George Van Tassel’s post-war life started off typically enough. In the years after WWII, he was working as a tool and dye maker at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica, and living with his wife Eva and three daughters in a 900-square-foot bungalow in Sawtelle. By the end of the decade, he had relocated the family to tents next to a giant rock in the Mojave Desert where he communicated with “space people” who shared secrets about telepathy, immortality, and instructions to build a hemispherical umbrella dome that became known as the Integratron.
Architectural historian Daniel Paul landmarked the unusual structure in 2018, and will explain the art and science of Van Tassel’s midcentury wonder at Zebulon on Wednesday, November 6. In advance of the event, we talked to Paul about aliens, Howard Hughes, and more.
What is the Integratron?
It’s a circular, wooden, two-story, hemispherical umbrella dome structure built by George Van Tassel near Landers starting in 1958. Its primary purpose was as a life extension machine, but Van Tassel thought it might be able to undertake time travel and antigravity experiences. It was intended to be the primary building of a ten-acre campus called the College of Universal Wisdom to educate people about the teachings and guidance of the space people.
Who are the space people?
Van Tassel had an interest in the metaphysical sciences before he moved to the desert and evolved into speaking to space beings. He started receiving transmissions from what he called the space people and he claims to have been visited by one called Solganda one night in 1953. Dozens of other space people were channeled through his mind. He called these forms of communication an “Omnibeam.”
What did the alien say?
He told him that the problem with human beings is that by the time you learn what you need to know you’re old and then you die and that life must be extended. He ran an interplanetary spacecraft convention there from the 1950s through the ’70s. They were the first large gatherings in the U.S. of UFOlogists.
How was the Integratron built?
Architecturally it is quite phenomenal. The upper level is a dome of all exposed wood. Solganda told him not to use any metal in the construction. The design is based on an aircraft fuselage. It’s a hemispherical umbrella dome made of Glulam ribs connected with wooden dowels. There is a 1.5 ton concrete and Micarta non-metallic oculus made by Westinghouse for aerospace use.
Where do you think the design came from?
Van Tassel appears to have worked with Howard Hughes on an all-wood aircraft called the D-2; it was the precursor to the Spruce Goose. If you look at pictures of the interior of the Spruce Goose and the Integratron dome they’re very similar.
What was this thing supposed to do? How did it work?
There were supposed to be 64 aluminum dirods, or extended beams, intended to spin and generate electrostatic energy. He was reading about Nikola Tesla and others, and Van Tassel thought he could generate 50,000 volts and regulate the energy of a human cell. Cells give off energy and the Integratron was going to generate trillions of negative ions. As cells age they no longer give off the proper charge, which in turn causes aging and health problems. He wanted to recharge the cells because he thought that spirits were basically electricity.
Did he extend his own life?
Although it was a life extension machine, Van Tassel himself ran out of time. He passed away in 1978 and all the machinery intended to be inside was never installed.
What happened after he died?
His wife kept publishing his newsletter Proceedings for a while, but other people tried to take ownership, including somebody who wanted to paint it lavender and call it the Lavender Disco. In the ’90s, a couple bought it and wanted to fire it up but that never happened. Three sisters from New York now own it. They are running a very popular sound bath experience. I had a sound bath but I can never be fully clean in there because I can’t hear out of my right ear.
Why are you doing this talk at a music club?
It seems like they have rather diverse programming. They do interesting film events and did something with the Unarius Academy UFO group. With a name like Zebulon, you’d think they might be pretty open to different things.
What’s the future of the Integratron?
I got it listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018. The property owner was interested in protecting it for the future and was very sensitive to the legacy of Van Tassel and his creations. The psychiatrist Carl Jung called California “Classic saucer country.” We have an openness to the metaphysical and to high tech. There’s a lot of Echo Park vibes up there now. It’s a beautiful space, the sound baths are highly regarded, and people love it.
Integratron: The Extended Life of a Life Extension Machine, A Slide Lecture, Wed., Nov. 5, 8 p.m.; Zebulon, 2478 Fletcher Dr., Elysian Valley.
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