A Wild West Town Staged Fights And Crimes -- Without Telling Tourists
Even during the age of the Wild West, pop culture romanticized the lawlessness of the frontier. People east of the Mississippi had a perception of the West forged from dime novels, and Wild West shows like those put on by Buffalo Bill. Those who traveled West for the first time expected to see gunfights and experience an overall feeling of danger, and the railroad town of Palisade, Nevada, was happy to oblige … with staged fights and crimes.
Located in northeastern Nevada, Palisade was founded in 1868 and grew as a stop on the Central Pacific Railroad. Passengers traveling to San Francisco or Chicago used the stop in Palisade to move around and eat before resuming their trips. Palisade really grew, though, with the completion of the Eureka & Palisade Railroad in 1875, which connected Palisade to the mining town of Eureka.
While there were a lot of new people coming through Palisade, they reportedly had a complaint. The Wild West was a lot less wild than they thought it'd be. Easterners were expecting to see cowboys, but all that they got was a quaint town with a saloon and other amenities for travelers.
To give the people what they wanted/increase interest in the town, the people of Palisade had an idea. They were going to turn the town into a Wild West show. When travelers got off the train, they would be greeted by lawmen and outlaws fighting it out. Guns would go off, bodies would fall, and travelers would either be watching in morbid curiosity or hiding back on the train.
Of course, none of the violence was real. It was all a production, and the whole town was in on it. The gunmen were only firing blanks, and they even used animal blood from the slaughterhouse to improve the effect. The spectators were probably too terrified or intrigued to really notice, but if they paid attention, they'd spot that, conveniently, no one from the train was ever targeted. They might also notice that the "dead" people could miraculously be later seen alive and well.
Regardless, the hoax fooled thousands of travelers, and the theatrical violence ramped up over time. What started as maybe a standoff between two gunmen turned into town-wide shootouts, bank robberies, and even "attacks" from the local Shoshone Native Americans. Humorously, despite its dangerous facade, Palisade was actually so harmless that it didn't even have a real sheriff.
The show went on for three years, but the boom in the area died down soon after. With fewer travelers, there was less reason to put on a show, and more importantly, it meant that there was less industry in the town. Palisade residents gradually moved out until it was essentially abandoned.
Bizarrely, Palisade did pop back up in 1932, as it was believed that someone attempted to assassinate President Herbert Hoover in the town. There is no proof of this actually happening, though. Besides, even if it did… the town's history of staged violence would still bring the attempt into question.
Palisade, Nevada made it to the news one last time in 2005 when someone purchased the land for $150,000. Other than that, it has sat as a ghost town. Though, it is a ghost town that definitely has no ghosts, seeing as there were never any real victims.
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