In the spring of 1883, a Red Ghost was haunting Arizona. A peculiar and terrifying incident occurred in the southeastern corner of the Arizona Territory. Two women were left alone with their children in a small adobe house on Eagle Creek while the men of the family ventured out to assess the damage caused by the Apaches during their recent raid. Little did they know that the danger they faced that day would be far more unusual than any human threat.
The Initial Encounter
On that fateful morning, one of the women went to fetch water from the nearby spring. Shortly after, the barking of the house dog drew the attention of the other woman, who witnessed a horrifying sight. She described the creature she saw as red, enormous, and ridden by a devil. Paralyzed by fear, she barricaded the door and spent the day in desperate prayer. When the men returned later that night, they discovered the lifeless body of the second woman near the spring, bearing the marks of trampling hooves twice the size of a horse’s.
The local coroner, initially suspicious of the story, conducted an inquest. Despite the gruesome condition of the body and the peculiar hoofprints, he would have suspected foul play if not for the lack of evidence. Eventually, the jury returned a verdict of “death in some manner unknown,” which was reported in the Mohave County Miner, a weekly newspaper in Kingman, Arizona.
The Growing Legend
A few days later, two prospectors in a nearby mining camp had a bizarre encounter. They were awakened in the middle of the night when their tent collapsed upon them, and they witnessed a towering horse-like creature disappearing into the brush. These prospectors, accompanied by others from the camp, discovered large hoofprints along Chase’s Creek and found long red hairs clinging to the bushes. Although some dismissed their claims as tall tales, the legend of the Red Ghost began to spread.
Around a month after the initial incident, a rancher named Cyrus Hamblin stumbled upon the Red Ghost near the Salt River, about eighty miles northwest of Eagle Creek. From a distance, Hamblin recognized the animal with certainty—it was a camel. The hump on its back appeared to bear a burden, possibly a lifeless body. Hamblin’s eyewitness account gained credibility, reigniting public interest in the Red Ghost.
The Gruesome Revelation
The skeptics were silenced when a group of prospectors encountered the Red Ghost near the Verde River, sixty miles west of Hamblin’s ranch. They attempted to shoot the creature but failed to hit it. As the animal retreated, something fell from its back—a human skull with remnants of flesh and hair still clinging to it. This macabre discovery solidified the Red Ghost’s status as a legendary figure in Arizona.
The Red Ghost continued its mysterious existence for nearly a decade, captivating the imaginations of the territory’s inhabitants. However, the tale of the Red Ghost intertwined with the ill-fated history of the U.S. Army’s Camel Corps. The Camel Corps had been established in 1855 to explore the Southwest. However, due to various challenges and misjudgments, the experiment ultimately failed. The discovery of the Red Ghost marked the dramatic conclusion of this particular chapter in military history.
More than likely, a tired, sick, dead, or scared soldier was lashed to the camel. Sometime after the soldier was lashed to the camel, the camel escaped. From that point onward the camel roamed southern Arizona, scaring the crap out of people who didn’t have much experience with camels. Some of the eyewitnesses may have never even seen a camel. This leads to some of the descriptions listed above.
The legend of the Red Ghost, an enigmatic camel haunting the Arizona Territory, continues to intrigue and fascinate. From the initial encounter to the gruesome discoveries, this tale has left a lasting mark on the folklore of the region.