THE GHOSTLY BODY IN BODIE
The Celebrities Psychic
Many a paranormal group has invaded the ghostly mining town of Bodie over the years. The dilapidated ghost town situated on the threshold of the High Sierra Mountains of Northern California has stories to tell. People in the area have remarked that they believe some of these groups that pass through are crazy as loons. Others of course are known to be serious investigators. It’s a known fact that many of the reputable have come back from their excursion with more than they bargained for. I first exploredBodie in the 1970’s as a young reporter for a national publication. At that time we realized, all in all, that Bodie is one ghost town to be reckoned with. Over the years it has been the experience of our organization GOLD RUSH GHOSTS INTERNATIONAL PARANORMAL INVESTIGATIONS, each time we explored, this last few weeks as well, the place still has not given up all her mysteries. Over the last few weeks we made the trek on several visits with different investigators, for our television show INVESTIGATING THE UNKNOWN WITH GOLD RUSH GHOSTS.
On this latest trip, as all before it, Bodie remained consistent in one thing, it is forlorn, quiet, and sad in many ways. We were respectful of the occasional ghost or spirit floating through the streets in the heat of summer and have no doubt the energy of such continues the same in dead of winter. The place is a commentary picture postcard, a pure example of the hardships of settler life. It’s hard for us of creature comforts to understand the mindset of those desperate enough to come here to seek their fortune. Once you have taken the seventeen mile long dirt drive to this solemn place, you will not forget it.
This day, as most, there appears outwardly to be little more than upturned winds hurling tumbleweeds through the deserted streets. Dirt is taking its turn also in the whirlwind, streaming through the alleys, over porches and down the walkways. It is clear that the town looks back at you in retribution, remembering, remorse, morose, and lost desire. Remnants and remembrances of another time are all around you and in the air. For those of you new to the place, Bodie is clearly the most authentically preserved ghost town in the west, and she certainly can boast a very colorful history. Dedicated as a California State Park in 1964, the promo material states she is maintained in a state of “arrested decay.” You will not find concessions stands, camera stops, or curio shops. It’s you against the elements when you get there, much as it was for the settlers of long ago. For your own comfort I would suggest you bring along several jugs of water, food and other supplies in your vehicle, maybe a blanket or two, and a first-aid kit. It’s a long way back to ‘civilization’.
Bodie, as many towns in the gold rush days, was formed by greed and agony. There is a foreboding feeling, eerie, on some days the only live thing you will see beyond your own company are the few cattle that roam freely among the age-beaten, weather-torn structures, hunting the weeds which pop up wherever they feel so inclined. Bodie is a step into yesterday.
Ghostly woman of the night in the carriage
But Bodie wasn’t always Bodie was it? The town was actually founded by Waterman S. Body in 1859, along with his discovery of gold. As with the times, the word of gold spread and the town quickly gained in population as people from all over came to find their fortune. Body did not live to claim his fair share of the wealth however as unfortunately he went to an early death the following winter the victim of frostbite and elements. He would soon be followed by many other casualties, not eager to join him to be buried on the hill right outside town. He brought along with him a dream, and many others with that same dream were leveled to the depths of despair and dirt, others like himself that came to find their gold. Body may have reluctantly gone to his shallow grave, but he clearly refused to launce into eternity from that very same boot hill just outside of town. His ghostly form has been seen night after night walking around. Back then the town-folk thought it was only his spirit…today we know there are many others that lost their lives prematurely in the harsh weather and terrain, and many of those also chose to stay here after death. After all, many dreams were lost. One slip of a donkey in one of the mine holes, and all could be lost and often was. Men were sometimes buried where they fell, sometimes dug out and taken to boot hill. Town-folk got together as superstition grew that Body was still at large (pun intended). Could the name Body be a curse, or an omen? Could the spirit of the town founder be thwarting the efforts of so many? Looking at the increasing graves at boot hill, the survivors decided it best to rename the town. Many names were thrown about, but it became obvious that those of the town were not very original or creative. Even in life Body’s name was more often than not mispronounced and apparently he would not get any more respect in death. As happenstance an itinerate sign painter made a mistake in wordage as he went about his work, and the name of BODY became BODIE. The town’s new name was then and there forever christened.
As word of gold spread throughout the west, men with continual hopes, perhaps having little sense but lots of brawn and financial need, helped Bodies' population skyrocket. Mines popped up with impressive regularity. Strikes of gold were commonplace. Men came into town daily to hunt for their fair share of the elusive metal as the phrase “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie” was heard echoing over the hills. Perhaps all the troubles could be attributed to Body’s revenge for not getting his share; after all, he had on his side the town’s intolerable climate, the tremendous struggle between the men and a composite of it all. For whatever reasons Bodies’ notorious reputation was echoed over the hills and mountains, all across the land and not without foundation.
