Skip to main content

The Red Ghost

July 2024
21min read

The huge, cloven-footed creature that terrorized southeast Arizona was no figment of the mind. The grisly story of its origin and fate was more macabre in fact than any fiction

One morning in the spring of 1883 two women were alone with their children in a small adobe house on Eagle Creek in the southeastern corner of the Arizona Territory. The men of the family had gone out early to determine how many of their sheep had been slaughtered or driven off by Geronimo and his Apaches in the latest raid through the area. Being left alone at such a time meant a certain danger for the women, since Geronimo might take it into his head to return that way, but to such dangers they had long since been inured.

At some time during the forenoon one of the women left the house to bring water from the spring several yards away in a thicket of willows. A few minutes after she went out, the house dog began to bark and brought the other woman to the window. All she was ever able to report about what she saw was that it was red, enormous, and ridden by a devil.

She heard screams but was too terrified to think of doing anything, instead, she barricaded the door and spent the day in hysterical prayer. When the men returned that night and heard her story, they lit torches, and went to investigate the spring, where they found the body of the second woman near the water, trampled almost flat, in the mud were the prints of hoofs, cloven and twice the size of a horse’s. Clinging to some of the willows were long, red hairs.

The coroner from Solomonsville who held an inquest was highly suspicious of the story. Except for the horribly battered state of the body and the remarkable hoofprints, he would have been convinced that the woman had been murdered, possibly by other members of the family. In the end, however, he permitted the jury to return a verdict of “death in some manner unknown,” and it was so reported in the Mohave County Miner , a weekly newspaper in Kingman, Arizona.

A few days later two prospectors washing for gold on Chase’s Creek, a tributary of the Rio San Francisco several miles northeast of Eagle Creek, were awakened in the middle of the night when their tent came smashing down on their heads. They heard, as they told it, a loud scream and a sound of pounding hoofs and saw what seemed to them an impossibly tall horse crash off into the brush. When they told their tale at the mining camp of Ore, several miners returned to the scene with them. Along the bed of the creek they found the prints of huge hoofs and through the brush leading off uphill a trail that had been broken by an obviously large animal. A few long red hairs clung to some of the bushes.

Although half a dozen miners corroborated these discoveries, which clearly coincided in details with the occurrence at the sheep ranch, the general reaction to the story was a skeptical grin. Tall tales told around the campfire were the favorite form of entertainment in those days, and the tellers soon seized on the Red Ghost, as they dubbed the mysterious animal, and embroidered on the meager accounts of his two appearances. One devotee of this game claimed that he had chased the beast and that it had eluded him by vanishing into thin air. Another reported that he had watched it kill and devour a grizzly.

About a month after the death of the ranch woman, however, the Red Ghost rematerialized in a form the tall-tale tellers had not dreamed of. The event took place near the Salt River some eighty miles northwest of Eagle Creek. A rancher named Cyrus Hamblin, out hunting for stray cattle, climbed a bare ridge to get a look around. Across the ravine below him was a tableland covered with dense chaparral. He could barely distinguish a huge reddish animal moving through the brush.

Hamblin later admitted that, despite the deep ravine separating him and this apparition, the hair rose a bit on the back of his neck. But he stayed to get a better look, and the animal gradually worked out into a fairly open space. Hamblin was able to relax. Although the distance was a good quarter of a mile, he recognized the beast beyond any possibility of doubt. It was a camel.

To most Americans, and even to most Arizonans, the discovery of a camel wandering in the wilderness would have been quite as startling as most of the invented stories about the Red Ghost. It happened that Hamblin had spent several years in the desert region of the southwestern part of the territory near the California border. He had never heard of camels in the high Salt River country, but he knew that in the desert they were, if not plentiful, by no means uncommon. He also could see that there was something more unusual about this camel than his choice of range. The hump on his back was topped by an oddly shaped burden. At the distance separating them, Hambliii was unable to see the burden clearly, but he reported that it looked to him like a man. And if it was a man, it seemed quite certain that he was not alive.

Hamblin’s reputation was so solid and his story so soberly circumstantial that most of it was widely accepted. It brought back to life a nearly forgotten bit of the West’s history and gave the more imaginative of the territory’s citizens something they could really go to work on. Soon the Red Ghost, or Fantasia Colorado as the Spanish-speaking settlers called it, was one of Arizona’s most famous inhabitants.

