Friday, December 15, 2023

Two Guns: An Arizona Ghost Town


Two Guns, Arizona is a ghost town located on the Canyon Diablo gorge near Flagstaff, Arizona.  The town was originally known as Canyon Lodge and started out as a modest trading post at the beginning of the 19th century.

The area has a colorful history. During the winter of 1879-1880, Billy the Kid and his gang hid out on the west rim of Canyon Diablo across from what is now Two Guns.  In 1880, long before Two Guns was established as a settlement, the Santa Fe Railway was being built across northern Arizona.  At the point where the railroad was set to cross Canyon Diablo, some three miles north of Two Guns, construction halted while a trestle was being built.  The railroad workers established a settlement called Canyon Diablo which quickly became a lawless den of drifters, grifters, gamblers and outlaws. In 1889 outlaws robbed the train at Canyon Diablo making off with $100,000 in currency, 2,500 silver dollars, and $40,000 in gold coins.  A posse caught up with the outlaws, but not before they buried their loot, which is thought to be buried in the canyon rim near Two Guns.

More pioneers staked claims to the area over the years, and by the early 1920s, a road through town, known as the National Trail Highway, became the preferred route across Diablo Canyon.

When Earle and Louise Cundiff arrived in the area they bought 320 acres of land, making the settlement known as Canyon Lodge a busy stop for travelers. By the mid-1920s, what was once the National Trail Highway was transforming into Route 66, and the once-isolated trading post was becoming a busy stopping place for drivers looking for food and gas.

The business potential was not lost on one Harry Miller a flamboyant veteran of the Spanish-American War.  The eccentric Miller was a master of publicity and self-promotion. In 1925, Harry “Two Guns” Miller made a deal with the Cundiffs to lease a site for his business.

Miller renamed the Canyon Lodge trading post, Two Guns, and set about putting the place on the map. Miller grew his hair long and braided it.  Claiming to be a full-blooded Apache, Miller assumed the name of Chief Crazy Thunder. Miller constructed a rag-tag zoo with chicken-wire cages for animals native to Arizona, including mountain lions.  He also started tours down into a canyon cave now called the Apache Death Cave.

In 1878, a group of Apache warriors raided a Navajo camp killing everyone with the exception of three girls they took hostage.  The enraged Navajos from surrounding villages set out after the marauders. The Navajo finally tracked down the wily Apache warriors who had been hiding their camp in an underground cavern.  The Navajo lit a fire at the mouth of the cave.  All forty-two Apache warriors died in the cave.

Although an interesting part of Arizona history, the showman Henry Miller thought the story needed even more sizzle.  Miller built fake ruins and started selling the bones and skulls of the long dead Apache warriors as souvenirs.  He put in electric lights and a soda stand and renamed the death cave the “Mystery Cave.”

It was around this time that the legends of “The Curse of Two Guns” began. The broad wording of Miller’s lease had always been a source of tension between him and Earl Cundiff, and that tension finally came to a head on March 3, 1926, when Miller shot and killed Cundiff (he was later acquitted of murder).  Shortly after his trial Miller was mauled by a mountain lion.  Soon after he was bitten by a Gila monster.

The town was sold in the 1950s and throughout the decade it would be leased and abandoned multiple times, until a man named Dreher revitalized the area. Things were looking good for the town. The I-40 was finally coming through the area and even had a dedicated exit. However, a fire destroyed the town in 1971, sealing its fate.  Today, Two Guns stands as a ghost town, with the remnants of its past still visible. Some structures have collapsed, while others are in a state of disrepair. Efforts have been made to preserve the site's history and prevent further deterioration, but Two Guns remains a poignant reminder of the changing fortunes of towns along historic Route 66. The site has become a destination for those interested in ghost towns and abandoned places.

