Thursday, August 29, 2013

Visiting the Ghost Town of Calico...

Somewhere around the age of twelve, my parents introduced me to my first ghost town. Then and there, I not only fell in love with Calico and her rustic personality, but all ghost towns regardless of location and the various histories surrounding them.

Calico Ghost Town by Enrico Stirl  Germaneon


High in the hills, just outside the very small town of Yermo, California, (which is not far from Barstow), sits the mining town of Calico, founded in the year 1881. The townsfolk completely abandoned the place in 1907 when the silver and borax mines no longer produced sufficient quantities to keep the town alive.  During Calico's  heydey, one could count at least five hundred different mines,  dine in three restaurants,  rent rooms in various boarding houses, read a weekly newspaper, visit bars, brothels, and a post office. The town had a deputy sheriff and a couple of constables, as well.  Over twelve hundred people populated the town at the height of its silver production.  And of course, like so many small towns in the wild, wild, west, the Boot Hill Cemetery housed its share of local bad guys.

In 1915, they built a cyanide plant at Calico, to recover the unprocessed silver from the Silver King Mine. Despite the existence of the plant, the town didn't recover. Yet, as fate would have it, Walter Knott, (founder of the famous Knott's Berry Farm) assisted in building the tanks used for the plant.  He must have seen something he liked, because in 1951 he bought the town and with the use of old photographs, began to restore it to its former glory. Visitors came in droves and many of those visitors experienced far more than the amazing restoration of the property.  You see, it's not uncommon for a tourist to report an encounter with one of the former, other-worldly residents...



Calico Ghost Town WT-de) Mistoffeles
After hours, ghostly celebrations can take place quite regularly at both the Calico Corral and Lil's Saloon. However, a little girl, estimated to be about eleven years of age, is not quite as shy. She haunts the one-room school house and from her window, she smiles and waves at all those who pass by. Tourists have encountered pool-playing ghosts and friendly town drunks. Not surprising, we have stories of ghostly miners that dwell in the mines. Cold spots, feelings of unrest and sorrow are reported most often inside Maggie's Mine. We also have the lady-in-white who strolls along the outskirts of town and near the structure that once served as the town theater.




Hank's Hotel, Calico, by Jan Kronsell
If you're going to see a ghost in Calico, more often than not, it will be Lucy Bell King, former owner of one of the general stores. She dresses in black and roams between her store and the home she once occupied.  Then we have the specter of Tumbleweed Harris, Calico's last marshal. He's the big ghost with the white beard who patrols the boardwalk.  An angry old cowboy who once owned Hank's hotel is most often spotted near the fence.  If you feel someone grabbing your wrists, hands, or clothing...someone unseen...then you've probably encountered the cowboy...

You could also get a personal tour from a "tour guide" dressed in "period clothing" as did a couple of tourists. The woman introduced herself as a school teacher and our visitors took several pictures with this particular tour guide. But after they got home and developed the film, the tour guide was absent from all photographs. After a bit of digging, they discovered the name she gave them matched that of the last teacher in Calico. (Eerie music please...)

Oh, and um...this is also the place where you can witness the famed "Lights of Calico." Do these lights originate from the ghosts as some insist, or are they merely energy clouds floating along the hills? You'll have to decide.

In 2002, Calico wanted  to be recognized as California's "Official State Ghost Town," but so did Bodie, in Mono County. (Bodie has it's share of ghosts as well, and we'll talk about them shortly...).  Finally, the powers that be, designated Calico as the "Official State Silver Rush Ghost Town," and Bodie the Gold...

So, I imagine your burning question is, during my visit, did I encounter any of the ghosts of Calico?

No...can't say that I did and truly, I'm not sure that I would really want to...

Would you?



8 comments:

  1. Most of those ghosts sound friendly, but I'm still not sure I'd want to rub shoulders with any of them.

    Very cool about the people and the tour guide who didn't appear in any of the photos they had taken. I can just imagine the shocked reaction and discussions they must have had when they got those photos back.

    It sounds like the ghosts of Calico are doing their part to keep their town "alive." I've never been to a ghost town, but they certainly make interesting reading. Another great post, Debbie! :)

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    1. Thanks Mae! You know, there's just something about a ghost town, and there are so many of them here out west to explore. However, those that have been restored and invite visitors are not quite as intimidating as the lonely, abandoned ones...

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  2. Great post, Debbie! I enjoyed reading about the town (I'm fascinated by ghost towns too) and all the different past . . . and "present" . . . inhabitants. NICE!

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  3. Thanks for stopping by and for the fine compliment Elsie! More ghost towns will follow!

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  6. Really great post and wonderful writing about ghost town of callico.

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    1. Thank you for the compliment. You made my day!

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