As may be plainly seen by looking at the photo below, the Superstition Mountains are quite inviting, and do not appear at all sinister. (He said with a wink.)
Why then, is this small range of jagged peaks, near Apache Junction, Arizona, so swathed in superstition and murder?
And, though lots of those murders are apocryphal, all too many were quite real!
This is, after all, the spot on the map marked with a big X, if you're one of those folks looking for the Lost Dutchman's fabled gold mine. (In fact, I took this photo while standing beside a picnic table at Arizona's Lost Dutchman State Park.)
And, that Dutchman figures pretty prominently in Valley lore around here.
Here is a look at just a few of the Valley businesses trading on the Lost Dutchman for the sake of name recognition.
I'm not sure I'd like to park my R.V. in this place.
I might return to find it missing, and not be able to locate it ever again!
There have been numerous books written on the subject, of course.
Just as there are plenty of "Lost Dutchman's Mine" maps floating around.
Some with less detail than others.
This map (right) is based on some rocks supposedly found in the area.
Evidently, the idea here is that the
Lost Dutchman, adept at wielding pick and shovel, used them to etch his treasure map on a surface more durable than paper.
These are the rocks.
Now, I'm not saying there aren't any mines in the Superstitions. In fact, there are a LOT of old mines
and defunct mine shafts in the Superstitions. The place is, after all, a treasure trove of minerals.
HEY! You can see something that might be the entrance to a mine, in this photo (right). Of course, it might just be a cave. But, is it the entrance to the Lost Dutchman's Mine?
I rather doubt it.
The problem is: The Lost Dutchman's Mine brings out tons of treasure hunters every year.
Some contemporary Lost Dutchman occurrences are funny.
But ... others aren't.
Some contemporary additions to the tale are rather humorous, such as the one in this clip on the left.
Other would-be treasure hunters, however, wind up lost and out of water, in a desert terrain that does not suffer fools or the unprepared gladly. Among these folks, the lucky ones get choppered out by the Sheriff's Posse. The unlucky ones stick around, to add their ghosts, and stories of a good person gone missing, to the litany of the Miner's victims.
Around 2010, for instance, a Colorado man came out to hunt for the mine. His remains were discovered three years later. He had apparently become wedged in a vertical fissure while climbing one of the walls. Thinking about his last days or hours on earth is not a pleasant past-time.
Occasionally, however, that old "Ghost Mine" causes REAL problems.
When I was in high school, folks in The Valley began to notice that a lot of people who had gone hiking or camping in the Superstitions were not coming back. Search parties were sent out. The Civil Air Patrol overflew the mountains for several days at a time. But, no bodies were found.
Finally, one search patrol did find a body or two. And, that body or two had been shot to death.
To make a long story short: A mother and her two grown sons thought they'd found the Lost Dutchman's Gold mine back up in these mountains. And, perhaps they'd been back there all by themselves for a little too long. Add in a strong dose of "gold fever" after they thought they'd found the mine -- which, unfortunately, sat not far from a rather popular trail -- and they found themselves having to fend off a formidable number of "claim jumpers."
The story might have been funny, if they hadn't killed so many hikers.
The fact is, however -- even though you can see a picture of that "Lost Dutchman's" tomb stone on the right -- there may have been no Lost Dutchman at all! At least, not in the Superstitions.
In fact, according to some research, there are as many as 51 versions of the Lost Dutchman legend, many of them having nothing to do with the Superstitions, and some taking place in states other than Arizona.
So, why is this legend so prominent here in The Valley, that folks die over it?
Well, I'll write about that in my next installment.
Meanwhile, if you're coming out to The Valley, and you want to visit a nice picnic or camping area that has nice hiking trails, you might make the drive to the Lost Dutchman State Park.
Just watch out, if somebody starts shouting: "HEY! HOLD IT, YOU CLAIM JUMPER!"