Nevada ghost hunters investigate Virginia City and encounter the spirits of the Wild West

Nevada ghost hunters investigate Virginia City and encounter the spirits of the Wild West
April 10, 2009
Patricia Marin

Real Paranormal Investigation (R.P.I.), based in Reno, NV, met with renowned psychic Gavin Cromwell of UK’s Cromwell’s Quest ( and for a walking tour of some of historic Virginia City’s most haunted buildings. After a quick meal where the investigators learned more about Gavin, his methods, and some of his experiences, they headed for the Union Brewery on North C Street. Gavin and his team had previously requested that they not be informed of where he was going or anything about the history of the town and the specific sites the group planned to visit.

R.P.I. began their evening by exploring the basement of the Union Brewery. Far back in the basement (the eastern end), Gavin had the feeling of many bodies in one place and commented that he was feeling violently sick. He immediately came up with the name “George.” As he looked around, Gavin noticed the stairs leading to the boardwalk on the west side of the basement. He said he saw a woman with a white blouse. She was beckoning to him and wanting him to go someplace else with her. He got the sense of an explosion or some huge disaster and the word yellow. He was then drawn to a section of the wall on the west side. Gavin put his hands on the bricks and explained that red brick carried energy. He described the feelings of a hanging victim, then someone in a prison cell and their rage. He also received the name Julia and described her as a woman with dark hair.

Analysis revealed that the “George” name could have been “George the Meat Man,” a regular at the Union Brewery until his death in the1990s. The brewery originally backed up to the cribs on D Street in the Red Light District and there could have been women who plied their trade in the Union itself and then took their clients to the cribs below. The explosion or great disaster, coupled with the word yellow, could either have been the fire of 1875 or the Yellow Jacket mine disaster. Many bodies at one time were stored in the basement because the cold would help preserve them prior to burial. And the woman, Julia, was most likely Julia Bulette. In her short time in Virginia City, Julia Bulette became probably the most famous of the prostitutes there. She was a self-made woman with no “manager" and owned her own crib or room. Julia first moved to Virginia City in 1863, but was found strangled just four years later. Jean Millian was tried and found guilty of Julia’s murder. It was Virginia City’s first public execution.

Sgt. Majors Saloon is located about one block south of the Union Brewery. R.P.I. was shown a back room where there had been reports of paranormal activity. Gavin said he found it hard to link with the spirits there. It was certainly a haunted area, but he explained that he was having difficulty connecting. He then asked about a firing squad and explained that he was getting a feeling of being tied to a post and a mob or vigilante group was involved. He added that he was having trouble with the American pronunciation of names. Research revealed that there was a vigilante group called the “601s” who were active in Viginia City. This group was called the 601's because of their slogan which they would pin on a scrap of paper to the shirt of the men they hanged, “6 feet under, 0 trial, 1 rope.” It’s not known how many men were actually executed by this group because they not only would take men out of the town jail for swifter justice, but were known to ambush and kill others whom they felt deserved execution. The 601’s were never held accountable or arrested for their actions, which ended with the last vigilante hanging in Virginia City in 1871.

The Comstock Mill is located one street away from Main Street on “B” Street. To R.P.I.’s knowledge, the Comstock Mill had not previously been investigated. Upon entering, the team experienced a unanimous feeling of being watched. From a position near the washer board, R.P.I. investigators could see the observation deck where tourists watch the ore crusher work when the mill is open for tours. Everyone noted that there was a definite shadow pacing before the exit sign on the observation deck. Gavin got the feeling of a man’s name - Joe or Joseph - along with a girl named Alice. He said he could hear voices as though a discussion was going on among the spirits. He also picked up the name Thornton. He received many other names and the feeling of a woman who may have been a nurse and who seemed to want to communicate and, in fact, activated the K2 meter. He got the image of a severed hand and a voice complaining of “the pain” and “just kill me.” There was also the feeling of anger from several of the spirits, as though they were not completing the job they came to Virginia City to do and they were staying until they could make their families proud. He also got the feeling of some sort of industrial accident involving the upper left shoulder of an individual but no clear indication of what it meant.

At one point, Gavin got the name Charlie Stanford. As Gavin tried to communicate with this individual, a rock fell from the western wall of the mill. This was a significant fall and was heard by everyone in the group.

It was at this time that the group decided to vacate the premises and leave the mill to the spirits for the evening. Again, the unanimous feeling of the group was that they were being watched as the group gathered by the door to leave. It was almost as if the spirits were lined up on the observation deck waiting for the interlopers to leave so they could get to work.

The weather had turned colder and it was snowing, so the team decided to call it quits for the night.

