Most Haunted Places in Nevada to Visit This Halloween
Nevada puts the “ghost” in ghost town. The state is an eerie, barren desert full of weird roadside attractions, extraterrestrial sightings, and more than 600 literal ghost towns, making it the most ghost-town-populated state in the country. The Silver State boomed when mining did, and busted right along with it, leaving the hollowed-out husks of former boom towns to be reclaimed by the desert sand.
Some of those spots are considered “living ghost towns,” where residents still live in the shadows of the town’s glory days from a century before. Some play it up, making tourist attractions out of brothels-turned-hotels and cemeteries with wooden headstones. There are also modern cultural artifacts with a creepy edge: outdoor museums erected by international artists in the middle of the desert and surrounded by ghost towns that only make sense in a deeply weird state like Nevada. And then there’s the work of Mother Nature herself, never to be outdone.
Nevada has an everyday kind of creepy factor all year long, but it’s extra special during the spooky season. From Tonopah to Goldfield and Beatty, take a road trip out of Las Vegas this fall and discover some of the spookiest places to get your Halloween thrills!
Whether or not you’re interested in ghosts and haunted places, if you are any kind of history lover, the Mizpah Hotel, built in 1907, is truly a grand destination unto itself. When current owners Nancy and Fred Cline took over the historic property in 2011, they made a painstaking, loving effort to return it to its former glory. This is a beautiful hotel that well earns its nickname as “The Jewel of the Desert.” It’s a taste of luxury in the living ghost town of Tonopah…and it’s also haunted AF—the whole town is.
Stay in the “Lady in Red” room number 504, named after the woman strangled to death by a jealous ex-lover between rooms 502 and 504. While the Lady in Red is certainly the most famous of the Mizpah’s ghosts, there are others known to haunt the floors, including some playful children on the third floor and murdered miners in the basement. On Fridays and Saturdays in late October, the Mizpah gives haunted hotel tours; call (855) 337-3030
or (775) 482-3030 to inquire about dates, times, and booking.
This motel doesn’t need to be haunted to be terrifying, but it is also haunted, so sleep tight. The Clown Motel bills itself as “America’s Scariest Motel” and absolutely no one will argue otherwise as it’s an old motel that’s now stuffed with more than 3,000 clowns—there used to only be 600. That’s thanks to new owner Vijay Mehar, who took over the motel in 2019 and is working hard to realize a new vision for the place. With ongoing renovations (as of September 2022, the clown museum is being expanded) and new themed rooms including IT, TheExorcist, Halloween, and Friday the 13th, Mehar is working to elevate the Clown Motel experience while also doubling down on the thing that it’s most famous for: a whole lot of creepy clowns.
Located right next to the Clown Motel, because it wasn’t already creepy enough, is the century-old Tonopah Cemetery. The cemetery has a fascinating story—not just of the stories of those who are buried there, but also the story of how it is now being restored by three brothers from Tonopah who started a nonprofit over 40 years ago with the goal of preserving this piece of local history. The cemetery was in use only for 10 years, from 1901 until 1911. Burials ceased when tailings from the Tonopah Extension Mill were washing over and destroying the graves, and a new cemetery was established.
The old cemetery is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for guests to explore. Allen Metscher of the Central Nevada Historical Society continues his decades-long work of preserving the cemetery using archives of newspapers and obituaries to identify each grave and restore the headstones. He shares the stories of these “permanent residents” by adding a little bit of information on each—sometimes where they hailed from, sometimes the wars they served in, and sometimes the cause of death. There are several grave markers identifying the Belmont Mine fire as the cause of death; 17 men died in this horrific accident, but “Big Bill” Murphy saved dozens more. He is also buried here, and his headstone reads: “Belmont Mine fire. Died while saving others.”
