The voices of nobody in the night . . . the footsteps of no one on the stairs . . . lights turning on and off in unoccupied buildings . . . Over the years, the park staff who live for months at a time in the old buildings at Bodie State Historic Park have heard, seen, and experienced all of these — and other occurrences they can’t explain. Are these the actions of restless, wandering spirits, or just “residual haunting” phenomena? Or does living in rickety old buildings in the remote, windy, high desert cause imaginations run just a little wild late at night? Well, Bodie is an authentic Ghost Town, right?
One evening last month I joined a “Bodie Ghost Walk” and “Ghost Mill Tour” offered by the Bodie Foundation and presented by a couple of Bodie’s charming interpretive staff. We started in the church, then strolled through town and peeked inside a few of the buildings.
The J. S. Cain House
A cozy room in a (haunted?) staff residence.
Heading north on Prospect Street
“This was the home of an Italian family with 15 children. When I lived in here last year, I felt something . . .”
Heading south on Main Street
This room in the Wheaton and Hollis Hotel is where meals were served all day, a billiards table provided recreation, and a bar provided refreshment.
It’s a Carom billiards table, the kind with no pockets.
The hotel also rented rooms . . . in 8-hour shifts. One miner had a peg leg with a sharp point on it. Just down this hall, you can see hundreds of little dents in the floor boards around the door to his room.
The Standard Mill was a hazardous workplace, but it had a good safety record, with only one documented fatal accident. A man slipped and fell into the large, rapidly moving belts that drove the stamp mill. Can it be true that he was instructing other mill workers on workplace safety at the time?
Recently, the story of another fatality came to light, in the diary of a woman who lived there many years ago. The incident may have escaped official documentation because the victim was nobody important—only a boy, small and agile enough to climb the rafters and grease the wheels of the mill’s machinery for a few dollars a day.
Then there was the time two highway patrolmen were by themselves up in the cemetery — they heard a little girl’s voice, then saw a small person’s footprints in the fresh snow . . . .
Good night, Bodie.
Copyright © 2017 Tim Messick. All rights reserved.
See also Tim Messick Photography and the Bodie Hills Plants blog.