Murder, A Curse, and Possible Ghosts in Two Guns, Arizona – Full-Time RV Life

Mike and I were driving along Highway 40 in Arizona a few months back when I glanced out the passenger window and saw a grouping of old stone ruins.  “Hmm.  I wonder what that is?”  A sign indicated the exit was for Two Guns, so I decided to do some research and plan a visit to explore.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This was a portion of what I could see from the highway.

Two Guns, Arizona, has a violent and turbulent history.  It’s part of the Diablo Canyon and is the location of a desecrated burial site from a battle between rival Apache and Navajo tribes, a cold blooded murder over land rights, and the rise and fall of commerce with the re-routing of Old Route 66 and construction of I40.   It was a hideout stop for Billy The Kid and the gang, a zoo in ruins from the 1920s, and home to abandoned buildings of a gas station and KOA campground from the 1960s.

The land and surrounding buildings are now private property (supposedly owned by actor Russell Crowe), but exploration in the daylight hours isn’t discouraged.  It was listed as a free boondocking campsite, but people have been asked to vacate in the wee hours of the morning in the last several months.  I personally would not feel safe in the area after nightfall and even got spooked during the day on my solo trip.

I’ll give an amateur photographic tour of the site with paraphrased tidbits of the history I’ve read from several sources.  If you’re an obscure history person like me, explore the links I provided above to see more in-depth versions of the colorful story of Two Guns, Arizona.

THE ZOO RUINS

This was the entrance to the zoo in bygone days:

download
Internet stock photo – Source unknown

This is what it looks like today.

twoguns_004

The abandoned buildings once held animals such as lions, eagles, Gila monsters, and lynx.  The deserted stone buildings were once enclosures for the animals.  The land for the zoo was rented and constructed in the 1920s by Harry “Two Guns” Miller.  He not only constructed the zoo, but he also capitalized on the site of the Apache Death Cave by claiming himself as Native American, taking walking tours into the cave, and selling the skulls of the dead as souvenirs.  He then murdered his landlord in cold blood over land rights.  Because of his disrespectful desecration of the death cave and getting acquitted on his cold-blooded murder, he was said to be cursed.  This seemed to be true as he was attacked by his own lions on two different occasions, bitten by a Gila monster causing him to become extremely ill, and a was victim to a massive theft and eventual fire destroying his trading store.  All of this devastated him financially, and Miller left the area shortly thereafter.  I couldn’t find any reference to where the animals were placed once he deserted the zoo or Mr. Miller’s eventual demise.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The crumbling bridge across the canyon was deserted and closed to vehicle traffic for many years.  Walking across was safe, but it is definitely unmaintained and at your own risk. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I feel for the lions and tigers having to live in such small quarters with no space to move as they were intended.  I can only imagine how miserable they must have been.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Even barbed wire doesn’t keep modern day trespassers from going beyond the designated boundaries to explore.  There were areas where it was clearly clipped and trampled over.

THE APACHE DEATH CAVE

The cave was creepy.  There was no safe entry to the entrance, so only photos from outside could be taken (I don’t think I’d want to go down there anyway).  It was here Apache warriors with their horses hid after marauding a neighboring Navajo tribe.  The Navajo discovered the Apache hideaway and surrounded it with lighted fires, which caused the Apache warriors and horses inside the cave to burn alive.  It’s rumored the area became sacred ground by the Native Americans and the Apache or Navajo won’t come near.

“Two Guns” Miller opened the cave to tours for price of admission in the 1920s, dishonestly claiming himself as Apache descendant.  He even went so far as to sell the skulls and bones of the fallen warriors as souvenirs in his trading store.

Over the last hundred or so years, many of the early settlers in the area and temporary residents of the abandoned campground made claims of hearing unearthly screams and howls in the wee nighttime hours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ABANDONED BUILDINGS

The area has the deserted feel of bygone days, as most stops do along I40 due to the rerouting of Route 66.  A gas station and store thrived in the 1960s until a mysterious explosion closed the station in the early 1970s.  Now, the old station stands empty and falling apart.  Walls have been “tagged” by grafitti–both artistic and destructive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Outside the old gas station at the Two Guns exit off I40.  The pumps exploded mysteriously in the 1970s and the station was never repaired and/or rebuilt.

These are the interior walls of the gas station building taken from the front entrance area.  Lots of trash and used drug paraphernalia was littered on the floor and the darkened door leads to a back room I didn’t feel comfortable exploring.  The graffiti was interesting to study–everything from vile curse words and slurs to artistic and philosophical statements.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This was some type of holding tank on the property, taken over by graffiti.

REMNANTS OF A DESERTED CAMPGROUND

This deserted KOA campground from the 1960s is still standing, albeit falling apart as nature slowly overtakes it.  Well, nature and people wielding spray paint.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Front of the campground “office.”
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Back of the campground entrance with a view of the pool with restrooms and showers.  In the front of the photo are the connections for water and electric.  Nature has claimed the sites and they are no longer usable.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
View of what used to be the campground restrooms and showers.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The front right area is the empty pool.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
One particular graffiti artist’s heart-felt words and someone else’s penned-in postscript message.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The cement surface of the pool area is covered with unsolicited artwork.

The following photos are the inside of the pool, which is completely covered in layers and layers of graffiti.  I’d appreciate the artwork a lot more if the artists wouldn’t leave behind their tools to rot as trash (in the last photograph).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

BEAUTIFUL LANDSCAPE

Despite the sad and tumultuous history of the area, it is an interesting place to visit.  Along with old zoo ruins, abandoned and colorful buildings, and a spooky death cave, there are beautiful views.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Two Guns is an area where the imagination can run wild.  There are whispers on the wind, eyes hidden in the rocks, and mystery in the shadows.  There’s also a simple appreciation for the beautiful and unique Arizona landscape.

I hope Mr. Crowe respects the area and uses it to fuel creativity and imagination, either as a film set or place to safely explore.  Currently, it continues to decline and return to nature since the alleged purchase in 2011.  It also keeps the local police busy clearing out trespassers in the dark hours of the night.

Do you think the “curse of Two Guns” will continue?

 

Please visit the RandomBitsRV Amazon Store to see our favorite items which make this lifestyle easier.  

RandomBits is an Amazon affiliate, which helps to support this blog.  Would you please consider using the following link for your Amazon shopping?  It costs you absolutely nothing, and Amazon gives us a very small amount of your purchase for advertising purposes.  Please click here:  Amazon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

14 comments

  1. You make each and every story so life like feel like I am there Please keep them coming. Love them.

  2. great post – truly interesting spot.

    What I don’t understand is why people think it’s ok to deface abandoned property. It’s just nonsensical. I don’t know, maybe I’m just too old! LOL

  3. How cool! I wish we had had the time to stop and explore.I think sometimes it is almost as much fun to research an area as it is to explore. I’m always on the fence, research before or after. Seems Karma caught up with Miller! Great post and fantastic pictures! Happy manatee hugs!

What are YOUR thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.