legends of the creek


Cowboy Spook, Elmer McCurdy - Tale of the Creek

The old Wild West is the stuff of legends: Gunslingers robbing banks and trains. Cowboys on long cattle drives. Gold and silver rushes. But every time period has its strange stories, and the Wild West is no different. Some of those stories are exactly what you’d expect, while others are surprisingly unbelievable.

legends of Cave CreekElmer McCurdy is not exactly a household name. Unlike Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Jesse and Frank James, or Billy the Kid, his exploits as a train and bank robber never gained him much infamy. Neither did his status as one of the last real Wild West outlaws, killed in a shootout with the law. (He’d never be taken alive, he said.)

No, Elmer McCurdy gained his fame more than 60 years after his death, in 1976, when memories of those wild days on the frontier were dying with the last people who’d lived them. That’s when the crew of The Six Million Dollar Man borrowed an amusement park fun-house to shoot an episode of the popular TV show. As one of the crew members moved a dummy, its arm fell off—revealing that the dummy was actually a mummy. McCurdy, specifically, as an official autopsy later revealed.

It seems that after being shot, someone had gone to the funeral home and identified themselves as McCurdy’s long-lost brother in order to take the body. In fact, he was a carnival owner. (Carnivals did a brisk trade in outlaw corpses to attract crowds in the early days of the 20th century.) McCurdy's body also spent time as repayment for an unpaid debt, playing a mummy in a freak show that made its way through the old town of Cave Creek, Arizona before he became a funhouse prop in California.

McCurdy was finally laid to rest on Boot hill in Guthrie, Oklahoma, 66 years after he was killed. Were it not for a clumsy prop crew member in Hollywood, who knows where old Elmer McCurdy would be today.


Crimson Dust

tales from the Creek

Back in time long ago under the open sky
Where men roamed the west and weren’t afraid to die.

It was blood and bullets washed down with booze
In the boom-towns, folks had it all to lose.

Justice from a gun was the only way
As vultures circled overhead day after day.

And the price of life was a dead mans cost
Two bits for a soul and a wooden cross.

Slinging six guns and frontier law
Black powder smoke and the quickest draw.

Hell bent for glory in the devils flame
Wanted posters and gold strike fame.

It was a high noon sun when they came to town
Spreading their lead with a six-gun sound.

The outlaws burned their fury with every shot
Setting fire to the gallows and the hangman’s knot.

The women cried out and the town it bled
The dusty street turned to crimson red.

And when the smoke cleared death took the meek
History was written down in Blood Creek.

Those days are long gone but without end

As the ghosts forever ride the Copper Wind.



creek of goldDuring the winter of 1881,outlaws Henry Corey and Ralph Gaines stole eight large gold bars from the Black Hill Mine near Cave Creek, Arizona. Each of these bars, which were three feet long and four inches wide, were buried near a cabin adjacent to the swift currents of Cave Creek. The pair then headed to Prescott, where they relieved a stagecoach of $25,000 in gold and silver coins. Returning to the cabin with the treasure, they dug up the gold bars and placed these, along with the stagecoach loot, into four large wooden crates. It’s the legend that Gaines being the better swimmer, swam to the bottom of Cave Creek and buried all four crates.

The outlaw pair was holed up on the edge of Cave Creek when both men spotted the approaching lawman, Sheriff Bob Anderson and his posse. The bandits made a hasty retreat, leaving the treasure behind. Later, Gaines was killed in a knife fight in Benson, Arizona and Corey was arrested during a holdup near Globe, Arizona and sent to Yuma Territorial prison. When Corey was released 24 years later, he made repeated searches for the loot but it was never found. Corey died in 1936. During summertime, the dry bed areas of this low level creek can be easily searched but fortune seekers have seen the ghostly apparition of a man wading about madly in the creek with a shovel in hand as if he is looking for something.

bloody bones
bloody bones
Henry Phillips was a hermit who lived alone in a decrepit shack far beyond the edge of town. Rumors were rife about the wild-eyed man. Some folks said that he was a magician who called upon the powers of darkness to wreck havoc upon his neighbors. No respectable citizen in town had anything to do with Henry.

Then one year a new family moved to town with a lovely daughter, Rachel, who caught Henry’s eye. He showered the maiden with gifts. Despite the gifts, Rachael fell in love with another, Geoffrey, a handsome young man just home from the war between the states. A week after meeting they eloped, leaving behind a stunned and angry Henry. 

When Rachael and Geoffrey returned from the elopement, they threw a big ball at the towns square and invited everyone in town. While Rachel was waltzing with her father, she heard a  clap of thunder. Lightning flashed again and again. Suddenly, the double doors blew open and a breeze whirled in, Henry Phillips loomed in the doorway, pupils gleaming red with anger.