The one stispect item in Hamblin’s account was the matter of the burden on the beast’s back. Scoffers were convinced that it was merely the camel’s hump. But a few weeks after Hamblin’s experience, the Red Ghost turned up near the valley of the Verde River about sixty miles west of Hamblin’s ranch, and the scoffing ceased. This time a party of five prospectors sighted the animal feeding on a mesa, managed to get within what they considered shooting distance, and banged away. They either missed completely or merely grazed the animal, and it rapidly loped off out of range. As it departed, something fell from its back. The prospectors investigated and found, as the Mohave County Miner described it, “a human skull with a few shreds of flesh and hair still clinffinsf to it.”

This gruesome discovery firmly established the Red Ghost as a living legend. Its career in that role was to last nearly ten years. Since the only contemporary account of this career seems to be the one in the Miner , and since newspapers in those days were by no means slaves to facts, it may be that some of the details were improvised. Most of them were reported so circumstantially, however, that this is unlikely, and none was the kind of obviously farfetched fiction the more imaginative western editors commonly went in for. The latter also were not up to inventing the ferocious human malevolence toward animals involved in the story of the Red Ghost.

The Ghost’s career made a fitting conclusion to the pathetic history of the U.S. Army’s First (and only) Camel Corps. That history had begun hopefully enough, if rather belatedly, in March, 1855, when President Franklin Pierce’s Secretary of War, Jelferson Davis, persuaded Congress to appropriate thirty thousand dollars for the purchase of camels to be used by the Army in exploring the Southwest. Like most military innovations, this one had been proposed many years earlier. One of the explorers of the West, Major George H. Crosman, had formally recommended in 1836 that, since the chief desert problem was lack of water and since camels could go longer without it than horses or mules, the Army should experiment with the use of camels. It took the suggestion nineteen years to work its way up through channels.

When Davis finally got the money for the project, he sent Major Henry C. Wayne and Lieutenant David D. Porter to the eastern Mediterranean in a Navy storeship, the Supply , to buy the first camels. An experienced horse trader, Wayne took plenty of time investigating camel lore and studying the offerings in the camel markets of Alexandria and Smyrna. It was time well spent. All but one of the thirty-three animals he bought at an average of $250 apiece survived the tough, three-month voyage to fndianola, Texas, and two colts (camel young were so called in the King James version of the Bible, and the Americans adopted the term) were born on the trip.

Wayne and Porter also hired six Arabs and a Turk, the former as camel drivers and tutors to the Army’s muleteers, and the latter as a veterinary. Their remarkably bad judgment in these hirings foreshadowed the ultimate fate of the experiment. Apparently they assumed that since camels abounded in the Levant, any Levantine must be a camel expert. The Arabs were about as familiar with camels as the average city boy today is with horses, and the Turkish veterinary’s treatment for a sick camel, whatever the ailment, consisted of tickling the animal’s nose with the tail of a chameleon.

In the course of the long voyage, however, Wayne learned so much about camels and became so thoroughly convinced that they were potentially of great value to the Army that he refused to allow such mistakes to discourage him. After landing at Indianola on May 14, 1856, he sent Porter back to the Near East for another load and drove his charges overland to the Army’s Camp Verde, sixty miles northwest of San Antonio. Along the way he encountered an unanticipated difficulty—nearly every horse and mule they met bolted in terror at the sight of the beasts in his care. Since the horsemen and teamsters were enraged by this and placed all blame on the camels, it was clear to Wayne by the time he reached Camp Verde that his first task was to make converts to his point of view about the animals.

He set up a neat demonstration to that end. Assembling several of the already-hostile muleteers assigned to the experiment, he led out one of his best camels, commanded it to kneel, and loaded it with two big bales of hay, either of which would have been about as much as a mule could carry. Wayne then stepped back and surveyed the load as if afraid he might have gone too far. The onlookers muttered derisively that no animal could lift such a weight. Wayne let them convince themselves that he had made a mistake, then proceeded to add two more bales to the load. The muleteers were incredulous, and when the camel got up and strolled off at Wayne’s command, they cheered. It was the sole recorded occasion on which a mule skinner expressed approval of a camel.

Wayne’s only real convert was Lieutenant Edward F. Beale, one of the West’s most colorful heroes. Beale’s original commission was, oddly for a man identified chiefly with the western deserts, in the U.S. Navy, in which he had enlisted in 1836 at the age of fourteen. In 1846 he and Kit Carson had rescued the U.S. troops besieged near San Diego by crawling through the Mexican lines to bring help. Another of his famous exploits had been carrying the first gold from Sutler’s Mill in California overland to Washington, D.C.

