Truckee Historical Haunted Tour makes reappearance


Spinelli Gang ghost reenactors.
Scott Thompson

The annual Truckee Historical Haunted Tour, hosted by the nonprofit Trails & Vistas, started again this year with local volunteers portraying historical figures from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Attendees began with a glass of wine at the outdoor deck at Moody’s Bistro, 10007 Bridge St., and walked to six different historic sites around downtown Truckee in a pub crawl-style tour packed with a cappella singing and storytelling that lasted 90 minutes. The tour also included trivia questions in between locations, led by a tour guide who prefaced each stop with background knowledge of the historical events at all six shops.

The historic Boca Brewery was on stop on the tour.
Scott Thompson

The tours have since ended for this year.

According to Event Coordinator Maria Jones, the historical tour had been canceled in 2020 due to the heightened COVID-19 pandemic, but returned this year for history enthusiasts to enjoy.

The tour was a mix of both historical figures and myths of ghosts from the Wild West – such as members of the Truckee Lumber Company whose fire division helped put out the 1882 fire that burned many buildings in downtown Truckee.

The second location the tour attended was located at Engel and Volkers — where the group “met” the first woman in California to be legally executed, gang member Juanita Spinelli, otherwise known as “The Duchess.” Spinelli and her gang had been murdering and burglarizing their way through California when they came to Truckee in 1940. The gang had spent their time in Truckee shoplifting, but later became stranded in town and were unable to find a place to stay for the night. A highway patroller found them and helped them to find a room in Reno. Once he heard that they were criminals, he brought them back to Truckee, where they spent the night in the old Truckee Jail. 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. Afterward, the tour went across the street to learn about the downfall of Boca Brewery while enjoying some local craft beer. The brewery, established in 1876, had won several awards at the Paris World Fair in 1883. The brewery ended up catching fire and burning to the ground in 1893. Miraculously, many barrels were found later to be saved by the abundance of ice on the floor above. The barrels were tapped and the rest of the beer was spilled into the nearby Truckee River.

One of the last locations was at Cabonas, previously known as the Front Street General Store, at 10100 Donner Pass Road. In the early years of Truckee, many local businesses were run by women, some taking over businesses because they had become widowed. The general store had been run by a woman shortly after her husband had died in a carriage accident in 1903, all while she raised five children. Cabonas is still a family- and woman-owned business to this day.

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

The historical tour is a primary fundraiser for Trails & Vistas, a Truckee-based nonprofit that provides art, music and land preservation awareness through its nationally acclaimed annual Art Hikes, Arts in Nature interactive field trips with over 500 third grade students attending from Truckee and Lake Tahoe. Trails & Vistas’ mission is to create community by celebrating the arts and nature. For those interested in attending more events hosted by the nonprofit, visit

Elizabeth White is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User