Ghosts at Nevada’s Pioneer Saloon

November 6, 2017

On a Friday night sojourn from the excellent CSI conference in Las Vegas (October 26-29, 2017), three of us visited the “haunted” century-old Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings, Nevada—no doubt the most haunted site in the former mining town, population 229, not counting ghosts.

A couple of old friends from Australia—Richard Cadena and Michelle Foster, who travel far and wide—had been at the conference and invited me to dinner. I let them in on one of my secrets: that at an exotic place (i.e., outside Buffalo) a skeptic might as well eat at a “haunted” restaurant as not. They needed no further persuading, and in no time Michelle had identified the Pioneer, an ideal place, some thirty miles to the south, and Richard was driving us there.

Spirits are for sale at the Pioneer—in a glass or not. Ghost hunters come to check out the reported shadowy figures and legends that, in one way or another, haunt the place, a century-old tumbledown bar with hearty food and an interesting side gallery. This is appropriately named for Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, the latter having died nearby in 1942 when the plane she was in crashed into Potosi Mountain and exploded, killing all aboard.

Naturally, Lombard’s ghost is among several “said to” haunt the old saloon, where Gable purportedly waited for three days—first for word of his wife’s fate, then for recovery of her remains. (Actually, according to the Los Angeles Times of January 18, two days after the crash, Gable had arrived and “vainly sought to make his way tortuously up the cactus-strewn trail to the scene of his wife’s death.” However, “He finally was persuaded to return to Las Vegas,” where, other sources say, he waited in seclusion at a bungalow of the hotel El Rancho. States Robert Matzen in his Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3, 2013, Gable had passed by the Pioneer but avoided it “because it was crawling with reporters”; they would likely have chronicled such a visit, had it occurred.)

Another ghost at the Pioneer is alleged to be that of a gambler, a bear of a man who succumbed to a six-shooter after accusing a dealer of a “crooked card game.” Apparent confirmation of the shooting comes from three bullet holes in the antique pressed-tin walls, next to a framed newspaper page headlined, “Man Killed at Goodsprings” ( It dates from just two years after the saloon was built in 1913.

Our accommodating server told us of two particular ghosts—that of a miner who ranges the bar area, and a woman whose gallery picture she pointed out (see photo, caption), who supposedly haunts the ladies’ room. Michelle checked out the latter, but she is admittedly no better at finding ghosts than I have been in my almost half-a-century search—an abysmal record.

When I asked our server if she had ever “seen anything,” she answered, “no,” and, to my further query, repeated her answer. I suggested she might not believe strongly enough, and she acknowledged, “That’s the problem.” We agreed, in so many words, that believing is seeing. That would mean there is only one kind of spirits at the Pioneer, the kind poured into a glass. Having ordered bourbon, I drank to that.

Picture caption:

Michelle, Richard, and I at the Pioneer. The ghost of the woman in the hat (second picture above Richard’s head) is supposedly seen in the ladies’ room. (Author’s photo by Michelle Foster)