Holy City Observatory

Holy City Observatory
Holy City Observatory, Zoo, and gas pumps ca. 1925. I.B. Fisher Collection.

The Holy City Observatory boasted two or three large, powerful telescopes. For ten cents, a tourist could observe the moon, the Santa Clara Valley, or, if one were a neighbourhood boy from Redwood Estates or Chemeketa Park, the “naturalists” at the lodge in the canyon below. To this day, Lupin Lodge welcomes “social nudity and body acceptance,” though the trees have grown to such a height that there is no longer fear of observation by anything except a drone.

Under the observation platform of the Observatory, a sign flanking a painting of the solar system read, The Law that governs the Solar System is Christianity. In the True Light Holy City reveals the Mystery. In a poem called “In Tune With the Solar System,” Lucille would seem to solve “the Mystery” by using the metaphor of the sun as God/Jesus and the planets as the kingdoms of the world, while also somehow equating Riker with the sun for “those of you who know,” namely, the disciples of the PCDW:

The Sun the Solar King on high, shines forth with all his love,
Upon all who will receive it, round about, beneath, above.
Then do ye as the King above, you earthly kings below,
Be imitators of the real, those of you who know…

The proprietor of the Observatory was Joe Witzig, who in the 1930 US Census was listed as being 47 years of age. Once they had viewed the moon through the telescope, a tourist could then walk over to Witzig’s office and become a landed lunar resident, receiving a deed for a one-acre lot:

This is a Holy City Souvenir, Deed, Title and Certificate to Your choice lot on the Moon that was sold to You.
This new Subdivision of choice lots on the MOON, void of all grafters, religious fanatics and the Devil, is something for you to be proud of.
Lot No. _______ Block No _________ Track [sic] No _________
GOOD NEWS: For all time to come these lots are exempt from all Taxes and Foreclosure. Come up often nights to YOUR HOLY CITY, and see your choice lot through the Holy City Giant Telescope, now in full operation.
Joe Witzig
Real Estate Agent and Astronomer (2)

Unlike many of the disciples, Witzig would not live out his life in Holy City. In October of 1942, to comply with new laws that required the installation of fire escapes on buildings, he, Arthur Kastner, and Irvin Fisher were nailing ladders to the men’s dormitory over the garage. Triggered by some word or action now unknown, Fisher lost his temper and swung an iron bar at Witzig, striking him in the head. Though he was taken to hospital, Witzig died of his injuries a day or two later. Fisher ran off into the woods in a panic, but was discovered hours later walking back up the road to turn himself in to Riker. He was arrested by the sheriff, pleaded guilty and stated his regret for his actions, and was sentenced to five years in San Quentin prison.

(1) The Enlightener, Vol. 2, No. 11, p. 4 (San Francisco: March 15, 1918), Special Collections & University Archives, University of California Riverside.
(2) Betty Lewis, Holy City: Riker’s Roadside Attraction in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a Nostalgic History (Santa Cruz: Otter B Books, 1992), 40–41.

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