October 18, 2018

Photo Essay: Haunted Accommodations In A Silver Mining Ghost Town

What was once known as "The Best Hotel in Nevada" at the turn of the last century has just been voted "Best Haunted Hotel" in the country by USA Today readers.

Oh my.

I didn't know that when I booked my overnight stay in Tonopah there, as I was on my way east to Ely.

But it was confirmed pretty much as soon as I walked in the door...

...when the young front desk attendant was talking about how she refuses to go down to the basement by herself anymore...

...because of something that had happened down there.

I then waited for the elevator to come so I could adjourn to my room, but when the doors opened, two staffers from housekeeping were headed down, not up.

"No, you go ahead," I said.

"I heard what happens down in the basement. I'm not going down there with you."

I only slept there one night, senses dulled by whiskey from the saloon across the street, but no other spirits made their way into my room with me that night (for once).

And although there may be some restless energy at the Mizpah Hotel, it's known better for its prosperity—and as a symbol of the good times in the short-lived boomtown of Tonopah.

When it was built in 1907-8, Tonopah was, indeed, prosperous—thanks in no small part to the Mizpah Mine directly behind the hotel, which was the most successful of all the silver mines in the area.

Although the silver boom went bust quicker than you could say "Mizpah," the town and the hotel caught a second wind of sorts when gambling was legalized in 1931.

There must've been enough cash flowing through there to warrant a bank-like vault for safety deposit boxes...

...which now serves as a mini-museum for the hotel.

By 1957, things had settled down quite a bit in Tonopah—and entrepreneur, aviator, and moviemaker Howard Hughes slipped away to the Mizpah Hotel to marry his third wife, Jean Peters, in a private and low-key ceremony. That, of course, put the Mizpah on the celebrity gossip map (even after-the-fact).

That more or less ushered in Hughes's most reclusive period, when he famously holed himself up the Desert Inn in Vegas and had to buy the hotel in 1966 in order to be allowed to stay on the top floor of suites, where he'd been squatting for months.

His marriage to Jean Peters (his third) didn't last long, ending in divorce in 1971. The Mizpah was more or less forgotten, a footnote in the eccentric's biography.

Hughes's ghost has been known to haunt the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, where he once had an office. Maybe his spirit vacations in Nevada.

Or, maybe one of the ghostly (or ghastly?) visitors is W.W. Booth, founder of the Tonopah Bonanza, after whom a guest room is named. (One of the other prominent local figures who have passed, who also have rooms dedicated to them, could also be a culprit as well.)

The genesis of the name "Mizpah" for the hotel is somewhat of a mystery, though some note its biblical origins (as a place in Palestine) and one of the word's meanings as a watchtower.

For 40 years, the Mizpah Hotel was one of the two tallest buildings in the state of Nevada.

And maybe now, it's still tall enough for the specters who never left to watch over their old ghost town from it.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Digging Into the Silver Royalty of Nevada's "Other" Side
Photo Essay: Clown Motel, Gateway to the Haunted Miners' Cemetery
Photo Essay: The Scenic Route, Nevada Edition

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