Ssssh! It’s Secret Sedona!

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6. G’Day… Now Go Away

In November 1995, the Australian Film Censorship Board banned screenings of Dead Man, which was shot in the Coconino National Forest, Sedona and Peaks Ranger District. The restriction, Australia’s first ban of an English language film since 1986’s  Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, was pinned on a four-second scene that the Australian Senate Select Com­mittee on Community Stan­dards, a self-appointed body of representatives, tastefully described as “implicitly coerced” sex. The film, which starred Johnny Depp, had no such problems elsewhere, showing uncut all over the world and receiving an R rating in the U.S. Australia’s Classification Review Board subsequently overturned the ban, finding that the scene “was necessary to the narrative” and “not exploitative.” But this was not the first time a Sedona-made film ran afoul of censors abroad. Both Gun Fury, a 1953 3-D western starring Rock Hudson and Donna Reed, and Shotgun, a 1955 cowboy potboiler starring Sterling Hayden and Yvonne DeCarlo, were banned in Finland for violent content.

7. Mountain Ado?

Mysterious “Black Helicopters” have long been a hot topic for UFO buffs, their passengers said to be dark-clad, armed, paramilitary types variously linked to spacecraft landings, cattle mutilations, and human abductions. Sightings of a number of these craft have been rumored around Boynton and Secret Canyons – in fact, paranormal researchers say that Long Canyon residents have reported so many odd events they suspect there’s a covert government installation deep within Secret Mountain. Whispered, un­substantiated tales of an underground city near Boynton Canyon also persist, as more suspicious “men in black” have been observed there. One woman who claims she had an encounter with them said, “The men did not look right. Their faces had no expression on them whatsoever. They looked like they were wearing chalky tan makeup. Their movements were robot-like and un­earthly.” A tour group of Aus­tralian censors, perhaps?

8. Chewing the Scenery

In 1977, Red Rock Country became the backdrop for a national ad campaign of 30-second TV spots hawking Wrigley’s “Big Red” chewing gum. The spots featured local cowboys working herds – and, of course, chomping on wads of the sticky stuff – in front of some of the scenic splendors of the area, including views of the Coconino National Forest, Dry Creek and Page Springs. We’d always heard the West was won by gum-slingers…

9. Grave Reviews

Scattered around the Sedona area lie a number of isolated graves of unknown origin. Victims of Indian skirmishes? Prospectors and miners who reached this area from Spain? Americans seeking gold? Soldiers who were stationed at Fort Verde? Speculation includes them all, but we will probably never know who’s there – one marker, erected near Coffee Pot, gets to the heart of the matter: “Quien Sabe?” (Who Knows?)

10. “Experts” Are All Wet

Sedona was always a dry town – the lack of water stunted development for years. This would change in 1947 when the previously mentioned mother of Oak Creek and “rooming house” manager, Mrs. Fannie Belle Gulick, approached Carl E. Williams, a geologist who moved to Sedona for his arthritis, about drilling a well on a parcel of property she owned on 89A. The local experts, thinly disguised skeptics at best, smirked that Sedona was a desert. But Carl just wasn’t buying it; with some geologic detective work, he set to drilling. His well came in within a few feet of where he had predicted it would be. Carl threw a big party to share his discovery with the locals, and hundreds of neighbors showed up to celebrate the end to lifelong cottonmouth. But this would not end the saga of Carl E. Williams; he kept drilling and in short order another 50 wells dotted the area. There are no statues honoring the pluck of Carl E. Williams, nor Mrs. Fannie Belle Gulick, but without them this town might still be a dusty pit stop on the road to the Grand Canyon. Let’s never forget that they made us what we are today – wet.

MORE SEDONA NEW AGE: A Sedona day in pictures, what’s new in Sedona?, Sedona metaphysical

MORE SEDONA MOVIE HISTORY: The last western film set, the making of Johnny Guitar, the return of actors Clint Walker, Edd “Kookie” Byrnes, Robert Horton, and Morgan Wood­ward, Sedona movie locations today, Oscar winner shooting spot, an interview with Tony Curtis, Sedona’s film legacy, an interview with Beatrice Welles

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