Thursday, April 20, 2006

April 29th - a Date for your Diary

E.T., there's no place like dome
In the middle of the California desert, the mysterious Integratron is a mecca for UFO enthusiasts.
By Susannah Rosenblatt, Times Staff Writer
April 20, 2006
The life's work of a onetime aircraft engineer, the bizarre 38-foot wooden structure was meant to add decades to a person's life (not to mention warp time and suspend gravity) through frequencies generated by electrostatic energy. Now the dome, surrounded by fruit trees, grapevines, vintage trailers and miles of nothing in every direction, will be put to a more modest use — host to the first Retro UFO convention April 29.
It's a fitting place to gather, considering the closest thing to a Retro UFO celebrity may be the Integratron's patron saint, engineer George Van Tassel. He built the dome for $150,000 over 18 years starting in 1957, claiming that he was inspired by a predawn meeting with a visitor from Venus named Solgonda.
Van Tassel and his family lived in a hollowed-out chamber under Giant Rock, a seven-story free-standing boulder plopped on the edge of Landers three miles north of the dome.
He didn't complete the electrostatic device at the heart of the dome before he died in 1978, and his plans and equipment to finish the 50-megavolt Integratron disappeared soon after his death.
The outlandish dome and its unlikely location are "a monument to one man's field of dreams," said Joanne Karl, 51, one of three sisters who own the dome and have worked to restore it.
As for Van Tassel's alleged encounters with visitors from Venus and his offbeat writings claiming that the sun is square, "I smile and wink," said co-owner Nancy Karl, 48.


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