Some think it was where a local rancher kept his dynamite, others think it was where rustlers or gold thieves (there are lots of old gold claims in the area) kept their loot. It is one of Joshua Tree’s most enduring urban legends.
But as I detailed in my book, Mojave Mysteries, there is an odd tale also told of the strange place:
“Now there is another story about the door, and it is one I have heard more than a few times surrounding other such odd constructions all over the west, but it contains all the ingredients for a good mystery and I share it here. The tale goes that a local family had a horribly disfigured and mentally impaired son, huge and monstrous who they hid away from sight and society by locking him up in this rock and iron dungeon. The father would bring him food and sustenance but the poor creature spent his days and nights a virtual prisoner in this lonely cell.
Until one day when the father came to the place and found the door open and his deformed son gone!
In some versions of the story the son then goes on a Frankenstein-like rampage across the countryside, but in others he is never seen again and like all good monster stories told around a desert campfire “might still be out there waiting for an unwary traveler”. I myself used the theme of this campfire myth as the seed for one of my western horror novellas entitled The Charred Man (available on Amazon) but as far as I know, nobody was ever kept in the Joshua Tree iron door cave. At least, I hope not! Being out in that searing heat locked in a cave would truly be a vision of hell…”
If you enjoy true Mojave desert mysteries, this is one you won’t want to miss!