Visitors have left orchids, angel statues, Tibetan prayer flags, Bibles, turquoise jewelry and guitar picks. There’s a meteorite, too, river water from the Ganges, and a Yoda Pez dispenser that mysteriously never runs out of candies.
“Only here,” says Joanne Karl, surveying the eclectic mass.
The makeshift altar inside the Integratron is laden with talismans of religious and spiritual traditions as varied as its visitors.
The two-story white dome near Landers was originally built as a time travel and human rejuvenation machine by a man who claimed to be carrying out plans revealed to him by visiting Venusian extraterrestrials.
Now, it’s enjoying a renaissance as a Mojave Desert mecca for visitors who consider it a health and spirituality center, as well as scientists who say the building and its location are warranting scientific investigation.
Its future remains open.
“We basically opened the building to the public, and were visited by physicists and architects and musicians and sound healers,” Karl says.
“And everyone had a different opinion on what we should do with the place. We probably have the least agenda of anyone.”
The 10-acre spread is owned by sisters Joanne and Nancy Karl, as well as their third sister Patty, who lives out of state.
Once a languishing historical oddity – one group hoped to turn it into a disco in the 1980s – the Karls bought and opened the dome to the public in 2000.
Since then, they’ve hosted an eclectic mix of sojourners, scientists and musicians, all drawn to the isolated Mojave Desert landmark.
They operate under a simple philosophy:
“Whatever gets you there is awesome,” says Joanne Karl.
That means creating new ways for the public to experience the Integratron, while raising money to restore the building to creator George Van Tassel’s original aim: a working human rejuvenation machine.
It’s an eyebrow-raising goal, but anything seems to be possible at the Integratron.
“I think the mystery is the most interesting and tantalizing part about it,” Karl says.
Visitors from afar
The dome has long been a popular pilgrimage site. In fact, before Joanne and Nancy bought it, they’d drive all the way from the coast for a chance to see it.
“People are just drawn,” says Joanne Karl.
“They show up at the gate at midnight and say ‘I gotta get in there.'”
The building itself was inspired by an unexpected visitor from much further away than Ventura County.
George Van Tassel, a former test pilot and engineer, was at nearby Giant Rock when he says he received instructions from extraterrestrials to build the dome. Construction started in 1953.
He spent the rest of his life in the area, building the two-story domed structure on a patch of ground he believed was an energy vortex. At the aliens’ request, he used no metal – only wood and fiberglass.
In the 1950s and 1960s, he became famous for hosting “Spacecraft Conventions” and publicizing his experience as a UFO contactee.
When he died suddenly in 1978, he left an unfinished dome.
“He was about 95 percent finished when he died,” says Karl.
The missing link was an electrical coil snaking around the outside of the dome. When “switched on,” it would theoretically create 50 million volts of electricity.
The supercharged building, Van Tassel believed, would extend human life 20-50 years and allow for time travel.
Sound baths and unplugged city dwellers
Today, visitors flock to the Integratron for subtler transcendental experiences.
Available for rentals, tours and half-hour “sound-baths,” Joanne and Nancy regularly entertain visitors looking to unplug from busy lives and careers.
In the past five years, they’ve hosted a wedding, bachelor parties (though “alcohol and the dome don’t really mix,” according to Joanne), a music video shoot, impromptu gospel concerts, school groups, healers, and Russian physicists.
The sisters maintain that the ground is a unique energy vortex: potent geomagnetic forces combined with the unlikely presence of an underground aquifer and high concentrations of quartz, gold, copper, and granite. Visitors often report paranormal phenomena and feelings of euphoria and wellness.
“We’ve definitely had some phenomena out here,” says Barbara Harris, a longtime visitor and patron of the dome.
The visitors that end up at the Integratron’s gates today are just as likely to be looking for a retreat from Los Angeles as hoping to commune with extraterrestrials.
“When we first opened it, we didn’t know if it would be people in tin spaceship hats,” Joanne Karl says.
Now, she sees urban refugees sleeping under the star-spattered sky in her funky outdoor living room and wandering around the sprawling grounds, which are stocked with eucalyptus trees, blooming cacti, and a fire pit. Visitors call it the antidote to the infrastructure.
Musicians also take advantage of the dome’s perfect acoustics: the rock band Zwan, fronted by Billy Corgan, shot a music video here, and other musicians have stopped by to jam.
For $45, visitors lay on mattresses in the dome’s upper room while Nancy or Joanne plays a set of quartz bowls, producing resonating tones that align the body’s chakras.
Watching the mystery unfold
The Karls say restoring the building and property is their priority for the future of the area.
“Turning on” the dome, as per Van Tassel’s original intention, is still a possibility.
“It’s a big endeavor. It’s a combination of back engineering while not being really sure what will happen when it happens,” Joanne says.
“George’s intention for this building was as a gift for humanity. We still hold it that way, our gift is to restore it.”
Michelle Theriault is a writer for Desert Post Weekly, a sister publication of The Desert Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Michelle Theriault , Desert Post Weekly