Mysterious lights flitted through the deserted mining camp. A phantom dog howled and rocks flew.
by Charles C. Stemmer
On Lynx Creek, 15 miles southeast of Prescott, Yavapai County, Ariz., is a deserted gold mining camp called Howells. In 1885 it had a lawless population of 2,500 and there were many killings. These appear to have set the stage for a variety of weird phenomena which have been witnessed by other persons beside myself.
In its heyday Howells was strung out along Lynx Creek for about a mile. The canyon through which the creek flows, its tributaries and the hills all around were rich with gold. At the lower end of the settlement was a smelter 100 feet wide and 225 feet long.
The west side of the canyon had been excavated to make room for the structure and a yard about 100 feet wide that covered the space between the building and the edge of the canyon. The yard ended at the lower end of the smelter. Opposite the site of the furnaces, in the canyon below, several thousand tons of slag had been dumped.
By 1936 all that remained of the community were the ruins of the smelter, the slag dump at the bottom of the canyon and the old graveyard a short distance above the smelter and behind a low hill. Some miners built three small houses about a quarter of a mile above the smelter and in line with these houses was a CCC camp known as Fly-camp 62-A. In order to reach the three houses and the ruins below it was necessary to travel the road leading from Walker Post Office to Prescott.
At this time a man named Ray Parker and I were prospecting for gold in the neighborhood. Parker, his wife Thelma and their four children occupied the three houses. Whenever I could get away from my tasks Parker and I went prospecting. I was keeping company with Bessie Howard whom I later married. She often accompanied me on my visits to the Parkers.
On the evening of June 9, 1936, Bessie and I went to the Parkers as usual. Parker and I left and went 300 feet down the canyon by a zig-zag trail to a point below the level of the old smelter site. When it grew dark Parker and I sat on the floor of the canyon to talk over our findings.
Since the elevation at this point is over 6,000 feet above sea level, it grows cold at night, even in summer. Thelma Parker, accompanied by her four-year-old son and Bessie came down the trail to the lower end of the smelter site and called to us. Thelma had brought Parker’s coat to him. We told the women we would be up in a few minutes.
While they waited the small boy tugged at Bessie’s dress and asked her to see a light on the east side of the canyon. She saw it and called our attention to it. It looked like a mirror and had a phosphorescent glow. It was about 400 feet above us and a little down the hills from where we were.
We went to the spot and as we got there the light traveled from its resting place up the canyon maintaining the same distance from the bottom. We followed it to a rock where it stopped, looking like gob of pink jelly. I made a grab for it and it went 200 feet straight up the east slope of the canyon and stopped. When I climbed up there it went back to the rock where I had tried to grab it. While in motion it looked like the red tail light on an auto. It became so cold that we decided to give up the chase. We built a cairn, No. 1, at the point where I made a grab for the light and then we crossed the canyon to where the women were standing and built cairn No. 2. Then we returned to the Parker home.
We returned the next evening before darkness and stayed until about 11 p.m. We saw rocks leave the ground without visible aid and saw them hurtle through the air with great force. The red light was present again as on the night before. In addition to these phenomena we heard a long, spine-chilling whistle and the baying of a phantom dog. These happenings appeared to take place in an area of the canyon a mile and a half long. The whistling, the baying and the hurling of rocks became almost routine. But each night there was some variation of phenomena. Some of the rocks were small while others were several inches across. At times small stones struck us harmlessly and fell to the ground. The general direction of the missiles was from the west side of the canyon to the east.
The ruin of an old cabin stood about 150 feet down the trail from the end of the smelter site toward the bottom of the canyon. The stone foundation and chimney were all that remained. Placing flat rocks here for seats, we used this as a headquarters throughout our investigation of phenomena. The rocks were spaced so that four of us could sit close together with the fifth about eight feet from the others.
Early in July, 1936, a man named Rufino Chiarra associated himself with us. He built a shoo-fly of wood and sheet iron at the upper end of the old ruin which contained his bed and a few belongings. He did his cooking on an improvised outdoor fireplace. In going to our rendezvous each night, we passed his abode. We asked him if the flying rocks bothered him and he said, “So long they don’t hit me, it is all right.”
Chiarra told us that one night when the din was especially loud he woke to see 13 different colored lights around his bed. He said he told them to “get to hell out of here and leave me alone.” They formed a line and like a torchlight procession filed off down the dump yard between smelter and canyon and disappeared one by one into the canyon.