By 1865 two killings a day was considered a ‘slow day’ for the mortician. There were 47 saloons in 1865 with a population of only 2500. From there a total of 1700 drinks were poured over the counter each evening. Maybe such recreation was a needed release From the harshness of the weather and topography. However, it did not help the mind-set of the inhabitants or make them easier to live with as tempers flared and fights continued to be instigated.
Orb activity in the church, some of the few that attended.
Oh yes, there were women in town. Most showed up to take the pressure off the men, meaning the weight of their toiling. Women of the evening were more often than not paid in just those gold nuggets for their services. Such notables as Madam Moustache and Rose Mae ignored public scorn by the few ‘housewives’ and law biding citizens as they craftily lined their secret strongboxes. Most of the ladies of the evening made enough money in six months to set themselves up for life, left Bodie most happily before the winter set in, and lived out their lives in modest obscurity and wealth in the east. Still, even with women supposedly at their side and on their side, there were hourly shootings, street brawls, knifings, mule stealin’ and every other kind of drunken and/or otherwise bad behavior and activity. The Bodie Standard Newspaper reported to the outside world; “There is some irresistible power that impels us to cut and shoot each other to pieces.” The Rev. F.M. Warrington, pastor of Bodies’ Methodist Church denounced Bodie from the pulpit as a “sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion”. That was in 1881. A good speech most likely lost to the masses as rumor had it that he had only a few followers on Sunday. His other hopeful parishioners were either drunk on Sunday morning…or dead!
But our story of sightings of ghostly inhabitants likely starts here. In 1871 the undignified, crumbling grave of Waterman Body was accidentally uncovered by Bodies’ judge J.C. McClinton. Figuring it would be a good time to try and appease the watchful spirit of Body his thoughts went to immortalizing the town founder. He raced back to
town gathering ‘respectable’ councilmen to aid him in a macabre undertaking (pun intended). They all marched up to boot hill and carefully (maybe not) exhumed the rest of the battered bones of Body, and escorted them to the town Doctor’s office. The good Dr. Davidson gave the skeletal remains a thorough cleaning and topped them off with several coats of polish. He then placed them in a hand made miniature coffin. It is recorded that townspeople came in numbers to fondle the glistening bones of Body, and relate to each other the many stories, some true, some fabricated, about Body’s life. A ceremony was held and the righteous reverend and women of the town prayed over the remains. The following Sunday, town folk hoped they had appeased Body’s disembodied spirit, and that all problems were laid to rest along with his polished relics in a corner of the Bodie Cemetery.
Now that he was buried again the townsfolk thought it right to form a committee to raise funds for a suitable gravestone. Two years later after hearing the news of the assassination of President James Garfield, the stone, cut and prepared for Body, was erected as a monument to our fallen President. The astral hellcat was again left, but it
appeared he would not be forgotten. As if with fiendish revenge, things began to go wrong in the town, and many thought Body was again on the warpath. Bodie soon experienced her first decline, as disaster after
disaster merged, rocking her prosperous foundation to the earth. In 1881 the stock market crumbled. With a population of 13,000, unemployment reached a new high. Idle miners roamed aimlessly through the streets, many drunk, cold, and resentful. Only two of Bodies’ mines continued to profit, the Bodie and the Standard.
A year later a fire of unknown origin hurled itself at the struggling town, requiring a major rebuilding effort.
In 1892 a second fire raged through Bodie with wrath-like fury, relentlessly licking her timbers and destroying all within its path. Because of a malfunction in equipment, the hose lines were all but useless. A later investigation unearthed the eerie fact that rocks had somehow found their way into the hydrants and pipes. They were clogged too tightly, the water could not flow.
The tight-lipped townsfolk wearily began another job of rebuilding. As if with devilish delight, the Standard Mill burned to the ground in 1899. Though a new stamp mill was built to replace the old, many families elected to leave Bodies’ flaming memories and secure a living elsewhere. It was clear that Bodie was dying. Her railroads ceased to function, slowly but surely her mines were abandoned.
To prove there was not a chance left for the town, in 1932 another fire destroyed all but 10% of Bodies’ buildings. She slowly, tiredly, gave up to phantom demons called despair, desolation, and desertion.
