So often haunted tours are made up of staged events, performed by actors, sometimes depicting a real life haunting or sometimes simply set out to scare — and don’t misunderstand, these tours are great, but there is something undeniably spooky about experiencing the paranormal in real time, rather than through a reenactment.
Enter the Haunted Halls tour of Virginia City’s Fourth Ward School. Organized by the Northern Nevada Ghost Hunters, it’s not so much a tour but more an invitation to explore the paranormal. The school operated from 1876 to 1936 and currently functions as a museum with a mission statement of advocating the connection between people and the Comstock through preservation, interpretive exhibits and programs, and archival resources.
In addition to being a museum, the old school house is a source of paranormal activity that only opens its doors for the Haunted Halls Tour. “They [the Fourth Ward School Museum] get lots of requests from ghost hunters to enter the school house,” said Jill Smith-Cucuy, the NNGH’s secretary and lead investigator. “But our group is the only one they grant permission.” Smith-Cucuy explained that the school house’s paranormal activity includes the sound of children running on the stairs, a school teacher who was killed just outside of the school, and a young student who can be seen waving from the window.
The evening works like this: A team first narrates to the group a brief history of the building, giving guests a background on where and what they are about to experience. Then, guest investigators — paranormal celebrities — divide all attendees into groups and head to different areas of the school. Using ghost hunting equipment, attendees wait to make a connection. If you don’t have the equipment, the folks at NNGH are more than happy to share theirs with you.
New this year, an extended hall pass ticket has been added and is available only to those attending the Fourth Ward School tour, allowing visitors access to the Crown Point Mill, located just south of Virginia City. “This places scares me,” Smith-Cucuy said. “And I’m the person usually wondering around these places not scared.”
These events are all about keeping these landmarks alive. “Our team is dedicated to historical preservation and our efforts will bring in much needed funds to help keep the historic Fourth Ward School alive.” Smith-Cucuy said. “Without these foundations we cannot preserve historical locations for future generations.”