The Fallen Tower
History of Las Vegas
Las Vegas: Awakened History
From History Enlightened, Volume X: The Americas (Revised American Edition) by Nicole C. Bellweather, H.B., O.O.H.
And now we come to the curious matter of Las Vegas, Nevada, in the Southwestern United States. No city on Earth can boast such wealth, grandeur, notoriety, or hands-down glitz as this one can. Nor can any other city claim such a strong network of Awakened individuals all working and striving towards a common goal. But why here? Why this place above, say, London, or Paris, or Vienna?
Some scholars have hypothesized that the city’s success as a haven to the Awakened is a testament to the hard work of those who fought so vigilantly against conformity and status quo during the Ascension War. Their determination, it is said, prevented Las Vegas from becoming just another cookie-cutter metropolis in the mold of so many others controlled by Technocratic inﬂuences. According to this theory, many of the key ﬁgures in the area’s development either were themselves, or were inﬂuenced by, Tradition mages who molded events to their current outcomes.
However, those who uphold this school of thought tend to be biased in their attitudes toward the Technocracy and also focus only upon more recent historical events, choosing to believe, as many have previously, that magickal society simply ignored this area of the world until the early 20th century. This philosophy, I believe, is short sighted, as it fails to take into account the natural ebb and ﬂow of Pattern energies within the land itself that would have been extremely attractive to early willworkers. Likewise, it fails to account for the truly extraordinary power and talent of the ﬁrst human beings ever to inhabit the area and their inﬂuence upon future generations.
Indigenous People (13,000 B.C.E – 1850 C.E)
Although Las Vegas currently sits in the midst of a desert, it was once at the bottom of a vast lake created by runoff from retreating glacial ice. Caves near the shoreline of this lake housed the ﬁrst inhabitants of the Las Vegas valley, a group of Paleo-Indians who hunted mastodon, bison, wooly mammoth and caribou. According to archaeologists, these people, who left behind arrowheads, stone tools and the like, stayed in the area as the climate changed from damp to arid, until the northward movement of their food sources forced them to leave.
The next known inhabitants of the valley were a hunter-gatherer people called Archaic Indians, whose culture ﬂourished in the area until the ﬁrst centuries of the common era. These early people managed to eke out an existence in the desert climate because many small springs remained to provide water. The Archaic Indians were nomadic, choosing to travel in small groups and building shelters out of rock when they found mesquite or native fruits to harvest.
As far as we can surmise, none of these early peoples had Awakened Avatars as we know them. Based upon artifacts and stone paintings retrieved from archaeological digs, we know that there were those within these societies with extraordinary abilities to heal or turn away dangerous creatures, but beyond this, not much else is known. However, much more is available about the Anasazi, who were the next group of people to call the Las Vegas valley home.
The Anasazi Ascension
History itself is one of the many casualties of the Ascension War; New World Order revisionists deleted the Anasazi from the record, leaving any information on the people shrouded in mystery and conspiracy theory. It is only the observations of a few brave scholars from both sides of the conﬂict that enable us to fashion a historically correct picture of the Anasazi.
The earliest generations were relatively primitive, living in holes in the ground with thatch on top. However, around 300 or 400 C.E., we ﬁnd pictorial records of visitors — humanoid forms that do not resemble the pictograms commonly used for the Anasazi themselves. In the past, historians assumed that these strange beings were aliens or creatures from some other plane. Indeed, some of the information distributed by the NWO supports this type of speculation. A more practical theory is that these strangers were other humans – perhaps from other tribes, perhaps from other areas of the world – who made contact with the otherwise isolated Anasazi. Some of the records show these strangers leaving as suddenly as they had appeared. I assert that some of the visitors remained strangers before moving on, and others, opting to stay, were accepted into the tribe as ofﬁcial members.
Whatever theory happens to be correct, the fact remains that after this point, the Anasazi people made remarkable progress as a civilization. They moved out of their subterranean dwellings and began to construct humble adobe structures that would eventually evolve into the hundred-room, multi-story complexes that remain today. In addition, their hunting techniques improved and they began to mine salt to trade with neighboring tribes. Over the course of the next 300 years, the Anasazi developed irrigation systems to aid in the cultivation of corn, created beautiful works of functional art, and began to mine for turquoise.
And what of magick? Apparently the strangers who stayed helped to introduce “Avatar energies” into the morphogenetic ﬁelds of the culture, creating a perfect alignment of cultural practices with magickal correspondences to the point where as many as 20 children out of 100 were born with the ability to Awaken. Quite an impressive number given the rarity of Awakened souls in present times. Research has uncovered many stories of willworkers – mostly designated as seers or spirit healers – in the Anasazi community. In fact, if the population of willworkers in the community was consistent with what some researchers claim, the many stories fabricated to explain the Anasazis’ disappearance become virtually impossible to believe.
Disease, overpopulation, war, and even, ironically, drought, have been presented as reasons for the sudden demise of the Anasazi civilization around 1150 C.E. More far-fetched, but also popular, are the theories of “alien liberation.” However, given what we know about the Anasazi, the number of Awakened men and women in the society and the strength and power of their Avatars, such theories come across as juvenile and absurd. The fact is, they all Ascended – every man, woman and child of them. Pattern scholars claim that the evidence is etched in the very rocks and stones of the desert. Others more skilled with Spirit workings report a certain Resonance that pervades both this plane and diverse levels of the Umbra.
