Longform

ZEAL OF FORTUNEA PHOENIX BUS DRIVER IS THE LATEST TREASURE HUNTER TO BELIEVE CRYPTIC STONE TABLETS HOLD THE SECRET TO A SUPERSTITION TROVE

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A good-natured skeptic who is, nonetheless, fascinated with the lore enshrouding the Superstition Mountains (the writer jokes that "the Lost Dutchman is the most 'found' lost mine in the world), Sikorsky explains that he initially included material about the stone tablets in his books simply as "an interesting sidelight" to "show the ridiculous lengths to which this thing can be carried and to show how gullible some really are."

The plan backfired.
Although Sikorsky's books question the stones' authenticity (the writer reveals that he has since developed information that a couple of Apache Junction cowboys carved the tablets and buried them in the desert as a practical joke), some readers who were previously unaware of the tablets apparently felt as if they'd just stumbled upon the key to the southwest branch of Fort Knox.

And according to Sikorsky, some treasure hunters have gone broke trying to break that bank.

"There are cases where people have given their whole life to the search for a treasure that was never really there in the first place," says Sikorsky. "Once you dip into this area, there's a good chance you're eventually going to drown in this stuff. It's nearly impossible to sift whatever facts there may be from all the chaff of lies and innuendo and hearsay and tall tales and wishful thinking. Yet this kind of mindset is very common among treasure hunters. Whenever someone thinks they've got the key to something, they think anyone else who tells them anything to the contrary is simply trying to get them off the path."
Informed of Charles Spencer's four-year effort to make sense of the tablets, Sikorsky says, "I personally feel sorry for this guy. There's really nothing there to decipher."

No argument there from Dr. Charles Polzer, Jesuit ethnohistorian at the Southwest Mission Research Center at the Arizona State Museum in Tucson.

"The whole thing with the tablets is just insane," laughs Polzer, who theorizes that interest in the slabs can be directly related to downswings in the economy. "The Church has records going way back, and we weren't even out here when all this was supposed to be happening. Still, you continue to have these people who insist we're hiding something. It's like arguing about UFOs."
Nonetheless, says Polzer, "You have these people who see the stones, then they start reading the books and these little pieces of fantasy kind of get trapped in the intestine of literature. And they just keep creating gas."

And it just might be that kind of gas that continues to fuel the fires of a man like Charles Spencer, who, no matter what, is determined to go for the gold.

Even if it isn't his.

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Dewey Webb