Nutty Nevada


Gone But Not Forgotten
Aug 18, 2002
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Some other threads looking at specific topics:

Area 51:

Dugway proving ground:

Keyless lock failure in Las Vegas (some secret wepaons testing out in the desert?):

And something on Loopy Las Vegas:

Monday, May 2, 2005

The truth about Las Vegas is often stranger than fiction

2005-05-01 / Knight Ridder / By Bill Ordine

Las Vegas lore is rife with myths and legends, which shouldn't come as a surprise since the place is built on fantasy along with, some would argue, false promise.

Perhaps chief among erroneously held beliefs about Vegas is that gangster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was the progenitor of the modern-day Strip when he built the Flamingo, which opened December 26, 1946.

In truth, the Flamingo was the third casino on what's now known as the Strip - it followed the trailblazing El Rancho Las Vegas, destroyed in a 1960 fire, and the Last Frontier, site of the current-day New Frontier hotel-casino.

Still, there are plenty of curious tales about Vegas that sound like the stuff of urban legend - but are absolutely true. Next time you're in town, amaze and delight your traveling companions with these factual tidbits of Sin City history and trivia.

* Mandalay Bay: The towering statue of Vladimir Lenin standing in front of Red Square, the casino's tony vodka-and-caviar lounge-restaurant, is missing a head that was lost, then found in a thrift-shop warehouse. The head now sits in the restaurant's vodka freezer in an acrylic block that serves as a table. The head of the statue - a replica of one in the real Red Square - was removed shortly after it was erected because of complaints that it lionized the father of international communism - and to mimic the fate of so many Lenin statues throughout Eastern Europe after the fall of communism. The head had been accidentally packed up with other items the casino was donating to the thrift shop; warehouse workers discovered it.

* Main Street Station: Another Cold War-connected curiosity can be found at the other end of the casino action. To the north in downtown Las Vegas, Main Street Station - a budget-priced casino-hotel - has something in common with CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Southern California: a chunk of the Berlin Wall. The casino has its piece of history in the men's restroom, where it anchors a line of urinals.

* Caesars Palace: Outside in the new Roman Plaza at this casino's south entrance is a seated four-headed figure surrounded by images of elephants.

The Brahma Shrine, a revered icon of Thai Buddhism, is similar to one built for Bangkok's Erawan Hotel, which had been plagued by construction delays until the shrine was installed. At Caesars Palace, some visitors kneel in prayer and light incense at the good-luck shrine before taking on Dame Fortune.

Even the name Caesars Palace has a quirky background. Jay Sarno, who built the casino, created the name with the intentional omission of an apostrophe. The simple plural form of Caesars was meant to signify that everyone who visited was an emperor. Sarno sold the place in 1969, but continued to return and died in one of the hotel's suites 15 years later.

* Bally's Las Vegas: Many know that when the current MGM Grand, at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue, opened in 1993 with more than 5,000 rooms, it was the largest hotel in the world. Less known is that the hotel now known as Bally's Las Vegas, farther north on the Strip, opened in 1973 as the MGM Grand and at the time, it held the distinction of being the world's largest hotel. After a fatal fire in 1980, the resort changed ownership and names.

* MGM Grand: Debuting 12 years ago with an ill-conceived Wizard of Oz theme, the MGM Grand had statues of Judy Garland and the rest of the Yellow Brick Road coterie at the main entrance. It wasn't long before Toto was kidnapped - with the hotel even receiving ransom notes. In time, the whole Oz crew was dumped.

Also early on, the MGM Grand's entrance was noteworthy for a massive lion reclining on its paws that visitors passed beneath upon entering the building. The leonine entranceway turned out be another bad idea and was replaced with a gleaming bronze lion that now stands sentinel outside the front door. Among the reasons the original got the heave-ho was that some Asian gamblers felt that by passing under the lion, they were being symbolically devoured by the beast - very bad luck.

* The Palms: Also in deference to some of its Asian visitors, the trendy hotel-casino on Flamingo Road has eliminated the numeral four from its floors; the number has the same connotation as No. 13 in other cultures.

No. 4 is also absent among floors in the new Wynn Las Vegas resort.

* Monte Carlo: With 3,002 rooms, the hotel-casino in Las Vegas has more guest rooms than the entirety of the real Monte Carlo in the principality of Monaco.

* Mirage: The debut of this Steve Wynn hotel is considered a seminal event in the evolution of modern Las Vegas, for good reason. When it opened in 1989, the Mirage was the first major resort constructed on the Strip in 16 years and its cost, US$611 million, was more than the combined dollars used to build every casino-hotel that preceded it on Las Vegas Boulevard.

In the 16 years since the Mirage went up, at least a dozen major casinos have followed on the Strip.

* Bellagio:While the Tuscan-inspired grand hotel is a familiar Vegas landmark these days, it was conceived as a much different place: as a blue glass tower on an island surrounded by a lake two to three times larger than the existing one. Visitors were to cross a bridge to get to the building.

After the Bellagio opened in 1998, children under 18 were barred from the building unless they were guests of the hotel and accompanied by someone over 18, and strollers were banned outright. The prohibitions no longer exist.

* Flamingo: If not the actual fountainhead of the Las Vegas Strip, the Flamingo holds the distinction of being the longest continuously operated casino on the famous stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard. However, not one bit of Bugsy Siegel's original casino - christened after the nickname of his actress-girlfriend Virginia Hill - remains.



