Las Vegas History: 10 Greatest Vegas Urban Legends
urban legend:n. a folkloric and often sensational tale about modern life that is repeated in the media and by other means, making it more believable to some
We'd like to live in hotels (just so we can order room service), but we don't. Sure, we'd like to look like showgirls, but we don't. And yes, there is life beyond the Strip. Lots of life. Just like in any other "normal" city, Vegas has schools, government buildings, parks, playgrounds, supermarkets (but with slot machines), community centers and all that stuff that makes a city function. Plus, we have more urban myths than sequins on a Liberace suit. Here are our top 10 (for now) Vegas urban legends:
2. Kidneys on the black market: In 1996, rumors began circulating about a man who, after having drinks with an attractive stranger at a Las Vegas bar, blacks out and later awakes in a hotel bathtub, covered in ice. A phone is resting on the floor beside the tub with an attached note, "Call 911 or you will die." The story continues with this "victim" being rushed to the hospital, where the doctors inform him that one of his kidneys has been removed, apparently by a gang selling human organs on the black market. A shocking story, but just that, a story. The tale first surfaced in 1991 and has "reportedly" happened in several cities including New York, New Orleans, Houston and Las Vegas. To dispel this rumor, the National Kidney Foundation asked anyone who claims to have had his or her kidneys illegally removed to notify the foundation. So far no one has come forth.
3. Aliens at Area 51: The top-secret Air Force facility located 110 miles northwest of Vegas always has been, well, a secret. It wasn't until 1990 that the U.S. government finally acknowledged the base even existed. Contrary to thousands of believers who claim to have seen UFOs, little green men, grayish creatures with almond-curved eyes and many more incredible things, the Pentagon says there are no aliens in Area 51. However, this shouldn't stop you from driving the Extraterrestrial Highway (Highway 375) just in case the government is lying.
4. Hunting for Bambi: In 2003, Las Vegas promoter Michael Burdick finally came clean, admitting to city officials that "Hunting for Bambi" was a hoax and that his company never actually conducted "hunting expeditions" in which wealthy male patrons stalked naked women with paintball guns. "It was all staged," Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman told The Associated Press. "The purported 'Hunt for Bambi' was a scam. There were actors and actresses, and there wasn't even the real shooting of paint balls."
5. Prostitution is legal in Vegas: Don't listen to your buddies, your brother-in-law's cousin, your college frat brothers or anyone else who would like to tell you otherwise. Prostitution is not legal in Vegas (part of Clark County). However, prostitution is legal in Pahrump, Nev., (part of neighboring Nye County, about 45 minutes away). Different county, different laws.
6. Dead body in hotel: You know the story: A couple vacationing in Las Vegas complain to management about an overpowering stench in their hotel room. The room is cleaned using strong chemical cleaners. The couple doesn't like that smell, either, but goes to bed. The next morning the couple wakes to the same strong odor they had complained about the night before. The man calls the manager, angrily demanding another room, and rips the mattress off the bed, from where the smell seemed to be emanating. He finds that a corpse had been shoved inside the box springs. One problem with the story: It has never happened in Las Vegas. The legend may have been sparked by a number of newspaper stories about actual cases of bodies being hidden in motel rooms in Virginia and Maryland. For some reason, people are more willing to believe that this story has happened in Las Vegas, rather than the small towns where it actually took place. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but remember -- not everything happens in Vegas. Which leads us to our next Vegas myth.
7. 'What happens here, stays here': This beautiful slogan (and it's more common paraphrase: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas), courtesy of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, has found its way into pop culture, everyday speech, almost every TV show about Vegas, not to mention many ads for strip clubs. This short but effective line is becoming a bit of a myth itself. The reality is that not everything that happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. That doesn't necessarily mean that things will come back to haunt you, but it does mean that if you get married here, it is a legal marriage everywhere in the world (some paperwork required for abroad), and not just in Vegas. If you get a DUI in Vegas, that record will not stay in Vegas, either, even if you would like it to. And if you are a celebrity, you can pretty much guarantee that any crazy antics you pull while here will definitely be reported outside Vegas.
8. Roy or not Roy?: Over the years, several reporters have called former Clark County Coroner Ron Flud to check out a rumor that Roy Horn of the Siegfried & Roy magician duo died several years ago in Europe and had been secretly replaced by an imposter -- his cousin. The story has long been debunked, but the rumor persists. Flud advises people eager to know the truth to call a coroner in Europe who would have had jurisdiction. He said there is no way he would know unless the death occurred in Clark County and the case was assigned to the medical examiner for an autopsy.
9. Vegas residents live in hotels and work there: We don't know of any folks who work here and have the privilege of living in a hotel-casino, well, with the exception of former Las Vegas resident Howard Hughes . And while a percentage of valley residents clock in and out of casinos, there are thousands of jobs in other sectors, including manufacturing, banking, health care, etc. We can think of several thousand people who work in our business: journalism, media and technology. Ah, and not all the girls look like strippers. We don't have any data to back that up, but you can stop by our offices and verify that if you would like.
10. The Megabucks curse: In March 2000, Cynthia Jay-Brennan, a cocktail waitress who had hit a $34.9 million jackpot at the Desert Inn six weeks earlier, was left a quadriplegic by a car wreck. This tragic accident led to the circulation of the "Megabucks curse" rumor, and many believe that all winners of Megabucks die tragic deaths shortly after claiming the prize. For instance, in March 2003, the largest-ever slots prize was won in Vegas when a 25-year-old man, who prefers to remain anonymous, hit a $39.7 million Megabucks jackpot at the Excalibur casino. Days later, rumors already were floating around that tragedy had overtaken him. According to the rumors, he had fatally overdosed at the Palms, died in a plane crash or been killed in a gang fight in Los Angeles. None of this is true. According to a spokeswoman of IGT (the maker of the Megabucks machines), the anonymous winner is alive. Other false tales of the Megabucks curse include that of an elderly winner lining up the jackpot only to drop dead on the spot of a heart attack. Johanna Heundl, who was 74 at the time she won the Megabucks jackpot in 2002, handled the surprise win just fine, telling the press she planned to use the money she won to take a trip to Austria.
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