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The Jack And Helen Frye Story!
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representing Jack and Helen Frye.
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Sedona Legend Helen Frye a.k.a. the Jack and Helen Frye Story
A Decade of Research and Presentation- Created By Randall D. Reynolds
Copyright © 2003 All Rights Reserved
Sedona's Celebrity Love Story!
This is the official, not to mention only, web portal in the world
dedicated exclusively to the legacy of Jack and Helen Frye!
The Frye Legacy-
a Lifetime of Accomplishment!
By Randall Reynolds
This page addresses Frye Ranch in the mid-1970’s. This includes
alterations conducted at the property by the spiritual group named
(Eckankar) which Helen had befriended and who controlled ranch
with Helen from about 1972 to 1981. (Helen Frye died in 1979).
The following information is to the best of my knowledge in regard to 10-years of
communication with people connected to the Frye Ranch (1947-1980) and my own sleuthing.
Eckankar completed many alterations to the ranch and buildings-
Some desperately needed and beneficial- some not
Apache Fires House
The house was re-modeled as a private residence for the Eckankar leader (Darwin Gross).
That said, Eckankar replaced the “Vigas” (veeegas) rafters and roof support logs and replaced
the entire Apache Fires roof. (It appears the Vigas from, kitchen to the servant quarters, are
from the Frye era and were not replaced.) The ceiling insets were altered from sapling branches
to tongue and groove planking. Replacing the roof was a blessing as this massive effort has in
turn protected the house for the last 40 years.
Irreparable Damage to Exterior-- Destroying a Historical Landmark
Hierarchy member of Eckankar (George Hodges) was in charge of the house renovations in the
1970’s and desired the house reflect the look of an English manor (as per his origins). He had
the exterior completely sprayed with a red mortar mix. This upset Helen greatly but she was
unable to influence the decision. The work completely altered the exterior and destroyed the
dry-stack stone, and deep-set (hidden) mortar finish. The beautiful 'work-of-art' exterior was
rendered to bland burnt orange bricks.
Originally the house had a rich variegated array of Arizona sandstone with red and tan shading.
Helen spent years collecting many of the 'native to the property stones' and placed them loving
in the exterior walls. The dwelling was designed to replicate a Native American Pueblo Indian
motif by the Fryes and all design elements in regard to the structure reflected such.
This act by Eckankar defiled the House of Apache Fires forever. An act of irreparable damage
which to this day cannot be reversed. The act was unconscionable, almost like a deliberate
affront to Helen, as why else would someone violate a priceless work of art in this manner?
There was a surplus of buff flagstone left over from the Frye construction (originally quarried
on the Frye Sunshine Ranch) this type of rock is not available in the Sedona region. Eckankar
devised ways to utilize such on the inside of the house laying the Arizona flagstone over
plastered walls, in the rear courtyard, front entrance, and other areas. Again, this altered the
interior from original intent.
Sunshine Ranch flagstone was stored at the Deer-Lick Ranch too, reflected in (later) owner
Leenhouts photos. Eckankar laid wood decking over the House of Apache Fires sky roof terrace.
Eckankar replaced the original doors, and windows with mirrored glass for privacy.
(From architect John Gaw Meem) "They (the Fryes) like very much the Browne window here in
the office (Santa Fe) and as shown in our drawings."
(These windows are also featured in the stunning eleven-story 1931 Larson Building in Yakima
Washington which I have been seen in person. However, when the house was eventually built in
1947, a different type of steel framed window was all that was available after the war, amid
much post-war building material shortages.)
Eckankar completely gutted the kitchen, remodeled and replaced the flooring with ceramic tile,
which is not original to the Frye era. (The original floor was flagstone as reflected in Frye
photos). The group expanded the bathroom off the master bedroom suite with multiple
commodes and sinks. This was done to accommodate visiting members-- en mass. They also
added a whirlpool jacuzzi in the studio (above) which proved too heavy for the floor. A steel
spiral staircase was added from the master bedroom, aloft, so the studio could be accessed from
inside the house. A terrace was added outside of the second story bathroom. The inferior rock
work on this addition is readily recognized as not up to the standard of the original Frye Apache
Eckankar added utility rooms inside the house for A/C and enclosed duct work. They built roof
overhangs on the exterior (studio, south side, and rear entry). Shockingly, they repositioned the
approach and ascent of the stone studio exterior stairway and removed the bottom curved
landing. This destroyed the charm of the original design. In the end, the house took on a more
contemporary appearance and lost much of the artistic Hopi Indian Ruin-look which the Fryes
had envisioned and implemented.
