Death Valley Ranch

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We toured the Death Valley Ranch better known as Scotty’s Castle last Saturday. The history to this oasis in the northeastern corner of Death Valley is very interesting.


Scotty was a man who became famous when riding in the Buffalo Bill Shows. He also started a con job by getting the rich to invest in a fake gold mine in Death Valley. One of those investors, Albert Johnson, wanted to see this gold mine because he had invested much money in it with no returns. So Scotty took him out to Death Valley and staged an ambush to scare Albert off. The fake ambush didn’t work when Scotty’s brother was shot. Albert thought it pretty cool that when Scotty yelled for the guys to quit shooting and they did! Even better, when Scotty called them by name.


A friendship between the two became very strong over the years regardless of how much money Scotty stole from Albert. Albert was happy with Scotty and he was able to be a “cowboy” that he always wanted to be. He also felt much better in the desert.

Bessie, Albert’s wife, would come out to vacation in Death Valley and loved the place also. To make things more comfortable for Bessie, the construction begin on a house for her in 1922 and was finally finished in 1931. Did I mention that Albert was a multi-millionaire from Chicago!

The Johnson’s called the place Death Valley Ranch but since Scotty was already famous, through his story telling, he dubbed the place Scotty’s Castle!

We spent the day here, first with the underground tour of the tunnels, the diesel engine room, the battery room full of batteries from Edison himself. Albert didn’t like the lights flickering so installed all these batteries and hired someone to keep the water levels up. The tunnels we saw were lined with tile Albert had ordered and never used. Between the depression and the government telling him he didn’t own the property, he stopped construction.


Our tour guides were dressed in 1939 clothing, playing the part of someone during that time who was on the property. Tommy the Plumber was our guide through the house. This place was very impressive. 16 fireplaces and 2 fountains; 2 music rooms – one small and the other had a pipe organ with over 1000 pipes. They were played for us and it was beautiful. There were also many bedrooms, sitting rooms, a sun room. The house was in two sections with a walking bridge between the two.

dinning-roomThe dining room.

kitchenThe kitchen. There was running water in the house. Mesquite Springs was way up on a hill behind the house and pumped 700 gallons a minute. This gave much comfort in the desert home. Since the water was in abundance, Albert wanted a swimming pool out front that would take one million gallons of water and he put in place a way to circulate all that water.

deathvalleyranchYou can see part of the pool in the foreground. The pool was never finished. Bessie was killed in a car accident – Albert went to fast around a corner, she grabbed the door handle to hang on and the door opened, throwing her out. After that, his life kind of left him too. He wanted the original contractor to finish the pool area, but the contractor couldn’t do it when Albert wanted, so he never completed it. All the tile, shipped in from Spain, is sitting in the underground tunnels.

clocktowerThis is the bell tower at the left of the house. It dongs the hour even today.

redwoodceilingThe beams and ceiling were made of redwood. I imagine that same redwood from the California Redwoods.


DVRThis is the layout of the house. There is a courtyard between buildings and a walking bridge from second story to second story connects the two.


musicroom2 musicroom1


This is the big music room. There was a player piano and behind the wall on the top photo is where the pipes were. The sound was beautiful and we could have listened to it all day. It must have been an important part of the house for Bessie and Albert.

musicroom-1 fountininsun

The top photo was taken from the small music room to the great hall and into the dining room way in the back. Beautiful arch ways! The second photo is one of two fountains in the house. This one was located in the Sun Room just off the small music room. Water like this helped keep the house cool in the summer.



These 3 story stairs went to the roof from the outside of the house. A servant put the American flag up each and every day.

swimAnother view of the swimming pool – opposite side of the other photo. This was the deep end of the pool that would have a diving board. Synchronized swimming was popular in the 1930’s.




Albert died in 1948. Scotty died in 1954. This is Scotty’s grave, behind the house that is now called Scotty’s Castle.

I recommend this stop if you are in the area. Albert and Scotty were very interesting people but so different!

Life is good….it’s dark and quiet in our campground! God is awesome as always. His love seeps into our souls.


One thought on “Death Valley Ranch

    Sharen said:
    November 25, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Loved the tour. Although we both were born and raised in So. Ca we have never been to Death Valley.

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