VEGAS MYTHS BUSTED: Hoover Dam Bodies
What happens in Vegas is often fake news. A surprising number of alternative facts about the gambling capital of the world continue to resonate across pop culture with little relevance to reality. Every Friday, this new Casino.org feature will bust one Las Vegas myth, beginning with one of the biggest…
Bodies are buried inside Hoover Dam
Lake Mead is giving up its secrets as its water continues to recede because of a decades-long drought. (Two bodies were found on its exposed bottom in May, with one suspected to be a mob hit.) But the structure that created and maintains the lake, Hoover Dam, has no such secrets to give up.
While Hoover Dam was built between 1931 and 1936 — setting the stage for Las Vegas’ eventual transformation from a small town to a big city — about 100 unfortunate construction workers lost their lives. But none of their bodies lie inside the mammoth structure’s 4.4 million cubic feet of concrete, despite what your cousin Josh may have told you when you toured the facility.
One worker was buried alive in that concrete, according to former Nevada state archivist Guy Rocha. But his remains do not remain there. On Nov. 11, 1933, the wall of a form collapsed, sending hundreds of tons of wet concrete tumbling down the face of the dam and onto poor W.A. Jameson.
When Jameson’s fellow construction workers toiled for 16 hours to exhume him, it wasn’t only to comfort his bereaved family and friends. According to Rocha, a decomposing body in a concrete dam is considered an unacceptable structural defect that could break up the dam.
Dam Sparks Imaginations
The myth of Hoover Dam’s entombed owes to how large the structure has loomed over Las Vegas for nearly 100 years.
“Hoover Dam was such a massive engineering project that shaped the region so much, it has sparked a lot of people’s imaginations for a long time,” said David Schwartz, Las Vegas historian and UNLV professor, who acknowledged that some of those imaginations were apparently sparked to do their own imagining.
People may also have confused Hoover Dam with Montana’s Fort Peck Dam. In bad news for anyone trying to get some sleep in the vicinity of that Missouri River structure, the bodies of six of eight workers killed by a catastrophic slide there on Sept. 22, 1938 were permanently emtombed inside.
Fort Peck is an earthen dam, so decomposing bodies aren’t considered structural defects, Rocha explained, since the loose earth slowly collapses around them.