On Saturday night, July 11, 1936, Parker, Thelma, Bessie and I went down to an old arrastra (a device used in the early days to grind ore so the gold could be recovered). Parker and I leaned against a tree while Bessie sat with her feet overhanging the arrastra. Thelma sat next to her. Rocks were flying, the red light moved about on the east side of the canyon and we all heard the baying of the dog. Bessie and Parker saw the dog and described it as large, black and shaggy. Suddenly Parker said, “There comes that dog!” and Bessie said, “Yes, he is coming right at us!”
I heard a rush through the air and Parker screamed in terror as the dog attacked him. It bit him on the right hand. I turned my flashlight on Parker and saw that the back of his hand was covered with blood. Parker was pale and trembling. I told him to wipe the blood off on his trousers. He did and no marks of any kind were visible on his hand. This ended our investigations that night.
On the evening of July 19, 1936, Parker, Thelma, Bessie and I went down the canyon after dusk and sat in our usual place. We had heard the whistle, the baying of the dog and witnessed the hurtling rocks. We saw a red light across the canyon almost an eighth of a mile above us. It moved about 150 feet above the canyon floor along the east side and it swung jerkily like a lantern being carried by a person walking over rough terrain. Only the red light was visible and as it made its way slowly down the canyon there was the sound of heavy boots grinding and slipping on rocks. It progressed slowly and when it was about 150 feet from us I played my flashlight on it. We all saw a figure that looked like a human being in a dark, heavy cloak. Thelma screamed.
About this time a frightened voice from the canyon depths almost below us shouted, “Parker, where are you?” Bessie said, “He’s here.”
One of the CCC boys, Rufus Blanchard, had gone to see Parker at his home. Parker’s children told him Parker was down the canyon so he followed the floor of the canyon to where we heard him call out. Then the grinding of his shoes mingled with the grinding and slipping of the shoes of the phantom.
I played my flashlight on Blanchard as he approached us. He was a tall youth, over six feet, and he was pale and trembling. He said, “I would not come down that canyon again for a thousand dollars.” He told us he had been stoned all the way down. He paced back and forth in a small area while we returned our attention to the red light across the canyon. It was then a little above us but still on the opposite side.
Bessie, in a spirit of bravado, said to it, “I dare you to come over here.” I chided her for this as she was dealing with unknown forces. Again I played my flashlight on it and Thelma screamed and asked me not to do that. The light soon arrived at Cairn No. 1 from which it began a zig-zag course down into the bottom of the canyon about 100 feet to our left as we faced the east side. When it got to the bottom it followed the floor of the canyon until it was directly below us and then it came straight toward us.
I played my flashlight on it and, suspended in midair, about 50 feet from us, was a figure in a black cloak with a cape and the tri-cornered hat of a priest. He was facing us and holding a red light to his eyes as if it were binoculars. I said, “In the name of Jesus Christ, what do you want or what can we do for you?” The figure did not move or reply. I then said, “If there is nothing we can do for you, perhaps you had better be on your way.” The figure turned in a normal manner and sped up the canyon in the direction from which it came, disappearing as a red light.
I was seated on the south end of the group with the flashlight in my left hand. Bessie sat next to me, Thelma sat next to her and Parker sat at the end. Blanchard was still pacing. I felt a vicious jab on my right shoulder. I swung my flashlight around and saw the red light stationary over the lower end of the smelter ruin. I spotlighted it and saw another figure, dressed as people did 200 years ago. He seemed to be a shepherd, old and bent, leaning on a strange looking crook and looking straight at us with the most beautiful eyes I ever have seen. He had a full white beard, a white slouch hat with holes in it through which white hair protruded and on the band around his hat was what appeared to be a silver buckle. I repeated what I had told the other phantom and he turned around and disappeared.
I found Bessie in the arms of Blanchard, both terror-stricken. Thelma had fainted and Parker was white and speechless. We’d all had enough for that night.
On Sunday, August 9, 1936, Bessie and I arrived at the Parkers at dusk and found Rufino Chiarra there. He asked to accompany us down the canyon and we consented.
Parker, Thelma, Bessie, Chiarra and I walked down to the old cabin. On the way Chiarra picked up an oaken club. I asked him what he wanted it for and he said, “If that spook makes any trouble, I may need it.”
It was still quite light as we seated ourselves in the usual close group of four, with Chiarra a few feet away. Just as we sat down we all saw Chiarra’s hat leave his head and go flying down the canyon. He cried, “My hat! My hat!” and went in pursuit.
The hat dropped and Chiarra picked it up and returned to his seat. He placed the hat under him and said, “Now I bet that spook won’t get it.” But an instant later the hat disappeared. None of us saw it go and several minutes’ search failed to reveal it.