Gold, Murder and Monsters in the Superstition Mountains

Arizona’s Superstition Mountains are mysterious, forbidding, and dangerous.  The Superstitions are said to have claimed over five hundred lives.  What were these people looking for?  Is it possible that these mountains hide a vast treasure?  Is it possible that UFOs land here?  Is it possible that in these mountains there is a door leading to the great underground city of the Lizard Men?  Join us as we recount a fictional story of the Superstitions and then look at the real history of the legends that haunt these mountains in our new book:  Gold, Murder and Monsters in the Superstition Mountains.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Arizona's "Red Ghost" (A True Story)


Throughout the early 19th century various proposals were made to use camels imported from the Middle East to transport supplies in the deserts of the southwest.  A proposal by then Secretary of War Jefferson Davis was finally approved in 1855 which led to the establishment of the U.S. Camel Corps.

While the camels were found useful, their big drawback was that they spooked the horses and mules, creating chaos in the camp.  After a twenty year experiment the Camel Corps was disbanded, and the camels auctioned off.  Well, most of them were auctioned off, but some were let go in the wild.  Producing one of Arizona’s strangest legends, that of the Red Ghost.

The story began in 1883 when two ranchers went to check on their cattle, leaving their wives at home, alone.  One of the women was outside fetching water when the dog started barking furiously.  Then there was a loud scream.  The woman in the house barricaded the door and looked out the window to see a huge red beast being ridden by the devil. When the two ranchers returned, they found one woman trampled to death and the other in shock.

A few days later a group of prospectors reported the apparition riding through their camp.  Red hair was found at the site.  The next sighting reported that the creature was thirty feet tall and had overturned two wagons.  The legend grew.  The monster was said to disappear into thin air when chased.  The monster killed and ate grizzly bears.  A cowboy lassoed the beast, but he and his horse were dragged by the creature before losing it.  The cowboy reported that the mysterious rider was a skeleton.  A few months later five men shot at the beast, missing the camel but shooting the head off the skeleton.  The skull still had traces of skin and hair attached.

Fact and fantasy swirled around the strange phantom until 1893 when a local rancher named Hastings found the giant creature eating grass in his yard. He killed it with one shot from his Winchester rifle.

The beast from Hell was discovered to be a feral red-haired camel left over from the days of the U.S. Camel Corps. Leather straps had bound the skeleton so tightly, and for so long, to the camel that the animal’s back and sides were scarred. No one knows why the animal had a dead man strapped to it, but some speculated that this was the last attempt of a dying prospector to escape the killing desert sun.

Gold, Murder and Monsters in the Superstition Mountains

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Hi Jolly and the U.S. Camel Corps


In 1855 the U.S. government approved an experimental plan to use camels imported from the Middle East for transporting supplies and equipment across the deserts of the American Southwest.  The U.S. Camel Corps, headquartered in Texas, was born.

Two years into the experiment an expedition under the command of Edward F. Beale was ordered to open a wagon road across Arizona to California.  The expedition left San Antonio on June 25, 1857, and 25 pack camels accompanied a train of mule-drawn wagons. Each camel carried a load of 600 pounds. Beale wrote that he would rather have one camel than four mules.

The expedition included a camel drover named Hadji Ali, who was soon dubbed “Hi Jolly” by his American counterparts. Ali was born as Philip Tedro around 1828, to a Greek mother and a Syrian father. As a young man, he converted to Islam and took the name Hadji Ali.

As the camels moved west under Hi Jolly’s guidance, they proved themselves superior to horses in terms of endurance.  There was a major problem however, the sight of the large animals frightened horses and mules, creating general chaos among the animals. 

The U.S. Camel Corps experiment came to an end by 1866.  The camels were auctioned off, and some were set loose in the desert forming small herds.  Rumors of wild camels in Arizona were still prevalent in Arizona during the 1930s and 1940s.

Hi Jolly stayed in Arizona and became a scout for the Army, assisting General Crook with the Geronimo Campaign.  He died in December 1902 at the age of 64 in Quartzsite, Arizona.  Hi Jolly's work in the US Camel Corps earned him a reputation as a living legend until his death.

