the ground—a telltale of the amount of time there wasn’t between killings in this true Wild West town.
Opened in 1913, the Pioneer Saloon is the oldest bar in southern Nevada—and boy, if these original stamped tin walls could talk! Honestly, they might be a bit miffed about the three bullet holes that pierced through them after a card game gone awry. Or the time a bartender committed suicide before a full lineup of patrons. Or even the time Clark Gable nodded off at the bar, waiting for Carole Lombard’s search party to return after her plane crashed nearby.
As a result, many have said that the Pioneer Saloon is home to a whole mess of ghosts, including the gunned-down gambler, an entity referred to as “Ruby’s Ghost,” and even Carole Lombard herself. But don’t take our word for it. Snag a spot on the Pioneer Saloon’s Haunted Lockdown overnight experience to take part in an active paranormal investigation with EMF readings, EVP recordings, and infrared videos—just like the Ghost Adventures team did back in 2013.
Afterlife Goals: History oozes from this frozen-in-time ghost town—which once produced nearly 85 million pounds of zinc—and a self-guided walking tour carries you past original miner’s cabins, a more-than-a-century-old schoolhouse (still in use by local kids), and more, before spilling back into the saloon, where Ghost Burgers and Bloody Marys await.
Of all the fascinating cemeteries in Nevada—and trust us, there are a lot—Goldfield’s is one of the more intriguing. These days, the reason behind the moniker of the “Last Great Gold Camp” may not be immediately apparent to those who blast through town, but Goldfield once rode a wave of wealth thanks to the millions worth of gold ore that was extracted nearby—a future its first morticians could never have predicted.
The Goldfield Historic Cemetery was originally located in the center of town. However, as the population swelled toward 20,000 people—then, the largest city in Nevada—the newly arrived railroad decided that passengers disembarking onto (often fresh) graves didn’t make the kind of impression they were going for. A group of men dubbed themselves the “Official Ghouls” and staged a clandestine exhumation of every corpse, relocating each to their present-day resting places that still bear some truly bizarre epitaphs. However, according to many locals, the bodies are the only things that moved…
Afterlife Goals: Although you can’t currently tour it, even standing in front of the Goldfield Hotel just makes you feel odd. Between the mistress who was chained to a radiator, her baby who may have been tossed down a mineshaft, the hanged woman, or “The Stabber”—and all they do to visitors—there’s a reason ghost hunting shows have crowned this place one of the “Scariest Places on Earth.”
Everyone’s heard about the legendary Pony Express. Not everyone realizes it only lasted 18 months, from 1860 to 1861 (thanks, invention of the telegraph…). Regardless, a bunch of barely featherweight (125 pounds was the cutoff), often orphaned badasses racing mail across the country on horseback captivated the nation in 1860, and still does. Of the 190-ish changing stations between St. Louis and Sacramento—set every ten-or-so miles, so riders could immediately jump onto a fresh horse and continue their 75-to-100-mile shift at a grueling pace—most now are either piles of rocks with interpretive sign or simply lost to time.
But not Middlegate Station. The ponies stopped running, but this real-deal Wild Western pitstop galloped back, eventually becoming the most iconic Sagebrush Saloon that’s now home to a legendary bar and grill, and about 20 residents. Guests of the on-site motel have claimed to hear footsteps and knocking sounds on the boardwalk in front of the rooms. Could they be the boot-steps of a few worn-out Pony Express riders themselves?
Afterlife Goals: Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, after a food challenge here, you’ll believe in monsters. At least, the Middlegate Monster: a 4-lb meal featuring a massive triple-decker burger with onion-ring-and-olive eyes. Finish it all—and make it to the road before yakking it up—and a celebratory t-shirt is yours.