Henry grabbed Geoffrey and threw him to the floor and drew a silver-bladed knife then casually cut the bridegroom’s throat from ear to ear. Rachel screamed and ran forward and flung herself upon her dying husband. Henry snatched the young bride out of the pool of blood surrounding her dead husband and carried her out into the thundering night. The sounds of thunder and lightning faded away as the alchemist disappeared into the night.

Geoffrey’s father and Rachael’s father gathered a small mob and followed the evil hermit, intent upon saving Rachel.  When they searched Henry’s shack, they found it completely empty save for a light, which shone from a series of mysterious globes that bobbed near the ceiling. Henry had vanished.

Search parties scoured the desert for days, but turned up nothing. Geoffrey was buried in the local cemetery, and the town hall was torn down and relocated to its present day location on Cave Creek Road. No one in town spoke about what had happened, and no one dared imagine what had become of poor Rachel.

Eleven years to the day after that horrific night, a timid knock sounded upon the door of Rachael’s parents’ home. When her father opened it, he saw a gaunt, gray illuminating figure on the stoop. Her eyes were dull with exhaustion and pain but the father knew without a doubt that it was his daughter Rachel! Her tongue had been cut out so she couldn’t speak.

But when she produced a knife from her tattered garments—the knife with a silver blade that he had last seen in the hands of Henry— the gleam of satisfaction in Rachel’s eyes told him that the crimson blood that c
oated the knife was the blood of Henry. The young lady’s apparition then slowly vanished as the father looked on and then down to his amazement there on the porch before him lay the knife.
queen of hearts
Born in the year 1831, Linda Parker was destined to etch her mark in the dust of the western frontier.  A stunning lady with ice blue eyes, she knew at a young age that she was a desirable commodity amongst the men of the west. At age 15, she married Franklin J. Lewis, a prominent yet abusive business man who relocated from the east bringing with him his taste for the finer things in life. Marriage was not pleasant for the young beauty and after only four years of matrimony, she decided to stake her claim to fortune and fame by surviving a mysterious fire that engulfed the Lewis homestead which claimed the life of Frank Lewis. When the smoked cleared, Linda inherited the mass Lewis fortune and became known as the “Queen of Hearts.”
queen of heartShe hitched her wagon shortly after and moved into the Cave Creek territory, where she was the first lady of business, opening a modest and prosperous parlor house which she named “Hearts Landing.” With the discovery of precious metals throughout the territory, the “Queen of Hearts” became extremely wealthy entertaining the many men who fell prey to her beauty and charm, yet she did not trust the bankers of the town and therefore legend has it that Linda would bury her Hearts Landing earnings under the floorboards of the parlor house. She was known to strut through the crowds of adoring men while singing a seductive ballad with the chorus line of “I am walking on notes that once was yours.”
On Saturday evening in 1885, a monsoon storm ripped its way through the little Town of Cave Creek as the “Hearts Landing” was filled with amorous men. Lightning struck the building on its south side patio igniting the wooden building into an inferno within seconds. Witnesses say they watched the patrons leap from the top floor balconies and crash through windows to escape the blaze but amidst the flames there stood a charred woman standing in the middle of the burning room with her arms outstretched on fire screaming...“Six feet under ground but more under the floor.”
Today sits Frontier Town on the corners of Cave Creek Road and Linda Road as a reminder of years long passed. On certain nights during the monsoon season you will see the “Queen of Hearts” standing on the patio.




In 1866 a businessman named Mark McCauley built a stagecoach stop known as the McCauley station at the edge of present day Cave Creek and Spur Cross. In addition to being a regular stop it also became a resting place for weary travelers winding their way through Arizona on the way to California.
Though a welcome relief after days of exhausting travel through the desert, the stage station was witness to murder, robberies, and daily human miseries. It is from this darker side, that the station allegedly became haunted by the spirits of those who met their death there, natural or otherwise.One of the ghostly tales is the specter of the White Horse of Azarone that allegedly began with a stage robbery in 1883. According to the tale, the bandit known as Vendango excused himself from the supper table. A few moments later, he rode through the doorway mounted on his big pale stallion and shot Mark McCauley.

However the wounded man returned fire and the leader fell dead from his horse. Spooked by the blasts of the guns, the pale horse ran through the door and out into the nearby hills.

Today it is said that the ghost of the pale horse continues to roam the terrain usually appearing around sunset. It seemingly appears out of nowhere, before galloping through the hills and disappearing once again.

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