In 1935, the Governor of Arizona dedicated a monument to Hadji Ali and the Camel Corps in the Quartzsite Cemetery. The monument, located at his gravesite, is a pyramid built from local stones and topped with a copper camel, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


                                                          Legends of the Superstition Mountains

Wars and Invasions (Four alternative history stories)

Saturday, November 11, 2023

The Legend of Hacksaw Tom


Between 1905 and 1915 a bandit nicknamed “Hacksaw Tom” supposedly carried out a series of robberies on wagons and stagecoaches along Arizona’s Apache Trail (the last stagecoach went out of business in Arizona in 1920 when the road to Young, AZ was paved and the commercial stagecoach was replaced by a Ford.)

A steep grade at Fish Creek, which caused vehicles to slow to a crawl was Tom’s ambush site.  He would step out from behind a boulder and level his sawed-off shotgun at the driver.  No one resisted.  Tom never used a horse in his robberies. He appeared on foot, carried out this robbery, and then scampered up and over the boulders of Fish Creek to safety, seldom pursued by anyone. 

Despite his menacing presence, Hacksaw Tom never fired a shot.  He became an anticipated feature for travelers on the Apache Trail.  It is said that some stagecoach drivers invited their friends along just so they could tell people they had been “held up.”

In the mid-1900s a cave was found near Fish Creek which may have been Tom’s hideout.  In any event, a carpetbag was found in the cave which contained, among other things, a sawed-off shotgun and a flour sack mask.

There is not much written documentation to support this tale, which relies heavily on oral tradition.  Several robberies along the Apache Trail that went unsolved are recorded. The exact locations of these robberies have been lost to history.  And yet, we have a very intriguing mask and shotgun.

Gold, Murder and Monsters in the Superstition Mountains

Custer’s Last Stand Re-examined

Friday, November 10, 2023

The Ghosts of Vulture City, Arizona


The Hanging Tree

Legend has it that in 1863 Henry Wickenburg discovered gold when he went to retrieve a vulture he shot.  Wickenburg named his mine, “The Vulture Mine.”  The mine operated from 1863 to 1942 and was one of the richest mines in Arizona, producing some 340,000 ounces of gold and 250,000 ounces of silver.  A town, “Vulture City” grew up around the mine and grew to over 5,000 inhabitants.

By 1880, Vulture City consisted of six boarding houses, a cookhouse and mess hall, a blacksmith shop, a brothel, stores, offices, saloons, and a school.  Crime was a problem in this frontier town.  Theft, murder and rape were commonplace.  There was no regular law. Vigilante law prevailed.  A hanging tree stood next to a makeshift jailhouse. The condemned was put on a mule and when the mule ran out from under him, the prisoner often slowly strangled to death over the course of hours.

When the mine closed in 1942 Vulture City became a ghost town.  And indeed it is a town filled with ghosts.  Eighteen men dangled from the hanging tree.  To this day, their restless spirits are said to harass visitors.  Tourists claimed rocks were thrown at them by an invisible force when they were near the Hanging Tree.  Strange disembodied voices can be heard on the wind, and invisible footsteps creep up from behind.

Custer’s Last Stand Re-examined

Monday, October 30, 2023

Johnny Cash song: "Custer"


In 1964, country singer Johnny Cash wrote a song entitled “Custer” for his album Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian.  


Now I will tell you buster that I ain't a fan of Custer
And the General he don't ride well anymore
To some he was a hero but to me his score was zero
And the General he don't ride well anymore

Now Custer done his fightin' without too much excitin'
And the General he don't ride well anymore
General Custer come in pumpin' when the men were out a huntin'
But the General he don't ride well anymore

With victories he was swimmin' he killed children dogs and women
But the General he don't ride well anymore
Crazy Horse sent out the call to Sitting Bull and Gall
And the General he don't ride well anymore

Now Custer split his men well he won't do that again
Cause the General he don't ride well anymore
Twelve thousand warriors waited they were unanticipated
And the General he don't ride well anymore

