Schmaltzy piano virtuoso Liberace was a big deal to Las Vegas. The flamboyant performer also known as Mr. Showmanship was a great match for the neon mecca of Sin City. Like other frequent Vegas performers, Liberace created a home base there, combining two smaller homes to form a mansion-like compound in the mid-1970s, filling it with the kind of excessive opulence that represented a hypercapitalism Mr. Showmanship wholeheartedly embraced. In 1987, he succumbed to AIDS-related pneumonia in another desert home in Palm Springs.
In 2013, Liberace’s once grandiose house was in a deteriorated state and in foreclosure. Liberace fan Martyn Ravenhill bought the mansion and restored it to its former glitzy glory. The property has received a rightful Clark County Historical Designation, and although it is Ravenhill’s private residence, the designation allows for private fan club tours, fundraisers and private events to take place inside the fancy digs.
The private part is something of a loose descriptive term, as it seems someone else besides Ravenhill has been squatting at the landmark. No, it’s not the foul-mouthed ghost of Redd Foxx—more likely it’s the disembodied previous resident Mr. Showmanship who has resettled there after hitching a ride on the wind from Palm Springs. Before the restoration, there were reports of “candles moving in a candelabra” and unexplained “strange sounds in a [vacant] room.” As recently as September 6, security cameras captured dramatic paranormal activity at the fortified mansion.
In addition to gangster tales of bodies buried in the desert, it should be acknowledged that Las Vegas as a party town is rife with haunted lore: the former house of aforementioned Redd Foxx (of Sanford and Son fame), rooms at the decrepit El Cortez Hotel, the Golden Gate Hotel on Fremont Street (this writer has personally experienced its macabre, odorous casino floor), and any seedy joint (Glitter Gulch) from which Andy Dick has issued his kiss of death.
However, the Liberace Mansion footage could make skeptics hesitate. The home was empty at the time and “the front door was double bolted and the outside gate was locked and bolted as it always is,” according to Liberace Mansion spokespersons. After the alarm went off and security personnel responded moments later, it was discovered that “the dead bolts on the door were still extended and the locks were fully engaged. No one was in the house when security arrived and there were no signs of forced entry.” One security guard said, “There was no way the door just flew open, it shook me up when I looked at the video.”
It looks real, folks, and just in time for Halloween.