During and after the Civil War he was to serve as a Union general and as minister to Austro-Hungary. He was the sort of man to whom new ideas appealed, and having resigned his Navy commission in 1851 to devote himself to western exploration, he accepted, at Wayne’s urging, an Army lieutenancy and appointment to the Camel Corps.

After several months of training with the camels, Beale was assigned to survey a route from Fort Defiance, New Mexico, to the eastern frontier of California, across the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona. For the expedition he chose twenty-five of the best camels from Wayne’s herd and from the additional forty-four brought in on the second trip by Porter. By the time he had completed the survey of what is now approximately the route of the western half of the famous highway, U.S. 66, he was convinced that the camel was the solution of the Southwest’s transportation problem.

“My admiration for the camels increases daily with my experience of them,” he wrote in the official report of the survey which he submitted in the spring of 1858. True, in his report Beale allowed his affection for the animal to influence him. He had become so fond of camels that he even learned a bit of Arabic on the theory that they might be homesick for that language. One big white camel, which stood eight feet high at the hump and which he called Seid, was his favorite mount, and he gave it more care than most frontiersmen gave their horses. But there was also undoubted justice in his claims for the camels. By careful experiment he had established that in nearly any kind of terrain to be found in the Southwest, three camels could carry on their backs as much as six mules could pull in a wagon and cover the ground nearly twice as fast. Furthermore, when the expedition forded the Colorado River from Arizona into California, all the camels swam it with ease, but a dozen horses and mules were swept away by the current and drowned. And, as a final test, at the end of the journey Beale took a dozen camels north from Los Angeles into the Sierra Nevada, and found them readily adaptable both to high altitudes and to cold weather.

All this finally convinced the War Department. In December, 1858, John B. Floyd, who had succeeded Jefferson Davis as Secretary of War, formally declared the experiment a success and recommended to Congress the importation of a thousand more camels. By then, however, Congress was too busy with the preliminaries to the Civil War to give the matter any consideration. This was fortunate for the animals that might have been brought over, since the camels already on hand were finding themselves strangers among men for whom strangeness justified utter barbarity.

Major Wayne and Lieutenants Beale and Porter seem to have been very nearly the only Americans who understood and valued the animals, and when war neared, all three were transferred to duty in the eastern part of the country. They left behind only three others who had any appreciation of the camels’ potential usefulness. These were three remarkable Levantines who had been signed on by Lieutenant Porter during his second and final camel-buying trip to the Near East. All of them apparently knew at least a little about camels when hired, were able to leafri more, and eventually became the Army’s most expert camel handlers. One was a Turk named Elias, who ultimately settled across the border in Sonora and whose son, Plutarco Elias Galles, was to become Mexico’s president and strong man in the igao’s. The other two, Georges Xaralampo, a Greek, and Hadji AIi, a cheerful Arab who came to be known affectionately as Hi Jolly, stayed with the Army for many years and tried repeatedly to convince others of the camel’s value. They had little success, but Hi Jolly became so widely known and so closely identified with his charges that Arizona officials eventually erected a commemorative monument over his grave and topped it with an effigy of a camel.

This was many years after the little Arab’s death, when the camels had become only a vague, colorful memory. Such a monument would have been inconceivable to the men whom Wayne, Beale, and their Levantine helpers tried to train as camel drivers. To nearly every cowhand and mule skinner who came in contact with them, the camels were incomprehensible abominations, and the feeling was mutual. Camels are among the most thoroughly domesticated animals, but they take knowing. To their North African and Asiatic owners they are of such value that they are treated with care and respect. Unlike the horses, mules, and cattle to whom the southwestern cowhands were accustomed, they have highly effective means of retaliating when they do not receive such treatment.

The legend of the old-time cowboy’s affection for his horse is in large part a Hollywood invention. Owen Wister included in the first draft of one of his stories an incident in which an enraged cowhand gouged out the eyes of a horse. He was begged by Theodore Roosevelt to delete the scene, not because it was unrealistic but because it might “encourage cruelty to animals.” Even sane riders often brutalized their mounts unmercifully. And mule skinners were so called with good reason; they were quite capable of removing bits of the animals’ hides with the weighted whips they used. But when anyone tried to treat camels in this way, he got back as good as he gave. There were many repetitions of a little set-to which took place at Camp Verde in Texas soon after the first camels arrived.

