Heroes of the Mizpah
Last month, a elderly guest was traveling alone with her show dogs and suddenly fell ill. The housekeeping staff and managers discovered the problem and immediately contacted emergency responders, who airlifted the guest to a hospital, where she recovered. Meanwhile, the staff took over the care and feeding of the beautiful show dogs, while relatives were notified and came to retrieve the animals. Relatives of the guest were relieved and grateful for the actions of our staff, as are we.
"Big luxury hotel chains boast about the “legendary” service that they provide," said General Manager John McCormick in a note to the staff involved in the incident. "I have worked for some of them and I can tell you that you have truly provided legendary service. These are the things that separate us from the rest of the pack. Moreover, your actions speak to your personal character and caring for our neighbors in life. I couldn’t be more proud of this team."
In the photo, left to right: staff members Krysta Meek, Teresa Gann, Donna Ottseson, Kati Huskey, with the guest's dogs.
We invite our guests to jot down their other-worldly encounters at the Mizpah in a journal we keep at the front desk. We will publish some of these from time to time.
Ghostly History Lesson
Our first stay was about one and a half years ago, staying in room 502.
My wife, retiring for the evening, fell asleep at 10 p.m. as I stayed awake, sitting in a chair, in our room, thinking about the history of Tonopah, and the Mizpah Hotel.
Sitting at the room with the light on a man appeared five feet away from me and floated toward me, stopping three feet away, just staring, dressed in turn-of-the-century attire, Caucasian, light brown hair, 5’8”.
This lasted a few seconds then he vanished and immediately reappeared the same way.
As he stared at me there was writing on the wall inside the room in black – the man disappeared not to reappear again as I tried to figure out the writing on the wall, as the idea came to my mind that the Lady in Red was trying to tell me how she was murdered.
Trying to read this a white dress with red trim vanished through the wall as the writing vanished at the same time.
We were lucky to have songwriter/guitarist Logan Jones and producer Cary Ott join us this summer to collaborate on a song project about the silver mines. The result - 'Silver in Your Veins,' a song they wrote in Tonopah then recorded in Nashville. Here is a great video about the project:
Here is the song:
Unfortunately we have no menus from the early years of hotel, but we do know what people were serving for Thanksgiving in the early 1900s.
For instance, the equally-swanky Park Avenue Hotel in New York City featured this mouth-watering feast in 1900, the year silver was discovered in Tonopah (photo courtesy of A History of New York website):
For those who preferred to do their cooking at home, here are two Thanksgiving menu options from Fanny Farmer's "What To Have For Dinner" cookbook, published in 1905:
If you can't join us for our Thanksgiving feast this year, please consider making plans to be here next year. Tonopah is a beautiful spot to visit in November - the skies are usually clear and show off a breathtaking view of stars, the rooms are warm and beyond comfy, and you can see, feel, taste and enjoy a quality of life here that folks took for granted a century ago.
Our mentor, our friend, our favorite jockey, miner, storyteller and trailblazer was called to a new frontier on Wednesday October 26, 2016…Dean Otteson is not just another guy who passed through our lives. He was a living pioneer, a man with his own mind, and his own set of high standards and integrity…the likes of which isn’t easy to find anymore. Dean will be missed, but the truth is his spirit is alive in all of us that knew him and had the privilege of calling him our friend. His laugh, his gravelly voice imparting unending streams of common sense, and his sense of humor, which never failed to clear the air and define the moment, are all with us for the rest of our lives… They say he is gone, but he is not gone…He’s in the next room, he’s around the corner, he’s in our hearts, minds and souls…Dean can be found at The Mizpah, laughing, and rolling his eyes at the irony of life, playing his lucky machine, loving Donna, and loving life. Those of us who knew Dean will move ahead in our lives with him always right beside us. Thanks for the memories Dean, but truly thanks for defining for all of us what it means to be a great man, a great friend, a great trailblazer…
Nancy and Fred Cline and The Mizpah Hotel
How did a native of Austria-Hungary who barely spoke English become the first and only person to be executed by a specially-made ‘Gun Machine’ in the history of Nevada?
Andriza Mircovich’s tale begins with tragedy. His cousin Christopher Mircovich died in Tonopah's Belmont mine fire, an underground blaze that took the lives of many men on February 23, 1911. Since Christopher left no will, the state was charged with distributing his funds to surviving family.
Those included two siblings, Vasso and Maria, who received $1,700 between them, while Andriza received $50. This distribution was determined by John Gregovich, a fellow Montenegrin working with Nye County to handle the estates of Serbians who died in the Belmont fire.
Mircovich, furious at not being given control of the entire estate, was even angrier at what he felt was an unfair distribution of his deceased cousin’s estate.
On the morning of May 14, 1912, Mircovich spotted Gregovich at the Tonopah train station, and shouted “I’ll get you, you old son-of-a-bitch,” at which point he stabbed him several times with a knife.
Gregovich later died of his wounds, and Mircovich was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was given the choice of hanging or shooting, and chose the latter because he felt it would be faster and less painful.
When the time came for his execution, no sharpshooters could be found willing to serve as a firing squad, so the state constructed a 1,000-pound “shooting machine,” a rack with three 30.30 rifles and three strings – only one of which discharged the weapons. That way the guards who cut the strings did not know which one fired the rifles.
Mircovich was killed instantly, and it was the first and last time anyone was executed by gunshot in the history of Nevada. The rifles used in the execution are on display at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City.
When silver was discovered in this central Nevada town in 1865, it didn't take long for the fortune seekers to turn an empty spot in the desert into a town. By 1875, an estimated 2,000 people called themselves residents of Belmont, and it became the Nye County seat. To commemorate that designation, a courthouse was constructed that is the one remaining original structure today. Other buildings were not so fortunate - as nearby Tonopah became the next boom town in 1900, folks took what wood and other scarce building materials they could and relocated. Today, Belmont is home to three businesses - an antique store, jewelry store, and a saloon called Dirty Dick's. It is said that Charlie Manson once hid out in Belmont - his name is scratched into a door frame. Photos are courtesy of Travel Nevada. Read more about Belmont and other Nevada locales at http://matadornetwork.com/trips/travel-guide-nevadas-ghost-towns/.
You may have heard about the Lady in Red, whose spirit roams the fifth floor and who has visited many of our guests over the years, sometimes leaving a pearl on a pillow, or shaking a chandelier. Here is her story.
When Jim Butler discovered silver ore in the desolate location called Tonopah Springs in the spring of 1900, he and his wife Belle filed claims for eight mines. The largest, called the Mizpah, produced the most silver of all. It continued producing long after the other mines had petered out.
'Mizpah' has several meanings. It is Hebrew for "Watchtower." It also means an agreement between two people, and an emotional bond between people who are separated by long distances.
Before construction began on the Mizpah Hotel in 1905, the site was occupied by the Mizpah Casino, a one-story ramshackle place mostly populated by miners, gamblers, and 'working girls.' The hotel as envisioned by the wealthy mine owners and investors who funded its construction was to entice those with power, money, and prestige to Tonopah.
Once it was opened for business in 1907, the Mizpah Hotel did indeed fulfill its mission, attracting politicians, bankers, stage and screen stars, and a host of other well-heeled guests who marveled at the luxury and comfort of such a palatial hotel in the middle of nowhere.
Meanwhile, the mine that gave the hotel its name continued producing prodigious amounts of silver ore. Finally, not long after World War II, the Mizpah mine was closed along with the other original mines. Today, visitors to the Tonopah Historic Mining Park, just behind the Mizpah Hotel, can see the Mizpah and other mines for themselves. We'll be discussing the mining park in a future post.