Rhyolite Nevada - A Surreal Experince
By Jack Castor
I must preface this by saying that I have been fascinated by ghost towns my whole life. I lived in Montana during the depression and there had been an
exodus of farmers. Many of the properties had been abandoned and one of my pastimes was poking around the vacant buildings.
Returning from a trip to Las Vegas in 1959 I made a quick stop in Beatty and saw a photo of Rhyolite in one of
the restaurants. I inquired of its location. I drove down a road that I later learned was an old railroad bed. After 4 or 5 miles there appeared a
preserved railroad station plus a main street with numerous cement buildings in different stages of collapse. There was not a sign of anyone living there except at the
"Bottle House". However, that day I was completely alone and I explored buildings and took photos of my newfound treasure.
Fast forward to 1968, and once again I was passing through Beatty. My long suffering Connecticut wife, Anita, had been taking in the west while I roamed vacant towns.
She was less than enthuseastic to make a short detour to a nearby gem. I again chose the dirt road to Rhyolite, and the car was not air conditioned. I planned to
spend but a few minutes in the town.
As we passed the ruins of the bank building a large piece of coaxial came from nowhere and went nowhere! Curiosity prevailed
and I parked in front of a shell of a two story roofless, windowless ruin that had been the school house. There was a bright, obviously new, elaborate covered entrance
reading EXCALIBUR HOTEL.
My slightly perturbed wife wanted no part of looking inside and I left her to pout and sulk. Entering through the bright new entrance I couldn't
believe my eyes. All the vacant windows were draped with red velvet, not old and tattered but as new as though the decorator had just departed.
I suspected that either a movie or a fashion shoot had been filmed in this unusual location. There was nothing else in the building except flowers in the middle of the
floor. Hong Kong plastic, I thought. But they were not only real, they were fresh!!!! That convinced me that they had not been gone long.
Photos were taken and I
arranged the flowers into a bouquet, held it behind by back walking to the car, and with a flourish presented the flowers to Anita. Startled, she wanted to know where I had found
fresh flowers. I shrugged and said "in there" and with a grin of satisfaction left Rhyolite. I never offered an explanation nor did she ask.
Searches through various magazines and
ads were for naught. In the search of that bizarre event but had given up solving the mystery.
After retirement I seriously began painting western landscapes and abandoned
buildings. Retrieving my old photo of Rhyolite for reference, I painted my find of many years ago. It is one of the most discussed of my paintings.
In March of 2003
I revisited Rhyolite and was suprised to find two trailers and the occupants were home. In fact they are now the volunteer onsite caretakers.
I related my story and my
continued search for the answer to the puzzle. The Historian had the answer. She stated that in 1968 RCA Records searched for a site to hold a private party. Rhyolite was the place.
The schoolhouse was decorated with swags of red velvet plus a fancy new entrance had been added to the building. The story goes that all the invited guests were transported
in stretch limosines and had a catered feast from Las Vegas. There was dancing and entertainment brought in.
That explained the abandoned electric cable laying on the
street that next day in 1968. Apparentley their power source for lighting and sound. I can only surmise that the party departed over the horizan as we arrived via the old dirt
road that day.
That 1968 visit was very surreal and had remained a nagging mystery.
The title of my painting is RHYOLITE SURREAL