Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Geiger Grade Revisited


It is August 11th, night of the Perseids meteor shower. G. and I have made plans to revisit the Geiger Grade lookout for the event. Mariah wants to investigate the weird creature story, and to tell the truth, I am a little curious myself. Will it still be hanging around there after all these years? As we're getting ready for our little excursion, Levi and 5 of his buddies show up and spread out on the deck. G. tells them the story of the creature we saw so many years ago. After a lot of boasting, posturing and shouldering each other, the guys decide that they want to search for the creature too (one of them even made the claim that he would catch it and eat it!). Ah...to be 18 again.

We head out around 12:30 a.m. It takes us about 45 minutes to reach the lookout. There are several vehicles there, other astronomy enthusiasts, scanning the night sky. Our group, 9 in all, head out across the clearing to the far end and up to the stone seat. As luck has it, we have the lookout seat to ourselves. Everyone settles in, a couple on the bench, others perched on the surrounding rock. When the chatter dies down, G. points out the spot where he first spotted the creature. Nando, the kid with the appetite for creature, moves over to sit next to his friends on the bench. We sit quietly, hoping to catch a sign or noise out of the ordinary. Of course that lasted about 5 minutes. Why we thought it even possible to try getting a bunch of teenagers to sit quietly. Someone, Levi maybe, starts relating a ghost story. Soon, everyone is sharing all the spooky things they have encountered, with the others chiming in how bravely they would handle similar situations should they arise; all the while moving ever closer together, so that soon all 6 boys are sitting on the stone bench. Every so often, someone would call out a meteor passing. Before we knew it, time has past, it is about 2:00 a.m. and it appears that our group is the only one left at the lookout.

I notice about that time that G. has disappeared. I figure something is up, so I wait a few minutes before asking in a loud voice, "Where's G.?" He pops up from behind the group and lets out a loud growl. Loud screaming from the boys ensue. Once the nervous giggles subside and bravado is restored, everyone is back to business. They ask again about the creature we saw. I demonstrate as best I can how the creature was moving along the rock face. Alex comes and stands by me. I think to protect me. Hmm.

One of the kids suggest that we scare the creature into action by letting off a bomb. It just so happens, the guys have brought some 4th of July leftovers along. Sigh...kids. So Levi, hungry Nando, and Alex head on back to the vehicles. We track their progress across the clearing by the small flashlight they have. Suddenly the light stops. We hear excited whispers, then a loud, "Throw something!" Someone must of picked up and thrown a small rock because we hear it hit somewhere in the distance, and an answering muffle. Suddenly the light is bouncing crazily back in our direction, with a whole lot of yelling and screaming. They breach the lookout point out of breath and all talking at once. "There's something down there!" They yoller. "It's lying on the ground!" "It's a big lump of something moving!"

By now, all the boys are freaked (Incidentally, Mariah has been watching this entire episode with mild disinterest). We decide to call it a night. G. leads the way, and Mariah and I bring up the rear (The big brave boys are huddled together in the middle). As we pass the spot where the "big lump" is lying, we hear a voice out of the darkness, "You shouldn't be throwing rocks, it could have hit me." I swear the guys jumped about a foot in the air. Apparently we weren't the only ones left up at the lookout. This guy had brought a sleeping bag with the intention of staying all night for the peak viewing of the meteor shower at 4:00 a.m.

Everyone had a big laugh at the 3 boys expense. We loaded everyone up into the vehicles and headed home. Oh, and we never saw the creature. Not even a sign of it. Small wonder.

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's elemental, my dear Watson


Looking at the calender, I am reminded of an incident that happened ...oh, more than 20 years ago. My longtime companion and I had just started dating. He came by late one evening and asked me out for a drive. It was a beautiful clear night in August, and right around the time of the Perseid meteor shower. We decided to get out of town, away from the city lights and take in the show. We headed south on 395, then left onto 341 toward Virginia City. About 4 1/2 miles up the grade, we pulled into the Geiger Grade turnout.

The Geiger Grade is named after Dr. Davidson M. Geiger, a local physician who financed the building of the original road back in 1862. The road allowed the movement of gold shipments, supplies, and stagecoaches to and from the Comstock. Because of its many twists and turns, it was a popular spot for robberies. The road was rebuilt in 1936, and the turnout area with its stone walls and seating was built as a dedication to D.M. Geiger. It affords a spectacular view of the Truckee Meadows and the Sierras.