If visions of the past are your jam (supernatural and otherwise), then visiting Nevada’s capital city is a must. Carson City celebrates its role in state history by honoring its namesake—the legendary fur trapper, wilderness guide, and mountain man—along the Kit Carson Trail. Follow a 2.5-mile path that weaves around roughly sixty 1800s-era Victorian-style homes, public buildings, museums, and churches, all nestled within the city’s West Side Historic District—the largest collection of historic buildings in Nevada. A self-guided interpretive trail carries you past beautifully preserved parts of Silver State history, including the home Samuel Clemens lived in (before he became Mark Twain in Virginia City). Most times of year, that is…
Afterlife Goals: OK, fine. That wasn’t spooky. Interesting? Yes. Spooky? No. But! If you show up in October, get ready to discover a little more than just charming old houses. Madame Curry leads the Carson City Ghost Walk, which zeroes in on what really happened here and why some stubborn old residents insist on gentri-frightening newcomers. Abe Curry, founding father of Carson City, never left. Neither did the bride of George Ferris (as in the wheel; he lived here, too). Some have even spotted Mark Twain’s niece Jennie in the window of his brother’s house. As they say, “Learn by boo-ing.”
The Silver Queen Hotel, built in 1876, claims two very different hospitality industry superlatives. 1) It’s Virginia City’s oldest hotel. 2) It’s also Virginia City’s most haunted hotel. Story goes, sometime during the late 1800s, a prostitute named Rosie slashed her wrists in the bathtub of Room 11. Although the circumstances of her story have been lost unto the ether, evidently her presence has not, as countless visitors have observed the same phenomena. Even though the entire hotel is carpeted, guests report loud steps, as if on a wooden floor, rattling door knobs, disembodied voices, or even the sight of Rosie herself at the top of a long staircase, where she once would (and apparently continues to) linger.
Afterlife Goals: Whether you’re braving a night here or not, slink into the bar to see the “Silver Queen” herself, a 1000% unique, 15-foot-tall lady’s portrait whose dress is embedded with 3,261 silver dollars—a hat tip to the depth (in feet) of the silver mining town’s deepest shaft. Furthermore, whether you’re married, soon-to-be married, formerly married, never-gonna-be-married, or never-again-gonna-be-married, when you get to the Silver Queen, check your feelings at the door and visit the chapel. If anyone gets “cold feet” here, they deserve a free pass.
The spirits in this 1870s-built, authentic Wild West saloon are abundant—and we don’t just mean at the original bar counter. Founded by a group of mining magnates (whose operations resulted in plenty of accidents), this famous joint was nicknamed “the Millionaires Club” on account of what you had to be to join. While paranormal experts widely consider the whole town of Virginia City one of the most haunted places on the planet, the Washoe Club—Virginia City’s oldest saloon—still wins the ghouled medal thanks to the frequency of ghostly activity and the presence of an actual on-site crypt. The sightings are so common that both Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and SyFy’s Ghost Hunters have made multiple visits to investigate the joint’s paranormal presences.
Afterlife Goals: Hop on an hourly Washoe Club Ghost Tour of the building’s many spooked out rooms. Or take things to a whole different level and schedule an Overnight Investigation, during which you and your poltergeist-loving pals get locked in with full exploratory access to the three floors, the crypt, and the infamous spiral staircase—the longest freestanding spiral staircase ever built, and probably the only one haunted by a spirit named Lena. One caveat: this ominous overnighter is strictly BYO EMF, EVP, etc.
This stunning abode was built in 1859, the same year they struck silver in what would become the richest silver strike ever known. That makes it the oldest building (predating the state of Nevada) in one of the only towns that is entirely a National Historic Landmark. It was owned by John Mackay, one of the four “Silver Kings” and the richest man to come out of the Comstock, with more than $1 million in assets (in those days).
It wasn’t long before word spread about Mackay’s closet-sized safe, which two would-be bandits failed to rob thanks to a couple of armed guards. Their ghosts are said to haunt the lower floor. But that’s just the beginning. Other spirits routinely seen here include a servant hurrying to finish chores, a former resident Army colonel who hangs out in the kitchen, a woman dressed in Victorian clothing who lounges in the living room and wanders the third floor, and a shadowy man who shows up everywhere. Paranormal experts believe the last two to be Mr. and Mrs. Mackay themselves.