Located just north of Tonopah is Belmont Ghost Town, one of Nevada’s most iconic and best-preserved ghost towns. Belmont was a mining boom city in the mid-1800s, until the mines dried up and most residents emptied out by 1900. Many of the more than 150-year-old structures have remained partially intact, but the showpiece here is the stately Belmont Courthouse, a brick structure built in 1876 that, unlike most of the other buildings here, retained its original timber roof (most timber was stripped from the buildings as people left because it was so valuable) until just a few years ago when it was restored. That roofing also kept the building impeccably preserved, even for the 60 years it sat abandoned. Today, the Friends of the Belmont Courthouse offer guided tours by appointment during which visitors can see some of the famous inscriptions on the walls inside—including those of Charles Manson and his acolytes.
Picture this: dozens of desiccated old cars, buses, vans, and trucks sticking up out of the ground covered in graffiti. This is the International Car Forest of the Last Church, a public art installation located in Goldfield, once the largest city in Nevada with 20,000 residents during the gold rush and known as “World’s Greatest Gold Camp.” There are remnants of that Wild West history throughout the town with historic hotels and saloons, and then there is the Car Forest, a modern creation spearheaded by longtime Goldfield resident Mark Rippie who was joined by artists Chad Sorg and Zak Sargent in planting over 40 junked vehicles throughout 80 acres of land.
Now an established nonprofit, the Car Forest seeks to “preserve the last church in us all” and celebrates “people who create and make beauty where others destroy.” It’s believed to be the largest public art installation of its kind in the country and is a haven for artists and graffiti taggers who come out to add their own work to the sprawling outdoor canvas. There is something inherently eerie about the sight of dozens of rusted-out vehicles sticking out of the ground covered in two decades’ worth of spray paint layers—very post-apocalyptic, post-civilization. Come at sunset for some killer spooky photos.
Once known as the most lavish hotel in Nevada’s biggest, wealthiest boom town, the Goldfield Hotel is now known as one of the scariest places on earth. A slew of reality TV ghost hunters and paranormal investigators have descended on this place over the years, reporting all manner of sightings and psychic disturbances. The history of the Goldfield Hotel and its “permanent residents” is easily the most disturbing of all of Nevada’s (many) haunted hotels: victims of gruesome murders and suicides are said to haunt the place, and it has been described as a “portal to the underworld.” Guided tours and paranormal investigations of the Goldfield Hotel are available by appointment only by texting 775-277-0484. Tours are primarily offered in the evening hours and there is limited lighting and no working elevator, so guests are told to bring their own flashlights, which certainly enhances the spooky vibe.
And while you’re in Goldfield, be sure to make a stop at the Goldfield Historic Cemetery. It’s still used as the town’s burial ground, but the historical section in the back is where you’ll find white stone grave markers with epitaphs like, “Unknown man died eating library paste.”
Between Beatty and Goldfield
Bonnie Claire is a long-dead ghost town located on the outskirts of Death Valley. The ruins here are fairly extensive, with several stone buildings still standing over a century after the townsite was abandoned, and many skeletal structures of buildings and mining equipment remaining vigilant. But what makes Bonnie Claire especially unique is the Bonnie Claire Playa, a dry lakebed with mysterious moving rocks that seem to slide along the surface of the dried mud, leaving long tails behind them. This is the same phenomenon that happens on The Racetrack in Death Valley, but without the treacherous four-hour, one-way drive (still, take caution and be well prepared if you decide to drive out to the Bonnie Claire playa—if you break down or get stuck, no one is coming to help you).
Rhyolite Ghost Town is easily Nevada’s most famous, most visited, and one of the best-preserved. Rhyolite was another wealthy boom town, but this one lasted less than a decade, from 1904 to 1911. Remnants of the town have lasted far longer, with portions of walls of the various buildings still standing today, ghosts of glory days long gone. Check out the remains of the three-story bank building, the old jail, the complete train depot, and Tom Kelly’s Bottle House, made with 51,000 beer bottles, adobe mud, and still fully intact. Dusk is a great time to visit because the lighting is best, and it makes it all extra-spooky.