On that night 20 years ago, we were alone up on the lookout point. Armed with a small flashlight, we wandered around the old stone walls, and climbed up to the seat at the highest point of the turnout. It was probably about 1:00 a.m., very dark, and very, very silent. We sat down on the stone seat and admired the lights of Reno away in the distance. (Back then, the lights of Reno didn't extend much further past South McCarren Blvd.) We turned our attention to the heavens. For a while we watched the meteor shower, calling out to each other as we spotted the more fiery ones. After a while, I noticed that G. was not watching the sky anymore. Rather, he seemed intent on something behind the boulder in front and to the right of him. I asked what he was looking at, and he shushed me, stood up and quietly walked over to the boulder and peered down its side. I sat there for a moment watching him, when suddenly I heard a noise; a small scrabbling noise, like someone walking over gravel. It sounded like it was coming from behind the large rock just in front and to the left of me. I stood up and headed in the direction it came from. Being on the short side, I had to step onto the large rock, and lay on my belly to look down. What I saw did not register in my mind as any thing familiar, and in the few seconds I saw it, I began mentally clicking off things it could be: a squirrel? No, larger. A giant lizard? Impossible. A badger? No...badgers can't climb like that, can they? The thing I was looking at was probably about 3 feet long, moved on all fours, had a long neck and was scaling along the steep side of the rock face in a horizontal fashion. I jumped back from the rock. G., who by that time was watching from behind me, grabbed my hand and said, "It's time to go." So we ran down the stone steps, across a clearing and up to our car. Once inside, we secured the locks and headed down to Reno.

Our adrenalin levels had subsided by the time we reached home. On the way down off the grade, G. told me he first spotted creature to the right of him, when it stuck its head up over the boulder to get a look at us. G. had sat there quietly, watching to see if it would pop up again. It did. G. described what he saw as exactly what I saw, however, G. had gotten a good look at the head and face. He described the creature having a rounded head and face with human features. When he stood up for a closer look, it had scrambled away from him around the boulder in my direction. That's when I spotted it.

Over the years, we have talked about what we saw on occasion, but we have never gone back to the lookout in the dead of night again. In the daylight, the place is pretty benign, just a pretty spot to turn off and enjoy the view.

The earth's orbit will enter the Perseids meteor shower on the night of August 11th. Hmm....

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cruel Summer

Okay, so I'm on vacation from my job right now, and I've yet to complete any of the projects I had planned to do, or read any of the books on my summer reading list. I've pretty much just zoned on the couch, ate way too much junk food, watched far too much SciFi (excuse me, SyFy) and Discovery Channel, and logged a bazillion hours on the Internet. Should I clean out the storage closet like I planned? Reorganize my office? Catch up on over due bills and correspondence? No. No...I don't think so. What I need to do is get out of the house completely. I want to go exploring. Go on an adventure. Delve into the rich history of the Old West. In other words, do a little ghost hunting. What to do, where to go... I don't know. I'll have to think on it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Yellow Jacket Mine : Part 2


A couple of things we learned from our previous visit to Gold Hill, come early if you want something to eat, and the chance to explore the Silver Terrace Cemetery; which is larger than it first appears, and closes at dusk. With this in mind, Paula , Jessie and I met at the Gold Hill around 3 pm on a sunny Sunday afternoon. We checked into the cabin, unloaded our gear, and set off to the Silver Terrace Cemetery. Driving through Virginia City on this trip was a completely different experience than we had when we were up here in February. The good weather had brought out the bike enthusiasts by the hundreds. The town was hoppin'. We drove to the north east edge of town to the cemetery. There were quite a few visitors exploring the cemetery. Paula wanted to see if she could find any tombstones of miners of the Comstock Era that had died around the same time as the Yellow Jacket fire. No such luck. While there are some impressive marble to be found, I believe that miners, being of the working class, were buried with plain wooden crosses that have long since deteriorated. The cemetery is quite beautiful and the sense of bygone times and the history here weighs heavily on a person.














We headed back into town and grabbed a burger and fries at one of the cafes. We spent a while enjoying the friendly service and each others good company. Thus fortified, we proceeded on to Gold Hill and the Miner's Cabin.

We set up our equipment, video cameras, voice recorders, checked our battery packs and chose who was going to sleep where. Paula volunteered to sleep by herself in the smaller room 19, as she was used to sleeping by herself and I snore (Personally, after the last experience I had with Paula and unusual odors, I had a sneaking suspicion she didn't want to be accused of any strange smells or noises this time around). But we were cool, Jessie readily admitted to producing any number of noises and smells, and I respect that. I sleep like the dead, and was not likely to be bothered.

