Ghost Towns
March 23rd, 2012

I grew up in a county that consisted mostly of ghost towns—some of them still populated, but nonetheless dead. Whereas young people nowadays gravitate toward “where the action is” my idea of a good time was snooping among the hollowed out rooms of an abandoned rooming house in Consumers or going in search of the White Lady of Spring Canyon.


Now that I’m older, I no longer believe in ghosts, which isn’t to say I’ve lost interest in ghost towns. A couple of weeks ago I was poking among the ruins of Unionville, Nevada, which once boasted a population of a thousand souls, including a young prospector by the name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Supposedly Mark Twain’s cabin still stands, but I doubt it. After all, he only lingered in Unionville for three weeks, just long enough to learn that mica flecks aren’t gold and that silver mining is even harder work than writing.

Over time, scavengers reclaim the lumber and bricks and nature takes the rest. Fast forward a hundred and fifty years and all that remains of a once thriving community are stone foundations and gravestones and—if you happen to believe in them, which I don’t—ghosts.

In Twain’s day, there was a popular phenomenon known as spectral photography, and even today people bring me amazing pictures featuring diaphanous shapes and forms they firmly believe to be messengers from beyond the veil. When I point out that such pictures are the result of double exposure, they disbelieve me. My friends, I have spent far more time in darkened rooms than you have, so why don’t you listen?


But wait! Today I was down in my darkroom developing some film I’d shot in Unionville and what did I see? A ghost! So am I now a believer? Hard to say. Send me some money and I’ll see what I can find out.

-Richard Menzies