It's not called an Indian victory but a bloody massacre
And the General he don't ride well anymore
There might have been more enthusin' if us Indians had been losin'
But the General he don't ride well anymore

General George A.Custer oh his yellow hair had lustre
But the General he don't ride well anymore
For now the General's silent he got barbered violent
And the General he don't ride well anymore
Oh the General he don't ride well anymore

Custer’s Last Stand Re-examined

Custer’s Last Stand: Portraits in Time

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Wyatt Earp Licenses Texas Rose


License issued by Wyatt Earp in March 1876

Prostitution was a growth industry in the Old West. Prostitutes were often licensed by public officials and were often required to maintain weekly inspections for sexually transmitted diseases. Gambling and prostitution were central to life in mining and cattle towns, and only later, as the female population increased, reformers moved in and other civilizing influences arrived, did prostitution become less common.  Until the 1890s, madams predominately ran the businesses. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Punting in Oxford, England


Punts are the name given to the flat bottomed wooden boats, which form a quintessentially Oxford (or Cambridge) experience. Punting is boating in a punt; the punter propels the punt by pushing against the river bed with a pole.  Punts were developed in medieval times to transport things on rivers that were too shallow for regular boats.

A traditional river punt is a wooden boat constructed like a ladder. The two side-panels are connected by a series of cross-planks. The boat has no keel which makes it maneuverable in very shallow water.

Punting became popular in Oxford when William and John Salter established Oxford’s first commercial punting company in 1880. They began by hiring out rowing boats on the Isis but soon realized that punt boats would be more suitable for the shallow waters of the nearby River Cherwell.

Friday, September 08, 2023

Paititi: The Lost Golden City of the Inca


Paititi is a legendary lost city of the Inca which lies east of the Andes in the remote rainforests of Peru or Brazil.  Paititi was supposedly the last refuge of the Inca from the invading Spanish.  Vast amounts of golden objects were evacuated to Paititi, making it perhaps one of the most spectacular treasure sites in the world.

In 2001, the Italian archaeologist Mario Polia discovered the report of a missionary named Andres Lopez sent to Europe about 1600.  The missionary describes a large city rich in gold, silver, and jewels, located in the middle of the tropical jungle called Paititi. The priest himself never reached Paititi but only heard about it from the local inhabitants.

The British explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett and his party disappeared in 1925 during an expedition to find the lost city.

Expeditions in search of Paititi continue into our own times.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

The Grave of William Shakespeare, Statford-upon-Avon

Shakespeare’s grave is in Holy Trinity Church, in Stratford-upon-Avon. Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616, at the age of 52.




The inscription is not an epitaph but a warning against the common practice of recycling graves after ten years to allow for new burials.

Shakespeare made no attempt to preserve his stage works for posterity, believing that plays were not "literature" worthy of print. Two of Shakespeare's longtime colleagues compiled Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (1623), commonly known as the First Folio. It includes 18 previously unpublished plays (including Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and The Tempest) that might otherwise have been lost. 


Thursday, August 24, 2023

The Grave of Jane Austen

Jane Austen 

Winchester Cathedral

                              Jane Austen is buried in Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, England.

In Memory of

youngest daughter of the late
formerly Rector of Steventon in this Count.
She departed this Life in the 18th of July 1817,
aged 41, after a long illness supported with
the patience and the hopes of a Christian.

The benevolence of her heart,
the sweetness of her temper, and
the extraordinary endowments of her mind
obtained the regard of all who knew her and
the warmest love of her intimate connections.

Their grief is in proportion to their affection
they know their loss to be irreparable,
but in their deepest affliction they are now consoled
by a firm though humble hope that her charity,
devotion, faith and purity, have rendered
her soul acceptable in the sight of her

Civil War Graves of Northern Virginia

Friday, August 11, 2023

The Last Veteran of the Battle of the Little Bighorn (Custer's Last Stand)?


