Nestled in the bottom of Grapevine Canyon in northern Death Valley is the Spanish-style mansion known as Scotty’s Castle, or Death Valley Ranch. The massive home, complete with turrets, fountains, and a huge pipe organ, has a striking and unusual history that has captivated visitors for a century.
The mansion’s namesake Walter Perry Scott, otherwise known as Death Valley Scotty, was an ex-Buffalo Bill trick rider and learned well from the showman the art of publicity how to use it to promote himself as a rich gold miner from the mysterious Death Valley with a fabulous secret gold mine. Scotty collected thousands of dollars from investors that he claimed would go toward operations at his gold mine and to help develop other mines in order to produce a handsome return. The only problem was, Scotty didn’t own a single mine and never intended to!
While most investors dropped out after becoming wise to Scotty’s hype and schemes, a wealthy businessman from Chicago wouldn’t let it go. Albert M. Johnson, who had poured thousands into Scotty’s operation, discovered there was no gold mine when he visited Death Valley. Despite being swindled, he struck up a friendship with Scotty that would last the rest of their lives.