Las Vegas can be a pretty scary place, and not just for the reasons — eerily hypnotic video poker machines, vanishing home values, those zombielike smut peddlers on the Strip — you’d imagine.
There are, some will tell you, legitimately haunted places in Southern Nevada where some very odd, even spooky, things happen.
In celebration of Halloween, we asked a few people who are well-versed in all things otherworldly to suggest a few places that might serve as stops on a ghastly, ghostly day trip.
Here, we offer some of their suggestions. For each supernatural stop, we’ve included a thumbnail description about why some believe it to be haunted or, at least, supernaturally active. (Note, however, that a few are on private property.)
Are any of these reputed hauntings legitimate? Neither we nor anybody else can say for sure. But the notion that spooks, spirits and other assorted wraiths might wish to hang out in and around Las Vegas isn’t really all that bizarre.
"People love Vegas," says Janice Oberding, author of the ghost hunter bibles "Haunted Nevada" and "The Haunting of Las Vegas."
So, Oberding figures, "why wouldn’t ghosts love Las Vegas as well?"
1. LAS VEGAS ACADEMY OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, PERFORMING AND VISUAL ARTS
315 S. Seventh st. (near Bridger Avenue)
Haunted theater or scary story dreamed up to scare freshmen?
Who knows? Who cares? Either way, the story of a spirit named "Mr. Petrie" — spellings differ — that allegedly haunts Las Vegas Academy’s main theater is a good, if vague, ghost story that, Oberding says, predates the school’s 1993 conversion from Las Vegas High School to the fine arts magnet high school.
It makes sense, given that high schools are places where youthful imagination, social highs and lows, and all of the stresses, joys and disappointments of adolescence intersect.
"Anyplace where there’s a lot of emotion, anyplace a person has loved or hated, anyplace where they had an attachment to in life, (spirits) can come back and haunt," says Tina Carlson, co-director of the Shadowlands website (theshadowlands.net), which includes a state-by-state list of reader-reported, reputedly supernatural places, and director of the Las Vegas Society of Supernatural Investigations.
Oberding has heard that the spirit was a teacher. Robert Allen, creator of Haunted Vegas Tours (hauntedvegastours.com), which takes guests on trips to some of Southern Nevada’s ghostly places, has heard that he was a janitor. Either way, the reasoning goes, maybe Mr. Petrie loved the school in general or the theater so much that he just doesn’t want to leave.
Here’s hoping that an enterprising student at the academy will someday scare up (sorry) a one-act play about the elusive Mr. Petrie. He’d probably be flattered and, if the stories are to be believed, might even be watching from the wings on opening night.
2. SPRING MOUNTAIN RANCH STATE PARK
(18 miles west of Las Vegas off Charleston Boulevard)
What we now know as Spring Mountain Ranch State Park has a long and colorful history involving everybody from Native Americans to Howard Hughes.
Among the park’s historic cast of characters is Vera Krupp, an actress and wife of German industrialist Alfred Krupp, who bought Spring Mountain Ranch in 1955. Krupp loved her trinkets, Oberding recounts in "The Haunting of Las Vegas," among them a 33-carat diamond that, some say, carried with it a curse.
According to Oberding, Krupp wore what became known as the Krupp diamond wherever she went. Bad move, though, because, on April 11, 1959, a crook named George Reves and a few armed cronies went to the ranch, tied up Vera and her foreman and stole the diamond.
Reves eventually was arrested and sent to prison (the ring was recovered, too), Oberding writes. But the experience spooked (sorry again) Vera so much that she built a bedroom with a hidden passageway in the main ranch house (now the visitors center).
Vera sold the ranch to Howard Hughes about six months before she died. But, Oberding says, some think the ranch house is haunted.
So if, while stopping by for a picnic one of these days, you see a petite blond woman walking around, feel free to say hello to Vera.
3. LAS VEGAS HILTON
3000 Paradise Road (near Riviera Boulevard)
Elvis has not left the building, if you believe those who say they still occasionally see the late entertainer’s spirit at his favorite Las Vegas haunt (still sorry).
