By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer–
Randsburg is situated in the mountains off Highway 395. Take the drive and go up a piece on the little mountain road, and you will enter the Old West Mining Town of Randsburg. There you can step back in time through a Living Ghost Town. You will find original buildings, interesting shops, great food, great stories, a museum filled to the brim, and a saloon.
If you talk to proprietors, you will hear some ghost stories. Such is the case with High Desert Windchimes.
High Desert Windchimes occupies a building that was the post office in Atolia. It was moved to Randsburg in 1910. In the 1950s, additions were made to the building; it now has living quarters in the back. Melissa and Javier Valenzuela are the current owners. Everyone in Randsburg has a nickname, so locals call her Missy. The Valezuelas purchased the building in 2001 and converted the space into living quarters and a shop, adding windows and a door to the street side. They moved Missy’s grandfather’s windchime shop in and opened for business.
It wasn’t too long before Missy started being aware of the voices of ghostly visitors. “There was nothing wrong with the voices. They were chattering. When I first heard them, I was in the back of the building. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I have business. I left the door open.’ I came out, and there was nobody there. I caught on. It was the same time every day, about three o’clock every afternoon. They would be chit-chatting, laughing, talking.” Missy assumes that this was the time that folks would get their mail.
Before everybody scrambles to visit at 3 pm, Missy no longer has those visitors. Her grandmother passed a convex mirror down to Missy’s mother, saying it was to keep ghosts away. Missy never believed her, but it worked when she hung it in her workshop.
The Valenzuelas purchased two houses and remodeled them for her sons. After they moved in, they had to move away. “In the middle of the night, they would hear yelling, arguing – they were playing poker. You could tell by the words and then the gunshot. Come to find out, yes, the previous owner did commit murder in his home, and he was sentenced and got life in prison.” Since he got incarcerated, he signed his house over to the fireman who was first on the scene. “So the firemen could take care of it. And we bought it from him.”
The house next door is also haunted by a visible visitor who only young people can see. “There is this man standing there in a long black jacket and a big black hat. “My grandkids would ask, ‘Why is that man standing outside our bedroom window?’ I saw it once in my peripheral vision about 20 years ago; I turned my head, I looked, and it was gone. Now I’m too old. The teenage kids can see it. Little kids can see it.”
The High Desert Windchimes store is a combination museum, antique store, windchime shop, and workshop with the previous living quarters in the back. Her grandfather patented the bell of the chimes about 50 years ago. Asked her grandfather’s name, she instinctively answers, “Papo,” then goes on to say, “Henry Hickman, that’s important to give my grandfather credit.” These make beautiful music, all in the key of C. “My grandmother is a piano player. So she’s the one who did the tuning. She would hit the key and then tune the pipe to the key.” They developed a formula so that all of the chimes are in the key of C without tuning each one. Measure and drill the pipe at 20%, and it is in the correct key.
A quick google search tells us, “Wind chimes originated around 1100 BC, in the land of the ancient Chinese. Their wind chimes were said to expel negative spirits and attract loving spirits to any space.” This sounds like a good fit for Randsburg and any home.
Brad Myers, co-owner of The Vault, interjects, “One of the things here at your store that I hear people talk about all the time is your Nova. Everybody wants that car.” Missy tells us she bought it from the dealer because his son wrecked it, sitting in Missy’s uncle’s body shop. “It sat there, and it sat there because they wouldn’t pay for it. It didn’t have insurance. Finally, when I was 15, I asked, ‘How much will it cost to have a fixed?’ So I paid the $500, fixed it, and got it. I had to put it in my grandmother’s garage.”
It still runs, but it doesn’t go far. She drives it down the road to The Joint but not down the mountain. However, it has seen a bit of the country. “I drove it cross country twice. All the way to Alaska and back.” In the 1960s, she drove it on cruise nights on Van Nuys Boulevard.”
One can’t help but love Missy’s story about how she wound up in Randsburg in 1990. “Originally, I had a full-time job driving the West Coast merchandising products. I just needed to pull off the road to get away, and I found Randsburg. To me, it was like finding Brigadoon.” Brigadoon was a 1954 film starring Gene Kelly where he stumbles upon the magical village of Brigadoon, which rises out of the Scottish mist only once every 100 years, and only for one day. An enchanted place where life is simpler and more accessible, untouched by the worries of the modern world.
She drove into Randsburg thinking, “I just drove into Brigadoon.” And she was immediately hooked. “I found a house with a for sale sign on it and called the number; the guy came up, and we made a contract. I bought it. It was a getaway from LA to up here. A place to get away with your kids for the weekend, a full week, spring break, or summer break. After the ‘94 earthquake in LA, where everything was destroyed, we lived here for less. We started coming up here more. When my grandfather passed away, I got the chime shop and bought this place.”
High Desert Windchimes on Butte Avenue is open from 10 am until sundown every day unless they have doctor appointments or need to go grocery shopping.
Randsburg, California – an Old West Mining Town, Living Ghost Town just up the road from Ridgecrest.