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The glorious roar and dazzle of the fountains left one last glitter in my eyes as the music to Frank Senatra’s "I Did it My Way" came to a close. Another gorgeous, romantic show at the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas. The online reviews were right. Those fountains were a “must-see.” I don’t know if it was the thrill of the show or simply the star-struck wonder of Vegas, but I leaned over the fountain balcony a few moments longer than everyone else, taking it all in. As the fountains sputtered off and the lights dimmed, I saw patterns left in the still, dark water from the fountain tracks used for the shows. They looked like alien crop circles under a wide, dark-blue lake. A strange chill swept over my body as I gazed into the depths of Lake Bellagio.
The reaction I had to the still, calm midnight lake in front of the Bellagio was strange. I am a swimmer, and whenever I see a large body of water, even a mall fountain or a moss-green lake, my natural instinct is to want to swim in it. Up-close and personal, while on the balcony surrounding Lake Bellagio, I noticed just how big the body of water was. It certainly was swimmable, and it was lake-size. However, my first unnerving thought was, I wonder how many bodies have fallen into the depths of this lake, and my second thought was, I hope I never fall into Lake Bellagio. The morbid thoughts swam around my head until I snapped out of it and rushed off along the dazzling strip.
Two days later, I returned home from my Las Vegas vacation. I reminisced about all the fun I had by scrolling through pictures and playing the videos I had recorded. Suddenly, I passed a glimmering photo of the Bellagio Fountain Show, and I realized I had not thought about the eerie feeling the lake had given me since that night on the balcony. A shiver ran through my body as I remembered the unsettling memory and how it felt to gaze down at the inky water reflecting the midnight sky. I decided to do a little research on Lake Bellagio’s history. Maybe I could find some answers as to why I felt the way I did.
Skimming through articles, I learned the story of the famous Dunes resort that had once stood in place of the Bellagio Hotel as an oasis in the Las Vegas desert. It was an “old-style Vegas” resort with glowing neon lights, noisy slot machines, and a nostalgic (if not slightly tacky) theme. It officially opened in 1955 and met its demise in 1993. It was demolished to make way for the much more classy and successful Bellagio Resort and its famous fountains. Interestingly enough, I found out that the entire property that the Dunes resort sat on was now where Lake Bellagio stands. That dark, wide, inky lake used to be an entire Las Vegas Resort.
My research took a darker turn after that. I found a Youtube video of a news report interviewing the people who were in charge of fixing the fountain track underneath those dark, eerie waters. The man who was interviewed was strangely fidgety, and could not seem to make eye contact with the reporter, nor the camera. He spoke with an edge to his voice, and his hands could not stop twitching. At this point, I wondered if my paranoia was getting the best of me and I decided to venture into the comments section. What I found there horrified me.
“Does anyone else see how uncomfortable he is?”
“It’s like there’s a gun to his head—way to go, Channel 17 News!”
“Why are his hands shaking?” exclaimed the viewers. Okay, it wasn’t just me. Further down I read:
“I’d be nervous too after that accident that happened that the media never covered—it’s like the hotel corporation wanted to cover everything up.” Okay…what? The commenter responded to questions asked below that:
“The other maintenance worker was dragged under by something. They thought it was the fountain track, but I think it’s something else.” Oh my gosh. “He drowned, naturally,” the commenter continued, “but when they pulled his body out, there were strange marks that looked like bites all over his arms and legs. And there’s apparently no life living in the lake!” Other commenters chimed in,
“Yeah right,” and “I don’t believe it,” and “source please?” So the original commenter left one last comment in the chain that said,
“Here’s the proof,” with a copy-pasted link.
Heart racing, I clicked the link. The article’s title was, “Haunted Vegas, Paranormal Spots You Didn’t Know About and What Really Lies Beneath Lake Bellagio.” I began to read. The story started out mildly, with the strange, but better known tales of the hauntings at the Luxor Pyramid, the secret clown society underneath Circus Circus, and the phantom opera singer that haunts the Italian gondolas at the Venetian. The end of the article was what I had come for—the story about Lake Bellagio. I took a deep breath and started reading.
With fountain shows every half-hour at the Bellagio Hotel, they have to maintain a good amount of staff who can perform routine checks of the fountain track at the bottom of the lake. However, the track has to be worked on after-hours while people are asleep so as to not interrupt the daily shows. The last fountain show of the night takes place at midnight, and starting at 12:30 AM, staff members begin their routine checks. At this time of night, the lake water temperature can dip to a startling 35 degrees Fahrenheit; just three degrees above freezing. Armed with headlamps, wetsuits, and oxygen tanks, these staff members conduct 20 minute checks with breaks in between. Because of the odd hours, dim lighting, and freezing water, it is hard to find anyone who will willingly work in these conditions.
Therefore, the Bellagio implemented a new system. Staff members who were listed in negative reviews on places like Yelp and TripAdvisor were recruited to do Fountain Maintenance. The Bellagio is one of the few Las Vegas Resorts that actively encourages their guests to leave reviews—even scathing ones—on these types of sites, and if you were listed by name as a “bad employee” in one of these reviews, you were put on fountain duty rotation.
That led to the story of the maintenance worker named Artur. He was an immigrant to the United States from an impoverished area in Europe. He started working at the Bellagio as one of the hundreds of housekeeping staff. His accent was thick, his English was remedial, and he had a lot of misunderstandings with hotel guests. He was reported time and time again on these travel websites by cranky guests who had a misunderstanding with him. Naturally, he spent a lot of time on fountain maintenance.
One morning, around 5:30 AM, the roaming night guard reported to his manager that he never received any of the fountain maintenance logs that the workers were supposed to submit every 20 minutes on their shift. This lead to an investigation where they discovered Artur had clocked in as the fountain maintenance person for the night, but never took a break, lunch, or made a report to anyone. In fact, no one had seen or heard from him at all that night. Cut to around 7:30 AM and a slew of police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks surrounded Lake Bellagio as a waterlogged body was dragged from the depths. Poor Artur had met his fate beneath the icy, dark waters. His body had been dragged partway under the track, trapping him until there was no breath left in his lungs. An autopsy later reported that there were strange marks that mimicked bites all over his arms and legs, yet the cause of death was drowning. It is unclear what bit him. It was unclear what dragged him under the track as all of the fountains were turned off. It is unclear how he was not found until 7:30 AM. They didn’t have enough substantial evidence to suspect foul play. Artur’s death remains a mystery until this day.
I slammed my laptop shut. I didn’t want to know any more. The sickening feeling I had while looking over the balcony into Lake Bellagio had come back. There was a reason I felt the way I did staring into the depths. There was a reason the interviewee looked so nervous. There was likely a reason all of this was covered up. I didn’t want to know. I had to stop thinking about this.
This dark tale did not stop me from taking vacations to Las Vegas, as it will always be a city I love, but I have never looked at those fountains the same way again. Whenever I visit, I secretly toss a flower into Lake Bellagio as homage to the late Artur, a way of saying, “I’m so sorry, this should have never happened.” It’s amazing that something as beautiful, romantic, and exciting as the Bellagio Fountain Show can have such a dark past that so few people know about. It’s amazing that whatever bit Artur and dragged him under was never discovered. I wonder if we will ever know what haunts Lake Bellagio.