on the Unexplained from Whitechapel Press
INTO THE SHADOWS
American Unsolved Mysteries & Tales of the Unexplained by Troy Taylor
OUT PAST THE
Hauntings, Horrors & Unsolved Mysteries of the Great Outdoors
What strange secrets lie
hidden near Superstition Mountain in Arizona? Did a lone miner really discover a fortune
in lost gold here? And what strange force has caused a number of adventurers to die brutal
deaths and vanish without a trace in this rugged region?
Located just east of Phoenix, Arizona is a rough, mountainous region where people
sometimes go... only to never be seen again. It is a place of mystery, of legend and lore
and it is called Superstition Mountain. According to history, both hidden and recorded,
there exists a fantastic gold mine here like no other that has ever been seen. It has been
dubbed the Lost Dutchman Mine over the years and thanks to its mysterious
location, it has been the quest of many an adventurer... and a place of doom to luckless
What strange energy lingers here? What has caused dozens of people who seek the mine to
vanish without a trace? Is the answer really as the Apache Indians say? Does the
Thunder God protect this mine... bringing death to those who attempt to
pillage it? Or can the deaths be linked to other causes? Are they caused, as some have
claimed, by the spirits of those who have died seeking the mine before?
Lets explore all of these questions and journey back into the haunted history of
the Lost Dutchman Mine... and uncover the numerous deaths and the violence that surrounds
Superstition Mountain is actually a collection of rough terrain that has gained the
name of a single mountain. The contour of the region takes in thousands of cliffs, peaks,
plateaus and mesas and even today, much of it remains largely unexplored. Despite the
tendency by many to call this a range of mountains, it is in reality, only one. It is
certainly not the highest mountain in the region, but it has the reputation of being the
deadliest. Over the course of several centuries, it has taken the lives of many men and
women and has perhaps caused a madness in them that has encouraged them to kill each
The Apache Indians were probably the first to set eyes on the mountain, followed by the
Spanish conquistadors, the first of which was Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. He came north
from Mexico in 1540 seeking the legendary Seven Golden Cities of Cibola. When
he reached the region, the local Indians told him that the mountain held much gold,
although they refused to help the Spaniard explore it. They were in too much fear of the
Thunder God, who was said to dwell there, and who would destroy them if they
dared to trespass upon his sacred ground.
When the Spaniards tried to explore the mountain on their own, they discovered that men
began to vanish mysteriously. It was said that if one of them strayed more than a few feet
from his companions, he was never seen alive again. The bodies of the men who were found
were discovered to be mutilated and with their heads cut off. The terrified survivors
refused to return to the mountain and so Coronado dubbed the collection of peaks, Monte
Superstition, which explains the origin of the infamous name.
The mountain became a legendary spot to the Spanish explorers who followed.... and was
regarded as an evil place.
The Spanish Mine
The first man to discover the gold of the Indians on Superstition Mountain was Don Miguel
Peralta, a member of a prominent family who owned a ranch near Sonora, Mexico. He
discovered a vein of rich gold here in 1845 while searching for the treasure described to
Before he returned to Mexico for men and supplies with which to excavate the gold, he
memorized the surrounding territory. He described the mountains most outstanding
landmark as looking like a sombrero; thus he named the mine the Sombrero
To others, the peak, or spire, looking more like a finger pointing upwards and it has also
been referred to as the Finger of God... except to early white explorer
Pauline Weaver. He used the rock as a place to etch his name with a knife and subsequent
prospectors discovered the etching and dubbed the landmark Weavers
Needle. The name stuck and nearly every reference to the lost mine uses the Needle
as a point of origin.
Peralta returned to Mexico and gathered men and material to work the mine. Soon, he was
shipping millions of pesos in pure gold back to Sonora. It was obvious that this was a
gold strike like no other.
Meanwhile, the Apache were angry over the Spanish presence on the mountain and in 1848,
raised a large force to drive Peralta and his men from the area. Peralta soon got word of
the impending fight and withdrew his men from the mine. They would pack up all of the
available burros and wagons with the already mined ore and return home. Because he planned
to return someday, Peralta took elaborate precautions to conceal the entrance to the mine
and to wipe out any trace that they had ever worked there.
