Monday, February 27, 2012

Knights of Pythias

Today I stroked an old man's ass...and paid him a dollar to do it. To clarify, the dollar was for the carrots we fed the miner's donkey up in Virginia City.

Mariah and I were in Virginia City to get a few shots of the Knights of Pythias building during the daylight hours. The Knights of Pythias building is located at 30 North B Street in Virginia City, Nevada. The building was built in 1876 and is one of the few unaltered false-fronted buildings remaining in Virginia City.


Fraternal organizations such as the Knights of Pythias were an important part of life for the early residents of the Comstock. While some of these organizations were sometimes simply drinking or social clubs, others were organized around political ideals. A large number of these organizations were instituted as “benevolent” or “insurance” societies that provided old age, medical and life insurance benefits to their members. The 1800s was an era which saw wars, bloodshed and great loss of lives in the United States. Between the years 1861-1898, the U.S. experienced a Civil War, 2 major depressions, the assassination of a president, and the Spanish American War. White settlers and miners pushing west sunk entire life saving into uncertain endeavors. Welfare programs such as Social Security did not exist to guarantee working men and their families' financial security. No old age pension plans or unemployment compensation or insurance provisions in the event of a death in the family were available to the laboring classes. Fraternal societies along with other relief organizations met these needs by providing aid to help the afflicted during times of need. According to Dan DeQuille’s “The Big Bonanza”, the number of social organizations on the Comstock was staggering: the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Ancient Order of Druids, Knights of Pythias, Knights of the Red Branch, Improved Order of the Red Men, Masons, Champions of the Red Cross, Caledonia Society, Society of Pacific Coast Pioneers, German Turnvereins, the Virginia Benevolent Society, the St. Mary's Orphan Asylum and School, as well as trade unions for miners, printers, and firemen, and a number of churches of various denominations. And all this in a town of 30,000.

In a time without TV, internet, or radio, fraternal organizations were the means in which individuals connected to other people; sharing bonds that were social, reciprocal and caring, versus commercial, impersonal and anonymous. It was cooperation, and voting, and pontificating, and writing letters to the editor, and conducting town meetings, and volunteering, and marrying, and baby-sitting for others and looking in on the elderly, and providing for orphans and widows, and feeding the poor, and seeing to the remains of the dead. On the flip side, of course, there was rampant nepotism and cronyism occurring, with many shady backroom deals being sealed, to be sure. For the most part, however, in a town strife with outlaws, claim jumpers, saloons, gambling, prostitution and violence; fraternal societies allowed people to share their lives, in good times and in bad; the collaborative efforts of a community bringing a sense of order and solidarity to the rough and rugged West.


For Paula’s birthday present last year, Angela and Ron arranged for us to investigate the Knights of Pythias building. I had not heard of any reports of traumatic incidents in its history, and the only thing I turned up on a quick internet search was the reports of other investigative teams presenting a few EVPs. The building, besides housing the Knights of Pythias, has been the site of a Chinese restaurant. Currently, it is vacant, with restorations in progress.


The Knights of Pythias building is divided into two walled-sections: on the left is a stairway leading to an upstairs ballroom and kitchen. On the right side is the downstairs bar area with an upstairs stage area. We decided to set up our command post in what was once the bar area, since we were able to access electricity from there.

We had two-way radios to communicate with each other in the event we became separated or needed verification of position.

4 static night vision cameras were set up in the area we were at: 2 cameras upstairs, 2 cameras downstairs.

Since there was no electricity to the other section of the building, we had to run a line and camera next door into the upstairs ballroom area.

Paula was elected to run a cord and camera next door…she was the birthday girl after all.


While Paula was setting up the camera in the ballroom area, she heard whispers. She radioed, thinking she was hearing Angela and me talking through the wall. Angela and I were in different areas of the building at the time and we were not talking. Paula continued experiencing an uncomfortable feeling, finished setting up the camera and hurried out of the area. Unfortunately, nothing was caught on the recorders.

Nothing was caught on the bar side of the building.

Angela, Paula and I decided to try an EVP session in the ballroom using the dowsing rods, with little in the way of hits. Both Paula and I got a feeling of “heaviness” emanating from the kitchen area, and all three of us heard small noises coming out of the kitchen. Later, while we were tearing down, Paula and I did a quick EVP session in the kitchen, and I {cringe} walked off without my digital recorder. (It’s tough trying to keep track of my vast array of equipment … a recorder, a camera, a pair of dowsing rods and a flashlight…yep, it took a while to live that one down).

A day or so later, Ron, Angela’s husband found my recorder and returned it to me. There was nothing on the recorder that I could even say came close to electronically captured voice.

This is not to say there isn’t paranormal activity occurring in the Knights of Pythias building, it just wasn’t happening for us that particular night. I have spoken to others who have captured EVPs as well as light anomalies on film. I believe that while there may not be any traumatic events surrounding the building, there may still be residual energies left. The Knights of Pythias served a very real function for the lives of its members, weddings, funerals, ceremonies commemorating or honoring members of the community were conducted within those walls; important milestones to the individuals involved. Emotions elicited by momentous occasions can be just as powerful as sorrow. Emotions that very well may have imprinted and remain today in the walls of the Knights of Pythias building

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