Starting in July 1969, Elvis played the showroom at the Las Vegas Hilton (originally the International Hotel) regularly for seven years, entertaining more than 2½ million fans and breaking his own attendance records all along the way.
The Hilton shows marked Presley’s canonization as a Las Vegas legend. So who can begrudge the guy for wanting to stick around at the scene of one of his most significant professional triumphs?
Carlson says many people have reported seeing Elvis at various locations around the hotel, from the showroom to upper-floor hallways. Allen says one of Elvis’ favorite places seems to be a backstage elevator that leads to a greenroom.
One story holds that a maid once saw Elvis backstage and wished him good morning before realizing that he was, well, dead.
Supposedly, Allen says, "she went flying out of there and quit her job."
4. FLAMINGO LAS VEGAS
3555 Las Vegas Blvd. South (near Flamingo Road)
According to Allen, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel’s suite at the Flamingo, the hotel he opened in 1946, boasted such protective measures as bulletproof windows, 18-inch-thick walls and a secret ladder leading to an underground garage where a driver awaited 24/7 to spirit (sorry, but we’re done now) Bugsy away if necessary.
"He was very paranoid," Allen says, which makes it particularly bizarre that, when the noted mobster was killed, it was at paramour Virginia Hill’s Beverly Hills, Calif., home, while he was sitting pretty much in the open and reading a newspaper.
Given Siegel’s relative experiences in Las Vegas and Beverly Hills, it’s probably not surprising that, all things being equal, Siegel would prefer to spend his post-mortality time haunting Las Vegas.
"Over the years, there have been hundreds of sightings of Bugsy Siegel by tourists and security guards," Allen says, most often around the property’s rose garden and memorial dedicated to Siegel.
In fact, Allen adds, "one security guard we talked to said he has seen him dozens of times."
5. BALLY’S LAS VEGAS
3645 Las Vegas Blvd. South (at Flamingo Road)
Most of the places on our Halloween tour are fun to visit. This one — the site where 85 people were killed in a fire at the former MGM Grand in November 1980 — well, not so much.
So much not-so-much, in fact, that Carlson doesn’t even particularly like stopping by.
"I sense a lot of things in these places," she explains. "I have been there — my husband and I have stayed there, in fact — and I walked the halls, and it was just an eerie feeling.
"I don’t like to go where there’s danger, (or) that kind of death. I just don’t like to be there."
Allen says one story goes that hotel staff and guests have seen 12 ghosts that walk around in a group.
"I talked to a 21 dealer who said one time he was working on a Saturday night, and it was pretty crowded. He saw a group of people watching his table. He glanced up and, within a second, there was nobody there. He said there was no way they could have dispersed in that short a time."
3900 Las Vegas Blvd. South (near Hacienda Avenue)
There are several casinos in Las Vegas that followers of the supernatural claim are, at least in part, haunted.
Among them is Luxor, which Allen says is reputed to be the home of at least five spirits: three deceased construction workers and two people who committed suicide there by jumping from the hotel’s open hallways onto the casino floor.
According to Allen, guests have reported sensing the spirit of one of the latter group, a woman, on the hotel’s 12th- to 14th-floor hallways in the form of cold spots and the sense that someone is breathing on their necks.
Also contributing to Luxor’s supernatural reputation is the fact that the building is a pyramid, a form that many believe to be associated with mystical energy.
"Just wandering around Luxor, it has an energy," Carlson says. "Pyramids have energy anyway, because there’s something about the shape that draws in energy.
"I have wandered around there," she adds, "and it’s just a feeling you get in certain areas."
A hint: Seek out odd corners and quieter locations within the building and not, Carlson says, somewhere "by the Wheel of Fortune. Just find a corner and feel what you can feel."
7. THE FORMER CARLUCCIO’S ITALIAN RESTAURANT
1775 E. Tropicana Ave. (near Spencer Street)
Carluccio’s, the Old Vegas Italian restaurant in the Liberace Plaza, has closed. But, Liberace, the pianist and famed Las Vegas entertainer who died in 1987, once owned the eatery, and some say he loved the place so much that he continued going there even after he had no actual need for food.
