Explore Nevada’s myths and mysteries | NevadaAppeal.com

Explore Nevada’s myths and mysteries

Richard Moreno

A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune to write a book about Nevada’s most enduring mysteries and myths. The book apparently sold pretty well because my publisher recently asked me to expand it for a new second edition, which has just been released.

Called “Nevada’s Myths and Legends: The True Stories Behind History’s Mysteries,” the book highlights 19 of what I believe are the state’s most colorful and fascinating legends or mysteries.

Among the legends featured in the book:

• Who really killed gangster Bugsy Siegel, the man considered the progenitor of modern-day Las Vegas? While the case has never been officially closed, there are plenty of potential suspects including rival gangsters and unhappy friends and associates (to whom he owed lots of money).

• What’s with all the strange stories related to Lake Tahoe? In ancient times, a horrible, birdlike, man-eating monster is said to have lived at the bottom of Lake Tahoe. More recently, there have been sightings of a giant serpent-like creature, affectionately known as Tahoe Tessie. And then there are those tales about acres of perfectly preserved human bodies resting in the deepest parts of the lake.

• “Was the Garden of Eden Located in Nevada?” is what a 1924 newspaper headline asked in a front-page story describing the findings of Captain Alan Le Baron, who saw something positively biblical in the “petrified remains” of once-lush forests in a remote river valley south of Yerington.

• Did Nevada’s U.S. Sen. Key Pittman die a few days before he was up for re-election? Was his body preserved in ice to keep people from finding out the truth? This piece of “fake-lore,” as former Nevada State Archivist Guy Louis Rocha calls it, has made the rounds for years.

• Whatever happened to Reno banker Roy Frisch? In 1931, Frisch was scheduled to testify against Reno gangsters Bill Graham and Jim McKay. A few days prior to his appearance he walked from the home he shared with his mother to catch a show at a nearby movie theater. While witnesses reported seeing him leaving the theater to return home, he never made it. His mysterious disappearance remains one of the Biggest Little City’s biggest mysteries.

• Who really robbed the First National Bank of Winnemucca in 1900? For years, many have claimed that outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid participated in robbing the First National Bank in Winnemucca. Evidence, however, seems to indicate that while members of their gang probably helped commit the crime, the notorious duo most likely weren’t anywhere near Winnemucca when it occurred.

Among the new stories included in the book are:

• What’s the story behind the town of Metropolis, located near Wells in northeastern Nevada? Was it a real estate scam or just the victim of a series of unfortunate events? Or a bit of both? In 1911, Metropolis could proudly boast of having a train depot, a 50-room brick hotel with electric lights, a two-story schoolhouse and phone service. But within a decade it was all falling apart. Initially because of a water rights lawsuit and then its troubles were compounded by invasions of Mormon crickets and jackrabbits. Today, it’s one of Nevada’s few non-mining-related ghost towns.

• Was the death of Raymond Spilsbury, the man who built the Boulder Dam Hotel, a suicide or something more sinister? In 1945, Spilsbury drowned in the Colorado River. But when his body was pulled from the current, his pockets were filled with rocks and his feet were tied together with his own belt. His widow believed there were unanswered questions after authorities ruled it suicide.

“Nevada Myths and Legends: The True Stories Behind History’s Mysteries, Second Edition” by Richard Moreno is published by Globe Pequot and is available in local bookstores, like Sundance Books in Reno, or on Amazon.

Rich Moreno writes about the places and people that make Nevada special.