Eckankar built the attractive looking red rock pueblo-style pump house building over the
original Apache Fires quarry (found in the sub-level). The design was obviously meant to reflect
the Apache Fires house. The sub-level is fitted with massive fresh water holding tanks installed
by the group. The Fryes water well was on this site, from 1947 or so, sheltered by a simple pump
house (wooden shed) as reflected in old photos. However, some say the Fryes used a ram pump
which supplied the house with water from the Armijo ditch (below). This may have been just for
Eckankar improved the drive (entrance) up to the house and added the massive rock retaining
wall and gate at the lowest part of the driveway (the Fryes had a simple graded drive). I was told
the wall was added laboriously by Eck members (without pay) and was quite difficult to
implement. (Remembered by one ex-Eck member as a real drudgery and labor intensive!) It is
not known for sure but likely the Meditation Kiva was added about the same time (at the north
main entrance to the house). It is hard to say exactly what it was used for or even if it was ever
used at all but certainly it appears to have been for esoteric ceremonies. (There were several
red stone water cisterns on the Frye Ranch in the early days filled with water. Could this be
related to water holding for the House of Apache Fires and altered later by Eckankar?
This was called "Long Meadow" by Jack and Helen Frye who cultivated apple orchards here.
Jack would pick apples and take them to market at Cottonwood, however, in the late 1940’s the
trees had to be removed because they were diseased. Ranch foreman Al Nuanez did this as
requested by Jack. It is not known if the Fryes utilized the clearing for crops thereafter. In the
1970's, Eckankar built the shower house and rest rooms. The current building is red-rock and
river-rock motif with stone work designs of Eckankar logos. The building is quite attractive.
The construction was executed so Eckankar could accommodate a large number of members
camping out in the meadow for events and work projects.
Willow House and Adjoining Buildings
Eckankar renovated the exterior siding of the Willow House by refacing it with stucco. At the
same time, out buildings (shop and barn) in this area were enlarged or improved . Eckankar
also built the current R.R.S.P. bunkhouse on the same footprint as the original red rock Frye
bunkhouse. Again, the exterior is an elaborate river-red rock expression with Eckankar designs.
Wings of the Wind House
Helen’s Wings of the Wind house was considered 'off-limits' during the Eckankar occupation of
1970 to 1979 although Helen did entertain members there from time to time. Eckankar made it
known to members they were to respect Helen's privacy and only come up if invited. By and
large the members of Eckankar adored Helen and respected her privacy and her ranch. (Of
course Eckankar owned the Wings house and property but did little in renovations up there.)
Supposedly, Helen's companion destroyed the beautiful hand-painted floors Helen lovingly
labored over at the construction of the showplace. The original floors are now covered but can be
seen on Page 1962. I was told this was a deliberate act of defilement. (This insight by Helen's
dear friend Rosie Armijo). I have also heard the owners who purchased the property from
Eckankar never spent more than a couple weekends there. Is it true the house is haunted?
House of Apache Fires Alterations by Esoteric Group Eckankar
3 separate construction-renovations executed at Apache Fires:
1941-1947 (Frye planning stages with staking, surveys, foundation work, etc.)
1947-1950 (the initial downsized home was built but not completed by Jack and Helen Frye with
contractor Elmer Purtyman. (The engineer who revised the house plans is not known but the
dwelling was very similar to what had been agreed on with architect John Gaw Meem just
reduced. Originally the Fryes planned a second floor and a 1610 square foot bunkhouse for
guests and a full-time secretary in the east courtyard. This was deleted with other additions.
1957 to 1961 (Helen Frye associate- Nassan Gobran)
Nassan Gobran Involvement and Alterations
In 1957, Helen Frye partnered with Nassan Gobran to turn the Apache Fires house into an Arts
and Spiritual Center but the venture fell through by 1961. Helen had sold the house with 10
acres to Gobran, who made improvements to the structure, but Helen carried the note. After
the deal fell through, Gobran sued Helen to recover his investment (improvements) and lost.
Nassan added the heating and A/C for the Apache Fires house (east courtyard) and laid the wood
floors in the living-dining room. He also built the living room fireplace to original Frye design.
Helen was onsite at the time. There was an agreement that Helen would continue to live in the
studio in this pre-Wings of the Wind era. Frye era- (late 1940’s) -the living room was storage
for crates of flagstone from the Sunshine Ranch. Other Gobran improvements are not verified.
