COMSTOCK PHANTOMS by Brian David Bruns


True Ghost Stories of Virginia City, Nevada
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An amalgamation of ghost stories set in the remote town where Mark Twain honed his skills 140 years ago.

During a trip to Virginia City in 1999, Bruns and a friend approached a building with the intent of exploring it. As they entered, however, she stopped abruptly–this place seems haunted, she said. Bruns had always found supernatural phenomena such as ghosts fascinating, but had never known quite what to make of claims that otherworldly beings exist. This experience, though, intrigued and annoyed him simultaneously. How could she sense ghosts when he couldn't? He decided to investigate further by interviewing certain people in Virginia City. Tales were "hurled" at Bruns, "unsolicited at the very mention" that he was collecting ghost stories. As a result, many of the stories name actual people and, "at least in their minds, actual events." Inundated with varying versions and copious detail, Bruns decided he would "combine different stories from different people into a single narrative, just to capture all the many ways in which spirits choose to manifest themselves." This was a dubious decision, as many of the stories are simply not compelling as fiction and track poorly as nonfiction. The word "true" muddies the interpretation of the stories, as does his caveat that "Like Mark Twain, I see no reason why I should let the truth get in the way of a good story." After chronicling the hauntings of specific sites–the Silver Terrace Cemetery, the Old Funeral Parlor, a D Street Residence, the Gold Hill Hotel and the Pioneer Emporium, to name a few–Bruns provides briefly researched histories that work nicely. Four maps at the back of the book aid understanding of northern Nevada, Virginia City itself and two of the haunted locales.

A collection that will surely interest readers already devoted to Virginia City lore, but that may not grab a general audience.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-9745217-1-X
Program: Kirkus Indie
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