Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Ghost of Bugsy Siegel

One of the first hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada that remains today is the Flamingo Hotel. This hotel has a very famous ghost residing in its Presidential Suite. 

At 10:30 P.M. on June 20, 1947, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, a well-known gangster was shot and killed at his girlfriend’s home in Beverly Hills, California.

Siegel rose from the poverty-ridden slums of Brooklyn, New York to become a famous racketeer. Ben, as he liked to be called, was tall, charming, athletic, and handsome. He had the gift of gab, was a sharp dresser and it was said his piercing blue eyes were fearless. From his early teens, Siegel was a successful criminal.

Mug Shot
Siegel was also the classic textbook sociopath. He took what he wanted without a thought for his victims. He was a master manipulator of people. 

He had a long history of robbery, rape, and murder. His fellow criminals dubbed him “Bugsy” because he was known to take jobs others wouldn’t take. He became the mob's most feared hit man. Bugsy is a fitting nickname because Siegel often would “go bugs” with anger if others crossed him.

Yet Siegel is not remembered for his crimes but for his extravagant lifestyle, which included many mob connections and Hollywood friends. * 

He is also remembered because he was one of the first to see the opportunity that Las Vegas, Nevada presented. ** 

Because of this his name is synonymous with gambling in Las Vegas. But it would be his association with this town that caused his death.

Siegel seeing Vegas’ potential convinced his mob and Hollywood friends to invest in a project that he assured them would result in quick profits. 

He started to build a hotel/casino called the “Flamingo.” The project turned into a “money pit,” costing over six million dollars. 

This drained his mob friends’ treasury dry. To add insult to injury his mob friends back east, including Meyer Lansky, learned that Siegel was skimming money from the building budget and putting it in numbered Swiss bank accounts.

The mob decided to put a “hit” out on Siegel. Lansky, who was a close friend of Siegel, because Bugsy had saved his neck on several occasions in the past, convinced the Syndicate to hold off. 

He convinced them that the Flamingo was going to be a moneymaker, so they would get their money back. At its first opening the Flamingo flopped, but
months later when Siegel reopened the hotel it was a success. 

But this did not save Siegal's life. To this day it is not known if the Syndicate fulfilled the hit contract they had out on Siegel, or if other enemies killed him. His murder was done mob style. *** 

The Syndicate did take over the Flamingo after Siegel’s death.

Las Vegas is no longer owned by the mob. The Hilton Corporation owns the Flamingo Hotel and Casino today. In 1997, the Flamingo celebrated its 50th anniversary. It is the fourth largest hotel in the world with more than 3,500 guest rooms. 

Siegel was not mentioned during the anniversary celebration. As one writer put it:

“…the lesson that the life of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel imparts on us: a killer with a good idea is, after all, just another bum.”

But the sightings of Siegel’s ghost indicates that he is pleased that his predictions for Las Vegas came true. 

Since his death, many witnesses have seen Siegel’s ghost at the Flamingo Hotel. For four years before his death in Beverly Hills, **** Bugsy lived in the Presidential Suite at the Flamingo. Guests that have stayed in this room have reported many strange encounters.

Moving cold spots are reported, and objects vanish or are moved around the suite. Witnesses have seen his apparition in the bathroom and near the suite’s pool table. 

It is reported that he appears to be happy and content to still be present. Some witnesses state he looks to be pleased about something. Maybe he is glad that Las Vegas turned out how he envisioned it.

* When Siegel moved west he looked up his old friend the actor George Raft. Some state that Raft’s film portrayals of gangsters were styled after Siegel. 

Siegel knew a lot of mob bosses in the east. When Siegel moved to Hollywood he brought the rackets with him. He took control of the extras union and threatened to shut down the film industry if actors and studio bosses didn’t pay him—they did.

** When Siegel first visited Nevada it was legal to gamble, and there were already small casinos downtown. The Flamingo Hotel was the first hotel built in the area that was to become known as the "Las Vegas Strip."

*** As Siegel sat in his girlfriends (Virginia Hill) house, reading the LA Times, nine shots came through a window. Two of them struck him in the head.

**** Siegel’s ghost has been seen at Hill's house as well. His apparition is seen “ducking for cover” as if dodging bullets.

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