Since it was still light out, we decided to walk up to the incline chute of the mine and get some pictures. While we were poking around near the old structures, I noticed that there was a great deal of quartz in the area. Huge veins of it, in fact. I recalled reading that high levels of paranormal activity can be found in areas containing certain types of stone, quartz being one of them. After satisfying our curiosity, we headed back to the cabin, where we spent a few hours of down time, watching TV, listening to audio from our last investigation, and playing on the computer.

Finally, the bar volume dropped to a level where we could turn on our digital recorders without getting a lot of background noise. We did a sweep with the ambient thermometers and the EMF detectors. The temperature was pretty constant throughout the cabin. We did pick up high EMF readings around the bookcase in room 18, but we figured out that the electrical wiring ran through the wall behind it. We turned on the video recorders and went lights out. We started in room 19, taking pictures and doing some EVP work. None of us got any feelings of ghostly presence, so we moved into room 18. Again, we took some pictures and asked if there were any spirits that wished to communicate with us. We all agreed that we got no sense of paranormal activity in this room either. The hotel bar had closed by this time, so we decided to check out the Great Room again, since we had some pretty good luck with EVPs there on our last visit. We left the camcorders and one digital voice recorder running and headed out.

As we entered the darkened Great Room, we noticed that the gate into the bar was still open. We heard someone moving around in there, and figured it was probably the bartender closing up. We decided to wait until he was finished before beginning any investigating. I sat down on a sofa just left of the entrance into the bar and waited. Paula and Jessie crossed over to the other side of the room to the right. Soon, a man emerged from the bar. He was an older gentleman, and obviously "in his cups", if you get my drift. For a split second, I thought about sitting quietly until he noticed us, but then I didn't want to be responsible for giving the poor man a heart attack, so I spoke up. "Hello", I said. The man stopped, turned slowly in my direction and peered at me. Very slowly, he began walking toward me in a semi-crouch, staring at me all the while, until he was within 6 inches from my face. The alcohol fumes rolled off him. He stared at me for a long second, and then (apparently having made his mind up that I was real), said, "You know, you scared the shit out of me, you could have let me know you were here". Hmm, I thought I had. He mumbled something about ghost hunting, wished us good luck, and soon left with his ride. We had the room to ourselves and got down to investigating.

Paula noticed a cold spot near the stage are of the room, but we decided that she was picking up on a draft from the bar entrance. We saw and felt nothing, although Jessie caught some light movement with her camcorder. We reviewed the footage right then, and couldn't decide if it was a flying insect or some other anomaly. Paula and Jessie kept hearing a strange rattling noise, but upon investigation, we pinpointed the strange noise as the ice maker in the bar. Shortly afterward, we decided to call it a night and headed back up to the Miner's Cabin.

We gathered up the equipment, Paula stepped outside for a smoke and Jessie got ready for bed. Paula came back inside a few minutes later and said she kept seeing a light down near the remains of the adjoining Crown Point Mine. I looked where she indicated the light to be. Sure enough, there was a light of some sort down toward the mine. We decided we had to investigate it. Jessie, not wanting to be left alone, got out of bed and joined us. Half way down the hill to the mine, we spotted what turned out to be a reflective surface on an old boat trailer. Mystery solved. We went back to the cabin and spent an uneventful night.

We did not capture any audio on this investigation. If there are ghosts that still remain at the Miner's Cabin, they were silent the night of our visit. Paula felt she had captured a ghostly face in the window of one of the old mine buildings, but nothing very conclusive. I caught a blur of light as I snapped a picture while standing in the kitchen, facing toward room 18. In the picture is Paula. She is sitting on the bed. There are a couple of orbs to the right of her, but I really don't put a lot of stock in orbs. However, in the upper left hand corner of the picture there is a blur of some sort, that I have not been able to identify. It is not a reflection, as you can see in the photo I have posted, half of the blur is not against any solid surface. By the time I will have posted this, I have not reviewed the footage that Jessie shot with her camcorder in the Great Room, so I do not know if the traces of light she captured can be ruled out as a flying insect or not. I don't feel that we came up with any hard evidence of whether or not the Gold Hill Hotel and Miner's Cabin is truly haunted, but then maybe we are not meant to. Maybe, the individual visitor to Gold Hill needs to make up their own mind.