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February 22, 2006

How to Survive an Apocalypse

Thunder01

If art expresses a person's innermost soul, then this man must have felt tangled up inside himself.

Frank Van Zant's vision was sparked when he heard the prophecy of a medicine woman: "In the final days there shall rise up a place called Thunder Mountain." She also told him that only those who lived at Thunder Mountain would survive the coming apocalypse. Van Zant wasted no time; he changed his name to Chief Rolling Thunder Mountain, moved his family to the desert in Imlay, Nevada, and began to build his monument.

Curiously, it does not look much like a mountain. Nor thunder. It looks more like a web of veins (or maybe nerves) that almost seem to be strangling the little house within.

Thunder03

At age 69 Van Zant committed suicide because he had finally completed his masterpiece.

Note: The monument has been in disrepair for a long time now. In recent photographs, most of Van Zant's original paint has worn away.

Reader Comment: Karradine says,

I knew Thunder in 1970, and stayed with him for several weeks. He was a friend to Baha'is, and an intelligent - if eccentric! - man.

Sleeping in his house was a real experience, utterly normal until the wind began to blow, for he had made his house from bottles collected from the roadside, and made the mistake of building part of one wall B0TTLE-MOUTH OUT!

The first time I awoke at 0230, with banshees wailing so loudly sleep was near impossible, I was loath to disturb him, and only mentioned it the next day, whereupon he explained it and told me it keeps evil spirits away (with a sly look on his face).

Quite a guy, Rolling Mountain Thunder!

Update: Welcome visitors from the boingboing link!

Thunder04_3

Thunder02_2

(click photos to enlarge)

Thunder Mountain Photo Gallery
Thunder Mountain Data/Photos
Thunder Mountain Info

February 22, 2006 | Permalink

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» Outsider architect photo gallery of Thunder Mountain from Boing Boing
Tinselman posted about a bizarre survivalist compound in Imlay, Nevada dubbed Thunder Mountain. Frank Van Zant's vision was sparked when he heard the prophecy of a medicine woman: "In the final days there shall rise up a place called Thunder Mountain."... [Read More]

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» Tinselman: How to Survive an Apocalypse from TechnoPrimitive
Tinselman: How to Survive an Apocalypse Strange stuff but I like the dudes way of building! ... [Read More]

Tracked on Feb 22, 2006 4:30:47 PM

Comments

I wonder if 'Thunder mountain' the inspiration for 'Thunderdome' in the (post-apocalyptic 'Mad Max' films? I've never seen these films, but they also take place in the desert.

Posted by: Mark | Feb 22, 2006 6:50:48 PM

Just stumbled across this from Boing Boing. What's funny is that I was just talking about this place to someone last week.

Back in 1989, not long after Frank Van Zant killed himself, I was driving down I-80 in Nevada for the very first time, on my way to Stanford as a new transfer sophomore. I saw Thunder Mountain from the freeway, and I just had to stop. I grabbed my camera and spent perhaps an hour there, going through more than one roll of film, shooting the incredible folk architecture, the dolls littering the outside, and even (with my flash to guide me) the inside. Yes, I suppose it was breaking and entering, but it seemed like the chance of a lifetime.

Since then, I have thought about the place many times, but I have never searched for it on the Internet. I am glad to see that others recognize its beauty. I am inspired to track down those slides and get them up on Flickr. Stay tuned!

Posted by: David J. Whelan | Feb 22, 2006 10:57:36 PM

There's a dozen more pictures of Thunder Mountain among my Nevada vacation photos at http://www.intergate.com/~sighmoan/vacation_2001/vacation_2001.html

Posted by: Simon A. | Feb 23, 2006 4:04:14 AM

I knew Thunder in 1970, and stayed with him for several weeks. He was a friend to Baha'is, and an intelligent -if eccentric!- man.

Sleeping in his house was a real experience, utterly normal until the wind began to blow, for he had made his house from bottles collected from the roadside, and made the mistake of building part of one wall B0TTLE-MOUTH OUT!

The first time I awoke at 0230, with banshees wailing so loudly sleep was near impossible, I was loath to disturb him, and only mentioned it the next day, whereupon he explained it and told me it keeps evil spirits away. (with a sly look on his face)

I was there with Darryl Waldhausen, a licensed surveyor in California, and we chained and mapped out some land for Frank/Thunder, a couple miles into the hills.

Quite a guy, Rolling Mountain Thunder!

Posted by: Karridine | Feb 23, 2006 8:32:09 PM

Your blog is great-- and I'm very excited to see there are other Thunder Mountain fans out there. Maybe we can keep it from falling into the dust.

Posted by: Kristin Ohlson | Dec 20, 2006 3:11:51 PM

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