Of course, blended with that Resonance is the ever familiar taste of revisionist history. We have managed to glean that before their mass Ascension, the Anasazi occupied almost the entirety of the state of Nevada and that their cities were marvels of architectural beauty and functional sophistication matching, if not rivaling, those of the Maya or the Aztecs. In fact, the Paiute, who claimed the land after the Anasazi departed, have passed down stories and legends over generations about the ﬁrst tribesmen who encountered “great spirit houses” upon entering the region.
The achievements of the Anasazi are even more profound when one compares them with the Paiute who followed. Descended from the same language group as the Ute and the Shoshone to the north, the Paiute culture was practically on par with that of the Archaic Indians. However, something drew their wise men to settle in the Las Vegas valley. I theorize that they were drawn by the strong pattern of energy or the egregore that the Anasazi had spent centuries cultivating. Also, it appears that etheric Resonance from the Anasazi Ascension went a long way towards ensuring the survival of the ﬂedgling Paiute society.
Even though they remained largely nomadic for the next 700 or so years, the Paiute did make great agricultural strides, managing to grow squash and beans in addition to the previously established corn. They also discovered and frequently congregated at a place we now call Big Spring, which as of this writing is still an incredibly beautiful natural habitat and the largest tract of untouched land in Las Vegas.
Settlers and Prospectors (1850-1903)
For the longest time, the Paiute were undisturbed by the comings and goings of white men who managed to foray into the western wilds of North America. The Spanish, when they claimed dominion over the Nevada territory, listed it as “El Misterio Norteno,” choosing to leave it unexplored and uncharted. This could have a great deal to do with those few Awakened souls within the Paiute tribe who strove to make sure that the encroaching white men either overlooked their land or were as uncomfortable as possible within it.
In spite of these valiant efforts, however, white men did eventually make it into the Northern Mystery, but, again, left pretty well enough alone, choosing to pass through rather than stay. The ﬁrst white travelers were Franciscan friars who forged what became the Old Spanish Trail as a means to connect their missions between New Mexico and California.
Although it started out as a road for holy travelers, the Old Spanish Trail soon became a crucial route for traders, in particular for beaver trappers. Jedediah Smith was one of those trappers who thought to seek out greater quantities of beaver in the southwestern regions. Smith is something of a mystery to magickal scholars, since he seems to have had an extreme command of the Correspondence Sphere (as evidenced by his amazing trailblazing abilities), but to the best of anyone’s knowledge, he was not afﬁliated with either Tradition or Technocratic Order. At any rate, Smith is responsible for opening up parts of the trail to make it more passable. In his wake came many other intrepid souls hoping to trade, reach California, or strike it rich.
One of those souls was Antonio Armijo, who in 1830 set out upon the trail from Santa Fe to trade goods. Armijo is not particularly interesting himself, but his scout, Rafael Rivera, is. Rivera was the ﬁrst non-native to discover Big Spring in spite of the many wards and pitfalls the Paiute had set up to conceal it. His accounts describe a beautiful line of lush, green meadows linked by a creek lined with willow and cottonwood trees. So he named his discovery Las Vegas, which is Spanish for “the meadows.”
Rivera, at the very least a Sorcerer, if not Awakened, was content to tell only a few fellow traders and scouts about his discovery. But as will happen among men, word spread of this lovely oasis in the desert and by 1845, Las Vegas had become the most popular camping spot on the Spanish Trail. This was due in part to the plentiful fresh water and abundant grass that made easy work of resting and grazing horses and other pack animals.
Worth mentioning here is John C. Fremont, who was a U.S. Army cartographer. Fremont spent many years exploring the Las Vegas area and frequently sent back glorious reports of the area’s striking beauty to east-coast newspapers. His reports are credited with sparking the boom in westward travel that began in the late 1840s and truly peaked with the California gold rush in 1849.
Among those traversing the Spanish trail in the late 1840s were Mormon missionaries traveling from Salt Lake City to southern California. They stopped so frequently at Big Spring that Brigham Young decided to dispatch one William Bringhurst and 30 other young men to colonize the area and convert the Paiute to Mormonism.
This truly was the beginning of the end for the Paiute, since the Mormons began to lay claim to land that the tribe had held for over 850 years. Having no cultural concept of land ownership in the Western sense, tribal elders were willing to share occupation with the new white travelers, never realizing they were giving away their rights of settlement and water. The Mormons built a fort out of adobe and attempted to plant squash and grains, but their reluctance to accept native advice about planting in the arid conditions led to poor ﬁrst crops. Nevertheless, the mission eventually took tentative hold and the missionaries set about their work of converting the Indians. The Paiute, for their part, were more than willing to listen to the Mormon teachings in return for grain and squash, but did little to change their ongoing culture, religion or habits.
This obviously frustrated many of the missionaries, who were further undone by the Paiute’s unwillingness to haul silver ore from a mine in the Potosi Mountains – a mine that Paiute tribal elders had pointed out to the colonists in the first place! Steady, backbreaking work under grueling conditions was expected in return for “ten shirts and a pittance of food.” Needless to say, the Paiute were most uncooperative.
Silver and Gold
The Potosi Mine was ultimately what destroyed the Paiute and the peace of their heretofore isolated existence. Bringhurst’s reports back to Brigham Young in Salt Lake City resulted in the dispatch of another missionary-colonist, Nathaniel Jones. Young wanted Jones to commandeer half of Bringhurst’s men to work the mine and then ship the silver ore back to Salt Lake City. Bringhurst, wanting to retain control of the mine himself, refused the request.
