Sunday, September 8, 2013

Haunted Las Vegas: Bally’s

One of the worst disasters in Nevada history was a hotel fire that happened on November 21, 1980. The 26-floor MGM Grand Hotel built in 1973 rang in a new era of luxury along the Las Vegas Strip--it was the largest hotel at that time. 

But unfortunately, this hotel was built with one crucial detail missing--it had no fire sprinklers. 

On a warm balmy 1980 November morning, it was business as usual-- the hotel was filled to 99 percent capacity. The Comdex Convention was in town, and many guests were staying at the hotel to see the favorite performer Mac Davis' show, in the hotel’s 900 seat Celebrity Room, when a fire broke out in the hotel’s deli. 

Two employees tried to extinguish it, but it spread quickly to the casino area.

Its flames ignited the hotel’s molding, wallpaper, carpet, and other combustible materials. Within moments employees and guests were overcome by the fire’s fumes and died.

Most of the guests staying in the rooms above were initially unaware of this fast-moving fire, which shot fumes upward through the hotel’s heating and cooling vents. 

By the time many of them realized what was happening, it was too late.

Many guests covered their faces with wet towels and waited for fireman’s ladders to reach their rooms, but the firemen's ladders were not long enough to reach above the ninth floor. 

As other guests fled their rooms, they found they were trapped due to malfunctioning fire doors. Yet others were caught unaware of the fire’s fumes in the hotel’s stairwells and perished. 

One thousand guests were able to make their way through the blinding smoke to the hotel’s roof where helicopters airlifted them to safety.*

It took over four hours to evacuate the hotel. Six hundred fifty people were injured, many of them hospitalized. Eighty-seven people died, most from burns and the fire’s fumes. Afterward, the lawsuits totaled over 200 million dollars. 

As a result of this tragedy, Nevada put some of the strictest fire prevention laws in place in the United States. The MGM building needed extensive repairs.

The property was then sold. This lot has a prime Las Vegas Strip address, which guaranteed another hotel took over.

In 1985 Bally’s Hotel and Casino opened. Almost immediately, strange occurrences began to happen. 

Many guests and employees said they heard unexplained weeping and screaming in the hotel’s upper floor hallways. 

Others reported seeing a misty disoriented ghost. They describe this apparition as bluish-green in color, and about the height of a tall lady. One witness described this lady was one minute there, and the next gone.

In one top story guest room, several guests have reported a foul, acid smell of smoke. In the casino area along one row of slots, witnesses have spotted a lady surrounded by smoke. 

At first, they think this smoke is coming from the cigarette she holds, but then they are shocked to see that the back of her dress is on fire. She is often seen playing two slot machines at once, and then she just fades away as people approach her.

In the hotel’s 7th-floor corridor, people have heard a young boy’s voice desperately calling for his mother. This spirit is more active. 

On this same floor, a dejected elderly couple is seen. The man has his arm wrapped protectively around his wife’s body. As these two reach the end of the hallway, they are seen melting or fading into the wall.

Today, the Bally is not the newest hotel on the strip, but it is a beautiful place to stay. 

One would naturally think the hotel might use the stories above to drum up more business, but actually the management and their employees do not discuss the hauntings, afraid it might tarnish the Bally’s ongoing good reputation.

* The cause of the fire was found to be faulty wiring. I remember watching some of the dramatic rescues of these guests from the MGM’s roof on television. Here is a video about the fire.

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