The Superstitions: The Most Haunted Mountain Range in America.

Tucked away into a deserty corner of central Arizona is a mountain range that is small but very mighty. Located inside the Lost Dutchman State Park, near Apache Junction, and within three different counties (Maricopa, Pinal, and Gila), sits the Superstition Mountains. About 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix, it’s an easy day trip. It’s a mountain range that must be respected, coupled with an extremely healthy dose of caution. This has been well-known in Native American culture for centuries, particularly by the Apache and Pima, and by locals as well. Tourists or recent Arizona transplants sadly tend to learn the hard way…

If you look closely, you can spot the various caves sprinkled throughout the mountains. According to the urban legends, the caves are where those – whether it be ghosts, wild men, skin walkers, or other nefarious beings – are said to lurk and hide, waiting for unsuspecting hikers and treasure hunters to get a bit too close

Because, there is a reason why the Superstition Mountains have earned its reputation of “most haunted mountain range in America”. People routinely report hearing phantom gunshots, disembodied yelling and talking, and Native American chanting that seems to surround them. Hikers have said they feel watched and stalked, and report seeing old prospectors out on the trail, dressed in 1869 miner clothing, only to disappear once they turn their heads. There’s a great YouTube video of an interview with a hiking guide who claims the Superstition Mountains are the only mountain range he will not enter alone. I found it interesting and I’ll link it at the end of the blog!

Close-up of Flatiron and the “Hoodoos”.

Unfortunately, all of the above is due to the amount of death and chaos that has occurred on, or very near, this mountain range. Dating back to the mid-1800’s, when they started keeping records, death has occurred regularly here. Hikers accidentally die from dehydration, heat stroke, or the elements; people have been stalked and murdered (either by randoms, animals, their own friends, or the supernatural – allegedly); others have simply gone missing without a trace, only to be found deceased months or years later (some are sadly never found); and MANY have perished while looking for the Dutchman’s lost treasure.

According to some sources, more than 600 people have died in or around the Supes, with the majority of them dying or disappearing while looking for the Dutchman’s lost treasure. However, many more were simply hiking or camping. Of course, not all of these incidents are recorded or even true. This alleged treasure is probably what the Supes are most well known for. So much so, that the entire area is called Lost Dutchman State Park.

The legend goes: a German immigrant (not even Dutch) named Jacob Waltz discovered an enormous amount of gold within the Supes, never revealing the location for much of his life. Only on his deathbed did he confess where this gold allegedly was, to a woman named Julia Thomas, who owned the boarding house where Waltz had lived for many years. She too kept the location to herself, dying with it. Over the years, numerous people have claimed to find the Lost Dutchman Mine, but none have been verified. Officially, to this day, the mine has never been rediscovered. In fact, there is much debate about whether the mine ever actually existed, because while gold was found in Goldfield (Goldfield Ghost Town: Gold & The Supes.), mere feet from the base of the mountain, none has ever been officially found inside the Supes.

Goldfield Ghost Town with the Supes in the background.

However, truth is, nobody can really say for certain whether or not the mine has ever really been rediscovered. Many who may have found the mine never make it out to tell the tale or reap their golden rewards. Legends claims that the Supes, and the mine, are protected, either by supernatural forces or physical forces, whether that be people or supernatural beings. Not to mention, too many who’ve set out to find the mine are betrayed by greedy partners and “friends” before they even get a chance to look.

So, here are a few. I’m going to leave this section unencumbered by photos or videos, so you get the full effect of just how long this list is. Buckle up because it’s going to be a long, wild, interesting ride… (If you wish to skip past, no hard feelings. However, you’ll be missing a lot of weirdness!)

