Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pyramid City

These are pictures taken at Pyramid City, another abandoned mining settlement outside of Reno.


The Pyramid Mining District is located in the Mullen Pass area, at the junction of the Pah Rah Range and Virginia Mountains, situated approximately 30 miles north of Reno. To get there, Take the Pyramid Highway toward Pyramid Lake. It is the second to the last dirt road you will come to before reaching the reservation boundary.

The settlement is like many mining operations; a combination past and present. There is an old ruined building that once housed a miner or miners. Next to the house is the remains of an abandoned, filled in mine shaft. Further on up the hill, there is a present day mining operation.


Nowadays, the dilapidated remains of the building appears to be a party hideout for local teens. Upon entering the building we found walls covered with graffiti, discarded beer bottles and an old mattress for what use we didn't care to dwell on.


While viewing the surrounding valley, we spotted another building about a mile down the mountain from where we were. Being the curious types we are, we had to investigate. Turns out it was a more recent dwelling. By the pieces of correspondence we found blowing around the structure, the place was inhabited in the not so distant past by "Claude". It appears that things didn't work out so well for old Claude, either he was bought out by the new mining operation up the road, or hard times struck, and he walked away from his home. The little house had a sad, lonely air about it. I can't help but wonder...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ghost Investigation

Not long ago my W.I.G.S. buddy Paula was playing around with her digital recorder and caught an interesting EVP in her own home. EVP stands for electronic voice phenomenon. It sounded like a small child's voice, speaking in a sing-song voice, as though reciting a nursery rhyme.

Around that same time, she set up a camcorder in her bedroom, with a full view of her bathroom. During the night, the camcorder caught the image of a shadow figure in her bathtub. It was all creepy enough to warrant an investigation.

The investigation of Paula’s place took a little over 2 hours, including set up and breakdown. We wanted to see if we could capture more EVPs, as well as try to debunk the photo of the shadow in her bathroom. We set up a camcorder in her bedroom, facing the bathroom. In the original photo, there is a dark shadow in the shape of a head that looks to be peeking out over the edge of the bathtub. We thought that maybe the shadow could be caused by the back shadow of the camcorder, or maybe a shadow caused by a passing car. We tried moving the camcorder in different locations to try and replicate the shadow. Nothing we did could replicate the same shadow even closely. So we set the camera up and left it running while we investigated the rest of the house.

Since Paula had picked up EVPs that she felt were coming from the bathroom, we left a digital recorder running on the sink in the bathroom. Then, we headed downstairs to the living room.

Paula stated that she had caught movement in her peripheral vision on a couple of occasions and once felt a presence in the room with her. We did an EMF sweep and a temperature reading. We did not get any spikes. We sat down on the sofa and made ourselves comfortable. We began a EVP session, with questions of the nature: "Can you tell us your name?", "Do you live here?", etc. We spent about half an hour in the living room. We both agreed that neither of us got any feeling that there was anything there. Paula took several pictures, and we proceeded into the kitchen.

While in the kitchen, we did an EMF and temperature sweep, and began a EVP session. Paula stated she had never had any experiences in the kitchen, but then, she doesn't really spend a whole lot of time in there either. (Paula is no cook!). We spent maybe fifteen minutes in the kitchen. Paula took a few shots but we were getting a lot of light in from the neighbors place and they came home while we were asking questions, so we headed upstairs.

While we were going up the stairs, Paula cautioned me about a loose step second from the top, I instinctively threw out my hand and knocked a picture off the wall. Luckily, it did not break, but it was a good reminder of how careful we need to be when investigating other people’s homes.

I took up my position in the bathroom, sitting on the edge of the tub. There was already a digital recorder going, but I went ahead and did an EVP session anyway. Paula went across the hall and sat on the floor in her bedroom. She started taking pictures and asking questions from there. I spent about fifteen minutes in the bathroom then joined Paula in the bedroom. I made myself comfortable on the bed, and we began an EVP session in there. we spent a half an hour in the bedroom and decided to call it quits. We turned on the lights and began breaking down the equipment.

