1920s Tonopah. Well past its mining heyday, but still a busy rural Nevada community. Located midway between Reno and Las Vegas on Nevada State Highway 95, this town offered a welcome respite for travelers seeking a break from the desert heat and dust. Its buildings—both elegant Victorians and hastily constructed shacks—appear cradled up in the San Antonio Mountains, 6,000 feet above sea level.
The town’s heart pulsed through the Mizpah Hotel, a quarried-stone, five-story structure built in 1907. Unfortunately, blood spilled there in a wild act of jealousy.
The woman’s name has been lost. But what happened to her lives on. A kept woman, who lived in a fifth floor room facing Tonopah’s main drag, she strayed from her benefactor who provided her with material—not emotional—comfort. Upon learning of her relationship with another man, he became enraged, killing her in the hallway down from her room.
Her spirit would come to be known as the Lady in Red—an apparition wearing a red dress destined to roam the halls of the Mizpah Hotel.
Folklore maintains her blood wouldn’t come out of the carpet where she’d been slain, and if removed, it’d reappear as an ominous reminder of that heinous act. Some say she has a penchant for red high heels and that her interest can be aroused by setting a pair of crimson pumps in the hallway. Others claim she’ll leave a single pearl on the nightstand in her former room as evidence she exists.
The Mizpah had been closed many years when I received an invitation to attend a paranormal investigation prior to its September 2011 reopening. My friend and I arrived to a frenzy of carpet-laying and wall-painting. Despite this last-minute work, the hotel’s grandeur was evident through the etched windows and ornate ceilings.
We hoped to witness the Lady in all her glory. At midnight, with most of the paranormal investigators down the street partying in a bar, we sat on the floor midway between the Lady in Red’s room and the spot where her life ended. Not a creature of the night, I wearily leaned my head against the wall. We sat quietly while we waited for the WIGs (Women Investigating Ghosts) to complete their EVP (electronic voice phenomena) session inside her room.
Up to that point, our investigation had been typical for me: Nothing unexplainable had happened. Then I caught a movement, even though I knew we and the WIGs were the only ones on that floor. I slowly turned my head and spied an ethereal man, fashioned out of steel-gray shadows, stroll down the hall in our direction until he abruptly turned right and sped down the stairwell. He didn’t notice me. Instead he seemed to stride with purpose. And, even stranger, I didn’t freak like I normally do when I spot a shadow apparition.
Could he have been the man who murdered the Lady in Red?