The Kit Carson Trail in Carson City, Nevada, is haunted by history. The footsteps of Abe Curry, the first superintendent of the Nevada City Mint, still echo in the halls of the building. Mark Twain's niece, Jennie Clemens, died of a fever when she was nine; her spirit peeks from the upstairs window of the family home and is said to visit the Lone Mountain Cemetery. In the 1800s, V&T Railroad baron Duane Bliss built his home on a burial ground. Today, the house occasionally chimes with laughter and music as spirits gather in the parlor in evening finery. Take a walk through Carson City's haunted history with author Janet Jones and meet the spirits that linger in the city's historic district.
About the Author
Janet Jones currently works with the Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau and participates as a guide or presenter in their seasonal ghost walks. Janet is a psychic medium and has been researching the spirit world professionally for more than twenty years. She has traveled extensively to work on assignment and was a presenter on the first My Ghost Story television show.
Read an Excerpt
There's a Party Going On!
Not every couple has a venue as lovely as the Bliss House or gets the ghost of Mark Twain sharing a wedding toast.
— Cydne and Steve
As you walk through the historic district of Carson City, you may often wish these homes could tell their histories. During an evening walk past the Bliss Mansion, you just might glimpse history being relived by the past residents as if it was still 1879.
In 1859, Duane Bliss moved from San Francisco to Nevada to work as manager and partner of the private Gold Hill Bank of Alvin Paul. He was only twenty-six years old at the time. In 1864, the Bank of California (known today as Bank of America) took over the bank, and he continued working there as a cashier and made outside investments for the bank. In 1868 and 1869, he took part in forming the now world-famous Virginia and Truckee (V&T) Railroad, which began by running between Virginia City, Reno and Carson City. He later also helped organize the Carson and Colorado Railroad, which ran to southern Nevada. Bliss was influential in obtaining the right of ways for the Virginia and Truckee Railroad to Virginia City. He also persuaded many residents to help fund the project by promising them that hauling lumber from his Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company at Lake Tahoe over that railroad to Virginia City would more than repay them for their investment.
During the construction of the V&T Railroad, Bliss was sent to New York for business. Before he left, Bliss gave his stock in a Comstock mine, which was going up in value at a rate of about $100 a day, to one of his trusted business associates, Mr. Sharon, for safekeeping. The stipulation was that while Bliss was gone, if the stock in the mine went down, Mr. Sharon was to sell the stock. When Bliss returned, he found that Mr. Sharon did not sell the stock when it dropped, and Bliss lost everything, leaving him $300,000 in debt. Mr. Mills, another of Bliss's business associates, offered to lend him this amount at 6 percent interest based only on Bliss's work ethic and astute business sense, and between 1870 and 1871, Bliss paid back this loan. Mr. Mills then financed Bliss to purchase fifty thousand acres of timberland at Lake Tahoe for his Carson and Tahoe Timber and Fluming Company for the purpose of furnishing over three million feet of timber monthly for shoring up the mines and three thousand to four thousand cords to be used as fuel for the Cornish pumps.
Bliss realized early on that the new residents of Carson City had very little lumber to build with and thus were living and working in adobe structures or canvas tents. He knew that ample supplies of lumber were available at Lake Tahoe, just at the top of the mountain above the city. The challenge was getting the lumber from Lake Tahoe and down the mountain in an economical and efficient manner.
In 1871, Bliss invested in timberland at Lake Tahoe, and he soon became one of Nevada's most successful businessmen based on the success of his lumber company. He then built a railroad to transport the lumber to the flumes that carried it down into Carson City and to the mines in Virginia City. This lumber was not only critical for Carson City, but also for the mines, which never would have been able to expand and produce the massive amounts of silver and gold they did. Without this lumber and its impact on mining in the Comstock, the country's progress would have most definitely been slowed. The ore that came out of the Comstock built San Francisco into the great city that it is today and helped end the Civil War. I am sure Bliss had no idea of the impact his lumber company would have on our country's history. To help communication between the lumber company and Carson City, he became the owner of one of the first telephones in the West when he put a wire between Glenbrook at Lake Tahoe and Carson City.