Afterward we talked about how we did and I headed home. Paula called me the next day to tell me she had caught a couple of things on the digital recorders. While I was in the bedroom, I had asked if someone could give me three knocks, and I demonstrated with three knocks of my own. On the digital recorder we had left in the bathroom, there are three soft knocks in response. We did not get any thing on the digital recorders on the bedroom where we were. At one point all of the digital recorders, recorded several seconds of static. We were not moving around, or making any sort of noise at that point, so we don't know why that happened. Toward the end of the two hours, we caught a small EVP of what sounds like a little girls voice. Both Paula and I caught it on our digital recorders. Paula has decided to continue with the EVP sessions in the future to see if anything new develops.

Note:
As I was typing this blog entry, Paula sent me an email. She had sent the EVP recording to Mark and Debby Constantino, two well known paranormal investigators specializing in EVP work. They cleaned the recording up a bit, and sent it back with their interpretation. According to the Constantino's, the voice is saying, "My place, Mother." Is that just so totally creepy, or what?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sand Pass Siding



It was a beautiful, sunny day, and we couldn’t pass up a perfect opportunity to take a drive into Nevada’s back roads for a little ghost town exploring. We wanted to look at a couple of sidings on the northwest end of Pyramid Lake.

A siding, in railroad terminology, is a “side track”; a section of track distinct from a through route, or main line. It may connect to the main track or to other sidings at either end.

Sidings sometimes store equipment for loading and unloading freight cars. Industrial sidings divert alongside factories, mines, quarries, and warehouses. Sometimes sidings are found at public railroad stations. Another type of siding is the passing siding. This is a section of track parallel to a through line and connected to it at both ends by switches. Passing sidings allow trains travelling in opposite directions to pass, and for fast, high priority trains to pass slower or lower priority trains going the same direction.

In earlier times, in order to divert the slower train onto the siding track, switches had to be maually operated. Very often, these sidings provided temporary housing for rail maintence workers.

Some sidings were built to service industries which have closed. It's not uncommon for an infrequently used siding to fall into disrepair on its way to being torn up or covered over.

From Reno, we took Pyramid Highway, State Route 445 to Pyramid Lake. At the junction, we turned left and continued on Route 445 until we ran out of pavement. This well maintained dirt road becomes Indian Land Route 2.
We drove about 30 miles along Route 2 until we came to Sand Pass Siding, which has two structures standing. Both structures were in disrepair and looked pretty unsafe. There are warning signs painted on the exterior walls to keep out. Sand Pass Siding lies within the borders of the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation. We took a few pictures of the structures, checked out a couple of closed mine shafts in the area, got into our rig, and took Route 7 headed northeast toward Bryant.

Bryant, as far as I can gather, appears to be an abandoned ranch. I haven’t been able to find anything in the records about it. It is located about 5 miles from Sand Pass Siding on Route 7, a well maintained dirt road. When we got there, we discovered a couple of people camped out there. We didn’t want to disturb them, particularly since we weren’t sure if we would be trespassing. It looks like an interesting little settlement though. Several old dilapidated buildings, a few corrals, and a pond.

We decided to head back to Route 2 toward Pyramid Lake. We spotted a sign headed west that would take us to Flanigan, another old rail settlement. We turned onto Fish Springs Road for about 10 miles, then onto Flanigan road for about 5 miles. We followed the signs to “Flanigan town site”, but when we got there, it had been razed. Just several huge piles of timber remained. There are realty signs all over the place. Too bad, another piece of history lost to developers.

We thought of going on over through Gerlach, then up to Leadville, but we really didn’t have time. I had to get back and pickup Mariah from school. So, we headed south again, into Sutcliffe and stopped off at Crosby’s for a cheeseburger.

All in all, it was a great day. We saw some wild horses; wandered around the back roads of Nevada, spotted a couple of coyotes, a herd of antelope, and enjoyed a perfect fall day. Life can’t get any better.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ghost Walk at Bowers Mansion

Eilley Orrum Cowan was one of a few women living in the Comstock Mining District when the 1859 strike occurred. She was a twice divorced woman living in Gold Hill and making her living washing clothes. According to local lore, a local miner could not pay his room and board, so in lieu of payment he gave Eilley ten feet of the Lode. Sandy Bowers came west from Missouri and worked as a Gold Canyon miner before the strike. He possessed ten feet of a claim next to Eilley Cowan's. When the two married, Sandy and Eilley Orrum Bowers became a couple of the first millionaires of the Comstock Era. Eilley was thirty-three, and Sandy twenty-nine. Most of the original Comstock claimants sold out within a few months, but Sandy and Eilley Bowers kept their holding. That decision made them rich.


