The Intrigue of Giant Rock
By Barbara LaGrange
Photos and captions by Frank Rodrigue
When people explore the high desert of California, in particular, the Mojave
region near Landers, unusual stories abound. Stop at a coffee shop and ask “what
does Landers offer” and you’re apt to get more information than you wished for.
Old timers will tell you that the region was vibrant with colorful characters,
nomadic tribes, prospectors, and World War II spies. Others will sit back and
allow a dreamy eye to view their time in Landers as a wonderful memory to
cherish until their dying day. Others will tell you that the skies are full of
All of that is nearly true.
The fabled Giant Rock had attracted the first
native nomads hundreds of years before settlements rose from the dusty ground.
The granite stone and surrounding ground had been held as holy ground by the
Native Americans. It is reported that the Hopi knew of this rock and joined
other tribes across the desert to convene and celebrate the coming seasons.
Shaman drew spiritual strength for the tribes through this rock. It is also said
that the magic in the rock represents the heart of Mother Earth. It is also
thought to be the world's largest freestanding boulder --- at about seven
stories high and covers 5,800 square feet of ground.
|Compare to the size of the person standing in the middle.
There are also “special centers” around the
world where, historically, people have been drawn to for spiritual energy. Giant
Rock is one of these places. Special electromagnetic forces, a vortex, have
drawn scientists, UFO specialists and even regular folks to this remote place.
The Legends – Charlie Reche, Frank Critzer, and George Van Tassel
One of the early white families who settled in the wide expanses of Homestead
Valley ( later to be known as Landers) was Charlie Reche, having homesteaded
here in 1887. “He was allowed the privilege of meeting with the local Indians
many times”, according to a story retold by George Van Tassel. Reche's homestead
included the area where the Van Tassel Integratron now stands, as well as
several acres besides. Reche was noted for sharing tales with the residents,
since there weren’t many there at the time.
In the early 30s, a middle-aged prospector with an interest in short-wave radio,
staked a claim in the Giant Rock area. He knew well enough that if he could
fashion a supported house under the giant rock then he would enjoy cooler
temperatures in the summer and burn less fuel in the winter. He built a one-room
subterranean home with a doorway facing west and a storage room toward the east.
He attached a radio antenna to the top for better signal strength. His name was
Frank Critzer who most folks avoided. He seemed a little strange. Besides, he
had excavated under Giant Rock!
George Van Tassel had a special fascination with airplanes, which led him to
obtain his pilot's license while still a teenager. He dropped out of school
after 10th grade and took a job at Cleveland Municipal Airport. He was offered a
job in California by his uncle, Glen Paine, who owned a garage in Santa Monica.
It was at that garage that Van Tassel met Frank Critzer, a German immigrant
trying to make a living in the desert as a prospector. Van Tassel and his uncle
befriended Critzer by repairing his car and stocking him with food and money for
his journey. Critzer promised to cut them in on any future mining claims.
A year or so later, Critzer wrote to Van Tassel and invited him to the area he'd
been mining. Van Tassel and Paine drove to the remote location, where they
discovered Critzer living under "Giant Rock," reputed to be the world's largest
boulder. Critzer had excavated about 400 square feet of space under the rock and
lived in the cool cavern year-around. Critzer appears to have had his own
celebrity status as a cantankerous old goat that would shoot at you as soon as
look at you. He had also met and heard tales from Reche.
Nothing more appears to have come of the coincidental visit. But during World
War II, Critzer came under suspicion as a German spy, no doubt because of his
radio hobby, and was killed in a botched law enforcement raid on his dwelling in
1942. Legend says that all his possessions were removed by the government. Some
stories claim that a tear gas canister was lobbed in and ignited Critzer’s cache
of dynamite. No one really knows the truth but the burned out room was closed
and locked for years. The potential of Giant Rock remained a latent hope in Van
Tassel's mind for 15 years.