The result was a long and drawn-out political and religious argument between Young in Salt Lake and Bringhurst in Las Vegas. What is not readily disclosed is Bringhurst’s afﬁliation with the Celestial Chorus and Jones’ ties to the Technocratic Union. Apparently the Union had been eyeing the area for some time, but never expected a Tradition magus to lay claim to the area. (One can only assume that magi within Paiute society didn’t merit a response!) The conﬂict escalated when silver and lead ore were discovered and Jones advised Brigham Young to cut the wealth out from under his rival.
In the end racial prejudice, not the Technocracy, spelled Bringhurst’s undoing. His focus on wealth rather than his initial purpose of spiritual and physical care for the Paiute had left the mission in a sorry state of affairs. The Paiute had been rather unceremoniously shoved from the prime agricultural land in the region. As a result, they came to rely heavily upon the donations of food from the mission. With Bringhurst’s men spending most of their time in the mountains rather than in the ﬁelds, the local Paiute came close to starvation.
From the beginning, Bringhurst had preached kindness and compassion towards the natives, but when he violently expelled a Paiute man from his home for stealing a loaf of bread, his message quickly took on a hypocritical note. Word spread among the tribe, and the Paiute essentially cut off all contact with the Mormons, save for the occasional raid for food. By this time, Brigham Young had excommunicated Bringhurst over the mining affair, and practically everyone was ready to call the entire thing a wash and go home. That’s exactly what they did in February of 1857. By 1858, the mission had been completely abandoned.
Las Vegas Ranch
As had happened centuries before, the area that one group abandoned was rapidly snapped up by another. What the Mormons left behind, silver and lead prospectors quickly claimed – once again edging out the Paiute, who had been so broken by famine and disease that they couldn’t ﬁght to reclaim their lands. When there was no longer room for silver miners in the area, prospectors looked to the nearby Colorado River valley, where they found deposits of gold. Las Vegas may have gone the way of so many mining towns had it not been for an enterprising individual named Octavius Decatur Gass.
He began as a gold prospector but soon realized that there was much more value in water rights and homesteading. As there were no objections, he laid claim to the old Mormon fort and built a respectable home, as well as a general store. Within the next few years he had created the Las Vegas Ranch, where he herded cattle and worked a thriving farm, producing grain, fruit and vegetables. In 10 years’ time, Gass expanded his holdings considerably (even owning the water rights to the entire valley at one point), established himself as justice of the peace, and gave much needed help and support to new homesteaders in the area.
Unfortunately, Gass ended up in a great deal of debt, so he went to Archibald Stewart, a wealthy Scotsman from a nearby mining town, for a loan. When Gass was unable to repay the debt, Stewart foreclosed and took possession of the Las Vegas Ranch. But Stewart himself would not hold on to the ranch for very long – he was shot by a ranch hand and died in 1884. Upon his death, his wife, Helen, inherited the property. In Helen Stewart’s hands, the modest cattle ranch grew over a period of 20 years from a small holding of a few acres to a 2,000-acre complex complete with a campground for travelers and a recreational area for neighboring ranchers.
Again, revisionist history states that upon her retirement Helen Stewart sold 1990 acres of her holdings and deeded the remaining 10 to the Paiute people. Conditions for the native population were now absolutely deplorable. Robbed of their land and the ability to sustain themselves and their culture, the Paiute had to resort to what few scraps the federal government deigned to throw their way. Helen Stewart, from the moment she came to Las Vegas until the day she sold her property and left the area, had always searched for ways to provide for and empower the Paiute and make them a part of the emerging Las Vegas community. She established systems of trade with elders and provided clothing and sometimes shelter when needed. Her actual bequeathal to the Paiute people was more along the lines of 500 acres, not 10. There were some, however, who resented the donation of so much valuable land to individuals they felt had no idea as to its true worth. Among them were her property surveyor, J.T. McWilliams, and representatives from the San Pedro –Los Angeles–Salt Lake Railroad.
Stories handed down through Paiute culture tell of some spectacular efforts on behalf of tribal willworkers and magick-men to preserve their inheritance. The stories also note the truly despicable tactics used by “railroad men” to dispose of the opposition. In the end, the Paiute were simply overwhelmed by the railroad’s offensive. Nevertheless, they managed to so concentrate Spirit and Pattern energies into the remaining 10-acre area left to them that their oppressors wouldn’t dare set foot on the land for fear of Umbral attack. Even now, Awakened visitors to the area are well advised to request permission from a tribal shaman before attempting a sight-seeing tour of the smaller reservation, especially since the Avatar Storm has so disrupted things on the Spirit plane.
Because they could not erase the fact that there were 10 magickally charged acres in the middle of the Las Vegas Ranch land parcel, agents of the New World Order decided that the consensus story and supporting documents would reﬂect a 10-acre bequeathal on the part of Helen Stewart. Furthermore, the original deeds of sale and any written accounts of the awe-inspiring events that transpired during the land war were located and completely destroyed.
Railroad and Industry (1903-1924)
The San Pedro-Los Angeles-Salt Lake Railroad has been mentioned earlier in connection to Las Vegas and its development. In 1903, ofﬁcials approached homesteaders in the Las Vegas valley with an idea to run a rail line directly through the Stewart Ranch. The town, which already boasted a post ofﬁce, hotel and several other amenities, would be a point for crew changes, service and maintenance, bringing a brand new kind of trade and commerce to the area. The sale of the Las Vegas Ranch and the subsequent events to secure the land opened the channels for railroad activity to commence.