One of the Army muleteers was practicing loading a camel and piled on too much to suit the beast. It groaned and complained in the usual camel fashion and refused to rise. The muleteer kicked it in the belly. The camel turned its head and spat full in his face a huge and foul-smelling wad of cud. Wild with rage, the muleteer grabbed a club and swung at the animal’s head. The camel dodged easily, emitted a shrill, hair-raising scream, and raked the man’s arm to the bone with its great, tusklike incisors.

That encounter was the beginning of an unremitting war on the camels by the Army’s mule skinners. Nothing could have been better designed to enrage such men than the camels’ habit of spitting copiously and accurately on anyone rousing their resentment. This means of reprisal, together with the animals’ ways of moaning and groaning at being loaded and their seemingly haughty, disdainful expression, made many of those employed to handle them hate them to the point of obsession.

Besides hating the camels for their looks and lack of proper docility under harsh treatment, the cavalrymen despised them as foreign. This is ironic, because camels were American for millions of years before any member of the human family showed up in this hemisphere. The whole camel family, like the horse family, evolved here and spread to the eastern hemisphere via the then well-traveled land bridge from Alaska to Siberia a mere million years ago. One species of true camel persisted in California until fifteen thousand years ago, and the South American branch, which includes the llamas and vicunas, still flourishes. Some of the latter are the only members of the family still persisting in the wild state, all the Old World camels having long since submitted to the domestication process that began before the dawn of history.

By the time of his transfer to the East, Lieutenant Beale had come to realize that the men’s attitude toward the camels was the chief obstacle to his plans. Because he had become fond of the animals and had learned how to handle them, he knew that they could be, as he phrased it, “so quiet and docile that frequently we forget they are with us.” But he found it impossible to leave them with the men without his personal supervision. Even harsh punishment of teamsters caught mistreating the camels had little effect.

“The Americans of the class who seek such employment,” Beale wrote in a letter to Floyd, “are totally unfit for it, being for the most part harsh, cruel and impatient with the animals entrusted to their care.” He advised hiring Mexicans to manage the beasts.

But Beale soon was transferred, and his suggestion was ignored. His departure actually ended the experiment, although the Army took a while to make abandonment of it official. When he left, the camels were scattered among military posts from Texas to California, and the men unwillingly in charge of them had little trouble arranging for their “escape” a few at a time into the desert. When the project was formally abandoned in 1863, those left to be auctioned off in California numbered only thirty-odd.

Meantime, several San Francisco mining magnates had organized a company for the purpose of importing camels for use in Nevada. These men had heard something of the Army’s troubles with its camels and thought they had an explanation for it—namely, that the one-humped dromedary of the Near East that the Army had picked was the wrong kind of camel. The proper camel for the American West, they thought, was the two-humped Bactrian from the Mongolian deserts of the Far East. The records do not name the man who sold the mine owners this bill of goods. San Francisco abounded in confidence games in those days, and this was a minor operation. Its result was the importation from China of twenty Bactrians which were driven across the mountains to be put to work hauling salt from the southern Nevada marshes to the Virginia City refineries.

The profit motive quickly proved as ineffective as army discipline in restraining the reaction to the camels of the men hired to handle them. Although the Bactrians were a little stronger and heavier than Beale’s dromedaries and thus capable of bearing still bigger burdens, they were no less resentful of mistreatment. Once a teamster became enraged at one of the animals when it succeeded in ridding itself of most of what it considered an overload. The man grabbed the beast’s halter and attempted to beat it into submission as he would have beaten a mule. Instead of submitting, the camel went berserk and trampled him to death before his friends could shoot it.

This camel was the most fortunate of the imported Bactrians. Many of the others had to endure months of mistreatment before succumbing. Some of the mistreatment, however, was the result more of ignorance than of malice. To the camel handlers the legend that the animals store great quantities of water in their humps was a matter of unquestioned fact, and it meant that so long as the humps seemed intact the camels needed no watering. In all likelihood many of the Bactrians died of thirst.

The legend about water storage in the hump was imported with the camels from their Asian homes. Apparently Beale accepted it, too, but he and the Asian camel owners did not permit that belief to overrule their common sense. Their camels were of great value to them, and they knew from experience that even when the humps were big and firm the animals sometimes still needed water. Beale learned this through observation. His camels could go much longer than mules without water and on occasion would refuse it when offered, but at other times, even though their humps were in fine shape, they drank deeply.