Early the next day, he assembled his men and prepared to move out.... but they never had a
chance. Taken by surprise, the Apache warriors attacked and massacred the entire company
of Spaniards. The pack mules were scattered in all directions, spilling the gold and
taking it with them as they plunged over cliffs and into ravines. For years after,
prospectors and soldiers discovered the remains of the burros and the rotted leather packs
that were still brimming with raw gold.
The area, dubbed Gold Field became a favorite place for outlaws and
get-rich-quick schemers, who spent days and months searching for the lost gold. The last
case of anyone finding the bones of a Peralta mule was in 1914. A man named
Silverlocke showed up in Phoenix one day with a few piece of badly decayed leather, some
pieces of Spanish saddle silver and about $18,000 in gold concentrate.
The Blind-folded Doctor
The next discoverer of the Peralta mine was a man named Dr. Abraham Thorne. He was
born in East St. Louis, Illinois and all of his life, longed to be a doctor to the Indians
in the western states. Early in his life, he was befriended by the frontier legend, Kit
Carson, and when Fort McDowell was founded in Arizona in 1865, he arranged for Thorne to
become an army doctor with an officers rank.
At this time, fighting between the whites and the Apache was often fierce. The Indians
were being besieged by the Army but it would not be long before cooler heads would prevail
and President Abraham Lincoln would create a compromise in the area. He proposed a
reservation along the Verde River, near Fort McDowell, which could serve as a sanctuary
for the Apache. It was here, in an area known unofficially as the Strip, where
Thorne came to live and work amongst the Indians. He soon made many friends and earned
respect from the tribal leaders, caring for the sick and injured, delivering babies and
teaching hygiene and waste disposal.
In 1870, a strange incident would take place in Dr. Thornes career. Several of the
elders in the tribe came to him with a proposal. Because he was considered a good man and
a friend of the Apache, they would take him to a place where he could find gold. The only
condition would be that he was to be blindfolded during the journey of roughly 20 miles.
Dr. Thorne agreed and the Indians placed a cloth around his head and over his eyes. They
led him away on horseback and at the end of the journey, the cloth was removed and he
found himself in an unknown canyon. He would later write that he saw a sharp pinnacle of
rock about a mile to the south of him. Treasure hunters believe this was most likely
Weavers Needle. There was no sign of a mine, but piled near the base of the canyon
wall (as if placed there for him) was a stack of almost pure gold nuggets. He picked up as
much of it as he could carry and returned home. He later sold the ore for $6,000 and
became another strange link in the mystery of the mines location.
First of all, I guess we should clear up one popular misconception about Jacob Walz
(or Waltz depending on the story you hear) and its that he was not a
Dutchman. He was actually from Germany and born there in the early
1800s. He came to America in 1845 and soon heard about the riches and adventure that
were waiting in the frontier beyond New York. His first gold seeking took him to a strike
in North Carolina and from there he traveled to Mississippi, California and Nevada...
always looking for his elusive fortune.
Walz worked the gold field of the Sierra Nevada foothills for more than ten years, never
getting rich, but turning up enough gold to get along. By 1868, he was in his fifties and
wondering if he was ever going to find his proverbial mother lode. The Indians
had nick-named him Snowbeard because of his long, white whiskers and it
isnt hard to picture him as one of those grizzled old prospectors who were so common
in western films.
That same year, Walz began homesteading in the Rio Satillo Valley, which is on the
northern side of Superstition Mountain. Soon after he arrived, he began to hear stories
from the local Indians about supernatural doings around the mountain, about a fierce
god... and about vast deposits of gold.
Most stories about Jacob Walz say that he spent the next 20 years of so prospecting
for gold around the Arizona Territory. He often worked for wages in other mens mines
while he searched from his own fortune. It was during one of these jobs that he met Jacob
Weiser, most likely while he was working at the Vulture Mine in 1870.