Gone But Not Forgotten
Aug 18, 2002
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Close Encounters of the Nevada kind

By Jasmine Michaelson

ET Highway doesn’t guarantee ‘sightings,’ but it’s worth trip

I thought I’d heard quiet before but I hadn’t.

Standing on the dotted yellow line in the middle of the two-lane Extraterrestrial Highway, watching it stretch out straight in front of me until it ended at a point in the distance, all I could hear was my own breathing. There was no wind in the miles-wide, flat valley that stretched out on either side of the highway, its floor turning from reddish brown to grayish blue the farther it got from me. There were no leaves to rustle had there been any breeze — just some low brush and a few Joshua trees, their short, gnarled arms twisting heavenward.

The sky was

blue like deep water

and virtually cloudless and the road was serenely empty, despite it being mid-afternoon.

It’s so quiet, I thought, that if someone standing three miles down the road had cracked a knuckle, I’d have heard it.

But other than a handful of yellow diamond-shaped road signs warning us about “low-flying aircraft,” and eating an “alien burger” for lunch (which tasted inexplicably like beef) we didn’t catch any signs of visitors from other worlds — though, frankly, if we had, it wouldn’t have seemed out of place in the least.

The Extraterrestrial Highway (formally Nevada State Route 375), at just under 100 miles long, lies about 90 miles north of one the world’s louder tourist destinations: Las Vegas. Aside from it’s otherworldly atmosphere and a widely held belief among ufologists that it’s among the most “visited” sites in the world, the main reason Route 375 got its name is because it’s the way to Area 51.

Simply take the unmarked, stick-straight Groom Lake Road that juts off from the highway and disappears into white desert haze. The unusually manicured dirt road will take you behind the Groom Lake Mountains and eventually dump you into a dry lake bed where you’ll find — well, most people don’t know what exactly you’ll find there and those who do would tell you but then they might have to kill you.

For the non-conspiracy theorist, Area 51 (more officially known as the Groom Lake Base) is a top secret government facility 60 miles square where military planes like the U-2 spy plane were developed and tested.

(The first stealth fighter prototypes were allegedly seen flying over the area by awestruck civilians in 1977 who reported them as UFOs.) “The Ranch,” as Area 51 is frequently referred to by the locals, is also used for weapons testing and training. The conspiracy theorist, however, will give you a different story about the desert compound. They believe that the UFO wreckage and alien bodies recovered from an alleged crash in 1947 on a farm in Roswell, N.M., known as the “Roswell Incident” (which is another story entirely) have been stored and studied at Area 51.

The story has its holes, yes, but anybody will give a conspiracy theorist this: The place is certainly shrouded in mystery. For starters, the U.S. government apparently neither acknowledges nor denies its existence. Signs within the restricted area (where it is not recommended that you go) inform uninvited visitors that “photography is prohibited” and that “use of deadly force is authorized.” Men in white SUVs and camouflage uniforms (those hoping to sneak a peak of the area refer to them as “camo dudes”) prowl the hills with binoculars and guns. And employees of the establishment are sworn to secrecy, forbidden to discuss what they do and see there even with their own spouses. It’s all certainly enough get the imagination swirling.

In 1996, sniffing a moneymaker in true Nevada fashion, the state decided to try to turn State Route 375 into a tourist destination by renaming it the Extraterrestrial Highway. The moneymaker scent spread to Hollywood where the creators of the then-yet-to-be-released-1996-summer-alien-invasion-blockbuster “Independence Day” (which “exposes” Area 51 as everything the conspiracy theorists had always hoped) and decided to

publicity-piggyback onto the highway’s dedication. In addition to Nevada governor at the time Bob Miller and lieutenant governor at the time Lonnie Hammargren, the event was attended by “Independence Day” stars Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman and Brent Spiner (who also played Data from the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” series), among others.

The esteemed affair took place April 18, 1996, in Rachel, Nev., the only town on the entire 100-mile stretch of highway — and really its status as a “town” is debatable. Consisting of a clump of dusty trailers just off the highway, at its halfway point, the town sign reads “Humans: 98; Aliens: ?”

Sharon Taylor, who served us our lunch at The Little A‘Le’Inn, the town’s tiny diner/motel/bar/gift shop, said Rachel has no law enforcement, no mayor and no town council, and adds that, despite the town sign’s claim, there have never been more than 75 residents. She moved to the place 24 years ago from San Francisco looking for a quieter, simpler life.

“I like people,” she said, “but I don’t like humanity.”

She says she only goes into Vegas about once a month to do her shopping and can never wait to get back to little Rachel. Most of the town, she said, consists of retirees, employees of The Little A‘Le’Inn, and a few Area 51 employees who, like her, are drawn to the place not by the stories of otherworldly travelers, but rather by the solitude. And the nights.

“At night the Milky Way is so intense that even if there’s no moon, you can see your shadow,” Taylor said. “It’s like a blanket.”

“You can see satellites appear,” another waitress chimed in.

Riiight. Satellites. Whatever lets you sleep at night, darlin’.


On the net: ... ighway.htm ... news04.txt


I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Jul 19, 2004
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Out of Bounds
This cluster of three geysers (two of which were inadvertently man-made, as it turns out) provide an interesting and colorful sight.
Fly Geyser
Gerlach, Nevada

THIS ALIEN-LOOKING GEYSER ON THE edge of Black Rock Desert is actually human-made. But it wasn’t put there on purpose.

The Fly Ranch property is located in Nevada’s Hualapai Geothermal Flats, an area known for its unique geothermal pools. There are three geysers on the property. ...