A fiery disaster leaves many guests still lingering
When the MGM Grand opened in 1973, it was a testament to the film company's longevity. Yet a fatal fire in 1980 left a scorch mark on its name and many of its guests still wandering the halls of what was once the Strip’s largest hotel.
There have been many reports of specters roaming the resort ever since the 1980 fire. A woman once called the front desk, hysterical after seeing a pair of disembodied feet floating in her room.
Other guests have claimed to see figures appear and then disappear in an instant in the hallways.
Guests have also seen shadowy figures laying on their beds, no doubt the echoes of patrons who died in their sleep from the toxic smoke.
Although not haunted, some employees refuse to take one of the service elevators where several employees died during the fire.
There have been several reports of groups of transparent people roaming through the casino for a few seconds then disappearing.
Many believe that some of the ghosts have migrated over to the new MGM Grand in anger for the preventable fire that took their lives.
In November of 1980, it was a regular day for the MGM Grand.
The resort was in full bustle, thousands were venturing into the casino, the shops, and the restaurants. Others were just waking up in the hotel to start the day.
No one had any idea that the Deli restaurant, located right next to the casino, was about to become an inferno.
Deep in the walls of the restaurant, a small spark came to life.
That’s all it takes, one small spark. And something flammable to feed it.
Unfortunately, the Grand was nothing but flammable material.
The small spark quickly cascaded into billowing smoke and flame.
The restaurant was soon enveloped in fire, traveling at around 15 feet per second. Suddenly a fireball erupted, and the flames spread out through the casino floor.
The ball of fire was so intense that it blew the windows off the entrance and scorched the nearby parked cars.
Firemen worked quickly to contain the blistering beast to the first few floors, even though no alarm had been made earlier.
The hotel didn’t have an alarm system.
The threat was only partially contained, however. There was a deadlier threat that was rising through the resort, seeping its way into every elevator shaft, every air duct, and every stairwell.
Smoke. Black, toxic smoke.
Again, no alarm was placed in the air ducts to contain the smoke.
Throughout the hotel, dozens were breathing in toxic fumes, gasping for clean air.
Some rushed to their balconies, hoping to fume out the smoke. There was even a report of someone leaping to their death in order to escape the deadly fire.
Those in the stairwells were trapped in a poisonous blanket of fumes.
No one who was in the stairwell survived.
In total, 85 people lost their lives to the fire and over 500 were injured.
Only four died from the burns. The smoke had taken the rest.
Hundreds of millions of dollars were given to the families of the victims. Anywhere from $70 to $220 million were given in total.
A large portion of essential fire prevention measures were not present in the resort, including a proper fire alarm system, more sprinkler systems, and smoke detection in the air vents.
The owners didn’t want to pay $200,000 for a sprinkler system amongst the already huge $100 million construction budget.
It also didn’t help that the majority of the material and decor that were used to build and furnish the resort were highly flammable.
Because of such a disastrous event, there was a complete fire safety overhaul - especially for sprinkler systems - for every public building in Nevada.
In 1971, MGM purchased a plot of land to build a sprawling hotel and casino resort.
They went with MGM's Grand Hotel, based on the 1932 film Grand Hotel.
Construction finished in 1973 and it had its grand opening ceremony the same year. Dean Martin hosted the ceremony.
The tragic fire took place in 1980 and it took around 8 months to repair and reopen the resort.
Also, during this time, MGM would open the longest-running show in Las Vegas, Jubilee! It ran from 1981 to 2016.
In 1986, the resort was sold to Bally Manufacturing where it was renamed Bally’s. That has been the current resort’s name ever since.
That same year, a man placed a pipe bomb inside the sportsbook section of the resort. He subsequently made demands for $200,000, threatening to detonate the bomb if his demands were not met.
Authorities were able to locate the bomb and detonate it from a safe distance. The bomb explosion had the ferocity of a firecracker.
The man was found and arrested not long after.
Bally’s is still active today and it’s one of the premier places to stay and gamble in Las Vegas.
It may not be championed as the largest resort on the Strip anymore, but it continues to stand tall amongst the neon and flare.
Hopefully, the painful scorch mark on its history has begun to fade.
For more information or to book a (potentially) haunted room, please visit Bally’s website.
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