Ghost of Mark Twain to celebrate with 173rd birthday party |

Ghost of Mark Twain to celebrate with 173rd birthday party

Karen Woodmansee
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer

Being the ghost of Mark Twain can be spooky stuff, but you don’t turn 173 every day.

“It is spooky, especially at the Gold Hill Hotel,” said McAvoy Layne, who portrays the venerable humorist. “That place is full of good spirits. There are two or three rooms that are just alive with them.”

So Layne, as he has for the past 15 years, will be on hand at the Gold Hill Hotel on Friday to celebrate Twain’s 173rd birthday.

“It’s turned into a reunion,” he said. “The first year I did it, I didn’t know anybody and now I know everyone.”

The Ghost of Mark Twain will offer toasts during dinner, a gourmet four-course meal, and secrets to his longevity.

The original Mark Twain was once quoted that he took a little whiskey every day to prevent a toothache, which Layne agrees.

“I’ve never had the toothache and I never intend to have one,” he said in the unmistakable Twain voice.

After dinner, the ghost and his guests go to the hotel’s great room, where he gives a short talk and answers questions.

“This is a wonderful time,” he said. “Squeek Steele comes and plays the piano, and that just lends a real nice touch. Then the hardy ones who are spending the night and I adjourn to the bar.”

This Twain would be recognizable to the original mainly because of his trademark white suit, speech and mannerisms, but that’s about it. Layne uses a computer and has his own Web site where he gives two-minute takes from Mark Twain on the latest news.

“One is to suggest we bring Iceland in as the 51st state,” he said. “It has twice the population of Reno, is the size of Kentucky, and was voted by the United Nations the best country in the world.”

He does about 150 shows a year, less than in the past, because he “was getting lazy,” not from lack of interest.

“I love it,” he said. “A hundred years from now it will be relevant.”

He also performs as Mark Twain on the Tahoe Queen paddlewheeler on Lake Tahoe from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Carol Fain, owner of the Gold Hill Hotel, said that although Twain’s real birthday is on Nov. 30, the hotel decided to move up the party because they kept getting inclement weather.

“We stopped doing it at the time because we got snow, and lost reservations due to the weather,” she said. “Now we always do it in the middle of November.”

Twain left an indelible mark on the Comstock, leaving in 1864, but returning in 1866 and 1868 to lecture, Layne said.

“He once said that when he said good-bye to Virginia City, he was saying good-bye to the most vigorous enjoyment of life he would ever be afforded,” Layne said.

Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or call 881-7351.