The Golden Spike
Before the ﬁrst rail was ever laid in southern Nevada, plans were in the works build a rail line from Salt Lake City, Utah through the southern Nevada mining towns to Los Angeles, California. A crucial central stop was planned for Las Vegas as well. The race to complete the railroad spawned many a myth and legend, including the amazing story of John Henry – a truly gifted human being whose physical prowess allowed him to challenge a machine in a tunneling contest and win. As much as we would like to claim John Henry as an Awakened magus, it seems more likely that he was simply imbued with Life and Time magicks to complete his task. Who was responsible? That is a little harder to pin down. The feat was so magniﬁcent that the NWO was hard-pressed to quash the story and only barely managed to saddle it with a “tall-tale” moniker. Indeed, it is difﬁcult to say with certainty today whether his feat was local to Nevada or whether it occurred in West Virginia or Alabama.
At last, in January of 1905, the two rail lines met in Jean, Nevada – some 23 miles south of Las Vegas. To commemorate the occasion, a golden spike was driven into the ﬁnal railroad tie. The sympathetic magick at work is obvious to anyone willing to look, not to mention the fact that a few Matter Effects would have to be worked in order to make a solid gold spike durable enough to be functional as well as ornamental! Of course both sides of the magickal community like to claim responsibility for the ritual that brought such prosperity to the region, and perhaps in the memory of that elusive beast known as the truth, both sides were.
When J.T. McWilliams was in the process of surveying the Las Vegas Ranch for sale, he stumbled upon 80 unclaimed acres of land immediately to the west of the ranch. Laying claim himself, McWilliams began selling lots to early land speculators. What emerged was the settlement of Ragtown which boomed as work on the new railroad progressed. When the ﬁrst train rumbled into Las Vegas, Ragtown had saloons, banks, newspapers and a hotel.
Not to be outsmarted out of potential wealth, however, the railroad established Las Vegas Land and Water to build the “ofﬁcial” town of Las Vegas. The 1,200 lots were advertised across the country as prime real estate, and the buyers came from everywhere. Not only were there prospectors from Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, but individuals eager for railroad jobs and East Coast investors also showed an interest. The auction took place on May 15, 1905 at the corner of what are now Main and Fremont Streets. Bidding was so ﬁerce that premium lots doubled and even tripled in value. When it was over, only 200 lots remained, and the railroad made away with the tidy sum of $265,000 dollars. They had purchased the Las Vegas Ranch for $55,000 only three years earlier. Within half a year the disgruntled residents of Ragtown had gathered their possessions and moved into Las Vegas proper, and Williams’ original settlement burned to the ground one night under mysterious circumstances.
The Red-Light District
With the building boom in full swing, of course the good men of Las Vegas gave considerable thought to avenues of entertainment. While banks, restaurants, hotels and shops sprouted up along Fremont Street, saloons, honky-tonks and whorehouses took hold in the designated red-light district on Block 16 framed by Ogden and Stewart streets to the north and south and 1st and 2nd streets to the east and west. The District was notorious and quickly garnered Las Vegas a reputation for sinful behavior.
Sin wasn’t the only thing ﬂourishing in the Las Vegas Valley, though. The railroad went out of its way to establish a permanent infrastructure — streets, walkways, a water system, and in December of 1905, electricity. Homes were erected along the residential streets with seemingly unlimited supplies arriving daily by train. City records place the population of Las Vegas at 1,500 on January 1, 1906.
The ﬂedgling town had a glorious honeymoon, but the party was bound to end eventually. Railroad managers, more concerned with train trafﬁc than the civil engineering, refused to foot the bill for an expansion of water lines to outlying farms and ranches. Wells had to be dug at each farm to tap into the groundwater supplies, since rainfall was not sufﬁcient to sustain them. In addition, property values had seriously deﬂated within a year of the initial boom. Along with seasonal ﬁres, the intense heat and a sense of isolation, residents of the new Las Vegas were collectively unhappy and uncomfortable.
A brief upsurge in prospects occurred in 1909 when the Nevada Legislature declared Las Vegas county seat of the newly formed Clark County. Furthermore, the railroad opened a locomotive servicing shop in 1911 that created hundreds of jobs and contributed to the doubling of the city’s population. That year was also when the state banned gambling, but Las Vegas, it seems, was immune or exempt from the ruling. By 1915, the city had constructed generators to provide electricity 24 hours a day.
When the Anderson Field Airport opened in 1920, the city of Las Vegas was a little worse for the wear. Jobs had been declining steadily for the past ﬁve years. Union-Paciﬁc purchased the San Pedro–Los Angeles– Salt Lake Railroad, almost signaling the end of Las Vegas as a major southwestern city, since the larger rail company shut down many of the service depots and maintenance shops that had provided work for the city’s residents. Furthermore, the railroad imposed severely restrictive water regulations that reined in outward growth. It is worth noting here that the 1905 auction that created Las Vegas marks the last time there was a major and concentrated Awakened inﬂuence in the area. This is possibly due to increased activity on the part of other supernatural factions in and around the area. At any rate, it would be 25 years before magickal society turned its eyes back towards the desert and the potential that its sands contained.
Money and Water (1924-1946)
Let us, for a moment, shift our focus away from the Nevada desert and turn our attentions to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Here the next chapter in the history of Las Vegas begins.
