The Lethal Secret of the Lost Dutchman

When Jacob Waltz and his partner Jacob Weiser emerged from the Superstition Mountains with a handful of gold nuggets, people naturally assumed they had discovered gold in the unlikely geology of the volcanic Superstition Mountains. And when Waltz one day emerged from the mountains without his partner who he said had been killed by the Apache, many people assumed Waltz had murdered his sidekick to keep the gold for himself.

In fact, gold and silver usually form at great depths and pressure in formations that include granite and quartz, so the still raw volcanic formation of the Superstition Mountains in the heart of the Sonoran Desert was an unlikely place for a gold mine. Some now argue that Waltz stole nuggets from the Vulture Mine when he worked there and then passed them off as the gleanings from his mysterious mine. In any case, Waltz never brought in more than a dribble of gold. As his health dwindled, he moved to Phoenix. He died in , nearly penniless. On his deathbed, he solidified his legend by telling his neighbor that he had discovered a rich vein of gold in the shadow of Weaver’s Needle, an awesome volcanic plug in the heart of the Superstitions. Before he died, the Dutchman drew a vague map and left it with his neighbor Julia Thomas.

People have been seeking the Dutchman’s probably nonexistent mine ever since. In the 0s, the elderly Dr. Adolph Ruth arrived in Apache Junction, clutching what he said was a copy of Waltz’s deathbed map. He set off into the Superstitions on a sweltering summer day and vanished. His skull, perhaps with a bullet hole, turned up several months later. Treasure hunters set out periodically in the ensuing decades. Several died lonely deaths from exposure, cave-ins, or undetermined causes. The gold fever peaked in the 50s, when two groups of prospectors camped in the shadow of Weaver’s Needle and started a shooting war. Three died before a truce was declared. The search for buried gold has settled down since, spawning daydreams, occasional forays, and a wealth of books and articles, without a trace of ore.