  • 1848: The Peralta Massacre. The first “official” murder in the Supes, the Peralta family from Mexico was ambushed and killed by Apache Native Americans. This was supposedly over a gold mine that the Peralta family allegedly found and was using (thee Lost Dutchman Mine). Evidently, the Apache did not appreciate this, as they cared not for the gold (they did not use it in their culture), but about the trespassing onto their land. After the massacre, the Apache allegedly buried the gold and then covered the mine. A few members of the Peralta family were able to flee and survive, and that is how we know about the massacre today. Some argue that this event is nothing more than a fable, while others argue that it’s true. Where this allegedly took place is now fittingly called Massacre Grounds.
  • 1870’s: Prospector Jacob Weiser, a partner and associate of Jacob Waltz (the famed Lost Dutchman), died of wounds received from the Apache. He did not die in the mountains but at a ranch near the base.
  • 1880: Two soldiers on a search for gold went into the Supes and disappeared. Their remains were later found, each with a bullet hole in their skulls.
  • 1881: Another prospector named Joe Dearing heard the story of the two dead soldiers and thought it would be a grand idea to search for the mine himself. He survived, returning to Pinal, AZ claiming that he had found an old mine. He described it as “the most God-awful rough place you can imagine… a ghostly place”. He was later killed in a cave-in of another known mine in the area, Silver King Mine, and never revealed the location of the “ghostly” mine he supposedly discovered.
  • 1884: Pedro Ortega was found dead from shotgun wounds about 30 feet from Jacob Waltz’s home, near the base of the Supes. Waltz claimed that Ortega’s partner shot and killed him after “borrowing” Waltz’s gun, but many believe Waltz himself killed Ortega. No motive was ever found.
  • 1892: 13-year-old Charles Dobie was killed by the Apache in the Supes. His home was ransacked, supplies were taken, and there was other evidence that Native Americans had been there. Charles was found a short distance from the house, shot twice in the body, with his head and limbs crushed and mangled by heavy boulders that the Apache had used to stone him to death. His death is the last known death caused by the Apache.
  • 1896: A man named Elisha Marcus Reavis was found dead along a trail in the Supes, in an area known today as Grave Canyon (appropriate). It is not known how he died.
  • 1910: In an elevated cave in the Supes, the skeletal remains of a female were discovered. There were tiny pieces of gold nuggets next to the remains; however, no fragments of clothing of any kind were found, adding to the mystery.
  • 1931: Adolph Ruth, a 78-year-old retired veterinarian and avid treasure hunter, went missing in the Supes after setting out to find the treasure with a “Peralta Map”. The search for his body began after he failed to return for 2 weeks. Not until almost one year later was his body found near Black Top Mesa with two bullet holes in his skull.
  • 1934: A man named Adam Stewart died in the Supes. It is unclear how.
  • 1936: Roma O’Hal, a “mountain hobbyist” and broker from NY died after falling in the Supes while looking for the Lost Dutchman mine.
  • 1937: Another prospector named Guy “Hematite” Frink, who had made several successful treks into the Supes to find gold without dying, finally ran out of luck after he was found dead from a gunshot wound to the stomach on the side of a trail. Next to his decomposing body was small sack of gold ore.
  • 1945: Barry Storm, a treasure hunter on the search for the lost mine, claims to have narrowly escaped from a sniper in the Supes. He believes that Adolph Ruth might have been a victim of the same sniper. Who this sniper is, and what was his goal, is unknown.
  • 1947: James Cravey’s skeletal remains were found in the Supes after he went missing while looking for the lost treasure. They found his skeleton minus the head near Weaver’s Needle. They never found his skull.
  • 1949: Jason Kidd went to work in the Supes, only to never return. The main theory is that he had fallen down a canyon to his death. His body has never been found.