The following day, Gavin’s team and R.P.I. joined together to investigate the infamous Washoe Club on Sunday evening for what was supposed to be a quick tour, because the blizzard was getting worse and time was of the essence. The quick tour turned into a fairly lengthy walk-through and a séance lasting almost an hour.

R.P.I. began their investigation on the third floor in a room facing B Street. This was the site where previous investigators had obtained film and EVP evidence. Gavin got the feeling of a small woman or a child in one area of the room and a great commotion like an argument. He then felt a man in the room who was extremely sad and sobbing. He asked if the room had ever had the windows blocked, as he heard several names and picked up the idea of secret meetings. He advanced to the second floor and said he couldn’t go into one room on the eastern side, but continued to other rooms and wound around to the ballroom. In that one particular room, Gavin felt such feelings of trepidation and unease that it felt to him almost like a physical wall that he could not go through. R.P.I. was never able to determine exactly what or who was causing these feelings.

In the ballroom, Gavin wanted to try to contact the many spirits present. He led the group in a protection exercise and then began the process by asking questions. He said he felt the presence of several people in the room who were gathering around the table. He saw a blonde woman enter the ballroom. She had blood coming from her mouth and was asking for a doctor. It was at this time that an R.P.I. member smelled lilacs, an experience that was confirmed by another member of the group. Other women were also present, but Gavin commented that they seemed to hang back to allow the male spirits access to the ballroom. He obtained many more names, including the name Franco or Frank. He described this spirit as all in black and very dark and said “We are in the presence of a murderer.” This “dark” spirit became agitated when women spoke, especially when one particular woman spoke. This particular spirit, who remained unidentified, was the one who originally appeared to Gavin with blood on her mouth as if she had been struck. Gavin felt she was being intimidated by the “dark spirit” who may have been her pimp or manager in life.

The “dark” spirit activated the K2 meter several times, but the strangest phenomena of the evening came when the K2 began to rock on the table and at one time lifted about an inch on one end as if preparing to levitate. Cheryl, the same member who seemed to be able to make this spirit become agitated, reported afterward that she had felt as if there was some kind of battle going on behind her between spirits. After reviewing photographs that were taken at the scene, several bright orbs can be seen right behind her. Her jacket also looked as if she had rolled on the floor and was very dirty. It was clean when she entered and she hadn’t been sitting on the floor or leaning against a wall.

I asked R.P.I. about whether the room was dusty, which could be a cause for the odd orbs. Gerre Young, one of the R.P.I. investigators who were there that night, commented “The odd thing about these orbs is they appear to be coming out of the wall directly behind Cheryl. It gives them a strange, half-circle shape that seems to protrude and be emerging from the wall. For that reason, we don’t believe these to be dust reflections.”

Gavin said that the sprits seemed very confused by him, including his hair, his looks, and his accent.

After the circle was released, an investigator who had been taking photos was roughly shoved from behind and pushed into several other members. She stated that she had never had such an experience before.

Gavin came up with many names and, while some were confirmed on the spot, additional research is required to confirm others. An R.P.I. investigator said “As of early April, we have been unable to come up with additional confirmations; however, research remains ongoing and we’re not giving up!” The use of initials for first and middle names on membership rolls of the Washoe Club makes quick identification difficult. The Washoe Club was originally known as The Millionaire’s Club when it first opened in 1864. Although being a “millionaire” wasn’t actually a requirement, high priced memberships were paid. These memberships included gambling, liquor, and the prostitutes that worked there. There were several “secret” entrances and exits for those gentlemen that preferred to be more discreet.

The R.P.I. member who had first reported the smell of lilacs sensed that there was a sprit in the store below the ballroom that smells of lilacs and that she had asked that spirit to identify herself to Gavin when he came. There was a name associated with this spirit and R.P.I. is still researching to determine the validity of this name. An R.P.I. investigator commented, “There is so much information about Virginia City that was lost over the years that recovering it can seem like a treasure hunt at times. Much of R.P.I.’s information comes from locals that have lived in Virginia City their whole lives and pass down the town’s history and stories to just about anyone who will listen. The city itself has an organization called “Living Legends” and these folks adopt their favorite Virginia City personality, dress in period clothing, learn everything they can about that character and his/her personality, then walk the streets and speak to the tourists and even occasionally do authentic reenactments of events that took place in Virginia City.” According to R.P.I., the “Living Legends” have provided a wealth of information that has helped them in their paranormal investigations.
The two days spent with Team Gavin were an enjoyable and informative time for R.P.I. He was fascinated with the historical tidbits R.P.I. provided, including the connections between Virginia City and Wales where he was born and raised. R.P.I. plans to continue investigating Virginia City, where many restless spirits linger and the mysteries of the past invite further exploration.
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