Typical of a Dutchman hunter to keep quiet, but his mother found his behavior illogical.

"I could see him being secretive, in general, but I can't imagine him being that secretive with his parents," she says. "That's just going to remain a mystery."

Capen was, his mother says, perhaps too right-brained for his own good. A lifelong bachelor who'd been diagnosed as bipolar, he was a high school dropout who scored near the top of his class on his SATs. He was a responsible sort, never having missed a day of work in 11 years on the same job. His co-workers called him "The Gentle Giant," his mother says. A night manager at the Sheraton Downtown Denver said the hotel has a strict policy forbidding employees from commenting on Capen, though why is anyone's guess. Capen was overweight — at least he appeared that way in the driver's license photo that circulated after he went missing — but he carried an immense amount of gear to the campsite from which he disappeared.

And rescuers have hiked up to the campsite where Capen's empty tent was located.
Jamie Peachey
And rescuers have hiked up to the campsite where Capen's empty tent was located.
Ron Feldman's family re-opened a mine dug in Tonto National Forest after studying notes left by Ted Cox.
Courtesy of Ron Feldman
Ron Feldman's family re-opened a mine dug in Tonto National Forest after studying notes left by Ted Cox.

Jesse left for Arizona before Thanksgiving, telling his mom he'd be back before Christmas and promising to try to call her a few times if he could. The first call Burnett and Jesse's father, her ex-husband, got from Arizona was from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. Capen's parents came out to Arizona on December 24 and went back to Denver on New Year's Eve, having been questioned by searchers and given a helicopter tour of the area, which is in both Pinal and Maricopa counties.

All that is known about Jesse's activities in Arizona comes from what was found in his apartment and from reports offered by people he talked to, like the owner of the Apache Junction Motel, where Capen stayed before heading into the bush. Maybe it was the new, anti-anxiety medication he'd recently been prescribed, but Capen was chatty, stopping by Apache Junction's museums and historical society, which had helped him acquire out-of-print Dutchman books, and buying a soda at The Blue Bird Mine general store.

Those who met him say, like old Adolph Ruth, Capen showed no signs of worrying about the dangers of the area. His mother doesn't understand that. The fact that Jesse went in without a gun — and actually hadn't even thought to bring a knife — bothers her.

"It's not television danger. It's real danger. I don't know if he thought he was different, that it wasn't going to happen to him . . . but if I had read those books, I would have been frightened out of my mind going out there."

Part of her thinks he may have had some idea what he was getting into.

"The last few months [before he left], he kept telling me that he loved me and appreciated me. And he didn't say a lot of things like that . . . I don't know if that was a coincidence, or if he knew the danger he was going into, like he might not see me again."


Teton Ken is today's version of the Lost Dutchman. An actor who specializes in depicting the fabled miner, Teton certainly looks the part, having grown a gray beard so bushy it obscures most of his facial expressions. He lives in a trailer that doubles as a staging ground for his act, moving it from one area tourist trap to another. He's the sort of grubby old coot whom kids love and yuppie parents watch with a wary eye.

Teton, who's given name is Ken Eddy, has lived in Apache Junction for a decade and embodies the city's attitude toward the Dutchman myth, literally and figuratively. He plays the part of ol' Jacob Waltz at community events while privately regarding the Dutchman stories with bemused detachment.

Actually, Teton doesn't just play up the myth for the kids who stop by his trailer for story time and a mule ride. Like a lot of locals with experience in the Superstitions, he's been known to guide full-grown men into the bush on treasure-hunting expeditions. For a fee, of course.

"The number-one rule is, we stick to the proven trails," he says.

Trails that any real Dutchman hunter will tell you lead toward nothing. On the other hand, sticking to such trails is a good way to make it out alive — which is Teton Ken's main goal.

So, seeing how he is the Lost Dutchman (even on the cover of this issue) maybe Teton has some insight into the legend. Geologically, there shouldn't be any gold in them hills, at least not a huge deposit in the heart of the range, as Dutchman hunters believe. It's not that there's no gold in the general area — in fact, millions of dollars' worth has been pulled from the nearby hills, and a few pieces of gold-lined quartz show up in the Superstitions from time to time. A mine fitting the Dutchman's description, though, doesn't appear possible. But might there be one rich vein?

Teton pauses.

"Let me put it to you this way: There could have been a fluke."

There are some true believers in Apache Junction, a town of 40,000 people living in gated trailer parks. Signs all over the town bear the bearded image of Jacob Waltz — there's even a Lost Dutchman laundromat. But while people on Pinal County's western edge are steeped in — and financially tied to — the legend, there's skepticism.

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8 comments
sherrycook007
sherrycook007

My brother, a friend & myself took a hike in the superstition mountains once back in 1971. we had barely started walking when we saw this rocket ship @ the top of a cliff (we thought, a space ship - someone must

b playing a joke). We left the trail & headed 4 the base of the cliff, hoping that once there we'd find a way up. At the point directly below the ship we found a hidden waterfall (no way up at all). The waterfall was spilling into a circle of small river rocks. And going immediately underground. There was no pooling of the water @ all. We didn't touch it or walk on the rocks. We were so spooked we took off back to our car. When we could we looked back to c if the rocket was still there. It was not. I would love to hear of others experiences in those mountains. I have never been able 2 forget what happened to us & have never been back there.

Dbmcneal
Dbmcneal

Great article. I have been lucky enough to have been taught by knowlegable freinds how dangerous these mountains are.

Scole14
Scole14

This is a very interesting article but the idea that the Superstition area is a particularly dangerous one is silly. There is a certain romance associated with the range which some find important to nurture. The stories of stick-weilding miners and squatting prospectors are, of course, apocryphal, as are the tales of the lost mine itself. Likewise, the danger from the exceedingly sparse population of mountain lions in the range is by all measures nonexistent and anyone who packs a firearm into the wilderness against the advent of a shootout with one is either ignorant or operating a couple of raisins short of a fruitcake. I have hiked extensively in the Superstitions and I have often seen these pistol-packing nimrods. I suppose one should allow them to indulge in their adolescent Wild West fantasies, but they still leave me rolling my eyes a little. Nothing is sillier (even squatting prospectors or lurking mountain lions) than a paranoid, Stetson-wearing nudnik shivering with fear and packing a six-shooter in this rugged but friendly wilderness.

Jonathan  McNamara
Jonathan McNamara

How is looking for a lost gold mine any different from the constant search for material wealth modern society seems to place us all on?

C W Williamson
C W Williamson

There is a certain pity I feel for people as ignorant as you who think that nothing bad will ever happen to them. What happens when you or your dauhter are hiking with a couple of girlfriends and you come upon some maniac squatting out there? You would be really wishing you had a gun at that point, because chances are the maniac DOES have one. And guess what, there are no police out there either friend!

 
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