Located next to Rhyolite is the Goldwell Open Air Museum, one of the eeriest, spookiest, and coolest public art installations to exist in the middle of the godforsaken desert. There are several large-scale sculptures here, but the most famous are the ghoulish six-foot-tall, shrouded plaster figures staged in a reinterpretation of da Vinci’s The Last Supper by founding artist Charles Albert Szulaski. Aside from the ghostly shrouded figures, Goldwell is just a really cool, unique, bizarre attraction, but those figures most certainly make it an extra-spooky destination perfect for October travel. Visit during sunset for some wicked photos.
Nature is metal. Behold: Cathedral Gorge State Park, which looks like a movie set of Mordor or some desolate depiction of the Underworld. Cathedral Gorge State Park is a hauntingly beautiful park full of towering spires, dramatic hoodoos, and spooky slot canyons formed tens of millions of years ago by layers of volcanic ash hundreds of feet thick. Visually it’s a close cousin to Bryce Canyon and the Badlands, but with a fraction of a fraction of the crowds. Cathedral-like canyon walls and spires tower high overhead, dwarfing all who descend into the canyon. These spires provide an especially dramatic backdrop for stargazing, photography, and spooky season camping that you won’t find anywhere else.
The Overland Hotel & Saloon is located just a few miles north of Cathedral Gorge in Pioche, which was known as one of the wildest towns of the American West. Another living ghost town, its beginnings as a mining boom town in the 1860s were especially violent: the first 72 deaths in the town were murder victims. In fact, “Murderers’ Row” in the Boot Hill cemetery is said to be the final resting place of over 100 of the town’s early murderers. A town with this much violent history has to be haunted—the Overland Hotel & Saloon, Million Dollar Courthouse, and old jail have all made their appearances on ghost hunting TV shows in turn. You can spend the night at the Overland Hotel if you want to chance your own ghostly encounters…and if you don’t, just ask the front desk for a room “free of activity.”
Great Basin National Park
Great Basin National Park is one of the least-visited national parks in the country, with only 90,000 visitors annually. There are many features that draw visitors to Great Basin—it’s a designated International Dark Sky Park, making it one of the best places for stargazing with some of the darkest skies in the world, and it is also home to Wheeler Peak, the second-highest peak in Nevada at 13,065 feet elevation. But the Great Basin is probably best known for Lehman Caves, the largest underground cave system in Nevada which first started forming two to five million years ago.
The Lehman Caves were dedicated in 1922 as Nevada’s first national monument and are celebrating a centennial anniversary this year. Visitors can only enter the caves on a guided tour, which are offered daily year-round (except major holidays) and can be reserved up to 30 days in advance—and they do sell out, so don’t wait until the last minute. Different tours cover different sections of the cave and run at different lengths, but no matter which one you opt for you’ll have the chance to see some of the cave’s more than 300 stunning shield formations—most cave systems only have a few—and experience its unique ecosystem that’s home to several creatures found nowhere else on Earth, including at least 10 bat species. A spooky cave full of bats should definitely be on your Halloween travel bucket list.
Located just about an hour northwest of Great Basin—via a stretch of highway that was once named “The Loneliest Road in America” by Life Magazine—the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park is a historic preservation site named for the six beehive-shaped charcoal ovens that were used for silver processing in the late 1870s. After the Ward mine was depleted and miners moved on to the next boom town, the ovens were still used as shelters for stockmen and prospectors during bad weather, as well as stagecoach bandits, who also used them as hideouts. The ovens are still open for touring and make for an especially spooky-cool location for stargazing and astrophotography.
The Nevada Northern Railway Museum in Ely is a historic passenger railroad offering train rides on century-old steam engines. The museum consists of the original railway locomotives, rolling stock, track, passenger station, and buildings that served the region’s copper mining operations. They offer various themed rides throughout the year, and on the last two Friday and Saturday nights in October they offer the “Haunted Ghost Train of Old Ely,” where passengers will catch glimpses of headless horsemen, hitchhiking ghosts, haunted tunnels, creepy campfires, UFOs, and more. Costumes are strongly encouraged, but dress warm—this part of the state gets pretty cold at this time of the year. Be sure to book in advance because this is a popular offering and with only four dates, they do sell out.
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