The Lost Dutchman Death Roll

What follows is a comprehensive list of the carnage associated with the search for the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine:

1880 – Two soldiers, recently discharged from Fort McDowell, showed up in Pinal, Arizona looking for work at the Silver King Mine. When they showed a bag of gold ore to the Silver King Manager, Aaron Mason, the manager was stunned to see how rich the ore was and immediately began to ask where they had found it.

The soldiers replied that the ore had been picked up while crossing Superstition Mountain, where they had also spied an old mine. Mason bought the ore from the men, outfitted them and entered a partnership with the pair to share in the profits. The two, sure that they could find the place, then headed towards Weaver’s Needle, but after two weeks had not returned. Mason sent out a search party, who found the nude bodies of both men, shot in the head.

1881 – A prospector by the name of Joe Dearing, who was working as a part-time bartender in Pinal, heard the stories of the two dead soldiers and began to look for the lost mine. He soon returned to Pinal, saying that he had found an old mine, describing it as “the most God-awful rough place you can imagine… a ghostly place.” Dearing continued to work as a bartender until he could save enough money for the excavation. To make even more money, he then went to work at the Silver King Mine. Just a week later he was killed in a cave-in without ever disclosing the location to anyone.

1896 – A prospector named Elisha Marcus Reavis, who was better known in the area as the “Madman of the Superstitions” or the “Old Hermit” because he never shaved or cut his hair; he seldom bathed and rumors said he was prone to running naked through the canyons, firing a pistol into the sky. Sure that he was “mad,” even the Apache left him alone. When Reavis hadn’t been seen in some time, one of his few friends went to check on him. The nearly 70 year-old man was found dead about four miles south of his home on a trail near Roger’s Canyon. His head had been severed from his body and was lying several feet away.

1896 – Later that year, two easterners went looking for the lost mine. They were never seen again.

* 1910 – The skeleton of a woman was found in a cave high up on Superstition Mountain. With the body were several gold nuggets. The coroner could tell that the woman’s death was recent, but the gold was never explained.

1927 – A New Jersey man and his sons were hiking the mountain when rocks began to roll down on them from the cliffs above, as if someone had pushed the boulders. One of the boys’ legs was crushed. Just a year later, two dear hunters were driven off the mountain, when again rolling boulders appeared to have been pushed by someone or “something” down the mountain towards them.

1931 – Yet another event added to the legends of Superstition Mountain when Adolph Ruth, a Washington D.C. veterinarian and avid treasure hunting hobbyist went missing in a wilderness area of the peak.

In his search, Ruth utilized a map that his son had obtained in Mexico several years previous, which dated back to the period of the Mexican Revolution (1909-1923), and was later referred to as the Ruth-Peralta map. Ruth was searching for lost Peralta Mines, especially that of the Lost Dutchman. Arriving in the area in May, Ruth convinced two local cowboys to pack him into the mountains, where they left him to his exploring at a place called Willow Springs in West Boulder Canyon around June 14th, 1931.

When nothing had been heard of Ruth for six days, the cowboys’ boss, a man named Tex Barkley, went looking for the treasure hunter. Upon arriving at Ruth’s camp, the rancher could tell that no one had been there in at least a day and reported Ruth missing. A reward was immediately offered by the family and searchers combed the mountain for the next 45 days but Ruth was not found.

Some months later, in December, however; a skull with two holes in it was discovered near the three Red Hills by an archaeological expedition. I turned out to be that of Adolph Ruth. The rest of the treasure hunter’s body would not be found until the next month, in a small tributary on the east slope of Black Top Mesa. Ruth’s treasure map was found at his original campsite.

The headlines were sensational – alleging that Ruth had been murdered for his map. However, the original coroner said that he could not be positive the skull had bullet holes in it. However, Adoph’s son, Erwin, was convinced his father had been killed. Though the coroner acceded that foul play “might” have been involved, the original statement was never changed.

Some believed that Ruth may have died not from foul play, but from the extreme desert heat, and then his body was carried away in parts by wild animals.

1934 – The Superstitions claimed the life of Adam Stewart, cause of death unknown.

1936 – Another life was claimed by the mountain when another hobbyist, Roman O’Hal, a broker from New York, died from a fall when he was searching for the Lost Dutchman.

1937 – An old prospector by the name of Guy “Hematite” Frink was lucky enough to return from the mountain with a number of rich gold samples. In November, he was found shot in the stomach on the side of a trail in or near La Barge Canyon. Next to his decomposing body was a small sack of gold ore.

1938 – A man named Jenkins, along with his wife and two children were having a picnic on the mountain. During their outing Jenkins found a heavy quartz rock that he later learned was heavily laden with gold. However, before he could return to the spot, he had a heart attack. His wife could not remember the location of the find.

In 1945 – A book about the Lost Dutchman Mine was written by Barry Storm, who claimed to have narrowly escaped from a mysterious sniper. Storm speculated that Adolph Ruth might have been a victim of the same sniper.