The hump legend, or the alternative one that a camel stores water in one of its three stomachs, still is widely accepted. The latter is cited as fact in at least one recent and generally authoritative work on natural history. Only in the last decade have two young researchers in comparative physiology, Drs. Knut and Bodil Schmidt-Nielsen, a husband-and-wife team, finally uncovered the truth. The camel’s hump is fat and contains no extra moisture, and the supposed water in the little sacs lining one of its stomachs is digestive fluid. The true reasons for the camel’s abil… ity to go without drinking for an unusual period under certain conditions are two: its body temperature can T vary widely, and it can tolerate great dehydration.

In hot weather and under exertion, most mammals must lose moisture via perspiration in order to keep their body temperatures within a certain range. Evaporation of sweat has a cooling effect. A human being, for instance, functions properly only when his body stays within about one degree of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When outside temperature pushes it toward the upper limit, he perspires faster and loses more moisture to counteract the rise. A camel, on the other hand, instead of sweating to prevent a rise in its body’s temperature simply absorbs heat during the day and radiates it at night. Its temperature varies from 93 degrees in the predawn coolness to 104 degrees in midafternoon.

It still may have to sweat to some degree, though at a far slower rate than most other animals, in order to stay within the upper limit. If it carries heavy burdens during the heat of the day, it may lose sizable amounts of moisture. A man can stand losing water amounting to only about ten per cent of his body weight. A camel can lose water amounting to more than thirty per cent of its body weight without much accompanying loss of strength.

It is because it is adapted in these ways to desert life that the camel is able to carry heavy loads for as long as four days without water, as Beale accurately observed. Given lush, moist pasturage and comparatively cool weather, the animal has been known to go as long as four months without a drink, being able to obtain all the necessary water from the grass. But under the conditions in which they worked in Nevada, four days probably was near the limit. Pushed beyond that, some of the Bactrians fought wildly for their lives and were shot; others plodded stoically on until they collapsed and died.

With the death of the Bactrians, the dromedaries auctioned off by the Quartermaster at Benicia Arsenal in California and a few others that previously had strayed or been driven from army posts were the only remnants of the experiment still in Union territory. (Another group of the animals somehow survived the war behind Confederate lines in Texas but was quickly scattered afterwards among circuses and zoos.) The man who bought those auctioned at Benicia, Samuel McLeneghan, hired the little Arab, Hi Jolly, to help drive the animals to Nevada and tried to put them to the salt-hauling the Bactrians had been doing, but the freighters who had regained the contract for the work wanted no more camel competition. At their behest the state legislature outlawed the use of camels on public roads on the grounds that they frightened horses and mules. McLeneghan and Hi Jolly drove the animals back south to Yuma in the Arizona Territory where McLeneghan disappeared, leaving them on Hi Jolly’s hands. He managed to eke out a living for a while by using the camels to haul water out along the driest stretches of the wagon road where he could sell it to thirsty travelers, but he, too, gave up sometime in the late i86o’s and turned the animals loose.

Thereafter, the more fortunate of the camels were on their own. Since they were the product of several thousand years of domestication, being left to fend for themselves in the desert was a hard fate, but it was far better than what happened to those that occasionally were recaptured. Every now and then a group of prospectors or cowhands would run across a camel. In most cases they simply used it for target practice. Sometimes an enterprising freighter would make an abortive attempt to put a few of the beasts back to work. But inevitably, some of the animals fell into the hands of sadists who found more imaginative uses for them.

This was the apparent fate of the one which came to be known as the Red Ghost. It seems the only possible explanation of the burden it bore on its back. In the early days of the Ghost’s notoriety, it was generally believed that the corpse was that of a traveler who had tied himself there as he grew weak from thirst, hoping that the camel would take him to water. But when it ultimately became possible to examine the animal, it was found that the rawhide strips which had held the burden in place could not have been tied the way they were by the man who was that burden.

“The only question,” editorialized the Mohave County Miner , “is whether the man was tied on for revenge or merely as an ugly piece of humor by someone who had a camel and a corpse for which he had no use.”

The question, that is, was whether the man was still alive when lashed to the animal’s back. If he were still living, hatred of the camel presumably was not the sole motive for the exploit. It is a nice point and doubtless never will be settled. But whether the man was alive or dead, it is clear that whoever tied him on the camel was a white man. The Apaches and other Indians of the area had many practices that seem to us cruel, such as killing captured infants, but they would never have considered wasting such a supply of meat as a camel.