It had been long known that the mighty Colorado River held amazing potential for irrigation and electricity needs. The Federal Bureau of Reclamation had begun surveying the area around 1907 and it was then that talk of a major damming project began in earnest. Over the next 17 years, various locations were investigated, and by 1924 the choices had been narrowed to two canyons east of Las Vegas.
No one is really sure why the government gave the nod to the canyon closest to Las Vegas, especially since the hard data seems to indicate that the other location would have been better suited. As has been stated many times before, the land that the city occupies has its own particular energy about it that would be extremely appealing to any individual or group of individuals sensitive to such things. Given the nature of the project, it is possible that strings were pulled and deals were made to satisfy these individuals. On the other hand, it is possible that the choice to locate the dam project in such close proximity to Las Vegas had more to do with mundane civil engineering and infrastructure issues than anything else. Whatever the case, in 1930, the U.S. Congress appropriated $165 million towards the building of the dam.
Hoover Dam is awe inspiring in its scope and scale. But then again, the Sons of Ether designed it that way as a testament to their skill and desire to improve life through both Magick and Science. The river had been carving its way through the Grand Canyon for eons. The Etherites saw the challenge of damming such a primal force as an opportunity to put some of their more wildly theoretical designs and construction techniques into practical use.
While the project wasn’t conﬁned to one particular cabal or faction within the Tradition, the Utopians seemed to have the loudest voice and the broadest sphere of inﬂuence. What is particularly amusing about the project is that its design, implementation and unveiling all took place at a time when the Technocratic Union was trying its best to discredit the Etherites, relegating its discoveries and inventions to popular ﬁction and artistic style. Hoover Dam and its subsequent success was a slap in the face to the Technocracy’s Inner Circle.
So what makes the dam so special? Mostly the sheer size of the thing. Not since the building of the medieval cathedrals or even the construction of the pyramids at Gizeh had humanity seen such an outpouring of human energy and muscle-power. Power lines were strung across 200 miles from California. Also, the government constructed an entire town, Boulder City, to house some 5,000 workers and their families. And all of this was before construction even began. That was a whole endeavor in and of itself.
First the river had to be diverted away from the construction site, so four tunnels were carved and blasted out of the canyon rock for this purpose. That phase took over a year. In the meantime, architects and engineers busily put the ﬁnishing touches on their designs and held numerous meetings with construction managers and foremen. Records show that there was at least one Etherite working in some capacity on every section of the dam, especially in the construction of the water-reclamation towers and pumping mechanisms. Even now, if one goes on one of the many tours available to visitors, one can see some of the power sigils and focusing signs that were used to hold everything together. Five years and ﬁve million buckets of concrete (and a number of lethal accidents) later, Hoover Dam was complete. It stood 794 feet tall, 1358 feet across, 656 feet thick at the base and 49 feet thick at the crest. Almost immediately it was declared one of the man-made wonders of the world. Once all of the diversion tunnels were closed, it took three years to ﬁll the reservoir, named Lake Mead. It was and still is the largest man-made lake in North America.
When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated Hoover Dam in a large and highly publicized ceremony, there were 20,000 people in attendance. The city of Las Vegas was there to welcome them with open arms. Before Hoover Dam began construction, Las Vegas was in sorry shape. However, once the project was announced, the population boomed once more. Another reason for the surge in prosperity had to do with the statewide legalization of casino gambling, easy divorces, prostitution and championship boxing matches (among other things) in 1931. Thus began the transition from railroad town to casino town.
Part of this was due to the federal government’s construction of Boulder City. Fearful that the 5,000 advance workers might be corrupted by the abundance of gambling, boozing and loose women in Las Vegas, the feds designed the “model city” both in an engineering sense and a moral one. Even though vice was legal within the state, the government declared Boulder City a federal reservation and outlawed gambling, drinking and sexual activity by single men. This only made Las Vegas more enticing and people ﬂooded into town.
Legalization of gambling was followed by an inﬂux of new casino operators who were eager to leave behind back-room gambling parlors on the east coast and open legitimate businesses in Nevada. For this reason, casinos and bars moved from Ogden Street to Fremont Street, leaving the brothels behind in Block 16. As neon lighting was new and popular at this point in time, everyone began erecting large and elaborate signs to advertise their casinos. Passengers disembarking from the rail line were confronted with a dazzling corridor of sparkling, blinking lights, earning the area the name Glitter Gulch.
Those 20,000 visitors at the Hoover Dam dedication went back home to tell friends and family about the little town of Las Vegas that was like something straight out of Wild West stories. Furthermore, as Lake Mead began to ﬁll, forward-thinking businessmen realized the potential for tourism and recreational development. Tourists poured in.
The Mob and the Bomb (1946-1966)
The Second World War proved to be a rather fortuitous event for Las Vegas. In the early 1940s, the federal government claimed over one million acres of land north of Las Vegas and converted it into an Air Force training school for pilots and gunnery technicians. Over the next ﬁve years, the land holding was expanded to three million acres. Likewise, the Basic Magnesium plant was built in 1942, midway between Boulder City and Las Vegas. The city’s population soared so dramatically with the inﬂux of workers that the town of Henderson was built.
