Please allow me to introduce myself: my name is Boots McGee. I was hanged by a mob in Bodie back in 1883. They broke down the door of the jail, shoved the sheriff aside, and yanked me out of the cell. Then they carried me kicking and screaming to the headframe for the Red Cloud Mine and used a horse to string me up by the neck. I died choking and gasping two minutes later.
The thing is, I didn’t shoot Doc Smith that night in the Yellow Dog Tavern. The real killer was a one-armed man who was good with a gun in his remaining hand, and he shot Doc when everyone else had dived under the tables. But Doc, with his dying words, said that he saw me with the smoking gun. If Doc hadn’t delivered so many babies and treated so many liver ailments, people might not have believed him. But here I was, a down on my luck miner who was drunk on rotgut that night, and someone heard me threaten Doc because he charged me too much for removing a bullet from my butt. So here I am.
We ghosts don’t really like to hang around; after all, there is a sweet afterlife that we would like to spend eternity in. But some of us get stuck in a place and time and can’t get out. It has something to do with the unfairness of the act that killed us. If only I could turn back time. But I can’t, so for now I float down from the graveyard on the hill with the cool night air. If you see my shape in a dark window, or hear a door creak on a still morning when nobody is around, that would be me. And I’ll probably be here for as long as the last weathered boards remain on the Methodist Church and as long as the last granite headstone remains in the graveyard.
I might as well tell you a bit about my little town. Gold was discovered in these hills by Waterman S. Bodey back in 1859. I came in the gold rush that
followed, and staked a claim up in the hills east of town. I dug some gold early on and made some money, enough that I could visit the taverns every night, Lottie’s house of red lights on Saturday night, and the Methodist Church on Sunday mornings. Well, maybe a few Sunday mornings, anyway.
By 1879, the town had grown to 10,000 people and had a reputation as a hellhole filled with drunks and prostitutes and outlaws. But a lot of gold was coming out of the ground from all the mines, so people put up with all the evil. One man of God, the Reverend F. M. Warrington called our town “a sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion.” Sounds like my kind of place, doesn’t it?
All good and evil things eventually come to an end, and Bodie’s end came soon after the last mine shut down in 1941. Without a reason to go on, the town emptied out completely. People left old belongings in their homes, and the school’s hundreds of desks were left as if ghost students still took their daily lessons.
I was lonely here for a long time, with just occasional curious folks and vandals visiting this remote place. But in 1962, the great state of California made my home town a state historic park that is kept in a state of “arrested decay.” Now I have lots of visitors to haunt, so the only times I get lonely are during the long and frigid winters, when only a few folks on skis and snowmobiles make it up here.
It looked like I would never leave this place, since California has been preventing Bodie from disappearing back into the earth. But in 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger put Bodie on a list of state parks to shut down because the state has run out of money to keep parks open. That is my best hope for getting out of here. If the state allows Bodie to fall apart and blow away, I might finally get to see heaven because I’ll have nowhere to stay here on earth.
Without a little propping up, these outhouses would have blown down in the cold wind.
If you want to visit Bodie, there are some good websites to help plan your trip and learn a bit of real history (as opposed to my made-up history!) of this wonderful ghost town.
To see my web site, which includes photographic prints for sale, please go to LeeRentz.com
To see thousands of my photographs in large file sizes for use in magazines or other printed materials or electronic media, go to my PhotoShelter Website