William and Michael Johnson have found their own personal Lost Dutchman’s Mine. Whether or not the legendary mine exists in objective reality is almost secondary to the indisputable power it has exerted on the course of their lives.
Their version of “Lost Dutchman” Jacob Waltz’s fabled legacy — explained in a self-published book the Apache Junction brothers released in November — differs from other accounts in its geographic details.
But as by-products of an enduring cultural phenomenon, all those stories point to the same location for the gold mine — a place inside each of us where dreams, passion and inspiration dwell.
The Johnsons, like so many before them, truly believe their Lost Dutchman’s Mine — on the east side of Tortoise Mountain near Apache Junction — is the Lost Dutchman’s Mine.
Too many pieces of the puzzle fell into place too perfectly along the way, they insist. The location that found them, as the Johnson brothers like to put it, corresponds perfectly with clues contained in a set of etched stone tablets said to hold the keys to Waltz’ treasure.
“We solved them all,” William Johnson said.
In their 112-page book, “Spirits in the Mountain,” the brothers explain how a childhood fascination with stories of long-lost riches eventually carried them from their home town of Gloucester, Mass., to Apache Junction, where a fateful meeting with one of the area’s infamous treasure hunters spurred them to action. The two brothers will host a book-signing 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Bookman’s used bookstore, Southern Avenue and Country Club Drive in Mesa.
The Johnsons made local headlines in March 2006 when they claimed to have found a wafer-shaped bone fragment matching the hole in Depression-era treasure hunter Adolph Ruth’s skull. Ruth disappeared in 1931 while searching for the mine, and his skull was found months later in the same area where the Johnsons say they found the fragment, now sitting in a Pinal County Sheriff’s Office evidence room awaiting authentication.
The Johnsons believe Ruth was killed by a jealous rival who feared Ruth would beat him to the prize.
The stone tablets themselves, named the Peralta Stones after a prominent Colonial-era Spanish family, are of questionable origin. The date “1847” is carved into one of the stones, but they were not discovered until a century later.
Most noteworthy among them is a stone with a heart shape carved in relief, accompanied by a stone heart the same size and shape that fits into it perfectly. When placed together, the stones form a map in which “X” marks a spot at the heart’s center.
One of Arizona’s most famous Spanish history scholars, the late Rev. Charles Polzer of the Arizona State Museum’s Southwestern Mission Research Center, had rejected all notions of their authenticity, in part because 19th-century Spaniards did not represent hearts with the valentine shape used today.
Still, the Johnsons say they have found every landmark depicted in the Peralta map and its surrounding lore, exactly where they should be.
Their book includes a photo of a rock shadow perfectly resembling a lion poised for attack, overlooking a massive heart shape naturally carved by erosion into a cliff face. At its center, they say, is a square stone covering a cave that the Johnsons have no legal right to disturb.
That cave is their mine.
George Johnston, president emeritus of the Superstition Mountain Historical Society, said the problem with the Johnson brothers’ evidence is that the mountain’s cliffs are akin to a geologic Rorschach test in which believers who look hard enough can find anything they seek.
“It’s the same as seeing the Madonna on a rock,” Johnston said.