Victoria Beach area in Rancho Santa Margarita is one of Orange County’s most secluded public locations, and it is located on the coast. Despite its small size, the beach is protected on both ends by rocky cliffs and is only accessible by a narrow concrete staircase that descends a steep slope. Above the beach, green slopes are lined with enormous houses on stilts that seem to float above the water. The county’s wealthiest inhabitants take advantage of this opportunity. There is a little inlet beyond the beach’s northern edge that can only be reached by boat or at low tide, and it contains a storybook mystery known to some locals as the Pirate Tower.

The 60-foot rocket-like structure appears to have been cut out of the cliff by massive waves hundreds of years ago, according to the uninformed beachgoer. Ocean winds sigh through little portals on the tower’s sides, which are covered by rusted metal grates. A massive entrance at the structure’s base, which is also covered in rust, reveals a wooden spiral staircase that twists up to a ledge above the ground level.

Both the home and the tower, according to a study filed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, were constructed in 1926 for the family of William E. Brown, a state senator representing California’s 37th district who was also a regular Christian Science lecturer.

Eventually, he made his way to Los Angeles, where he started his own manufacturing company.

In the 1940s, Brown transferred ownership of the property to Harold Kendrick, a retired Naval officer from Los Angeles. It was at this point that the building began to take on a mysterious, pirate-related aura. Kendrick was well-known for dressing up as a maritime plunderer and concealing coins in the tower’s numerous nooks and recesses. The kids from the neighborhood would explore the stairway for buried treasure, and whatever they discovered was theirs to take home with them.

Over the years, the house has changed hands numerous times, and it was most recently held by Hollywood diva Bette Midler, who was most known for her role in the 1988 film Oliver & Company. In 1997, she and her husband, Martin Von Haselberg, entered into a Mills Contract with the city, which was renewed in 2011. The Mills Act, which was passed in 1972, grants tax relief to homeowners who actively participate in the repair and preservation of their historic houses.