2014 was a busy year in Iverson Movie Ranch research. As I was looking back over the year's blog posts to help put together a Top 10 list of the most significant finds of the year, I realized it would be difficult to narrow it down to just 10. So in addition to the Top 10 Countdown that follows, you'll find a "Next 10" list at the bottom of this post, highlighting the discoveries that didn't quite make the Top 10.
Here's a countdown of the Top 10 Iverson Movie Ranch finds of 2014:
No. 10: Proof that Elvis Presley filmed on the Iverson Movie Ranch
Promotional still for "Harum Scarum" (1965)
It has been known for some time that Elvis Presley's 1965 Movie "Harum Scarum" was filmed in part on the Iverson Movie Ranch, but I had to put together a few puzzle pieces to prove that the King himself was captured on film at the ranch. The above promotional still played a key role in proving it.
Click here to read the blog post from October all about what Elvis was up to while he was at Iverson.
No. 9: The Forsythe Oak
The Forsythe Oak, located on the former Upper Iverson Movie Ranch
2014 was the Year of the Tree in Iverson research, with the Forsythe Oak being one of three trees to make the Top 10. Named after actor John Forsythe ("Bachelor Father"), the tree was spotted in an episode of the Western anthology series "Zane Grey Theatre" and helped unlock a broader discovery, the Midway Oaks — a small grove of trees that appeared in many productions, with quite a few of the trees still in place on the former Upper Iverson.
Click here to read the blog post from August about the Forsythe Oak.
No. 8: Evidence that Bald Knob was manmade
"The Virginian" (1963) — a bolt found in the rock known as Bald Knob
The secret behind the gravity-defying rock Bald Knob, a frequently filmed feature of the Iverson Gorge, appears to have been inadvertently revealed in an episode of "The Virginian," where a bolt can be seen presumably helping to keep the rock from tipping over.
I did an in-depth examination of Bald Knob in two posts back in August, starting with this one, which examines a number of appearances by Bald Knob, including in an episode of "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" that contains a sequence I call the Battle of Bald Knob. The Bald Knob series continues with this post exposing the bolt and other possible enhancements that were made to the rock feature.
No. 7: The Charles Bronson Hanging Tree
"Bonanza" (1964) — Charles Bronson hanging from the Charles Bronson Hanging Tree
The tree from which Charles Bronson was apparently hanged during his guest appearance on "Bonanza" in 1964, in the episode "The Underdog," was found to still be in place on the former Upper Iverson. I blogged about the tree and the Bronson appearance back in September, and you can read that blog entry by clicking here.
No. 6: Tornado's Mine
"Zorro's Black Whip" (1944) — Tornado's Mine
Fellow film historians and location experts, including a number of readers of this blog, collaborated with me on my personal Iverson Movie Ranch research in 2014 more than ever before, with one example being the discovery of Tornado's Mine by Jerry Condit. Thanks to Jerry I found not only the exact location of the mine, but even some remaining pieces of the old movie set that are still in place.
I detailed the discovery of Tornado's Mine in a blog post in November that you can read by clicking here.
No. 5: Stone buttressing near Garden of the Gods
"Adventures of Captain Marvel" (1941)
Another collaborative effort went into the discovery near Garden of the Gods of the stone buttressing noted above that appeared in the Republic serial "Adventures of Captain Marvel." A sighting by "Spin and Marty" webmaster Kurt Spitzer launched the search, but it was intrepid Iverson explorer Cliff Roberts who found the structure.
You can read a post from November all about the buttressing, its location and its discovery by clicking here.
No. 4: Tom Mix bootholes from 1935
"The Miracle Rider" (1935) — Tom Mix contemplates his bootholes
I blogged in October about the discovery of the Tom Mix bootholes from the Mascot serial "The Miracle Rider" in a rock now known as Tom Mix Rock, which remains in place near the Garden of the Gods. The holes were spotted in the serial by a reader of this blog, Scotty, and I was able to track them down at the location and match them up with the holes as they remain in place today.
You can read my blog post about the bootholes by clicking here.
No. 3: The remains of Freddie Frog
"Range Beyond the Blue" (1947) — Freddie Frog
Freddie Frog was one of those rock formations at Iverson that I thought must just be my imagination — especially after trying in vain for years to find it. When I finally managed, back in February, not only to determine the location where the rock once stood, but also to find the busted-up pieces of what was once Freddie Frog, I realized I wasn't crazy.
I blogged about the Freddie Frog discovery in February, and you can read that post by clicking here.
No. 2: Bear Tree
"The Adventures of Spin and Marty" (1955)
Bear Tree was one of the first big Iverson Movie Ranch finds of 2014, and like many of the year's top discoveries, it was the result of a collaborative effort. "Spin and Marty" expert Kurt Spitzer tipped me off to the possibility that this scene from the Disney series might be filmed at Iverson, and some heads-up work by field operative Cliff Roberts produced the first confirmed contemporary photographs of the tree.
Bear Tree today
The discovery of Bear Tree helped open up a whole new "branch" of Iverson research, as it soon became apparent that in many cases a tree can be just as much help as a rock in telling a story about movie history. Following the discovery of Bear Tree, other secrets have begun to surface about the Oak Flats area, where Bear Tree is located, as well as the Midway Oaks and other tree-filled sections of the former Iverson Ranch.
To read the blog entry from back in March about Bear Tree then and now, please click here.
No. 1 — the Top Iverson Movie Ranch find of 2014: Hobbit House
Hobbit House, hidden among the condos on the former Lower Iverson
The discovery of Hobbit House early in the year helped tie up a number of loose ends about the movie history of the Upper Gorge, on the Lower Iverson. Hobbit House connects many of the dots among the Angry Cardinal, Plaza Rock, the Gorge Cabin and other features, while also revealing just how much history has been lost to the "fill dirt" used in construction of a condo community on the site.
"Stagecoach Express" (1942)
This photo of Hobbit House from 1942 gives some idea of the grandeur of the rock feature when it stood tall — before about three-quarters of it was buried. Click here to read the original blog post from March about the discovery of Hobbit House, including additional movie appearances by the rock feature. A follow-up post, which can be found by clicking here, goes into detail about Angry Cardinal, a larger rock feature of which Hobbit House forms the "top lip."
Here are some noteworthy Iverson Movie Ranch discoveries of 2014 that didn't quite make the Top 10 list — you can click on any entry to see the original blog post about the item; in no particular order:
• The site of the Snakeskin Mine Shack in "Gun Belt"
• Bigfoot Subdues Dracula
• Buster Keaton's "armory" in the towers of Rock Island
• Carey's Cabin on the Upper Iverson
• Lancer Arch, named for "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer"
• A new view of the Sheep Flats adobes, as seen in "The Light of Western Stars" (1940)
• Iverson after the brutal Southern California fires of fall 1970, as seen in "Cade's County"
• Crouching Cat, disguised by fake plaster rock material in "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp"
• Saddlehorn Village in widescreen CinemaScope in "Escort West"