The Ghost Mountain Experiment

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See a preview of this Truly CA episode.

The word "desert" conjures up images of a grim, desolate wasteland choked by unbearable heat and populated by venomous reptiles and thorn-covered plants. It is not an inviting image. Yet, on the western edge of California's Colorado Desert, a simple adobe house was built 75 years ago atop a windswept waterless ridge, aptly named Ghost Mountain. It was here that the family of an eccentric naturalist, author and artist, Marshal South, chose to live a primitive existence for 17 years during the Depression and World War II.

This amazing saga attracted a large following through numerous national magazine articles. The Ghost Mountain Experiment tells the story of escape and survival through old photos, home movies, re-enactments, aerial footage and interviews with members of the South family and those who remember them. The stunning imagery of the desert and the old home site was shot over an 8-month period on super-16mm film and mastered on HD video.

Marshal and Tanya South wanted to protect their children from society, rather than raise them to fit into society's mold. This unusual courage and commitment, however, came at a great cost and ultimately led to the end of their stay on Ghost Mountain. The story of South's dream appeals to our pioneer spirit. The saga of a strong, resourceful, and resilient family surviving alone on an isolated mountaintop fascinates and inspires us, but also challenges us to evaluate our own lives and perceptions.