Zzyzx: The Strange Story of a Desert Oasis

What is Zzyzx and why should you care
Zzyzx is not a ghost town, but it has a castle, a goat farm, and a rabbit room. Sounds like a fairy tale gone wrong.


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For those in a hurry:

  • Zzyzx is a settlement in the Mojave Desert, California, with a castle, a goat farm, and a rabbit room.
  • It was founded by a radio evangelist named Curtis Howe Springer, who claimed to be a doctor and a minister.
  • Springer built a health resort and a radio station, where he sold fake medicines and preached his own version of Christianity.
  • He was evicted by the federal government in 1974 for squatting on public land and fraud.
  • Today, Zzyzx is home to the Desert Studies Center, a research and education facility run by several universities.

Zzyzx: A Fake Name for a Fake Town

Zzyzx (pronounced “ZYE-zix”) is not a ghost town, but it has a history that is stranger than fiction. It is located in the Mojave Desert, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles, California. The name Zzyzx was chosen by its founder, Curtis Howe Springer, who wanted it to be the last word in the English language. He also claimed that it meant “the place where you can get everything from A to Z”.

Springer was a radio evangelist who broadcasted his show from Zzyzx. He called himself “the last of the old-time medicine men” and sold various products that he claimed could cure diseases. Some of these products were made from the mineral water of the nearby Soda Springs, which Springer bottled and labeled as “Zzyzx Mineral Water”. He also sold “Mo-Hair”, which he said was made from the wool of his goats.

Springer was not a doctor, nor a minister, as he claimed. He was a con artist who had been sued several times for fraud and practicing medicine without a license. He had no formal education and had worked as an insurance salesman, a carnival barker, and a coal miner before becoming a preacher.

A Castle in the Desert

Springer founded Zzyzx in 1944, when he leased 12,800 acres of land from the federal government. He built a health resort called the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa, where he offered treatments such as hot baths, massages, and herbal remedies. He also built a castle-like structure that served as his residence and office. The castle had a tower, a moat, and a drawbridge.

Springer attracted many followers and visitors to Zzyzx, who came to hear his sermons and enjoy his facilities. He also had a radio station, KZIZ, where he broadcasted his show to millions of listeners across the country. He often invited celebrities and politicians to Zzyzx, such as Ronald Reagan and Howard Hughes.

Springer also had a zoo at Zzyzx, where he kept exotic animals such as lions, bears, and monkeys. He also had a goat farm and a rabbit room, where he bred rabbits for food and fur. He claimed that he fed his animals with alfalfa that he grew on his land using irrigation.

Zzyzx: The End of an Era

Springer’s empire came to an end in 1974, when the federal government sued him for squatting on public land. They found out that he had never paid any rent or taxes for his lease. They also discovered that he had been selling fake medicines and violating several laws. Springer was arrested and convicted of fraud. He was sentenced to 49 days in jail and fined $5,000.

The government took over Zzyzx and evicted Springer and his followers. They auctioned off his belongings and animals. They also changed the name of the settlement to Soda Springs, which was its original name before Springer renamed it.

A New Beginning

Today, Zzyzx is home to the Desert Studies Center (DSC), a research and education facility run by several universities in California. The DSC was established in 1976 and occupies some of the buildings that Springer built. The DSC offers courses and programs on desert ecology, geology, history, and culture. It also hosts conferences and workshops for students, teachers, researchers, and the public.

Zzyzx is still accessible by road and is open to visitors who want to learn more about its past and present. The DSC has a museum that displays artifacts and exhibits related to Springer’s era and the natural history of the desert. The DSC also maintains some of the features that Springer created, such as the castle, the moat, the Soda Springs, and the rabbit room.

Zzyzx may not be a ghost town, but it has a castle, a goat farm, and a rabbit room. It sounds like a fairy tale gone wrong, but it is also a fascinating story of how one man’s vision turned into reality.