2014 was a tough act to follow, but as the dust settles on 2015, it becomes clear that this has been a year of even bigger milestones in Iverson Movie Ranch research — highlighted by discoveries dating back to the silent movies and by greater collaboration than ever among a dedicated community of researchers. Here's a look back at some of my personal favorites among the finds I've been privileged to be a part of in 2015 ...
The Lew Murdock inscription from "Have Gun — Will Travel"
Lew Murdock Rock, on the Upper Iverson's South Rim
In a terrific example of collaborative research, Cliff Roberts spotted this beautiful artifact during an expedition on the Upper Iverson, and I was able to find the source of the inscription in an episode of "Have Gun — Will Travel" from 1959. It's always exciting when we can uncover a well-preserved relic of the filming era in all its glory — especially when we're able to figure out its origin.
• Click here to go to the original post with all the details about the Lew Murdock carving and Lew Murdock Rock, from May 2015.
Location of a cabin that stood in Central Garden of the Gods in 1935, seen in "Song of the Saddle"
"Song of the Saddle" (filmed in 1935, released in 1936)
We were able to identify rock clues in the background to pinpoint the location of this cabin seen in the Dick Foran Western "Song of the Saddle." It turns out the cabin was positioned in a historically significant area in Central Garden of the Gods, near where the Phantom Shack would be built a few years later.
• Click here to read the original post from earlier this month about the cabin seen in "Song of the Saddle."
"Ghost images" of Rock Island surface amid the foliage next to the swimming pool in the Cal West Townhomes
"RI-4," part of Rock Island, as seen in 1960 in "Have Gun — Will Travel"
Two major research threads crossed paths in 2015 as an examination of Elvis Presley filming locations at Iverson led us to Rock Island just as our in-depth examination of Rock Island was producing the first detailed picture of what happened to this key formation of movie rocks.
The hidden location of "RI-4," one of the five main features of Rock Island
In a strange way, Rock Island remains intact — depending on one's definition of "intact." Today Rock Island is mostly buried underground, and the small portion of the formation that remains above ground — the tips of what was once a cluster of large columns of rock — is mostly covered with ivy.
• Click here to revisit our in-depth exploration of Rock Island, then and now, from May 2015.
• Click here to see a post focusing on the Elvis Presley connection to Rock Island.
An old Western "town" set in Garden of the Gods in 1930, seen in "The Utah Kid"
"The Utah Kid" (1930): Early village in Garden of the Gods
Film location historian Tinsley Yarbrough spotted this early-sound-era cluster of buildings in the old Rex Lease Western "The Utah Kid." The buildings, which form a sort of adobe village, may date back to the silent era.
• Click here to read more about this amazing find, in an entry posted back in May 2015.
Siedry-Bert Inscription near the base of Sphinx, from the TV show "The Loner"
The origin of the "Siedry-Bert" inscription in Central Garden of the Gods has remained a mystery for years, and this year we finally solved the mystery. Iverson explorer Cliff Roberts and I put our heads together to delve into the carving's backstory, and we hit pay dirt, figuring out that the carving originated in an episode of the Lloyd Bridges Western TV series "The Loner," featuring guest star Burgess Meredith as Siedry.
• Click here to read the blog post from March 2015 telling the story of the Siedry-Bert carving.
Elvis Presley filming location in Central Garden of the Gods, from "Harum Scarum" (1965)
Elvis Presley's connections with the Iverson Movie Ranch came into much sharper focus during 2015, with much of the progress attributable to a collaboration with Elvis location researcher Bill Bram. A key development was the identification of the "Harum Scarum Cluster," seen in the background of the above promo still.
• Click here for a detailed report on the Elvis shoot at the Harum Scarum Cluster in Central Garden of the Gods, from March 2015.
Footholds in the Boots Rock area near Garden of the Gods
Mysterious manmade holes, apparently dating back to early in the filming era, were discovered in an area located a short distance north of Garden of the Gods. The origins of these possible footholds and anchor points for sets, camera towers and other construction remain largely a mystery.
• Click here to read our in-depth report on the Footholds area, published in June 2015.
Fake cave house that stood north of Garden of the Gods for much of the 1920s
A fake cave house on the Lower Iverson is seen in screen shots and behind-the-scenes production shots for silent movies filmed at least from 1920-1926, meaning it may have been built for an even earlier production.
• Click here for a full report on the cave house published on the blog in August 2015.
"The Silent Man": A 1917 silent Western containing the earliest known film images of the Iverson Movie Ranch
The discovery of the silent Western "The Silent Man" — probably not the earliest movie filmed on the Iverson Ranch, but the earliest that I've been able to identify positively — was something of a miracle. Most of the movies from this period have been destroyed, along with much of the documentation of film production at Iverson during the silent era. "The Silent Man" survives as one of the most important documents of the ranch's earliest days.
• Click here to read the December 2015 post revealing the many Iverson Movie Ranch treasures contained in the 1917 Western "The Silent Man."
Location of the Chinese Bridge in "Tell It to the Marines," including anchor points for the struts
The above production shot, unearthed by Iverson Movie Ranch aficionado Ben Burtt, played a key role in solving the mystery of the Chinese Bridge seen in the 1926 silent movie "Tell It to the Marines."
• Click here to see the blog item from September 2015 pinpointing the spot on the Lower Iverson Movie Ranch where the Chinese Bridge was located.
We had a number of other noteworthy finds in 2015 that just missed making the Top 10. Here are the best of the rest, in no particular order, with links to posts containing photos and details about each find:
• New details surface about the 1920 shoot in the Garden of the Gods for the silent spectacle "Man-Woman-Marriage."
• Strange Rock is identified — the spot where Glenn Strange positioned himself in the ambush of Texas Rangers that launched the story of "The Lone Ranger."
• The location of the Grapes of Wrath truck-pushing sequence is found.
• Disaster at Overlook Point on the set of the 1938 Gary Cooper movie "Adventures of Marco Polo."
• Lower Iverson's East Gate is identified, along with a fire station that was the movie ranch's closest neighbor.
• A previously unknown fake cave turns up in the TV show "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp," located on the south side of the Phantom in Central Garden of the Gods.
• The Crouching Cat Walkway area is identified after blog reader David King matches it up with a shot in the 1949 Columbia serial "Batman and Robin."
• The exact spot is pinpointed where Fuzzy Knight placed the dynamite on the Upper Iverson's South Rim in "Boss of Bullion City."
• The proximity of the Iverson Ranch to a notorious nearby movie ranch is spotlighted by the appearance of Iverson's Garden of the Gods in "Linda and Abilene, a "Naughty Western" filmed on the Spahn Ranch.
• In a welcome trend, foliage is being peeled back all around the Lower Iverson, revealing more of the original movie rocks. Naked rocks appear in several locations, thanks to tree removal in Garden of the Gods, the stripping away of ivy concealing Rock Island, and the removal of brush covering Mushroom Rock.
Click here to see the Top 10 Iverson Movie Ranch finds of 2014.