July 13, 2009 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.
Clarence Mitchell began searching the Superstition Mountain area for the site he believed was indicated on the stone maps. He was very secretive about all of his operations in the Superstition Mountains, unless he was needing capital to operate. Mitchell received a big break when he convinced a naïve free lance writer to tell the story of the stone maps in Life magazine in July 1964. This article brought unbelievable notoriety for Mitchell and his now famous Peralta Stone Maps.
A photograph in the article showed Mitchell crouched down behind a rock hiding from people who he claimed was trying to find his treasure site. The article revealed for the first time public photographs of the stone maps. Certain markings on the maps were covered with black tape. These photographs fired the imagination of this nation’s treasure hunting society even though the stone maps were not totally revealed.
Early in 1965 Mitchell released a book he wrote under the nom de plume Travis Marlowe titled Superstition Treasures published by the Tyler Printing Company in Phoenix. By late 1968 Mitchell had milked his golden cow just about dry. He made many investments in the Tucson area and moved there from Apache Junction. He and Tummilson’s widow donated the stone maps to the Flagg Foundation who in turn loaned them to the Arizona Mineral Museum. Finally, both Arizona and Nevada ordered Mitchell to desist selling stock in the M.O.E.L. Corporation or he would be indicted for fraud.
The so-called Peralta Stone Maps did not go away. The Flagg Foundation asked to put them on display. They appeared at the Don’s Club Trek, First National Bank, Arizona, Arizona State Mineral Museum and finally the Mesa Southwest Museum. The Mesa Southwest Museum returned the stone maps to the Arizona State Mineral Museum in Phoenix in the early 1990s. The State Mineral Museum continued public display of the maps helped to perpetuate their legacy. Eventually the Stone Maps were taken off public display. Today the Peralta Stone Maps are on display at the Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction. They will be on display there until 2011.
Barry Storm, in 1967, wrote an article for Treasure Hunters in an attempt to decipher the Peralta Stone Maps. At this point you must remember, Barry Storm was the “Dean of the Treasure Hunters” in America. Storm’s feeble attempt to explain the stone maps led to more confusion and consternation among those who knew the stone maps were probably a fraud. Storm’s work was followed by a variety of writers, photographers and film makers using the stone maps as a factual source for treasure hunting in the Superstition Mountain area.
More than ninety per cent of the fraudulent schemes involving the Superstition Mountains are perpetrated with the so-called Peralta Stone Maps. Those seeking a huge return on their investment or the super greedy are often caught up in schemes such as those often perpetrated by the use of the Peralta Stone Maps. Con artists are always looking for something to lure their investors with. The only con artist successfully prosecuted by the law for using the stone maps in a fraudulent manner was Robert Simpson Jacob better known as “Crazy Jake.” Jacob and his various schemes have become legendary in the Apache Junction, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Scottsdale areas. “Crazy Jake”, as he liked to be called, operated a base camp in Squaw Box Canyon in the early days (1965-1978) then moved his operation to the western edge of Peter’s Mesa just above Squaw Box Canyon.
When Jacob was indicted by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office in 1986, it was estimated he had defrauded more than thirty million dollars out of the private sector. Investigators were able to document some nine million dollars Jacob had acquired. Today, little or none of this money has been found or accounted for. It is believed most of this money was spent frivolously by Jacob. Robert Simpson Jacob was sentenced to ten years in prison and fined $145,000. He was released in 1991 after serving three years.
Jacob, like those before him, could see the opportunity the stone maps presented. They were impossible to disprove therefore making their authenticity more believable.
Historians, college professors, scientist and layman have all tried to explain the origin of these dubious artifacts. Some of the simplest questions about them can not be answered. For example, how old are these stone maps?
Attorney General Bob Corbin was in Washington for a meeting and he talked to a friend of an FBI analyst who said the maps were at least one hundred years old, however Bob never observed any documentation supporting this
statement. He was just told that the stone maps were investigated when M.O.E.L. Corporation was being investigated for fraud.
Dr. Charles Polzer, Jesuit historian at the University of Arizona (now deceased), believed the stone maps were totally fraud. Polzer told me personally no amount of research can convince him the stone maps were authentic.
However, research has developed some interesting leads, but none of them can be properly documented. An early Arizona periodical had a brief story about some stone maps being found in some mountains in southern Sonora or northern Durango in Mexico. These maps were never linked to the Superstition Mountains or Arizona.
A small segment of Arizona historians believe the stone maps may have been used by the Baron of Arizona, James Addison Reavis, to help verify the legitimacy of his land grant claim to much of Arizona and New Mexico territory in the 1880’s. Reavis was a meticulous organizer and planner.
He was also an expert forger. He changed documents in Spanish and Mexican archives to coincide with his claim to the Peralta- Reavis Land Grant a decade later. It would not have been something difficult for him to have planned or used stone markers for his fraudulent Spanish land grant. There are several historians who suggest the stone maps may have been markers for such a purpose.
Still other stories exist as to the origin of these notorious stone maps. Fifty years ago it was rumored that a cowboy who lived along Queen Creek carved the stone maps and buried them near Black Point to confuse treasure hunters. This old cowboy did a lot of stone work for Clemans Cattle Company at the old Upper Fraser Ranch known today as the Reavis Ranch. The story is that this old man was a stone engraver at a cemetery back East and gave up the job to become a cowboy in the West.
If indeed the Peralta Stone Maps were authentic the United States Government would have confiscated them under the Antiquities Act. Today, if indeed, they are as old as many claim and are of Spanish origin they would be in a museum in Washington D.C., not where they are today. If these stones were what some many claim they would be a national treasure.
As you can see this is just another explanation for the infamous and notorious Peralta Stone Maps. The stone maps have created as many enemies as they have friends. The Peralta Stone Maps will survive as long as there are those who follow in the “Footsteps of Coronado’s Children.”