Afterlife Goals: Take the tour—especially the evening tour. Many participants have claimed to see figures of two little girls named Emma and Lily. Even Johnny Depp, who briefly stayed at the mansion, claims to have awakened to one of the girls sitting at the foot of his bed.
Opened in 1861, the Gold Hill Hotel is officially Nevada’s oldest hotel. Its on-site saloon was also the go-to after-shift hangout for the crew of one of the most disastrous mining accidents in Nevada history. Back in 1869, whatever the fire began, the collapse of the Yellow Jacket Mine’s timbers and resulting internal flood of poisonous gas finished, killing at least 35 miners. When the bar was relocated to the entrance of the property, it appears some thirsty souls may have missed the memo, seeing as the Great Room (the bar’s original location) continues to be a ghostly gathering place for flummoxed phantasms.
Other oft observed entities include a Wild West gunslinger hanged on the third floor, a handful of children routinely heard giggling in the hallways, and a former fellow by the name of William in Room 5, evidence of whose penchant for pipe tobacco permeates this non-smoking property. Although he and his Room 4 neighbor, Rosie, both like playing jokes on guests, apparently she’d rather leave the room smelling like, well, roses.
Afterlife Goals: It’s not every day you get to stay in the oldest hotel in an entire state. Make a supernatural night of it in original 1861 rooms, a couple of large lodges, or the miner’s cabin, located beneath the Yellow Jacket headframe.
You definitely know it’s the most famous dam in the country. You may even know that it’s 70 stories tall and 660 feet thick. But did you know that it’s also possibly the largest cement tombstone on Earth? For 96 people. At least, officially… While that death toll accounts for what officials referred to as “industrial fatalities”—like drowning, explosions, rock slides, falls from canyon walls, getting struck by heavy equipment, and far worse—it did not include the possible dozens upon dozens of deaths that occurred after an injured person was transported elsewhere, including to a hospital. Unsurprisingly, workers and visitors touring the power plant have reported hearing footsteps echoing in long, empty corridors ever since.
Afterlife Goals: To be fair, the most we’ve heard on the spooky scale from the Boulder Dam Hotel are tales of cool hand-like sensations on shoulders—tame, compared to many Nevada haunts. But speaking of cool, that’s just what this palatial, 1933-built, historic gem was to government mucky-mucks; movie stars, like Shirley Temple, Bette Davis, and Will Rogers; and even eccentric Nevadan (yeah, we’ll claim him) Howard Hughes, who opted to recuperate here for months after crashing his plane on Lake Mead. Thanks to detail-obsessed preservationists, it still is. It’s also home to the fascinating (and free) Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum.
Yep. That Zak Bagans. The dude who goes to haunted places—including some of the ones mentioned above—to seek out, possibly record, definitely taunt, and very often yell at ghosts. On camera, the star and vociferous leader of hundreds of Ghost Adventures episodes may aggressively investigate supernatural phenomena, but, in his private life, he collects totems connected to it all. And that collection is no longer private.
Just a mile off Fremont Street lies one of Las Vegas’ oldest haunts—literally. In 2017, the mercurial star of Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures converted a 1938-built mansion—reputedly afflicted with spirits from dead residents and a history of alleged basement-based occult rituals—into a paranormal paradise. The museum houses 30 chambers packed with cursed ephemera from around the world, including a collection of what are rumored to be the most mystifyingly deadly artifacts ever found. Skeptic? Don’t knock it ’til you peruse it… after you sign the medical waiver, that is…
Afterlife Goals: If this place isn’t terrifying enough (on so many levels) already, try browsing these halls in total darkness on the Late Night Flashlight Ghost Tour Experience. Only 20 people are allowed, and they let you borrow paranormal equipment if you really want to discover what might be lurking in the dark…