LOST IN OATMAN

“A Denmark beautician and his wife built that pyramid in hopes of obtaining eternal life.”

Pyramid house in Oatman, Arizona – Photo credit: Nicole Luna

When friends and relatives stop by to visit us in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, my wife and I have a plan of sorts. Without question we’ll take them first to see the London Bridge. That’s a prerequisite. Tourists love to stroll beneath the structure marveling at European architecture and craftsmanship. Our guests are no different. While they’re walking and gawking I sit and wait. It’s amazing what a person can see and feel perched on a concrete bench.

I’ve tried to act as bridge expert while down there, telling more gullible visitors about a movie filmed in ‘The English Village’ called, The Boston Strangler. The majority of them know it’s a ruse, yet I’ve hooked a few unsuspecting believers.  Occasionally I toss in the epic tale of a bridge worker named, “Chip”, who accidentally trapped himself inside the structure during reconstruction. Although grossly untrue, the statement warrants undivided attention from those listening.

It never fails that someone will ask if the poor man escaped. I tell them with straight face that being a stone mason, he eventually chipped himself out of trouble. It takes milliseconds for most to discover they’ve been had. Others never figure things out until my wife, Joleen, informs them. Taking our guests to dine at one of several restaurants on ‘The Island’ culminates my London Bridge tour. Someone has to entertain these people and I love doing it!

Breakfast at a swanky uptown diner is always included in our plans. There’s never been a visit where doggie boxes weren’t required. Out-of-town guests are constantly overwhelmed by the abundance of grub. They’ll say with utter amazement that they’ve never seen so much food on a plate. I won’t name the establishment yet will offer a clue, “Paw prints lead to the front door.”  Having visitors bring their ‘boxes’ back to our place saves Joleen from having to fix lunch or dinner. I wasn’t supposed to mention that.

Time is put aside in driving friends or relatives around town before heading to Parker. A scenic cruise across the Parker Dam into California is a must. Donkeys are constantly on both sides of the road including the middle. It’s akin to McCulloch Boulevard during a Desert Storm Street Party. Although I know few pertinent facts about Parker, I create unique ones to entertain our visitors. On one excursion I informed friends from Alaska that Parker was named after Fess Parker; the infamous Daniel Boone actor. There was no reason for them not to believe my spiel. It sounded good enough that even Joleen fell for it.

A trip to Oatman, Arizona is generally reserved for the final day. I attempt to line things up perfectly so our visitors don’t miss the gunfight reenactment. That’s my favorite part of visiting this place, other than watching burros steal food from kids and elderly people. Much like a thirsty donkey, I enjoy grabbing an ice cold drink at ‘Judy’s.

An Oatman visit is the perfect opportunity to practice a little tomfoolery.  I make sure to stand in front of onlookers when gunshots first ring out. Quickly dropping to the ground, I’ll act as if a chunk of hot lead struck me in the pelvis. Moaning profusely helps with the deception.  At the sound of pain, some sucker will gasp, believing live rounds were mistakenly loaded and fired. Quickly jumping up I’ll proclaim it was only a ricochet. That garners a few laughs.

Although not part of the skit, it adds unwanted drama to the gig. I’m sure the ‘Oatman Ghost Rider Gunfighters’ find my stunt distasteful. On one occasion after being given the evil eye by a couple of them, I ducked into the Oatman Hotel.  That turned out sweet because I purchased a jar of Arizona honey and an ice-cream cone while there.

There’s something peculiar about Oatman that nearly all visitors overlook. I’m not referring to the stench coming from the town’s public restroom. Tourists never fail to mention that. The peculiarity I’m talking about is the pyramid constructed on a hill directly overlooking Main Street. It sits directly on top of a mine shaft.

Other than locals knowing about this pyramid, most people don’t notice or care. No one’s ever asked me about the unique residence. That’s fine because I didn’t have an honest answer for them; until now.

Mr. Henning was born in Denmark. The man spent a good portion of his early life in Paris, Rome, Vienna, Madrid, and Majorca. He was an accomplished beautician in those locales. Herman performed hair and makeup magic on actors, celebrities, shahs, and other influential clientele. He eventually became bored, finding that wealthy people were basically unhappy individuals. Being around them brought him down.

