Monday, September 26, 2016

Barry Storm

Author and prospector Barry Storm.
September 19, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Barry Storm was born John Griffith Climenson in Seattle, Washington, on June 4, 1910. He was the son of Sila Griffith and Clara Virginia (Brown) Climenson.

Storm graduated from high school in Seattle and became interested in mining, prospecting and writing. He prospected in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Storm turned to prospecting and treasure hunting during the “depression” (1930s) shortly after getting out of high school. There were no jobs, he often said.

Early in 1934, Barry started writing short adventure stories for various pulp magazines such as Home and Office. He also provided numerous articles for various treasure magazines.

Storm arrived in Phoenix in the fall of 1937 with plans to search for the Peralta Mines in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. He ended up at the YMCA Center in Phoenix and was befriended by Art Webber, one of the founding members of the Don’s Club of Arizona.

Storm advertised for adventurers in the local newspapers in January, 1937, to accompany him on a prospecting trip. This was Storm’s way of raising venture capital for his prospecting. Storm also wanted to author a small booklet with hopes of generating more income. He continued to run advertisements in various newspapers in Arizona and California hoping to attract  partners with enough capital to finance his various mining expeditions into the Superstition Mountains.

Early in 1938, while prospecting near Aguila, he hurriedly put together a book titled Gold of the Superstitions which he published by the summer of that year. He had limited success with this booklet, but believed he could do a better job if he could find a backer who would support him for a future book. Barry Storm just happened to enter the Goldwater’s Store in Phoenix in the late spring of 1938, and by accident he met Barry M. Goldwater, a young entrepreneur and an amateur photographer.

Goldwater was only twenty-eight years old at the time.  Storm talked Goldwater into accompanying him on a hike into the Superstition Mountains and told his story to Goldwater, convincing him to invest in his next book. Goldwater financed Barry’s book On the Trail of the Lost Dutchman

Some old-timers might have wondered why Goldwater would have supported Storm with his book writing venture. Goldwater once said he was very moved by Storm’s enthusiasm to search for lost gold and treasure. Just prior to Storm walking into Goldwater’s store, Barry Goldwater had witnessed the success of Oren Arnold’s book advertised at the Korrick’s Department Store in downtown Phoenix. Why not, he had thought! 

Barry Goldwater also did all the photography for Storm’s book.  Storm further convinced the Don’s Club through Art Webber to use his handsome gold currency covered book for their 1939 Superstition Mountain Gold Trek. The club thought it was a worthwhile adventure and involved Barry Storm with their Superstition Mountain Trek for 1939.

Senator Barry Goldwater once remarked, “The man borrowed my name and some money, but I enjoyed the experience with him in the mountains photographing his dreams.” 

Soon after Storm’s experience with Goldwater he met a man named Fisher who had developed an electronic device for locating mineral deposits, but needed somebody to test it. 

Somehow Storm convinced Fisher he was his man. Storm took the M-Scope into the Superstition Mountains and tried it out. He claimed the Fisher Scope located the Peralta Land Grant Lost Mine in 1940. The publicity resulting from these claims launched Storm’s career as a mining expert and author. Storm was a so-called self-educated mining man. He had very little or no actual underground mining experience. He had no formal geology training. He claimed to have enormous knowledge about ancient European (Spanish) mining.

One of Storm’s best attempts at writing was his book Thunder God’s Gold in 1945. He wrote most of this book at Tortilla Flat after serving a short hitch in the United States Army Air Corps from 1943-1944.

The first time I heard the name Barry Storm I was a very young lad. My father and his friend Bill Cage were discussing the merits of Barry Storm’s book Superstition Gold in 1945, just before Storm’s book Thunder God’s Gold was published in that same year. 

Prior to Storm’s book there were few publications that mention Jacob Waltz, the Peraltas or the Lost Dutchman Mine.  The publications of Oren Arnold, Will Robinson, Mike Burns, Irwin Lively and a couple of other authors had tried to explain the mystery of the Superstition Mountain and its alleged lost gold mine. These authors took a more romantic view of the Superstition Mountains. Storm was the first to capture the story in an armchair adventure form. The reader could actually experience Storm’s excitement as he wrote about the Peraltas and the Lost Dutchman Mine. Other than Oren Arnold, none of the other authors were as popular or as well circulated.

It was Storm’s Thunder God’s Gold that really took center stage when Columbia motion pictures decided to make a film based on the book in 1948. When Lust for Gold appeared in theaters the story of the Lost Dutchman Mine became part of the national spotlight.

Not since the disappearance of Dr. Adolph Ruth in 1931 had the subject of this lost mine received such national interest. Storm wasn’t happy with how he was portrayed in the film. Columbia had portrayed him as the son of Jacob Waltz. Storm sued Columbia therefore delaying the release of the film for two years. The film still portrayed Storm as Waltz’s grandson when it was released in 1950.

Barry Storm was certainly one of “Coronado’s Children.” He continued to chase lost gold mines and treasures the rest of his life. He was a confirmed bachelor and always lived alone. Storm traveled annually to promote the sales and distribute his books. 

Barry Storm spent most of his life chasing a dream. One of the last times I visited with him was at the Bluebird Mine and Curio Shop in 1967. We sat out front in some old chairs and talked about Superstition Mountain and the Lost Dutchman Mine, the Peralta Mine and even the mysterious stone maps.

Barry still dominated the stage of western storytellers. He was just as dramatic about telling his story whether it was with one or fifty listeners. For the most part Barry Storm lived his life like a dream, always believing he would strike it rich in some way. 

The later years of his life were spent on a mining claim near Chiraco Summit, California. It was there he believed he would strike it rich with his Storm-Jade mine. 

Barry was quite paranoid.  He always believed somebody was out to kill him or steal his mine. He always carried a firearm.

I visited Barry at his Jade mine in 1969. We were in the area to attend the Indio Sidewinder Cruise with the Indio Jeep Club. He hadn’t changed any since I had visited with him at the Bluebird Mine and Curio Shop north of Apache Junction on the Apache Trail in 1967. 

Barry corresponded with a variety of Dutch hunters around the country expounding his theories about lost gold in the Superstitions and other places around the country.  Barry Storm was one of those everlasting characters that legends were formed around. Barry impacted the Lost Dutchman Mine story more than any other individual. 

When I visited Barry at his mining claim I knew he was quite ill. The next thing I heard was when he passed away in the Veteran’s Hospital in San Diego on January 5, 1971.   This sage of lost gold and treasure history had passed on leaving a dramatic legacy on the stage of the American Southwest. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Secrets of the Missing

September 12, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The past five or six decades have produced a variety of missing person reports within the contemporary boundaries of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Many of these missing persons show up at home or in another state claiming they didn’t think any one would miss them. A majority of these missing person reports are resolved with telephone calls between relatives of the missing person. However, there are those reports that defy explanation and no clues have ever been found. Many involved strange incidents involving prospectors and treasure hunters.

Some of these missing person cases are actually very bizarre. For example, Adolph Ruth was reported missing in early June of 1931. The mountains were searched for almost eight weeks in the hottest part of the summer. Yet, no sign of Ruth was discovered. On December 10, 1931, Ruth’s skull was found near the First Water-Charlebois Trail just north of Bluff Springs Mountain and south of the Red Hills. The rest of his skeletal remains were found January 6, 1931. Ruth’s death was responsible for much speculation, ranging from suicide, accidental death, to homicide. His death still confuses many and its cause is still speculated.

Charlie Williams was reported missing four or five years after Ruth. Williams was a World War I veteran who went into the Superstition Mountains searching for gold on January 5, 1935. Williams was soon reported missing, but on January 8, 1935, Williams stumbled out of the mountains with a pocket full of gold nuggets telling a weird tale about being injured and not remembering anything. Eventually Williams’ gold was confiscated by the United States Government because it was dental gold, not natural gold. Williams was never charged for illegal possession of gold, but again there was a tremendous amount of speculations about his disappearance.

How many people are still missing in the Superstition Wilderness? I am not sure if any are officially missing. A young man named Adam Scott was reported missing on June 7, 1982. A sheriff’s posse searched for almost a week before the search was called off. The search was called off when the young man was reported seen near Roosevelt Lake. Scott remained missing until March 25, 1996. This is when a local resident discovered skeletal remains on an exploration flight over the wilderness area in 1996.

Scott was first reported missing in the Horse Mesa Dam area. Robert Schoose and Barry Wiegle were making an exploration flight in a Bell Ranger when Schoose spotted bones on a talus slope. For some reason Schoose was convinced the bones could be human bones. A few days later Schoose asked me about missing people in the Superstition Wilderness Area. The only person I could think of at the time was Adam Scott. He had been reported overdue on a hiking venture in to the area around Fish Creek Mountain and Bronco Butte in June of 1982. The bleached bones Schoose spotted on the talus slope below a small cave turned out to be the skeletal remains of Adam Scott. Finally there was closure for Scott’s family. Adam had been missing for more than fourteen years.  When does a missing person in the Superstition Wilderness become a cold case? Is it after six months, twelve months or several years?

I met an old man many years ago that swore his son was missing in the Superstition Wilderness Area. He believed his son was being held prisoner because he knew the location of the Dutchman’s lost mine. I know he harassed the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office about his son off and on for about a year. He was totally convinced his son was somewhere in the Superstition Wilderness and he wanted somebody to help him search for the boy.  After talking to the gentleman I was doubtful he even had a living son. I think he wanted to believe his son was alive and searching for him eased the pain of his son’s actual death.

The loss of a loved one sometimes confuses reality for a person. He was so convincing about his son I almost went into the mountains to help look for him.

The following is a case of a missing person that is very difficult to determine.

Christmas, 1987, I remembered a man reporting his son missing near First Water. He claimed they were deer hunting and his son just vanished. The Sheriff’s Office started a search two days before Christmas and continued the search through Christmas. I volunteered to help because I knew the area quite well. My father and I had camped in the region quite often back in the late 1940s.

I knew where many of the old abandoned mine holes and tunnels were located in the area. Many of the old tunnels were camouflaged for various reasons. As it turned out the young man was mad at his father and wanted to teach him a lesson.  He hid in an abandoned tunnel for almost five days. He was eventually found hiding in a small mine tunnel. He was wet, cold and tired. He felt he had taught his father a lesson when interviewed. He also cost the Sheriff’s Office a lot of money and aggravated a lot of men who had to be away from home on Christmas searching for this young man.

A very similar case occurred on July 25, 1998, when Guy Garlinghouse was reported missing in the Superstition Wilderness Area near Peralta Trailhead.

Temperatures were soaring to 114 degrees F that week. Apache Junction Search & Rescue, Pinal County Sheriff’s Posse and many volunteers combed the rugged hot desert around Peralta Trailhead searching for Mr. Garlinghouse.

Garlinghouse walked into the sheriff’s rescue center at Peralta Trailhead six days later. He was a little sun burned but otherwise in good shape. How did he survive in the desert for six days without adequate water in such extreme temperatures unless he planned on being “lost”? Again, this young man was aggravated with his parents and decided to worry them a little. I never heard how this case was finally adjudicated.

The mysterious Superstition Mountains with cloud cover.
Missing people in the Superstition Wilderness create some interesting and sometimes very heart breaking stories. One case in particular occurred in November of 1964 when two brothers, (Richard & Robert Kermis) went hiking up on Superstition Mountain through Siphon Draw. One brother slipped and fell. He injured his leg severely. The other brother decided to remain with his injured brother. An unexpected winter storm hit the area dumping almost a foot of snow on the base of Superstition Mountain. The two brothers froze to death before being found by a search party. The death of these two young men was very tragic. They were missing for almost three days.

One of my students from a class I taught for the college was reported missing. He often hiked Siphon Draw and the Flat Iron. A search was conducted for Lee Krebs for six days before they found his body in No-Name Canyon in December, 1978.  He had slipped on clear ice and fell over a ledge dropping some five hundred feet to his death. Lee was a retired homebuilder and a well known community worker who really cared about Apache Junction during a period when there was a lot of turnmoil. When he was first reported missing everyone was quite sure he was allright. He was a veteran outdoorsman and hiker. A quick moving winter storm caught him off guard while up on the Flat Iron.

Over the years I have written several columns about the missing and those who have disappeared. I would say ninety-nine per cent of the missing person reports in the Superstition Wilderness have been solved. Undoubtedly there are still a few unsolved cases involving the wilderness. Some cases date back to the turn of the century.  I have reviewed just a few of the hundreds of missing person cases involving the wilderness area. Rest assured most of these cases have been solved.

A region as rugged and isolated as the Superstition Wilderness Area can certainly hold secrets of missing people that remain unsolved today. Many of the so-called “missing people” may have just walked in one end of the wilderness and out the other end. Therefore we have the “Secrets of the Missing.”

Monday, September 12, 2016

Stranger Than Fiction

September 5, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

You can’t imagine the surprising and unbelievable stories I have heard over the past many scores of years. The tales of gold and treasure lost among the deep canyons and towering spires within the wilderness of Superstition Mountain are numerous. These tales stir the souls of men both young and old.

The search for adventure has filled the hearts of many who have followed in the footsteps of “Coronado’s Children” as told by Frank J. Dobie. When Dobie penned his book in 1941 he could not have imagined the impact his words would have on a generation of young men who pursued the treasure trail.

 I choose not to follow each and every one of these stories, however some are stranger than fiction itself. The following story is buried in the pages of a journal written forty years ago about an event that occurred in the Superstition Mountains.

Since the first Anglo-Americans laid their eyes upon the rugged façade of Superstition Mountain there were stories about lost gold in those mountains. Those who believe these stories can’t be deterred with facts or even common sense. They will continue their search until they can no longer walk or ride the trails of these rugged mountains.  There are but a few people who understand this devotion and dedication to a belief and a dream.

Over the years I have had many friends who were devoted believers in this lost gold in the Superstition Mountains. I had one particular friend whom I wanted to believe his story so badly, but I just couldn’t accept the facts he had gathered to support his theory. I would never discourage, but I never really encouraged him either until I realized his life hung in the balance. His dream of riches kept him alive. He would swear me to secrecy and then tell me things he actually saw in the mountains.

“Tom,” he said. “I was hiking up this narrow canyon when I saw a cave in a side canyon. I climbed over large boulders and made my way to the entrance of the cave. I could see the cave had been use many years before. I had a decent flashlight so I started exploring the cave. Near the rear of the cave was a small shaft that dropped down about five feet. The cave then opened into a large chamber filled massive crystalline rock. In one corner of the chamber there was more gold bullion and artifacts than the mind could imagine. There were hundreds of pounds of gold in bars, statues and even nuggets as big as chicken eggs. I was so excited and disoriented I didn’t realize my flashlight batteries were about to die. All of a sudden I was in total darkness with no light. I was not sure which direction it was to the entrance. Finally I gained enough composure I remembered have some matches. I struck a match and saw the tunnel I had followed down into this chamber.

“I immediately headed for what I believed was the exit. The only specimen I kept was a nugget about the size of a small chicken egg. Striking one match at a time I finally made my way out of the tunnel. Once I reached the entrance the sun had set and it was dark. I picked up my pack and walking stick and made my way down the canyon and back to the trail.

Searching in extremely rugged territory, Karl Duess leads a pack horse through the storied terrain of Tortilla Mountain.
“I found a place along the trail to pitch camp for the rest of the night. The next morning at sunrise I thought I would try to retrace my steps back to the cave and the treasure I had found.  “Tom, I never could find the treasure cave again. As I sat under an old Mesquite in Needle Canyon I thought maybe I had dreamed this story and it wasn’t real. Then, when I reached into my pocket and felt the nugget the size of a chicken egg I was convinced it was not a dream. For past decade I have tried to find that treasure cave in the Superstition Wilderness Area.”

Twenty years ago old Joe showed me that chicken egg size nugget of quartz and gold. I would say there was about five ounces or more of gold in the nugget. Even as I looked at the nugget Joe was showing me I still really didn't believe his story, but then again "truth can be stranger than fiction."

Monday, September 5, 2016

Trail of Tears

August 29, 2016 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The Superstition Wilderness Area and Superstition Mountain in particular have been an attraction to human kind for more than a millennium. First came the Native Americans who found the region conducive to their way of living. Hunting and gathering was their main means of survival. The region offered numerous caves for shelter. Their ruins today are a mute testimony to their early occupancy of this rugged mountain region in Central Arizona.

Death was no stranger to these early inhabitants of this rugged mountain wilderness. Many lost their lives to accidents, animal attacks and other warring groups that mounted raids into their homelands. Of course all these deaths were pre-historical without documentation. The excavation of a couple of sites adjacent to the wilderness area suggests some of these early Native Americans died from wounds caused by an adversary. 

An Apache Junction resident was excavating for a pool in his yard when he came across a burial site on his property. The skull that was found in the grave had severe damage from blunt force trauma. The ulna and radius bones of the arm and clavicle bone of the shoulder had sharp knife-like marks indicating an attack that was defended with the individual’s arms. These injuries were probably the results of a battle with a raiding party that ended in the demise of this individual several thousand years ago.  This Native American was probably one the earliest people to die in this vast mountain wilderness we call the Superstitions today.

The Superstition Mountain region has a long history of missing people, homicides, accidental deaths, and injuries. The earliest recorded history of these events occurred when the infantry companies were sent out of Camp McDowell to quell the raids of the Apache-Yavapai who lived in the Superstition Mountains (Salt River Mountains) and Pinaleno (Pinal) Mountains in the 1860’s.

The Army effectively used the Pima Scouts against the Apache-Yavapai during this era. Several hundred Apache-Yavapai were slain in their Rancherias or villages throughout the Superstition Mountain area at places such as Pinon Camp (near Weaver’s Needle) May 11, 1867, Dismal Valley (Tortilla Ranch area), March 14, 1868, and Tortilla Creek near Tortilla Flat later in that year.

Also several smaller villages were destroyed and the males were killed. The Pimas took the captured Apache-Yavapai women and children into slavery. The Pima Scouts clubbed the Apache-Yavapai old and young males to death. Armed Pima Scouts and soldiers shot those who tried to escape. 

The Tortilla Ranch area of the Superstition Wilderness was known as Dismal Valley. It served as a large Native American village in the 1870’s. 
This was the beginning of death in the Superstition Mountain region that was accurately documented by the United States military. Sadly enough, deaths continue to occur today. However, in a far different way.

Major John Brown led the 5th and 10th United States Cavalry Units on campaigns against the Apache-Yavapai in both the Superstition Mountains and the Pinal Mountains from 1872-1874. Many of the skirmishes were fought around the Reavis Valley.

One battle was fought from March 8 – 17, 1874, with men of the 10th U.S. Cavalry. Many Native Americans died during these campaigns. You might say Native Americans suffered more deaths in the region then anyone else.  They considered the Superstition Mountains (Sierra Supersticiones) their home. It was from this base they raided the Salt River Valley and surrounding ranches and sometimes the mining communities.
The first white man was reported murdered on February 15, 1878 near the base of Superstition Mountain’s western facade near what is called Siphon Draw today.  The body of white man mutilated, cutup, and burned was found by two German prospectors. Some historians believe the two Germans who found this poor soul was Jacob Waltz and his partner. The murder was attributed to the Apaches.
As you can see, very little information was reported at this time about this murdered white man. This was the beginning of deaths in the Superstition area over the next one hundred and forty-two years. But prior to this man’s death many Native Americans were killed by the Army as described above.