Friday, October 6, 2017

Bone Chilling, Rib Tickling Campfire Stories!

Folks have been telling tales around the campfire for as long as there's been fire. No matter what part of the world the campfire crackles, ordinary folk turn into storytellers extraordinaire. Cowboys are certainly no exception, and I'm sure just like the rest of us, they particularly enjoyed scaring the bejeezus out of one another right before hitting the bedroll.

"...and then with his head tucked underneath his arm..."

Living in the west the cowboys had plenty of source material. What tales they didn't bring with them from their own traditions, they borrowed from their Native American and Mexican neighbors. Chilling tales such as La Llorona, a young mother who in a fit of temporary insanity drown her two sons and whose ghost now walks in eternity looking for children to pull into the river. And don't even talk about Skinwalkers! No, seriously, don't talk about them. No Navajo in their right mind would. You don't want to attract the attention one of these witches who've gained the power to turn themselves into animals but at the cost of human decency. They can move great distances at unnatural speed and like to create havoc and scare people by doing things like digging up graves, skulking around houses, and running alongside of cars.
Imagine you're speeding down the highway one night and you find this running alongside your car!

In honor of Halloween, I scrounged the internet for western ghost stories. I'm going to share a couple of them, so pull up a rock and help yourself to a cup of coffee.


When gold was discovered in the Nevada desert, the mining town of Nelson sprang up. Unfortunately, the discovery attracted some unsavory characters including Civil War deserters, renegade Indians, and claim jumpers. With no law presence in the land there were gunfights and murders galore. To protect their claims, miners took to keeping vicious guard dogs. When the gold dried up the miners packed off. Dogs were either let free, shot, or worse left to die still chained up.

From then on to this day there are reports of phantom dogs appearing and disappearing suddenly in the Eldorado Canyon. Tales are told of the shadow of a dog-like creature moving across a tent wall-- but no paw prints are seen in the dirt the next morning. One person might see the menacing creature while his companions see nothing.
Eldorado Canyon

Two brothers tell a hair-raising account of their encounter with the Hell Dogs. The two were exploring the canyon when they came across a mine opening with a long chain embedded in the rocks. Inside the shaft they found the skeleton of a large dog. Naturally, they decided this was a good spot to camp down for the night.

As they were preparing their supper over the campfire they heard what they thought were coyotes yapping. Then the atmosphere changed and a heaviness overcame them. Then came sounds like dogs running around the camp. When they shone a light on the mine the chain could be seen rising and straining as if attached to something trying to escape, the efforts becoming increasingly frantic. Scratch marks and blood stains were visible on the surrounding rocks. Then...the chain dropped to the ground. That's when one of the brothers felt something brush against him. At that moment they collected their belongings and high-tailed it out of there. (Really? That was the moment? I would have been out of there upon discovering the pile of bones.) They reported hearing sounds like they were being chased by a pack of dogs for miles as they drove away into the night.

Then there is the theory that the Hell Dogs aren't ghosts at all, but live cryptid creatures. Those theorists point to there being stories of dog-like creatures inhabiting the canyon area before the mining started. So...there is that option if you prefer.


In the late 19th century, residents of the southwest were terrorized by a large, red creature with cloven hooves. Worse, the beast had something attached to its back. It allegedly stomped a woman to death, killed and ate a grizzly bear, and turned on a couple of cowboys who attempted to rope it. The cowboys and their mounts were lucky to escape with their lives. There are variations on the tale of the Red Ghost. Some versions have a headless skeleton strapped to its back or human leg bones dangling down its sides. The idea being someone died while strapped to the camel. I think these versions are confusing the Red Ghost with El Muerto, which is a story of Texas origin involving a decapitated outlaw being strapped to his horse to send a message to other outlaws, but that's another story. Literally, it is another story.

What was this horrible creature straight out of a nightmare?

The answer came one day when a rancher shot and killed the Red Ghost in his tomato patch. On close examination it was discovered the otherworldly creature was......

....A CAMEL! What? How? Why?

Well, it turns out the Red Ghost was once part of a westward expansion experiment. In 1855 then Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis (yes, that Jefferson Davis), bought 75 camels, which he thought were more suited to the desert than mules and horses. But, the mule lobby wasn't having it. Then the Civil War broke out and the plan was abandoned. The camels were taken from Fort Verde by the Confederates. Later some of them ended up being put to work as pack animals while some ended up in zoos. Others, like the Red Ghost, were simply released into the wild.

I hope this whetted your appetite for more rib-tickling, toe-curling, romantic tales from the old west because if so I have the book for you. Fellow Cowboy Kisses, Andrea Downing, and I are re-releasing a couple of old favorites as a two-fer. These stories were once part of the anthology, the Good, the Bad, and the Ghostly where all the stories were connected by a paranormal detective agency headed by the mysterious Nat Tremayne.

The Wild West gets even wilder when Nat Tremayne sends out his agents from Psychic Specters Investigations offices in St. Louis and Denver.  Across country and across time, these agents will stop at nothing to unravel the mysteries that beset poor unsuspecting ranchers and cowboys who have no idea what they’re seeing . . .or not, as the case may be.

In Long A Ghost and Far Away, agent Dudley Worksop aims to unravel the mystery of Colby Gates’ dead wife. Lizzie not only seems to have reappeared as a ghost, but has time traveled from 2016 to the 1800s. Can revenge be had for her murder? And can the couple be reunited across country and across time?

In The Ghost and The Bridegroom, P.S.I. Agent Healy Harrison is sent to Tucson to rid a rancher of the ghost in the bedroom interfering in his marriage to a mail-order bride. Healy doesn’t think she’s destined for romance—until she meets Pinkerton detective Aaron Turrell. But when their two cases dovetail, will their newfound love survive the ultimate showdown between mortal and immortal.


Andrea Downing said...

Well I'll be . . . . These are pretty spooky, Patti. And those camels released into the desert--I'm wondering why they didn't mate and make more camels. Well, that's the way my mind works!

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Always the romantic, Andi. Turns out Jefferson Davis was right about camels being suited to the climate. They feral ones did just fine on their own. Last one died in a Zoo in California (I think it was California...).

Kristy McCaffrey said...

These sound great, ladies! And love the spooky old west stories, Patti.

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Thanks, Kristy! We're pretty excited to put these stories back out there. It was a fun project to work on.