Strange True Stories

12 People Who Vanished Looking For The Lost Dutchman Treasure

The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine is one of the most famous unsolved mysteries in the United States. The details of the Dutchman treasure have all the makings for a ghost story - hidden treasure, mysterious demises, and lore passed down from generation to generation. 

The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine is a fabled gold mine located in the Southwest, though it's exact whereabouts are unknown. Many believe it's hidden in the Superstition Mountains, and it's rumored a curse falls upon all those who try to find it. The path to these riches is paved in mystery and doom. Many say at least 600 people have lost their lives trying to find the treasure. 

Born of intense volcanic activity, the Superstition Mountains in Arizona were believed to hold the entrance to the underworld by Native Americans. Then, a man named Jacob Waltz - a German immigrant known as "the Dutchman" - cemented the land’s fate as a great American mystery. Waltz came to America in search of gold in the late 19th century. Waltz claimed he located a rich vein of gold in the mountain range. He then fell gravely ill and delivered clues to his caregiver, Julia Thomas, about where the gold might be found. Unsure of what to make of his scribblings, she sold the map for $7. 

Since then, people have been disappearing off the face of the Earth while trying to find what could be nothing more than the ramblings of a dying man. Or perhaps, riches beyond their wildest dreams. 

  • The Peralta Massacre

    What’s now referred to as the “Peralta Massacre” occurred sometime around 1848. A Mexican family was allegedly slain by Apaches after searching the land for gold. The Peralta family was said to have discovered the famed Dutchman’s gold mine within the cursed Superstition Mountains. It was here, during what should have been a routine gold expedition, that the family was allegedly ambushed and slain by Apaches.

    According to legend, the Apaches hid all the gold the family had on them and covered up the mine. The area where the incident took place is now called the "Massacre Grounds."

  • The Jesse Capen Disappearance

    The Jesse Capen Disappearance
    Photo: Marine 69-71 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Jesse Capen was obsessed with the legendary Dutchman Gold Mine and was convinced he could locate the treasure hidden deep in the Superstition Mountains. Sadly, the 35-year-old became another target of the fables when he disappeared from the Tonto National Forest in 2009.  

    Hundreds of books and maps were found in his apartment after his disappearance showing he extensively researched the subject. According to files found on his computer, he’d already attempted to locate the treasure on at least two other occasions and told no one of either excursion. It was his third trip that he never returned from, and it would be close to three years before his remains would finally be found. Volunteers with the Superstition Search and Rescue organization found Capen’s remains wedged in an impossibly tight crevice, about 30 feet off the ground.

    He may have fallen from a ledge above the crevice and somehow got wedged in, but his official cause of death remains unknown or at least unreported. There was no trauma to his skull and his bones were wedged in such an inaccessible spot that flooding and animals couldn’t touch him.

  • The Alleged Slaying Of Dr. Adolph Ruth

    The Alleged Slaying Of Dr. Adolph Ruth
    Photo: Doug Dolde / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    In June 1931, Dr. Adolph Ruth set out on a two-week voyage through the legendary Superstition Mountains in search for the lost treasure. He never came home. The initial search party found no trace of him, but then, in December 1931, they found a human skull with two holes from a .44 caliber.

    They determined it was Ruth and that he'd been hit at almost point-blank range and somehow his head detached from his body. The rest of his remains, some personal items, and a fully loaded piece were discovered in January 1932 about three-quarters of a mile away from where his skull was discovered. Investigators at the time figured Ruth had taken his life, but many believed he was slain. One authority questioned how the purported .44 caliber used to shoot Ruth had no bullets missing

    Ruth's checkbook contained a handwritten note claiming he discovered the mine and ended with the phrase "Veni, vidi, vici."

  • <p>James A. Cravey Had His Head Removed In The Superstition Mountains</p>

    In the 1940s, 62-year old treasure hunter James A. Cravey made an attempt to locate the gold mine but was later found deceased in the wilderness of the Superstition Mountains. His headless body was discovered first; it wasn’t until six months later that his skull was found.

    His journey to find the mine was a huge spectacle at the time - he traveled to the mountain via helicopter. Before leaving, he purportedly told his friends he knew exactly where the gold was hiding. He set out for 10 days to find the treasure and asked the pilot to come back for him, but when the pilot arrived, Cravey was nowhere to be seen. His camp was intact and only two days worth of food had been eaten. 

    No one knows why Cravey had his head removed or who slew him.