High above the sixth most populated city in the US is a mountainous region where the silence is such that the sound of a soaring hawk is no less surprising than that of a gurgling stream; several miles below, in a breathtaking vista of majesty both real and unrealized. The Apaches call this place the Devil’s Playground; for the unexplained events and experiences seem to defy all logic ever defined by man.
From unearthly lights, to dimensional shifts in space and time, the impenetrable aura of mystery swirls around visitors in a feather-soft breeze and dares them to believe in the legends of the Superstition Mountains.
One such legend is that of the Lost Dutchmen, a prospector named Jacob Waltz who reportedly had and successfully hid a fortune in gold somewhere in the shadow of Weaver’s Needle. Whether or not he mined the treasure in the shadow of Weaver’s Needle or obtained it elsewhere, as I mentioned here, remains a subject of much deliberation. And while some believe it is protected by the (Apache) curse of the Black Legion; deep within one of the harshest environments imaginable, an untold number of fortune hunters have nonetheless dared to brave the elements; many of whom died trying, but the treasure has never been found.
In response to the ever-expanding Southwest territory, camels were sent to Arizona in 1857 for the purpose of assisting the poor old ragged mules charged with carrying US mail and military supplies across the desert plains. By the time the railroad stretched across the mesas the camels had either died of exhaustion of been released to survive as they might, which is about the time the Red Ghost stories began to circulate.
The first of several unsettling tales was of a woman found trampled outside her camp with only tufts of reddish fur and hoof prints as clues. Another was of a timid soldier being hog-tied and strapped to a great red camel’s back in order to cure his fear of the animal. But the perturbed beast of burden took off in a huff and wasn’t seen again until stories surfaced of the eerie image of a ghostly red camel with a headless rider bouncing on its back. An unassuming prospector named Jake (depending on which legend you choose to believe, this could be the same Jacob) was followed by a lawless lout named Paul Adams who sought to discover where Jake hid a cache of gold – or better yet – the location of the vein. When Adams was sure Jake had led him to the right spot, he quickly murdered Jake and planned on reaping the spoils - until Jake’s camel attacked him. Naturally, Adams killed the camel too. But days later as sand blasted his eyes and face on a moonless summer night, the ghost of Jake returned on the back of his beloved dead camel, causing a terrified Adams to hightail it to the nearest sheriff’s post where he turned himself in and promptly confessed.
Have you ever panned for gold? Which has more allure, hidden treasure or legendary mystique?