Benfield's 2013 Travels travel blog

Bell Tower

Death Valley Ranch Complex

Propane House

Tower - Spiral Staircase

Spiral Staircase


Inside the Courtyard

Part of the unfinished swimming pool

Gate to the Courtyard

Visitor Center - Former Garage

Our Guide for tour of the mansion

1933 Packard

Door in the Courtyard to the Main House

Living Room

Living Room

Desk in Scotty's Bedroom

Scotty's Bedroom

Fountain on the porch

Mary in the porch area

Don Quixote Tapestry

Fireplace in the lower Music Room

Lower Music Room

Dining Room

The area where Scotty entertained guests in the Dining Room

Death Valley Ranch China made in Italy

Dining Room

Kitchen Tile




Mrs. Johnson's Bed

Mrs. Johnson's Bedroom

Looking down at Living Room

Another Don Quixote Tapestry

Guest bedroom

Spanish Chest from 1492 (only 2 made)

View of Bell Tower

Another Bedroom

A Bathroom

Upstairs Music Room

Pipe Organ in Music Room

Pipes are behind this wall

Fire Place in Music Room

Upstairs Music Room

Propane House

Unusual Weather Vane

Front of Mansion

Guest House

Guest House

Guest House

Scotty's Grave on Hillside Above Mansion

Unfinished Swimming Pool

Back of Mansion

Bell Tower with Power House in Front of It

Panorama of Death Valley Ranch Complex

After lunch, we decided to drive up to Scotty’s Castle, a Spanish-style “vacation retreat” (most would say “mansion”) of a wealthy Chicagoan built in the 1920s. We got there in time to take the last house tour of the day at 4:00. The house and the couple that had it built have an interesting history but the gist of it is that they got conned by a prospector named “Death Valley Scotty” and came to the area often enough that they built this home rather than camp in tents.

Scotty claimed he had a gold mine in Death Valley and convinced a number of wealthy men including one Albert Johnson of Chicago to invest in the mine. But there was no mine. Scotty took the money invested and lived high off the hog. But then Albert Johnson traveled to Death Valley to check out his investment. He actually made several trips to Death Valley without ever realizing the mine was a figment of Scotty’s imagination. While here, Scotty would take Mr. and Mrs. Johnson on extended camping trips (there were no permanent lodgings in the area) always having a plausible reason for never getting to the mine. The Johnsons would return to Chicago without ever seeing their mine. After several trips, Mrs. Johnson got tired of tents and had Mr. Johnson build a permanent structure for them to stay in while here. Meanwhile, they became good friends with Scotty and by the time the Johnson’s realized they’d been had, believe it or not, they didn’t care.

Scotty became their employee and entertained their guests at this house. He was a great story teller and everyone enjoyed listening to him. Scotty had many stories to tell because for one thing he worked for Wild Bill Hickok for 12 years and he traveled the world with his show. For another, he left home at eight years of age and supported himself from then on. Scotty lived with the Johsons until they died and then they let him live in the house until he died. Scotty is buried on the hill above the house.

It was after five o’clock by the time we were ready to leave the castle and it was quite a long trip back to the campground. We munched the food we’d brought as we drove and our intent was to get back to Zabriskie Point near the park’s entrance in time for the sunset. This is a popular spot for viewing sunsets. Unfortunately, we got there a little too late for the show. There were a lot of cars in the parking lot and many were just beginning to leave. We did get some shots however of the sun reflecting off the nearby mountains making them glow red.

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