One version of the legend claims that Walz was fired from the mine for stealing gold and
soon, the two Dutchman struck out on their own and vanished into the land
around Superstition Mountain. Not long after, they were seen in Phoenix paying for drinks
and supplies with gold nuggets. Some claimed this gold was the stolen loot from the
Vulture Mine, while others said that it was of much higher quality and had to have come
from somewhere else. Regardless of where it came from, the two men would spend the gold
around town for the next two decades.
There have been a number of stories about how the men found the lost mine.
According to some, they stumbled upon it by accident. Others say that killed two Mexican
miners, who they mistook for Indians, and then realized the men were mining gold.... but
the most accepted version of the story is that they were given a map to the mine by a
Mexican don whose life they saved.
The man was said to have been Don Miguel Peralta, the son of a rich landowner in Sonora,
Mexico and a descendant of the original discoverer of the mine. The Dutchmen saved Peralta
from certain death in a knife fight and as a reward, he gave them a look at the map to the
mine. He was later said to have been bought out of the mine by Walz and
At some point in the years that followed, Jacob Weiser disappeared without a trace. Some
say that the Apaches killed him, while others maintain that Walz actually did him in. (As
you can see, there is a lot of speculation to the legend).
But Walz was always around, at least part of the time. Long periods would go by when no
one would see him and then he would show up in Phoenix again, buying drinks with gold
nuggets. It was said that Walz had the richest gold ore that anyone had ever seen and for
the rest of his life, he vanished back and forth to his secret mine, always bringing back
saddlebags filled with gold. Whenever anyone tried to get information out of him, he would
always give contradictory directions to where the mine was located. On many occasions, men
tried to follow him when he left town, but Walz would always shake his pursuers in the
rugged region around the mountain.
By the winter of 1891, an old Mexican widow named Julia Elena Thomas, who owned a small
bakery in Phoenix, befriended the aged miner. Apparently, they became romantically
involved and Walz promised to take her to his secret mine in the spring....
but she never saw it. The Dutchman died on October 25, 1891 with a sack of rich gold ore
beneath his deathbed.
Immediately after word reached town about Jacob Walzs death, a number of men who had
heard the Dutchman speak of the mine over the years rode out for the mountain in search of
the mystery. They never found it... and in fact, two of the prospectors, Sims Ely and Jim
Bark, spent the next 25 years searching in vain for what they called The Lost
The search has since fueled more than a century of speculation. Theories as to the
mines location have filled dozens of books and pamphlets. Literally hundreds of
would-be prospectors have searched the Superstition Mountain region and most have come
home with little more than sunburns......
But there are also many who have not come home at all.
Death and Mystery
There is no way to guess just how many people have died in pursuit of the Lost Dutchman
Mine. Some who have disappeared may have just quietly slipped away, unwilling to admit
that they failed to find the treasure.... while others may have gone in secretly and never
came out, their names recorded as a missing persons case somewhere.
The death toll of the legendary Peralta Massacre varies between 100 to 400, plus there are
the murders attributed to the Dutchman, Jacob Walz himself. He is alleged to have killed
at least two men who found his treasure trove and is blamed for the death of his partner,
Jacob Weiser, and others.
There are also a number of people who were slain by the Apaches after they were found
searching the mountain for the mine. These deaths, like the victims of the massacre and
those killed by the Dutchman, are easy to document and understand.
But there are others.... which are not so easy to explain.
In the summer of 1880, two young soldiers appeared in the town of Pinal. They had
recently been discharged from Fort McDowell and were looking for work at the Silver King
Mine, operated by Aaron Mason. They also asked him to take a look at some gold ore they
had found while crossing Superstition Mountain. Mason was stunned to see a bag of
extremely rich gold ore. Where had they found it?
The soldiers explained that they had been on the mountain and had flushed a deer into one
of the canyons. On their way out, they found the remains of an old a tunnel and mine. This
small bag of gold was only a little of what could be found there.
