Truckee Historical Haunted Tour reappears

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Spinelli Gang’s ghost re-enactors.
Scott thompson

The annual Truckee Historical Haunted Tour, organized by the non-profit organization Trails & Vistas, resumed this year with local volunteers representing historical figures from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Participants started with a glass of wine on the outdoor patio of Moody’s Bistro, 10007 Bridge St., and traveled to six different historic sites in downtown Truckee on a pub-style tour of a cappella and tales lasting 90 minutes. The tour also included trivial questions between locations, led by a tour guide who prefaced each stop with a basic knowledge of historical events at all six stores.

The historic Boca brewery was at the tour stop.
Scott thompson

Tours have since ended for this year.



According to event coordinator Maria Jones, the historic tour was canceled in 2020 due to the heightened COVID-19 pandemic, but returned this year for history buffs to enjoy.

The tour was a mix of historical figures and ghost myths from the Old West, such as members of the Truckee Lumber Company whose fire division helped put out the 1882 blaze that burned down many downtown buildings by Truckee.



The second location the tour attended was in Engel and Volkers – where the band “met” the first woman in California to be legally executed, gang member Juanita Spinelli, also known as “The Duchess. “. Spinelli and his gang had murdered and robbed their way through California when they arrived in Truckee in 1940. The gang had spent their time in Truckee’s shoplifting, but then found themselves stranded in town and couldn’t find a place to spend the night. A patroller found them and helped them find a room in Reno. Once he heard they were criminals, he took them back to Truckee, where they spent the night in the old Truckee prison. Spinelli was then sent to San Quinten to be executed in the gas chambers.

The tour group also visited Drink Coffee Do Stuff, where they listened to a four-person a cappella singing group. Then the tour crossed the street to learn about the fall of the Boca Brewery while tasting local craft beer. The brewery, founded in 1876, had won several awards at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1883. The brewery eventually caught fire and burned to the ground in 1893. Miraculously, many barrels were later found to be saved by the abundance of ice on the floor above. The barrels were tapped and the rest of the beer was dumped into the nearby Truckee River.

One of the last locations was in Cabonas, previously known as the Front Street General Store, at 10100 Donner Pass Road. In Truckee’s early years, many local businesses were run by women, with some taking over businesses because they had become widowed. The general store had been run by a woman shortly after her husband died in a car crash in 1903, while raising five children. Cabonas is still a family and female business today.

A cappella singers at Drink Coffee Do Stuff, 10115 Donner Pass Road.
Scott thompson

The Historic Tour is a main fundraiser for Trails & Vistas, a Truckee-based non-profit organization that provides awareness of art, music and land preservation through its nationally renowned annual art walks , his interactive nature art tours with over 500 third-graders from Truckee and Lake Tahoe. The mission of Trails & Vistas is to create community by celebrating the arts and nature. For those who wish to attend other events organized by the association, visit trailsandvistas.org.

Elizabeth White is a writer for the Sierra Sun. She can be contacted at [email protected]


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