Any self-respecting town should have its weird stories, and Lake Tahoe's quirky ones make for entertaining pondering. For starters, there’s George Whittell. He was an odd old bird with enough money to excuse his eccentricities. A preservationist at heart, Whittell bought up several tracts of land on the north near Incline Village and built himself quite the stunning residence, Thunderbird Lodge. As far as quirky goes, Whittell would throw poker parties in the game room, and if his luck was down, instead of enjoying the sport of the game, he’d excuse himself to the bathroom, open a compartment in the shower and retreat back to the lodge via a secret passageway, never losing face or money.
If you’re interested in gory lore, the locals claim that the when the mafia had bodies to dispose of, the thugs would throw the corpses into the middle of the lake. Since the lake is so deep and near freezing, the bodies are said to be suspended several meters below the surface, fully intact, one still wearing her wedding gown. And, we can’t help but mention the legendary Frank Sinatra — a fire involving his cherished CalNeva at Crystal Bay, some insurance money and a whole lot of not talking about the scandal. Then there’s Sand Harbor State Park, the only state park in Nevada that consistently makes money due to the popularity of the beaches, convenience of the boat launch and stellar lifeguard staff.
And, what about ole Mark Twain? He visited Lake Tahoe to stake a claim for timber or gold and ended up burning down his shanty, all the trees on his claim allotment and on down to the beach.
If you’re looking for a place with a distinctive personality, make sure to visit Tahoe and ask the locals lots of questions. You’ll get truth and legend and a good laugh if nothing else.