Mason asked them if they could find the place again and they believed they could, having
been scouts for the Army and very conscious of the details of the landscape. They
remembered the mine being in the northerly direction of a sharp peak (which Mason was sure
was Weavers Needle) and in very rough country. A narrow trail had led from the peak
and into the valley where they found the mine.
The soldiers admitted however, they knew little about mining. Would Mason go into
partnership with them? He agreed and purchased the ore they brought with them for $700,
then helped them get outfitted for their return to the mine. They left Pinal the next
day... and never returned.
Mason waited two weeks and then sent out a search party. The nude body of one of the
soldiers was found beside a trail leading to the mountain. He had been shot in the head.
The other man was found the next day and had been killed in the same manner. Apaches? No
one would ever find out...
A year later, a prospector named Joe Dearing showed up in Pinal and worked as a
part-time bartender. After hearing about the death of the two soldiers, he began to make
searches of the Superstition, looking for the mysterious mine. He was more successful in
his search than most, although I dont think I would go as far as to say his luck was
According to Dearing, he had discovered the mine and that it was kind of a pit,
shaped like a funnel and with a large opening at the top. He said that the pit had
been partially filled in by debris and there was a tunnel that had been walled over with
rocks. Dearing planned to work as a bartender until he could make enough money to excavate
He later went to work at the Silver King Mine, still intent on saving his earnings....
until a cave-in killed him a week later.
Another prospector connected to the Lost Dutchman Mine and its mysterious deaths was
Elisha Reavis, better known as the Madman of the Superstitions. From 1872
until his death in 1896, he resided in a remote area on the mountain and raised
vegetables. The local Apaches never bothered him because they were afraid of him. The
Indians held those who were mad in superstitious awe and Reavis certainly seemed to fit
the bill. It was said that he ran naked through the canyons at night and fired his pistol
at the stars.
In April of 1896, a friend of Reavis realized that he was overdue for his periodic trip
into town and went in search of him. His badly decomposed body was found near his home.
Coyotes had eaten him and his head had been severed from his body (much like the Spanish
conquistadors). It was found lying several feet away.
The same year that Reavis was found murdered, two Easterners went looking for the mine.
They were never seen again.
Around 1900, two prospectors, remembered only as Silverlock and Malm, began an
excavation on the northern edge of the Superstition. They found some of the gold remaining
from the Peralta Massacre, but little else. For some reason though, they remained working
the area for years after, sinking dozens of shafts and finding nothing.
Then, in 1910, Malm appeared at the Mormon cooperative in Mesa. He was babbling
incoherently that Silverlock had tried to kill him. Deputies brought the man in and he was
judged insane and committed to the territorial asylum. Malm was later sent to the county
poor farm, none too steady himself, and both men died within two years.
What was it about the Superstition that unbalanced these men?
Also in 1910, the skeleton of a woman was found in a cave, high up on Superstition
Mountain. Several gold nuggets were found with the remains. The coroner judged the death
to be of recent date although no further information about her was ever found. And the
gold nuggets were never explained.
In 1927, a New Jersey man and his sons were hiking on the mountain when someone began
rolling rocks down on them from the cliffs above. A boulder ended up crushing the legs of
one of the boys. The following year, a person rolling huge rocks down on them also drove
two deer hunters off the mountain.
In June of 1931, a government employee named Adolph Ruth from Washington, D.C. left for
the Superstition foothills with what he claimed was an old Peralta map to the mine. When a
search party went to look for him a few days later, his campsite was found to be intact,
but Ruth was missing. That December, his skull was found on Black Top Mountain with two
holes in it. The rest of his skeleton was found a month later, about three-quarters of a
mile away. In his clothing was a cryptic note that read About 200 feet across from
cave and Veni, Vidi, Vici (I came, I saw, I conquered). There was
no trace of the treasure map. Law enforcement officials attributed his death to sunstroke
In December 1936, Roman OHal, a brokers clerk from New York City died from
a fall while searching for the mine. It was believed to have been an accident.
In 1937, an old prospector named Guy Hematite Frink came down from the
mountain with some rich gold samples. That following November, he was found shot in the
stomach on the side of a trail. A small sack of gold ore was discovered beside him. His
death was also ruled to be an accident.
