Off the Strip

A guide to weird Las Vegas


West of town in Red Rock Canyon is Howard Hughes' Spring Mountain Ranch. Over the years, the ranch has had a series of owners, including Chet Lauck ("Lum" from the old Lum and Abner radio show). In 1955, Vera Krupp, wife of German munitions manufacturer and war criminal Alfried Krupp, bought the ranch. In 1959, robbers broke into the ranch, tied up Vera and stole the famous 33.3-carat Krupp Diamond. Later, the diamond was purchased by Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor. In 1967, Howard Hughes acquired the property, and soon after, an earthquake changed the formation of the rocks overlooking the ranch. Visitors reportedly saw an image they believed to be of Jesus wearing a scarlet robe, arms outstretched and gazing toward Vegas. In the film The Robe, you might recall, Burton played the Roman centurion who gambled at the foot of the cross for Christ's scarlet robe. The red-rock cliff apparition of Christ wears just such a robe. From the Strip, take Charleston Boulevard west until it turns into Nevada Highway 159 five miles past the scenic loop of Red Rock; continue on to the Spring Mountain Ranch State Park Visitors Center, (702) 875-4141.


A few miles out of Vegas lies Nye County, where prostitution is legal. There, attached to the Cherry Patch Ranch bordello in the town of Crystal, lies the Brothel Art Museum. One of the gall-blasted weirdest museums in the world, it documents the history of legal prostitution in Nevada. The walls are covered with hundreds of laminated newspaper clippings, as well as an immense taxidermied moose head and several portraits of John Wayne. But the pièce de résistance is an actual dead prostitute under glass. As the story goes, the skeletal remains of a woman with her hands hacked off and with two pistols lying next to her were discovered sealed up in a wall. According to the brothel bartender, the woman was a victim of inhumane punishment after she had been caught stealing from the till. Take Highway 95 northeast toward Amargosa Valley, turn onto Nevada Highway 160 south; look for the gaudy brothel signs and blinking red lights; turn right on Ranch Road to Crystal, Nevada. The Brothel Art Museum on Ranch Road, Crystal, (702) 372-9901.


Just down the road a piece from the Brothel Art Museum is another hellhole. Devil's Hole, located in Death Valley National Monument, is not much to look at, just a gash in a hillside surrounded by a chainlink fence. From a small platform, you can look down the abyss into a bathtub-size pool at the bottom. The pool connects to a vast underground lake, the bottom of which has not been probed. A bottomless pit! In it swims an endangered species of tiny prehistoric pupfish found nowhere else on Earth. Biologists believe that the pool may be connected underground to other small pools of pupfish located hundreds of miles away. UFO experts believe that Devil's Hole is connected to the underground caverns located beneath Area 51 (see "The Extraterrestrial Highway"). Purportedly, reptilian-type aliens live in Devil's Hole and have emerged now and again. The Bible speaks of a bottomless pit that demons (or if you prefer, reptilian aliens) ascend out of (Revelation 11:7). According to Vincent Bugliosi, Charles Manson searched for a bottomless pit in Death Valley in which he and his family could hide during Helter Skelter-and afterward, he would come forth as leader of the world. The Reverend Ethan Acres believes that Devil's Hole is one of the portals of hell. He holds that it is no coincidence that this heinous hole is found so close to Nevada's brothels. "For a whore is a deep ditch and a strange woman is a narrow pit" (Proverbs 23:27). Take Highway 95 toward Amargosa Valley, turn south onto Nevada Highway 160. When you see the flashing red lights, turn right on Ranch Road toward the brothels in Crystal, Nevada. Proceed down the dirt road until you see a chainlink fence on your right. Devil's Hole, Death Valley National Monument, (760) 786-2331.


Vegas attracts not only the usual saints and sinners, but also legions of UFO experts and abductees. One of the attractions for ufologists is the infamous Area 51 at Groom Lake, due north of Las Vegas, which is believed to be the repository of alien bodies and UFO wreckage. In nearby Rachel sits the Little A "LE" Inn, where day or night, you'll find the weirdest assemblage of characters from around the globe. The inn features authentic UFO photos, piles of conspiracy pamphlets, lots of alien kitsch, an alien library and a motel-actually seven rooms, inside which you can watch UFO videos all night. Or just set up your folding chair outside your trailer and watch the night sky. Take Interstate 15 north out of Vegas; take Exit 64 to Highway 93; go north to Nevada Highway 375 (renamed the Extraterrestrial Highway three years ago); go west to Rachel, Nevada. Little A "LE" Inn, Highway 375, Rachel, (702) 729-2515.

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