Tuesday, August 2, 2016

HGB Ep. 140 - The Washoe Club

Moment in Oddity - James Chaffin's Ghost Helps Find His Will

James L. Chaffin was a father of four and a farmer in Mocksville, North Carolina. Tragically, he died in a fall, but he had guaranteed the continuation of his beloved farm in a will he had written years earlier that left the farm to his third son, Marshall. And then Marshall died. This left the family farm to Marshall's wife and took the farm out of the Chaffin family's hands. Then a most odd thing happened. We've heard of ghosts helping to solve their own murders and bring justice, but a ghost returning to make sure a will is found? Chaffin's second son James Jr. brought suit in 1925 claiming that the will that had given the farm to the widow was not valid. And he based this claim on the fact that his father's ghost led him to the most recent and valid will. James Jr. claimed that his father's ghost had come to him in dreams for several nights. In the final dream, the ghost of his father appeared wearing his favorite overcoat and he showed James that the will was in the pocket. James Jr. retrieved his father’s overcoat and when he reached into the pocket, he discovered a note behind a new lining. That note read “Read the 27th chapter of Genesis in my daddy’s old Bible.” James Jr. searched his father's belongings and found his grandfather’s old Bible. Inside the Bible, next to Genesis 27, was a new will written by his father in 1919. The will indicated that the farm should be divided among his children. The trial verified that the handwriting was James Chaffin's and Marshall's widow agreed to a settlement. Even she was convinced the will was authentic. A ghost leading his family to a hidden will, certainly is odd!

This Day in History - The Black Sox Scandal
by: Kristin Swintek

On this day, August 2nd, in 1921, Eight Chicago White Sox players were acquitted of throwing the 1919 World Series. This was the "Black Sox Scandal." The scandal claimed that those eight White Sox players were given money by gamblers in exchange for intentionally losing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. In the first game of the series, White Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte (See cot) struck Cincinatti lead off hitter, Morrie Rath, in the back with his pitch, which was the pre-arranged signal that the series would be thrown. Rumors circulated throughout the series about Cicotte’s performance and claims were made that the games were fixed. The White Sox lost the series on October 9, 1919. Rumors continued during the White Sox’s 1920 season and in September a grand jury was convened to investigate these claims. On September 28th, players Eddie Cicotte and Shoeless Joe Jackson confessed to participating in the conspiracy. On October 22, 1920, eight players and five gamblers were implicated by the grand jury which included nine counts of conspiracy to defraud. The trial began on June 27, 1921 in Chicago. Coincidentally, signed confessions and other key evidence went missing from the Cook County courthouse. Cicotte and Jackson recanted their confessions. After deliberating for less than 3 hours, the jury returned a not guilty verdict on all charges of the accused players. Despite the verdict, nine Chicago White Sox players were permanently banned from Major League Baseball for life by the Commissioner of Baseball.

The Washoe Club (Suggested by listeners Tara Williams-Case and Jeni Justine)

Virginia City is an Old West mining town complete with a history of gun fights, explosions, brothels and mine cave-ins. The Comstock Lode was found in the Virginia Range near the future Virginia City and prospectors came looking for an alternative to the Gold Rush. Samuel Clemens was one of them. And when his luck at finding precious ore proved lacking, he took a job at the local paper and adopted the name we all know him by today: Mark Twain. The richer men in the city wanted a place to call their own and the Washoe Club was built for those millionaires. It is the oldest saloon in the city. And it is one of the most haunted locations in a reputedly very haunted town. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Old Washoe Club.

The people who originally lived in this area were the Washoe People. They had lived in the Great Basin for over 6,000 years. The name Washoe means "the people from here." A legend they share is that they were brought to the Great Basin by Gewe (Gyou), the Coyote. He told them that this was where they were meant to live as directed by Nentašu. Nentašu directed the land and her plants to nourish the people and she told the Washoe that it was their duty to care for the land. The tribe was originally made up of four bands from different areas that each had unique customs and language patterns. Everything changed for the Washoe People when the Gold and Silver Rushes brought people flocking to the area in an overwhelming flood. A. Brian Wallace, Former Chairman of the Washoe Tribe, said of this time, "The health of the land and the health of the people are tied together, and what happens to the land also happens to the people. When the land suffers so too do the people." The tribe today is in the Lake Tahoe area.

