If you have ever driven on Intersate 15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, you might have noticed this peculiar exit sign. Going beyond the unique name, Zzyzx (pronounced “Zye-Zex” like “Isaacs”) has quite an interesting story behind it.
The mostly dirt road leads to an old and abandoned health resort called Zzyzx Springs, built on what used to be called Soda Springs. (If you ever played Oregon Trail, the name should be very familiar.) Originally an Indian quarry, it became a spring, which was also well-used by Indians and early pioneers alike. Then in the 1940’s, a radio announcer and self-proclaimed minister and doctor named Curtis Howe Springer bought 12,800 acres around the springs, built a two-story hotel, a chapel, a spa, a “natural” hot spring bath heated by a hidden boiler, and expanded the original spring into an artificial lake. He even made himself a castle, a studio to continue broadcasting, and a private airstrip he named Zyport. For the next 30 years, he sold useless products proclaiming to cure anything and everything from cancer to baldness.
His luck ended when he tried selling land near his property that wasn’t his own, which, needless to say, got the attention of the federal government. Springer was evicted, put in jail for a short time, and his establishment was shut down. The only thing left of his shenanigans are the buildings, some of which serve as the Desert Studies Center, his artificial Lake Tuendae that’s home to the endangered Mohave tui chub, a kind of fish, and the name, which was approved by the United States Board on Geographic Names in 1984.
Springer named the area Zzyzx, a name he had invented himself claiming it to be “the last word in the English language.” This unique name has inspired at least two horror movies. One, called Zyzzyx Road, was released in 2006 and holds the record for the lowest box office gross of American cinema of all time. It raised a grand total of $30 in the first week before it was shut down.