With all this activity, gambling and tourism became an even more lucrative business, and organized crime wanted its share of the pie. Some crooks and gangsters came out to Las Vegas voluntarily, wishing to take advantage of the relatively loose regulations on gambling which made it easy to skim hundreds of thousands of dollars off legitimate proﬁts. Others arrived after ﬂeeing sting operations in neighboring states. One such criminal was Guy McAfee. In Los Angeles, McAfee, who was a captain of the LAPD vice unit, had been running illegal gambling parlors as a side business. After moving to Las Vegas, he bought the Pair-o-Dice Club on Fremont Street. Because he frequently traveled along Highway 91 (later called Las Vegas Boulevard) back and forth from Vegas to L.A., he began to call it “the Strip” after the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.
El Rancho Vegas
Of course, there were legitimate businessmen who found a foothold in the valley. Thomas Hull, a California hotel magnate, was driving into Vegas when his car overheated a few miles out from town. As he waited for roadside assistance, he made a keen observation. There was an extremely high volume of cars traveling along Highway 91 into Las Vegas. Being a wise businessman, Hull decided to build a hotel immediately off of the highway, just outside of the city limits (thus avoiding costly property taxes).
The El Rancho Vegas hotel opened on April 3, 1941 and was the ﬁrst Strip casino. It was also one of a kind. The El Rancho Vegas was all-inclusive, providing guests with lodging, a casino, a steakhouse, retail shops, a swimming pool and a show room. In addition, Hull cut deals with local ranchers for sightseeing tours on horseback. One particularly brilliant move was to appeal to the scores of wealthy divorce-seekers taking advantage of Nevada’s relaxed residency rules. He created a dude ranch where those seeking divorces could mix and mingle while waiting out the mandatory six weeks before their separations could be made legal.
However, the most innovative aspect of Hull’s casino-hotel was its use of air conditioning, or refrigerated air. Every room in the complex had it, making guests more likely to forget that they were in the midst of searing desert heat. El Rancho Vegas was so wildly popular that within three years another resort, the Last Frontier, had opened a mile south down the highway. Stagecoaches from Last Frontier would meet guests at the train station or the airport, and rooms featured “pioneer” antiques and Zuni handcrafts.
Hollywood legend would like us to believe that when Bugsy Siegel arrived in Las Vegas in 1946, there was nothing but desert and tumbleweeds on the Strip. In fact, Bugsy was late to the party, so to speak, since El Rancho Vegas and Last Frontier were already open and raking in massive proﬁts. His real claim to fame is that he boasted openly that he could “do better” than the two resort hotels that already existed.
Siegel wanted to be a movie actor, but lacked even the most rudimentary skill and talent for the profession. So in creating his ideal desert resort, he decided that since he couldn’t go to Hollywood and be a success, he would then be successful by bringing the best and brightest in Hollywood to him. Bugsy borrowed approximately $1 million from organized crime contacts on the east coast and used it to purchase interest in an unﬁnished Strip hotel that was in danger of remaining that way. He called his pet project the Flamingo.
On December 26, 1946, the Flamingo opened to great fanfare and press attention. The total cost to complete it had been over ﬁve million dollars, and rumors were rampant that Bugsy had pocketed a substantial amount of that sum. Despite those problems, Hollywood stars and their hangers-on arrived in droves (partly due to the chartered ﬂights Siegel had arranged to impress the crowd he so desperately wanted to be part of). Comedian Jimmy Durante was the headlining act at the theatre. In addition, there was a strict formal dress code, requiring dealers and even waiters to wear tuxedos, male patrons to wear suit and tie, and female patrons to wear gloves.
The party lasted three days. After that, the casino was empty, mostly due to the restrictive dress code and also because locals were either too intimidated or too afraid of the mob connection to gamble there. The Flamingo closed 14 days after it opened, and then reopened several months later with a relaxed dress code and a much stronger ﬂow of business. As for Bugsy Siegel, he had tried the patience of his mob contacts past the breaking point. On June 20, 1947, Siegel died in his living room when an unknown assailant ﬁred nine shots into him.
For the next 20 years the Italian-Jewish crime network had an extremely visible presence in Las Vegas. It was largely responsible for the biggest real estate boom the country had ever seen. It was also peopled with Awakened individuals in various capacities who had an interest in developing the potential of Las Vegas and shaping it to their individual ends or to those of various Traditions and Conventions. Money ﬂooded into Las Vegas from a myriad of underworld sources, and hotels, resorts and casinos blossomed out of the desert sand all along the Strip. Of the nine hotel-casinos that opened on the Strip between 1951 and 1958, all but one were bankrolled by the mob. Corruption was rife as casino managers offered jobs, comps and money under the table to their mob-connected friends. But eventually the federal government took notice and decided to investigate the situation.
Miss Atomic Bomb
Casinos weren’t the only thing attracting federal notice in Nevada. In 1951, the U.S. government needed somewhere to test its nuclear weapons technology, so it went searching for a large tract of uninhabited land. It found the old Las Vegas Aerial Gunnery School, some 70 miles outside of the city limits. Over the next 11 years, the government conducted approximately 120 above-ground test explosions at the Nevada Test Site. With the passing of the 1962 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the explosions were driven deep underground. This has had some disturbing affects upon the Spirit and Pattern energies in the area. A few Awakened scholars have been able to breach the wall of security around the Site and scry into the Umbra. The accounts of what they observed in the area have been collected into an article entitled As Above, So Below: The Adverse Affects of Nuclear Explosions Upon The Umbral Landscape. (The article may be obtained by writing to the Special Editions and Publications branch of Scientiﬁc American.) Thankfully, the passage of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996 has stopped all nuclear testing in the U.S., but it may have come too late to reverse the damage that has already been done.