  • 1951: An Oregon man named Dr. John Burns was found with a single bullet hole through his body. Even though there was no powder residue and ballistics experts believed he was shot from a distance (sniper strikes again), his death was ruled a suicide.
  • 1952: A man from Ohio named Joseph Kelley went into the Supes only to disappear and never be seen again.
  • 1952: In the same year, two men from California named Ross Bley and Charles Harshbarger also disappeared in the Supes, also… never to be found again.
  • 1955: A 16-year-old boy named Charles Massey was accidently killed in the Supes by a bullet that ricocheted off something (probably a rock) while he was out hunting javelinas with four other boys.
  • 1956: Martin Zywotho was found dead in the Supes after going missing for several weeks. He had been searching for the Lost Dutchman mine. A month after he was reported missing, his body was found with a bullet hole above his right temple. Even though the gun was found underneath his body (something usually deemed physically impossible if one commits suicide), his death was eventually ruled a suicide.
  • 1958: A deserted campsite was discovered in the Supes, along the northern edge of the mountains. There was a bloodstained blanket, a gun cleaning kit (no gun), cooking utensils, and letters from which the names and addresses had been torn out. No trace of the camp’s occupant(s) has ever been discovered.
  • 1959: Stanley Hernandez and Benjamin Ferreria believed they had found the famed Lost Dutchman mine. Probably out of pure greed, Hernandez murdered Ferreria at their campsite that night. Ironically, Hernandez later learned that the “gold” they found was pyrite, aka Fools Gold.
  • 1959: Also in this year, Lavern Rowlee and Ralph Thomas went hiking in the Supes, only for Thomas to shoot and kill Rowlee while there. Thomas claims that Rowlee attacked him, and he shot him in self-defense.
  • 1960: A beheaded skull was found in the Supes with two bullet holes, which turned out to be the skull of Franz Harrer, a student from Austria. His body has never been found.
  • 1960: In the same year, Robert St. Marie was killed by Edward Piper while looking for gold in the Supes.
  • 1960: This same year, yet again, the remains of William Harvery Jr. were found in the Supes. His cause of death remains unknown.
  • 1961: The skeletal remains of Hilmer Bohen were found at the edge of the Supes in a shallow grave. He was shot in the back. Some reports say he was discovered by a family picnicking while other sources say it was school children who found him.
  • 1961: Again, in the same year, the body of Walter J. Mowry was found near Weaver’s Needle. He was from Denver, Colorado and had come to camp and hike. Some sources claim it was a suicide.
  • 1963: Vance Bacon allegedly fell to his death from the top of Weaver’s Needle; however, there are reports of rifle shots and indications of foul play. It remained unsolved/an accident.
  • 1964: Brothers Richard and Robert Kremis were found by searchers in the mountains after going missing. They were discovered in a snow-covered canyon where they had succumbed to the elements. They had gone hunting in the early morning when a sudden snowstorm struck.
  • 1970: The body of Albert Morrow was found in a tunnel after he was crushed to death by a fallen boulder.
  • 1973: During an employment dispute, Charles Lewing shot and killed Ladislas Sancho Guerrero at Jacob’s Campsite (at the base of the mountain). He claimed self-defense.
  • 1976: Harold Lewis Polling accidently shot and killed himself inside his campsite near the Supes. He had slung his .44 Magnum revolver over his shoulder, and when he leaned over his bed, the revolver fell and discharged upon hitting the ground. Polling was hit in the left side, penetrating his lungs and spleen. He died of internal bleeding.
  • 1976: Prospector Dennis Jospeh Brown was found murdered in the mountains. He was shot one time in the chest with a .22 bullet. His death remains unsolved.
  • 1978: Mexican cowboy Manuel Valdez was murdered by unknown “assassins”. They allegedly laid in wait, a short distance from Valdez’s ranch house near the Supes. He was shot several times for seemingly no reason. His body was buried inside the Supes, in Fraser Canyon, and was discovered only because Valdez’s dog “Prieta” laid at the foot of his grave until someone coming to use the ranch arrived and found him.