Liberace developed the plaza, which also was the site of the Liberace Museum, says Allen, who — during his years performing as a comedian in such shows as "Folies Bergere" and "Splash" — not only knew Liberace but attended parties at the entertainer’s home.
Allen says Liberace often would invite friends to the restaurant (then called Tivoli Gardens) after hours and cook for them in its kitchen. "He’d be playing the piano and everybody would be hanging around until 6 in the morning," Allen says. "He loved that place."
Now that Carluccio’s has closed, the question becomes: What happens to a ghost when the place he or she haunts no longer is open?
Nobody really knows, Oberding says. Some figure that the spirit might move on, while others believe that whatever is making a ghost haunt a particular place will lead it to stay in that location.
Either way, Oberding says, "I would hope somebody else would open something there."
8. REDD FOXX’S FORMER HOME
5460 S. Eastern Ave. (near Hacienda Avenue)
Take a look at the sign in front of the offices of Shannon Day Realty Inc. See that little red fox at the bottom?
Consider it a tribute to comedian Redd Foxx, whose spirit, some believe, still haunts the building that once was his home.
"The story is that he lost it because of back taxes, and the belief is he still haunts it because he was angry at the IRS for kicking him out of his home," Oberding says.
Allen says that after Foxx lost the building, it was the home of an Elvis Presley impersonator and then several businesses.
Every occupant after Foxx, he says, reported witnessing such disturbances as lights turning off and on and doors opening and closing, and hearing the sound of someone running down the hallways when no one was there.
Day, who purchased the property in 2004, has allowed ghost hunters to spend the night at the building to see whatever they could see. In most cases, she adds, they left with what they considered to be evidence of spirit activity.
Still, Day says she has never felt anything particularly otherworldly about the place.
"When we purchased it, everybody said it was haunted, but I don’t see anything, really," she says.
"I’m pretty live and let live," Day adds, so if Foxx does want to hang around, "that’s great."
And that red fox illustration on the sign? "I put that out there as a sign of respect, just because everybody who has been in town long enough would know this is Redd Foxx’s house," Day explains. "I just thought it was a neat little thing to do, but it wasn’t to keep spirits out or anything."
9. FOX RIDGE PARK
420 Valle Verde Drive, Henderson (near Warm Springs Road)
This Henderson city park easily qualifies as one of Southern Nevada’s most well-known reputedly haunted places.
"Now this is just rumor," Carlson says, but the story goes that "the spirit of a little boy likes to swing on the (park’s) swings."
Carlson has seen only one swing moving — dramatically, she adds, and in the absence of any noticeable breeze — while the swing next to it remained perfectly still. And, Carlson says, devices designed to measure electromagnetic fields have registered activity there.
Meanwhile, Allen says guests on his Haunted Vegas Tour have photographed the swings and noticed some odd things on their photos (check out the photos at www.hauntedvegastours.com/html/ghost_photos.htm).
Oberding says she has been told, although she "can’t find anything to back it up," that a child was hit and killed by a car while crossing a street near the park and that it’s the boy’s spirit that can be sensed there.
"But, then, I’ve heard the story change around, where the child is a demon that haunts" the park, says Oberding, who adds that she once visited the park and recorded the voice of a child laughing.
Kim Becker of Henderson’s Parks and Recreation Department says city employees — among them, a few who live near the park — have never seen anything of a supernatural kind going on there and that the city sometimes receives calls from ghost hunters who want to go in after midnight to see what may be going on.
"We have to say no, because our parks are closed from midnight to 6 in the morning," Becker says, although "if somebody wanted to come in prior to that, they would be welcome to do that."
And if they see anything eerie? "We would totally be interested," Becker says with a laugh.
10. BOULDER DAM HOTEL
1305 Arizona St., Boulder City
Not that the desk clerk would fess up to it, but there are those who consider this historic Boulder City hotel a tad haunted.
Allen recalls walking in one night and hearing a piano playing. When he walked into the room, no one was there, he says.
And, Carlson says, visitors have reported sensing odd vibes there.
"If you can get a room there, ask for the haunted room," Carlson adds. "My husband and I stayed there, and we had the blankets torn off of us in the middle of the night."
Contact reporter John Przybys at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0280.