Abandoned Brothel: Cottontail Ranch

Right at the side of the highway

Right at the side of the highway

Another classic Nevada oddity is this abandoned brothel, just off U.S. 95 at the Lida Junction. It’s been shuttered for probably at least 10 years, but at the time of my visits (2014 and 2015) the interior was still in decent shape, and made for a GREAT photo shoot location.

 

The Jacuzzi room

The Jacuzzi room

Although this location is super remote (about 2.5 hours northwest of Vegas), it’s fenced-in private property, and technically trespassing to go in here… so be careful. The place is also full of broken glass and mouse/rat shit, so Hantavirus and Tetanus are real concerns. But you know me….I still got naked to make Art!

 

photo by Wolynski

photo by Wolynski

Come to find out, this was the old Cottontail Ranch brothel…notable as being opened and run by the fabulously colorful Miss Beverly Harrell, madame (and aspiring politician) extraordinaire. Originally a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn, Ms. Harrell started her career as an aspiring Hollywood starlet…then descended into pimping, and eventually ended up at this desolate location while on the lam from the Hollywood cops. She opened up the Cottontail Ranch brothel on land leased from the BLM in 1967, and the place was an immediate success.

 

photo by Wolynski

photo by Wolynski

Ms. Harrell was basically Dolly Parton’s character from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas…only real. She built the brothel out of mobile home trailers linked by a “catwalk” (haha), and catered not only to customers from the nearby mining towns, but to high-rollers from Vegas and further destinations as well, thanks to an adjacent airplane landing strip.

 

How about this fucking wallpaper?! photo by Shutterbug Studio

How about this fucking wallpaper?!
photo by Shutterbug Studio

In fact, one of her most famous customers was none other than Howard Hughes, who used to fly up from Vegas to spend time with a special gal by the name of Sunny. Allegedly, after one of his visits with Sunny, Hughes’s pilot took off without him, and he was left laying face-down in the desert on a backroad between the brothel and Vegas…where he was discovered by an off-roading Mormon named Melvin Dummar. Dummar gave Hughes a ride back into Vegas, and the story goes that Hughes never forgot that act of kindness….so much so that that nine years later, he ended up leaving Dummer 1/16th of his $2.5 billion estate!!

Whether or not you believe Dummar’s claims of having picked up a destitute Hughes in the desert outside a lonely brothel (and they are highly disputed, pending confirmation from the long-gone and much-sought-after Sunny)…….what IS known to be true is that Ms. Harrell’s BLM lease was soon after revoked, once word leaked to the press that the government was acting as landlord to a whorehouse. OUTRAGE!!!

Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Now, Ms. Harrell had leased the land legally, with an option to buy after 5 years — and she wasn’t about to let the gov’ment take advantage of her without a fight!! She wasn’t just Dolly Parton’s character in The Best Little Whorehouse — she was also Cliven motherfucking Bundy, 50 years before he ever raised his hackles! She fought the BLM tooth and nail, but they wouldn’t give.

So, she decided to fight them on their own turf — by running for the Nevada State Assembly, in 1974! “It takes the madam of an honest bordello to show them how to run an honest system,” she said. This boss bitch ran her own campaign, complete with her own bumper stickers, posters and stickers, and refused to accept any donation over $25 — yet still (allegedly) managed win to based on the popular vote. Alas for her, she lost in a hotly-contested runoff….and she ended up living out her years managing this lonely roadside brothel., just outside the BLM boundary.

Looking for work at the Cottontail Ranch by Shutterbug Studio

Looking for work at the Cottontail Ranch
by Shutterbug Studio

Ms. Beverly Harrell died in 1996, and was buried in the equally fantastic Goldfield Cemetery, just 15 minutes up the 95…in the same graveyard as the legendary pioneer who died from eating library paste (it says so on on his gravestone…for reals). So if you’re driving up U.S. 95, you can not only stop and visit the ruins of her old empire…you can also pay respects at the grave of this bad-ass groundbreaking powerhouse.

R.I.P., Beverly!

