Lute’s casino, a Yuma staple since 1901.
At the time it had a different name, a different purpose.
For decades, it has served locals with some delicious food and fun.
The regulars come to drink beer and play pool, while travelers from far away places come in only to find odd decor.
Some may say they have seen things out of the corner of their eye.
For the owners of Lute’s Casino, those haunts come within the building.
A long-time business and community center, Lutes Casino has long been known as a place “where the elite meet.”
A harmless rhyme reflecting a respect for the antique business.
Still, a functioning restaurant, Lute’s has a mysterious and to some a haunting past.
“I’ve been to many historical locations, and this by far, the central hotel that’s just above lute’s casino and the lyric theater, is by far one of the most malevolent spirits I’ve come in contact within a historic location,” said Jay Yates, paranormal investigator and owner of C.O.P.S. Crew.
Even long-time customers swear they have felt like they aren’t alone in Lute’s Casino.
“I decided to come out to the central hotel doorway and take some pictures of the staircase through the glass. As we were getting ready to walk away, a child laughed pretty loudly. I didn’t think anything of it but my boyfriend stopped and was like ‘did you just hear a baby cry?’ So I got my phone out because we had heard two laughs from a child. The sound was actually coming down from above us it seemed, and I said ‘maybe she’ll do it again if I walk this way,’ and as I walked away she started to cry and it was shocking,” said Missy, a Yuma resident.
During our investigation of Lute’s Casino and the Lyric Theater, we were taken back in time.
Now a place that has left spirits of the past and present coming back for more, Lutes Casino has been attracting customers since 1947.
That’s when R.H. Lutes was offered the deed to the building as a payment for a debt.
Today, Lute’s Casino is known throughout Arizona as the oldest, continually operating pool hall in the entire state.
“Hello all you buckaroos, it’s cowboy Bob star of stage, screen, radar, and rescue, the working girl’s friend,” said Bob Lutes, owner of Lute’s Casino.
We spoke with the owner of Lute’s Casino to find out just how long this place has been “haunted.”
“I started out here in the late 50’s early 60’s, right out of school. It was kind of thrown in my lap. It was nothing, it was a loser so to speak. It has kind of involved, it was an old pool hall, and we had five domino tables, and then there were slot machines everywhere,” said Lutes.
Known for its long-time job as a theater and hotel, Lute’s was a short-lived home to many, from fortune-tellers to troubled families.
“We would hear children’s voices in the back behind the movie theater screen, the main screen on the right side. We were always hearing voices over there. Then things would move around on the stairs and in the projection room. You always felt like someone was over your shoulder all the time,” said Ron White who worked in the Lyric Theater.
Now an abandoned darkroom with cobwebs and dust inches thick.
“First it was a stage theater, and we were told that later on, they started showing movies and stuff in there when silent movies became the rage. As a matter of fact, we were the last people to ever operate movies in that theater before it was shut down,” said White.
It has also been known to be explored by the Ghost Hunters, featured in an episode on the travel channel last year.
I spoke to the ghost hunters starring in the episode, who are no strangers to the haunts of the hotel.
“We didn’t even know prior to the filming of Ghost Adventures that there have been other people that also saw hands reaching out to them. They had a psychic come through for Ghost Adventures, and we had never met her prior to then,” said Jay.
Having explored the casino and theater before, the Yates’ were not looking forward to this visit.
“I will honestly say that when that experience happened, it wasn’t just me getting marked, it did hurt, and I saw the hands and everything. It felt like it was almost like going in an elevator and it feels like you’re going down. Well, that’s what it felt like, and I felt like I was never going to get out. I thought I would never see my kids again. I really get chills even trying to think about walking up there anymore. A lot of it has to do with because I thought I wasn’t going to get out. We were screaming, and they didn’t even hear us screaming,” said Marie Yates, paranormal investigator, and owner of C.O.P.S. Crew.
Even local teams have ventured to uncover the haunts of Lute’s Casino.
“I’ve been investigating the Central Hotel and the Lyric Theater for about 10 years now. In those 10 years, we have learned that in the theater, there’s a little boy in there and there’s also an older gentleman. The older gentleman, he kind of protects the theater, and if he doesn’t like you for whatever reason he can actually change your mood. We’ve had several investigators in there that will be happy-go-lucky investigating and having fun with all the activity, and then in a blink of an eye, they are so upset and angry that they have to walk out,” said Tim Preston, who runs Yuma E.V.P. Paranormal.
Using special equipment in order to communicate with the dead.
“This is a basic ghost meter, E.M.F. detector, and we have this which is going to detect vibration and make that sound. This is an ovilus device that’s preprogrammed with several words. The theory is that spirits use those words in that database to communicate with us intelligently,” said Jay.
Emotions riding high, taunts from spirits unknown, voices left to be decided by the ones who hear the whispers.