red ghost

Occasionally I come across references to a story that supposedly happend in Arizona in the 1800’s.
The army (or some orginization) imported camels as work animals, but they (the camels) didn’t work out and were let loose in the desert.
According to the legend (or the version I heard), some drunk guys strapped a dead guy on one of the camels as a goof. The animal got loose and terrified the locals for years, both from a distance (a spooky sight) and up close (stampeding people).
Books I’ve read about Arizona sometimes mention the story, but they don’t verify it.
So I leave it to you guys… is this a true story or a tall tale?

There was a vaquero in the late 1800s whose body had been tied to a horse and subsequently “rode the range” for a while. (I believe he was an outlaw who had crossed his gang, and they killed him and added insult to injury by refusing to bury him.) He freaked a more than a few people out, mainly because he’d been shot at several times by frightened ranchers and such with no visible effect. Finally a posse was formed to track the “ghost” down; they shot the horse and discovered the secret of the “ghost.” Dunno about the camels; never heard that in connection with this legend.

I got the above from a Reader’s Digest compendium of weird and unusual facts, so take it for what it’s worth.

They shot at him with no visible effect? Wouldn’t the horse run off?

I imagine he meant no visible affect on the person riding the horse, e.g. moaning, clutching of the chest or falling off the horse writhing in pain. Now, when they shot the horse, there was a real visible affect there.

The Dave-Guy
“since my daughter’s only half-Jewish, can she go in up to her knees?” J.H. Marx

Thanks for covering my six, Dave.

I read about the camel story in a “big book of urban legends” type thing I had when I was a kid. Some of the stories in there have subsequently been disproven, so I don’t know how accurate it was, but the original poster got the gist of it right according to the version I read. I don’t remember the name of the book; it was geared towards 12-year olds.

What?! You mean you and I, relying on memory and research books geared toward juveniles, have come to different conclusions regarding a posted question? This is not good. Under the traditional rules of engagement on the board, aren’t we now required to battle to the death? Or at least impugn each other’s belief system and/or heritage?

Actually, I’d imagine that it was precisely because of the “visible effect” on the horse that a scenario like this could occur (if it did). If the horse didn’t take off like a shot, the shooters likely would have got close enough to discover the corpse’s state right away.

And in deference to Sauron’s well-taken point about the traditional means of discourse on discussion boards, let me add that all your belief systems and heritages suck and you’re all thoroughly lousy, embittered and ignorant individuals who are vastly inferior to myself. (<— IRONY alert, please do not take seriously)

Sauron wrote:


I did mention that my source had been proven wrong on a few other things, so I wasn’t making any definitive claims regarding its accuracy. However, if it’s a mud-slinging fight you want, Sauron, I’m up for it…

Your userid indicates that you are a dark evil wizard, while mine indicates that I’m the Goddess of Discord. I think Goddess rank beats Wizard rank, but I’m not sure about that. Anyway, the Goddess of Discord seeks only to stir up controversy, which can ultimately lead to enlightenment. Sauron, on the other hand, is just plain EEEEVIL Which fits with some other information quite nicely…

Your user profile says you’re in advertising. Thus, you deal in half-truths, exaggerations, and sometimes blatant lies. Everyone knows you can’t trust advertisers.
I, on the other hand, am a technical writer. Despite snarky comments from idiot users, technical writers strive to present the truth in a clear, readable form. At the very least, technical writers can be said to be less willfully misleading than advertisers. Thus, given the information we (as members of this MB) have available to us, I must be more trustworthy than you. (Who needs belief systems or heritage? If you work in advertising, nobody needs to look any further than that to impugn you!)

Your evil advertising ways will fail, Sauron! Truth will prevail!

You WOUND me, madam.

How can you take potshots at the wonderful world of advertising? We’re the industry that has given you such noteworthy events as the Canadian Club “Find the Case” campaign, the “Don’t Squeeze the Charmin” campaign, the “I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing” campaign … hmmm. I may be shooting myself in the foot here.

Oh, well, when in doubt, attack. Yes, I deal in lies and half-truths intentionally. I am occasionally “willfully misleading.” But geez, does that mean you technical writers are actually TRYING to be clear and concise when you write that crap? Aren’t you the folks who have given us the EZ guides to programming your VCR?

I used to have such high regard for you, Eris. But a technical writer … man. That one’s gonna take some digesting. (I still think you’ve got a cute font, though.)

Hey, I’m just cute generally :slight_smile:

Regarding the VCR thing - the reason those things are so hard to understand is because they were written by people in a different country (Japan, Hong Kong (China), Korea, take your pick) who were probably actually engineers, not writers. The instructions were then translated into English. Hence peculiar instructions such as “When plugged in VCR, water take cautions that not inserted.”

I write software manuals. (If you REALLY care, go to and download, say, a document on digital signatures. I can’t claim that it will be thrilling reading for those of you not interested in Internet forms development software. Nonetheless, it is clearly written and I’m pretty sure that it’s not at all misleading.

Oh this is so off-topic, isn’t it? Sorry.

Anyway, Sauron, technical writers may not be respected as much as we should be, but at least we’re not despised and reviled for playing a large role in the decline of western civilization.

Oh, and just to get back on topic: found a web page for a book detailing the use of camels in the US:[\url].

Seems I was right all along. smirk.

bloody stupid rotten tags that don’t work god damn it grrr

Sorry about that.