In June 1947, a prospector name James A. Cravey made a much-publicized trip into the
Superstition canyons by helicopter, searching for the Lost Dutchman Mine. The pilot set
him down in La Barge Canyon, close to Weavers Needle. When Cravey failed to hike out
as planned, a search was started and although his camp was found, Cravey was not. The
following February, his headless skeleton was found in a canyon, a good distance from his
camp. It was tied in a blanket and his skull was found about thirty feet away. The
coroners jury ruled that there was no evidence of foul play.
In February 1951, Dr. John Burns, a physician from Oregon, was found shot to death on
the Superstition. It was said to have been an accidental death.
In early 1952, Joseph Kelley of Dayton, Ohio began his own search for the mine. He was
never seen again... until his skeleton was discovered near Weavers Needle in May of
1954. He had been shot directly from above and according to the coroners jury,
Two California boys hiked onto Superstition Mountain the same year as Kelley. Nothing
further was ever seen of them. Some have suggested that they met the same fate as the
three Texas boys who had also disappeared a few years before.
In January 1956, a Brooklyn man reported to police that his brother had been missing
for several weeks. It was believed that he had gone in search of the mine. His body was
found the next month and a bullet hole was discovered above his right temple.
In April of 1958, a deserted campsite was found on the northern edge of the mountain.
There was a bloodstained blanket, a Geiger counter, cooking utensils, a gun-cleaning kit,
but no gun, and some letters from which the names and addresses had been torn. No trace of
the camps occupant was ever found.
In October 1960, a group of hikers found a headless skeleton near the foot of a cliff.
The skull was found four days later was it was determined that it belonged to an Austrian
student named Franz Harrier.
Five days later, another skeleton was found and in November, police identified the body
as William Richard Harvey, a painter from San Francisco. His cause of death was unknown.
In January 1961, a family picnicking near the edge of the mountain discovered the body
of Hilmer Charles Bohen buried beneath the sand. He was a Utah prospector who had been
shot in the back.
Two months later, another prospector, Walter J. Mowry from Denver, was found shot to
death in Needle Canyon.
That fall, police began searching for Jay Clapp, a prospector who had been working on
the Superstition on and off for about 15 years. He had last been seen in July..... the
search was eventually called off. His headless skeleton was finally discovered three years
later. He was identified by two cameras with the initials JC scratched on
And with that, my record of mysterious deaths comes to an end, although the death of
Jay Clapp was far from the last. Over the years, there have been many who have sought the
gold of the Dutchman and who have never returned.
If you are thinking of trying it for yourself, make sure that you follow the advice of
prospector and cowboy Barney Barnard, an expert on the Lost Dutchman Mine (if such a
1. If you are a citizen of the United States, you have the legal right to search for
2. Do not buy any maps that claim to show its location. There is no map in existence.
3. Do not go onto the mountain alone. Go in pairs at least and go armed. Shoot only to
protect your life.
4. Take plenty of water and carry only light, condensed food.
5. Establish a central camp and work in every direction from it.
As you can guess from the narrative that preceded this list, Barnard never found the
Lost Dutchman Mine and has neither has anyone else. It is still out there somewhere in the
rugged hills of Arizona, just waiting for someone to return and claim its prize.
But is something else waiting out there too? Something that watches over the mine, or even
the mountain itself, waiting for the unsuspecting interloper to dare and trespass on what
the Apache believed was sacred ground?
Perhaps the prospector named Joe Dearing said it best when he described the mine as
the most God-awful rough place you can imagine... a ghostly place.
It is certainly a haunted spot. Haunted by an unknown energy that claims the lives of men?
Haunted by the ghost of the Dutchman, Jacob Walz? Or haunted by the spirits of the
countless men and women whose lives have been taken because of it?
That answer is as mysterious as the location of the Lost Dutchman Mine itself......
For the complete story of the Lost
Dutchman Mine, See Troy Taylor's book
Out Past the Campfire
Copyright 2000-2008 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.
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