Hometown Tales Podcast

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Toughest Town West of Chicago

That’s what the papers called it back in the early 1870s. Palisades, Nevada; built along the tracks of the Central Pacific Railroad, which serviced the Chicago to San Francisco route was “The toughest town west of Chicago”. For some reason, each and every time the train pulled in, passengers were accosted by the sightings of mass violence, mayhem and anarchy that flooded the streets … well, the street. Whenever the train arrived, there were gunfights, bank robberies, death and maiming by invading Shoshones … even the United States cavalry were spotted in Palisade fending off Indian attacks.

It wasn’t until the violence stopped and the dead gunfighters were hauled off that the passengers meekly emerged from the safety of the train. Of course, once in town, they were immediately accosted by mayhem of another sort: vendors selling sandwiches, Indian beads, relics of violence, photos of famous Palisade gunfighters.

By the time the train pulled out of Palisade station, the passengers were joyous that they were fortunate enough to survive and buy a trinket from the toughest tough in the wild west. And as the train pulled out, the dead gunfighters rose up from the dead and tried to wash the slaughterhouse blood that they had smeared onto themselves.

All that violence was a hoax. It was all a business-savvy idea created by a Central Pacific Railroad conductor to make a buck. The entire town, the nearby Shoshone tribe and even the U.S. cavalry were in on these escapades.

But the rest of America didn’t know that. And the papers still wrote amazing tales of this violent town. So many articles were written; such a buzz was created that the U.S. War Department (the office in charge of the cavalry) started taking some serious heat for letting Palisade remain such a bastion for violence. This of course got back to the local cavalry garrison and the elaborate hoax had to end.

Today, Palisade is a very calm, serene ghost town.

You like hoaxes? Check out some of the greatest hoaxes in history at www.museumofhoaxes.com