Published on: December 15, 2023 at 08:04 pm.
Last updated on: December 17, 2023 at 11:33 pm.
Editor’s note: Vegas Myths Busted publishes a new post every Monday, with a bonus Flashback Friday release. Today’s post in our ongoing series originally ran on July 22, 2022.
A surprising number of alternative facts about the gambling capital of the world continue to resonate through popular culture, with little connection to reality. Hoover Dam holds one of the largest dams.
Building the Hoover Dam in the 1930s was dangerous work; As such, there were many deaths. But there are no bodies inside the giant 4.4 million cubic foot concrete structure, despite what your cousin Josh whispered to you when you toured the facility.
While the Hoover Dam was built between 1931 and 1936, paving the way for Las Vegas’ eventual transformation from a small town to a big city, about 100 unlucky construction workers lost their lives. One was even buried alive in the concrete of Hoover Dam, according to Jay Rocha, a former Nevada state archivist. But his remains did not remain there.
Hoover be damned
On November 11, 1933, the wall of one of the forms collapsed, sending hundreds of tons of wet concrete falling over the face of the dam and onto the poor W. A. Jameson. When Jameson’s construction colleagues worked 16 hours to exhume his grave, it wasn’t just to console his grieving family and friends.
There are several logical reasons not to leave workers in concrete. For starters, the dam consists of many concrete slabs. It takes hours to prepare each slab before the next slab is poured. So, if someone died during the operation, there was plenty of time to recover the body.
Second, organic materials (such as the human body) may cause significant problems to the structural integrity of concrete. When the body collapses, it creates an air pocket within the concrete. Over time, this will create an unacceptable structural imbalance that could break down the dam or compromise its integrity, according to Rocha.
A dam sparks imagination and confusion
The legend of the buried Hoover Dam dates back to the massive size that has loomed over Las Vegas for nearly 100 years.
“The Hoover Dam was a massive engineering project that greatly shaped the region and has captured the imagination of many people for a long time,” said David Schwartz, a Las Vegas historian and UNLV professor.
People may also have confused Hoover Dam with Fort Peck Dam in Montana. In bad news for anyone trying to get some sleep near this structure on the Missouri River, the bodies of six of the eight workers killed by a disastrous slide there on September 22, 1938, have been permanently buried inside.
Fort Peck is an earthen dam, Rocha explained, so the decomposing bodies are not considered structural defects, because the loose earth slowly crumbles around them.
Unlike Hoover Dam, nearby Lake Mead has some shocking secrets. Two bodies were found in its exposed bottom in May, one of whom was suspected to have been beaten by the mob.
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