If you’ve read my ‘The Map’ entry about the Superstition Mountains, than this entry might sound somewhat familiar. Among the things that I love are not just the strange creatures that go bump in the night, but the places around the world that have stories attached to them that defy explanation or raise the hair on the back of my neck.
One such place is the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, located somewhere near the Superstition Mountains in Arizona. It is among a long list of mythical gold mines that were supposedly lost in time. This one however, has a special back story. It was lost because the original discoverer was found murdered, and that’s not the only death attached to the mine.
Legend has it that in the mid-to-late 1800’s, a German immigrant named Jacob Waltz (and in some cases, a companion, Jacob Weiser,) returned from a trip into the Superstition Mountains with the tale of an extremely profitable gold vein or cache. Through violence, one or both of the men are fatally wounded, and they draw a cryptic map showing the location of the mine.
Because the story has changed so much, it changes from an actual gold vein, secret stash of Apache gold, or a stash of gold from the Peralta family gold mine depending on the version.
Historically speaking, there was most likely a Jacob Waltz who did claim to find a stash of gold sometime around 1890. Newspaper accounts of the time state that after his death in 1891, search parties were organized to find the supposed mine.
Since the actual true story has been lost to history, no one truly knows if anything has ever been found, or if it was referring to an already found and established mine.
Now, the story itself is typical of ‘lost mine’ legends. A dying man claims to know the location of a large treasure, but only gives vague clues, the story has evolved over time, and people still look today. So what separates this story from the standard?
It’s what happened afterwards that separates it from the others.
In 1931 a man named Adolph Ruth learned of the legend of the mine from his son. Ruth, being an amateur treasure hunter, was extremely interested. Supposedly acquiring maps giving the location of the mine, he set out to find it.
His head was found 6 months later with 2 bullet holes in it, shot at point blank range with a shotgun or rifle. His personal effects were located at the site, including his money and diary, with the exception of any maps. The pistol he carried was fully loaded, and had not been fired. The diary indicated that he had found the mine and made maps of its location.
Authorities labeled it a suicide.
Then, in the 1940’s, the decapitated body of another adventurer setting out to find the mine was located. Another prospector from the same decade claimed that he had been shot at by a mysterious man with a rifle while searching for the mine as well.
Several others have perished, but sound to be more from natural causes like exposure and accidents than foul play.
No one has ever conclusively found the Lost Dutchman’s Mine, but that won’t stop others from looking. If you’re ever in the area, stop by the Lost Dutchman State Park. Who knows, maybe you’ll find something that will set you up for life. Or maybe someone or something will find you first.