  • 1980: Rick Fenning went hiking in the Supes only to disappear. His body was eventually found near Trap Canyon.
  • 1981: ***WARNING – SA*** Suzanne Rossetti was taken to the Supes by two men she had met earlier that night at a convenience store. After sexually assaulting her, they drove her to the mountains with a plan to kill her. Once there, they made her hike up the mountain and threw her off a 40-foot cliff. However, she didn’t die, so they began to strike her in the head with rocks until she lost consciousness. They then buried her alive underneath rocks. The medical examiner later said she was alive for at least 15 minutes after being buried. Thankfully, the men were caught and found guilty – one was sentenced to life and the other to death.
  • 1984: Walt Gassler died while looking for the Lost Dutchman’s mine. His body was found by two men hiking, propped up against a rock near Charlebois Ridge. The medical examiner ruled his death was from natural causes, possibly a heart attack.
  • 2009: Jesse Capen, another man from Denver, went missing while looking for the Dutchman’s mine. He was presumed to have fallen to death or succumbed to the elements. His body was found 4 years later, in 2013, wedged between rocks underneath a cliff.
  • 2010: Three men all went missing at the same time while looking for the elusive treasure and gold mine. Curtis Merworth, Ardean Charles, and Malcom Meeks were friends and considered to be “gold crazy” by their families. In fact, they had to be rescued while treasure hunting from these very mountains only a year before their deaths. The skeletal remains of Charles and Meeks were eventually found by another treasure hunter 5 months after they went missing. One week later, the skeletal remains of Merworth were found by the Superstition Search and Rescue team about a half mile away, resting underneath a tree. It’s widely speculated that the trio died from the searing July Arizona heat.
  • 2011: Six people died in a plane crash in the Supes. Three children, their father, and two other adults were killed one day before Thanksgiving in the tragic accident.
  • 2012: Avid hiker Kenneth Clark, from Michigan, died while hiking in the mountains. The medical examiner later ruled that he had died from dehydration and a heat stroke.
  • 2012: Robert Bitton, an elderly man in his 70’s, died suddenly while hiking in the Supes.
  • 2013: The body of Eric Fernandes was found in the mountains by a hiker. Unknown cause of death.
  • 2014: A man died while hiking in the mountains. The cause of death was likely from natural causes and no foul play was suspected.
  • 2015: Elizabeth Shwartz, a 65-year-old resident of Los Angeles, died while hiking after collapsing on a trail. She and her husband had been hiking for nearly 10 hours before she collapsed. The couple are said to have been experienced hikers and had plenty of water. No foul play is suspected.
  • 2015: Two men in a medical helicopter died after crashing into the mountains. A third man was injured and went to the hospital, where he survived. The helicopter crashed for unknown reasons.
  • 2016: An unnamed hiker went missing in the mountains and was later discovered deceased. His cause of death remains unknown.
  • 2016: That same year, Anthony Quatela died from “heat-related conditions” while hiking. On the day he died it had hit 111 degrees, and he and his friend had run out of water. His friend was also suffering from heat-related conditions but survived.
  • 2018: An unnamed man died while hiking with a boy scout group in the mountains. Near the end of the trail he started having trouble breathing and collapsed. The cause of death was likely a heart attack or heat exhaustion.
  • 2021: A New Jersey man died on the Black Mesa Trail inside the Supes after hiking all day with his girlfriend. She survived, despite experiencing heat-related issues and collapsing herself.
  • 2022: A 21-year-old man camping at the top, near Flatiron, died after falling off of Flatiron while taking a picture. He fell more than 700 feet.
  • 2023: A plane carrying two passengers crashed into the Superstitions, killing both men onboard. It took off from nearby Falcon Field Airport in Mesa. The cause of the plane crash is still under investigation.

