People travel from all over the world to see Lake Mead National Park in Boulder City, Nevada. Of the 407 national parks in the nation, Lake Mead is the sixth most popular. The National Park System attracts visitors by promoting the park, nearby Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam. One thing not promoted is the park’s reputation for being the “park where you are most likely to trip over a corpse.”
Just an hour drive from Las Vegas, Lake Mead’s reputation peaked in the early 80s when 54 bodies were found within the park’s boundaries. Ten years later, the park still accounted for over 25% of recorded fatalities in the entire National Park System. Some speculate the close proximity to Sin City provides an easy commute for bankrupt gamblers, boaters full of cocktails, a prime stage for violent crimes, or a quick clean up spot for dirty mobsters.
One such stage is Lake Mead’s 33 Hole. Appropriately named, “10-33” is the law enforcement code for emergency situations. Numerous drownings have occurred there over the years, likely due to rowdy, drunk party-goers. Chief Rangers recount stories from the 70s and 80s of having to use riot helmets and tear gas to break up parties in the area. Numerous bodies have been left behind, long after the bottles were emptied.
The atmosphere of Lake Mead hasn’t always been one of parties and celebration. Thousands of years ago, the area along the river was home to several Native American cultures. It is believed that the spirits of those tribes still inhabit the beautiful land and work to keep it protected.
Their spirits are not peaceful however, their anger fueled as their culture was destroyed with their land and taken over by hunters, settlers, miners and railroads. Campers have reported hearing wailing voices carried by desert winds and described vivid dreams of Natives trying to attach themselves to the camper as surrogate to continue their mission of preservation. Many report that the dreams cease upon leaving the site.
Some argue that it is not the Native Americans who haunt the land but the many workers who lost their lives while constructing the Hoover Dam. The Great Depression encouraged men to haul their families to Las Vegas to live in shantytowns while the dam was being built. On the border of Arizona and Nevada, the Hoover Dam was constructed between 1931 and 1936, creating Lake Mead. Nothing of this magnitude had ever been completed before. The methods were unsafe, the weather unbearable, and conditions were deplorable. Over two hundred deaths were reported during the construction of the dam.
During construction, men died from industrial fatalities including accidents, electrocution, and explosions. Others died by drowning, suicide, blasting mishaps, falling rocks or slides, being struck by equipment, or the heat itself. Many more died from illnesses like pneumonia, tuberculosis, scarlet fever, malaria, typhoid fever, and meningitis. Some of the most gruesome stories involve workers who fell into the vats of concrete as the dam was poured. Unable to be fished out, their bodies were entombed in the dam forever.
Visitors report paranormal activity both in, and around the dam. People have seen apparitions who were crying out or weeping. Reports of disembodied voices and strange noises from unseen sources are common. Many footsteps are heard echoing through corridors on the concrete floors. Still others have found strange shapes or objects in their family pictures at the Hoover Dam. Even more chilling, many individuals have shared stories of a man dressed in old-fashioned work clothes. He appears in restricted areas, and when he is approached, he just disappears.
Lake Mead remains a popular destination for families and travelers worldwide. Whether they come for vacation, recreation, or sightseeing, the destination is sure not to disappoint. Although tripping over a corpse is not on everyone’s bucket list for the perfect family vacation, it sure sets the stage for the trip they won’t stop talking about.