"Linda and Abilene" (1969): Spahn Ranch
The Spahn Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., which became notorious as the home of Charles Manson and his followers, was one of the closest neighbors to the Iverson Movie Ranch. Spahn was situated "catty-corner" to Iverson's main entrance, just across Santa Susana Pass Road to the southwest of Iverson.
Main Western set at Spahn Ranch ("Linda and Abilene")
While the Iverson Ranch was one of the most important filming locations in the history of Hollywood — a place where thousands of movies and TV episodes were filmed over the span of more than a century — Spahn Ranch was little more than a footnote as a filming location, hosting just a handful of productions.
Spahn Ranch, fall 1969: Police raid the site after the Tate-LaBianca murders
Spahn's busiest period for filming overlapped with the Manson Family era, with many of Spahn's most high-profile productions shot in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Pictures of the ranch from 1969, such as this news photo of a police raid, reveal that the main set area looked exactly as it did in the 1969 movie "Linda and Abilene."
"Linda and Abilene": Main Western street at Spahn Ranch
The racy elements aside, "Linda and Abilene" illustrates the importance of movies and TV in documenting historic filming locations. Even with all the press coverage Spahn Ranch received following the Manson killings, the location shots in "Linda and Abilene" help flesh out the record that exists of Spahn Ranch.
Iverson's Garden of the Gods, as seen from Spahn Ranch in 2015
A photo from earlier this year, taken by film historian Jerry Condit on a visit to the former Spahn Ranch site, captures almost the identical angle on Garden of the Gods seen in "Linda and Abilene" — minus the actors, horses, buildings and loose boulders. Santa Susana Pass Road is visible near the center of the frame.
"The Adventures of Spin and Marty" (1955)
While Iverson could occasionally be spotted in the background of productions shot at Spahn Ranch, productions filmed at Iverson also at times captured the Spahn Movie Ranch in the background. The above example comes from the beloved Disney TV serial "The Adventures of Spin and Marty."
"Have Gun — Will Travel" TV series (1957)
Another example of Spahn Ranch popping up in the background of an Iverson shoot can be found in the TV series "Have Gun — Will Travel." This shot is taken from an angle close to where the "Spin and Marty" shot was taken, near Garden of the Gods.
"The Miracle Rider" (Mascot, 1935)
Even as far back as 1935, sections of what would become the Spahn Movie Ranch could be seen in Iverson productions. This shot from the old Tom Mix serial "The Miracle Rider," again taken from the Garden of the Gods area at Iverson, shows a distinctive plateau that would later be located just behind Spahn's main set.
Spahn Ranch corral area, circa 1969
This shot of part of the corral area at Spahn, one of the many photos taken around the time of the murder investigation in 1969, provides a nice view of the rocky hill to the south of the main set area. While the hill has similarities to Garden of the Gods to the northeast, they're two different hills — one at Iverson and one at Spahn.
The same location in 2015
On a recent visit to the Spahn Ranch site, Jerry Condit snapped this photo showing what the area looks like today. With the photo reproduced in black-and-white, the similarity to the shot of the corral in 1969 is striking. The dry grassy area in the foreground is where the buildings previously stood.
Another shot from around 1969 presents an overview of the main set area at Spahn Ranch. A nice feature of this shot is the rocks in the foreground, which are located north of Santa Susana Pass Road.
Jerry Condit took this shot from those same rocks during his recent visit, and here again, the shot nicely matches the photo from 1969 — including the rocks in the foreground. Today the foreground rocks are a part of the sprawling property owned by the Church at Rocky Peak.