In 1861, Sandy and Eilley built a mansion in Washoe Valley costing several hundred thousand dollars (a fortune back then). Wanting the finest furnishings, the couple traveled to Europe on an extravagant spending spree in 1861. They attempted but failed to meet Queen Victoria, probably due to the fact that Eilley was a divorced woman. On the return voyage in 1863, the couple adopted a newborn whose mother had just been buried at sea. They named the girl Persia after the ship. When they arrived home in Nevada, Sandy found his ore body depleted and his health failing. He died in 1868 of lung disease. Eilley suffered financially and emotionally. The death of Persia at the age of 12 in 1874 added heavily to her struggle. To remain solvent, Eilley turned the mansion into an inn. Eventually, she raffled off her furniture and possessions. She managed to keep her home for a while, but ended in foreclosure. Eilley claimed she was psychic. The fact that she once struck it rich added her reputation, which she exploited working as a fortuneteller in Virginia City, Reno, and California. She became known as the Washoe Seeress and was credited with predicting Virginia City's great fire of 1875. Ultimately, Eilley went blind and deaf, ending her career as a clairvoyant. She died penniless in 1903 in California.

On October 24, Paula, Jessie, Mariah, Megan and I met at Bowers Mansion for the annual Ghost Walk. This annual event is hosted by the Washoe County Parks Service, along with The Ghost Posse, a local paranormal investigation group.

Mariah, Megan and I arrived at Bowers Mansion at around 6:15 pm. Paula and Jessie showed up not long afterward. It was just starting to get dark. We bought our tickets and were given a quick introduction to the tour and how it was going to be conducted. We would be able to take pictures, film and record during the entire tour. We joined in the next group headed out.

Our first stop on the tour was the hot spring fed pool located to the left of the main house. There is a smaller house where the resident park ranger lives with his family. It has been reported that there was a drowning there in the past, and the ranger mentioned that his son had seen a shadow near the pool before. The pool is no longer in use. The pool was of particular interest to me since it is believed among the local tribes that hot springs are the home of water spirits, or “water babies”, a malicious, deadly elemental spirit that is not to be trifled with. We took several pictures there and we agreed among our little group that we might want to revisit this spot after the tour.

The tour resumed with more history as we made our way to the front of the mansion. We were told that at one time there was a third floor to the mansion. During renovation, it was removed because it had been added on as a remodel, and not a part of the original design. The tour guide pointed out that the Ghost Posse had picked up some paranormal activity on the right side of the porch area. Moving around the left side of the house, we were taken around to the back of the mansion. The location of the root cellar and the direction to the cemetery was given and we were turned over to members of the Ghost Posse waiting for us in the courtyard behind the mansion. The two ladies described how their group had investigated the mansion in the past and what they have found. It is their opinion that there is definite paranormal activity at the mansion.

We entered the house from the back side and entered a small bedroom that opened out into the courtyard. The room was decorated with furniture of the Comstock period, and there were personal items such as clothes as well. It struck me how small people were back then. Paula, Mariah and I all had cameras and had been taking pictures through out the tour up to this point. Once we entered the house I switched on one of the digital recorders and kept it running throughout the tour of the house. There was no unusual paranormal activity reported in the first bedroom we were in. The bedroom led off into a sitting room of sorts. This room was decorated with a piano and sofas. The guide talked about the renovations that had been done to restore the mansion to its original glory. Apparently it had stood abandoned and in disrepair for years and in fact, cows used to wander through the very room we were standing in. We took some more pictures, but both Paula and I agreed; we didn’t get any strong feelings about either of these first two rooms.

Our next stop was to the parlor where Eilley reportedly held her séances and readings. We were anxious to check that room out, but the tour ahead of us was still in there. Our group waited in the entrance hall of the mansion. The stairs to the upstairs area are also in the entrance hall. Unfortunately, the upstairs was off limits for this tour. We took a few pictures of the stairs leading up, and then Paula and I went toward the back of the entrance hall. From there we had a view of the second floor landing we both took pictures from that angle. By then, the tour before us had moved out of the parlor, so we went in.

