Death Valley; you can almost feel the spirits in the air just by thinking about it. Many people have lost their lives to the unforgiving desert land, while trying to cross unprepared. In the early 1900’s during the huge gold pandemic it wasn’t uncommon to turn up human remains when the pickaxe hit the ground. So many unmarked graves, lost and all alone. How many souls are trapped and wandering here, clinging to reality by a thread? Maybe they’re just holding on in the hopes of seeing a loved one, one last time. If that is the case, they might be lost and lingering forever, doomed to roam the land that took their lives.
Sometimes the haunted appeal of an area comes from a heinous and violent act that was committed. These acts seem to leave residual ghostlike activity in their wake. Skidoo, California is a product of such an incident.
Once a small town, Skidoo was brought to life by the discovery of gold in the area in the early 1900’s. Like so many small mining towns, once the gold was gone so were all of the people. Leaving behind empty buildings and remnants of lives long gone, turning this once prosperous town into the ghost town of today. One story of a particular person is so chilling that it still lingers in the air. In the eerie sounds that reveal bits of what happened so long ago.
In 1908 the town deputy, Joe Simson, made a fatal error by abusing his authority and providing a clear view of his character. Nicknamed “Hooch” after his excessive drinking binges, it’s no surprise that what happened came after one of his benders. Hooch drunkenly approached the local banker named Jim Arnold, with his gun drawn and insisted that the banker give him $20. When Jim refused to do so, he was asked by the madman if he had anything against him. Jim replied, “No, Joe, I’ve got nothing against you.” This apparently wasn’t the answer he was looking for, because Hooch pulled the trigger anyway. Jim died later that same day as Hooch was bragging about the fun he had while committing this violent and heartless act.
The people of Skidoo were outraged and demonstrated their disapproval by forming an angry mob. This mob was bent on receiving justice for the life of an innocent man. Two days after the crime, the angry mob seized Hooch from the guardhouse and carried out their wishes by hanging him from the nearest telephone pole. The next morning his dead body still hung, for the whole town to see.
A reporter, working for a newspaper out of Los Angeles, arrived in town to gather information and build a story to share. This reporter was disappointed to have missed a photo opportunity of the hanged man; having arrived after the body had been taken down and buried. The townsfolk, however, must not have wanted the reporter to go without a picture, because they dug up Hooch’s body and strung it back up on that telephone pole. The reporter left with the whole story and a picture to prove it.
If you visit the ghost town of Skidoo on April, 22nd and you happen to be wandering around at about 2:00 in the afternoon, you might witness the eerie sound of a phantom gunshot. The same gunshot that killed Jim Arnold on the same date and the same time over a hundred years ago. Or maybe you’ll hear the voices of an angry mob moving down the deserted street.
These eerie sounds aren’t really spirits that are trapped here, who only get to come out and play on the day of the anniversary of death. It’s more likely that they are imprints, like a stain in an area, born from the immense hatred that such a horrible crime can cause. The corrupt hearts of men who think they can get away with anything and the ones who think they should take matters into their own hands; this is what leaves a mark not only on an area, but on the people who were there as witnesses. Perhaps it’s the judgement of peers that hold these imprints in place, but it’s more probable that it’s the lack of judgement by the individuals involved who have permanently fixed them into place. The day that it happened is a sensitive time for Skidoo, every year.