A former utopian healing center, created by a huckster and built by derelicts.

On the edge of a dry lake bed, you'll find a bizarre pseudo-town: "Zzyzx" (pronounced "Zye - Zex," rhyming with Isaac's). The made-up name was given to the area in 1944 by Curtis Howe Springer, claiming it to be the last word in the English language.

“Zzyzx” pronounced “Zye – Zex,” is a made-up name given to the area in 1944 by Curtis Howe Springer, who claimed it to be the last word in the English language.

Curtis Howe Springer was a self-proclaimed medical doctor and Methodist minister, though in actuality he was licensed to do neither. Like many other hucksters of his day, Springer convinced his devoted followers to move out to the West coast, where he promised a new, utopian way of living and an abundance of miracle cures. At the time, the West coast had a slight reputation for its questionable businessmen, who built empires out of cheap land, religious fads and get-rich-quick schemes. Springer was no different, having founded or managed six other failed resorts before striking it rich with Zzyzx.

He was a self-proclaimed doctor and minister, who like many other hucksters of his day, convinced his devoted followers to move out to the West coast, where he promised a new, utopian way of living and an abundance of miracle cures.

In 1944, Springer, along with his fiancee Helen and their daughter, stumbled upon a "mosquito swamp" in the east Mojave. It was there, in the middle of the desert, where Springer envisioned his utopia. Not surprisingly, he acquired the land by filing a dubious mining claim for 12,000 acres. For the next few months, Springer split his time between the desert and Los Angeles, where he taped radio broadcasts and recruited builders.

In 1944, Springer stumbled upon a “mosquito swamp” in the east Mojave desert next to a dry lake bed. Not surprisingly, he acquired the land by filing a dubious mining claim for 12,000 acres. For the next few months, he split his time between the desert and Los Angeles, where he taped radio broadcasts and recruited builders.

Inside the bathhouse.

Inside the bathhouse.

Today, the site is operated as a protected habitat for the Mohave tui chub -- Springer had stocked his pond (also artificial -- dubbed "Lake Tundae") with the fish, and they'd died off almost everywhere else. A group of California State University campuses manage Zzyzx as a Desert Studies Center, with apartments, offices, and a small gift shop.

Today, the site is operated as a protected habitat for the Mohave tui chub — Springer had stocked his pond (also artificial — dubbed “Lake Tundae”) with the fish, and they’d died off almost everywhere else. A group of California State University campuses manage Zzyzx as a Desert Studies Center, with apartments, offices, and a small gift shop.

Pump It Up

Pump It Up

To find his artisans, Springer bought a large bus and drove down to Skid Row in LA, where he rounded up vagrants and offered them meals and shelter in exchange for construction. Some of the men left when learning of the "no alcohol" policy, but many stayed. Together, the men built a two-story hotel, an artificial lake, a cross-shaped pool and even an airstrip, which Springer named Zyport. Some of the builders stayed in the strange utopia for years, others, for the rest of their lives.

To find his “artisans”, Springer bought a large bus and drove down to Skid Row in LA, where he rounded up the homeless and offered them meals and shelter in exchange for construction. Some of the men left when learning of the “no alcohol” policy, but many stayed. The men built a two-story hotel, an artificial lake, a cross-shaped pool and even an airstrip.

"Mosquito Swamp"

“Mosquito Swamp”

Springer advertised the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Resort on his syndicated religious radio show, and asked his listeners for "donations" for his special miracle cures. The potions, though only comprised of basic vegetables like celery and carrots, were marketed as the cure for everything from hemorrhoids to cancer. Guests at the resort were able to try Springer's "life-prolonging" Antedeluv... See More

Springer advertised the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Resort on his syndicated religious radio show. Guests at the resort were able to try Springer’s “life-prolonging” Antedeluvian Tea and other magic potions, but his most popular remedy was an anti-baldness cream, Mo-Hair. Users were instructed to rub the potion vigorously on their scalp, then bend over and hold their breath for as long as possible. When the blood rushed to their head from lack of oxygen, Springer would cite their red faces as “proof” that his miracle potion was working its magic.

Over the next thirty years, hundreds of visitors came to his resort in search of a healthier lifestyle, but Springer's dubious business practices would eventually catch up to him. Springer, in yet another hare-brained scheme, tried selling the plots adjacent to Zzyzx, despite never having purchased them himself. This act, along with lawsuits from bald men who Mo-Hair failed to cure, eventually brought government attention to the site, and Springer and his followers were evicted in 1974.

The resort thrived over the next thirty years, but Springer’s dubious business practices would eventually catch up to him. In yet another hare-brained scheme, he tried selling the plots adjacent to Zzyzx, despite never having purchased them himself. This eventually brought government attention to the site, and Springer and his followers were evicted in 1974.

As I entered one of these rooms at the formal motel, I ended up startling this...

As I entered one of these rooms at the formal motel, I ended up startling this…

...a Kit Fox, who jumped out the window like a Superfox and then stared me down for the next few minutes while I snapped his photo. Look at the center of the photo to find him.

…a Kit Fox, who jumped out the window like a Superfox and then stared me down for the next few minutes while I snapped his photo. Look at the center of the photo to find him.

Definitely one of the shittier rooms at the former motel.

Definitely one of the shittier rooms at the former motel.

Salutation

Salutation

The pool does have a great view. The original pool was shaped liked a cross and had a roof over it, not sure if this was that pool or not.

The pool does have a great view. The original pool was shaped liked a cross and had a roof over it, not sure if this was that pool or not.

Looks a little dirty.

Looks a little dirty.

How could anyone enjoy their spa time with all those other people around? I know this is what bathhouses used to be like and how some of them are still like today but I would like to enjoy my mineral spring soak alone please.

How could anyone enjoy their spa time with all those other people around? I know this is what bathhouses used to be like and how some of them are still like today but I would like to enjoy my mineral spring soak alone please.

How they communicate at the Desert Studies Center.

How they communicate at the Desert Studies Center.

The current stewards of Zzyzx don't seem to object to daytime visitors wandering around but be advised that you probably shouldn't be sneaking around the ruins like I did. I believe anyone is welcome to stay and rent out one of the rooms but I hear the place is overrun by scorpions even though I didn't see any during my trip.

The current stewards of Zzyzx don’t seem to object to daytime visitors wandering around but be advised that you probably shouldn’t be sneaking around the ruins like I did. I believe anyone is welcome to stay and rent out one of the rooms but I hear the place is overrun by scorpions even though I didn’t see any during my trip.