GOLD . . .
The Europeans killed many unfortunate
Native Americans in pursuit of its glittering sheen . . . gold
. . . many a European in turn died for it himself . . .
Gold . . .
Three or four hundred years
ago, when the precious metal was somewhat more easily obtainable,
most of the European encroachments were made further East. However,
the desires and dreams of the Spanish Conquistadores were ever
fixed upon the American Southwest, particularly the area now
occupied by California and Arizona.
For rumors abounded of legendary
cities where the streams flowed with gold, where anyone might
become rich beyond their wildest dreams overnight. The Seven
Cities of Cibola was one such fabled land, luring many a hardy
Spaniard out into the grim and endless desert.
Of course, no such city really
existed - no such hordes of the precious stuff actually lay in
wait for the lucky and hardy traveler to enrich himself with.
And yet again . . .
Every region in this country
has its peculiarities, its folklore and gables that bespeak the
"local color" and give one a strong feel for the locale.
In California and Arizona, such tales invariably concern themselves
with legends of gold - of lost gold, found gold, gold in the
hills, gold under the ground. Even more than those Carolina
coastal areas that reputedly boast untold Lost Pirate Treasures,
we seem to have an inordinate amount of "gilded" lore.
We have, in columns past, examined
some of these legends, although perhaps never in this Online
version of the newsletter. (Perhaps we shall correct this oversight
in the near future.) We've set our sights east to the Superstitious
Mountains outside of Phoenix, to the presumed location of the
Lost Dutchman Mine (still not found as of this writing). I believe
we've touched on the secret gold mine of Pegleg Smith, located
somewhere in the desert between Yuma and Los Angeles. This mine
also remains lost, though many have stumbled across it, with
at least four lucky souls returning to civilization bearing glittering
proof of their encounter in the past 150 years. Unfortunately,
not one of them was able to find the mine again.
It's still out there, folks,
which means that there are at least two undiscovered gold mines
as of late 1999 located mere hours away from Los Angeles, waiting
for the lucky explorer . . .
And there's more.
In the year 1610 an expedition
of three Spanish ships set off for the west coast of Mexico to
hunt for pearls. Luck was with them, and in a short time the
ships had been filled. This, however, is when their luck ran
out. While one of the ships returned home safely, a second was
lost in a terrible storm and lies today somewhere in the Pacific.
It is the third ship that concerns
us. For some reason, this ship elected to travel up the Gulf
of California. This being 1610, no one was yet quite sure just
where the Gulf ended. This unlucky ship soon found out. They
sailed to the end of the Gulf, and continued through a narrow
passage that seemed promising, and indeed eventually emptied
into a great inland sea.
The passage, unfortunately,
promptly dried up, trapping the ship and its hapless crew in
what we now know as the Salton Sea.
For many years after, local
California tribes told of seeing the ruins of a Spanish treasure
ship appear and disappear, subject to the caprices of the desert
sands. Eventually, the ship was buried. The crew, of course,
were long dead - the treasure, as far as we know, remained on
Typically, such a tale would end here. However, in 1870, an
American named Albert Evans was traveling in the region east
of the Salton Sea (which, by the way, is just southeast of Los
Angeles, in the California desert). A local paper, the Los Angeles
News, printed his account:
"By two o'clock I had
reached the summit of the divide between Dos Palmas and the Palma
Seca, and looked into the plain. Southward to the very horizon
stretched a great plain of snowy salt, the white ghost of a dead
sea which once covered all this accursed land but has passed
away forever. Across this white plain, as across the waters
of a placid lake, the moon threw a track of shimmering light.
Right in this burning pathway of light, far out in the center
of the ghostly sea, lay what appeared in the distance to be the
wreck of a gallant ship, which might have gone down three centuries
A searching party immediately
set out to verify his claim. They returned, having found the
ship embedded in the sand. Unable to retrieve any pearls, they
nonetheless reported its position: 40 miles north of the San
Bernardino/Fort Yuma road, and 30 miles west of Dos Palmas.
A second party went out, but
the ship had again disappeared. It was not till 1878 that it
was seen again, this time by three German prospectors who had
gotten lost. They spied the ghostly vessel at sundown, and one
of them set off to get a closer look.
He never returned.
Finally, in February of 1882,
a reporter from the San Francisco Examiner set off from Yuma
with a searching party, and sixteen days out he and a companion
both saw the ship.
Which disappeared, permanently,
into the dusk - somewhere very close to a certain lost gold
mine . . .
P.S. Be sure to check us out
in October - we promise Halloween thrills galore, as well as
an update on the strange and eerie disappearance of longtime
Book Again manager Mike Nolte!
(For those wanting a preview
of the festivities, pop into the store this month for a free
copy of our printed newsletter.)
And, what exactly is
the "Rare Kitsch Object"?