The Lost Dutchman Gold Mine (also known by many similar names) is reportedly a very rich gold mine hidden in the Superstition Mountains, near Apache Junction, east of Phoenix, Arizona in the United States. The land is a designated Wilderness Area, and mining is now prohibited there.
The mine is named after German immigrant Jacob Waltz ("Dutchman" was a common, though inaccurate, American slang term for "German," derived from the German language word for "German" – "Deutsch"). It is perhaps the most famous lost mine in American history: Arizona place-name expert Byrd Granger notes that, as of 1977, the Lost Dutchman story was printed or cited at least six times more often than two other fairly well-known tales, the story of Captain Kidd's lost treasure, and the story of the Lost Pegleg Mine in California. Robert Blair notes that people have been seeking the Lost Dutchman mine since at least 1892, while Granger writes that according to one estimate, 8,000 people annually made some effort to locate the Lost Dutchman's mine. Former Arizona Attorney General Bob Corbin is among those who have looked for the mine. Others have argued the mine has little or no basis in fact and is a legend, though as noted below, Blair argues that all the main components of the story have at least some basis in fact.
According to many versions of the tale, the mine is either cursed, or protected by enigmatic guardians who wish to keep the mine's location a secret.
In 1977, Granger identified 62 variants of the Lost Dutchman story – some of the variations are minor, but others are substantial, casting the story in a very different light from the other versions. Keeping in mind that there are sometimes considerable variance between the tales, below is a brief summary of each of the three stories identified by Granger.
The story continues to evolve: one recent theory suggests that the mine is really a secret treasure cache belonging to the Knights of the Golden Circle, a Confederate secret society that was active during the American Civil War.
However, the Peralta Mine eventually became unprofitable and after the money was gone Miguel Peralta eventually turned to fraud. Dr. George M. Willing, Jr. paid Peralta $20,000 to the mining rights for an enormous swath of land – about in southern Arizona and New Mexico – based on a deed originally granted by the Spanish Empire in the 1700s. Trouble came after Willing learned that the deed was entirely bogus. Despite his efforts, Willing was never able to recover the money he gave to Peralta.
Blair argues that this Peralta story (well known to Arizona residents) eventually incorporated the Lost Dutchman story, in a severely distorted version, following the renewed interest in the Lost Dutchman's mine in the 1930s.
See "Historical Jacob Waltz" below for more information about the miner whose deathbed confession was the beginning of the legend of the Lost Dutchman mine.
This account is usually dated to about 1870. According to Blair, the story may have its roots in the efforts of three U.S. soldiers to locate gold in an area of New Mexico, based on an allegedly true story related to them by Dr. Thorne of New Mexico; see above.
Blair cites ample evidence of the historical Jacob Waltz, and suggests that there is additional evidence that supports the core elements of the story as related above – that Waltz did in fact claim to have discovered (or at least heard the story of) a rich gold vein or cache. But Blair suggests that this core story was distorted in subsequent retellings, comparing the many variants of the Lost Dutchman's story to the game of chinese whispers, where the original account is distorted in multiple retellings of the tale.
There was a Jacob Waltz who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany. The earliest documentation of him in the U.S. is an 1848 affidavit Waltz declared himself to be "about 38 years old". A man called Jacob Walz was born in September 1810 in Württemberg. Blair suggests that this Walz was the same Waltz who later came to be regarded as the legendary Dutchman, and that he changed the spelling of his surname to better match the phonetic pronunciation.
Waltz relocated to Arizona in the 1860s, and stayed in the state for most of the rest of his life. He pursued mining and prospecting, but seems to have had little luck with either. In 1870, Waltz had a homestead of about near Phoenix where he operated a farm.
There was catastrophic flooding in Phoenix in 1891, and Waltz's farm was one of many that were devastated. Afterwards, Waltz fell ill (he was rumored to have contracted pneumonia during the flooding). He died on October 25, 1891, after having been nursed by an acquaintance named Julia Thomas (she was usually described as a quadroon).
Blair suggests that there is little doubt that Waltz did in fact relate to Thomas the location of an alleged gold mine. As early as September 1, 1892, The Arizona Enterprise was reporting on the efforts of Thomas and several others to locate the lost mine whose location was told to her by Waltz. After this was unsuccessful, Thomas and her partners were reported to be selling maps to the mine for $7 each.
In a story that echoes some of the earlier tales, Ruth's son Erwin C. Ruth was said to have learned of the Peralta mine from a man called Pedro Gonzales (or Gonzalez). In about 1912, Erwin C. Ruth gave some legal aid to Gonzales, saving him from almost certain imprisonment. In gratitude, Gonzales told Erwin about the Peralta mine in the Superstition Mountains, even reportedly passing on some antique maps of the site (Gonzales claimed to be descended from the Peralta family on his mother's side). Erwin passed the information to his father Adolph, who had a long-standing interest in lost mines and amateur exploration. In fact, the elder Ruth had fallen and badly broken several bones while seeking the lost Pegleg mine in California; he had metal pins in his leg, and used a cane to help him walk.