 

18 Responses to Abandoned Brothel: Cottontail Ranch

  1. Mitch Bugge says:

    I have to laugh about this. About 30 years ago, my sister & mother traveled this highway from Portland, OR to Phoenix, AZ, so my sister could see her boyfriend (she was in college so mom went with… LOL!). The car overheated right in front of this place and they went in here to get water for the radiator. My mother about wigged out because the madam kept trying to talk to my sister about “employment opportunities.” My mother told me all about it later, and my sister was so naive that to this day I don’t think she realizes what those “opportunities” really were!

  2. Mike says:

    Great Website.

    I really enjoy your writing and absolutely love all of the scenery. 😉

    This brothel used to be the Cottontail Ranch, operated by the infamous Madame Beverly Harrell, who ran for the Nevada Assembly back in 1974 (The year I moved to central Nevada) and who supposedly won the popular vote, but apparently was cheated out of her seat by the good ole boy establishment.

    One of the movie channels (I believe that it was HBO) actually did a biography on Beverly and the brothel several years ago.

    It included skydivers parachuting into the brothel, which like several Nevada brothels at the time, actually used to have an airplane landing strip. It might even be on YouTube somewhere, if your interested in trying to find it.

    Mike

  3. Technically Speaking says:

    I just read Cottontail Ranch is for sale. Owner: Miss Lanny D. Love…

  4. Ray Vincent says:

    Ran across your videos somehow and then your website and you are amazing. I love your research and articles on the locations of your shoots. What maybe 20 years ago I was listening to Art Bell’s Coast to Coast Late Night Radio Show and I think he had Melvin on, but I don’t recall them mentioned how Howard came to be out in the desert. You are telling the “rest of the story”. Art lives in Pahrump and had a fantastic show for many years.
    P.S. You look great!

  5. Sarah says:

    So this building, is it the original brothel? I keep reading about her moving due to the fight with the blm after the election. We poked around inside of it and it was so cool. Just trying to find more answers. And actual photos of it while in operation. Loved your video!

    • wonderhussy says:

      Pretty sure that’s the second Incarnation… Her original brothel was on BLM land and it closed when they cancelled her lease. So she reopened just outside BLM boundaries, which I’m pretty sure is what remains today

  6. John Smith says:

    I actually visited Cottontail Ranch as a customer. The first time, there were only a few girls available and none of them were particularly attractive, but one was rather cute so I chose her. Nothing memorable. After our date, I went back to the parlor to chat for a while with the girl I just “dated”. Well, madame Harrell seemed to be the type of person to control a conversation between customers and girls, so I was really only able to talk to her instead of my date. Apparently, in such a remote location, customers would fly in with their private plane or jet and land on the two mile long runway. It seems like the hour long flight from LA, or San Francisco was worthwhile as it was more discreet than hiring a local call girl in the city. The major attraction seemed to be the ability to satisfy any customer’s most exotic fantasy. Who know what fantasy it was, but the House was able to supply any costume or prop to live out a fantasy. Typically, people pay much more money for fantasies than they would for a simple “date”. Fantasy, um, maybe dress like Superman and date Wonder Woman? I could only imagine. Madame Harrell told me she travels to Las Vegas to personally recruit girls.
    The second time I visited, there were only two girls available and neither of them seemed either attractive or in any way interesting to date, so I turned around and left (and usually I am very easy to please, but I just had to pass). These two visits were in the mid to late 1980’s.

  7. Richard hay says:

    I just ran across you cuz I love the event abandoned videos. And yours are by far the best the commentary everything about it plus you’re very easy on the eyes keep up the good work enjoy your work very much. Richard

  8. Bill says:

    You are so cool! I checked out the brothel Sept 16. I had no clue on its history. Looking up info. Came across your site. Wow! I mean WOW! You go to amazing places. I know, I have been to many of the places. Love wheeling in the desert!!! Thanks! I Noticed no area 51 adventures?

  9. Rick says:

    I’m sure my passing of the Cottontail Ranch over the last 30+ yrs would total close to / or over 100 . . . making a turn at that point traveling between my Vegas and Crowley residences. Wonderful facts on the area I was unaware of . . . Just recently came across your 2017 Burning Man youtube posting . . . ever since I’ve been fascinated by ALL the intriguing and diverse content you have across the Internet. Keep exploring / all who wander are not lost! RICK

    • wonderhussy says:

      Thank you, glad you enjoyed! I have been in your area for the past few days… Camped at little hot Creek hot spring last night, headed home today and will pass the Cottontail Ranch 🙂

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