Westgate Resort and Casino
Westgate Resort and Casino is a hotel, casino, and timeshare resort in Winchester, Nevada. Located close to the northern end of the forever-partying Las Vegas strip, the historic resort opened its doors to the public in 1969 as the International Hotel. It was also known as the Las Vegas Hilton for many years before taking its current name in 2014. From 1981 until 1990, Westgate held the title of the largest hotel in the world.
A Tidbit of Westgate’s History
The hotel site was previously part of the defunct Las Vegas Park, a historic racetrack. In 1965 the 400-acre allotment was purchased by National Equities, a real estate development firm chaired by a man named Marvin Kratter. He announced development plans for the site to include a 40-floor, 1,500-room hotel and golf course, and private homes. He had high hopes for this little slice of the Mojave Desert. Alongside Kirk Kerkorian, a 1,000-room casino was also built on the old racetrack site, as well as a 50-million dollar hotel. After multitudes of expansions and millions upon millions of dollars in renovations, 1981 hit the hotel with a hefty tragedy.
On the night of February 10th, 1981, a major fire occurred at the hotel. Philip Bruch Cline, a hotel busboy who was under the influence of drugs, set fire to a curtain in an elevator lobby on the 8th floor of the east tower. The fire spread rapidly and claimed the lives of eight people while another 350 were injured. It only took twenty-five minutes for the fire to reach the top of the building. The fire caused an estimated 10 million dollars in damage, and Cline was convicted in 1982 of arson and murder, sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The hotel paid out a 23-million-dollar settlement to the victim’s families.
Not a great start to the hotel’s legacy, we’d say. But not all was bad at the Westgate. The resort used to welcome famous faces such as Barry Manilow, Liberace, Wayne Newton, and even Elvis Presley.
Elvis’s Reign at Westgate
At the time of its opening, Westgate was the largest hotel and casino in the world. Thirty days later, the resort became home to one of the world’s most popular entertainers – Elvis Presley.
His appearance at the resort was advertised as his ‘comeback tour,’ and there was a great buzz about it all around Las Vegas. The King of Rock N Roll performed 837 consecutive shows at the International Theatre over seven years. That’s just about 120 shows a year. His last performance at the Westgate was in December of 1976. Several months later, in the summer of 1977, he died. Elvis’s friend and fellow performer Wayne Newton got a phone call from the theatre asking him to come and perform. Newton was hesitant; he considered that Elvis’s stage. There’s no way that he could fill those shoes.
A couple of months after Presley’s death, Wayne Newton and his band created an Elvis medley, a tribute for his late friend. Before a show one evening, he was informed by one of the crew members that the balcony would be closed that night – performers are usually made aware of this so that they don’t attempt to acknowledge a crowd that isn’t there. Midway through his show, Newton called for the Elvis medley. This was the first time he performed it for an audience. While he sang, the theatre lights fell, and only one spotlight was left on Newton.
He retold the story like this. He was singing, the heat of the spotlight on his body; he looks up to see what the crowd thinks of his tribute. He casts a glance to the balcony and sees a man coming down onto it. He thought it odd since it was supposed to be closed. Newton recognized the man almost immediately. It was Elvis on the balcony. He said that he looked him right in the eyes and smiled peacefully. Wayne says that this was his sign that Elvis enjoyed the performance and was appreciative of the memorial.
Wayne Newton described the experience as one of the best of his life. Employees and visitors alike have seen Elvis’s apparition on the casino floor and in the Tuscany Suite. Apparently, the Tuscany sits where the Elvis suite used to be. He always had a group traveling with him, and they would all stay at the hotel with him after the show. Many people who stay in the villa report feeling a presence and even seeing his apparition or hearing his music drift throughout the area even when there is no radio or television turned on.
Many people wonder why Elvis would be sticking around for so long. That question can be answered when you realize that his comeback took place on the property. 837 shows he performed there with audiences from all over the world. The Westgate Resort and Casino meant a lot to Elvis. And while Elvis may be the most famous person to have been spotted at the Westgate Resort and Casino, he is far from the only spectral inhabitant.
Hauntings at Westgate Resort and Casino
Visitors to the Westgate Resort report strange happenings in their rooms as well as on the elevators. One such occurrence reported by a long-time visitor to the hotel really drives the point home: the Westgate Resort and Casino is haunted.
This guest, who preferred to remain anonymous, stayed at the Westgate with her two young children and her sister during peak season in the springtime. Their room was decently sized, a pull-out couch for the kids to sleep on (they were ridiculously excited for it)
Everything was going well, the vacation was in full swing, and the family was having a great time enjoying Las Vegas and the fun it has to offer. After a full day, they retired back to their room for showers and relaxation before another jam-packed schedule the next day.
While one of the women was in the shower, she saw a person’s silhouette outside of the curtain. Assuming it was her sister, she ignored it until the water to the shower turned off. As she turned to the spout, she noticed a hand pulling out from the curtain as if it had reached in and shut off the water.
She ripped the curtain open only to reveal nothing in the bathroom with her. Could she have imagined the hand? Spooked, she turned the water back on and finished up.
Later that night, after the kids had gone to bed, she consulted with her sister and asked her if she turned off the water as a prank. She hadn’t; she was actually out walking the halls with the kids to get out some of their excess energy before bed. She was alone in the room at the time. Both women were stunned but didn’t let their fear show to the children. However, as you’ll learn, the children already knew of the spirit that was plaguing their room.
Later that night, one of the kids piped up and asked, ‘can ghosts hurt you?’ Both women’s eyes shot open, unsure of what to say to reassure him. One of the women asked why he was asking such a question, and what he replied with shook them to their cores. He said, ‘because there is a man in the bathroom, but he disappeared, I think he’s a ghost.’
Needless to say, the family packed up and went to stay in another hotel, and even when a different room was offered free of charge, they decided against it, refusing to spend another night with the spirits of the Westgate.
A spooky review, but is all of the resort haunted or just a few rooms? Could these spirits be those of the eight folks who passed away in the fires so long ago? Are they trapped at the resort? Regardless, the Westgate Resort and Casino has enough history to fill the entire Las Vegas strip. Have you ever visited any part of the sprawling resort? Did you catch a glimpse of Elvis himself, or perhaps another unnamed ghost?