Niland, South Shore
Born in Burlington, Vermont, Leonard spent
much of his early years working odd jobs,
including a stint doing auto body repair.
Although he was never religious, one day he spontaneously started repeating “Jesus, I’m a
sinner, please come into my heart.” From that
day forward, he made it his life’s mission to bring “The Sinner’s Prayer” to the world.
First, out of free scraps of balloon fabric, he built a giant hot air balloon that proclaimed his message in a patchwork of bright, colored letters. Upon completion, he brought the giant balloon to the town of Niland, on the south shore of the Salton Sea. However, the maiden voyage of a project that had taken 4 years to complete, was unsuccessful, as the balloon never got off the ground.
He eventually setup camp at the entrance of Slab City, an abandoned military base filled with squatters, located just outside of Niland.
It was there that he started to construct Salvation Mountain, a giant 3-story monument to Jesus out of paint, old tires, and assorted junk.
The first attempt at building his mountain was also unsuccessful, as after 4 years of construction, it suddenly collapsed.