House Of Apache Fires- Renovations
Broken Promises and Opportunists
The Ownership Transition History of Jack & Helen Frye's
Smoke Trail Ranch at Sedona- Now Red Rock State Park
Jack and Helen Frye started buying up property that was to become Smoke Trail Ranch in late
spring of 1941. The first parcel at it is thought 320 acres was named Deer Lick Ranch or (Farm)
by Helen Frye. Eventually, by 1949, with land parcel purchases and National Forest Service land
trades the total tract of Frye property encompassed over 700 acres and several miles of river
front adjoining Oak Creek. This property included Deer Lick Ranch or what is now called Cross
Creek Ranch, and what is now known as Cup of Gold Estates. Jack and Helen resided at Deer
Lick Ranch until fall of 1941, after which they resided primarily at the ‘Willow House’ on the
adjoining Smoke Trail Ranch. However, the Fryes, their guests, and the employee-ranch
families used the residences at Deer Lick for the next 7 years.
In 1947, Jack and Helen sold the core of Deer Lick Ranch at approximately 120 acres. This is
the same year Jack resigned from TWA. The sale price totaled $10,000 more than the original
ranch property purchase. The reason for this sale was that Jack wanted to consolidate the ranch
operations from Deer Lick to Smoke Trail, downsize the cattle operations of the ranch, and
curtail the added maintenance of the numerous Deer Lick buildings. Deer Lick was the
operation center of the Frye Ranch from 1941 to 1947. In a Phoenix newspaper interview (AZ
Rep) with Jack Frye, in 1948, it was stated that he and Helen owned over 50,000 acres of ranch
property in Arizona alone. This included two other much larger Arizona ranches (west of
Flagstaff and east of Flagstaff.) Jack also owned ranch property in Texas.
This 1947 sale, which did not close and record until 2-8-1948, was misleading however as Jack
actually increased the size of his Sedona holdings rather than decreased them. He merely
shuffled his property a bit. The Deer Lick sale was in conjunction with other land trades and
purchases. As an example of Frye National Forest Service land trades I cite just a couple from
the time frame of 1947:
Jack Frye- Initiated February 20, 1946, finalized November 6, 1947 (110 acres)
Jack Frye- Initiated February 20, 1946, finalized November 6, 1948 (52.50 acres)
Later, we find- Jack Frye- Initiated July 1950, finalized April 9, 1952
(This is where the Wings of the Wind was built in 1961.)
Of course, you cannot do a forest service land trades unless you own property you can trade to
the NFS. The trades were with Frye Sunshine and Spring Valley Ranches in Northern Arizona.
In 1946/47, construction on the House of Apache Fires was executed and continued until the
spring of 1950, but the project was never completed. To this day, it appears to exist as an
unfinished shell of broken dreams. This is somewhat of an illusion though as the Fryes moved
from the Willow House up to the Apache Fires house in mid-1948. The house was quite livable.
Around 1950, Walter and Betty Duncan (the new ranch foreman and his wife) resided at the
Willow House predominately for the next 30 years.
On June 27, 1950, William John Frye and Helen Varner Vanderbilt Frye were divorced. As part
of the divorce settlement Jack agreed to give Helen sole ownership of Smoke Trail Ranch to
include the Apache Fires house. Construction on the new house came to a standstill. Stated in
the divorce decree is that if Helen ever desired to sell the Apache Fires house and received an
offer, Jack would have first option of purchase at the offered amount. Helen continued to live
full-time at the Apache Fires house until about fall of 1962.
In 1953-1954, Helen Frye and Nassan Gobran as her business partner, decided to develop a
portion of Smoke Trail Ranch. Helen decided to call the new development ‘Cup d' Oro’. A
girlfriend of Helen’s created the name (possibly Lynne Gray). The first home built at ‘Cup of
Gold’ was completed in 1955 and named ‘Cradle of the Sun’. This area, aptly named, is now
peppered with palatial multi-million dollar homes many with spacious waterfront access. The
housing development is one of the most spectacularly beautiful in all of Sedona. It sits aside and
high above the green ribbon of Oak Creek adjoining the House of Apache Fires and Smoke
In 1955, Helen Frye took a white bucket of paint up to the roof-patio area of the House of
Apache Fires. With a broom, she scrawled ‘FOR SALE’ in letters she hoped were large enough
for airplanes to read. These letters are apparent in old photographs. The area was still very
remote, and the house did not sell. Indeed, the Fryes only discovered the property by plane and
it had been for sale for some time previous to their purchase in 1941.
In 1957, Helen agreed to develop a small portion of the ranch into an art center. This was the
birth of ‘Canyon Kiva’ the predecessor of the Sedona Arts Center. Helen Frye received $8,000
down payment from an associate (Nassan Gobran). The sale was to include the House of Apache
Fires and a parcel of land adjoining it totaling 10 acres. Helen Frye was allowed to continue to
occupy the upstairs portion (Studio) of her House of Apache Fires. The Apache Fires house was
a convenient and easily accessed remote art center for Verde Valley School on Verde Valley
School Road as well. Helen, an artist herself, used the second story section of the House of
Apache Fires as her art studio and resided there.
