It was built on a lie. A fraudulent claim of riches and gold in the mountains above Death valley. Scotty’s Castle became a peculiar and popular site for tourists.
But it now faces real challenges and an expensive fix.
“Don’t you really want to be at Yosemite? No!” jokes National Park Service tour guide Abby Wines.
She has spent 12 years telling the world a lie. Not hers, but ones crafted by con man Walter Scott in the 1920’s.
“I love the story of Scotty’s Castle. That a rich man got conned by a western adventurer into believing there was a gold mine here.”
That rich man was Walter Johnson who poured $2 million into the ornate desert oasis thinking gold was underground.
“When he found out there wasn’t a gold mine here, which included a gunfight and Scotty’s brother getting shot, he became Scotty’s best friend and that’s just strange,” Wines said.
In truth, it’s not really a castle.
But considering how Scotty’s castle was built, one hoax merely blends in with all the rest.
“There were leather curtains on the side that Scotty said were mules that had been skinned when they misbehaved,” Wines said.
And looking at the beauty left behind, perhaps it was worth it.
“Suddenly you came around the corner and there’s this magnificent place,” said David Blacker, Death Valley History Association.
The association helps protect the park’s history, usually from age. In this case, it was rain.
“A lot of us are calling it a 1,000 year flood,” Blacker said.
The storm came in Oct. 2015. Three inches of rain fell in five hours. The road was torn apart. Electric and water lines were washed away. And left behind, endless piles of mud.
“I love this place,” Wines said. “Ten years of my life taking care of this and sharing this wonderful story with others. It was hard to see the destruction.”
Fixing up Scotty’s castle will cost about $48 million. That’s a lot of money, but the park service says it’s worth it.This is the reason people started coming to Death Valley, in the first place.
“It’s probably going to take about a year-and-a-half of work to restore the castle,” Wines said.
Unlike the castle’s creation, this tale is very real and fixing everything will take time but those involved say it’s necessary.
“It would minimize Death Valley to not have Scotty’s Castle,” Blacker said.
The park service is asking for public input on restoration plans right now. It says the castle may not reopen until 2020.