I Went to an Abandoned Nazi Ranch
My co-workers are always going to exotic places, doing dangerous things. I, on the other hand, rarely leave my desk. I don’t like heights, going swimming makes me immediately imagine drowning, and having to drive a car down a windy road makes my crotch sweat. My three biggest fears are impotence, accidentally eating mold, and Nazis. So, when approached to scope out a purported Nazi hideout in Los Angeles’s Rustic Canyon, I jumped at the opportunity to do something crazy for once.
I absolutely wish I hadn’t. Murphy Ranch, as it’s called, was built in 1933 by wealthy American Third Reichers, Winona and Norman Stephens to house a totally self-sustaining Nazi community. Nazi sympathizers engaged in military exercises, under the expectation that the war in Europe would inevitably spill over into the American mainland. That didn’t happen, and the ranch was abandoned. There seemed to be nothing to worry about, but if there’s one thing I can count on, it’s that I will find something worry about.
After driving to the end of a residential street, we reached the entrance to Camp Josepho, the current name for the recreational area where the ranch resides. A barrier stands guard to keep unauthorized vehicles off the camp’s trail. We ditched our car and began the hike into the canyon. We hit a fork in the road, and I left our bag of empty beer bottles on the ground as a marker in case we got completely lost, which I was sure we would.
If it wasn’t bad enough that we were walking in 90-degree heat through a goddamn forest, we found our path down into Murphy Ranch. A seemingly endless series of 500 poorly fashioned stairs appeared to be our only means of accessing the Nazi campground.
There were no guardrails, and each step was about as wide as half my foot. In my mind, an elaborate scenario played out in which I would slip, fall 50 feet, bump my head on every step on the way down, then be Medivac-ed out via helicopter, and having to live the rest of my life inside an iron lung.