During that time, Van Tassel established a name for himself as a flight test
engineer. He worked for both Lockheed International and Douglas Aircraft in the
1930s. He spent the World War II years flying with Howard Hughes. It is unknown
if Hughes' eccentricity and passion for eternal earthly life (Hughes wanted to
be frozen until someone could find the cure for whatever killed him) are what
influenced Van Tassel to move to the desert.
After taking his family to Giant Rock on vacation, he was able to apply for
leasing the property from Bureau of Land Management in 1945. By 1947, he packed
up his wife and three daughters and moved them onto the land surrounding Giant
Rock. "He said he got tired of the rat race because California was growing so
much," his half-sister Margaret Manyo said in a recent interview.
Among his accomplishments, Critzer had established an airfield at Great Rock,
and Van Tassel reopened the field and built a cafe there. Manyo said Howard
Hughes would fly into the airport on weekends just so he could get a slice of
the pie Van Tassel's wife made. Fly-ins were common. The sturdy little
restaurant was made of cinder block construction to withstand the worst desert
storms, so the pilots knew they had a place to get away from dangerous air
currents when forced to land.
The Van Tassels lived a hand-to-mouth existence. They held UFO conventions at
Giant Rock for almost 20 years to raise money for the project that would make
Van Tassel a noted man of the region, and was constantly asking supporters for
donations. Thousands of believers passed through.
In 1959, 11,000 people attended his UFO conventions, and Van Tassel continued to
work on his dream --- the Integratron --- while writing a number of books on
time travel and rejuvenation.
The Integratron --- Landers CA
The Integratron is a 38-foot high, 50-foot diameter, non-metallic structure
designed by the engineer George Van Tassel as a rejuvenation and time machine.
Van Tassel was a legendary figure, a former test pilot for Howard Hughes and
Douglas Aircraft, who lived at Giant Rock, and operated Giant Rock airport. His
annual Spacecraft Conventions were attended by thousands across two decades,
featuring high profile UFO contactees and pioneers in the fields of antigravity,
primary energy research, and electromagnetics. Van Tassel led weekly meditations
in the excavated room under the rock from the 1950's to the 1970's, which he
claimed led to UFO contacts. He said UFO channelings and ideas from scientists
such as Nikola Tesla led to the unique architecture of the Integratron. He spent
18 years constructing the building.
Just what is an Integratron?
The location of the Integratron is an essential part of its functioning. The
actual site of the building was worked out according to a complex set of
theories involving the earth's magnetic field, and the Integratron's
relationship to the Great Pyramid in Egypt and Giant Rock, the world's largest
The remote location and spiritual significance of Giant Rock drew seekers to the
desert. Van Tassel believed the rock's crystalline structure possessed great
channeling power by virtue of its piezo-electric characteristics. If there was
communication from another world waiting to be received, Giant Rock was the
place to tap into it.
In Van Tassel’s mediation sessions under Giant Rock, he believed he received
vital information from alien sources to build a rejuvenation machine. He
developed the building with direct input from his alien designers, and in doing
so generated a 20-year following of others who believed he had tapped into the
universal knowledge of the century. Van Tassel received instructions for a
machine that could rejuvenate human cells using the natural energy found in the
atmosphere. He called the device the "Integratron."
Construction began in 1954. Manyo said George's brother, Jack, assisted him
although he was not privy to the revelation and plans. Van Tassel's literature
describing the project stated that the machine's purpose was "to recharge energy
into living cell structures, to bring about longer life with youthful energy."
He theorized that the body is an electrical device, and aging was a matter of
the cells running out of power. The Integratron, capable of collecting up to
50,000 volts of static electricity from the air, would be a multi-frequency,
electrostatic charger for the human body.
The 16-sided dome was built of wood and concrete and held together by glue and
gravity-electrically neutral materials. The generating core was made of copper
wire. Had it been placed into operation, candidates would have walked through
the building, essentially a huge air capacitor, while wearing white outfits. The
charges, distributed over a wide range of frequencies, would affect every cell.
Van Tassel funded Integratron construction by using Giant Rock as a focal point
for UFO Space Conventions. The first convention was held there in 1954.