Chiarra gave up, sat down, then suddenly arose and began beating the air furiously. I asked, “What is the matter, Rufino?” He said, “That spook pulled my hair and pinched me.”
Bessie played her flashlight around and suddenly she told Rufino, “There is your hat.” It was rammed into a bush 60 feet above us. Rufino retrieved the hat and buttoned it inside his shirt.
It grew cold and we decided to quit for the night. We walked single file along the upward trail, Bessie, myself, Thelma, Parker and Rufino Chiarra, in that order. We had gone only a short distance when Bessie turned her flashlight on us and asked where Parker was. None of us had noticed him leave but he was nowhere in sight.
We searched for 10 minutes and over 50 feet from the trail we found Parker, in sort of a stupor, lying alongside a boulder. I shook him and asked how he got there. He could give no explanation. We again formed in line to ascend the trail. I told Thelma to take Parker’s hand and Rufino to watch him. We were about halfway up when Bessie again turned her beam on us and found Parker missing.
Thelma said, “I have him by the hand.” Then she discovered his absence and screamed.
Rufino said, “I see him, then I don’t see him.”
Again we searched for Parker and after 15 minutes we saw a red light, like those used by trainmen, which apparently was signalling us from 250 yards away. When we went to where the light beckoned us it disappeared and we found a circular corral made of brush arranged so the butts and branches all pointed toward the center of the circle.
The enclosure was about eight feet in diameter and four feet high around the outer edge, the leaves and pine needles dry but still clinging to the brush. In the center lay Parker, semi-conscious. He could not have left us and gotten into the corral without some crackling of twigs and leaves—but there he was.
We got him out and for the third time began the ascent of the trail. When Bessie reached the top of the dump she played her flashlight over us and again we found Parker missing. Thelma and Rufino were dumbfounded. Thelma insisted she had been keeping a strong grip on Parker’s hand and Rufino, who had been watching Parker closely, had not seen him leave.
Since we feared that our batteries would give out we gathered beside a “shaker” used in placer mining. This consisted of a pine box six feet deep, the same in length and width and topped with an 18-foot pole flush with one end of the box and protruding over the other for 12 feet. The whole structure was solidly built and set on wooden runners. As we debated whether to call on the lieutenant in charge of the CCC Camp and have his boys help find Parker, the shaker rose about 18 inches off the ground and for several seconds shook violently. None of us had touched the thing.
As we proceeded toward the Parker home we heard a faint call. It was hard to locate. We finally decided it came from above the old smelter and returned to the ruined cabin. About 50 feet back from the ruin we found Parker. I asked him how he got there. He told us two dark figures lifted him from our midst and placed him gently where we found him. He said he had been unable to utter a sound.
As we were climbing down over the smelter ruins Bessie said, “Here comes that dog again!” Parker said, “Yes, and he is after me.”
We heard the sound of the attack but only Parker and Bessie saw the animal. It bit Parker on the right hand. He wiped the blood off on his trousers and again there were no marks from the bite.
We resumed our journey but after a few yards there was a loud slap and Thelma was boosted several feet off the ground, screaming. A moment later I felt something touch my right hand. I played my flashlight on my hand and found a V written in blood. I wiped it off and no marks remained.
Rufino Chiarra had buttoned his hat inside his shirt but when we arrived at his shoo-fly we found the hat hanging on a nail at the head of his bed. His shirt was still buttoned.
Bessie and I visited the Parkers again on September 19, 1936, and walked down the trail with Parker and Thelma. As we arrived at Chiarra’s shoo-fly the sight of his suit case and cooking utensils all packed for removal made me ask questions. Parker said something had dragged Chiarra from bed and down over the dump onto the slag pile below. Chiarra was bruised so badly that he had to see a doctor.
I remained in town that night and the next morning I met Chiarra on the street. He had a scar two inches long on the left side of his forehead. He said, “The spooks take me out from my bed and drag me down the canyon and hurt me. No, I don’t go out there, only to get my things.”
Many others visited the smelter to witness the phenomena. None would sign affidavits as to what they saw—but neither would they return to the spot. As the season progressed the phenomena subsided. On November 21, 1936, Bessie and I went alone to the lower end of the old smelter and as it was very cold we built a fire while waiting for something to happen. Suddenly we heard a roaring sound and saw the branches of a pine tree about 45 feet tall and 200 feet away begin bending from the top downward so that the lower branches were bending as the upper ones resumed their former position. Bessie said a woman dressed in white seemed to slide from the top to the bottom of the tree and disappear. We had seen the woman in white at least twice before.
We did not visit this locality any more in 1936. We have made occasional trips to the smelter since then but there are no further demonstrations.