The Lost Dutchman

Transcription: “This story is called the tale of the Lost Dutchman. The mountains east of Phoenix are called the Superstitions because of all the weird things that happen out there. According to the Apache, sand storms come from a cave in the mountains that is said to be a gate to Hell…they say an evil wind kicks dust out and it covers the valley in a sand storm. In the Superstitions, there are a lot of minerals, most importantly gold. In the mid 1800s, there was a dutchman who was out prospecting and he got lost…I think he got lost and stumbled upon a cave. At the front of the cave, there was supposedly skeletons and old pots that looked like they came from the conquistadores. He opened up one of the pots, and he found giant gold nuggets. He found more gold as he went further into the cave. He filled up his bag with gold and then left the way that he came. When he went back to town, he told people about the gold he found. The next day, he tried to lead a group of people back to the cave, but he couldn’t find it. People are still looking for it today. They never found it. The landmarks that the dutchman described are real, such as Weaver’s Needle.”


The story transcribed above can be classified as a legend since it takes place in a real-world setting. The legend began less than two hundred years ago in Phoenix, Arizona. Since that area has strong ties to its Native American heritage, many Native American folk stories have mingled with those of American settlers. My informant has no connection to Native American culture, but he recently moved to Phoenix and learned the stories.

The mountains are called the Superstitions due to the strange phenomena that occur. Apache folklore explains the mysterious occurrences as a result of the Superstitions having a cave that is a gateway to Hell. In addition to the religious folklore surrounding the mountains, they are also said to be rich in gold. An American settler was wandering through the mountains and found an abandoned gold mine. He collected as much gold as he could carry and returned to his town. When he tried to lead a group back to the mine, he could not find it.

This legend reminded me of the City of Gold since the stories share motifs. Both stories include gold, natives, and a settler’s inability to retrace his steps to the hidden gold. My informant’s retelling of the story seems to combine two different stories, one of Native American folklore and one of a quest for wealth. The combination of stories exemplifies how American and Native American folklore influence each other.