Bliss was strongly opposed to power companies from California coming in and taking Lake Tahoe's water and thus ruining the lake's esthetics. He fought this battle until the end of his life.
Bliss installed the first passenger train to Lake Tahoe, which was connected to the Southern Pacific Railroad at Truckee. He also built the Tahoe Tavern Casino and Railway Office as the train stop at the lake. Bliss then commissioned Mr. Eckart, the designer of the iron steamer Meteor in 1876, to design a much larger twin screw, steel steamer Tahoe on the same slender lines for speed that would hold up to two hundred passengers. Bliss had the Meteor and the Tahoe built in San Francisco and then shipped up in pieces to the lake. He later added the Nevada to the fleet, accompanied by pile drivers and barges. The Tahoe transported passengers from around the lake to the tavern's wharf to board the train that would go into Carson City or Truckee.
On April 6, 1864, Bliss married his love, Elizabeth Thatcher Tobey, of Wareham, Massachusetts, whose ancestors are on record as having founded that town. In 1871, when he purchased the property at Lake Tahoe, he moved his family down to Carson City and kept a home in Glenbrook at Lake Tahoe as a summer home. Bliss designed one of the most elegant homes in Carson City for his family. For six months, materials were gathered to build his stately home, using the most perfect lumber from his forests at Lake Tahoe. It took three railroad cars of brick to construct the four massive chimneys. The fittings and fixtures in the home were all made of silver mined in Virginia City.
Mrs. Bliss was well known for her parties, which were attended by all of the most prominent residents of the area. The front parlor windows were built flush to the floor so that, when opened, guests could easily move from the house to the porch on a warm summer evening. The third floor contained the ballroom, which was equipped with a stage. In later years, this same ballroom was used by the children of the household for roller-skating.
Today, it not unusual to see party guests from the 1800s standing in the entry, removing their coats as if they are just arriving for one of her soirées. Pictures taken at modern-day parties held at the mansion have produced ghostly attendees standing next to living partygoers.
This is an article written about one of her famous parties in the Carson News on January 9, 1897:
The home of Mr. and Mrs. D.L. Bliss was the scene of charming revelry last night. This occasion was the "fancy dress" en masque, the cards which have kept all the young people on the qui vive, discussing "character" and "costume" for a week past. The Bliss residence never looked prettier, elegantly decorated with flowers, statuary and Japanese hangings. Mrs. Bliss graciously received the guests and at nine o'clock the drawing rooms and broad halls were filled with merry maskers. What could be more entrancing than this carnival of enjoyment? Lords and Ladies, regal in brocade and jewels, Thibetan [sic] and Hindoo [sic] arrayed in barbaric splendor and mingling with them fairies, clowns, jolly colored gals and coons. Among the lady maskers were: Mrs. EB Yerington, the Woman in White;, Mrs. Hume Yerington, Red Dominos; Mrs. GW Cagwin, Grecian Princess; Mrs. Warren Noteware, Galatea; Mrs. EB Folsom, Snow; Mrs. HK Borwn, Evening Dress; Mrs. LO Henderson, Red Domino; Mrs. GW Richard, Fancy Dress of Red and Black; Mrs. Robert Grimmen, White Domino; Mrs. Hall, Evening Dress; Miss Hope Bliss, Princess Tokyo; Miss Bray, Red Lady; Miss Jennie Torreyson, Queen of Night; Miss Ada Torreyson, Puritan Maiden; Miss Belknap, Red Domino; Miss Oliver, Pink Court Dress; Miss How, Blue Court Dress; Miss Tobey, French Lady; Miss Platt, Spanish Lady; Miss Colcord, Greecian Dress; Miss Keyser, Pink Domino; Miss Bryant, Blue Dominio and Misses Vanderleith and Swift as Just Plain Nigger Gals.
The maskers before unmasking were awarded prizes as follows:
Ladies, best sustained, Misses Vanderleith and Swift; handsomest costume, Eugene Howell, as a fairy, best disguised, Robert Grimmon; as "Just Ready for a Ham Mam."
Refreshment was served at midnight and it was not until two o'clock that the last guest had departed and the last ravishing diminuendos of Day's orchestra had mingled with the morning breeze.
