Bonnie Springs Ranch
Las Vegas, Nevada – November 2005
Several weeks ago, I was saddened by a friend’s post I’d read regarding the closing of the Bonnie Springs Ranch in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Ranch was built in 1843 as a stop for wagon trains heading to California. It is a 63-acre area that sits at the bottom of Red Rock Canyon National Park and includes a Western mining town with a small hotel, a saloon, shops, and even a petting zoo. It will always hold a special place in my heart, because in 2005 my oldest son had a report to do on the history of Nevada mining, so I decided to take both my boys, who were ten and seven at the time, to Bonnie Springs Ranch for the full experience.
We began our journey at the parking lot, where we, along with other visitors, boarded a small train for a short ride through desert scrub into “town.” Once there on Main Street, we were transported back in time. Employees were friendly and dressed in period clothing. Our main interest was the historical mining aspects, but we stopped and checked out the shops, then stayed for the public hanging and gun showdown on Main Street as well. Shows were included with the minimal ticket price.
There was a miner’s dwelling carved out of the rock with a small entryway. We didn’t poke our heads inside to look around but had read that some of the miners excavated the rock to keep cool during the hot desert days in Nevada.
While meandering through the buildings, I couldn’t help feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness, and, for anyone who knows me, that emotion is one I don’t often feel, thankfully. Even my boys knew something was different, because I kept hugging them during our tour, which they didn’t particularly care for in public.
After several hours walking around, we grabbed a bite to eat, then left immediately after the shows. I felt better as soon as we got to the car and drove away. It was a fun day with my boys, despite that awful sense of gloom that seemed to follow me through the place.
My trip there with my boys took place nearly five years before I began my writing career, and about a decade before I would learn that Bonnie Springs Ranch is haunted.
In 2015, I became Event Co-Chair for the first-ever StokerCon™ to be held in Las Vegas at the Flamingo Hotel.
I thought it would be great to have locals at the event, so I wrote a popular paranormal team there and asked if they’d like to do a presentation on paranormal investigations at StokerCon. This is how I met Brian Purdy of the Elite Vegas Paranormal Society and came to learn about the haunted history of Bonnie Springs Ranch.
His team did many paranormal investigations there, inviting visitors to join them, but one of the most memorable was aired on the show GHOST ADVENTURES on the History Channel.
Many are said to haunt Bonnie Springs, from a young school girl, to cowboys, and even a priest, with the darkest entity, possibly an elemental, haunting the old opera house. But in my limited experience, I found the sadness and loneliness I’d felt, perhaps left behind by the miners, the most disturbing.
Where will these restless spirits go when the place is turned into a large hotel, gambling hall, with an events center, and residential housing? I don’t know, but I’ll wait to hear reports from those who “bought in” to the destruction of a ghost town said to be one of the most haunted places in Nevada. Because of the intense sadness I felt, you couldn’t give me a house there that I’d live in.
Be sure and come back to read next month’s column where I’ll be trading with Loren Rhoads’ “Grave Fascination” column again to reminisce about my visit to the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans. I’m sure her Haunted Travels article will be just as chilling.