WORDS & PHOTOS: Josh Spencer

In the late 1940s and 50s, Southern California played home to a unique breed of aeronautical pioneers. This was the booming post wartime period of expansion, innovation and space dreams. There was little oversight and a vast desert perfect for racing rockets and detonating explosions.

Some pioneers created new rockets that would eventually take us to the moon. Some became infatuated with breaking speed barriers. Others got into some pretty weird shit: these men and women weren’t looking to the cosmos; they were looking into one another, using their wide open minds to dream up sex magic rituals, aliens, magnetic forces and other mind-body experiments.

George Van Tassel was one of those freethinkers, working at various post-WWII aeronautical companies. Van Tassel moved his family to live under a giant rock, then built a giant dome in the desert with funding from the king of flight and known weird one, Howard Hughes.

This dome, which Van Tassel dubbed the Integratron, was designed using a mathematical formula he claimed was given to him by an alien visitor from Venus named Solganda. The purpose of the Integratron was to initiate human bodily rejuvenation, anti-gravity, and time travel. Van Tassel claimed that this chamber could heal the body, spirit, and mind of visitors, but sadly he died weeks before the official opening and the world never got to experience his alien scheme in its original incarnation.

The structure was bought and sold numerous times until the beginning of this century when three sisters bought it, restored it and opened it to visitors for sound baths and meditation. Their website states that the “sonically perfect” structure provides sonic healing and “waves of peace, heightened awareness and relaxation of the mind and body.”

When you pull onto the property the first thing you notice is a steel sculpture of an alien spacecraft, the dome slightly obscured behind a small oasis of trees. The structure is 38 feet high and 55 feet wide, flanked by four large metal antennae used to focus the “geomagnetic energy” that is purported to be stronger underneath the dome. The decor comes across as desert / Burning Man / alien cliché, with a hammock garden to relax in while you wait for your turn.

When you enter the dome and climb upstairs, one of the first things you notice is the amplified voices of the people standing on the opposite side of the dome. It sounds as though they are standing right behind you even when they’re 30 feet away. Everyone is asked to lay down on their mats and instructed on how best to enjoy the upcoming sound bath: lay there and enjoy it.

Off the center of the dome lay a dozen or so quartz crystal bowls, each a different size correlating to a different pitch it creates when played. It’s like a giant version of when your drunk hippie friend starts playing his wine glass after one too many. The guide informs the audience that each tone affects a different part of the body, and not to worry if those parts started vibrating when the bowls were played. The playing starts low, then builds and builds until the sound is all encompassing. It comes from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

I’ve talked to a number of friends who’ve experienced the sound bath and everybody’s take is different. Some talk of out of body experiences, others of deeply meditative states, some of nothing but a great nap. For me it was a very relaxing and refreshing break from the outside world, a short and sweet deep sleep that prepared me for the drive back into civilization. And on that drive, I wondered if this is what the aliens wanted—if they bestowed upon Van Tassel the key to separaton from the modern world. Or maybe he was just batshit crazy.