It is often reported by people walking past the mansion in the evenings to hear music reminiscent of the past and laughter as if Mrs. Bliss's parties are still going on.
When Mr. Bliss closed the lumber mill at Lake Tahoe, he moved his family to San Francisco and sold the home to H.M. Yerington, the son of one of his partners in many businesses, including the V&T Railroad. Mr. Yerington had four children: Russell, Eleanor, Clara and Frances.
Why is this mansion so active? At first glance, it appears nothing unusual, like a death or murder, happened in this home. The home was built on what had once been an Indian camping site and burial ground. When workmen were removing bodies before construction began it became clear that the site had also been used by whites as an early burial site for the town's less financially fortunate. Although attempts were made to remove the bodies from the land, it was common during the 1800s to just remove bodies that appeared during the laying of the foundation. During a renovation of the mansion in the 1990s, a body from these original burials was found, proving that all of the deceased were not removed at the time of building in 1879.
Another factor of the hauntings at the mansion happened in the 1980s when a young neighbor who was friends with the owners' children spent the night at the mansion. He slept on the top floor of the house, and during the night, he began sleepwalking and fell from the top floor down to the first floor through the open space between the wall and staircase. He was found dead the next morning on the floor of the entryway. This was so upsetting to the owners that they soon moved out. The house remained unoccupied until it was purchased in the 1990s, restored to its original grandeur and turned into a bed-and-breakfast. One of the bed-and-breakfast owners has said he often wondered if the boy had not been pushed down the stairs by a spirit.
Many guests of the mansion have reported ghostly sightings. The owners kept a journal in each room for their guests to write their accounts:
Bliss is knowing there are three ghouls on the roof outside your room, keeping the evil spirits away.
— Gayle and Ross
Thanks for breakfeast. It was great, but last night I heard scary noises up and down the stairs. But everything else was great.
— Tara and Grace
The porch swing in late afternoon with wine in hand and listening to the ghosts of 1870s whisper in the trees.
— Gary and Fran
Wow! What a place! Quite a busy place you have here on the Spiritual side. Had a couple visitors last night, couldn't make out the faces but very strong and loving presences. They said "thank you for the songs in the yard last night."
Some incredible history and some very strong spirits ya'al live with. Between the lights flickering, the car alarm going off and the visitors in the middle of the night gives true confirmation that this house is home to many.
— Bridget and Rick
When the owners of the bed-and-breakfast brought a professional photographer in to take photographs for a brochure, he had to edit the orbs and spirit energies that appeared in the pictures before the images could be printed.
I was fortunate to be the innkeeper for the owners when they were away on one occasion. Each time a guest would call and let me know they would be arriving soon, I would leave work to open the mansion and greet them. I would wait in the kitchen for them, as it was always one of my favorite rooms downstairs. When I entered the house and walked into the kitchen, I would hear a train whistle. I walked around the house, inside and out, looking for a wind chime that may have been causing the sound. I found nothing. I asked the groundskeeper if he had ever heard this sound before, and he had not. I took him back to the kitchen, and again we heard the train whistle. What was interesting to me is that the V&T Railroad used to stop for passengers a street over from the mansion during the 1800s.
I decided to invite a couple of psychic friends over that evening to see if we could figure out the source of this new sound. We discovered that it was a Chinese gentleman whose body had just been tossed on the burial ground. He did not have a proper Chinese burial and could not move on to be with his family on the other side because of the improper burial. We asked him for instructions on how to do the ceremony, and I agreed to do it for him. Later, I researched Chinese burial ceremonies and learned that he had given me the exact instructions. When I agreed to do his ceremony, he told me that he would make something very important to me happen. I have often wondered just which important thing he chose to do, as many have come to fruition since our meeting. We asked our new Chinese friend if we could take a picture with him, and he agreed. In the photo, you can see a large orb in front of me. I like to think it is my new friend. A few days later, I went back to the mansion and performed his ceremony, and the train whistle has never been heard again.
When the mansion was a bed-and-breakfast, the owners had a cat named Calvin. The spirit of the young boy who fell to his death while sleepwalking remains in the house, and he spends most of his time on the third floor where he was sleeping the night he died. The young boy loved Calvin, and whenever you took a picture of Calvin on the third floor, you would almost always get a large bright orb of the young boy close to the cat. Calvin has since passed, and I like to think that the two of them are now together. I know that would make the young boy very happy and possibly not so lonely.