In the parlor was a tour guide dressed on a black period dress, similar to what Eilley is wearing in many of her photos. This was an interesting lecture. She spoke of the tragedies that brought Eilley to a place of belief in the paranormal, specifically the death of Persia. We were shown examples of ghost photography that was popular back then. Of particular interest is a photo of Eilley in the foreground with a dim figure of a child in the background just behind Eilley left shoulder. It is believed that this picture is a hoax, using trick photography. Eilley, however, believed in its authenticity, and developed a real interest in communicating with the other side.

From the parlor, we moved into the dining room and then on to the kitchen. One thing I noticed is there were no indoor bathrooms build in the mansion. I don’t know about upstairs, but I saw no evidence of any downstairs. We made a quick stop in the kitchen, took a few shots there, and headed outside to the root cellar.
The Ghost Posse is another paranormal investigation team in the area. Besides giving a talk on their investigation of the mansion, they had set up out at the root cellar with all their equipment and some the evidence they have captured at Bowers Mansion with examples of EVP, and ghost photography. This team was very friendly, open and forthcoming. Since we are new to the field, seeing the type of equipment other teams are using was very helpful. The Ghost Posse had set up a row of laptops with EVPs they had captured in the investigations. Each laptop was equipped with a set of noise reducing headphones, so the EVPs were pretty clear. They had a camcorder set up in the root cellar to demonstrate how one would be set up on an investigation. They were all very willing to share their expertise. One guy answered all of Paula’s many questions about IR lights and such.

Mariah and Megan headed on up to the cemetery, Paula and I headed up soon after. It’s a pretty steep climb, probably a quarter of a mile uphill with one switch back. There are three graves there, Sandy, Eilley and Persia Bowers. The three graves are enclosed by a metal fence. We started taking pictures of the grave, and suddenly, my camera went dead. It showed that the battery was dead, which was unusual, since I had made sure to recharge the battery pack that very morning. We stayed up at the grave sites for half an hour or so, then headed back down.
Once we were back down at the root cellar, my camera started working again. A member of the Ghost Posse said that can happen when a spirit is trying to manifest. It will pull from surrounding energy sources in order to make it self visible. Interesting. We gathered Mariah and Megan and went around to the right of the mansion. We took a few pictures of the area of the porch where the Ghost Posse claimed they had gotten some readings. Afterward we headed back over to the hot springs fed pool. We stayed for a few minutes and took a few more pictures. I turned on my digital recorder in hopes of capturing an EVP at the pool. All in all, it turned out to be a fun evening and we learned a few things too.

The next day, I looked at the pictures I had taken. I had not captured anything but a couple of dust orbs. (I’m not in the, “orbs are spirits trying to manifest” group). Here is a shot I took just a few seconds apart. The first picture shows an orb up near the ceiling and a smaller, more dense orb just above the stairs. The second photo is completely clear. Energy or dust? You can make up your own mind.
Paula emailed me a few images she had captured. In several of her pictures there are mists; that is the best way I can explain it. The first one was outside of Bowers Mansion; it looks almost like a fog at the top half of the picture; it is blurred, like she snapped the picture while it was moving. The second is of a white blur in front of another of the visitors, that picture was taken in the dining room. The third picture is really interesting because I had taken a similar picture just seconds before. We are looking up at the second story landing and there seems to be a mist of some sort between the railing and the ceiling. This does not show up in any of my pictures. If you want to check Paula's photos out, go to: myspace.com/w_i_g_s, and click on My pics. The file is Bower's Mansion. We did not get anything on the digital recorders. We both agreed that we would love to go back and investigate the upstairs of the mansion someday.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Olinghouse

Olinghouse is located about 30 miles east of Reno, 9 miles northwest of Wadsworth. To reach it from Reno, head east on I-80, exit onto State Route 427 into Wadsworth, north toward Pyramid Lake on State Route 447 for 2 miles, then turn west on an unmarked dirt road. This maintained road leads to the eastern side of the Pah Rah Range. The town is perched halfway up the side of the mountain range, about 7 miles from the turnoff.

