The Lost Dutchman’s Mine

For this month’s Legend and Lore post, we’ll travel to the southwestern state of Arizona in an area known as the Superstition Mountains.

Since early times the Superstition Mountains, located east of Phoenix near Apache Junction, have been the source of legends and mystery. Their very name was inspired by Pima Indian legends. The area contains ancient cliff dwellings and caves—many of them still show signs of former habitation.

Superstition Mountains (Public Domain)

Some believe these early dwellers were Salado or Hohokam Indians who populated the area several centuries ago. Later, the Pima and Apache tribes occupied the region. It’s the Apache that’s more closely associated with the Superstitions because they had a stronghold there in the 1800s.

During the 1840s a family named Peralta of northern Mexico supposedly discovered and developed rich gold mines in the mountains. In 1848, the family made one last expedition to carry gold back to Mexico.

According to legend, Apaches ambushed the family, killing all but one or two who escaped into Mexico. The area is now known as the Massacre Grounds.

A number of people were said to have known the mine’s location. Many maps surfaced, only to be misplaced or lost if interested parties pressed for facts. Men who claimed to have found the mine were unable to return to it or disaster occurred before they could file a claim. These stories added to the lore.

The term Lost Dutchman’s Mine came about in the 1870s. A German immigrant named Jacob Waltz found the mine with assistance from a Peralta descendant. Dutchman was a common name for Germans, with Dutch being the English equivalent to Deutsch.

Waltz and his partner, Jacob Weiser, worked the mine and allegedly hid caches of gold in the mountains. Most believe the gold is near Weaver’s Needle, a well-known landmark. Weiser was killed by Apaches, although some say Waltz killed his partner.

Weavers Needle in the Superstition Mountains. Creative Commons photo by Chris C. Jones via Wikimedia commons

His health failing, Waltz moved to Phoenix in the 1860s. Before he died in 1991, he told a neighbor, Julia Thomas, about the mine’s location. But Thomas or other seekers have never been able to locate the mine.

In the summer of 1931, an amateur explorer and treasure hunter named Adolph Ruth disappeared while searching for the mine. In December of that year, his skull containing two bullet holes was discovered. A month later, searchers found human remains three-quarters of a mile away. Scavengers had scattered the remains, but many of Ruth’s personal effects, including a pistol with no missing bullets, his checkbook, and his wallet were located.

Inside the checkbook was Ruth’s handwritten note claiming he had found the mind. He ended the note with the words, “Veni, Vidi, Vici.” (I came, I saw, I conquered.)

The story made national news and generated new interest in searching for the gold. Since Ruth’s death, many have died in their quest.

  • J. A. “Tex” Bradford began searching in 1933. By October of that year, he had been missing nine months.
  • Writer Barry Storm, using the pen name John Griffith Climenson, published a book about the mine in 1945. In it, he claimed to have narrowly escaped death at the hands of a mysterious sniper. Strom speculated the unknown sniper could have been responsible for Ruth’s murder.
  • Retired photographer James A. Cravey was reported missing on July 3, 1947. He had chartered a helicopter on June 19 to drop him off in the Superstition Mountains so he could search for the mine.
  • Denver resident Jesse Capen went missing in November or December 2009 in the Tonto National Forest. Searchers found his abandoned car and campsite. Capen was known to have been obsessed with finding the mine. His remains were found in a crevice by a local search and rescue team in November 2012.
  • On July 11, 2010, Utah hikers Curtis Merworth, Adrian Charles, and Malcolm Meeks went missing while searching for the mine. Their remains were discovered in January 2011. It was believed they perished due to the summer heat.

After the disappearance of Capen, the term “The Dutchman’s Curse” was used in an episode of the program, Disappeared.

Is a curse behind the deaths of these explorers, or in most cases did they succumb to the harsh elements? Does the mine exist? Whatever your beliefs, these legends will live long in the chronicles of Arizona history.

The Alaska Triangle

Most everyone has heard of the Bermuda Triangle—an area of the Atlantic Ocean where numerous ships and planes have mysteriously disappeared. I wrote a blog post about five planes, known as Flight 19, that vanished there in 1945.

However, did you know there is a similar phenomenon in Alaska? It seems there are also many mysterious happenings in our largest and northernmost state.

The Alaska Triangle is located in a vast and largely untouched wilderness. It stretches from Anchorage, southeast to Juneau, then to the north coast city of Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow). The area has some of North America’s most unforgiving wilderness.

The Alaskan Wilderness area near Denali National Park (Public Domain)

In October 1972, a small private plane carrying House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, Alaskan Congressman Nick Begich, an aide named Russell Brown, and bush pilot Don Jonz vanished on a flight from Anchorage to Juneau.

An extended search consisting of fifty civilian planes, forty military aircraft, and dozens of boats searched a 32,000 square mile area. They found no trace of the plane, wreckage, or debris.

Strangely, this wasn’t the first disappearance in the triangle. In 1950, a military aircraft with forty-four passengers disappeared without a trace. In 1990 a Cessna carrying four passengers vanished.