Las Vegans took the proximity of the explosions and mushroom clouds in stride and even incorporated the bomb as an added tourist attraction. The marketing was simply amazing. There were atom burgers, nuclear picnics where diners could watch the mushroom clouds from atop the tallest buildings. One particularly popular piece of memorabilia featured an attractive and shapely blonde woman clad only in the mushroom shaped smoke cloud originating from her nether regions. Some hotel-casinos even timed their grand openings to coincide with bomb blasts. But in spite of Las Vegans’ enthusiasm about life with nuclear energy, the rest of America looked on with skepticism, mistrust and disdain.
The public castigation of the city of Las Vegas was long in coming, but when the backlash hit, it was difﬁcult for the city to recover. Of course there were reasons behind the public contempt. Casinos were rife with mob corruption and it seemed that almost every week there were news reports of another casino scandal. The FBI came down hard on the city, eventually linking practically every casino in town to organized crime in some capacity. In spite of all the bad press, tourism still thrived and ﬂourished. This was, in part, due to Frank Sinatra and a few of his close friends.
The Rat Pack
The 1960s ﬁlm Ocean’s 11 is not the greatest Vegas ﬁlm ever made, but that ﬁlm and its stars made Vegas sparkle like a jewel, even when it was buried beneath a mountain of media manure. This was a crafted and calculated move. The movie’s script was admittedly weak before ﬁlming started, and in all probability the studio did not expect the ﬁlm to win any awards. However, the decision to cast Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. as the leads and to ﬁlm on location in Las Vegas was intended to counteract the negative energies and inﬂuences that had soured America’s love affair with Sin City in the ﬁrst place.
After a day of ﬁlming, Sinatra, Sammy, Dean Martin and others would gather at the Copa Room at the Sands Hotel and perform. Afterwards, they’d hit the town, playing impromptu sets at lounges all over town, drinking heavily, chasing women and even starting ﬁghts. They were the young gods of Hollywood and the Strip was their playground. Sinatra’s inﬂuence alone was more than that of the most powerful casino owner in the city. And the effect was galvanizing. In spite of the maﬁa connections and scandals, people wanted to go to Las Vegas on the off chance that they might run into Frankie and his gang, trolling the bars. Even a young Steve Wynn recalls meeting Frank Sinatra and being invited to an impromptu performance. At that performance, Wynn met the man who would lead him to becoming the most successful casino operator in modern day Las Vegas.
One might think that Sinatra was somehow Awakened or surrounded by people who could affect reality. Not so. The real work of change was happening northwest of the Strip at the edge of the downtown area in a little hotel called the Moulin Rouge. Many people who visited Las Vegas in the late 1950s and early 1960s remember that time as a Golden Era. But for people of color, it was anything but that. Sammy Davis Jr., Lena Horne, and Nat King Cole were at the height of their popularity at this time, but the color of their skin and the city’s segregation laws barred them from staying at any of the resort casinos on the Strip. So they stayed at the Moulin Rouge.
It is not known who exactly came up with the idea of advertising performances at the segregated hotel, but the resulting social changes were legendary and astounding. Since these African-American performers were wildly popular with white audiences, management of the Moulin Rouge ﬁgured, rightly, that if top-name performers appeared at the lounge, the white concertgoers would travel to the west side of town to see them. And they came in droves. So much so that eventually Frank Sinatra himself surprised audiences one night by appearing on stage at the hotel’s lounge, bringing several inﬂuential Las Vegas politicians with him.
It was then that the absurdity of the situation was pointed out: why were famous African-American performers forced to stay at a run-down hotel when it was perfectly alright for them to entertain in casino lounges and bring in huge revenues for segregated hotels? Casino bosses couldn’t see any logic in the situation, so in 1960 — years before the legal overthrow of segregation laws in the rest of the country — they signed an agreement ending racial segregation in the city of Las Vegas.
The Age of Moguls (1966 – Present)
Unfortunately, even Frank Sinatra was not enough to truly clean up the tarnished image Las Vegas had earned for itself. Maﬁosi were ﬂeeing the city en masse, but so were the tourists. Construction was in a slump and it seemed that the city would never get past its notorious reputation. However, in 1966 an eccentric millionaire by the name of Howard Hughes descended upon the town and began to wage a one-man crusade to make a lady out of the whore of Babylon. The man was an enigma and an extreme recluse, but he was also a respectable businessman who was quite vocal about his investment interests in prime Strip real estate. His bidding wars with Kirk Kerkorkian, a famous Las Vegas businessman, generated a legitimacy for the city and the casino business that was unparalleled. For the ﬁrst time, banks began to look seriously at granting loans to casinos and corporations began to investigate the beneﬁts of owning and operating these money-making enterprises. Individual businessmen also began to invest in Las Vegas again, discovering that vast fortunes could be made based on simple mathematics.
Jay Sarno was one such businessman, but he was of a breed apart. Never truly taken seriously by the people who came into contact with him, he was a clown, really – overweight, balding and an incorrigible womanizer. But as is often the case in history, it is the clown who has the greatest vision and the fearlessness to realize it. In 1962, Sarno woke his wife in the middle of the night and announced that he was going to build a casino-hotel like no one had ever seen before. His idea was to create a world into which the gambler could enter and be transformed. His vision of columns, cypress trees, statues, waterfalls and tons of marble opened on August 5, 1966. He called it Caesars’ Palace and explained to the press that the positioning of the apostrophe was intentional. This isn’t a palace for just one Caesar, he said. Everyone who enters my casino is a Caesar, so this palace belongs to all the people – all the Caesars.
