Arizona Myths and Legends Part 3 - Superstition Mountains

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With a name like Superstitions, you'd expect a lot of lore and mystery. You'd be right. In the early 1800's, the area was in the middle of Apache land. The Apache believed this area was inhabited by dangerous spirits and didn't live or hunt anywhere near it.

Copper was discovered nearby, and that area was taken from the Apache. If you know anything about the Apache, this was a bloody process. Despite the famous ferocity and war skill of the Apache, the land was opened for mining. Like most newly mine-able land at the time, prospectors rushed in and laid claims in the valley below the area playfully named ‘the superstition mountains.’

Here are some of the big legends.

The Lost Dutchman

I know, I started the series off with this one. It's a biggie for sure. Legend tells of the Lost Dutchman’s gold mine hidden somewhere within the 160,000 acres of brutal Arizona desert known as the “Superstition Mountains.” The promise of the mother lode has lured thousands of treasure hunters and continues to claim the lives of those eager to decipher the legend’s clues and riddles.

These cursed mountains are said to drive men mad. What terrors have come from the quest for the gold? What treachery? What ghosts still roam, either seeking the gold, or attacking others who seek it, or maybe looking for their own murderers?

The Lizard Men and the Secret Base

Oh, boy, this is a weird one, with many variations. The Superstition Mountains are said said to have both an alien base and laboratories under them. The military also have an underground base there and interact on experiments with the aliens. Not all who believe in the secret base believe in the lizard men, or "reptoids".

There have been sighting of reptoids about 9 feet tall in the desert. As soon as they sense that they are being watch they vanish. Some have seen lizard beings about the size of a man with bat like wings and a tail. They fly out to opening in the cliffs at twilight and also vanish if they sense that they are being watched. Others say Native Americans have seen these things for hundreds of years and that they are shape shifters which can make you see them in any form they want.

Sometimes these creatures wear uniforms. Sometimes they appear human, except for the eyes. Sometimes they are white, sometimes green. Their lairs are hidden as caves or mines in the mountain, and sometimes include holograms in the cave walls. Sometimes men in black will appear from nowhere and take unlucky witnesses off to be debriefed.

Gate to Hell?

Some say there's a hole at the top of the mountain that leads clear through to the underworld, and it is from this hole that all the winds of the world issue forth. There are reports of strange voices and shadows that emerge from the area, in addition to the sightings of aliens and lizard people. Could this explain all the death and mystery surrounding the mountain? What is going on under the mountains? That's for you to decide.

Apaches and Peraltas
The Peraltas were a wealthy Mexican family led by patriarch Don Miguel Peralta, who operated several mines in the area of the Superstition Mountains. Many tales agree that the Peraltas somehow came across a large deposit of gold in the Superstition Mountains.

A group of Apaches killed all the Peraltas but one. Maybe it was because they didn't like the way the miners were treating land sacred to them, maybe they wanted the gold for themselves, or maybe they felt possessive about the mine and its treasures. Maybe a Perlta boy was caught making eyes at an Apache girl. At any rate, the Peralta Massacre is commemorated by place names such as Massacre Falls. Maybe their ghosts still wander the area today.

Doctor Abraham Thorne
Doctor Abraham Thorne was a doctor from Illinois who wanted nothing more than to travel west and practice medicine among Native American tribes in the Southwest. When President Lincoln created a reservation for the Apache along the Verde River, Thorne got his chance.

Thorne would spend years living among the Apache, tending to their sick and wounded, and garnering respect from tribal leaders. In 1870, in order to repay his kindness, elders of the tribe promised they would take Thorne to a place with lots of gold. Their one strange yet convenient condition was that Thorne had to be blindfolded when they took him to the gold. With his eyes covered, Thorne was taken on a journey of about 20 miles. When the blindfold was removed, he saw a sharp pinnacle of rock, generally interpreted to be Weaver's Needle. In front of him, he saw a huge pile of gold nuggets against the canyon wall. He gathered up as much as his arms could carry and later sold the nuggets for $6,000, presumably in 1870 dollars.

Like the "Dutchman", Dr. Thorne would inspire any number of treasure seekers to try their luck in the treacherous desert. Some returned, some did not. Perhaps many are still out there....

I don't know if you'll decide to take up these legends for your own stories, but even if not, I hope you enjoyed them.
Happy Haunting!