Later, in 1961, Nassan Gobran was unable to financially fulfill his agreement with Helen.
Gobran wanted to bring in additional investors, however an impasse' ensued. Nassan Gobran
and the investors, and Helen Frye disagreed on the creative direction of the new art center (it
was desired by Helen that the study of UFO phenomena be added to the venue.) The investors
balked but a lack of investment funds appears to be the ultimate reason the partnership was
then dissolved. Nassan Gobran sued Helen in order to recover a portion of the improvement
investments he executed within the House of Apache Fires. Eventually, Helen and her attorneys
settled with Nassan in court. Gobran was out and Helen again retained full ownership of Smoke
Trail Ranch and House of Apache Fires. Helen and Nassan eventually continued a friendship of
sorts with Nassan and his partner Cecil Lockhart-Smith; however, the disagreement never
In 1961, Helen started building a new home high on a ridge above Smoke Trail Ranch. She
named her new estate the Wings of the Wind. The name was determined, as Helen conveyed in
an newspaper interview, in regard to the birds that soar on the thermals outside the huge
picture windows. The house was completed at the end of 1962. Some of the adjoining land was
developed by Helen as well. The area is now called Smoke Trail Ranch Estates. Various other
pieces of land were sold by Helen through the years but the core of the ranch was diligently
kept intact. (These small sales were to satisfy Tax assessments.)
In August 1973, after many persistent offers of commercial entities desiring to purchase and
develop her property, Helen negotiated with two companies that she felt would fulfill her
stringent environmental guidelines. The companies were Turco Enterprises Inc. and
Development Sales Corporation. Helen's attorneys drew up an agreement of sale for 306 acres;
however, 32 acres to include her present home the Wings of the Wind as part of Smoke Trail
Ranch Estates was not included as part of the sale.
Once again, this developer was unable to follow through with the development of the property,
reason cited, ‘lack of funds’. The name of the development was to be called, ‘The Resort on
Oak Creek’. Helen became alarmed at the uncertain direction the development was headed.
Thus, through her attorneys, she attempted to re-purchase her former property. The developer
refused her offer and negotiations were stalled. Helen was desperate to regain control of the
property so she could protect and preserve it from possible unscrupulous developers who might
During this time, Helen Frye executed an unprecedented act of generosity; she and her
attorneys had a ‘Gift Deed’ drawn up. This deed enabled Helen to give her estate, the Wings of
the Wind, and the adjoining 32 acres to an esoteric group called Eckankar in which she became
associated with about 1968-69. This gift deed was recorded on February 19, 1976. At this time,
the ownership of the Wings of the Wind estate changed and Helen Frye was no longer the legal
owner of her own home. However, Helen was legally entitled to the occupation of the said
property for the remainder of her life thus creating in essence a ‘life estate’. Helen only
initiated this move because she desired her Wings of the Wind estate be developed into a
spiritual center by Eckankar- and preserved for perpetuity.
Helen and her attorneys devised a plan to repurchase the property known as Smoke Trail
Ranch from the insolvent developer. This plan entailed funding the purchase through
Eckankar. A price was negotiated at $1.2 million. The organization was not able to raise more
than $400,000, so Helen agreed to give them the additional $800,000. An offer was made to the
developer and a sale was accepted and recorded on August 23, 1976. Again, Helen's monetary
strength secured the property from a questionable future. Overlooked detail- it must be noted
that Helen was in realty 2/3 owner of the property, even though Eckankar claimed total control.
In return for Helen's bankrolling the 306 acre property the group agreed to develop the ranch
into a retreat with minimal alteration of the pristine state of the parcel. They also agreed to
NOT sell the property at ANY time in the future. In regard to the development of Smoke Trail
Ranch and the renovation of the House of Apache Fires Helen generously continued to disburse
her own personal funds.
In July 1979, a major rift developed between Helen and a person she had befriended. This
person was a member of Eckankar and also a companion to Helen. The disagreement so
alarmed Helen that she destroyed a Will that bequeathed the bulk of her estate to this person.
At the same time, on July 13, 1979, Helen Varner Vanderbilt Frye had a new Will executed. In
this new Will, Helen bequeathed approximately two-thirds her estate to Eckankar. This
bequeathed amount was intended to provide continued financial aid to the organization for the
development and preservation of Smoke Trail Ranch after Helen's death. Because Helen had no
children this seemed a viable and reasonable arrangement in her eyes. A partial amount of the
remaining 1/3 of her estate was to provide for a lady that had been her and Jack's housekeeper
and adopted daughter (not legally), her former ranch foreman and wife, several other friends,
the Sedona Humane Society, and her sister (only because of an earlier loan). Various other
acquaintances were mentioned as well. A copy of this Will was given to Eckankar by Helen.
