Here's what the Iverson Movie Ranch obsession is all about ...

For an introduction to this blog and to the obsession a growing number of vintage film and TV fans have with the Iverson Movie Ranch — the most widely filmed outdoor location in movie and TV history — please read the site's introductory post, found here.
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• To find specific rock features or look up movie titles, TV shows, actors and production people, see the "LABELS" section — the long alphabetical listing on the right side of the page, below.
• To join the MAILING LIST, send me an email at and let me know you'd like to sign up.
• I've also begun a YouTube channel for Iverson Movie Ranch clips and other movie location videos, which you can get to by clicking here.
• Here's a link to Garden of the Gods, the best-known section of the Iverson Movie Ranch (featured in the movie "Stagecoach," the "Lone Ranger" TV show and hundreds of other productions).
• To go right to the great Iverson cinematographers, click here.
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Friday, May 23, 2014

Tornado's Cave and the "phantom limb"

"Perils of Nyoka" (1942) — Kay Aldridge as Nyoka, at the northern entrance to Tornado's Cave

The landmark Republic serial "Perils of Nyoka," starring Kay Aldridge as "Tarzan" author Edgar Rice Burroughs' heroine Nyoka the Jungle Girl, is featured regularly on this blog and you can read more about it by clicking here. But this time around let me call attention specifically to a short passageway through the rocks below Nyoka Cliff, known to historians and film location buffs as Tornado's Cave.

This highlighted version of the shot may help you see what's going on in the photo. The cave is small, as caves go, but still large enough for a German shepherd to wander around inside. And while getting in and out requires some care, it's even large enough — barely — to accommodate a person riding a horse.

Tornado's Cave as it appears today (southern entrance)

Seen above is the cave's southern entrance, which is almost always overlooked. This is NOT the angle we usually see in movies and TV shows when the cave appears. I think this entrance, which is smaller than the northern entrance, was just too small to be of much use. Even so, you could get in there from this end if you were so inclined. The cave is easy to find at Iverson if you know where to look, and I'll point it out on a map later in the post.

"Cowboy Holiday" (Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, 1934)

The more common northern entrance is just large enough to fit a horse and rider. I have to confess that until recently I had a slightly embarrassing personal misconception about this cave entrance that got in the way of my properly understanding what I was seeing in the movies. I thought the cave had a three-limbed tree in front of it. Maybe you can already see what gave me that impression, but I'll point it out in the next shot.

This shot pinpoints the would-be "three-limbed tree" — a single trunk splitting off into what appears to be three limbs, which turns out to be an illusion. In this shot from the B-Western "Cowboy Holiday," a rider emerges from Tornado's Cave, with the imaginary three-limbed tree seen to the right of the rider (our right, not his).

A more detailed breakdown of the three "limbs" indicates that two of them are real, while the third, the "phantom limb," is not. It turns out the "three-limbed tree" is an illusion created by a two-limbed tree set against some dark weathering on the large rock that forms much of Tornado's Cave.

"Terry and the Pirates" (1940)

This shot from the Columbia serial "Terry and the Pirates" is taken in front of Tornado's Cave and again features the "three-limbed tree" illusion. Incidentally, all of these old movies were filmed decades before historians came along and started calling the rock feature "Tornado's Cave."

Tornado's Cave in recent times — northern entrance

The dark weathering remains evident today, as seen in the above shot from a recent visit to Tornado's Cave. Here it's plain to see that there's no third limb.

The recent shot shows clearly that it's weathering on a rock and not a tree limb.

Zorro's Cave on the Iverson Ranch: Not the same as Tornado's Cave 

The existence of two separate caves on the Iverson Ranch whose names are related to Zorro has caused confusion among some Zorro fans. Zorro's Cave and Tornado's Cave are two different caves.

Stuntman Buddy Van Horn doubles for Guy Williams, posing as Zorro on Tornado
in a publicity shot for the Disney TV series

The name "Tornado's Cave" comes from the name of the horse ridden by Zorro in the Disney TV series and in other Zorro productions, usually known as Tornado — pronounced Tor-NAH-do, using the Spanish pronunciation. The horse on occasion has been called Toronado.

"Zorro Rides Again" (1937): Tornado's Cave with a different Zorro horse, El Rey

Appropriately, Tornado's Cave does appear in at least one Zorro production, even if the horse Tornado is nowhere to be found. In the Republic serial "Zorro Rides Again," John Carroll stars as a descendant of the original Zorro and rides a horse called "El Rey." The "third limb" is also visible again here.

The cave is located on park property in the Iverson Gorge, near Lone Ranger Rock and Nyoka Cliff. The location is east of Redmesa Road, just north of Santa Susana Pass Road and just below the Cal West Townhomes. It's hard to pinpoint on an aerial map, but fairly easy to find once you get close.

Poison oak in Iverson's Upper Gorge, near Tornado's Cave

For anyone who's inclined to go check it out in person, please keep in mind a couple of important warnings: One, the site is crawling with poison oak, so be aware of what you're getting into and try not to touch any plants — especially if they're red. But know that the green poison oak will get you too. Last time I was there the area right in front of Tornado's Cave was crawling with the stuff. And two, be wary of rattlesnakes. I spotted a baby one not far from Tornado's Cave on a recent visit — and I've heard the babies are even more poisonous than the adults.

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