Up in the hills just outside of Carson City, Nevada, lies one of the gems of the west. Virginia City is a bucket-lister for most people who indulge in the new trend of paranormal travel and I can definitely see why. The town positively bleeds history from its stone foundations and wooden facades. Samuel Clemons got his start here and you will also be hard pressed to find a building that doesn’t have its own resident ghost.
I stayed at the Sugarloaf Motel just outside of town and the owners Jim and Michelle couldn’t have been better hosts. They informed me that I would be staying in the most haunted room they had but wouldn’t tell me anything other than that; they didn’t want to “color” my thoughts with too much information. The rooms are small but comfortable and they have a market on the premises that is stocked and affordable, this quaint little spot is also within walking distance of the entire town.
There are plenty of places to eat along the narrow main thoroughfare of C Street but be aware that most eateries close around dusk, just when the saloons come to life. One of these restaurants is the Café Del Rio. Here you will find an eclectic menu of Filet of Sole with a lemon butter and caper sauce, Prime Rib with mashed potatoes, hamburgers and of course traditional Mexican. The vegetarian enchiladas are marvelous. Just down the street is the Palace Restaurant and Saloon. This family friendly establishment serves up a wide array of hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and Reuben’s from classic to pastrami and turkey. This eatery is a must for the hungry lunch crowd.
For breakfast Jim and Michelle recommended the Canvas Café. This small place has come to be my favorite place for breakfast. At the time of this writing, the menu includes omelets, bacon & eggs and corned beef hash. Also, a small selection of Benedicts including steak, spinach and a blackened salmon are served. The menu leans more toward savory than sweet. They normally stay open until 3pm and have a small menu for the lunch crowd that includes six sandwiches and two salads to choose from.
For those who want BBQ there are two places right across the street from each other on the south end of town, these are the Virginia City Jerky BBQ where you can watch them cook your meal out front in their smoker and the Firehouse which has outdoor seating and live music. If pizza is your thing then a stop at the Red Dog saloon should definitely be on your “eats” list. The pizza in this place is simply fantastic. There is so much cheese piled on the pie that you almost need scissors to transfer your slice from tray to plate. The toppings are plentiful without being overbearing and the sauce is one of the tastiest I have found. And the Jardinière sauce, a hot and tangy blend of pickled vegetables, is to die for. The atmosphere here is a bit gritty so folks with wee ones may want to get theirs to go.
What is there to do in this small Wild West town for the budding Paratraveler? A lot! Lets start at the Mackay Mansion. Originally owned by George Hearst, John Mackay bought the stately mansion in the 1870’s just before his company discovered the Comstock Lode. He was one of the most prominent figures in the area and apparently had decided that he didn’t want to leave his home, even after he passed away. He, his wife and at least four other spirits haunt this location. Johnny Depp was witness to one of the former residents while filming “Dead Man.” Tours of the Mackay Mansion are given from 10am-6pm.
Another place that should be on the list is St. Mary’s Art Retreat. This former hospital used to serve the Comstock miners but was abandoned after the silver ran out. It was saved in 1964 by Father Meinecke and transformed into the art center. As with most hospitals, people perished there and it seems many have decided to linger. The most famous spirit here is “The White Nun,” whose calming presence is felt by many. St. Mary’s is open Thursday-Sunday from 11am-4pm.
The Fourth Ward School and Museum first opened its doors in 1876; over the years it remained the only school in Virginia City until 1936 when a new, modern school was built. After its closure the structure sat, decaying until a grant in 1984 allowed it to be refurbished. It reopened in 1986 as a museum and has been a popular destination for tourists ever since. Its also home to at least one resident spirit, “Miss Suzette”, as she is called, is thought to be a schoolteacher who taught there in 1908 and likes to walk around the school grounds. She has also been spotted in some of the classrooms. The Fourth Ward School is open May 1st-October 31stfrom 10am-5pm daily.
Perhaps the most famous haunt and the reason most Paratravelers visit Virginia City is the world-renowned Washoe Club. Established when the Comstock Lode arose and the rush for silver exploded; this bar in the middle of town was the hub for the rich and famous to gather and count their money. Along with the rich came their entertainment and that included a number of prostitutes. It would seem that some of these, both wealthy and working girls have decided to stay at the Washoe Millionaires Club even today. There is a little girl that haunts the basement; a “Lady of the Night” on the third floor and even her murderer lingers on the second floor. The Washoe Club is open from 11am-8pm daily (10pm on Sat.) You can even book your own private investigation at the club.
History, spirits, good food and more all await the Paratraveler at one of Nevada’s most haunted tourist destinations. Enjoy and Happy Haunting!