Smoke and Mirrors
Circumstances started to take a distinctive and ominous direction since Helen Vanderbilt Frye
first desired to help Eckankar financially. Smoke Trail Ranch and the House of Apache Fires
was offered to this organization with the specific stipulation it would be used for a spiritual
retreat, and developed with respect for the natural and pristine state of the land, and most
importantly not sold. Helen learned that a sale was indeed being considered by the leaders of the
group at Sedona. They claimed insufficient funds in regard to the project and indicated an intent
to not follow through on their original agreement with Helen. It appears that Helen, at this
point, again, moved to repurchase the property. She was refused however and a resolution was
not reached. It is said the group at this time was undergoing an internal meltdown at the Sedona
Documents were submitted to the organization that indicated many sacred doctrines of the
group were plagiarized and ‘lifted’ shall we say. I have researched the origins of the group and
feel there is much validity to this claim. This caused controversy and Helen was understandably
alarmed. The Sedona group at that time begin to split off and disintegrated.
At the same time it is said by those close to Helen the national leadership of Eckankar was
trying to discredit and minimize Helen's official involvement with the group. This upset Helen
deeply as she had become the unofficial den mother of the group at her ranch. Not to mention,
her unprecedented generosity with the group and Eckankar. A major rift developed at this time
between the two parties. Also, Helen's companion was rumored to have split with the group as
well. When Helen was in New Orleans for a seminar, she heard that the group desired to sell the
Wings of the Wind as well. Helen immediately notified the leadership of an intent to buy back
her Wings of the Wind estate. She was abruptly refused and told they had no intention of
selling. Per a neighbor (but undocumented) around this time, Helen was thrown out of her
Wings of the Wind home by Eckankar and lived for a time out at the Village of Oak Creek in
her incomplete new showplace home called Sky Fires, as she had nowhere else to go. I feel,
however, she never spent a night in that home as research has indicated and this is just rumor.
I think it is reflective of another person who lived at the Wings for a time.
Shadows and Fog
An ominous cloud descended on Jack and Helen Frye's Smoke Trail Ranch. The association with
Eckankar was becoming a lose-lose situation for Helen. At this point in her life she was
vulnerable. As a wealthy older woman, Helen was kind, generous, and trusting. It became
apparent after talking to her long-term friends that they felt she was isolated and vulnerable on
her ranch. Several have conveyed that she became an easy mark and was taken advantage of
considerably by those that surrounded her. It appears that Helen was in way over her head….
By fall of 1979, Helen found herself drained and physically exhausted, later, it was determined
she had terminal cancer. During this time, Helen Frye destroyed her recently drawn up Will of
July 1979, because she was unhappy with the management of her ranch by Eckankar. At this
point she had a new Will drawn up. She contacted her friend Rosie by phone and told her she
was the executor and a beneficiary. (This has been verified with Rosie).
No one will ever know what really transpired during this murky time-period though, except that
this new Will disappeared, and only an Eckankar copy remained of the ‘previous’ Will. It was
too late for Helen Frye though, as she succumbed to cancer and died on December 4, 1979.
Helen Frye's Last Will and Testament was not found in her Wings of the Wind safe (this safe
was installed by Eckankar for her use) after they obtained the house. The Will was not located
in the vault of First National Bank on Forest Road, her personal files, or anywhere else for that
matter. Not only was Helen’s family looking seeking the Will but the leadership of the
Eckankar made a rather concentrated and aggressive search of their own. A representative of
the group entered the locked Wings of the Wind house after Helen died through a bathroom
window and searched the showplace home. This was discussed in court documents later.
However, it must be stated that at this time the group did legally own Helen’s house. Helen had
given them title to it before she died. However, they did not have access during the time the
court was investigating her estate and Helen had total access before she died. A gray area, one
might surmise. Her former companion and her family had access for the interim until the
property settlement was settled.
The transfer of Wings of the Wind to Eckankar was just one of the transactions the court was
very interested in-- ‘was it executed under duress?’ During the search certain items were
removed which belonged to Helen’s estate. Helen's safe deposit box was searched as well by the
leadership of the group. Here again, Helen had put the name of the leader of Eckankar at
Sedona on the box as co-signer. This is why First National allowed access to the vault. On New
Year's Eve 1979, Helen's former companion was living at the Wings of the Wind estate as a
caretaker. This residency was with permission of the family and the group. However,
representatives of the group showed up at the door on New Year’s Eve 1979 and requested this
person vacate the premises. Why? It isn't hard to surmise when one reviews the court
documents. From that point on this person lived at the Sky Fires house for the next three years
with permission of Helen’s two sisters Marie and Mildred.