In June 1931, Ruth decided to finally try and locate the lost Peralta mine. After traveling to the region, Ruth stayed several days at the ranch of Tex Barkely and prepared for his expedition. Barkely repeatedly urged Ruth to abandon his search for the mine: the treacherous terrain of the Superstition Mountains could be difficult for experienced outdoorsmen, let alone for the semi-lame, 66-year-old Ruth.
However, Ruth ignored Barkely's advice, and set out for a two week stint in the mountains. Ruth did not return as scheduled, and no trace of him could be found after a brief search. In December, 1931, The Arizona Republic reported on the recent discovery of a human skull in the Superstition Mountains. To determine if the skull was Ruth's, it was examined by Dr. Aleš Hrdlicka, a well-respected anthropologist who was also lent several photos of Ruth, along with Ruth's dental records. As Curt Gentry writes, "Dr. Hrdlicka positively identified the skull as that of Adolph Ruth. He further stated, after examining the two holes [in the skull], that it appeared that a shotgun or high-powered rifle had been fired through the head at almost point-blank range, making the small hole when the bullet entered and the large hole when it exited".
In January, 1932, human remains were discovered about three-quarters of a mile (1.21 km) from where the skull was found. Though the remains had been scattered by scavengers, they were undoubtedly those of Ruth: many of Ruth's personal effects were found at the scene, including a pistol (which was not missing any shells) and the metal pins used to mend his broken bones. But the map to the Peralta mine was said to be missing.
Tantalizingly, Ruth's checkbook was also recovered, and proved to contain a note written by Ruth, wherein he claimed to have discovered the mine and gave detailed directions. Ruth ended his note with the phrase "Veni, vidi, vici.
Authorities in Arizona did not convene a criminal inquest regarding Ruth's death. They argued that Ruth had likely succumbed to thirst or heart disease (though, as Gentry writes, "[o]ne official went so far as to suggest that [Adolph Ruth] might have committed suicide ... While this theory did not ignore the two holes in the skull, it did fail to explain how Ruth had managed to remove and bury the empty shell, then reload his gun, after shooting himself through the head. Blair notes that the conclusion of Arizona authorities was rejected by many, including Ruth's family, and also "those who held onto the more romantic murdered-for-the-map story".
Blair writes that "the national wire services picked up the story [of Ruth's death] and ran it for more than it was worth", possibly seeing the mysterious story as a welcome reprieve from the bleak news that was otherwise typical of the Great Depression.
The MacGuffin in the Sherlock Holmes novel Sherlock Holmes and the Crosby Murder by Barrie Roberts is a map to the mine. According to this story it is being kept secret by the Apaches, who fear the area may become a boomtown.
In a Scrooge McDuck story by Don Rosa, McDuck was given a map of the "Peralta Mine" by Jacob Waltz in 1890. However, because Scrooge then believed the Lost Dutchman to be a real Dutchman rather than a German, he didn't believe the map to be real and only kept it because it was written on the back of a poster about his Uncle Angus's wild west show. Once he tells the story to Huey, Dewey, and Louie and one of them confirms Waltz to be the so-called Lost "Dutchman", he goes to Arizona with them and Donald Duck to find the gold and finds it, but learns it belongs to Pima Indians. Scrooge gets $10 million dollars as reward.
Dr. Scott Simmerman of Performance Management Company developed a board game loosely based on the myth of Jacob Waltz that sets up a 20-day (2 minutes each) team building program that has been used since 1993 for organizational development. The exercise, called The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine, has a theme of tabletops working together to "mine as much gold as we can." The exercise is about collaboration, but most teams choose to compete, making for an interesting debriefing.
The adventure game, Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman's Mine is based loosely around the myth of the Lost Dutchman's Gold; the protagonist, Al Emmo, sets out to locate the mine and recover its riches for "Rita Peralto". Another computer game, Lost Dutchman Mine, was released for the Amiga, Atari ST and DOS computers in 1989.
The 1949 movie Lust for Gold, starring Glenn Ford and Ida Lupino, is about the search for the mine by Walz's grandson, played by William Prince. Most of the movie is a flashback in which Ford himself plays Jacob Walz. The Peralta Massacre is also depicted in a shorter flashback toward the beginning.
The 2006 thriller, 'Event', written by David Lynn Golemon, a former US Special Ops member, also references the lost mine and its discovery in the Superstition Mountains. Although, the discovery of the mines comes near the finale of the novel, the story is actually about the Roswell Incident of 1947 and a subsequent, second flying saucer crash some 50 years later.
"Superstition Gold" (1983) was inspired by the legend of the Lost Dutchman. Written by DoubleTake (twin brothers Dave Hage and Dennis Hage. It was the first known record album to use a treasure hunt technique where clues to find $10,000.00 in gold were "buried" inside the music. Additionally, the brothers wrote a companion book that humorously looked at the Lost Dutchman legend, called the "Official Goldbuster Guidebook".