Today, many people may not have heard of Virginia City, but in its heyday, it was one of the most important cities between San Francisco and Denver. The Gold Rush had brought thousands of people out from the East. The Gold Rush peaked in 1852. The next time precious ore would capture the nation, it would be silver that would spark that rush. The first major discovery of silver ore was under the eastern slope of Mount Davidson in the Virginia Range. The find was called the Comstock Lode and it would make many men very rich and contribute to the building up of Nevada and the city of San Francisco. The announcement of the discovery was made in 1859. Mining was a tough life. Men worked long hours in hundred degree heat in mines that reached 3,000 feet into the mountain or ground. The sacrifice was worth it for many of these men as they not only got rich, but some believe that this silver that was used to finance the Civil War, probably helped save the Union. In 2009, Virginia City and its county of Storey were awarded the Distinctive Destinations Award by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Samuel Clemens accompanied his brother Orion to Nevada in 1861. Orion had been appointed secretary to the territorial governor of Nevada. Like most of the men in the bustling town, Clemens took up prospecting and went out to find his fortune. He had little success and he needed money. When he heard that the local paper in Virginia City, the Territorial Enterprise, was hiring, he applied for the job and he was hired as a reporter. Many newspaper men adopted pen names and he did the same, choosing Mark Twain. (You can hear all about his life and ghost in Ep. 29) His first article appeared on July 6, 1862. Our listeners will appreciate Twain's thoughts on his time with the Territorial Enterprise, "To find a petrified man, or break a stranger's leg, or cave an imaginary mine, or discover some dead Indians in a Gold Hill tunnel, or massacre a family at Dutch Nick's, were feats and calamities that we never hesitated about devising when the public needed matters of thrilling interest for breakfast. The seemingly tranquil ENTERPRISE office was a ghastly factory of slaughter, mutilation and general destruction in those days."

In our present time, rich people generally gather at country clubs. There were no country clubs in Virginia City, but what it did have was the Washoe Club. This club would come to be known throughout the Pacific Coast. It all began with a planning meeting on February 21, 1875 of sixty men who would become charter members. They each kicked in $150 to give them $9,000 to start the process of either buying or building a suitable meeting place. Among the sixty charter members were Territorial Enterprise editor R. M. Daggett, several Bank of California officers, Virginia and Truckee Railroad officers F.A. Tritle and H. M. Yerington, Tahoe lumber magnate D.L. Bliss, mining magnates John Mackay and James G. Fair, several mine superintendents, former Nevada Chief Justice James F. Lewis, Judge R.S. Mesick and Wells Fargo agent C.C. Pendergast. Membership was limited to 200 men.

After two months, the group decided to purchase the Reynolds Building located at 8 & 10 B Street. Renovations were begun to create a luxurious space. The interior of the club featured a parlor that was decorated with bronze statuettes, a large French plate glass mirror and Italian marble, a gorgeous billiard room, a wine room with a beautifully carved black walnut sideboard and the club boasted one of the finest libraries east of San Francisco. Expensive works of art adorned the walls. There were chandeliers covered with steel plate and polished to look like silver. On June 1st, 1875, the Washoe Club officially opened its doors to roaring success. The success would not last long though. Less then five months later, a fire would rip through Virginia City destroying many buildings, including much of the Washoe Club.

The group decided to move the club to a different location and constructed an even more palatial playground. There were three stories. A saloon was on the first floor and there were rooms for reading, cards, billiards and wine. A ballroom occupied the second floor. The Territorial Enterprise reported in 1876 the following about the new club, "Taken all together, the rooms are more convenient, better arranged and more elegantly and luxuriously fitted up than were the rooms which were occupied by the Club previous to the fire." The paper best describes the appearance of the club:
"The reading-room fronts on C Street and is lighted by four large windows of French plate glass. The apartment is 30×22 feet. The floor is covered by an Axminster carpet of the thickest and finest make and most elegant pattern. In the center of the room is a 4 by 12 table of black walnut inlaid with laurel, on which are all the papers and periodicals usually read on the coast. The room is abundantly provided with upholstered furniture in the shape of easy chairs, sofas, lounges and the like. On each side are placed $800 mirrors of French plate glass in frames and mountings manufactured expressly for the porch of the building in front. In the evening the apartment is brilliantly lighted by two chandeliers of polished steel. The reading-room is separated by folding doors from the billiard-parlor.

The billiard-parlor is in size its exact counterpart, so that when both rooms are thrown together an area of 22×60 feet is gained. It is lighted from the rear by day and by silvered chandeliers by night. The carpet of this parlor is of the same pattern as that of the reading room. It contains two Strahle tables of the very best make and latest improvements, the beds being of slate and the legs, etc., beautifully carved. Wilton carpets with mitred corners surround the tables. The markers are peculiar institutions and were manufactured expressly for the Washoe at a cost of $100 each. They consist of small black walnut stands, from the sides of which rise arms branching out about a yard. These are connected by wires on which are strung ivory buttons. The counting is done with the fingers and thus the unsightly and inconvenient wires across the room are avoided. A stationary washstand occupies one corner and the parlor is amply provided with furniture. This room communicates with the hall and main entrance and also with the wine-room.