These mysterious disappearances are strangely typical of this area, and they aren’t uncommon. Since 1988 more than 16,000 people have vanished there. This amounts to an annual rate of about four missing persons for every 1,000 people in Alaska. More than twice the national average.

An aerial view of Denali’s summit. Creative Commons photo by unagiinu via Wikimedia Commons

There are many theories for these unexplained vanishings—everything from aliens, to swirling energy vortexes, and even a shape-shifting demon known in Tlingit Indian lore as Kushtaka. Some attribute the vanishings to cryptids that supposedly live in the area.

A more scientific explanation is geography and climate. Alaska is also known for extreme weather conditions, including avalanches. While it’s easy to imagine hikers wandering off trail and succumbing to the elements, how do you explain the disappearance of aircraft?

Again, science has an explanation. The state’s massive glaciers contain giant holes, hidden caves, and crevices large enough to swallow a plane.

But isn’t it more intriguing to consider the other possibilities?

Sally Carter’s Grave

Hey, everyone. This month’s Legends and Lore post takes place in the state of Alabama.

Huntsville is a city in Alabama, located in the hills north of the Tennessee River. Its population is around 215,000, making it the most populous city in the state. Founded in 1805 as Twickenham, it was renamed Huntsville in 1811.

Today Huntsville is a thriving city with its main economic influence from aerospace and military technology. The Redstone Arsenal and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center are located there.

Historic rockets in Huntsville (Public Domain)

But the modern city also has its share of legends and folklore, one of them involving the ghost of Sally Carter and Cedarhurst Mansion.

Stephen Ewing built Cedarhurst as part of a larger estate in 1823. It didn’t take long before tragedy struck the home when Mary Ewing’s sister, Sally Carter, came to visit.

Sally, just three weeks shy of her sixteenth birthday, took ill and died on November 28, 1837. She was buried in the family cemetery on the estate grounds. The epitaph on her tombstone read:

My flesh shall slumber in the ground

Till the last trumpet’s joyful sound

Then burst the chains with sweet surprise

And in my savior’s image rise.

Stories say Sally loved the estate and that’s the reason some say her presence is still there today. The legend began in 1919 when a seventeen-year-old boy visiting from nearby Dothan slept outside Sally’s bedroom. There was a storm during the night (yes, a dark and stormy night). The teenager claimed to have dreamed Sally visited him and asked him to prop up her headstone.

When he awoke the next morning, he told his family about the dream and said he was going to visit Sally’s grave. Strangely enough, Sally’s tombstone had toppled over during the storm.

Other stories claim Sally still walks the halls and grounds of Cedarhurst Mansion. A guard claims to have heard Sally walking upstairs one night. After her shift ended, the guard realized she had lost some money while doing rounds. After searching the grounds in vain, the guard gave up on finding the money. It was then she heard footsteps following her and her flashlight began flickering. When she returned to the guardhouse, the flashlight flickered brightly and shone directly on the cash she had given up for gone.

Another person who knew both families who lived in the mansion had a friend who slept in Sally’s room. The friend said doors opened and closed by themselves, covers were snatched off the bed, and lights turned on and off.

Other women claimed they had jewelry broken in the area of Sally’s room, with beads scattered everywhere.

Mapel Hill Cemetery, Huntsville. Creative Commons photo by Lonely Pilgrim via Wikimedia

The stories drew much attention and many visitors to the area, especially to see Sally’s grave. In 1982, the family had her body exhumed and relocated to an undisclosed location in Maple Hill Cemetery.

Today, Cedarhurst Mansion is now a part of a gated community with the home serving as a clubhouse. Sources say Sally’s bedroom has been preserved, but visitors aren’t allowed. Those wishing to catch a glimpse of Sally can always purchase one of the many condominiums.

A rather expensive price just to see a ghost, don’t you think?

Paul is Dead

Hey, readers. Last month, I wrote about how United States Presidents weren’t exempt from being the subject of supposed curses. Singers, such as those in the 27 Club, have also been a part of folklore. Even a member of my all-time favorite group, The Beatles, was once the subject of an urban legend.

The Beatles in 1964 (Public Domain)

Rumors alleging Paul McCartney was dead began circulating in 1967. Proponents of the rumor claimed he died in a car crash on November 9, 1966. They further stated that in order to spare the public from grief, the remaining Beatles replaced him with a look-alike.

This look-alike was “an orphan from Edinburgh named William Campbell.” Others say his name was William Shears Campbell, which was shortened to Billy Shears. The name Billy Shears is included in the words of the song, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

These conspiracy theorists claimed the group began leaving subtle messages in their music and album artwork. Among these “supposed clues” are:

  • The song “Glass Onion” includes the words, “The walrus was Paul.”
  • At the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” listeners can hear John murmuring some words. Many claimed he was saying, “I buried Paul.”
  • The White Album track “Revolution 9,” when played backward, supposedly includes the message, “Turn me on, dead man.”
  • The cover of Magical Mystery Tour shows one unidentified band member dressed in a dark costume while the other three wear white.
  • The back cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band shows George, John, and Ringo facing forward. Paul has his back to the camera.

