It sometimes seems that every abandoned shack in rural Nevada was once the center of the boomingest boomtown in the state — growing wildly and improbably with imported luxuries unusual in the old-timey West … for as long as the mineral wealth held out. Then everyone split for the next big strike. That left behind a lot of ghost towns — some 600 of them around the state, according to estimates.
The desert hamlet of Goldfield, “the most influential, richest, and largest city in Nevada” just after the turn of the 20th century, didn’t quite dwindle all the way to ghosts and ruins. About 250 people — or 1.25% of its peak population of 20,000 — reside in what’s sometimes called a “living ghost town.”
Living ghost town! With the onset of autumn, and the zeitgeist now vibing Halloween, this is an ideal time to pull into the place, either as a stop on the drive to Reno or as an excursion in its own right.
👻 Haunted Hotel
Built at a cost of nearly $400,000 in 1907-08, on the site of two burned-down hotels, the four-story Goldfield Hotel is often described as among the most opulent lodgings in the state. “Each room featured telephones, electric lights, and a heating system — all luxuries that, during the era, most people had yet to experience.” Also, it had an elevator, a rarity in the outback. Legend says that champagne was poured down the hotel’s stairs at its opening.
A number of ghosts are said to haunt the place, including one called “The Stabber,” but most prominently the spirit of Elizabeth, mistress of owner George Wingfield, who supposedly disappeared shortly after birthing his illegitimate child. Not surprisingly, ghost-hunting TV shows have visited often.
Want to see it? Private tours are available (text 775-277-0484), as are paranormal tours.
🛍️ See & Do
If it’s open, the Enigmatica Esoterica shop — “silver and stones, books and bones!” — should reward your eclectic curiosity. And the selfie-inclined will want to visit the notoriously strange International Car Forest of the Last Church, a funky carhenge of rusted, graffiti’d junkers rising from the sere landscape.
Options are rather limited, but Nevada journalist and frequent backroads traveler John L. Smith recommends the aptly named Dinky Diner as a fine burger-and-fries joint.
Before you go: Take a video tour of the town.