weather icon Clear

Knowing Vegas: Are there really bodies in the cement of Hoover Dam?

Southern Nevada legend has it that during the five years of Hoover Dam construction, some workers were killed on the job and accidentally buried in the dam’s cement structure. 

Ninety-six construction workers died constructing the historic dam from 1931 to 1936, according to a report from the United States Bureau of Reclamation. Over 100 additional dam workers died off the job from causes including pneumonia, meningitis and typhoid fever.

But none of them could have been buried in the Hoover Dam itself, said Dennis McBride, director of the Nevada State Museum who once worked for the Bureau of Reclamation at the dam.

The 3,250,000 cubic yard dam, covering over 220 acres, is made of small concrete squares of about eight cubic feet, McBride said.

“The forms were big enough that the concrete, that pore, would only come up maybe to about a worker’s ankles,” McBride explained. “So there couldn’t have possibly been anyone buried.”

A buried worker would have caused the integrity of the dam to be compromised, McBride said, possibly leading to structural problems.

“It would create a kind of bubble inside the structure, certainly compromising it,” he said.

Michael Green, associate professor of history at UNLV, agreed.

“The body’s decomposition doesn’t happen in the time it takes for the concrete to set,” Green explained. “The concrete just would not have been able to set properly.”

The closest any worker came to being buried in the dam was on Nov. 8, 1933, when one of the walls of a form collapsed, according to McBride and the Nevada State Library and Archives. As hundreds of tons of recently-poured concrete went tumbling down the face of the dam, worker W.A. Jameson was caught in the avalanche.

Jameson was the only person ever buried, albeit temporarily, in the Hoover Dam, the report said. His body was stuck for about 16 hours as workers chipped it out.

Asked if there was any chance at all of just one body remaining in the concrete, the historians were insistent.

“It’s such an interesting idea, I wish it were true,” Green said. “But it wouldn’t be possible.”

“There are absolutely no bodies buried in the Hoover Dam,” McBride reiterated. “Ever.”

Contact Chris Kudialis at ckudialis@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4593. Find him on Twitter: @kudialisrj

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
7 ways autocomplete can get smarter

Autocomplete is one of the best (or depending on how hastily you push ‘send’ – worst) things in the world. We rely on it so much that Google plans to let us autocomplete whole emails. Here are seven ways predictive input can improve. 1. Recognizing names from previous emails Jakub Kokoszka has a tough name to […]

Movie posters might soon be based on your clicks

You may have thought you left Blockbuster behind, but the basic way we browse movies hasn’t changed all that much. We peruse poster after poster, kind of like walking the aisles of a ‘90s-era video store. That one poster image, meant to appeal to as many people as possible, is often all we see before […]

What I’ll be covering at NAB 2018

The National Association of Broadcasters show kicks off this weekend in Las Vegas.  The show focuses on new and emerging technologies and trends in relation to the media and entertainment industries. As it’s not open to the public, I’ll be at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday to share some of […]

EXECUTIVE TRAVEL: Forget Strip flash; some prefer lake’s panache

If you get called to a board meeting at Lake Las Vegas, you might want to bring your swimsuit. That’s the term Westin at Lake Las Vegas marketing director Matt Boland uses for upright paddleboard races, one of many team-building exercises offered regularly at the resort.

After $4,700 in live poker career winnings, James Romero, 27, wins nearly $2 million

It was a 15-year celebration of The World Poker Tour at Bellagio for the Five Diamond World Poker Classic. The largest field size in WPT Five Diamond’s history was created when 791 entries were tallied, and it was James Romero, 27, of Portland, Oregon, who won his first WPT title.

Auto electronics at SEMA and AAPEX: A brave new world

The Specialty Equipment Market Association celebrated its 50th annual SEMA show at Las Vegas Convention Center this month by showcasing a car culture of “do-it-yourself” garage mechanics who share a passion for customizing vehicles.