Iron Hail

Wasu Maza (“Iron Hail”), who died in 1955 at the age of ninety six, was the last known Lakota Sioux survivor (and probably the last veteran from either side) of the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Iron Hail was seventeen or eighteen on June 25, 1876, the day of battle.  After the battle he followed Sitting Bull across the border into Canada, later returning to South Dakota.

Iron Hail was present at the Wounded Knee Massacre (1890).  He was shot three times, twice in the back.  His mother, father, wife and infant child were all killed.

Iron Hail changed his name to Dewey Beard when he converted to Christianity.

Custer’s Last Stand: Portraits in Time

Custer’s Last Stand Re-examined

Sunday, July 30, 2023

The Last Confederate General to Surrender


Stand Watie (1806-1871), was a Cherokee chief who signed the treating forcing removal of the Cherokees from Georgia to the Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma).  During the American Civil War he joined the Confederate cause, raising and commanding the first volunteer Cherokee regiment, the Cherokee Mounted Rifles.  Appointed as a colonel, Watie was promoted to brigadier general in 1864 after many successful engagements as a raider and cavalry commander in the Trans-Mississippi Theater of Operations.  Watie was the last Confederate general to surrender (June 23, 1865).

Treasure Legends of the Civil War

The Civil War Wedding

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

The Enlisted Men’s Petition in Support of Major Reno


After the battle of the Little Bighorn this petition, dated July 4, 1876, was sent by the enlisted men of the Seventh Cavalry to the President and Congress of the United States:

"To his Excellency the President
And the honorable Representatives
Of the United States.


"We the enlisted men the survivors of the battle on the heights of Little Horn River, on the 25th and 26th of June 1876, of the 7th Regiment of Cavalry who subscribe our names to this petition, most earnestly solicit the President and Representatives of our Country, that the vacancies among the Commissioned Officers of our Regiment, made by the slaughter of our brave, heroic now lamented Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer, and the other noble dead Commissioned Officers of our Regiment who fell close by him on the bloody field, daring the savage demons to the last, be filled by the officers of the Regiment only. That Major M.A. Reno, be our Lieutenant Colonel since Custer, killed; Captain F.W. Benteen our Major since Reno, promoted. The other vacancies to be filled by officers of the Regiment by seniority. Your petitioners know this to be contrary to the established rule of promotion, but prayerfully solicit a deviation from the usual rule in this case, as it will be conferring a bravely fought for and a justly merited promotion on Officers who by their bravery, coolness and decision on the 25th and 26th of June 1876, saved the lives of every man now living of the 7th Cavalry who participated in the battle, one of the most bloody on record and one that would have ended with the loss of life of every Officer and enlisted man on the field; only for the position taken by Major Reno, which we held with bitter tenacity against fearful odds to the last.

"To support this assertion-had our position been taken 100 yards back from the brink of the heights overlooking the river we would have been entirely cut off from water; and from behind those heights the Indian demons would have swarmed in hundreds picking off our men by detail, and before midday June 26th not on officer or enlisted man of our Regiment would have been left to tell of our dreadful fate as we then would have been completely surrounded.

"With the prayerful hope that our petition be granted, we have the honor to forward it through our Commanding Officer."

Custer’s Last Stand: Portraits in Time

Custer’s Last Stand Re-examined

Sunday, May 07, 2023

The Most Accurate Representation: “Custer’s Last Stand”


In 1877 a twenty-five year old Edgar S. Paxson arrived in Montana.  Nearly twenty-five years later the frontier artist completed what many regard as “the best pictoral representation of the battle,” a 6 by 9 foot painting he called “Custer’s Last Stand”.

The artist spent twenty years researching, and eight years painting the monumental work, interviewing nearly one hundred men on both sides including the Sioux chief Gall and the Cheyenne warrior Two Moon.

From these interviews Paxson, in his effort to achieve historical accuracy, made detailed journals about the equipment, attire, and physical location of each man on the battlefield.

Upon completion the painting went on a tour around America, with an admission price of twenty-five cents.

The painting now resides at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

Custer’s Last Stand Re-examined