We’ve heard this story before - The 1800s drew people to places like Virginia City to mine for gold, but Virginia City was one of the biggest of its time.
“From 1863, for the next 3 and a half years, it really was overrun with people that were trying to get rich,” said Evelyn Batton Johnson.
In its peak, Virginia City had 10,000 people living there. It was even the territorial capital from February 1865 to April 1875.
“It really grew,” said Johnson. “You had a lot of gambling halls a lot of dance halls and all these buildings along the street.”
The population dropped greatly in Virginia City by 1866, but how did it turn into the bustling interactive tourist destination it is today?
Well, there's one man to thank.
“In the early 40s Charlie Bovey came along and the family had funds so they started buying up the buildings and filled them with artifacts,” said Johnson. “So in the 40s we had a new venture, we had a new business, we thrived again.”
Today Virginia City is filled with tourists taking in Montana’s history - restaurants are operational, so are the hotels and then there is even an opera house.
“Don and Larry Barsnus and Charlie Bovey got together in the Bale of Hay Saloon and thought it would be a great idea for a theater here in town,” said Stephen Cedar.
The trio built a 19th-century style opera house that still puts on productions nightly true to the original performances that would have been put on in the 1940s.
“We hold performances of melodrama and vaudeville throughout the summer,” said Stephen Cedar.
Of course, no ghost town is complete without its fair share of ghost stories.
“At the hotel the guy that was a plumber, he kept getting irritated because stuff kept disappearing and getting moved,” said Scott McClintic.
“And down by the player's cabin there is supposedly a ghost that peers through the windows looking for her lost husband,” Cedar said. “It is an area that is haunted, it's just unexplainable,” said McClintic.
Virginia City is operational May through September, but there are about 130 residents who live here year round.