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The Dark Beauty of the Amargosa Opera House & Hotel: Part II

Last time, I wrote about and shared photos of the Amargosa Hotel, the secret miner's area (complete with eerie infirmary), and a bit of the exterior. If you missed it, you can click here to view more photos of the hotel. Ms. Marta Becket was the original owner of the Amargosa Opera House & Hotel but she came upon it quite by accident. Marta was on her way to Los Angeles for a play and got a flat tire in the middle of the desert. It appeared that she was alone with nothing nearby as far as she could see. After walking for a bit, she spotted the u-shaped, white adobe building in the distance. She made her way to the building and there, she received assistance from one of the Borax miners that was staying in the hotel. The man helped get her spare tire on but Marta was enamored with the oasis in the desert and wasn't ready to leave. There was a small theater on one side that was used on occasion to show movies to the miners at night to provide some entertainment. Ms. Becket asked to see the theater and her request was granted. She fell in love with the theater. As an actress, she could envision the potential for a beautiful stage and space to produce many plays and productions. She spoke to the head of the Borax mine about the possibility of using the theater. He agreed to let her use the theater as long as she would make the improvements to the theater herself, at her own expense. She was thrilled and began to work on the theater right away. Years went by, many shows occurred on the theater stage, and after some time the Borax was either no longer in demand or was completely mined from the area. The Pacific Borax Company no longer needed the building that housed an entire small town for the miners. For a very small sum of money, Marta Becket was the proud new owner of the entire building and property, including the theater. She renamed it the Amargosa Opera House & Hotel and began running her own little town. She kept the cafe and the post office – believe it or not there were about two dozen people that lived out in the desert after the Borax mine closed. She also created an art gallery and a train museum as novelty attractions. And she kept her theater going of course, making it into an opera house through her paintings and design of the interior.

Sadly, I just found out that Marta Becket has passed away this year on January 30th, 2017. She was 92 years old at her passing. She was loved and revered by many theater patrons but she was sadly very reclusive in her later years. She never missed a show and would perform whether there were two people in the audience or twenty. Her last performance was in 2012, although she kept the shows going on the stage for the majority of the rest of her days. I feel a great loss knowing that she has passed and this world has lost another incredible artist, actress, and business woman that so few ever got to know. She will be gravely missed in this world.

Here are some photos of her beautiful Opera House and some of the eerie exterior of Death Valley Junction.

The Opera House is adorned in oil paintings around the entire exterior of the theater. All painted by Marta Becket herself.

Of course, she didn't forget royalty in the Opera House audience.

I love how animated the characters in the audience are. She was sure to add action and excitement – possibly for those times when there were few to no real-life

audience members.

Performers waiting on deck to go on stage. I love that she was careful to have them watching the show!

This canned light inside the Opera House is literally a soup can with crystal fringe glued onto the bottom. Marta was super creative working with what she had on hand.

The ceiling of the Amargosa Opera House.

Beautiful painted backdrops.

The creepy dolls/actors of the theater. I'm not sure whether these were used as audience, actors in the shows, or possibly just to creep out people on a tour – either way, they were incredibly disturbing.

Masks worn by the actors for the show – possibly all worn by Ms. Becket all at one time or another to alternate between characters.

The confined stairway backstage to the dressing room. I can't imagine taking these stairs with heels on!

The theater is filled with so much beauty, right down to the hardwood floors.

Blood stains or a drink spilled? We may never know...

An old wood-burning stove sits at the front of the theater for heat in the winter.

The stark contrast of the bright white adobe building on the outside and the rich and colorful paintings on the inside make the Amargosa Opera House & Hotel a must see if you are in the Death Valley area or traveling through Death Valley. Photos cannot do it justice. It is truly a wonder to see in person. Below are some exterior shots of the little Death Valley Junction Village.

The right corner in the back is the approximate location of the original infirmary for the Borax miners. The art gallery is on the left of the Opera House. The majority of this portion of the building is unused in its current state.

The cafe is on the left, the old post office (no longer in service) is in the middle behind the trees, and the railroad museum is just behind the flag. The towered portion in the corner is currently only used for storage. The entrance to the hotel is right about where the right turn arrow sign is.

These abandoned and partially burned structures are part of the property. The big-wigs of the Pacific Borax Company most likely lived in them originally. Since then, they have been rented out to people in the theater as well as persons wanting to live in Death Valley for a short time.

An empty desert lot across from the hotel is also part of the property and is used as overflow parking for events.

A small lake rests across from the hotel and in years with more rain, it really fills up! At the time of this photo, Southern California was in a 9 year drought. With all of the rains this past winter (2016 & 2017), there's likely to be a nice sized lake there right now.

Also located across the street from the hotel, this building used to be an old service station with gas pumps at the front and a mechanic's shop inside. They mostly served the Borax mining trucks and equipment.

The adorable cafe. It's not open often but I've heard that if you can stop in a get a piece of pie, you'll be glad you did!

Traveling back across the street to the cafe and hotel once again... some more photos to peruse for your pleasure...

Not sure what "wil get" but that Jeep sure was spooky. I wonder if it belonged to Mr. Willet (see cemetery photos below)!

The smirk on her face is hilarious!

Charming rock entrance to the hotel.

Delightful billboard for the Amargosa Hotel. I'm not sure why they didn't have that up where it could be seen from the road. Instead, it was hidden over on the side of the storage area.

The Hotel manager told us that they fill this courtyard with picnic tables and cafe tables and chairs in the summer so that people can dine al fresco.

One of the buildings on the property, across from the main building, sat in disrepair. Apparently it had not been used or lived in for many years. That doesn't mean that it hasn't been squatted by homeless people at some point. It has definitely seen its share of vandals.

"I have a[n] alarm clock radio that runs on happiness." Sounds like a great alarm clock to me!

"Once I knew a ferret princess on Eagle Mountain." I didn't think anyone else knew her!

This one lent itself to the haunted nature of the hotel and Opera House.

"If your ego matched your talent, you'd keep quiet." Very insightful.

On the way home, just a mile or so from the Amargosa Opera House, we spotted a small cemetery used for the Death Valley Junction locals. It's very small, with very few graves, but it's hard to imagine that even that many people have lived and died in the desolate area. Some graves are marked with headstones and sectioned off by stone rings.

This grave belonging to Thomas Willett appears to be one of the actors from the theater and I suspect possibly a past lover or at the very least, friend of Marta Becket's.

I'm not sure what warrants a caged set of grave sites, possibly a family plot?

Tumbleweeds growing out of the grave.

Not sure if these are for pets or small children. I hope they are for the former.

Thank you for joining me in my recollection of this journey through Death Valley Junction and the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel. It really is a special and magical place. I hope that after Marta's passing, some plans have been in order to preserve the place that took her years of blood, sweat and tears to create.

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Illustration by Blume Bauer ©