After Helen Vanderbilt Frye's death, a very sensational and public court battle ensued. In the
opulent community of Sedona residents were shocked and horrified. ‘Fleecing of the wealthy’
and ‘scandal’ were now the main topics of conversation. Sedona had reason to be alarmed, Helen
Varner Vanderbilt Frye was one of the community's most prominent and well-connected
residents. Not to mention one of the most affluent. After all, she had not only been married to
Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr., but as well to the famous aviator legend Jack Frye, co-founder and
long-time president of TWA. There are those who said Helen had become increasingly eccentric
as she got older but isn't that true of most wealthy celebrities? Many just like her lived in the
isolated hills of around Sedona; wealthy retired movie stars, celebrities, and corporate heads.
Were other residents vulnerable to this type of con game? The scandal rolled like thunder
throughout the wealthy enclaves of the Southwest. From Beverly Hills to New York City- the
details were discussed. Helen Vanderbilt Frye was very well connected and had affluent and
influential friends all over the country. Subsequently this incident did much to turn people off
on the New Age Movement at Sedona and justifiably so!
In the Superior Court of Yavapai County, Eckankar produced their copy of a Will. However, a
copy of a Will is not a legal document and is not admissible in a court of law. Legally they were
trying to show Helen's ‘intent’ one might conclude. Burden of proof was then back on the side
of Helen's family. Court testimony shows that the esoteric group entertained a variety of tactics
to try to gain control of Helen's estate. In part, tape-recorded conversations made clear these
allegations in the eyes of the court. As a matter of fact, it appears these secret recorded
conversations are the element that turned the tide of the entire court case. As the battle played
out in the newspapers, radio, and television networks, Helen's family and friends testified that
Helen became disenchanted with the group and at that time destroyed the original Will. Other
testimony indicated Helen indicated up until the moment she died, there WAS indeed a valid
Will- and it was properly secured. A court order was issued which stated that Eckankar was to
immediately surrender to the court everything that was removed from the Wings of the Wind
estate when they entered it after Helen died. Anything that was not returned the court would
order a judgment that Eckankar would pay double the values in penalties. What was the reason
for the court's action? Simply, the transfer of Helen Frye's personal property was under legal
litigation by the court and no one was to take possession of anything.
To clarify this complicated litigation:
The court case was not over Smoke Trail Ranch or the Wings of the Wind estate. Eckankar had
already secured title and control of these properties before Helen died. Although the
circumstances in which these properties were transferred was discussed at length in the
courtroom. The court battle was in regard to what was left of Helen's estate. It was the family
(Helen's heirs) on one side versus Eckankar on the other side who were the parties fighting for
the holdings. Both litigants had much to lose if they did not win the case. It is rare for a probate
case to be decided by a jury, this indicates the court may have been looking for deception, fraud,
My comment is such: Helen Varner Frye was a very savvy and shrewd businesswoman. It is
highly unlikely that Helen, being so ill, would have destroyed a Will and not executed a new one
immediately. Testimony in court revealed Helen Frye was always changing her Will, yet during
the time she was dying, two conflicting stories surfaced.
Helen was urged to change her Will and disinherit the esoteric group.
Another version: Helen was never questioned about her Will and it was never discussed.
In my opinion, Helen would not knowingly die without a Will as she had too many assets.
Testimony conveyed she was of sound mind up until the last moments of her life. Reading
through the testimony it is blatantly apparent that Helen most likely felt there was a valid Will
secured. Therefore, who found and destroyed the last Will, and why? Is it true it was burned
with no witnesses (as was stated later to family by the person who did it)? What was to be gained
by a person or persons if the Will was never found? This is the real mystery of Helen's death
but perhaps so much so when one discovers how the court proceedings turned out in the end.
Perhaps a master plan?
After a period of ten-months, the court finally came to a decision. It was determined that no
valid Will existed at the time of Helen Varner Frye's death. The advisory jury was not able to
conclude if someone had intentionally destroyed the Will other than Helen Frye herself.
Therefore the Superior Court of Yavapai County determined the original Will had not been
fraudulently destroyed. A ruling was handed down to award the entire estate to the surviving
heirs: Helen Varner Frye's twin sisters (Marie and Mildred).
Reading through the volumes of court documents ‘obstruction of justice’ certainly comes to
mind. However, the court was not able to prove any obstruction of justice conclusively. This is
the real clincher of the case. Shamefully, no one went to jail.
As for how much money was extracted from Helen during her association with Eckankar?
Roughly, it culminates to something as listed below, although an accurate accounting will
obviously never be possible.