The rumor continued to spread and grew rampant in the United States in 1969. That same year, the Beatles released Abbey Road. The album cover has become extremely famous in that visitors to London want to mimic the group walking across the street. However, the “Paul is Dead” theorists liken this cover to a “funeral march.”

  • John, dressed in white, is symbolic of a heavenly being.
  • Ringo, dressed in black, symbolizes an undertaker
  • George, dressed in denim, represents a grave digger.
  • Paul, barefoot and walking out of sync with the others, is the corpse

The license plate on the Volkswagen Beetle seen in the photo contains the characters LMW 28IF. Many say this is further evidence of Paul’s death, stating Paul would have been twenty-eight if he had lived until 1969. In fact, Paul was twenty-seven years old at the time the album was recorded. They also noted that left-handed Paul held a cigarette in his right hand, which was further proof the person in the photo was an imposter.

The main entrance of EMI, now Abbey Road, Studios (Public Domain)

Radio station WMCA in New York City sent talk show radio host Alex Bennett to Apple Corps. Ringo Starr told him, “If people are gonna believe it, they’re gonna believe it. I can only say it’s not true.”

In a radio interview, John Lennon called the rumors “insane” but added it was good publicity for the Abbey Road album.

The Beatles’ press office issued a rebuttal on October 21, 1969, calling the rumors, “a lot of rubbish.”

Apple Corps building at 3 Savile Row, site of the 1969 rooftop concert (Public Domain)

More than half a century has passed since these rumors circulated. Sir Paul McCartney is still very much alive today. He celebrated his 80th birthday on June 18 and recently completed a tour.

If you want to hear something that will send chills down your spine, watch the Peter Jackson documentary Get Back. (If you’re a Beatles fan and haven’t seen it, you really should.)

In 1969, George walked out of a rehearsal session saying he was leaving the group. John was late getting to the studio one morning. That left Paul and Ringo patiently (or maybe impatiently) waiting. At one point, Paul says, “And then there were two.”


The two remaining Beatles, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney in 2009.
Photo by Antonio Fucito, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Curse of Tippecanoe

It seems that no one is exempt from being the subject of an urban legend—including United States Presidents. Such is the case with the Curse of Tippecanoe.

William Henry Harrison was the eighth President of the United States and the first one to die while in office. He also has the unfortunate distinction of having served the shortest amount of time. His tenure only lasted one month.

President William Henry Harrison (Public Domain)

Prior to his election, Harrison was a military officer who fought in what’s known as Tecumseh’s War. Shawnee leader Tecumseh and his younger brother Tenskwatawa organized a confederation of Indian Tribes to resist the westward expansion of the United States.

In 1811, during the Battle of Tippecanoe, Harrison defeated Tenskwatawa and his troops. It was then that Harrison earned the moniker “Old Tippecanoe.”

In 1931 and 1948, the trivia book series Ripley’s Believe it or Not, noted a pattern in the deaths of several presidents and termed it “The Curse of Tippecanoe.” Strange as it Seems by John Hix ran a cartoon prior to the 1940 election titled The Curse of the Whitehouse and claimed that “In the last 100 years, every U.S. President elected at twenty-year intervals has died in office.”

In 1960, journalist Ed Koterba noted that “The next President of the United States will face an eerie curse that has hung over every chief executive elected in a year ending with zero.”

Let’s look at these presidents.

  • William Henry Harrison, elected in 1840, died of pneumonia.
  • Abraham Lincoln, first elected in 1860, died at the hands of an assassin during his second term.
  • James A. Garfield, elected in 1880. Assassinated.
  • William McKinley’s second election was in 1900. He was also assassinated.
  • Warren G. Harding, elected in 1920, died of a heart attack.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose third election occurred in 1940, died of a cerebral hemorrhage during his fourth term.
  • John F. Kennedy, elected in 1960. Assassinated.

It seems the curse was broken after Kennedy’s death. To date, no elected president has died in office. Ronald Reagan, first elected in 1980, lived fifteen years after he left office. George W. Bush, first elected in 2000, is still living after leaving office in 2009. The current president, Joe Biden, was elected in 2020.

When running for reelection in 1980, a high school student in Dayton, Ohio, asked Jimmy Carter if he was concerned about the supposed curse and predictions. Carter responded he’d seen the predictions and said, “I’m not afraid. If I knew it was going to happen, I would go ahead and be the President and do the best I could until the day I died.”

At age 97, Carter is the longest living U.S. President in history and has lived forty-one years and counting since he left office in 1981.

Reagan survived an assassination attempt. In 2005, someone threw a live grenade at Bush, but it didn’t explode. Two presidents, Thomas Jefferson (1800) and James Monroe (1820) preceded the supposed curse. They survived their presidencies by seventeen and six years, respectively. Of the eight presents who died while in office, only Zachary Taylor was elected in an “off-year” in 1848.

Like Reagan and Bush, many presidents faced assassination attempts or health problems while in office and survived.

What do you think? Curse or strange coincidence?