the wreckage of a B-29 Superfortress — one of the largest aircraft used in World War II — that crashed into its waters in 1948, as well as a stunning complex of Ancestral Puebloan ruins, including a structure with more than 100 rooms.

Hikers can already trek to St. Thomas, a once-submerged Mormon settlement that has resurfaced in Lake Mead in the form of sun-bleached ruins as the drought grinds on.

While Lake Mead has long seen mishaps and foul play, Michael Green, 57, a historian who grew up in Las Vegas, noted that mob figures often preferred to carry out execution-style killings away from the city, in efforts to shield the gambling industry from bad publicity.

In one notorious cold case, the influential president of the Riviera hotel, Gus Greenbaum, and his wife, Bess, were shot dead at their Phoenix home after suspicions surfaced that he had been stealing from fellow investors.

Mr. Green, whose father was a casino dealer with the distinction of being fired by Lefty Rosenthal, the inspiration for the gangster portrayed by Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s 1995 film, “Casino,” has his own theory about the body in the barrel.

It revolves around Jay Vandermark, a slot machine supervisor at the Stardust casino who was implicated in a scheme to skim proceeds from slot machines. Vandermark, also thought to have pocketed funds from his mob bosses, went missing in 1976.

“I don’t think they ever found the body,” Mr. Green said.


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