Above: Travel to catch a glimpse of this shrine dedicated to religious leader Meher Baba. Photograph by Emily Dossett.
RISING FROM THE TOWN of Columbus’s desert floor, among creosote bushes and prickly pear cactus, the Perfect Man Shrine endures in peculiar decrepitude. The pale blue walls propping up the domed mausoleum roof have chipped and faded over years of repose. Distant sounds of laughing children and humming tractors float around the solitary structure. Built as a small replica of religious leader Meher Baba’s tomb in Meherabad, India, the shrine looms over an empty lot at the end of a gravel road three miles from the U.S.–Mexico border. Baba believed that perfection is achieved when God and man merge. Proclaiming all major religions as one and himself the same as Buddha, Jesus Christ, and Krishna, among others, Baba drew hundreds of thousands of followers during the height of his popularity in the 1950s and ’60s. One of them, Earl Starcher, a former air traffic controller, began this tribute in the mid-1980s but passed away before completing it. Beaten by the weather, it has stood ever since, one of the world’s few monuments dedicated to a largely forgotten figure.
In Columbus, drive west on Jones Street until it dead-ends into Adams Street. The shrine is on private property; look from the road.