The historic Mizpah Hotel was once the most luxurious and modern hotel in the southwestern United States. The hotel was nicknamed the “Grand Old Lady” for its refined elegance and upscale atmosphere.
Built in 1907 when the central Nevada town of Tonopah was at the height of its silver boom, it opened its doors to provide a place to amaze and woo potential investors from the East. So, It quickly became the town’s epicenter and, with its five floors, spent 25 years as the tallest building in the state of Nevada.
The hotel was named for the nickname bestowed by a prospector’s wife on the first silver lode discovered in the region, a biblical reference meaning “to come back together with those you love.” In its heyday, the Mizpah was known across the country as one of the finest hotels in the west and it even had the first electric elevator west of the Mississippi. The Mizpah’s fortunes fluctuated along with Tonopah’s mining economy throughout the 20th century, and by 2000, it was shuttered. It went on to spend the next 10 years with its doors chained and windows boarded.
However in 2011 the owners of several Sonoma wineries purchased the hotel, renovated it back to its former Wild West glory, and reopened it in October of the same year after a 2 million dollar renovation. The stained-glass windows, lighting fixtures, elevator, clawed-foot bathtubs, and the majority of the lobby’s furnishings are said to all be the originals from the 1908 opening.
The Mizpah has since gained a reputation for its fair share of ghosts, recently being recognized as the number one haunted hotel in the U.S. by USA Today. Several of the suites are named for some of its supposed permanent guests who haunt the room or its surroundings, with a plaque outside each room providing the macabre details. Among the various paranormal phenomena include an old out-of-commission elevator that randomly opens and closes its doors, objects which mysteriously move, and sightings of laughing children who run through the hallways on the fourth floor. The basement is also supposedly haunted by two miners.
The most popular is the infamous Lady in Red, (which is not the same found on Egypt plantation in Mississippi!) a 1920s-era prostitute strangled in a jealous rage by one of her johns at the end of the fifth floor hallway, whose ghost is said to leave behind the pearls that tend to mysteriously and inexplicably turn up around the hotel.
But let’s step back here for a second: like most authentic wild west abodes, there was one employee present at all hours of the day, divvying up a “special service” of this era. You guessed it: a prostitute. This purveyor of companionship at the Mizpah resided on the fifth floor and met an untimely and brutal demise outside her suite, when she was strangled and stabbed by a jealous lover. Her “stage name name” was Rose, but her real name was Evelyn Mae Johnston. She was born in Baltimore in 1879 and died on January 2, 1914. He keeping steady company with a gambler who possessed a volatile temperment, and when the “gentleman” returned unexpectedly to her room to find her in the company of a customer, he flew into a rage and chased her into the hallway, either stabbing or strangling her to death.
During this time, prior to the restoration that took place in 2011, her suite was comprised of the entire upper street-facing corner of the fifth floor, while today it has been split into three rooms: 504, 503 and 502. The Lady In Red themed room in 504 is very beautiful beyond doubt, but the allegedly haunted room is just down the hall, and is the 502. The Lady has been rumored to target individual male passengers in the elevator, whispering “hey, you” into their ear. Moreover, If she is fond of a guest, she is known to leave pearls in his bed.
The spirits of a few children are said to roam the hotel as well. Their presence is a bit of a mystery since no children it seems to have died there. According to the hotel manager, the children may have died elsewhere but chose to return to the Mizpah because of happy memories they may have had of the hotel in its heyday. We will likely never know for sure, unless they decide to tell us someday!
Regardless of how they got there, often guests have complained of hearing children running up and down the hallways on nights when there are not any children staying on the floor.
The transparent shade of Senator Key Pittman (in photo below) has also been seen drifting about the property. He is believed to have died in the hotel, just before the election. Simply put, his body was hidden in a bathtub full of ice within the suite before his final election to allow fellow democrats to announce a replacement after his reelection.
Not wanting to forfeit the election, it is rumored that his party kept his body on ice in a bathtub somewhere in the hotel until after the election was over. As it turned out, he did win the election and his body was then sent for burial.
This story is a mystery. Nevada historians now claim that Pittman actually died in Reno a few days after the election and that the “body on ice” tale is just that, a ghost story. However some people says that they have met with aging locals who remember the fateful election, and they confirm that Sen. Pittman did in fact die in Tonopah.
An ornate book is displayed prominently at the front check-in, in which guests are encouraged to write about their encounters with the Lady herself, the children who haunt the third floor, and the various miners whose apparitions are said to make frequent appearances throughout the hotel.
All of the spirits at the Mizpah are generally benevolent. The most malevolent experience guests have complained of is trouble sleeping because they felt as if someone were standing next to the bed watching them all night.
One thing is for sure, staying at the Mizpah Hotel is like stepping back in time to the glory days of the late Victorian era, and It is really fantastic that this piece of history has been saved from decay and is still open to the public, unlike many other sites around Nevada and not only.
Author’s note: If you book a room at the hotel, be sure to check out the other mysterious places in this Old West town, like the Old Tonopah Cemetery and the Clown Motel nearby! But these are another stories!
Images from Web.