Whoa up there a minute, Eris. The book you cite does mention camels in the West and such, but it doesn’t say specifically that a dead guy was strapped on to the back of one of the rogues. Whereas MY partially remembered legend covered that aspect of things quite nicely.

Tell you what. We’ll declare it a draw. EEEEvil dark wizard withdraws with as much dignity as he can muster, at least until he remembers to bring the damn book to work so he can more properly reference the legend he thinks he remembers.

Ok. Not fair, though, 'cause you still have your book. I’ll have to e-mail my sister and ask her to look for mine at my mom’s house, although I strongly suspect it was sacrificed to the garage-sale gods many years ago. I might actually have to do (GASP) real research - as opposed to typing in +Arizona +camel +legend into

Just so I’m clear on this, you’re saying that the Legend of the Red Ghost was caused by a dead guy strapped to a horse, and I’m saying that the same legend was caused by a dead guy strapped to a camel, right? What happens if strapping dead guys to mobile mammals was the prank of choice for drunken frontiersmen all over Arizona? The 19th century equivalent of, say, a jello-ed bathtub on April fools? (You can see it, can’t you… Billy and Big Joe were sittin’ around the campfire, mighty pissed off at Clem cause he’d stuck rattlesnakes in their bedrolls…they decided to teach ol’ Clem a lesson, so they shot ‘im dead, an’ started to strap ‘im to ol’ Barney the horse, only ol’ Barney, he got spooked 'n run off, so they wuz stuck with this funny-lookin varmint what had et their supply of dates…)

You know, this Red Ghost legend works on so many different levels.

Found my book last night and read up on the story (although I forgot to bring the stupid thing to work so I could reference it as I type). The “facts” (I use the term loosely for two reasons: 1) The book in question, after all, is a Reader’s Digest “Facts and Fallacies” compendium, not exactly the world’s foremost authority on Red Ghosts, and 2) The story is VERY sketchy on details) are as follows:

The incident involving the dead guy strapped to a horse (a semi-wild mustang) occurred in southwest Texas, not Arizona. A horse thief stole some horses (naturally) from a guy who wasn’t one to just forgive and forget. (They gave the names of both men involved, but I’ve forgotten them.) The guy got some buds together and they chased the horse thief across much of Texas, finally catching him and killing him. One of the men (named Bigfoot Somethingorother) supposedly suggested the novel method of paying last respects to the dead man. However, he added one grisly touch: He decapitated the corpse and tied the head to the pommel of the saddle. Then they sent the mustang off into history. Nowhere, though, did the term “Red Ghost” rear its ugly head.

Sounds like two separate legends have gotten mixed together, Eris – the camels in Arizona and the dead thief riding the range in Texas. What say you?

I think you’re probably right on that. All it takes to mix up two or more legends is a couple of people telling stories under the influence of a bottle of hootch.

OK, we’ll call it a resolution. Your explanation sounds logical and I keep forgetting to ask my sister to look for my book.

I have “Outdoors in Arizona - A Guide to Camping” (an Arizona Highways Book) right here in front of me. Featured throughout the book are a number of “Around the Campfire” stories. One of these is titled “The Legend of Red Ghost.” It appears that this is actually based on fact but has some embellishments. Indeed, the rest of the “Around the Campfire” features are actually more or less Arizona history lessons. JKB is pretty much in concurrence with the article. It states that

“The US Army introduced camels to the Southwest back in the 1850s, using them as beasts of burden while surveying a road across northern Arizona.” (must’ve been I-40 - Strainger)

This was interupted by the Civil War, and most of the camels were sold at auctions although a number of them were set free.

It talks about a few sightings of “The Red Ghost,” starting in 1883. In almost all cases, the camel makes a mess of things and leaves “cloven-hoof prints - much too big to be a horse’s” leading away from the destruction. In one instance, a woman was trampled to death. Many witnesses saw that it was merely a camel with a rotting corpse on its back. Some prospectors that saw it shot at it, but missed. The camel bolted.

The legend finally ends. The last sighting occurs in 1892 in eastern Arizona. A rancher woke up, saw the “Red Ghost” grazing in his garden and shot it with his Winchester, killing it instantly. Upon examination, he found that

“…the animal’s back was heavily scarred from rawhide strips that had been used to tie down the body of a man. Some of the leather strands had cut into the camel’s flesh. But how the human body came to be attached to the back of the camel remains a cruel mystery.”

That’s all I know.

“I wept because I had no shoes, then I met a man with no feet. So I took his shoes” - Dave Barry

Zowee! I was right! Capitulation revoked, Sauron - nyah, nyah!

I will now return to being an adult.

Wait a minute! Because we were both right, you’re going to renege on this fragile peace accord we’d reached? For shame, Eris. Although I suppose I shouldn’t expect anything less from someone who would put ketchup on eggs.

You know, Sauron, if you’re going to try to guilt someone into doing stuff, you shouldn’t then insult them in the next sentence. I fail to see how putting ketchup on eggs connects in any way, shape or form with breaking peace accords. And in any case, my motive for peace was a lack of information. That lack has been removed, therefore my motive for peace has been removed. My natural tendency towards discord is re-establishing itself, and I’m left to wonder, with no small amount of suspicion, exactly WHY you would want to make peace…

But I think The Case of the Red Ghost has been successfully resolved, and if you’d like to continue our little slander-fest, then how about we head on over to the “French Toast” thread? Seems that there’s a bit more fodder for background and personality-related mudslinging there.

What do you put on your eggs - peanut butter?