In the early years of the theater, there were few visitors, sometimes, none at all so she soon began to paint an audience on the wall. From 1968 to 1972, characters from the past including kings and queens, Native Americans, bullfighters, gypsies, and more took shape. After four years of painstaking work, she then began painting the ceiling with cherubs, billowing clouds, and ladies playing antique musical instruments. It was completed in 1974.
Through the years, the audience grew and the theater gained attention. Donations were made for the continued renovation of the theater including a concert grand piano and chairs for the theater. Parts of the main building became a hotel and café as renovations continued to be made on the old buildings of the town.
With help and legal advice from friends, and through the Trust for Public Land based in San Francisco, the Amargosa Opera House, Inc. bought the town of Death Valley Junction. On December 10th, 1981, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1983, the Opera House bought 120 theater seats from the Boulder City Theater in Boulder City, Nevada to replace the charming but old garden chairs needing retirement. That same year, Marta’s husband left for other interests, but, before long, in walked Thomas J. Willett, a comedian who stepped in as stage manager and M.C. He also co-starred with Marta playing other parts in the production. Unfortunately, Willett died in 2005.
Somewhere along the line, the café closed but was reopened in 2009. The Opera House and Hotel also remain open as well as a small museum.
In addition to the buildings of the hotel and Opera House, several old buildings and the old train yards can still be seen. There are no gas stations. Death Valley Junction is located at the intersection of SR 190 and SR 127, just east of Death Valley National Park.
Though Death Valley Junction has not been known as a place of tragedies, it is allegedly haunted according to a number of reports.
One interesting “ghost,” who has long been seen, is a mysterious cat who has been known to interrupt Marta’s performances at the Amargosa Opera House. Also allegedly haunting the theater is the spirit of Tom Willet, Marta’s former partner, who has often been spied sitting in one of the chairs observing performances.
An un-renovated section of the hotel has long been affectionately referred to by the staff as “spooky hollow” due to a number of strange happenings that have taken place there. This part of the building was once used as a dormitory for the miners during the borax days, as well as including a hospital and morgue.
In Room 24 of the Amargosa Hotel, guests have repeatedly reported hearing the sounds of a crying child during the night, when no children are staying at the hotel. This may be the ghost of a young girl who drowned in a bathtub in 1967.
Room 32 is said to harbor a threatening, malevolent presence that gives visitors the chills. Evidently, this room was once called home to a mining boss and it is known that hanging took place in the room during the borax heydays.
Room 9 is said to be the most haunted. Here, a number of people have reported that while they are sleeping, something holds their legs and feet down. Yet more have heard the doorknob turning, only to open it and find no one there. Sounds of a child giggling and running down the hall outside the room have also been heard.
In the dining room, guests have reported hearing voices of what sounds like a group of people, especially the distinctive high voice of a woman.
Other activities include strange noises coming from the walls, shadows that are often seen dancing across the stage, the sounds of footsteps crossing rooms in the night and coming down hallways, the scent of lilacs, and showers that seemingly turn on by themselves.
According to reports, guests are often known to pack their bags and abruptly leave in the middle of the night.
Amargosa Opera House and Hotel
P.O. Box 8
Death Valley Junction, California 92328