Supernatural scares: finding the paranormal near Lake Tahoe
If you’re unaffected by horror movies such as “The Babadook” and “The Ring,” consider experiencing the paranormal off screen this Halloween. While Lake Tahoe isn’t known for its surplus of haunted houses, there are eerie spots near at hand that will definitely give you goosebumps.
While most people associate this state park with world-class views, El Dorado County’s website states the bay is haunted by Hermit’s Ghost, who in life was known as Captain Dick Barter. The man amputated his own toes after nearly freezing to death in 1870, and after the accident he built his own tomb, telling the town he should be buried there if his body ever washed ashore.
In 1873, Barter drowned and his boat was found smashed against the rocks at Rubicon Point — but his body was never recovered. Today, people claim that on cold winter nights his ghost can be seen rising from the lake, searching for his tomb and final resting place. Cue “Twilight Zone” music.
East of Lake Tahoe lies Virginia City — the home of the Comstock Lode and a ghostly vibe. So many places in town are said to be haunted by the paranormal that local company Bats in the Belfry provides walking ghost tours of the city’s most infamous haunts — and over Halloween weekend they offer special tours and after-hours investigations. Top scare spots include The Old Washoe Club, Mackay Mansion and Silver Queen Hotel.
The Washoe Club received nationwide recognition from appearances on the Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” and SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters.” Known as one of the most haunted locations in the West, on-site thrills include a crypt and the infamous spiral staircase, which was featured in “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.” A spirit named Jeni is known to haunt the staircase, too — spooky.
Mackay Mansion is filled with ghosts of residents past: a girl dressed in white has appeared to many mansion guests, and an elderly woman lingers on the second floor; a former colonel has been spotted passing time in the kitchen. Beware of the staircase in this establishment as well — a female spirit appears to pace up and down the steps.
The Silver Queen Hotel’s website boasts it is a ghost hunter’s delight — rooms 11 and 13 (no surprises on that second one) are said to host most paranormal activity on the 138-year-old property. Two female ghosts are suspected to live on site, and in their free time enjoy frightening guests with disembodied voices and shadowy apparitions — jingling doorknobs and voices in unoccupied rooms are also heard at night. Keep your ears open for the sound of footsteps on wooden floors — an unusual occurrence in the hotel, which is completely carpeted.
Bodie State Historic Park
If you have time to drive slightly farther over this holiday weekend and are looking for a less-spooky experience that still gets you in the Halloween spirit, check out Bodie Hills in Mono County.
Labeled as California’s official gold rush ghost town, Bodie is preserved in a state of arrested decay. Walk the deserted streets of a town that peaked during the late 1800s. Approximately 100 structures still stand, the interiors of which remain untouched.
Known foremost as an original mining town, it is less likely you’ll catch any paranormal activity here. Other than hunting ghosts, exploring the abandoned saloons is the next-best way to celebrate Halloween.