Reno might have skeletons in its closet, or maybe some ghosts haunting downtown.

In the 153 years since its founding, the “Biggest Little City” has been the scene of strange, macabre, and otherwise odd events. Some of those are recounted in the new book “Secret Reno: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.”

Author Janice Oberding is a prolific chronicler of history, true crime, and the paranormal, focusing mainly on Nevada and California, where she has spent her life. She said readers enjoy gory details for the same reason they like roller coasters.

“You’re scared, but you know, at the same time, you’re safe,” she said, “and I think that’s the same with true crime or macabre, or anything like that.

“We can read it, and we can identify with the feelings and everything these people are experiencing, but by the same token, we know we’re safe. And I think that’s probably it.”

In “Secret Reno” Oberding reached back to the Comstock Lode days for an anecdote about city founder Myron Lake.

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He became rich during the silver rush from the tolls he charged to cross his bridge over the Truckee River. The community was originally called Lake’s Crossing until the name was changed to honor Jesse Reno, a northern general killed in the Civil War.

Lake poured some of his fortune into building a mansion that Oberding said was intended to save his marriage.

“He and his wife, Jane, were having difficulties. And he thought, ‘Well, if I get this house, Jane will surely be happy and everything will be wonderful,’” Oberding told State of Nevada.

“He eventually built the house. And he was right. Jane loved the house, and she moved into the house, but she didn’t want him to move in. So he never lived in the house. So I say he’s come back to haunt it.”

Today the mansion, which has been moved three times, is a popular stop on the walking tours that Oberding often leads through the downtown area.

And while Oberding writes stories about ghosts, she is agnostic about whether they are real.

“A lot of ghost people and ghost enthusiasts will probably not like me to say it,” she said, “but actually, we don’t have any definite proof that ghosts exist.”

Other topics covered in “Secret Reno” include the lynching of a ranch hand who vigilantes mistakenly thought had killed a police officer, a double murder in the Reno courthouse in 1960, and an Old-West-style bank robbery and jailbreak that took place in the 1980s.


Janice Oberding, author, “Secret Reno: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure”

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