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The Dark Beauty of the Amargosa Opera House: Part I

We visited the Amargosa Opera House in Death Valley, California on a warm spring day. The sky was blue with the occasional cloud dotted here and there. The sun was warm on our faces as we toured the grounds outside. The drive to Death Valley had been a barren one. Nothing but desert on either side of the road for miles. Thoughts of being lured to this place never to return home, lingered in the back of my mind as we drove. As we passed the Shoshone Village, a little oasis in a broad sea of sand and cacti, I started to have hope for the little place we would visit – Death Valley Junction. Shoshone had water and grass and a cute little general store. I thought that surely the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel would be just as quaint if not more adorably adorned.

Pulling into the dusty dirt parking lot, I realized my hopes were set too high. I had read about the haunting in Room 9 and how it made people dizzy and sick to their stomachs. I had perused the dozens of photos of the paintings that Ms. Marta Becket (the owner) had adorned the interiors of the Opera House and the Hotel with. Nothing could prepare a person for the stark contrast of the white, sunburned exterior and the rich, colorful oil paintings inside. The place is a work of art. Everywhere you turn, there is another painting by Ms. Becket, another fine detail that she poured her heart into creating. I could feel her loneliness in her art. Her desire for more – to be more worldly, to be in contact with more people, to have more eyes sharing her art. If we're lucky, someday someone will snatch this place up and turn it into a museum – preserving its beauty and all of the art inside. For now, the buildings slowly melt in the harsh, desert sun. Paint peeling and chipping off the walls. The desert sand blowing against it as if it might swallow it whole someday. I feel privileged to have seen it in person. I am excited to share it with you.

First, let's explore the interior of the hotel...

The paintings on the walls were all hand painted by Marta Becket – artist, actress, and hotelier. This is the dining room for the hotel.

Hopefully someday the buildings will be restored and preserved. There is so much beautiful artwork inside!

I love the faces over the windows.

Becket has an incredible ability for creating depth and perspective in her paintings. At first glance, these arch ways appear to go out into a beautiful courtyard. They transport the viewer to a different time and place.

Even the chair and guitar are painted!

The hallway is elegant with its beautiful chandeliers. After all of these years though, it certainly has that creepy vibe too!

The small atrium inside the hotel. An interesting space since the hotel is so dim, without much light coming in. This must be a nice place to sit and have tea and soak up the sun.

The windows at the top of the atrium are layered with chicken wire. I'm not sure what the practical reasoning is for this but it's effect made it feel like a prison ward. You can check in any time you like, but you will never leave. mwahahaha!

Pretty little table in the atrium. The walls make the space feel magical – just don't look up at the caged in skylight.

A wall of Marta and the Opera House. Photos from the years of performances held there. During our behind-the-scenes tour of the place, the manager told us that Ms. Becket would go on stage whether there were 2 people in the audience or there were 20. She never missed a show.

The murals over the beds in the hotel rooms were cheerful. I could sense that Marta put a lot of love into adorning the place with her art. (It must have been housekeeping day with the unmade bed.)

Another view of the atrium/ sitting room.

Bare bulb light fixtures hang where chandeliers once graced the ceilings.

Vintage lampshade on a contemporary lamp. The hotel makes due with what they've got, but I would love to see it restored to its original beauty.

Another wire-covered skylight in the bathroom of one of the hotel rooms. The hotel has the feeling of a classic mental facility with no exits or hope of escaping.

The bathrooms had bright and cheerful tiles but they were old and cracked and just generally worn. The bare-bulb light fixture certainly doesn't help with the appeal. While they were not very desirable, they were clean! (That's me in the mirror.)

Another hotel room. Looks sort of like a bed you'd expire in...

Another cheerfully tiled bathroom that just lacked appeal and/or cheer.

This is the infamous Room 9. Neither Debi or I felt the effect of the room, but Dennis sat on the bed for a bit while we looked around and took photos. As you can see my photo came out blurry. None of my photos in this room were clear. I have a feeling I was disoriented but didn't realize it in all of the excitement. True to Room 9's rumors, Dennis was sick, dizzy, and felt awful the entire trip home from Death Valley. It came out of nowhere and lasted the entire night.

Some of the rooms have adorned ceilings in addition to the walls.

The stunning chandelier in the hallway.

The leather on this chair is so old, the texture is filled with cracks. It is rather beautiful this way though.

My favorite painted headboard. I think Marta Becket really loves cherubs... would you agree?

Now we'll travel to the unused portion of the hotel through a locked door, not normally accessible by the guests. It is the part of the hotel that housed a small infirmary and rooms for the miners. A large Borax mine was located a short distance from the hotel. The miners would work for months and years on end with little time for relaxation. They would be there alone, away from their families. The combination of loneliness and tireless work would drive any person to go mad. In the evenings, there were not a lot of options for entertainment so they would drink heavily. Many fights and a few deaths occurred as a result of the excessive drinking. Many men passed away in the infirmary from injuries on the job as well. One of the miners was said to be particularly aggressive and paranormal explorers have encountered his presence in these hidden hallways. This concealed and haunted portion of the hotel has even been on a television show, Ghost Adventures. Click here to see footage.

The group shower for the miners. The shower heads are so close together, I would be surprised if there weren't several fights among the workers here as well.