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Visiting the Paul Williams Nazi Command Center in Rustic Canyon

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The remains of an elaborate 1930s Nazi compound in the wilds of Pacific Palisades aren't a big secret, but no one seems quite sure of the whole story, even if the prevailing narrative is a great one. The Travel Channel's show Off Limits just visited the site and poked around inside the remaining structures (video down below). The LA Times dug into the Murphy Ranch story in 1990 and again in 2005, and the gist is that in the 1930s a wealthy couple named Norman and Winona Stephens--an engineer with silver mining interests and "the daughter of a wealthy industrialist"--were Nazi sympathizers under the sway of a supposedly supernatural German named Herr Schmidt. He convinced them to finance a "command center" in Rustic Canyon, where Nazis in the US could hide out until it was time for them to start running things.

The Stephenses spent about $4 million "to build an infrastructure that would be enough for a small town," including concrete staircases, terracing, sprinklers, orchards, a water tank, a fuel tank, and a power station. There were also plans for a four-story mansion, designed first by Welton Becket, and later by Paul R. Williams. Williams' blueprints included 22 bedrooms, five libraries, and multiple dining rooms. Local historian Randy Young, who's been the source for most of the stories about the compound, told Off Limits that the extant wrought iron gate was also designed by Williams, according to the Huffington Post.

Federal agents stormed the Murphy Ranch on December 8, 1941 (the day after the Pearl Harbor bombing), and Schmidt was arrested. The Stephenses lived on the property until 1948, then sold to the Huntington Hartford Foundation.

Off Limits also visited the Los Angeles aqueduct and dove in Santa Monica Bay to find a sunken post-prohibition gambling ship.
· Episode: Los Angeles [Off Limits]
· Nazi Outpost : Rustic Canyon: Little remains of an elaborate stronghold that was built in the late 1930s, when a small group hoped to establish a Nazi utopia. [LAT]
· Rustic Canyon Ruin May Be a Former Nazi Compound [LAT]