The wine-room is connected with the billiard parlor by means of a broad, arched doorway, richly and heavily draped with crimson curtains, which are drawn aside during the occupancy of the rooms. This room contains an elegant sideboard amply stocked with the very best beverages and cigars which can be procured and a lunch table bountifully supplied with delicacies and substantials. It is richly carpeted with body Brussels. This room is adjoined on the west by the card-room, which is carpeted like the wine-room and furnished with all the appliances which belong to such places." 
There is a fancy spiral staircase that has become infamous. It was built by a man named François-Jean Rochas and he used no nails or glue in the construction. It is so unique that it has been featured by Ripley's Believe It or Not. Reminds us of the spiral staircase at Loretto Chapel in New Mexico. The reason is obvious. The same man built both in the same unique way. Although one staircase helped the choir get to the balcony, the other served a very different purpose. Men would come to the club not only for drinks and socializing, but for entertainment from the ladies of the night. They would climb this spiral staircase to meet the ladies. Reputedly, a couple of prostitutes were killed here at the club. The second floor was a ballroom. There was a storage room that had once served an unusual and macabre purpose. During the winter, the ground was too hard to dig graves and a cool dry place was needed to store embalmed bodies until winter was over. The club's storage room was the perfect spot. At one time there was as many as 70 coffins in there.

As mining production dropped, so did membership. Dues dropped and the amount required for membership dropped to $2.50. By 1897, the Washoe Club was finished. The building was condemned in the 1980s. Today, the club is owned by Cliff and Jennifer McCain. Restoration is ongoing to shore up the building against earthquake activity, to repair the roof and to restore the rest of the building. *Fun fact: Drinks offered at the club include Blue Lady, Lemon Orb, Time Warp and Buttery Nipple.*

Virginia City is reputed to be a really haunted city. The Old Washoe Club is one of its most haunted locations. The Ghost Adventures team has visited several times and Nick Groff claims that it is one of the locations that he is most scared of because his name has come up several times in EVP and Spirit Box sessions when he is not even at the building. In other words, the ghosts seem to know him personally. The TV show made the place pretty popular and they even host ghost tours and overnight ghost hunts are allowed.

Many claim that the storage room is the most haunted area. More than likely because embalmed bodies were stored here until the ground thawed for burial. Some people believe that several entities are angry because they are still possessive of the club and don't want people they consider to be non-members inside their club. Miss Ellie is a little girl whose apparition appears with a dog in an upstairs hallway. She was killed in an explosion when a neighboring building blew up because a man had stored his nitroglycerine, gunpowder and dynamite there. Twelve people were killed and it made national news. Cameras malfunction all the time in the hallway where Ellie is seen. Wilson is a bartender at the saloon and he claims to have witnessed a variety of manifestations that include matchbooks that roll down the bar and bar stools that fall over on their own.

One of the prostitutes was killed on the third floor and her murderer committed suicide on the second floor. Investigators claim that her name is Lena because a psychic told them that name. She has blonde hair and generally appears as a full bodied apparition on the spiral staircase. She is also referred to as the Lady in Blue. She appears as a blue mist on the stairs at times as well. However, another psychic claims that the Lady in Blue is actually a young girl who was given a blue dress by her father and that a miner raped her and killed her by hitting her in the head with a pick axe. Some people claim to get headaches near the stairs. Of course, this is relying on information from psychics rather than documented history.

A thirteen-year-old girl was killed by a predator in the basement, but her spirit is sometimes seen on the second floor. People claim to smell a floral perfume scent or cherry cigar smoke scent in certain areas upstairs. Betty is one of the guides and she once heard her name called out on a spirit box. One of the spirits claimed to be Tom and explained that he was a hippie who died of a heroin overdose there. A shadow with a big brown hat is seen on the second floor. In the early 80s, a man killed himself that lived in a third floor apartment after his seven-year-old son fell into a mine shaft and died. There is a lot of activity in the room. Room 12 on the third floor has a door that slams hard on its own all the time. The door has cracked from the force. A suicide took place in the room. Several people complain of being scratched in the room. The typical three rows.

Lisa H. on Yelp: Toured Millionaires Club 5/6/2016. Tour was at night. Had a great time. Heard footsteps and pounding coming from the 3rd floor. Definitely had an eerie feeling and my chest was tight the entire time. Took lots of pictures and caught something out of the ordinary. Will be returning to stay overnight in a few weeks.

Marciel B. on Yelp: We have had our fair share of experiences here as well. From my arm being grabbed and my hair played with all nicely, to banging on the walls so loud during a night tour that Carl rushed us off to another part of the top floor. I highly recommend that you visit here.

Do spirits from the Old West still wander Virginia City? Are former prostitutes still at the Washoe Club in the afterlife? Is the Old Washoe Club haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
Overnight investigations are available as such:  We are still offering overnight ghost investigations for your paranormal group or ghost hunting crew - only $400 for up to 8 people gets you overnight access to all 2 upper floors of the Millionaire's club and first floor museum and Crypt - Investigations can start as early as 7pm Sun-Thurs and 10 pm Fri-Sat - All Investigators must be or become Washoe Club Members (only $20 per year) - call the saloon 775-847-4467 for Info and booking dates.

Pictures shared by Ronda Borgen:

Door where prostitutes snuck in

Original card table used by Twain, General Sherman and others

Mummified cat found in wall

This sometimes rocks on its own

Blue Lady Spiral Staircase

Trying to capture Blue Lady

Virginia City Cemetery
Did you see that?

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