Early in the 1860s, during the beginning of the earliest Comstock boom, prospectors pushing out from the Virginia City area discovered the Olinghouse district, located about 30 miles northeast of Virginia City. Olinghouse was never very large, but it produced enough ore to support nearly continuous mining operations from the mid-19th century to the present. Records indicate that, at one time, this little mining camp advertised itself as “The Biggest Little Gold Camp in Nevada”. The town was first named, "Ora," it later took the name of local sheep man, Elias Olinghouse, who settled in Wadsworth and had a summer range at the base of the Pah Rah mountains. As prospecting increased, Olinghouse was caught up in the mining fever, buying several claims and erecting a small stamp mill in 1903 to process ores.
A post office was opened in 1898 and a small business district developed over the next decade, which included hotels. saloons and restaurants Both electric and telephone service were installed in 1903, and in 1906 a railroad was built to Wadsworth to transport the ore to the new mill and refinery in the valley below. However, during this same time, the district began to suffer a major decline in production, and all of the larger mines began to close. Smaller-scale gold, copper, and tungsten mining persisted through the 1930s. After that, commercial mining all but ceased. A few hardy souls stayed on, endlessly searching for what others had missed. A large placer operation was attempted in the 1980s, at the eastern foot of the district, but little commercial production ever came of this work.

Today, explorers will find a the dilapidated remains of wooden cabins and homes, mostly uninhabited, some mill ruins, mine shafts, an abandoned ranch house and, and a little further north, a modern open pit gold mining operation, which opened in the 1980s. As you approach the town, you will find an old miner's shack on your left. After passing a few of the "newer" homes, you reach the wooden remains of what looks like a small milling operation. Climbing up the hill behind the crumbled wooden mill site, there is a fenced off area with no trespassing signs.

We took pictures of the old abandoned houses, both inside and out. It is always an incredibly eerie feeling to wander about where others have spent portions of their lives. In some of the abandoned abodes we found furniture, old food remains and clothes. It was as if, in some cases, the occupants just picked up and left. We wonder what their stories may have been. We found out later that other ghost town enthusiasts had been threatened with a gun by some sort of caretaker. We saw no sign of anyone in the area on the day we were there, but that’s not to say we weren’t being watched.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

TMCC Paranormal Conference


My friend Paula and I share a mutual interest in history of the Old West, ghost towns, ghosts, and the paranormal. Recently, a paranormal conference was offered by the Truckee Meadows Community College(TMCC). It sounded like a lot of fun and a chance to act like real "ghost hunters", so I called Paula up and armed with our cameras, flashlights, digital recorders, an ambient thermometer, and a cheap EMF detector, off we went.

The conference was held at the Cal Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe. The program was nicely done, with a lecture portion in the afternoon, followed by a light dinner, and then ghost investigations that evening.
There was a local historian and author turned ghost hunter who spoke about the history of the Cal Neva. The Cal Neva was once owned by Frank Sinatra, and it is said to be haunted by his spirit. Marilyn Monroe was a frequent guest and supposedly, her spirit has been seen by visitors too. According to some historians, she tried to kill herself up at the Cal Neva a few weeks before she was found dead in her home in Brentwood, California.
The next lecturer was Bill Brown, a local news reporter that became in involved in paranormal investigation last year after he did a news report on ghost hunting He discussed a couple of investigations he has been a part of.
Two women gave a talk about ghost photography, which was very interesting; especially the benefits of cameras with infra-red capacity.
Finally a local medium gave a talk about communicating with the other side (yawn). I don't go to mediums; don't really have a lot of faith in them. I was ready for dinner by then.
During dinner the group was divided into smaller investigating groups. If there was one complaint I had about this conference, this was it. There were over 80 participants. We were divided into 5 groups of 16 plus our guides. 16 people investigating one room? Yikes! It was crowded, to say the least, and let me tell you, those cabins are small.
The places we were going to investigate were: Frank’s cabin, Marilyn’s cabin, the underground tunnel connecting the celebrity cabins to the casino, room 101, and participate in a séance conducted by the medium. The schedule gave each group about 50 minutes in each location.
Our group's first stop for the evening was Frank's cabin. We all squeezed into the cabin and five of us were sent into the closet to do EVP work. I really didn’t expect to get anything and I didn’t. Marilyn’s cabin and room 101 weren’t much better. The tunnel was interesting, although there was a wedding reception going on above us in the Indian Room, so it was pretty loud. No one wanted to stay around for very long down there. Paula got the one and only EVP from the tunnels, but ironically, she had left the group and headed outside for a cigarette because she thought it was a waste of time. The séance was pretty benign. Again, I'm very much a skeptic when it comes to mediums. Over all, we had a great time and it confirmed what we already knew: it doesn’t take any real training to do this, just an interest in the paranormal, an open mind, and willingness to learn. We are looking forward to continuing our exploration of the unknown and haunted places.