VEGAS MYTHS BUSTED: The Final Resting Place of Whiskey Pete

On Feb. 2, 1994, construction workers were grading the land for the light rail that today connects two casinos, Whiskey Pete’s and Buffalo Bill’s, across Interstate 15 in Primm, Nev. One of their tractors struck a crumbling plywood coffin, knocking it open. What they found inside should have put an end to one of Nevada’s biggest tall tales. Instead, that tale has only grown taller.

Peter “Whiskey Pete” McIntyre – legendary namesake of the casino – was supposedly buried with his cherished 10-gallon hat on his head, six-shooters strapped to his side, and a bottle of his own moonshine whiskey. His coffin was also supposedly buried upright, facing what was then called the Arrowhead Trails Highway, to honor McIntytre’s request to “see all those sons of bitches going by.”

Whiskey Pete memorial
Whiskey Pete memorial
This creepy memorial to Whiskey Pete McIntyre decorates the lobby of Whiskey Pete’s casino in Primm, Nev. (Image: bp.blogspot.com)

Sorry, entire internet. Every one of your Whiskey Pete stories is inaccurate. According to Bruce Sedlacek, who supervised the construction crew that found McIntyre’s coffin, it contained his bones, a tuft of hair on his skull, his shirt with a few buttons missing, his dentures, and that’s it. There were no guns or whiskey bottles. And the coffin was not buried standing up. It didn’t even have a slight tilt to it. It was perfectly level to the ground it lay underneath.

“I don’t know how all that false stuff gets out there,” Sedlacek told Casino.org.

Who Was Whiskey Pete?

That’s the question asked for 46 years by everyone stuck in bumper-to-bumper holiday traffic between Las Vegas to California on the 15. (Whiskey Pete’s is a 16-story castle that looms ridiculously high over the barren landscape, demanding attention.)

Pete McIntyre was a former miner who served two months in jail for running an illegal speakeasy, then six months in jail for bootlegging whiskey, at the beginning of Prohibition. By the late 1920s, he opened State Line Station, a gas station with two pumps on the Nevada side of its state border with California.

If gas was how McIntyre planned to turn over a new leaf, doing it in State Line, Nev. (renamed Primm in 1996 to avoid confusion with another Stateline, Nev.) wasn’t a very good plan because few cars stopped to gas up there back then. So McIntyre fell back into his old illegal ways. He distilled whiskey and sold it at his station on the downlow.

The Man, the Myth, the Legend

Whiskey Pete's Casino
Whiskey Pete's Casino
Whiskey Pete’s is a 16-story casino built on the site of the former service station where owner Whiskey Pete McIntyre once sold gas and booze to – and shot at – his customers. (Image: living-las-vegas.com)

The first misconception most people get about Whiskey Pete comes from the smiling cartoon mascot featured on the casino’s sign and in its marketing. McIntyre wasn’t a smiling type of dude. In fact, according a 1928 report in the Las Vegas Review newspaper, the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce said it had received several complaints from tourists of McIntyre’s violently anti-social behavior. According to one, he even shot at them as they exited his gas station.

An article about McIntyre in the March 28, 1931 edition of the Las Vegas Age newspaper noted that “Pete resents the bad name given to him by a portion of the public and the press, alleging that he is not so bad as he is painted.” The occasion of the article was McIntyre’s release on bail after shooting Rube Bradshaw, the Elgin, Nev. postmaster.

According to Bradshaw, he had stopped at State Line Station with his two sons to get gas and coffee. When he entered and asked for a cup, he said, McIntyre called him a “vile name” and shot him in the shoulder. (The assault with a deadly weapon charge was dropped after Bradshaw failed to show in court three separate times.)

Crazy in Love

In early 1932, McIntyre married Lauretta Frances Enders. By October of that same year, she attempted to have him committed to the Stillwell Sanitarium in Banning, Calif. She cited the unprovoked rages he flew into. McIntyre retorted that the rages were an appropriate response to her running around naked in the hills with other men. A judge denied Enders’ motion.

Whatever McIntyre’s mental condition, his physical one wasn’t good. He had miner’s lung and required treatment – or at least what passed for it in those days. Enders reportedly stayed with her husband at the sanitarium until he showed signs of recovery. At that point, she left.

Within a year, on Nov. 11, 1933, McIntyre died at Stillwell of his disease.

Enders ran State Line Station for a couple of years before selling it. It changed hands a few times, expanding into State Line Bar-Slots before being purchased by Ernest J. Primm, eventual namesake of the town. Primm renamed the station Whiskey Pete’s and then opened his casino hotel, in McIntyre’s honor, on the site in 1977.

So Where is Whiskey Pete Now?

According to Wikipedia, McIntytre’s exhumed body “was moved and is now said to be buried in one of the caves where MacIntyre cooked up his moonshine.”

That’s just more fake news.

“When we found him, I went and told the owner,” Sedlacek recalled. “Then we were told to put him back in the ground, so we built a new box for him, and reburied him in the same area where we found him.”

Though the casino at Whiskey Pete’s remains open, its 777-room hotel never reopened following the pandemic shutdown. The hotel is currently used only as overflow booking for the Primm Valley Resort. A spokesperson for the hotel’s owner, Primm Valley Resorts, could not say how permanent the hotel closure was.

Look for “Vegas Myths Busted” every Friday on Casino.org. Click here to read previously busted Vegas myths. Know a Vegas myth that can use busting? Email corey@casino.org.

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