Sarno’s desert palace was an instant hit. According to casino records, Caesars’ Palace was earning so much money in its ﬁrst month of operations that counting it all was impossible. Instead it was separated into denominations and weighed. The hedonistic Sarno practically bathed in his newfound wealth, showering his wife and his mistresses with jewelry, furs, cars and fancy dinners.
The next idea to come from Sarno was a stand-alone casino with a circus theme. He stated to reporters that the Romans used the word “circus” to mean “theatre.” His casino would put a modern circus inside a Roman circus — or a Circus Circus. This project was also innovative and completely different from anything Las Vegas had ever seen before. Guests entered the pink-and-white circus tent and encountered a giant metal slide, which was the only entrance to the gaming ﬂoor. Once they slid down, they were accosted by mimes, clowns, and jugglers roaming in between the tables. Above them, trapeze and high-wire artists performed. There was a circus calliope, a midway with carnival games and even a ringmaster who would conduct an auction at various times throughout the evening.
At ﬁrst, Circus Circus was a huge success, but serious design ﬂaws and the sheer chaotic nature of the place, not to mention lawsuit liabilities, quickly whittled away business. By 1974, Jay Sarno was forced to sell the tanking circus tent, as well as Caesars’ Palace, just to remain solvent. He was the laughingstock of the Strip, but his circus-themed casino would soon become the ﬂagship of the world’s largest gaming empire.
The Working Man’s Casino
A former furniture salesman named Bill Bennet, and Reno hotel-owner Bill Pennington purchased Circus Circus from Sarno. Together they founded Circus Circus Enterprises and set it up as a full-disclosure, public corporation. The big pink-and-white circus tent underwent massive renovations: Pennington and Bennet added a hotel, and took the midway and the circus acts out of the casino and relegated them to an upper ﬂoor for kids. Bennet’s vision was to create a resort for the average working-class man and his family. High roller tables were banished, as were VIP rooms and high-level comps. Bennett replaced them with more slot machines and video arcades where kids could play under supervision while their parents were in the casino. Instead of ﬁne dining, there were all-you-can eat buffets and family style restaurants.
The idea caught ﬁre. Circus Circus had to build two more hotel towers, and even then they were turning away guests. Bennett and his young successor, Glenn Schaeffer, later expanded his idea and decided to capitalize upon the success of the Disney Corporation by creating a fairy tale castle of their own. Then along came Steve Wynn. His resort casino changed everything.
While Jay Sarno was busy dreaming up his grand, extravagant ideas for casino-hotels, Steve Wynn was running his father’s bingo hall in Massachusetts. Twenty-six years later, Wynn was a well-respected businessman and casino owner in both Las Vegas and Atlantic City. His success with the Golden Nugget Casinos was widely publicized and he was slated as the new up-and-comer in the gambling industry. When the Mirage Resort opened in 1989 it ushered in a new era of growth and opulence. Almost a decade earlier, Las Vegas had been hit by the worst hotel ﬁre in American history. The ﬁre at the MGM Grand killed 84 guests and seriously injured another 700. It happened so quickly that ﬁreﬁghters recounted stories of charred corpses still sitting upright at slot machines and playing tables.
The Bally corporation quickly rebuilt the hotel, but the tragedy caused a downswing in building on the Strip.
The Mirage was the ﬁrst new resort casino built on the Strip in 16 years. It was massive. It was opulent. It boasted 3,000 rooms, a white tiger habitat, a 20,000-gallon aquarium and a rainforest. It also had a 50-foot volcano that erupted every 15 minutes from sunset to midnight, lighting up the gold-tinted glass façade. Not since Jay Sarno had anyone built anything so luxurious. And Wynn made no mistake as to his clientele. Let Bennett and Circus Circus appeal to the minivan and stroller crowd. The Mirage was the place where high rollers and VIPs were once again welcome, courted and catered to.
Entire books have been written about the surge in growth that marked the Las Vegas of the 1990s. In attempts to mirror Wynn’s success with Mirage, casino corporations and even non-gaming entertainment corporations jumped on the bandwagon and created their own mega-resorts. Circus Circus’ Excalibur hotel was completed in 1990, followed closely by the Egyptian- themed Luxor and the South Seas–themed Mandalay Bay. Steve Wynn was also still busy, debuting his pirate resort, Treasure Island, and his grand masterpiece, the Bellagio. Still more casino resorts followed: Venitian, Paris–Las Vegas, New York–New York.
What is important to notice here are the subtleties of Awakened inﬂuence upon what are mostly Sleeper creations. In the last decade of the 20th century, as magickal society moved away from ﬁghting an Ascension war and towards a simple struggle to remain relevant, more and more Awakened and Enlightened individuals began taking an active part in shaping the destiny of Las Vegas. The city is not controlled by one side or another, one Tradition or another, one Convention or another. Rather, the city exists as a testament to individual will working in cooperation with one’s peers. Many Tradition mages like to point to the Luxor and say, that’s ours. It belongs to us, while the rest belong to them. Not so.
The future certainly seems bright for Las Vegas. True, the city has its expansion and growth issues – what modern city doesn’t? But time may prove that the involvement and interaction of the Awakened population in daily affairs will help steer Las Vegas towards better resolution of those common issues.