The Lost Goldmine

Text: “Legend has it that a German settler moved to the Phoenix, Arizona area and was working in the Peralta Mine of the Superstition Mountains in East Phoenix, about one hour from the city of Mesa. In the late 1900s, that man was said to have become wealthy by stumbling across a section of that mine that was closed off to everyday miners. After stumbling upon the gold, he became extremely rich, and he left Phoenix to live a life enshrouded in wealth. After much time, the man grew old, and seeing the way the gold had changed his life, he didn’t want to take its source of origin to the grave. He told a nurse in his hospital the location of the hidden mine. Rumors spread regarding its location, and many people have tried to find the lost gold in the Superstition Mountains. The Superstition Mountains are rumored to be some of the most treacherous in the U.S., so if you were to get lost, you most likely wouldn’t find your way out and be left for dead. Countless bodies have been found in the mountains. People have been found with their heads removed and lost to the point of dehydration and starvation, The gold is said to be cursed as it has never been found, and those who seek it out never return.”

Context: My informant – a 29-year-old man living in Mesa, Arizona  – told me this story, drawing on a legend he had heard from one of his old bosses. My informant works in construction and infrastructure, and he was once on a job site near the base of the Superstition Mountain Range. On a lunch break, he and his coworkers began to wander into the mountains, which their boss proceeded to warn them about, calling upon the story of the lost goldmine and those who go missing in the mountains. My informant described how his boss was extremely adamant about not going into the mountains because of the legend and how many get lost in the range, and to this day, he still hasn’t ventured into them.

Analysis: After hearing this legend from my informant, I recalled a piece written by Tok Thompson on proverbs in Ethiopia. In the article, Thompson explores the rich cultural landscape of Ethiopia through the lens of Amharic proverbs. In Amharic culture, wealth is perceived as a transformative force in social relations, yet it is also believed to be determined by destiny, making the pursuit of wealth futile. The proverbs critique greed and highlight the futility of chasing wealth, which stands in stark contrast to the belief in capitalist societies like the United States, where wealth is often equated with hard work. Ethiopians value a full and meaningful life regardless of wealth, a sentiment reflected in their proverbs. 

While the legend my informant described to me doesn’t come from Ethiopia, I see a lot of Amharic cultural narratives within it. The legend tells the story of one lucky man who discovered a lot of gold in the Superstition Mountains, and when he revealed its location on his deathbed, people quickly sprung into action to find the goldmine and claim it for themselves. While the mountain range is inherently treacherous, people are still able to explore them and hike through them; however, if someone seeks out the gold that the man discovered years ago, they go missing. I feel that this legend is similar to the Amharic proverbs regarding wealth in the sense that they both discuss the consequences of greed, and how chasing wealth is a fool’s errand. My informant told me that the man who found the gold in the legend merely stumbled upon it, asserting that it was by luck. However, when people go out into the Superstition Mountains with a purpose of claiming the riches, they are never to be seen again. The legend of the lost goldmine in the Superstition Mountains, as recounted by my informant, echoes themes found in cultural narratives from around the world, including Ethiopia. The legend warns against the pitfalls of greed and the futile pursuit of wealth. While the story of the German settler who stumbled upon the gold speaks to luck, the fate of those who actively seek out the treasure serves as a cautionary tale. Through these cultural narratives, we are reminded of the folklore that transcends borders and generations. 


Thompson, Tok. “Getting Ahead in Ethiopia: Amharic Proverbs about Wealth.”

Proverbium, 2009, 367-386.