Weird California revealed at the library

Friends of Lincoln Library column
By: Lora Finnegan Special to The News Messenger
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The dictionary defines ‘weird’ as an adjective meaning suggestive of or relating to the supernatural; eerie; or strange or bizarre. I’ve never thought of California as an odd state, perhaps because I grew up here. But one self-described “travel guide to California’s local legends and best kept secrets” reveals the golden state in all its weirdness. When I ask Lincoln librarian Linda Derosier for a “good California read,” this is the book she gives me. “Weird California” by Greg Bishop, Joe Oesterle and Mike Marinacci, will remind you just how many wonderful oddities California can claim. This wonderful state has so many curious, legendary and secretive spots to attract visitors. Turns out, I’ve actually stopped by many of the places in this book. Before you ponder what that says about my interests, I should admit that many visits have been made in search of a unique story to write about for work. Whenever writer’s block loomed, I could always spark some creativity by turning up a juicy oddity or bizarre tale. Take the story described on page 34 of “Weird California” about the buried Egyptian temple outside the small town of Guadalupe in Southern California. In 1923, famed director Cecile B. DeMille prepared to film the epic movie, “The Ten Commandments.” This time, DeMille (who had a habit of building movie sets as big as his ego), had a massive complex created to duplicate Hollywood’s idea of ancient Egypt. For an aura of authenticity, the director constructed his ‘faux Pharaoh-dom’ on the undulating sand dunes outside this central coast town. The “city” that rose from the drifting sands was, in its day, a sight to behold: an elaborate Pharaoh’s palace, an avenue of Sphinxes lined by dozens of five-ton statues, 120-foot-high walls covered with hieroglyphics. In the 1920s, Egyptiana enraptured the world, thanks to the mystery and marvel of King Tut’s then-recently unearthed tomb. Hollywood meant to make the most of that fascination and DeMille spared no expense to create his plaster Egypt. Sadly, when the filming was complete, studios workers tore down what they could and buried the rest under the coast’s shifting sands. Ever since, according to the tale in “Weird California,” film buffs have been trying to re-discover DeMille’s lost city. As I put the book down, I remember my own visit years ago to research and help photograph a cover story on the West’s most amazing sand dunes, including those near Guadalupe. The memory comes flooding back. A small group of us — myself, art director Dennis Leong and photographer Peter Christiansen — had left Sunset Magazine’s Menlo Park headquarters and driven down the coast. We arose at dawn the next day to ride horseback across the golden sand mounds, posing for the camera. Little did we know that we might have been galloping right over the top of a plaster Sphinx. Our photo shoot was a blast and I still have that picture. Maybe it was not as exciting as Demille’s 1923 filming, but in a way, ours was more lasting. Today, only a few stills remain of Demille’s 1923 “The Ten Commandments” (not his remade 1956 movie starring Charlton Heston) and it’s hard to find a full version of that early classic. But search back through the dusty archives of Sunset Magazine to January 1984 and you can still see Dennis and me on that issue’s cover, riding across the Guadelupe/Nipomo dunes in the pale yellow light. There’s no sign of the Sphinx. Weird California? More like wonderful California. Thanks for the reading suggestion, Linda! Have you run out of good books to read? Remember that you can ask Linda or any librarian at the Lincoln Public Library at Twelve Bridges for suggested titles. You never know what they’ll turn up. Ten reasons to love the Lincoln Library: Reasons 10 and 9 Wonder why the Friends of the Lincoln Library is so crazy about our Twelve Bridges library? This week, we’re kicking off our Top Ten reasons. Watch this space through October for the rest of the list. 10. Reference services: if you’re looking for help with a business project, school assignment, or even a special hobby, the Lincoln Public Library has excellent resources (many not available online) and a librarian to help you find them. 9. Help for young people: One of the most important goals for our library and for the Friends of the Lincoln Library is to help our youth — from free tutoring at the Homework Help Center to the Summer Reading program and Mother Goose on the Loose. On the Calendar Free Family Movie Night: Saturday, Sept. 15: “The Adventures of Tin Tin.” Doors open at 5:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Public Library at Twelve Bridges. Sponsored by Friends of the Lincoln Library. This column is part of a Friends of the Lincoln Library series. Have a question? Contact the Friends at 434-2404, at or e-mail Lora Finnegan is a Friends of the Lincoln Library member. This column may or may not necessarily express the opinions of The Lincoln News Messenger.