Herman Henning was a different kind of person. I don’t mention that in a bad sense. Let’s just say he marched to the beat of a different drummer. He was an odd fellow much like this writer.

Herman made note of going on a picnic with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. That seems to be one of his more uplifting moments where dealing with Hollywood elite is concerned. Henning journeyed to America in 1965 with wife Lydia to escape the madness. Traveling across the U.S. they wound up in California before settling in desolate Oatman, Arizona. They quickly fell in love with the place.

“They have everything so there isn’t anything left to live for!”, he told a reporter.

I found the majority of information regarding this couple in an Arizona Republic newspaper article by, Steve Daniels, dated October 8, 1985. Mr. Daniels arranged a short interview with the Henning’s for his manuscript.

When Herman and Lydia relocated to Oatman he immediately began plans for a combination pyramid/home. Being a health consultant including beautician, Henning thought there were magical as well as spiritual powers associated with a pyramid design. Herman Henning was an advocate of astrology, metaphysics, architecture, and holistic healing all rolled into one. There’s no telling what else he rolled. During Henning’s interview reporter, Steve Daniels, disclosed that the man smoked generic cigarettes. The word generic has many connotations. We’ll leave it at that.

Local residents were not impressed with Henning’s undertaking. Rumblings were heard throughout the community regarding potential dynamiting of his structure. Such devilry had been done to a couple of businesses over the years. Townspeople thought the pyramid design would not blend in with ‘ghost town’ decor. Here tell there are still a couple of Oatman old-timers feeling that way.

Sun and weather have aged things to perfection.  The 4,000-square-foot monstrosity from a distance appears much older than its 34 years. This helps it blend in with prehistoric buildings below. Wood trim appears to be cracked and warped. This same blemishing occurs to flesh. Lizard skin is often used to describe such. Overall though, the dwelling looks to be in great shape.

Henning’s pyramid faces true north. The slope of the walls has been perfectly aligned to 57 degrees, 52 minutes, and 12 seconds. Herman Henning informed Steve Daniels, that the alignment was to maximize effectiveness. The man went on to claim the pyramid made a big difference in his life. He didn’t elaborate other than say he could hear burros braying in the street below. Without question that’s better than listening to caged Chihuahua’s bark in someone’s backyard.

I wanted to interview Mr. Henning. The gentleman would be 97-years-old. An Oatman business owner told me that he’d passed away some time ago. I found no record of such. If Henning’s did depart this world, magical powers of the pyramid failed once again where eternal life is concerned. We saw that happen with the Egyptians.

Next time friends or relatives roll into Havasu, Joleen and I will make it a point to haul them to Oatman just like the others. With added history in my memory bank, I’ll be able to point to the hills and say with unquestionable intellect,

“A Denmark beautician and his wife built that pyramid in hopes of obtaining eternal life.

They’ll either be impressed by my knowledge or call me a liar.

As I mentioned earlier, one of Herman Henning’s ultimate reasons for constructing a pyramid was to harness special powers from the heavens. Only Mr. Henning can say for sure if this worked. Unfortunately it appears he left town permanently. On a quizzical note, perhaps he’s merely lost in Oatman and can’t be found?

If Henning’s pyramid does generate unlimited energy, a portion of it might be tapped to help with the community restroom dilemma. Perhaps a few solar panels placed on top of the unusual building, with electrical wires extending downward to the brick outhouse could be arranged. Celestial current would then be utilized to power-up giant ventilation fans.

I’m absolutely positive should Herman Henning ever return home, and had to enter that public facility, he would not hesitate one iota in saying,

“Go for it!”

My guests would thank him for the gesture!

Pyramid house circa 1985. – Photo credit: Steve Daniels

Author: michaeldexterhankins

ordinary average guy

4 thoughts on “LOST IN OATMAN”

  1. Hi I’m not a very good writer butvi l9ved your story,my name is penny Putnam my grandma used to l8ve behind Judy’s green house and my father was born and raised in oatman I was raised there as well..that house your talking about is built over a mine shaft which totaly amazes me….i love oatman and your story …

    Liked by 1 person

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