Desert phone box becomes a cult icon

AT FIRST it was just a lonely telephone box, stranded miles away from anywhere in the middle of southern California's Mojave Desert. But then it became something else, something a bit special. It became an object of cult veneration.

Or, to put it another way, of internet-generated fetishism - which places it in the same improbable category as the formerly obscure bachelor from Izmir, Turkey, called Mahir Cagri, whose website has witnessed well over a million hits in the last month.The world wide web has made unlikely stars of them both.

But while Mahir's fairly ordinary vanity website has spawned an online fan club and, inevitably, Mahir T-shirts, the Mojave phone box may prove to be the more enduring cult.

Dozens of intrepid explorers have trekked the 15 miles of unmade road from the nearest highway to pay homage to this gloomy outpost of telecommunications. Thousands of people, meanwhile, have dialled the number from as far away as Norway, New Zealand and Albania. At first there was no answer, but recently the line has been humming so loud it has almost always been engaged.

The Mojave Telephone Booth, as it is known to its fans, started out as the sole conduit of communication for a remote cinder mine off the main road from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. But for the past two years, thanks to an impassioned computer programmer from Arizona, it has become a phenomenon unto itself.

The fascination is hard to explain. "Why did I go out to the middle of the desert to hang up a phone?" asks Steve Amala, who describes his experiences on one of the many Mojave telephone websites. "Can't say, really. I've tried to forge an alloy out of some ideas, struggled to come up with a phrase that will support the weight of reason and still shine with adventure, but I can't. Brain cloud."

It seems the craze began when a music fan from southern California spotted the word "telephone" on a map of the Mojave Desert and decided to take a look for himself. He found the glass shot out and the phone book missing but, in a letter to the music magazine Wig Out! reported the phone to be in perfect working order. His account was read by Godfrey Daniels of Phoenix, Arizona, who was immediately transfixed. Mechanically, Mr Daniels began dialling the number every day to see if anyone would answer. Less than a month later, someone did - a cinder miner's daughter called Lorene. Further phone calls finally inspired him to visit himself, and he chronicled the whole thing on his website.

And so the cult was born. As the trickle of visitors turned into a flood, the media became interested, and then the flood turned into a veritable stampede. Heavy rains earlier this year made the road almost impassable, and the highway patrol became so sick of towing people out that they announced they simply wouldn't do it any more.

But still the fans kept coming. In August, the cinder mine was threatened with closure, and the issue was publicised loudly on Mr Daniels' website. In September, he became so famous that computer hackers started messing with his e-mail address.

Not only has the phone survived after vandalism last month put a temporarily halt to calls, its curious cult cachet is now set to mushroom with the release of a film inspired by the phenomenon. A small company called Fiercely Independent Films will release what is billed a suspense thriller next month. The title: Dead Line.


FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam