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.