Frank Critzer - Giant Rock - 1940s
Frank Critzer in his room beneath Giant Rock

George Van Tassel gave Critzer money and supplies when he came to his father’s Santa Monica auto repair shop. Critzer promised Van Tassel a percentage of his find. A year later Van Tassel received a letter from Critzer with crude directions: “take one of five straight roads leading into the desert to Giant Rock.”

Frank Critzer (artist’s rendering)

In 1942, Critzer was be raided in his nearby cave by Riverside County Sheffifs who had gotten a tip that he was a German spy. A tear gas canister probably ignited his stash of dynamite. As described by Vernette Landers, the woman who the town of Landers, California would eventually be named after:

It was awful. They blew him to bits. No one found any radios. He was just a reclusive miner with a German last name, that’s all. I remember his blood had splattered against the walls of his cave and stained them. We would go back every now and then and the blood would still be there. It was just awful.

  • The Last Prom, issue 3, 11