Thursday, November 18, 2010

Goldfield Daze

This past August, W.I.G.S took a road trip to the annual Goldfield Days celebration. Initially we were planning on pulling Ol’ Kaw Liga (that would be Paula’s pop-up trailer, named after a Hank Williams song), but ended up cruising south in style aboard Mona’s 40-foot motor home. We went without any itinerary, just wanted to visit the town that is home to one of the most famous haunted places in America: The Goldfield Hotel. We knew that there would be other ghost hunters in town, we figured on meeting up with members of R.E.A.L and NNGH from Reno; and during the weekend we also ran into several ghost hunting enthusiasts from Las Vegas. We toured the area with a local historian, met some very interesting townsfolk, watched a parade, ate some great barbeque, joined in a ghost hunt of the Goldfield High School, and hung out at the Santa Fe, the oldest operating saloon in Nevada, where we were treated to karaoke by the local talent (well…local anyway).

Goldfield is such an incredible little town with an even more fascinating history. Located approximately 26 miles south of Tonopah on US Highway 95, Goldfield, the Esmeralda County seat, was founded in 1902, and within a few short years it was the largest city in Nevada. At its height, Goldfield boasted a population of 30,000, three newspapers, five banks, a mining stock exchange, and what was reportedly the longest bar in the West – Tex Rickard’s Northern Saloon, which required 80 bartenders to handle its customers. A few of the more famous residents of Goldfield included Virgil and Wyatt Earp. The gold ran out and today there are a little over 400 permanent residents remaining.

Many of the historic buildings remain in good condition, thanks in part by the Goldfield Historic Society, as well as private owners. The district courthouse is a two-story stone building, still occupied by the elected county officials. Its beautiful courtroom is furnished with the original steel bench and back-drop with Tiffany Lamps. Located in the rear of the courthouse, the jail contains three levels of metal cells; two levels still house inmates. Built in 1905, the Santa Fe Saloon is one of Goldfield's oldest continuously-operating businesses. The Goldfield High School and the Ish-Curtis Building are both undergoing restoration.

But it’s the historic – and reportedly haunted – Goldfield Hotel that is the crown jewel of Goldfield. The hotel opened in 1908 as possibly the most luxurious hotel between Chicago and San Francisco. The stone-and-brick building was equipped with telephones, electricity and a heating system, and was decorated with rich mahogany, black leather, gold-leaf and crystal chandeliers. In a sad state of disrepair, the hotel is currently closed to visitors.

The Investigation

Goldfield High School, built during the boom years in 1907, graduated its last class in 1952. The school was left in disrepair for a number of years and time and weather have taken their toll. It is currently being restored, but there are unsafe areas that we were unable to enter. The school’s main staircase is its most impressive feature; although it’s missing a few banisters, with its odd angles, it sort of reminiscent of the moving staircase at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The school is a fascinating jumble of cracked and peeling paint, faded textures, fallen-away plaster, warped and buckling floor boards, missing or broken windows, and wooden guts of walls by which light and wind flow in through exposed slats. The entire building is surrounded by chain link fencing, but anything with wings or a ladder can get inside.

Jeadene from NNGH was our contact for the Goldfield High School. She introduced us to the caretaker, whose name I forget, who took us on a tour of the place; pointing out the more active areas. We were also accompanied by an interesting character, Monahan, who seemed to be here, there and everywhere; disappearing into some dark doorway, just to reappear out thin air moments later. He was incredibly active: climbing up and down stairs and ladders like a little monkey. It was rather unsettling.

Since there were about 12 of us, we divided up into two groups. The plan was for each group to investigate a floor, and then switch. Paula, Mona, Jill, Kaily and I began our investigation of the second floor. The spirits were quiet, and I was beginning to think that our investigation was going to prove unfruitful. However, while doing some work with the dowsing rods in one of the classrooms, an object moved or shifted on a table just to the left of where I was standing. Paula was filming me at the time. At no point does it show where I brushed up against anything, but it appears from the audio portion that the noise was coming from lower than was caught on film. Darn!

Apparently the other team was having more activity than us. They reported hearing a lot of knocking and other noises and at one point, the caretaker was knocked down. After we switched floors, the activity quieted down again. Maybe the spirits weren’t very receptive to our group, who knows? The third floor was incredibly noisy, with the wind rattling the rafters and blowing in through an entire section of missing wall. Our recordings on this floor were completely contaminated with this.

One thing I have to mention: After we got home from our weekend, Paula sent me a photo of Jill and I she took looking down on us from the second story landing. In the picture, we are looking up and taking a picture of her. Behind us is some sort of anomaly in the picture. Most people who have seen the picture swear they can see another woman in the picture, standing in between Jill and me. It’s an interesting shot, but I would really like to inspect the wall behind us and see if we could duplicate the conditions. Another road trip?

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