The Mojave Phone Booth

View from the Loneliest Phone Booth on Earth, 1999
••• View from the Loneliest Phone Booth on Earth, 1999. Gilles Mingasson/Getty Images

The Mojave Phone Booth is a perfect example of how people get obsessed with the oddest things. In this case, it was a lonely telephone booth in the Mojave Desert. Over a period of 3 years, it gathered a cult following - and eventually fell victim to its own popularity.

There all kinds of theories about what it all meant, but I'll leave the philosophical and anthropological musings to someone else. These are the facts of the story.

There's a Phone Booth in the Middle of Nowhere?

In May 1997, Godfrey Daniels from Arizona read a magazine story reporting that a "Mr. N" noticed a small dot with the word "telephone" next to it 15 miles from anywhere on a map of the Mojave Desert. Consumed by curiosity, "N" drove out to see the phone booth and published its number.

"N" was done with the phone booth after he found it, but Godfrey became obsessed. He called it every day. He logged all his calls, even though no one answered. He tortured his friends when they visited, making them call the phone booth too. Finally, after about a month, his persistence paid off. He called and got a busy signal. 

After uncounted redials, a woman named Lorene answered. Lorene ran a cinder mine in the vicinity and was at the phone booth to make a call. Godfrey's obsession didn't end with talking to Lorene. After that, he made five pilgrimages to the little telephone in the Mojave, which he wrote about on his website.

Mojave Phone Booth Becomes Famous

In July, 1999, Godfrey and a bunch of friends visited the phone booth. In four hours they took 72 phone calls. They came from all over the United States and Canada - and as far away as Germany and Australia. Most of the callers had seen Godfrey's website.

Chuck learned about the booth from Steve, who learned about it from Godfrey.

He called the phone and found it busy at 2:00 a.m. He decided it must be off the hook, so he did what any sane person would do.

He asked Steve, a total stranger, to join him on a trip To Hang it Up. Because, after all, what good is a phone booth in the middle of the desert if you can't call and hear it ring? They braved ominous trucks carrying caskets, a Denny's full of senior citizens and fifteen miles of rough road to get to the booth. 

When they arrived they discovered it wasn't off the hook, it was out of order! The phone was subsequently repaired.

Los Angeles Times writer John Glionna met 51-year-old Rick Karr at the phone booth. Karr claimed the Holy Spirit told him to answer the phone. For 32 days, he answered more than 500 phone calls. One of the weirdest: repeated calls from someone who identified himself as "Sergeant Zeno from the Pentagon."

The Mojave Phone Booth (and Godfrey) became minor celebrities. They received coverage in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, through CNN and in newspapers around the world.

The End of the Mojave Phone Booth

Then it happened: Three years after its first brush with fame, the phone booth met its demise.

On May 23, 2000, the San Jose Mercury News reported that Pacific Bell and the National Park Service had removed the booth because it was attracting too many curiosity seekers.

The last time I checked, Godfrey was still keeping its memory alive.