Tuesday, October 29, 2013

You Only Get One Chance to Make A First Impression: Mackay Mansion

With easy access to online reviews, businesses and those who represent them, need to be diligent because a bad experience can do serious damage. The old rule that a person who has a negative experience will tell at least ten people has gone the way of the rotary phone. Social networking has increased the spread of 'word of mouth' exponentially!  With a single tweet, Facebook post, Tumblr, Yelp, Trip Advisor, Expedia, Urbanspoon or any of the other hundred apps and sites that allow reviews, a bad experience can reach thousands in seconds. Also, don't forget about bloggers! You never know when this fine creature is lurking at an establishment. Beware! They can be your best or worst friend depending...yep, on experience. 

Undoubtedly some bloggers live to rant, while others try their best to present an informed review. I'm guilty of both when the mood presents. However, I do try my best to stay objective and fairly optimist. BUT...yes, here comes the big old BUT...when an experience is just downright irritating, as a blogger, I must and I do mean MUST share the horror. If for no other reason than to prove that you never know who is in your presence or listening. 

This brings me to my recent visit to Virginia City, Nevada. As many of you may know, I travel the country and world researching, investigating, using improper grammar and touring various historical places with paranormal claims and locations with interesting myths and/or legends. When the opportunity arose, I gladly coupled my visit to the University of Nevada (homecoming game) with a tour of Virginia City. For those driving from Reno, I recommend ditching the GPS and taking 395 N. to Hwy 50 (towards Dayton). If you depend on the GPS you will end up on a very scary switchback mountain road that will make everyone in your vehicle car sick. Trust me, you don't want to make this mistake! 

Any great tourist knows you can't visit Virginia City without seeing The Old Washoe Club and Mackay Mansion. I did both, but will talk about the Washoe Club in a later post. Let me first start off by saying, the Mackay 
Mansion is in theory worth seeing. At the grand admission price of $5, it sounds like a steal. However, the guide leaves much to be desired. I had barely stepped through the door when I was assaulted by political opinions and bad Obama jokes. I'm not an Obama fan, but even I was offended! Besides, I wasn't there to debate and gripe about our government supported historical sites or politics.  

If you're eager to see the entire house, you'll have to wait.  First, you'll be ushered a few steps to the old vault. Sounds interesting, but be prepared to be stuck in here starring at a few photos, the toilet, and cleaning supplies while the guide tells long-winded stories that obviously interest him, but probably not many other people on the tour. Again, you'll be subjected to opinionated banter, a few racist comments about how the entire country of China visited a few weeks ago, and plenty of cutting sarcasm. 

Thankfully, when this claustrophobic entrapment is over you'll get to see the drawing room. A photo of Mrs. Mackay is on the mantle, but you won't hear much about her---she gets completely passed over.  Instead, it's all about Ellin Mackay and Irving Berlin. Admittedly, this is a love story worth learning more about, but the crack about the two unidentified upperclass white people being Obama's parents on the wall, was unnecessary. If I wanted to listen to a bad standup comedy, I'd stay at an off-strip casino in Reno. I certainly don't mind humor, and corny jokes are unfortunately always part of guided historical tours, but the dig was brow-raising. Still, I smirked it off and moved on. After all, no serious harm--just not my kind of humor, right?

The best part of the tour is when it becomes unguided. I'm not certain why, but at this point guests are left alone to wander upstairs and downstairs. Savor the freedom and take lots of photos, paying particular attention to the bedrooms. Despite the guides' claims that paranormal activity in the house is bullshit, we  captured a faint white mist in Mrs. Mackay's bedroom. Even Johnny Depp is convinced the Mackay Mansion is active! While filming Dead Man, Mr. Depp claims a little girl dressed in all-white paid him a visit. 

Perhaps, this is a good time to note if you are visiting the mansion because of ghostly curiosity or haunted myth and legends, DO NOT mention this to the guide. Do not ask paranormal, haunted or ghost-related questions. He has strong opinions about those who research, investigate or inquire about the dead. Even though not everyone who does this is in it for the money, the guide will boast that they all are - every damn last one of 'em!  Apparently, we are all just a bunch of nuts stuffing our pockets with greenbacks. Yep, we are making millions off the dead. What!? Of course, I quickly paused to check my bank app on my smartphone to see if millions had been transferred into my account, sadly no...still waiting. May I recommend sticking to topics related to mining and charitable causes (apparently, Mr. Mackay was a saint) to avoid a very uncomfortable situation. 

At this point, I'm still nodding hoping I can discreetly take my blood-boiling body out the back door to the garden. Fresh air will clear my head. Oh no, he followed us!  Fine, I innocently asked if he ever had a paranormal experience at the mansion. It was a reasonable question given the hype surrounding the property. A simple, polite yes or no would have sufficed. Incredibly, I was subjected to a barrage of ill-will towards Amy Allan from the Dead Files and the owners of the Washoe Club. The guide was upset that the show (The Dead Files) didn't pay the Mackay Mansion owner more money. Did I hear that right?  Was this guy for real?  Didn't he just say he hated people who made money off the dead and then turns around and complains that the show didn't pay enough? Oh, it gets better...he then goes on to say that he's had several paranormal experiences (not at the mansion) that would make those so-called-investigators and experts cry. Astounded, I wonder what his qualifications are? He offers up being a poet-laureate with ties to Mark Twain as credentials. Confused? Yeah, me too!  Somehow his dislike for Amy Allan, Ghost Adventures, and the owner of the Washoe Club is directly tied to political corruption, greed and his desire to bring back prohibition (since that worked so well the first time). Where did that come from, you ask? Well, this guy will tell you on the tour he hates two types of people: those who make money off the dead and those who poison people. Okay, I'm not pro-poisoning, but I needed clarification on what type of poison we are talking about--- turns out it's alcohol. That's right, the worst of the worst -- bartenders, bars and anyone who serves the sinful, deadly spirits (non-paranormal kind). He did note that smoking a bowl was okay because it helped cancer patients. At this point, I'm wondering what exactly is in the water at this place!  Am I still on a historical tour?

I'm not easily offended, but I must say I lost my cool after enduring political slams, racist implications and unsupported slander about people and other local businesses, not to mention the absurd poison tangent. I said a few choice words before abruptly walking away from the tour. For me, it was concluded with no tip, thank you very much! 

I salvaged the experience by focusing on having the opportunity to visit the actual home. I'd sincerely advise the owner of the Mackay Mansion to reconsider the tour guide. If your goal is to keep people away and discourage historical haunted history and insult guests, you've hired the right man for the job!  I tour places for a living and this was the worst guided tour experience I've ever had!  I really hate to discourage anyone from seeing the mansion, but I just can't recommend it. Save your $5 bucks and go have a drink with the crew at The Old Washoe Club. 


  1. Hi Charlie I was wanting to discuss the reservoir book with you . I found you at librarything ,,,if you have time thanks

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    But your article really good. It would be interesting to read more

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  7. Does this Guide realize real Paranormal Researchers/Investigators such as myself charge absolutely nothing? That's right, FREE! It's clear he should not be a guide or employed anywhere where the public is involved.

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