1947 – A prospector name James A. Cravey made a much-publicized trip into the Superstition canyons by helicopter, searching for the Lost Dutchman Mine. The pilot set him down in La Barge Canyon, close to Weaver’s Needle. When Cravey failed to hike out as planned, a search was started and although his camp was found, Cravey was not.

The following February, his headless skeleton was found in a canyon, a good distance from his camp. It was tied in a blanket and his skull was found about thirty feet away. The coroner’s jury ruled that there was “no evidence of foul play.”

1949 – A man named James Kidd disappeared in the Superstitions.

* 1951 – Dr. John Burns, a physician from Oregon, was found shot to death on Superstition Mountain. The “official” ruling was that the death was accidental.

1952 – A man named Joseph Kelley of Dayton, Ohio was also searching for the lost mine. He vanished and was never seen again. His skeleton was discovered near Weaver’s Needle two years later. The shot in his skull was ruled an accidental shooting incident.

1953 – Two California boys, who were hiking on Superstition Mountain, also vanished. Unfortunately, for these two, nothing was every found of them.

1955 – Charles Massey, who was hunting with a 22, was found shot between the eyes by a heavy-caliber rifle bullet. The coroner ruled it an accidental death resulting from a ricochet.

1956 – A man from Brooklyn, New York reported to police that his brother, Martin Zywotho, who he believed was searching for the Lost Dutchman Mine, had been missing for several weeks. A month later, the missing man’s body was found with a bullet hole above his right temple. Although his gun was found under the body, the death was ruled suicide.

1958 – A deserted campsite was discovered on the northern edge of the mountain. At the campsite were a bloodstained blanket, a Geiger counter, a gun-cleaning kit, but no gun, cooking utensils, and some letters, from which the names and addresses had been torn from. No trace of the camp’s occupant was ever found.

1959 – Two men by the names of Stanley Hernandez and Benjamin Ferreira, thought they had found the “jack-pot.” However, what they actually discovered was pyrite, more often called “Fool’s Gold.” But, these two were sure they had found the elusive mine. Whether out of greed or, some kind of dispute over how they would handle their new found wealth, Hernandez killed his friend Ferreira.

1960 – Robert St. Marie, who was attempted to drill a hole all the way through Weaver’s Needle, was killed by prospector Edward Piper. Two months later, Piper was found dead. The cause of death was said to have been a “perforated ulcer.”

1960 – Two more men who were hiking in the Superstitions that year became involved in some kind of dispute. Lavern Rowlee was shot by Ralph Thomas, who reported that he had been attacked by Rowlee and shot the other man in self-defense.

1960 – A group of hikers found a headless skeleton near the foot of a cliff on Superstition Mountain. Four days later, an investigation determined it belonged to an Austrian student named Franz Harrier.

1960 – Five days later, another skeleton was found, which was identified the next month to be that of William Richard Harvey, a painter from San Francisco. The cause of death was unknown.

1961 – A family picnicking near the edge of the mountain discovered the body of Hilmer Charles Bohen buried beneath the sand. Bohen was a Utah prospector who had been shot in the back.

1961 – Two months later, another prospector from Denver named Walter J. Mowry was found in Needle Canyon. His bullet-ridden body was removed to the coroner’s, who ruled it a suicide.

1961 – Five days later, another skeleton was found, which was later identified as William Richard Harvey, a painter from San Francisco. The cause of death was undetermined.

1961 – Police began searching for a prospector by the name of Jay Clapp, who had been working on Superstition Mountain on and off for a decade and a half. Clapp had been missing since July. After a thorough search, the hunt was called off. Three years later his headless skeleton was finally discovered.

1963 – A man named Vance Bacon, also working to tunnel through Weaver’s Needle, fell to his death. Allegedly, there were rifle shots and indications of foul play.

1964 – Brothers, Richard and Robert Kremis, were found dead at the bottom of a high cliff.

1964 – An elderly couple was found murdered in an automobile.

1970 – A seasoned prospector named Al Morrow was killed by a boulder that fell into a tunnel that he was digging.

1973 – Charles Lewing shot Ladislas Guerrero at a mountain campsite. Lewing claimed self-defense.

1976 – A prospector named Howard Polling was found dead of a gunshot wound. The following year another man named Dennis Brown, was also found dead of a gunshot wound.

1978 – A man named Manuel Valdez was murdered in the Superstitions.

1980 – The skeleton of a man named Rick Fenning was found.

1984 – A prospector named Walt Gassler, who had been searching for the Lost Dutchman for most of his life, was found dead in the Superstitions. In his pack was gold ore, later discovered to be identical to that of the rich ore Jacob Waltz had found earlier.

2009 – Jesse Capen from Denver, Colorado became obsessed with finding the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. He ventured into the Superstition Mountains several times, but in 2009 he went missing, and three years later his remains were found.

Jessse Capen dies in superstition mountains
Jessse Capen

2010 – In 2010, Curtis Merworth, Ardean Charles, and Malcolm Meeks found their death while scouring Superstition Mountains for the gold.

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