The Story of the Wabuska Mangler
The Phantom Newspaper, a dastardly newspaper that never was.
By Stephanie Shulsinger
Nevada Magazine, No 2. 1977
Things were quiet in Carson City, which was not so good for newspaper circulation. There wasn’t even a fight worth mentioning to stir up a little reader interest. And thereby hangs the tale of the newspaper that never was.
Pioneer publishers dreaded peace and quiet, which yielded nothing worth reading about and thus hastened bankruptcy and oblivion. Without world-hopping wire services to draw color from, their writers were often compelled (and encouraged) to manufacture news, or at least something with entertainment value.
Such a lull was becoming a great worry around the office of the Carson Appeal. A new gimmick would have to be dreamed up fast to persuade people to part with their money, preferably something everybody enjoyed reading about, like a nice juicy feud. Accordingly Carson residents were soon attracted to blazing headlines attacking the scurrilous editorial policies of a rival newspaper, the Wabuska Mangler, whose editor was billed as the meanest, vilest low-down skunk in the business,
Strong words weren’t strong enough to describe the doings of the dastard, the Appeal assured its reinterested readers. Accuse him of any crime in the book, call him the most forbidden name, and justice would merely cry out at the understatement. But the Appeal was unafraid of this monster, the flaming sword of the free press would take on the villain, however ruinous the consequences; responsibility and all that.
This volley was just the start of a beautiful, artful, lovable campaign which stirred the hearts of spirited citizens who were once more plunking down coin of the realm for papers It almost seems a shame that this wretched rag, the infamous scandal sheet, the wicked Wabuska Mangler (as the colorful and rather outrageous name implies) never existed outside of the office of the Appeal.
Now the town of Wabuska was real enough, of course, and it was sufficiently remote from Carson for safety’s sake, being way over in Lyon County. So for several years the “feud” continued, the Appeal bravely doing battle for the truth and righteousness against the forces of darkness as represented by the mythical Mangler. When the thing grew tiresome, the blackguard editor was reported as having skipped the country, although a tales persists that Carson residents were putting together a necktie party to lynch the mangy cuss. But then, this could just be a hoax on top of a hoax, a thing now unheard of in western humor.
In any case, even today if you ask around Washoe about pioneer newspapers you’ll probably find somebody who will cite the Wabuska Mangler as the worst example in journalistic history, which is pretty good mileage for a homegrown hoax that was cooked up to stall off starvation for a couple of hungry newspapermen.