Zzyzx - Part 1

By Christopher Zoukis

Zzyzx.  The word looks like something Einstein scribbled while trying to prove his famous theory of relativity.  But it’s not.  It’s a place in Death Valley in southeastern California. 

The only reason anyone goes there is because of a rare and bountiful spring located at the girdle of chocolate colored mountains.  The Spaniards were the first.  Then in 1860, the U.S. Army had a fort there.  It was called Hannock’s Redoubt. 

Fame came to the area when Curtis Howe Springer arrived.  According to some people, Dr. Springer as he called himself, was a flamboyant maverick.  Others just called him a charlatan or a con-man.

Dr. Springer became a minor celebrity because of his gift of gab.  He was a radio evangelist at radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh in the 1930’s.  The business of saving souls destined for Hell was booming and Dr. Springer needed room to boom.  The year was 1944 and God had given Curtis a ‘word of wisdom,’ which is where God whispers in the ear of the pious.  God told Curtis to “go into the desert,” because the war would soon be over and His work needed to be done.  God would bring the people to Curtis. 

So Dr. Springer packed up his fiancee Helen and their born-out-of-wedlock daughter and moved to what he called “a mosquito swamp” in the Eastern Mojave.  Spiritual fads and miracle cures were all the rage in California.  The people had open hearts and open minds.  And Dr. Springer hoped to open their hearts to Jesus, their minds to the Holy Ghost, and their wallets to him.

Dr. Springer knew God never thought small, so neither did he.  He filed a mining claim on 12,800 acres of California desert.  Then he got to work on building Utopia.

For three days each week, he and his ‘family’ lived in a luxury hotel suite in Los Angeles.  There he made tapes for his national radio broadcasts, which permeated the atmosphere across the United States, blazing forth from 100,000 watt radio stations.  227 radio stations transmitted the words of Dr. Springer.  And they were golden words, for they stimulated his listeners to part with their money.  The donations flowed in, and the money was counted and deposited in the bank.

The other four days of the week, Dr. Springer cruised skid row in his campaign bus, rounding up drunks, bums and penniless vagabonds.  He offered them food and shelter in return for manual labor.  They were put to work in the desert, building the headquarters of his soon-to-be worldwide ministry.