As can be seen, the Superstitions don’t seem to be the friendliest place. However, despite all of this, there appears to be a pull to these mountains, something clearly felt by many. There’s even a very active Facebook hiking page dedicated to the Superstitions. While I have no interest in searching for the Lost Dutchman’s treasure, as it rarely works out well, I do love coming here to hike or marvel from afar. The park is open year round, with the trails open from 6am to 8pm. It costs $7 per car to enter, and they have a nice gift shop/information center right at the front. It’s open Mon – Fri from 7am to 3:30pm, and at 6am on Sat and Sun. The rangers can help guide you towards the best trails to use based on skill level.

There are numerous trails to choose from in the Supes, and I’ve included all that are listed on the state’s website, along with the description the state gives in quotes. These trails include:

  • Native Plant Trail: (“A 0.25-mile trail near the Visitor Center that features desert plants along an accessible paved trail”)
  • Discovery Trail: (This 0.7-mile trail connects the campground and day-use areas. The trail features information signs, a wildlife pond, bird feeder, and viewing bench”)
  • Treasure Loop Trail: (#56) (A 2.4-mile round trip, this trail is rated moderate and has elevation changes of 500 ft. It ends at either of our beautiful picnic areas.”)
  • Prospector’s View Trail (#57): (“This 0.7-mile trail is rated moderate. It connects Siphon Draw Trail to Treasure Loop Trail and also connects to Jacob’s Crosscut Trail.”)
  • Jacob’s Crosscut Trail (#58): (“At 0.8 miles, this trail is rated easy, and runs along the base of the Superstition Mountains. It connects Treasure Loop Trail with Prospector’s View Trail and continues 4.5 miles past the park area along the mountain’s base.”)
  • Siphon Draw Trail (#53): (“The trail is 4 miles round-trip and winds into a canyon known as Siphon Draw with a 1,000-ft elevation gain to the basin area.”)

There is also a stern warning listed on the state’s website that says, “NOTE: Hikers can continue on the trail to the Flatiron, but the trail is not maintained past the basin. There are elevation gains of over 2,000 feet. The trail is very steep and difficult. Please allow 5-6 hours. Six miles round-trip.” You can find this information and more on

We hiked the Treasure Loop Trail, and I would’ve gone on much further if I could, but it wasn’t an option. I have every intention of coming back and pushing further into the mountains one day! However, I refuse to hike inside the Supes (or anywhere in The Valley) when the weather is past 85°, as that is a risk I am not willing to take. Also – I have heard – people say to never hike alone in this mountain range, something that is pretty discouraged everywhere but really discouraged in the Supes. Although, as the above list points out, it doesn’t always matter if you’re alone or with a “friend” …

Overall, I realize that all the death and mayhem makes the Superstition Mountains sound like a scary, awful place. However, it’s really not. A very unique looking range, the Superstitions are a beautiful, mystical, almost magnetic place. Just stay on the clearly marked trails, bring lots of water, do not hike when it’s hot out, follow all the typical hiker safety rules (make sure someone knows where you’re going, bring protection, respect the wildlife and nature, etc), and please, do NOT try to look for the Lost Dutchman mine! Do these things and you should be fine. 🙂

The great YouTube video about the Supes:

2 thoughts on “The Superstitions: The Most Haunted Mountain Range in America.

  1. Deanna

    Just stumbled across this as I’m randomly looking into the Supes for fun, I’m from Arizona and have been here my whole life, living only a 20 minute drive from Goldfield. This was a great read and always makes me marvel at the mountain range I always feel at home in, I definitely think the mountains protect you if you are of no harm to it. Although the last time I went hiking alone to the top of Flatiron, I almost didn’t make it back down before it became pitch black outside. As I was walking down siphon draw trail alone, I saw this strange woman walking UP the trail. To flatiron. Mind you, I only hike outside of the summer seasons, so this was around November and it was 8:30/9 pm. Dark as hell. I remember getting a strange feeling from her, almost otherworldly. But I have never been scared. This mountain range is our guardian for sure, and I’m very grateful to have grown up in its shadow. Hope you can come back one day and hike Peralta Trail to Weaver’s Needle! Not an easy hike, but not as bad as Siphon Draw to Flatiron. Please don’t do it in the summer though lol.

    1. Oh wow!! That story gave me the chills, especially knowing all that I know about these mountains 😬 I would certainly be on high alert if I saw someone hiking UP as it was getting dark! I almost got stuck out in the Supes myself at night, back when I was 16. It’s not something I’ll ever risk again. Fast forward 15 years, and I now live in Phoenix, so I’m able to visit the Supes pretty regularly 🙂 Unfortunately, I haven’t been since my last hike last year, but that’s due to life and then the heat. It’s definitely a goal of mine to hike to Flatiron one day!!! 🤘🏼

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