By Kate Findley, Wondrium Staff Writer
Architect, mechanic, and UFOlogist George van Tassel began building the Integratron in the early 1950s, claiming he was instructed by aliens. This Mojave Desert landmark was supposed to facilitate life extension and time travel. What became of this ambitious project?
The occult has long captured the public’s imagination—particularly when it comes to witchcraft, superstitions, and sordid tales of satanic rituals. But the world of the occult is much deeper and broader than that, encompassing an entire philosophy and way of life for some believers.
In the Wondrium video series Secrets of the Occult, Dr. Richard B. Spence, Professor Emeritus at the University of Idaho, delves into this world. He covers a diverse array of topics spanning mythology—including fairies, werewolves, and Santa Claus—to areas such as secret societies, Nazism, and the Russian Revolution where occultism intersects major periods in history, blurring the lines between fact and fiction.
He also explores the origins of the UFO movement, highlighting the “four Georges of the golden age of flying saucers”: George Williamson, George Adamski, George King, and George van Tassel. While Adamski was arguably the most famous of the early contactees, Van Tassel was a fascinating figure whose legacy still endures today.
The Integratron: An Unusual Tourist Attraction
Van Tassel is the architect of the Integratron, a dome-shaped wooden building located in the Mojave Desert in Landers, California, about 50 miles north of Palm Springs. Each week, hundreds of tourists flock to the Integratron. They mostly come to experience the rejuvenating properties of the “sound baths,” which are meditation sessions conducted using large quartz singing bowls played with mallets, accentuated by the building’s remarkable acoustic properties.
Van Tassel’s inspiration to construct the Integratron came from supposed communication with “space beings.” He claimed that the building would facilitate life extension and time travel.
George van Tassel’s Origins—The Desert Beckons
According to Smithsonian magazine, Van Tassel was a career aviator who got his start in 1927 as an airplane mechanic. He later got a private pilot license and worked as a flight inspector for Douglas Aircraft, Hughes Aircraft, and Lockheed. His work brought him to the Southern California desert, where he was attracted to the “clean air, the intense quiet nights, and outdoor living in the desert.”
It was around this time that he met Frank Critzer, an unconventional dynamite enthusiast who lived in an underground “cave home” on the north side of the massive, freestanding, 7-story granite boulder called Giant Rock, located near Landers, California, in the Mojave Desert. In 1942, when he was the subject of government scrutiny, Critzer died after setting off his dynamite as police arrived for questioning.
In 1947, Van Tassel bought the land around Giant Rock, quit his job, and moved his family there. Eventually, he created a small airport and café. He also began holding group meditation sessions.
“In 1952, Van Tassel started getting telepathic messages from space beings,” Dr. Spence said.
The most notable of these “space beings” was “Ashtar”—later a favorite of other occultist contactees. Van Tassel wrote a book about his experiences called I Rode a Flying Saucer.
According to Dr. Spence, Van Tassel’s biggest contribution to the emerging field of UFOlogy was organizing the first Interplanetary Spacecraft Convention in 1953. It became an annual event, and Adamski and Williamson were regular attendees.
In their heyday, such gatherings attracted an estimated 11,000 people.
Filmmaker Jonathan Berman depicts Van Tassel’s life in the 2018 documentary, Calling All Earthlings. He captures the optimism at the heart of the UFO movement, particularly in an era that was recovering from World War II, while simultaneously preparing for the possibility of nuclear war.
Construction of the Integratron Begins
Van Tassel claimed that it was from these space beings that he received not only the message to build the Integratron, but also the blueprint on how to do it. He was also influenced by the works of Nikola Tesla. He believed that by generating electrostatic energy, he could modify the energy of human cells, thus, warding off the typical health effects that accompany aging.
Key to the building’s design are the materials used and its location at the intersection of powerful geomagnetic forces—intended to amplify the Earth’s magnetic field. Van Tassel said he was specifically instructed not to use metal and built it entirely of wood. The wood material and the building’s dome-shaped cupola bring out the resonant acoustics, which visitors can experience through the sound baths that are open to the public.
According to Los Angeles magazine, Van Tassel also had assistance in the building (and funding) of the Integratron from his former boss, famed pilot and Hollywood playboy Howard Hughes. The interior of the Integratron’s dome actually resembles the H-4 Hercules, also known as the “Spruce Goose” or the “Hughes Flying Boat.”
An Unfinished Dream
Unfortunately, Van Tassel died in 1978, leaving the Integratron unfinished. Several people tried to take charge of the project and pick up where Tassel left off, including one person who wanted to turn it into a disco.
In 2000, three sisters—Joanne, Nancy, and Patty Karl—took possession with the intention of honoring Van Tassel’s vision. The Karl sisters had been actively involved with the restoration of the Integratron since 1987 and still own the building today. They hold regular sound baths and other gatherings. Many visitors claim that these sound baths do indeed have healing properties—so while the jury may still be out on immortality, perhaps Van Tassel was on to something.
Learn more about George van Tassel, and other key figures in the UFO movement, in Secrets of the Occult, which is now available to stream on Wondrium.