red gh of arizonaARIZONA’S RED GHOST – From 1883 to 1893 Arizona was the home to multiple sightings of a monstrous four-legged creature with red fur ridden by a skeletal man or ghost. Unlike most legends that center around ghosts or cryptids, this one ends with physical remains and a rational explanation grounded in history.

Let’s start with the first documented encounter with the Red Ghost aka Fantasia Colorado in the spring of 1883. Near Eagle’s Ridge, AZ a pair of men left their ranch house to check on their cattle. Their wives and children were together in one house for safety while they were gone.

One of the wives went out to get water from a nearby spring and soon a blood-curdling scream was heard as well as sounds of physical violence. The second wife looked out a window and saw “a huge, reddish colored beast” ridden by “a devilish looking creature.” She ran outside and found the first wife’s body dead, trampled nearly flat and surrounded by several prints left by what seemed to be cloven hooves.

masc graveyard smallerWhen the two husbands returned, they saw the woman’s remains and followed the tracks until they petered out, finding red fur in bushes and tree branches along the path of whatever had killed the unfortunate wife. The Mohave County Miner newspaper stated that the coroner’s report found that the death had happened by “some manner unknown”.

Mere days later, the beast and its ghastly rider were responsible for rampaging through a miner’s camp late one night. Once again, odd footprints that were too large for a horse and tufts of red fur were left behind. Already, the human tendency toward embellishment was creeping in, as the miners claimed the Red Ghost was thirty feet tall.

Before long, “something” with red fur and a skeletal figure on its back overturned a pair of freight wagons near the Arizona border with New Mexico. Hoofprints but no fur were found this time around.

As the years rolled along, various other sightings and encounters were added to the legend of this odd beast and its rider. Among them:

*** The Red Ghost and its skeletal rider in tattered clothing were seen attacking and devouring a bear. 

*** One supposed eyewitness claimed to have galloped into the desert after the two-in-one terror only to see it vanish into thin air.

*** Another self-proclaimed witness claimed to have followed the phantasm at a discreet distance but when it neared the edge of the Black River it leaped across the canyon and landed on the other side before continuing on. The alleged pursuer was left high and dry on the opposite side.

*** In the Verde Valley, five prospectors caught sight of the Red Ghost and fired their rifles at it. None of the shots seemed to hit their target and the beast raced off, with the skeletal head of its rider falling off and being found by the prospectors. The skull still had bits of skin and human hair stuck to it and accounts vary if the skull was shot off by the miners or if it broke off when the beast of burden bolted forward.   

*** From then on, sightings of the Red Ghost included the detail that it was ridden by a headless man who was really a skeleton in tattered clothes, looking for the prospectors who had shot off its head, or for the head itself.

*** A cowboy claimed to have lassoed the Red Ghost upon seeing it, only to be dragged along behind it until he could no longer hold on to his lariat. The cowboy stated there was definitely a headless skeletal figure riding the creature as if it was a horse.

In 1893 part of the mystery was solved, only to leave behind unresolved clues which point to a horrific and slow death. Farmer Mizoo/ Missouri Hastings saw the Red Ghost feeding on his turnip patch, so he grabbed his rifle and shot the beast to death.

The remains were that of a camel, presumably left over from the ill-fated American Camel Corps project earlier in the 1800s or the offspring of some of the camels set free into the deserts of the southwest when all hope for the project was abandoned around 1866. Balladeer’s Blog has covered the Camel Corps in the past.

A well-worn saddle was still strapped and tied tightly around the camel’s back, with indications that a human rider had once been tied into the saddle. The rest of the body had decomposed and fallen off by this time, so neither the bones nor the clothing could be examined. And no one knows who roped the figure to the camel’s body and left them to die a slow, agonizing death in the desert.  

Ironically, an eyewitness named Cyrus Hamblin (or Hamlin, accounts vary) had, years earlier, accurately identified the red-furred beast as a camel, and even though he saw the skeletal passenger as well, many people disregarded his story.

Some felt that Hamblin had more than likely seen a camel, since sightings of Camel Corps survivors and their offspring were being reported into the 20th Century, but they felt he had mistaken the camel’s hump for a human passenger. In some very weird form of reasoning, to them that meant that Hamblin had NOT really seen the Red Ghost, because if he had, that would mean the Red Ghost was merely a camel. And folklore abhors a grounded explanation.

Two statues of the Red Ghost help preserve the legend. One is constructed of automobile parts painted red, and the other sits atop the faux pyramid erected in memory of Hajj Ali aka High Jolly, a camel rider hired by the U.S. Army to help train soldiers and camels alike in the Camel Corps.




Filed under Mythology, Neglected History

17 responses to “ARIZONA’S RED GHOST (1883-1893)

  1. What a mystery! Clicking through…

  2. Haha, this is both fascinating and gruesome!! Surely there is a novel in there somewhere. The imagination of humans is beyond amazing. Great read.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s