Tuesday, August 18, 1998

The Secret of Haunted Canyon

August 18, 1998 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

A Mesa Journal-Tribune article dated March 22, 1935 announced the discovery of a Kimberly strike in the Superstition Wilderness. “Kimberly” is a term used to describe a matrix of material that contains diamonds. The article read as follows:

A Kimberly in the Superstitions! Joe Modock, veteran prospector, came to Mesa this week with a sack of diamonds. The mine, he said, is situated in a secret canyon deep in the Superstitions, ‘where the geology is very different.’

He cautiously displayed a handful of rough sparklers, the largest of which was the size of a thumbnail. Modock stated that he has had a hunch for years that the Superstitions contained diamonds – not gold. He said he once prospected for diamonds in Africa.

Skeptics withheld serious comment in the absences of an assayer’s report. Modock said he was going to Phoenix for fresh supplies and promised even more startling disclosures as the mine develops.

He refused to disclose the location of the strike.

Joe Modock was not the first man to discover the “Cave of a Thousand Eyes” deep in the rugged Superstition Wilderness Area. Old Joe Modock really thought he had discovered diamonds when he made his way into an ancient limestone cavern in a small tributary off Haunted Canyon. What Modock actually found was a wall of travertine drapery filled with calcite crystals. He used his pick to chip off several small calcite (CaCO3) crystals and placed them into a sack.

It is not known whether Joe Modock knew his so-called diamonds were actually calcite crystals or if he was just ignorant about minerals. The Mesa Journal-Tribune claimed he was a veteran prospector.

Francisco “Frank” Moraga, a cattle rancher in the area c. 1890s, probably was one of the earliest visitors to this limestone cavern discovered by Modock. For many years the cave was known locally as Moraga Cave. It wasn’t until Jose Perez stumbled across the cave in July of 1916 that it received considerable publicity. Perez found the cave and subsequently called it the Lost Dutchman Mine. The large limestone cavern Perez found was filled with stalagmites and stalactites. Perez explored the cavern to a depth of 400 feet before giving up. He didn’t have sufficient light to safely explore the cave beyond that point. Once inside the first big chamber, one wall was covered with travertine drapery embedded with calcite crystals. It was from this drapery Modock chipped his crystals.

I visited the cave about fourteen years ago and you could still see the spot where old Joe Modock chipped out his calcite crystals. At this time the entrance to the cave was just about overgrown and covered with debris. I made an extensive effort to close the cave by piling broken pieces of limestone over the entrance. I returned a year later and almost couldn’t find the cave. This cave would be destroyed if the general public found it. I looked at caves in southern Arizona that have been destroyed by the collecting of limestone minerals.

Over the decades of time this large limestone cavern has had several names. According to Native American stories, the cave was known as the “Cave of a Thousand Eyes.” The source of this name is not difficult to visualize if you can imagine someone walking into the cave with a light or torch and seeing the calcite crystals on the travertine wall.

This cavern is just another one of those interesting mysteries which abound within the boundaries of the Superstition Wilderness [Area]. It is important that the location of this beautiful cavern remain secret for its own protection.