Book review: ‘The Ghosts of Lake Tahoe’ |

Book review: ‘The Ghosts of Lake Tahoe’

Gloria Sinibaldi
Special to Lake Tahoe Action

Author Patrick Betson is a storyteller. Make no mistake about it. He has handpicked some of his favorite tales and brought them together in a 12-story collection, “The Ghost’s of Lake Tahoe: The Stuff of Legends.” All of the stories reflect nostalgia from days gone by and are set in and around Lake Tahoe, which Betson fondly refers to as “the beautiful lady.” If you love folklore you will find Betson’s stories riveting. “Did it really happen that way,” you might find yourself asking as you read through 249 pages, including a fabulous display of vintage photographs and some great artwork. You could decide that perhaps it did, or then again…maybe not. Either way, it’s a heck of a story to tell.

Some of Betson’s characters are fictional and others we recognize: John C. Fremont, Alex Cushing, Mark Twain and Snowshoe Thompson for example. There’s also Horace Greeley, a presidential hopeful, and Hank Monk, the stagecoach driver who gave Greeley the ride of his life from Carson City to Placerville, but got ‘em there on time. Even early day celebrities, like Clark Gable and Charlie Chaplin make an appearance. Betson describes his collection as “not a history book,” but points out that each story has historical background. I found Betson’s introduction to be very informative, and I would take the chance to read it for sure. Don’t let the word “ghosts” mislead you. This is not a ghost-story book in the Halloween sense, or perhaps not even in the “sit around the campfire and tell scary stories” category. Betson’s stories are legends, tales that are passed down from one generation to another, retold over and again and perhaps changed a little bit along the way, which makes them all the more interesting.

There is a variety from which to pick. You’re sure to find a favorite. They include stories of the old Wild West with guns ablaze, accounts of the Pony Express and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. There’s also a harrowing story of an avalanche that took railroad workers by surprise, as well as one that tells the story of an English seafaring captain who had the traumatic task of amputating his own toes in “Three Toed Island.” Some stories include postscripts. They provide a nice wrap up and extra bits of information that relate nicely to the story.

Author Patrick Betson possesses a rich history of his own. From 1986 to 1995 he narrated for the M.S. Dixie, one of Lake Tahoe’s well-known paddle-wheelers, where he shared his stories with countless folks. He was a guest speaker for Nevada State Parks and a Tahoe radio presenter too. Betson’s love of storytelling has spanned more than 30 years. “Ghosts of Lake Tahoe: The Stuff of Legends” is now part of his Tahoe history that is legendary in and of itself. It can be enjoyed by Lake Tahoe locals and tourists alike.

Gloria Sinibaldi resides part-time in South Lake Tahoe. Her short story, “A Means To Survive,” appears in “Tahoe Blues.” She is a job coach, trainer and author. Contact her at:

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