The Integratron, Landers (1953–1978)
The Integratron is an octagonal, minimalist style white building located just outside the desert in Joshua Tree. The oak-lined upstairs is now used for New Age sound baths and meditations. Yet in the first floor, visitors are able to learn about the building’s unusual history. The Integratron was built between the 1953 and 1978 as a meeting space for the UFO religion known as the Ministry of Universal Wisdom. The Ministry’s leader was a man named George Van Tassel, and he designed the Integratron as both a tabernacle and time machine. The building appears complete, but Van Tassel considered it unfinished just before his death in 1978. Though the Integratron continues to be used for religious purposes, it never achieved its full potential as a functional time machine.
The Winchester Mystery House, San Jose (1884–1922)
This mansion in San Jose was once the home of Sarah Winchester, the widow of firearm magnate William Winchester. The residence is known as an architectural curiosity because of a variety of strange passages and doors that go nowhere. She did not hire an architect, and the house was supposedly built without a final design plan. It is rumored that Winchester continued to construct the home in these strange ways to appease the spirits of people who had been shot by Winchester rifles. Because the house had no known final architectural blueprint and was under continuous construction, it was considered unfinished at the time of Winchester’s death in 1922. While Sarah Winchester may well have been superstitious or an occultist, it is just as likely that she was an experimental architect. The supernatural interpretation is favored by those who profit off the Winchester Mystery House as a tourist attraction.
The Hearst Castle, San Simeon (1919–1947)
Perhaps the most decadent building on this list, the Hearst Castle at San Simeon was the grandiose estate of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. It is situated along the Pacific Coast just north of San Luis Obispo, is perhaps best known as the inspiration for “Xanadu” in the 1941 film Citizen Kane. It is however a real place that was once host to Hollywood directors, silent starlets, and international royalty. The castle and its grounds were designed by California architect Julia Morgan, who was given free reign to incorporate Hearst’s extravagant artistic acquisitions. Byzantine tiles, stained glass from gothic churches, medieval gargoyles, and erotic sculptures from antiquity are incorporated into the architecture of the estate. In addition to designing the castle itself, Morgan oversaw acres of landscaping, three guest houses, two swimming pools, and even a zoo. Morgan stopped working on the project when Hearst fell ill in 1947 and could no longer reside at San Simeon. He passed away in 1951, and the estate became a state park shortly after in 1954.
Read Zoya Brumberg’s essay “Free Energy: George Van Tassel’s UFOlogy as Reactionary Science” about the Integratron
Learn more about architect Julia Morgan in Sarah Boutelle’s comprehensive history of her career