American Folklore: Nevada

American Folklore: Nevada

Nevada has a long and intriguing history, having been inhabited by a number of different people over the millennia. As such, it has some fascinating folklore all its own. Here are some of the highlights of it

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Admitted to the union in 1864 as the 36th state, Nevada is known for its famous silver rush, and for being admitted to the union during the Civil War. It is also known for being the home of Area 51 and a copious number of casinos.

First inhabited by Native Americans, the first European explorers to the region were Spanish, and Nevada was named by them (“Nevada” means snowy, and the area was named for its snowy mountain peaks). It later became a part of Mexico when Mexico gained its independence from Spain, then became a part of the United States after the Mexican-American War.

Nevada has plenty of folklore associated with its rich and varied history. Here are some of the highlights of it.

The Water Babies

This legend centers on Pyramid Lake in Nevada. According to the legend, the ancient Paiute Native Americans used to discard babies who were premature or deformed by tossing them into Pyramid Lake. This murder of innocents was done to keep the tribe strong. Yet, the spirits of the discarded babies were understandably angry at what had been done to them.

In anger, they now take their revenge on the living world by dragging anyone who goes on the lake into the water with them, killing them. However, for some reason, the water babies appear to be only active during the spring. So, stay off of Pyramid Lake during that sunny season.

The Hidden Treasure of Six Mile Canyon

During the days of the Old West, Nevada harbored a lot of outlaws. It was easy for scofflaws to find a hiding place from the authorities so far out west, at a time when most of civilization was concentrated in the east and the west was largely unexplored. One of these outlaws who came to Nevada was a man named Jack Davis.

Jack had an uncanny ability to lead a successful double life. He was the owner and operator of a successful stable in Gold Hill by day. However, by night he was a highway robber, stealing from trains, stagecoaches, and wagons. He melted any gold he stole, made it into bars, and buried it to hide it.

Jack was eventually killed while conducting a stagecoach robbery, which is how a lot of outlaws in Nevada’s Old West history crossed over. A legend sprang up about the whereabouts of his hidden gold, and treasure hunters still look for it to this day. The story is fascinating and compelling. Who doesn’t want to find buried treasure?

However, the search for the treasure comes with a caveat. Jack’s ghost apparently doesn’t want anyone near it. Anyone who comes close to finding it is supposedly chased away by Jack’s ghost screaming at them, and he sometimes even grows wings and flies into the air to add to the horror movie effect on would-be treasure seekers.

The Mermaid of Pyramid Lake

Yes, this is the same Pyramid Lake with the water babies. It is probably better to just stay away from this lake altogether. In addition to the water babies, Pyramid Lake is home to a vengeful mermaid. Lots of people who approach the lake sense a dark presence around it, and one legend says that is because of a brokenhearted mermaid who lives there.

The legend goes back to Native American times. According to the legend, the mermaid was gorgeous and married a member of the local Paiute tribe. She and her husband were madly in love with each other, but the rest of the tribe disapproved of the union and banished the mermaid from among them. Alone, without her love, she became bitter and angry and vowed revenge on any member of the Paiute tribe who approached the shores of Pyramid Lake. She is said to still wander the shores of the lake today, watching for any Paiute who may approach her.

Area 51

Nevada is unquestionably the home of the infamous Area 51. The only question is what exactly goes on there. Located out in the desert, far away from any towns or cities, Area 51 is not easy to reach, and the US military designed it that way on purpose. In fact, the US government did not even officially acknowledge its existence until 2013.

Area 51 is an Air Force base, but what goes on there is unknown. Everything associated with the base is highly classified and top secret. While the base is probably used for developing and testing new types of aircraft and weapons, the public has believed for decades that the remains of the UFO crash at Roswell, New Mexico are housed and studied there.

Other things that have been rumored to go on at Area 51 include studying actual aliens who were removed from the Roswell crash (both dead and alive), weather control experiments, and time travel. The small town of Rachel, Nevada, on the “Extraterrestrial Highway” is as close as most people can safely and legally get to Area 51, and has become a popular tourist attraction because of this.

The Legend of Tessie

The 16th deepest lake in the world, and the second deepest in the United States, Lake Tahoe is home to a giant lake monster, like so many other large, deep lakes of the world. This one is called Tessie (a play on the nickname of “Nessie” given to the famous Loch Ness Monster).

The monster appears in June in every even-numbered year, and many locals to Lake Tahoe will tell you that Tessie is quite real. The legend of Tessie began in the 1800s with the silver miners, outlaws, and early ranchers who settled the area and enjoyed a resurgence in 1984. That is when two women claimed to have seen a huge, leviathan-like creature on the lake. Since then, interest in Tessie has been high. It is just one more reason that people enjoy coming to Lake Tahoe.