This home is not only haunted inside but outside as well and is said to have over thirty-five spirits inside the home alone, making it one of Carson City's most haunted locations. Taking photos outside the home often produces large mists and other evidence. There are many reports of full apparitions being seen on the front lawn.
The mansion is now privately owned, so please respect the owners' privacy when taking your walk through the historic district.CHAPTER 2
Always a Home-Cooked Meal Waiting for You at The Bender House
Why the Bender name stuck with this house is a mystery; many owned the home before and after the Benders, and most were just as influential and important to the community. The original owner of this house was George Nourse, who had moved from Reno to Carson City and built his home in 1867. Mr. Nourse came from Minnesota, where he was the U.S. district attorney from 1861 to 1863. When his appointment as U.S. district attorney ended, he moved to the Utah Territory, Reno. There were no planes or automobiles during 1863 and 1864, so the main form of transportation was train or wagon. Moving from Minnesota to Carson City would have been a major and timely expedition. Mr. Nourse was elected by Washoe County to serve as a member of the Second Constitutional Convention in 1864. His was one of the signatures on Nevada's first constitution, which can be seen in the Nevada State Library in Carson City. Once the constitution was signed and Nevada was officially a state, he was then elected as Nevada's first attorney general in 1864 and served until 1867.
During his time as attorney general, he was instrumental in resisting attempts by California interests in San Francisco from diverting water out of Lake Tahoe for municipal use. There was a California company that had purchased land in the nearby area and wanted to dig a canal to funnel water to the local farms and to California. To this day, the water of Lake Tahoe is still protected from being transported to California thanks to his efforts. Mr. Nourse lived across the street from Mr. Bliss, and I am sure they must have worked together on this issue, as it was also close to Mr. Bliss's heart. When Nourse retired from his attorney general appointment, he resumed a legal practice in Carson City and remained involved in the community and its government.
Mr. Nourse sold his home in 1871 to a Nevada Supreme Court justice, Bernard Crosby Whitman. After his term on the Supreme Court ended in 1875, Mr. Whitman then moved to San Francisco and continued his law practice.
Mr. Whitman sold the home to Mr. Bender in 1873. Mr. Bender and his brother came to the Nevada Territory in 1863 and first settled in Virginia City, then moved to Reno before purchasing the home from Mr. Whitman. Prior to moving to Nevada, Mr. Bender had served in the California Assembly in 1854 and as a district judge in Sacramento, California.
In 1871, Mr. Bender and his brother started a bank named D&A Bender Company. In 1873, Mr. Bender was hired by H.M. Yerington, a major contributor to the V&T Railroad, and this job opportunity began Mr. Bender's long association with the V&T Railroad.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Haunted Carson City"
Copyright © 2012 Janet Jones.
Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. There's a Party Going On!: Bliss Mansion,
2. Always a Home-Cooked Meal Waiting for You at The Bender House,
3. "She Was a Heaven Born Child": Orion Clemens House,
4. Mr. Curry, Is That You, Sir?: Nevada State Museum/Carson City Mint,
5. Mr. Maars at Your Service: Carson Brewing Company/Brewery Arts Center,
6. "Well There, Pilgrim ...": Krebs Peterson House,
7. The Wedding Crasher: Ferris Mansion,
8. Time for Tea: Rinckel Mansion,
9. Things Will Levitate: Roberts House,
10. Tall Tales Told by the Fire: Ormsby House Hotel,
11. The Home that Springs Eternal: Woodacre House,
12. Jimmie's Place: Bliss Bungalow/Chartz House,
13. Indian Boarders: Stewart Indian School,
14. The House that Comes with a Maid: Edwards House,
15. A Place for a Founder to Lay His Head: Abe Curry Home,
16. A Hotel Full of Family: St. Charles Hotel,
17. The Nonpaying Riders: Virginia and Truckee Railroad,
18. Unmarked Graves: Chartz House,
19. Paiutes in the Wetlands: Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau,
About the Author,