Creepy, Crawly, Crazy Folklore Of Weird Arizona

CAROLING WITH CAROL

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I knew I lived in a state with an enormous, stunningly beautiful, water-carved hole where more than 600 people had died.

I recall a ghost story of a Kachina doll that left little blue handprints on the throat of the thief who stole it.

I grew up with the legend of the Lost Dutchman gold mine.

However, I never considered the state I grew up in was downright weird until I perused Wesley Treat's "Weird Arizona -- Your Alternative Travel Guide to Arizona's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets."

Local legends and bizarre beasts, roadside oddities and innovative environments are a few of the chapters detailing what makes our state odd.

To my mom, these funky places were day trips back when gas was around 50 cents a gallon.

The Jerome Historical Society has certainly found a unique way of getting donations.

You surely know Jerome, where old mining boom buildings are sliding down the hillsides.

Jerome draws me, like Sedona's vortexes do not, once every few years.

During my visits, I have made stops at rest rooms but, darn it all, I missed tossing coins in the Wishing Outhouse.

The commode sits on the basement side of the old Bartlett Hotel, surrounded by an iron fence.

"By the end of each month, Jerome collects about $1,000, all money down the toilet," Treat wrote.

I wonder what the job of penny retriever pays?

A good century before digital cameras and Photoshop, the Tombstone Epitaph published an article about two cowboys who sighted a bird with a 160-foot wingspan and, from tip to tail (or more likely, tale), was 92 feet long.

The legend of the Thunderbird was born.

Treat really did his research for there is a two-page spread on that most infamous of creatures, The Mogollon Monster.

According to Treat, a crypto zoologist, this is the Rim Country's version of Sasquatch.

He went so far as to research a 1903 Arizona Republican article in which I.W. Stevens encounters a naked, wild man with two-inch claws at the end of his fingers and a pelt of grey hair.

If memory serves, in the last story the Payson Roundup printed on the subject, the Mogollon Monster has long, orange hair.

Kinda makes me wonder where I can get me some of that moonshine.

Treat includes a synopsis of that simulated ecosphere disaster called Biosphere 2 in his book.

Biosphere 2 is the domed-city near Tucson that is now a costly-to-the-investors tourist attraction.

It was supposed to allow the scientists living inside its closed ecosystem to learn what it might be like to live on another planet.

As someone who named her daughter after the nearest galaxy, when I got the opportunity to tour Biosphere two months before the scientists stepped inside and then closed and locked the door, I was excited.

That was 1991.

The tour was incredible, from the 900,000-gallon ocean down to the bowels beneath the domes where giant machines ran the system.

Man, I wanted the experiment to work.

The cockroaches, ants and morning glories had other plans.

The Roads Less Traveled chapter included a stop on Route 666 South, "the sixth branch of Route 66," where a ghost girl dressed in white disappears into the night mists.

In another chapter, Treat covers the alien abduction at Turkey Point (near Pine), but he misses Payson's Main Street Grille ghosts.

I guess that proves there is just too much weird to cover it all in one tome.

Think I'll head to the old Journigan house and toast the ghosts and Treat for his whimsical book.

Then I'll start planning my trip to the dry-dock of the Quartzsite Yacht Club.

"Weird Arizona" is the latest entry in the Weird U.S. series from Sterling Publishing Company. The hardcover book is $19.95.

Wesley Treat's blog on more weird things can be found at www.roadsideresort.com.

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