Whoever did the deed succeeded in making the camel suffer, but like most members of its species, it refused to suffer in silent resignation. Although it killed only once, it attacked human beings nearly every time it encountered them during the first months of its agony. One of the few occasions on which it fled instead of attacking was when it was fired on by the party of prospectors who sighted it near the Verde River. A few days later a freighter halted his string of wagons for the night on the banks of the Verde some miles to the north. There were several kegs of whiskey in the cargo, a fact that may help account for some of the details of the reports the freighter and his helpers later gave concerning the events of that night.

As they told it, they had unhitched and hobbled their mules and were bedded down for the night when the comfortable silence was abruptly rent by an unearthly scream. A great beast which they estimated to be at least thirty feet high flapped down into their midst on black wings that covered nearly the whole sky. Its landing jarred the ground like an earthquake and knocked over two of the wagons. Terrified men and mules scattered in all directions, including into the river. When the men crept back to their camp the next morning, the only bits of evidence they could find were the prints of huge, cloven hoofs and a few red hairs sticking to one of the overturned wagons.

It is possible that some other depredations attributed to the camel in the following months were the work of other animals, of pranksters, or of the imaginations of the victims. To it were laid such feats as breaking into isolated cabins, caving in mine entrances, and stampeding cattle or horses. Only the last seems likely: the sight or smell of a camel always panicked horses and mules even in broad daylight until they had spent enough time around the humped creatures to get used to them.

The last known occasion of a violent encounter between the Red Ghost and a man occurred nearly a year after the camel had trampled to death the woman at Eagle Creek. One evening just at dusk a cowhand employed on the Anchor-JOT ranch east of Phoenix happened to ride past a branding corral used only at roundup time. That time was a long way off, and the corral should have been empty. It wasn’t. The cowhand rode up to the corral’s open gate to investigate the odd animal browsing inside.

It happened that the man had his lariat out. When the animal in the corral caught sight of him and came charging out, he automatically lassoed it. Not until he had the rope around its neck did he realize that his quarry was a camel. There was no time then for regrets.

His horse either was extremely well-trained or simply had no chance to bolt. Instead, it reared on its hind legs and pirouetted as it had been taught to do in avoiding a roped steer. But the camel did not pass harmlessly by as any bovine would have done. It crashed head on into the off-balance horse, and mount and rider went down together. With scarcely a break in stride the camel passed over them and on into the night. But even in the moment of terror the cowhand noticed that the camel still bore on its back the remnant of a burden which once had been a man.

That was not only the camel’s last attack but also the last report of anyone’s noticing the grisly pack it bore. In all likelihood it was able to rid itself of the remainder soon after this. With it the Red Ghost lost the goad that had driven it to violence and the unmistakable evidence that distinguished it from others of its species. As the years passed, it faded slowly from terrifying reality into a story to frighten tenderfeet with.

If that had been the end of the matter, it probably would have been forgotten long since or classed as just another of the West’s tall tales. But almost ten years after first being noticed, the Red Ghost made a final appearance. The Mohave County Miner reported the incident on February 25, 1893.


Another ghost is laid. Another of the tribe of gaunt hobgoblins that keep the romance of the mysterious southern deserts is gone. Another of the unearthly dangers that the timid Mexican women used to pray against has departed.

Mizoo Hastings of Ore was the priest that exorcised this phantom. Mizoo has a ranch a little above the gold camp on the San Francisco River. He woke up one morning and saw through the window of his cabin a big red camel banqueting in his turnip patch. Mizoo took a dead rest on the window sill and blazed away. He got the camel.

When he went out to examine the beast, he found that he was all scarred up and had evidently had a very hard time. He was covered with a perfect network of knotted rawhide strips. They had been on him so long that some of the strands had cut their way into the flesh.

That also was very nearly the end of the story of the camel in the American desert—but not quite. One historian of the Southwest will assure you that the last authentic sighting of a camel was reported by a crew surveying the international boundary between Arizona and Mexico in 1901. Another is convinced that an Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe crew told the truth about seeing one near Wickenburg, Arizona, in 1913. A third is intrigued by reports of a camel’s stampeding horses near Banning, California, twenty-five miles west of Palm Springs, in 1929. In 1941 there was a report from the territory east of the Salton Sea. In 1957 I met a part-time prospector, part-time guide, and all-round desert rat who, although he himself had never seen one, was sure that camels still ranged deep in the burnt hills of Sonora and Baja California. These rumors are like ghosts of the Red Ghost, faint but lingering reminders of the kind of horror members of our species alone can perpetrate and of the remarkable powers of endurance of other forms of life.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.