BODIE, CAHISTORY "The Official Ghost Town of California" is located on the eastern side of the Sierra Mountains and was named after W.S. Bodey, who in 1859, discovered gold in the neighboring hills in a location now called Bodie Bluff. Sadly, Bodey died in a snow storm that winter and never lived to see what his discovery would evolve into. As word spread that there were riches to be had in the newly-discovered veins, hundreds of prospectors flocked to the location and - due to their apparent success - the town of ‘Bodey’ was established. Interestingly, the altered spelling of the name seems to begin with a sign maker named Robert Howland and involves two dissenting schools of thought: 1.) He misspelled the actual name of the original inhabitant; 2.) He thought "ie" looked better than "ey" or: 3.) He did not have room on the sign for the tail of the "y". Whatever the reason, residents have long-since accepted the alternate spelling since it appeared in 1864. In 1861 the Bunker Hill Mine and an adjoining mill were established. Bunker Hill Mine and Mill would have several owner over the next 16 years until it was sold to four partners in 1887. Their fortuitous purchase coincided with a major event in Bodie history. In the year 1877 a significant gold deposit was discovered within the newly-named Standard Mining Company (pictured above) and within two years as a result of the find, the population of Bodie had swelled to between 10,000 - 12,000. The ensuing building boom produced over 800 structures being constructed making Bodie the second-largest city in California behind only San Francisco. The Standard Mine would yield over $15 million in gold over the next 25 years.The Grand Central Hotel In order to transport lumber for building into the burgeoning town, several local businessman established the Bodie and Benton Railroad in 1881. Inexpensive Chinese labor was hired, which did not endear the owners to local miners who were searching for work, even though this was common practice among other railroad developers in the West. Eventually many of these immigrant workers and their mining counterparts would establish homesteads within the area in order to make a living off the land. As was the case with most western boomtowns of that era, Bodie attracted its share of lawlessness and corruption. Gunfights and murders became common occurrences as were the sight of saloons and bordellos cropping up within its limits. It has been said that not a day went by where a man wasn't killed in Bodie. Inevitably, as was the case in most of these flourishing gold settlements, the mines will dry up and its transient residents will move on to the next find. In the case of Bodie, the exodus was a little slower than most as small deposits were discovered from time to time, but nothing on the grand scale of its heyday. Eventually the Bodie and Standard Mining Companies would merge to stave off the inevitable. Inadvertently assisting it its demise was an accident involving a small boy. Legend has it that, unhappy with gelatin replacing cake on his birthday, the boy used a match to set fire to the kitchen table and the ensuing inferno claimed well over a third of the town. There were other fires - one of momentous proportion in 1932 - that contributed to the eventual ruin of Bodie. There were but a few people calling Bodie home during the Depression years and after World War II. The last of these inhabitants also created their own ghostly legends (read below). All but abandoned to the elements, vandals and the ravages of time, the town fell into a state of disrepair and decay. In 1962, the state of California stepped in and - because of its historical significance - converted the location into a state park. By September of 1964 it received an historical designation which would lead in contemporary times to the label as "California's Official Ghost Town". Currently the state maintains Bodie in what is termed "a state of arrested decay". What this essentially means is that the surviving buildings shall be spared further decay through protective measures but never restored to their original state.THE GHOSTS OF BODIE What would a ghost town be without its ghosts? Bodie has a few. The most notorious haunted location is probably the Cain House. It's original owner, James Cain was a very successful businessman who made his fortune during the building boom by importing lumber into town. By 1915 he would be the most powerful man in town, owning the Bodie bank, leasing the Mono Lake Railway and Lumber Co. (formerly the Bodie and Benton Railroad) and becoming principal owner of the Standard Mining Co. Cain established residence at the corner of Green and Park Streets where we hired a Chinese immigrant woman to serve as the family maid. The scuttlebutt was that Cain and the woman were engaged in a scandalous affair which prompted Mrs. Cain (pictured left with her husband) to unceremoniously fire the woman from her position. The woman, disgraced and unemployable due to the nature of the rumors, took her own life. Her spirit is said to haunt the Cain house (or what's left of it - below) to the present day. The home previously had served as housing to park rangers and is now, like most buildings, open to visitors. Children touring the house have reported seeing the woman's face in an upstairs bedroom and park rangers as well as members of their families have discussed their own ghostly experiences there. The wife of one park ranger said that while lying in bed one night with her husband fast asleep, she felt a kind of pressure on her body as if someone was lying atop of her. She began to thrash around to push the intruder off and fought so hard she wound up on the floor. She related the story of a different park ranger, whom she identified as Gary Walters, who had a similar experience in the same room. The only difference is that Ranger Walters saw the bedroom door open by itself and felt himself being suffocated. The daughter of one park ranger also had an unusual encounter inside the home. Turning off the lights in an upstairs bedroom and preparing for sleep, she witnessed the lights turn themselves back on. Getting out of bed, she turned the lights off again and again the lights came back on. This would repeat itself several times before the girl ran out of the room in tears screaming for the ghosts to leave her alone. In the Mendocini House, people have heard the sounds of children laughing outside when no one is around. One park ranger reported sitting inside the home reading peacefully when he heard the sounds of a raucous party being held. Going outside to check the source, he discovered the sounds were actually coming from inside the house - louder than before! Thinking quickly, the ranger thanked the spirits for throwing him a party but asked for peace and quiet instead so he could continue his reading. The noises abruptly stopped. It's also said that when the house is opened for visitors in springtime, the smells of Italian cooking can be detected inside. In any event it seems the ghosts of the Mendocini home are as welcoming after death as they were in life. There are numerous other buildings in Bodie where visitors report being watched from windows, feelings of a presence with them or objects moving on their own. One of these is the Gregory House which is said to be haunted by the specter of an old woman who sits in a rocking chair knitting an afghan. Other times the chair rocks on its own, without anyone sitting in it or touching it. At the Dechambeau House (below), visitors have seen a woman peering from an upstairs window. The Bodie Cemetery is home to the "Angel of Bodie", a 3-year-old little girl who was accidentally killed when hit by a miner's pick. One visitor reported his young daughter giggling and conversing with someone he could not see upon coming across the little girl's gravesite on which is mounted a marble angel. THE BODIE CURSE The most fascinating example of the supernatural in Bodie is without question what is called The Bodie Curse. It is said that many deceased residents of the town remain there in spirit to protect Bodie from looting or removal of objects. The legend goes that anyone removing any item from the town shall fall upon misfortune until the object is returned. This includes the soil or rocks that one might see fit to retain as a keepsake of their visit. Park rangers make claim that they receive objects taken from the town through the mail each year - some including written apologies to them and the sprits that still reside there. "Most of it comes back in an unmarked box," one ranger states, "We still get letters . . . from people saying, 'I'm sorry I took this, hoping my luck will change'"One letter is addressed:"Dear Bodie SpiritsI am SORRY! One year ago around the 4th of July I was visiting the Ghost Town. I had been there many times before but had always followed the regulations about collecting. This trip was different, I collected some items here and there and brought them home. I was a visitor again this year, and while I was in the museum I read the letters of others who had collected things and had "bad luck." I started to think about the car accident, the lost [sic] of my job, my continuing illness and other bad things that have "haunted" me for the past year since my visit and violation. I am generally not superstitious but . . . Please find enclosed the collectibles I "just couldn't live without," and ask the spirits to see my regret. - One With a Guilty Conscience"