Slab City’s East Jesus

After having spent my morning exploring the nooks and crannies of Salvation Mountain, I was about to hit the road again — direction Phoenix. That’s when the drifter I’d been chatting to, Greg, mentioned I should visit Slab City’s East Jesus before I go.

East Jesus? Never heard of it!

Lucky for me, Greg made sure I didn’t miss out. He explained that East Jesus is another art project just five minutes up the road from Salvation Mountain.

Greg with his dog and epic beard at Salvation Mountain. I’m really glad I got to chatting with him, otherwise I would have missed out on East Jesus!

“You can actually touch and tinker with the art,” Greg told me.

“By Jove, I’m going, and that’s all that there is to it!” — sums up my sentiment in that moment.

Slab City (The Last Free Place)

In order to get to East Jesus, I had to drive through Slab City, a pretty unique and somewhat daunting place. It’s residents call it “the last free place on earth.” Or sometimes it’s known as “the last free place in America.” Some slabbers live there year round. Others are “snowbirds” — seasonal visitors who come in RVs and make Slab City their temporary home for off-the-grid living.

Slab City, The Last Free Place

If I’m honest with you, though, I’d been apprehensive about entering Slab City.

Why?

Well, I’d looked into Salvation Mountain ahead of my trip and realized it was at the entrance of Slab City. When I read more about The Slabs — as it’s also sometimes referred to — I learned that Slab City has been associated with higher crime rates as well as residents who struggle with substance abuse. Here’s how I explained my thoughts to a friend:

Honestly, I was a little nervous about going out there because I heard there’s a lot of crime. But everything was fine, and the people I spoke with were really nice, if unusual!

[Well who’s not unusual, I’m now asking myself? Furthermore, I don’t have to leave my home city to find crime and people with substance-abuse problems.]

My friend replied to my message with the following:

Wow! I don’t know what to think. It’s interesting that you travel all over and remote Cali made you nervous. I totally get it. Greg looks like a garden gnome btw. 🙂

She had a good point. Greg does look like a garden gnome!

Greg and his dog, greeting visitors at Salvation Mountain

And while other people are nervous about going to Istanbul or Cuba or Morocco — places I’ve felt fine (at least after arriving!) — I was nervous about a spot in southeast California. Seems rather silly to me now in hindsight. And it goes to show that news should be taken with a grain of salt!

Check out this blog post, "So Long Slab City (for now)," by Rene of www.liveworkdream.com for an interesting insight into Slab-City living.
Slab City: “Where Freedom Lives”

As it turns out, the only things I had to be afraid of were some mannequins and a creepy doll’s head.

Creepy doll’s head in East Jesus

Moon California has tips for both locals and out-of-towners looking to discover all that California has to offer.

East Jesus Survival Guide

Before we get to East Jesus, though, I should briefly mention the “East Jesus Survival Guide.”

After returning home from my recent mini-Southwest road trip, I was doing a bit of research for the blog post that you’re reading this very moment! That’s how I discovered the aforementioned East Jesus Survival Guide, which is posted on the official East Jesus website.

Even if driving a dragon-mobile, it’s best not to enter East Jesus after dark.

The best way to describe the guide, is to provide an excerpt of the intro given directly on their website. So here’s it is:

Intro to the East Jesus Survival Guide

"By visiting East Jesus, you do so AT YOUR OWN RISK and assume all liability for any property damage, injury, illness, or death that occurs. By setting foot here, you and your heirs release all claims into perpetuity.

"-1) BEFORE YOU EVEN GET HERE there are things to consider. Why do you even want to come and bother us in the first place? Well, OK, if you do, please don’t plan on camping out for more than a couple days, unless you’ve intent on rolling up your sleeves and helping us out with some labor, building an awesome sculpture, or catering to our personal whims. This isn’t a dumb-ass hippie commune. This is us, living life the way we want to. We have work to do. Either you’re entertaining us, helping out with what needs to be done, or you’re slowing us down. Call or email ahead, 24 hours notice is greatly appreciated. IN CASE OF RAIN, travel north of Niland is *not* recommended. Even small amounts of rain can cause the washes to run deep and turn your beloved automobile into a submarine, exposed to oncoming traffic. Also, NEVER arrive after dark."

