Gabrielle Irvin
Staff Writer

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August 5, 2010
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"Ghost man" appears on "My Ghost Story" (video)

Many rooms in the historic Holbrooke Hotel in Grass Valley have their eerie histories, characters and tales.

Sleep in the Black Bart Room, used by the highwayman who robbed the stagecoaches of the rich. Fall asleep to the sounds of little ghost children jumping on old mattress springs.

Catch some Zs in Room 9, and wake up to a Victorian-dressed maid folding your clothes.

But beware of a room where a suicidal gambler slit his throat and was found dead in a pool of blood, a razor blade at his side - no one knows which room it happened in.

Feeling queasy, maybe scared? How about intrigued? Folks at the Biography Channel were.

At 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7, on the Biography Channel's featured show, "My Ghost Story," watch the ghostly story of the landmark hotel narrated by Mark Lyon, 31-year Nevada County resident who lives in Cascade Shores.

Lyon gives weekly tours of haunted locations in Grass Valley and Nevada City on Friday and Saturday nights - dressed for the part in Victorian top hat and overcoat - and tells the stories of people's encounters with the supernatural.

The producer of "My Ghost Story" heard of a ghostly photo taken at the Holbrooke Hotel, and hearing of Lyon's tours, pursued the story to be featured on the show.

"A woman staying at the Holbrooke with her husband and a friend took a photo on the staircase next to the window," Lyon said. "The woman sent the photo to the Holbrooke, and the producer of the show heard about my tours and saw the photo.

"He called me to see if the photo seemed to be what it appeared - it was a menacing cowboy seen from the waist up wearing Victorian clothes and a cowboy kind of hat."

Lyon, usually skeptical of photographers claiming to have photographed ghosts, believed the photo to be real, and agreed to fly down to Los Angeles to be interviewed. He worked with the camera crew to film B-roll - scenes in the hotel - in Grass Valley in late January.

"I know of the story of the disillusioned, suicidal gambler of the Holbrooke Hotel," Lyon said. "It may possibly be an explanation or history of the cowboy in the photo."

The Holbrooke's suicidal gambler existed - his suicide letter can be found at the Doris Foley Library in Nevada City, and his death was reported in The Union.

Reports at the time claimed the gambler was a rich man who had been accused of robbery - perhaps wrongfully.

The question posed by the segment airing Saturday is, was the cowboy in the visitor's photo the shade of the distressed gambler making his debut?

Lyon was excited about the project: His favorite haunted place in Nevada County is the Holbrooke, which dates to the Gold Rush.

"It's like saying which child is your favorite," Lyon said. "But there is so much that goes on there. I've had so many experiences there personally. There is an amazing number of ghost stories."

Lyon became intrigued by ghost stories at an early age. Although he received his bachelor's degree at the University of San Francisco in biology, he went on to California State University, Fresno, to receive his master's degree in theater.

He developed several musical plays and one-man shows, began storytelling, and has traveled and toured in places such as Canada and Ireland.

"I've been on radio and TV shows," Lyon said. "But this was the most delightful experience."

Gabrielle Irvin is an intern from the University of Nevada, Reno. To contact her, e-mail of call (530) 477-4811.

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The Union Updated Aug 5, 2010 04:48PM Published Aug 5, 2010 12:07AM Copyright 2010 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.