Time for another ghost story on a winter's night and this time it's the Red Ghost of Quartzsite in Arizona.
The story starts in the 1880s with sightings of what was described as a giant red horse with a devil on its back. Around 1883 at a lonely ranch at Eagle Creek near the Arizona-New Mexico border, a woman was stomped to death by a strange-looking red-haired beast with a devilish-looking creature strapped on its back. A few days later a party of prospectors was awakened to thundering hoofs and terrifying screams stampeding through their campground. A week later what was now being called the Red Ghost struck again, this time flipping over two freight wagons.
At the scene of each event were signs of the creature: enormous hoof marks larger than any horse, and strands of red hair. All the witnessed were agreed on one thing however: the creature had a human skeleton attached to its back.
Tales of the Red Ghost continued for several years but it was finally solved when a farmer discovered a large reddish-coloured camel grazing on his land. Knowing its fearsome reputation, the farmer shot it dead. However when he examined to camel, he noticed its back was badly scarred from rawhide straps that had been used to strap something to its back – and if the bones still caught up with strapping were any clue, it had been the body of a man.
The Red Ghost, it transpired, was a straggler from a US Army experiment to set up a Camel Corps in the American Southwest. The project had begun in the late 1850s but then the Civil War intervened and the area was occupied by Confederate troops until 1865 after which the project was wound up and the US Army opted to stick with horses and mules. Most of the camels were rounded up and sold but some roamed free for many years including the reddish-coloured camel that gave rise to the Red Ghost story.
Well that’s one mystery solved but nobody can explain the corpse strapped to its back. Who was he? We don’t know. How did he get there? We don’t know. How did he die? We also don't know.
Quartzsite is on Interstate 10 and is a popular winter camping area for RV vandwellers. It’s tourist attractions include a gum museum featuring a large collection of chewing gum wrappers and the burial site of Hadji Ali, popularly known as Hi Jolly. Jolly was citizen of the old Ottoman Empire hired by the US Army to lead the camels during the Camel Corp experiment. He continued to live in Quartzsite after the camel experiment ended, dying in 1902. A monument was later erected over his grave, taking the form of a stone pyramid topped with a metal camel. The town now also has a steel sculpture, made of old car wheels, commemorating the Red Ghost.
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