After reading that introduction, I was intrigued. What on earth would they outline in their survival guide? So, I took a peak. And, while you can read the whole thing on their website, here are two of the rules I thought worth sharing.

The first rule I’ll mention pertains to arriving after dark —  just don’t do it! Here’s the rule, in their own words:

“**UNLESS** THERE IS A SCHEDULED EVENT, if you plan to camp out here or even just visit, DO NOT ARRIVE AFTER DARK. Either show up before dark or spend the night elsewhere. No discussion, no exceptions. … Given the nature of Slab City and some of its inhabitants, unexpected visitors after dark are presumed to be trespassing with ill intent and risk staring down the barrel of a 12GA.”

(It sounds like they mean business!)

I guess I should have read that before heading to Slab City. Lucky for me, I arrived in the morning, and not after dark!

The second point brings attention to some of the critters you might encounter in the area:

“Petting zoo: black widows, scorpions, centipedes, vinegaroons, rattlesnakes and the occasional tarantula all live and work here. They do not want to bite or sting you, but can be deadly if provoked. If you don’t fuck with them, you’ll be fine.” 

I didn’t even know what the heck a vinegaroon was until just looking it up! Now I’m afraid I might be having some vinegaroon nightmares in the near future. But, anyway — just keep the rules in mind before visiting, is all I’m saying!

The entrance to East Jesus

With that long-ass intro out of the way, let’s get to East Jesus!

11 thoughts on “Slab City’s East Jesus”

  1. This is a super cool place, apocalyptic scenes. Slab city, what a name! “Last free place on earth”, eh? Even East Jesus is interesting. Both are in my lists now. Very captivating post, I would definitely add these in my list of places to visit in the USA.

  2. I’ve heard about Slab City and find it intriguing. I would probably have been a bit apprehensive to visit, as well. What a unique experience though, and so different than the life most of us live.

  3. Ok so reading through this I got such a mad max post apocalyptic feel to slab city, especially with that slogan of ‘last free place on earth’. I would love to visit and experience both Slab city and east Jesus. Haha I love that introduction – Why do you even want to come here ?- It has got me intrigued too. Looks like I have place to visit in the USA where I will have to role my sleeves up and hope I don’t slow them down 😀
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  4. Hahaha, I think it’s natural to get a little apprehensive about going in to somewhere that has a unique, idiosyncratic vibe all of its own, no matter what country it’s in (not been to Cuba, but I found Morocco and Istanbul to be just fine as well). But this place looks helluva fun, and some of those art pieces are mad, in the best possible way. Great name too 🙂

  5. omg..this place looks very unique..honestly i never heard of it before and m surprised how..
    i luv going to offbeat places …its such a refreshing post..m so tired of reading about venice, paris and london…added to my bucket list but surely not gonna go alone..haha

    1. Hi Ritika! It’s unique for sure! And, actually, I was there by myself and it was absolutely fine. Just don’t arrive after dark! 🙂 🙂

    1. It actually ended up not being scary, once I was there though! It’s funny how that works. Sometimes it’s just the idea of a place that’s scary, when the reality is not! 🙂 Hope you can get there sometime!

  6. Yea, I get why you were apprehensive about going to the place – it does seem the sort of place even I’d be a little scared to go. And definitely not alone! Haha, the ‘garden gnome’ Greg is cute 😀 The doll’s head is definitely creepy but also artistic, in a strange way, don’t you think. Haha. Interesting little town, I’d say.
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    1. Haha, yeah, I’m really glad I met the Garden Gnome! 🙂 Otherwise I would have completely missed out on East Jesus! It was definitely cool to see that they’ve repurposed junk and made it into art. Even the creepy dolls! 🙂

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