Thousands attended these events, drawn by Van Tassel's charisma and the desert
location. In 1959, conferences led by Van Tassel attracted 11,000 followers. He
wrote a newsletter sharing his experimental ideas with those who believed.
"He got huge donations," Manyo said. "There were so many people who believed in
that." She said his project received much media attention, and he was a guest on
many television talk and commentary shows. Van Tassel also was a guest speaker
at many colleges and universities throughout the country as interest in UFOs
heated up in the `60s and `70s.
Margaret Manyo said the family respected George's sincerity and his alien
communication stories. "It was so authentic the way he would tell it," she said.
But they also shied away from the strangers and devotees that seemed more than a
Van Tassel wrote six books about his out-of-this-world experiences, including "I
Rode in a Flying Saucer." And he started a non-sectarian, non-profit
organization for religious and scientific research, the College of Universal
Wisdom. Construction of the Integratron proceeded slowly, but in January 1978,
"Proceedings," the quarterly publication of the College of Universal Wisdom,
reported that the device was 90 percent complete. Van Tassel planned to be the
first human to experience the power of the Integratron. But three weeks later,
Van Tassel had died February 9, 1978 of an apparent heart attack. It was a true
shock to his friends and family since Van Tassel had been an extremely
The core and other critical components of the Integratron disappeared shortly
after Van Tassel's death, giving weight to a conspiracy theory. Furthermore,
another scientist who had worked on a similar project in the 1940s and `50s,
also had suffered an sudden heart attack under unusual circumstances. Wilhelm
Reich, whose Orgone Accumulator had come under attack by the Food and Drug
Administration, had been imprisoned and died just three days before he was to be
released from prison November 1, 1957.
With no written plans for completing the project, Van Tassel's family abandoned
the site. Van Tassel buildings at Giant Rock were vacated and gradually
vandalized until the Bureau of Land Management found it necessary to bulldoze
the remains. Today the Integratron and acreage is owned by Emile Canning, who
offers it for rental, tours, film locations, and recordings. Canning calls it "a
very powerful vortex for physical and spiritual healing."
Power of the Vortex
People have not lost sight of the power at Giant Rock. It garnered new attention
in February 2000 when a meditative reading foretold that the old Hopi legends
could easily become true in a short time. Hopi shaman had known since before
1920 that the rebirth of the new 21st century could be foretold at Giant Rock.
If the rock split in half the Earth Mother was disillusioned with man and would
not accept the prayers given on behalf of mankind.
However if the rock split on the side relieving pressure on the Earth’s tectonic
plates then man’s prayers were answered and a new era would be revealed.
Although Giant Rock had not moved in a million years, the next morning a third
of the rock split and broke away, exposing a gleaming white granite interior.
The prophecy had been fulfilled.
Prior to this event, Shri Naath Devi was inspired to bring a number of powerful
healers and interfaith leaders to the desert to pray. She interpreted the Giant
Rock split event in the most positive light. She said that “the Mother had
opened her arms to us, cracking open her heart for the whole world to see.” Now
is the time for re-evaluation and self-growth, of spiritual awakening and
|Giant Rock with broken piece on right
Giant Rock can be reached by passenger car by traveling south from Lucerne
Valley on Hwy 247 to Reche Road in Landers, or traveling north from Yucca Valley
on Hwy 247. Take Reche Road to Belflower Rd, left on Belflower until the
pavement ends. To your right will be the Integratron. Go past the property, turn
right and follow the graded dirt road toward the left. The dirt road will follow
the edge of the jumbo rock pile about 2 miles. Follow around the end of the rock
pile until Giant Rock comes into view. Be cautious of broken glass and snakes in
the area. And always bring extra drinking water.
For Further Reading:
Excerpts here were gleaned from a variety of sources including web sites and
David Davidson's self-published book insights, “Overlords”, from an article in
the Ashtabula, Ohio newspaper.
Hopi Prophecy web site:
High Desert Star newspaper, Yucca Valley, Feb 2000.
visits since 10/7/03