There is the original $800,000 Helen gave Ecknakar to purchase Smoke Trail Ranch. Then it
was allegedly discovered after Helen died that nine $100,000 checks were given to Darwin Gross
the leader of Eckankar at Sedona, as well as, allegedly, another (promissory note) for $500,000
to the same person, this cannot be verified. In court documents references of Helen giving
hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash is mentioned. One specific case was a lump sum of 200
thousand dollars given to the group and allegedly used as a down payment on the Eckankar
Menlo Park Headquarters. Supposedly Nassan Gobran and Helen Frye delivered the money in
cash to Las Vegas personally to a representative of the group. It was said that Helen expected
repayment on at least part of these disbursements. Helen deeded the group a parcel of land
called the Triangle. It was Helen's intent that if Eckankar needed to generate money for future
renovations at the ranch they could sell this land for approximately 100 thousand dollars. Other
gifts? The Wings of the Wind estate was worth close to half a million dollars. Money flowed out
of Helen's hands almost as fast as Oak Creek flowed through her ranch. When Helen died,
according to newspaper accounts, her estate had an estimated value of $200,000 to $500,000.
Court documents do not reflect the actual values of the assets however, and the estate likely
was worth much more.
Interested parties are encouraged to follow-up on their own. All documents are a matter of
public record with the Yavapai County Assessor’s Office and Yavapai County Superior Court.
Be prepared to spend a couple days sorting through the voluminous records and to be shocked at
the skullduggery. In my research, each time I left the courthouse, I felt physically ill after
perusing the files, the lack of integrity and disrespect for Helen is shocking and sad.
In about 1980 or 1981, Eckankar in a blatant act of disrespect defied Helen's dying wishes and
sought to sell Smoke Trail Ranch. To try to simplify this, through a series of complicated land
trades the property left the hands of the group and was eventually sold to Anamax Mining
Company. They in turn traded the land to the State of Arizona for several parcels of land near
the Titan Missile Museum at Green Valley Arizona. Valuation of properties on each side of the
exchange was approximately 5 million dollars, conservatively. Finally, the property was in the
hands of the State of Arizona and secured. Eventually it became an Arizona State Park. Bruce
Edward Babbitt, Arizona State Attorney General, Governor of Arizona, and later United States
Secretary of the Interior was the driving force that resulted in Smoke Trail Ranch becoming
Red Rock State Park. It must be noted that Helen was an intimate friend of the Babbitt family.
The esoteric group was only involved with the main ranch property for less than 10 years- the
Fryes for nearly 40!
Somewhere around this timeframe, the esoteric group moved its headquarters back east to
Minnesota, most likely to escape unfavorable local press. However, the group retained
ownership of Wings of the Wind estate and the adjoining 32 acres as a retreat for the hierarchy
of Eckankar. The Wings of the Wind estate and acreage was eventually sold by the group in
1993, for it’s thought certainly more than a million dollars. Eckankar was no longer associated
with Smoke Trail Ranch much to the relief of the people of Sedona! The property is worth about
3.5 million today.
Smoke Trail Ranch became Red Rock State Park, and under the thoughtful direction of the
Arizona State Park system, the property has been developed wisely. It has now become the
‘Crown Jewel’ of the Arizona Park system.
Wings of the Wind estate is now owned by a private party and resides on a parcel of 12.88 acres.
The adjoining land has been sold off and developed as Smoke Trail Ranch Estates. A spin-off of
the development Helen Frye initiated before she died. No part of the Wings of the Wind estate
is accessible or open to the public.
Now that Helen and Jack are gone from this world, it is assumed they are pleased with the
present state of ‘their’ Smoke Trail Ranch. However, the chain of events that occurred before
Arizona State Parks assumed ownership is a tragedy. It is interesting to note that if Jack and
Helen Frye had remained married and their entire ranch had remained intact it would now be
worth about 300 million dollars.
Certainly broken promises, manipulation, and betrayal caused Helen Frye undeserved
heartache and misery at a time when she was fighting for her life against terminal cancer. As
for Helen's desire to preserve Smoke Trail Ranch? This quest cost her dearly, financially and
emotionally. However, in the end this parcel of land was not successfully divided or destroyed.
Herein is the real legacy of Helen Varner Vanderbilt Frye. It is desired by all that this beautiful
piece of property survive intact for present and future generations to love and enjoy, as Helen
Varner Frye so deeply desired. Can anyone not be thankful for her generosity and sacrifices?
