Called the “Jewel of the Desert,” this stately hotel in Tonopah, Nevada has a rich history in the region, serving as opulent accommodations for visiting silver prospectors and gold barons. Founded as the town grew from a gold rush camp to a bustling city, the town of Tonopah itself was known as the “Queen of the silver mines.” But another queen-like figure is said to walk the halls of the Mizpah Hotel. Today, we’re learning the history of a historic hotel, and the Lady in Red that still calls it home, even in the afterlife.
The Mizpah Hotel was built to be the lap of luxury in the Edwardian period, an oasis in the desert since 1907. The hotel was originally built for $200,000, which would be approximately $6.5 million in today’s currency, and it featured state-of-the art accommodations for the time. One of the first electric elevators in the state of Nevada, working indoor hot water and plumbing, brass chandeliers and stained glass windows gave the Mizpah its gold camp charm. Not just a hotel and saloon, they began offering gambling in the 1940s, a popular pastime in the wild west desert of Nevada as it legalized the practice across the state.
Tonopah was one of those mining towns that sprung up with the discovery of gold and silver in the region, as thousands of people flocked to it hoping to find their fortune. Existing companies set up shop in the region as well, adding to the burgeoning of the town and its quick growth. Miners began arriving around 1900 and continued its heyday well into the 1920s. During this time, famous names like Wyatt Earp settled in Tonopah to reap the benefits of the gold and silver deposits nearby. Senators, dignitaries and mining barons called the Mizpah their temporary home as they oversaw operations. The town continued after, but the population quickly dwindled as the miners moved on to other ventures, including other gold rush towns near Death Valley and the California border.
The Mizpah even claimed the title of the tallest building in Nevada until 1927, standing five stories tall, towering over the main street of the town and was the first permanent building erected in Tonopah while the rest of the town consisted primarily of tents an
d shacks. With a saloon and dining halls named after Jack Dempsey and Wyatt Earp, the hotel also included a brothel on a few floors that operated well into the life of the saloon. Today, prostitution is still legal in the state of Nevada, but the Mizpah does not offer the service.
The hotel changed hands many times over its long history. In 1979, the hotel was purchased by a Las Vegas developer, who spent $2.5 million on renovations to bring the hotel’s amenities up to the standards of the time, updating the hotel and preserving the old world charm of the Mizpah. Sadly, the Mizpah closed its doors in 1999, shuttering up the huge building and boarding windows to keep would-be vandals from entering. In 2011, it was purchased by Fred and Nancy Cline, who renovated the hotel again, this time with modern accommodations for the comfort of new guests in the area. It was placed on the Historic National Register, and there are plans in the future to add a small casino to the hotel. It still operates today, but some of the visitors come not for the history and amenities, but for the legends of ghosts that wander the halls of the Mizpah.
The most famous spirit is known as The Lady in Red, an apparition that has appeared throughout the hotel for decades, being spotted by hotel guests, diners, and employees alike. Legends are split on the lady’s origins, some saying she was a prostitute that worked at the hotel in the early 1910s and was stabbed and strangled by a former lover. Another story says she was murdered by her husband upon his discovery of her infidelity. However the elegant lady came to reside in the elegant hotel, she still causes goosebumps and cries in the night when she makes her presence known.
Some call the spirit by the name “Rose,” however her true identity is a mystery. Paranormal investigators have flocked to the Mizpah for its ghostly activity, many trying to communicate with the Lady in Red. She’s not said to be a malicious ghost, instead coming off as friendly and welcoming. Rumors say some guests have spotted her and assumed she was an actor portraying a woman from the wild west greeting guests, only for her to disappear before their eyes. Men visiting the Mizpah have reported hearing ghostly whispers of romantic sweet nothings in their ear. She is said to be most active near the elevator, which was a state-of-the art installation in her time and often the way a working lady would escort guests to the top floor for a fee.
A rumor about the spirit affectionately known as Rose says that during the scuffle that ended her life, a pearl necklace was ripped from her throat and spilled pearls across the floor. To this day, some guests report waking up with a pearl beneath their pillow, allegedly placed there by the elegant Lady in Red. Room 504 is now decorated and themed as the “Red Lady Room,” as the location of the brothel was split into several rooms on the fifth floor. She is said to be particularly active in room 502, waking guests in the night with singing or ghostly music playing from an unseen phonograph.
Several other ghosts are also said to haunt the Mizpah, including a gaggle of young children that can be heard playing in the halls on the third floor. When guests call to the front desk to complain, they find out that no children are currently staying in the hotel. Two gentlemen also appear to employees and staff members in the basement of the hotel, which is connected to many underground tunnels leading to some mining operations. The two men are rumored to have been miners who met their untimely death in one of the mines nearby. The Mizpah is undoubtedly a more comfortable place to spend the afterlife than a caved-in mine.
The Mizpah is dedicated to hospitality and the comfort of their guests, but they still embrace the haunted legacy it has garnered over the years. Famous Travel Channel productions like Ghost Adventures have held paranormal investigations in the Mizpah, capturing EVPs and other evidence throughout the hotel. If you stay the night, keep your eyes peeled for the Lady in Red, or just order a Lady in Red Zinfandel from the hotel’s saloon.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.