Weird California: Our List of the Weirdest Place in The Golden State
These places are not necessarily scary. Neither are they normal. In the scariest month of the year, sometimes we don't want the obviously terrifying. With the horrors of the general election less than a few weeks away, some of us Californians want the weird and wonderful of our States.
So here is your comprehensive list of the most bizarre and funky that our state has to offer. Some of them have a personal twist, built from my predominantly scientific background. Others are just downright crazy cool. Whatever tickles your flavor, make sure to check it out on your next roadtrip or lazy Sunday in the best place on the planet!
The Underground Tunnels of Los Angeles
Los Angeles, a thriving hub of good-will and respect (said no one, ever) is also home to some of the greatest F-Us to the system of all time. During Prohibition, 11 miles of service tunnels beneath the streets of Downtown Los Angeles became basement speakeasies. With innocuous frontages, these tunnels allowed drunks and lovers and Angeleno drinkers to move about the city without the fear of getting caught. How was the whole thing supplied? Well by the Mayor of course!
The Salton Sea
Okay, so this is technically a saline lake, not a sea. However, this spot near the Mexican border of Southern California, is really quite strange. This salt lake is much saltier than the sea and has been through various stages of life throughout the last three million years. In the last hundred of these years, the sea has been a popular fishery in the 40s, a hang-out spot in the 50s, and is now being destroyed through the failures in human manipulation of the planet and climate change. It is now like a ghost town unto itself, with dead fish and birds lining the shores along with a plethora of human stuff left behind.
The Museum of Death
This place is exactly what it sounds like. Not for the faint hearted, the Museum of Death is home to a huge collection of images featuring the Manson crime scenes, photos from the Dahlia Murders, various pieces of serial-killer artwork, and much more. Full-size replicas of execution devices and a collection of other weird things used to hurt human beings also reside within the walls of the museum. I'm thinking of taking my friend Lizzie later this year. She's not a weirdo or anything, we are just running out of things to do other than drink and see live music.
The Sailing Stones of Racetrack Playa
Geology rocks, we all know this. What really rocks, is when geology gets weird. Case and point: the sailing stones of Racetrack Playa. For years, these rocks moved with absolutely no evident cause. Trails behind the stones prove that they have rolled, but there are few geological and meterological phenomenon that move rocks of this size without disturbing all of the land beneath it, making trails mostly invisible. A few years back, a group of researchers monitored the group of rocks (which they named, obviously) for seven years and found that winter ice flows were likely to be the cause of the movement. One of the stones is called Karen, which is very inventive for a geologist
(PS – Geography graduate author, so I can be mean to geologists).
More of a glorified heap, Salvation Mountain is a weirdly wonderful part of Californian society. With everyone, no matter how evil they might be, having at least some sort of relationship with God, it was only time before the hippies brought in the bizarre. This mad monument to the Big Man was created by Mr. Leonard Knight after his hot air balloon failed over this sparse patch of desert. Knight is beloved by all who meet him. Despite this, the mountain is coated in thick layers of lead-based paint, so don't lick it.
“Eventually this whole place will collapse into the ocean.” Joked Steve as we cycled along the beach by Santa Monica. I nodded in agreement. The towering cliffs above us a daunting reminder of my years of geographical science and my own near escapes from natural disasters. The very thing that Steve and I predicted happened in 1929 in the coastal town of San Pedro, California. A landslide threw an entire neighborhood of fancy homes to fall into the ocean. The land movement had a peak of 11 inches a day! The fractured foundations and abandoned streets and streetcar tracks. Very weird!
Once a boomtown during the golden days of California's gold discovery, Amboy resides along the historic Route 66. When new roadways were developed, making the Route somewhat useless, Amboy emptied. One resident was left behind until he grew bored of the upkeep and listed the town on eBay. Now owned by the same guy who owns Juan Pollo, the only functional part of Amboy is Roy's, an ex-diner and serve station that has now started selling gas again. Travelers who want to take on the heat of the Mojave can still explore the abandoned school, church, airport, and graveyard. It is said to be so silent in the remote little town that the only thing you might hear is the rattle of a train passing by. Bring a full tank of fuel and enough water to last you a few days – just in case!
Byron Hot Springs Hotel
Arguably the most diverse history of this list, the Byron Hot Springs Hotel has been everything from a resort, to a home, to an interrogation center, a monastery, and more over it's history. Now, it lies in eerie ruins. Two incarnations of the property have burned to the ground. The lure of the natural hot springs in the center of the land kept drawing investors back throughout the 1800s and into the start of the 20th century. Though the current owner is said to have plans to develop the site back into it's former glory, many believe that the land is cursed and that it will forever dwell at the end of a long-forgotten road.
The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes
Buried beneath the sands of the dauntingly enormous Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes are ancient Egyptian artefacts dating back years... 93 years at the time of writing. No, the giant sphinx and various other bits and bobs are not real Egyptian goods, they are props from the set of The Ten Commandments. The filmmaker, Cecil B. Demille, ordered the crew to dismantle and bury the sets after filming in the remote desert location so that no one could copy his excellent silent film's backdrop. A 720-foot long Egyptian palace, 30-feet high Pharaoh statues, and the most accurate depiction of an Egyptian city lie beneath the dunes, just waiting for historians in the 3000s to find and confuse the hell out of!
Berkeley Mystery Walls
This has to be my favorite place on the list! Stretching out across 50miles of the East Bay from Berkeley to San Jose, no one has a clue who built these walls. In some places, the walls are up to five feet in height, made from boulders and various other rock fragments. Some of the individual boulders weigh over a ton, some are in ruins, and some run anywhere from a meter to a mile in length. Spanish settlers originally found the stones, noting that they had no idea how they came to be. They seem to serve no purpose as they are too small for defence. Various historians and scientists believe that the wall was built by Mongolian settlers, but no dating has proved accurate enough for tangible scientific certainty as to who, why, when, or how these walls were built.
The Institute of Mentalphysics
Joshua Tree, California, is known for being a spot of bizarre happenings. This is just one of them. Located across 420 acres of desert, this spiritual center was designed to study the science of the future. Originally built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1946, the Institute is for those of us who wish to seek a higher sense of consciousness and further understand the science of the mind. The Institute was first created by Ding Le Mei, born Edward John Dingle, a British journalist who spent far too much time getting weird in Asia, much like many Brits continue to today. The retreat is still open and functional, with many guests still visiting the site in order to enhance their mental capabilities – for a fee, of course.