As for the Legacy of Jack and Helen Frye at Sedona? It all started with an over-flight of a
Lockheed 12A Electra Jr. of a beautiful and magical parcel of land, unmatched in beauty, and
virtually untouched by man. Beginning, as a beloved ranch, a TWA get-a-way property, and later
as Helen Frye's virtual identity; making her a Sedona Legend. The ranch ended as one of the
Southwest's most pristine and coveted State Parks. Former Smoke Trail Ranch, now as Red
Rock State Park, is enjoyed by people from all over the world, preserved for posterity sake.
Jack and Helen Frye cannot ever be forgotten for the contributions they made with this
property which enabled it to become what it has today!
However, it's not over, Helen wanted the ranch to be kept in perpetuity for the Native
Americans, as she felt it was sacred ground. This step will come someday when the Wings, and
or the House of Apache Fires, becomes a center of enlightenment for all Native Americans of
the Southwest. This will complete Helen’s dying wish, this will allow her to finally be at rest.
This page constantly changes as I locate new facts and change obvious errors. So many people
surrounded Helen in her last days, but how many of these people were truly her loyal friends?
Helen's wealth, generosity, and kindness to those who surrounded her was legendary. A most
remarkable woman, way ahead of her time, she was truly a free spirit. Helen yearned for a
legacy, a foundation. Not for herself, but to help others find universal spirit in their hearts. She
loved the Native American Indians, especially the Hopi, and she and Jack especially loved ‘their’
Facts and figures for this Webpage have been gathered from information readily available at the
Yavapai County Court House. The filed Probate Proceedings of Helen Varner Frye are of Public
Record. These court documents belong to the people of Arizona. That means You and I. Full
disclosure of all unsealed documents (there are no sealed documents in this case) legally must
be made available by the Yavapai County Court House, of the State of Arizona, to the public or
people like myself, a resident of Arizona and a citizen of the United States. Some of the names
of the parties in the documents have been left off this page. Not because I am legally obligated
to do so, but because this Webpage is a chronological history not an expose'. I have no desire to
identify individuals personally involved. The names of all parties are readily available at the
Yavapai County Court House to anyone that wishes to research the information.
Unfortunately, there will never be closure. Dishonor seems to be prevalent in our world when it
comes to probate and money. How do I feel about this page as it reflects on incidents at the end
of Helen Frye's life? One word, ‘grieved’. Certainly as well, I feel very sorry for Helen. This
sentiment I share with so many of Helen's associates that I have interviewed personally. For the
first six months of creating Sedona Legend in 2003, I tried to gloss over the complications and
shadow at the end of Helen's life. In doing so, I became as guilty as many others in this regard.
Friends and strangers had all heard ‘it’ and when interviewed they would become quiet and
whisper, ‘you know, that Eckankar scandal’. Oh yes I was aware of the story but not all the
facts until recently. Why have I not addressed it before? Simply because I was afraid it would
reflect unfavorably on this remarkable woman. This is not what Helen would desire to be
remembered for, this I knew. But yet, this is exactly what has happened. This story has been
the subject of common community gossip in Sedona for over 30 years. Many have come to me
and asked that I try to decipher what really happened at the end of her life. At first, I resisted,
but finally, with heavy heart, I decided to take the plunge. Sadly it is a sordid tale. Did Helen
know in her heart at the time of her death that she had been betrayed and misled? Yes! Did she
look out her grand picture windows and see the vultures circling just waiting for her to die? It is
obvious there were many sheep at Helen’s door and in her home, wolves in sheep’s skins that is!
In regard to Eckankar, several of Helen’s friends say she was disillusioned with the leadership
at the end and wanted her property back. However, in regard to religion, Helen had her own
firm beliefs in the hereafter; I doubt that this experience affected her faith at all. Helen was an
innocent pawn, in my opinion, specifically sought out, drafted, and cultivated for her money and
generosity, totally used and taken in. Interested parties can read the court testimony for
clarification of their own.
This page is for Helen Frye and her fan club, of which there are many, all the people who truly
respected and loved her. Not to forget the many innocent people that came to Sedona and got
caught up in a new age cult that shattered their lives. During several summers of volunteer
work at Red Rock State Park, I had occasion to meet many of these people, visitors, and former
Eckankar members. They were there at the ranch in the late 1970's and felt Helen Frye, and
themselves, had been dealt a great injustice!
This overview is respectfully dedicated to former Eckankar member Judy Grawey. A beloved
personal friend of mine, and Helen's, who recently passed away at Prescott on June 30, 2009.
Judy was head of the Prescott Arizona Eckankar group at one time. She knew all the Sedona
members from Helen's time frame and the details of the ‘split’ at Sedona. Judy spent many
years trying to reconcile the psychological and spiritual damage from her experience with
Eckankar. She devoted herself to helping other members regain their spiritual composure after
their liberation from the group. Believe me, Eckankar did a real number on Judy!