On July 18th, 2009 GOLD RUSH GHOSTS PARANORMAL INVESTIGATOR Catherine Noble went to Bodie to see what she could pick up in the form of ghostly activity. From her notes; “The sky was the color of gunmetal and a lightning bolt tore through it as we approached the town. There was a brush fire on the other side of the ridge south of the ghost town. Two planes dropping fire retardant and a helicopter with a water bucket circled the yellow plume of smoke, but it was the sudden downpour a few minutes later that doused the flames. One could easily see why fire was one of the biggest threats to this town’s survival in this windy, high-altitude desert. “We were nearing the old Methodist church when we were pelted with raindrops as big as nickels. People were already seeking shelter in its alcove and there was no room for us, so we moved on to the Miller house, which is one of the few buildings we could enter. The rain turned to hail as we waited out the storm. As I looked around, I could easily imagine a family living here. There was a living room with a fireplace, a bedroom, kitchen, and a separate dining room to explore. The rest was closed off. Many peeling layers of wallpaper and linoleum covered walls and floors, and decades of dust covered the remaining surfaces. Was that a baby’s face I glimpsed in the crib, or was it the patterned wallpaper? The more I looked the more uncertain I was so we moved on looking for a more positive proof of spirit activity. I peered into the windows of many buildings: the store, the school, a hotel, morgue, the post office, the jail, and more. I saw a shadow in the doorway of the school room. I was pretty certain this time that this shadow was made by someone not of this world. I turned to take a photo but nothing showed up on film, typical of ghostly activity. Could the shadow be a long ago teacher I was connecting with, since I am now a teacher?
“I went to the site of “Chinatown” and Bonanza Street, where the ‘ladies of the night’ lived and worked. If I closed my eyes I could hear the whispers of the past; I smelled the tired and sagging pine planks; it was easy to envision the bustling movement of a town of 10,000 people. “I totally believe that Bodie has many stories yet to tell. We hope some photos will attest to that fact. Each time we visit there we do not get completion, but just more small pieces trying to fit into a very big puzzle.”
“I was feeling differently in the church, and because of that was hoping to get orbs” stated GRG investigator Laura Martucci. “I tried talking about different subject matters to the spirits, hoping to make them comfortable and to let them know that anything they could show us would be welcome. I listened to my inner voice and took the picture and hoped for the best. As you can see, spirit did not disappoint with the orb activity I was able to capture in the church.”
Robert Reppert, President of GOLD RUSH GHOSTS INTERNATIONAL PARANORMAL INVESTIGATIONS told us “Upon arriving at Bodie, I got the feeling that time had forgotten this town. It had been propped up a couple of times so that it would continue to fascinate future visitors as it has for generations past. When we arrived in town we plotted out how we would go about the investigation and decided to place EVP recorders at the school house and the Mortuary while we looked at other buildings. After placing the recorders we continued on and searched the surrounding buildings for activity. I was able to record EMF readings at the Mercantile that ranged from .02- 8mg. There were also some abnormal heat variances inside the building that dissipated while we were scanning them. The EMF readings continued at other buildings but at lower levels than the Mercantile. We then went back to the previous places we set the recorders and collected them for further analysis at the office. The School building produced not only EMF but temperature readings as well on the West side of the building. EMF readings as high as 10mg and a variance from 87 to 95 degrees were measured at one of the desks. Back at the office we discovered an EVP from the schoolhouse that was clearly a child giggling. The Mortuary had several interesting scratching sounds but no discernable voice that we could make out. There is a constant feeling of being watched in the town as if you are being looked at from inside the buildings by someone keeping an eye on you.
Today, after bridging that 17 mile craggy path that leads you there, Bodie is what remains (pun intended) after the 1932 fire. The old cemetery is still the same, ravaged however by time and elements. Some buildings appear to have been propped up to withstand another winter. There are things to see inside the windows, clothing, utensils, and there are stores with wares still on their shelves. The planks that lead to several places are fun if you are accustomed to hearing footsteps not your own behind you when you are alone. I am certain as I can be about anything that Body remains, perhaps he feels Bodie can rise again. Not likely, but hope remains eternal.
Is it Body that haunts the town, along with the many others that lost their lives prematurely in the times? You really should check for yourself. Put another piece in the puzzle. However, do not attempt to visit Bodie in winter (temperatures drop to 30 below, and 25 foot of snow is not uncommon). But for most of you that are reading this, the seasoned investigator, Bodie can be impishly inviting in the summertime. And, who knows, perhaps you will be the one to appease the Ghostly Body in Bodie.
Copyright @ Nancy Bradley 2009. One time rights given.
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