Back in May we took a short trip to the desert to celebrate the marriage of two awesome friends and while there got to visit a site I've long been fascinated by: The Integratron in Landers, California. I first came across the Integratron in an amazing book The Visionary State, a book which (along with pretty much everything written by Mike Davis) inspired a great many adventures and the creation of The Landlubber (which of course has digressed a bit from its original intent, but I digress as well). If you're not familiar with the Integratron's reputation, you're in for a treat. What you're looking at is a 38-foot high, 55-foot wide, domed structure built entirely without metal, the only all-wood, acoustically perfect sound chamber in the United States. It's the creation of George Van Tassel, an aeronautical engineer and test pilot for Lockheed, Douglas and Hughes Aviation (where my maternal grandfather also worked) who designed it for rejuvenation and time travel, incorporating the writings of Nikola Tesla, Moses' Tabernacle and instructions from extraterrestrials with whom he had been in contact. All of this began in 1947 when Van Tassel moved his family to the Mojave desert near Landers, Ca. and set up residence next to the world's largest (7 stories high) free-standing boulder, aptly named Giant Rock. The Van Tassels leased 4 square miles from the U.S. government and opened up the Giant Rock airport and Come On Inn cafe. In the early 1950s Van Tassel began holding weekly meditation sessions in rooms underneath Giant Rock (excavated by a prospector named Frank Critzer who lived in the rooms until he blew himself up) which he claimed put him in touch with extraterrestrials. In August of 1953, Van Tassel was visited by a spacecraft from the planet Venus and invited onboard, where he was given the key to rejuvenating living cells. Thus began the building of the Integratron, which Van Tassel described as "a machine, a high voltage electrostatic generator that would supply a broad range of frequencies to recharge cell structure." According to Van Tassel's theory, the site chosen for the Integratron is an intersection of geomagnetic forces and the structure's unique shape allows those forces to amplify, focusing their rejuvenating and healing powers onto those inside. (While you may not believe in the healing aspect of said forces, a geophysicist measured a 15-mile radius around the Integratron back in 2005 and found that there is in fact an unexplainable spike of magnetic energy at the structure's center.) Throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, Van Tassel hosted widely attended Interplanetary Spacecraft Conventions, using the money to fund the Integratron project (which, interestingly, was built by shipwrights using 16 glued and laminated spines held together by one ton of concrete at its apex). Another interesting (but not terribly surprising) fact is that Howard Hughes was a significant financial supporter (Hughes being a bit of an eccentric himself, if I may say so). In 1978, Van Tassel suddenly passed away, leaving behind the epitaph "Birth through induction, death through short circuit" and that chapter of the Integratron closed. But it certainly didn't end things for good and after a rough couple decades, the Integratron found a solid foundation in the Karl Sisters who've opened it up for tours and "sound baths" that continue to utilize the space for alternative health and spiritual healing through neuroacoustics, while allowing those not looking quite as far as the stars to enjoy its architecture on the ground. In 2005, a historical monument was erected by the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus, making it's existence official.
Magnetic Fields? The Integratron is about 2 hours from L.A. or 25 minutes from Joshua Tree and wll worth a day trip (or weekend adventure). Getting there is pretty straightforward from the L.A. area, take whichever freeway you like to the 10 east, then take that to Hwy 62 towards Twentynine Palms. Turn north onto Old Woman Springs Rd (Hwy 247) and after about 10 miles up, take a right onto Reche Rd then a left onto Belfield. Keep an eye out for a sign on the right and head through the gate when you see it, there's a parking area and the Integratron's behind a wooden fence you can walk through. If you want to actually go inside the structure, either for a tour or a sound bath, you should definitely call in advance and make a reservation as there's a steady stream of visitors all year round (and not just the interplanetary kind).
(Mamiya 645, Portra film)