In the centre of a particularly arid Arizonian desert lies a mountain range unlike any other. Few pieces of land hold an infamy quite like the Superstition Mountains. Once called the Sierra de la Espuma by Spanish settlers, the Superstition Mountain range lies only a few miles from the Phoenix metropolitan area. They have been the source of legend spanning back hundreds of years.
These mountains are responsible for countless missing hikers and a deadly hunt for the richest gold cache in North America, so legends tells us, hidden within a secret cave somewhere deep in the mountains. Many of these mysteries still have no explanation and the allure for treasure hunters is still very real. However, Long before the tales of a Lost Dutchman, the Apache horde called these mountains home. Home came with a heavy price.
A Superstitious History
An Apache Tribe, image via – Emaze
The Superstition mountains were formed millions of years ago after a long and violent period of volcanic activity. The mountains earliest recorded inhabitants were the infamous Apache Tribe. The tribe told stories of a hole in the very top of the mountain and from it, all the wind in the world originated. They also believed it to be the gateway to hell itself. Not only that, but those brave enough to enter would be granted wealth beyond their dreams.
The Superstition Mountains should have faded into history until one of the earliest European settlers changed everything. Dr Thorne was a Spanish doctor who was exploring the region when he came across a dying Apache warrior. He worked long hours into the night, eventually saving his life.
As a reward, Dr Thorne was blindfolded and led deep into the wilderness until they stopped. They blindfold was removed and Dr Thorne opened his eyes to be greeted by a magnificent cavern of ancient gold. He was permitted to take as much as he could carry home with him. He was never again able to retrace his steps, or perhaps he was just never willing.
One of the Speculated Locations – image via – Google Earth
Some years later, chasing the legend, the wealthy Peralta family bought a huge chunk of Superstition land and according to oral legend, they found a vein of gold that provided the family with an even more lavish lifestyle. However, it was not long before people began to take notice. In the late 1840’s the entire family were slaughtered whilst ferrying the gold to their new home in Northern Mexico. Some would say that the Apache warriors killed the family and then took the gold back to the cavern and hid the entrance once again. To this day the site were the Peralta family died is called The Massacre Grounds.
The Lost Dutchman
A depicted Image of Jacob Waltz. Image via – The Lounge
The Superstition Mountains have always been infamous but no single person fuelled the fire quite like one Jacob Waltz.
Jacob Waltz was a German immigrant born in 1808, he came to America in the late 19th century in search of gold. Jacob eventually found himself a prospector during the late 1800’s in the Phoenix valley. Following that he was recorded in New York for a short time before boarding a ship and disappearing for almost 50 years.
Eventually, Jacob turned up in the civilised world an old and sun-beaten man. He brought back nothing but stories of adventures and a treasure beyond their wildest dreams somewhere in the Superstition Wilderness. However, Jacob also came back with pneumonia and he told these tales from his deathbed to his caregiver Julia Thomas. He left her with a set of clues on how to found this ‘Golden Cave’.
The fabled Waltz treasure map. Image via – Huffington Post
The clues were like something straight out of Treasure Island. They were detailed instructions about passing through gorges and hidden paths to find. The most important and famous part is an outcropping known as ‘ Weaver’s Needle Figures’, they were used as a central point to find the cave that led down to the precious ore. Julia could never make sense of the clues and ended up selling them along with Waltz’s map for just $7.
The stories continue when two US soldiers came strolling into town claiming they had found gold in the desert in 1870. They vanished on their journey back into the wilderness to salivate more gold. According to rumours Waltz has boasted about his findings countless times and as a result, he was followed more than once. However, all of the thieves who followed always vanished without explanation…
Crazy right? Sure, it was all just rumour and fear mongering until one man, Adolph Ruth disappeared in the superstition mountains on a hunt for gold. That one man changed everything.
The Legend Lives On
Image via Youtube
Adolph Ruth was a well-known treasure hunter during the great American Gold Rush era. Ruth came into possession of Jacob Waltz’s treasure map from his son. Ruth Jr had accepted the map as a form of payment from a legal client. Ruth walked with a cane after sustaining an injury in a mine in his early life and was warned by many of his friends and colleagues not to go into the superstitioValleyey due to its vicious nature. Despite all of this, Adolph Ruth embarked on a 2 week into the Superstition Mountains with the Peralta Mine, glory and riches on his mind. His remains were found a year later.
Now Adolph did not just take a bad fall or run out of water, his skull was found detached from his body and with two clear bullet holes in his skull. After examination, it was found that the bullets had been fired from a shotgun at point blank range. His body was found some months later with his pistol still equipped without a single shot fired. Waltz’s Treasure Map was gone.
Many believed this to be the work of secret Apache guardians or rival treasure hunters. However, one last clue was found. Adolph’s journal was found not long after his body. His last entry described a vast golden cavern and the phrase ” Veni, Vida, Vinci “.
Adolph Ruth & Family. Image via – Ancestry
Adolph Ruth was not the first or last person to fall victim to these mountains. In the 1940’s the remains of James A. Carvery with his head also missing from his body. Again in 1945, a writer called Barry Storm was attacked whilst out looking for the mine. Since then countless hikers and treasure hunters alike have gone missing. Although not all of these expeditions were fruitless, a certain clue has been found and it’s on display for all to see.
One of the Peralta Stones. Image via- Desert USA
Located in the newly opened Lost Dutchman Museum rests several large slabs of stone originally recovered around the area where the entrance to the mine supposedly lies. They large slabs of slate have strange but detailed carvings engraved deep into the stone. Many have called them ‘ The Peralta Stones’ believing them to be a kind of map so that the Peralta family could always find a way back to the Apache Gold.
The Legend of the Lost Dutchman, 200 Years Later
The Legend of theLost Dutchman has not yet died. There are many in search of the gold mine but one man has dedicated his entire life to the cause. Wayne Tuttle head hunter of the show ” Legend of the Superstition Mountains has spent over 40 years trying to decipher the clues and endlessly scouring the Superstition wilderness. He had this to say.
Wayne Tuttle. Image via – Huffington Post
“I’ve been in areas where it’s said there would be no possible sign of gold. I’ve found mines that have been worked out and found ore samples that still hold traces of gold in them,” Tuttle said. “The big prize, I think, for everybody, would still be — even not finding the mine — there is a stash of gold somewhere buried in a little pit in the ground near Waltz’s camp, and who knows what that could be worth — two, three million dollars just sitting there under our feet. Every time I’m in specific areas, I wonder if I’ve walked over that spot.”
It leaves one to wonder, was this all just legend or is there a little more truth. I guess we will leave it to Mr Tuttle to find out for us.