About Superstition Mountain Museum and Apacheland in Apache Junction, Arizona
The Superstition Mountains in Arizona are rich with history and legend in addition to rugged beauty, with evidence of human habitation 9,000 years ago. Inhabitants over time included the Salado, Hohokam, and Apache Indians, Spanish explorers, and early American trappers and adventurers.
In Indian lore, the mountains are home to evil spirits. In the Pima legend of The Great Flood, Earth-Maker became annoyed with the people who had become selfish and quarrelsome, and decided to drown them. He spared Suha and his wife, telling them to build an ark. After the flood, the ark settled on a mountaintop that was later named Superstition Mountain. Suha and his wife went down into the fertile valley and became the start of the Pima tribe. Suha later killed Hauk, an evil one who lived behind the mountain, but fear remained that his evil spirit still lurked behind the Superstition Mountains.
Modern day legends include the legend of The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. In the late 1800s, Jacob Waltz searched for gold in the Superstition Mountains. By the time he was 80 he had pulled 48 pounds of gold from his mine. On his deathbed, he gave the woman who nursed him directions to the mine. She and her father spent many years trying to find it with no success. Today some still claim there are riches waiting to be discovered in the Superstition Mountains.
The Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction in the Greater Phoenix area collects and displays artifacts about the history and folklore of the Superstition Mountains and surrounding area. Entrance to the museum is through a well-stocked gift store. The museum exhibits rock samples from the area, ancient native American Indian artifacts, and more modern relics. Information on the geological history of the area, Indian folklore, animal life, and modern legends can be found.
The surrounding grounds contain replicas of 19th century buildings, a 20 Stamp Mill used to crush ore, and nature walks.
The oddest building on the site, in my opinion, is the Elvis Chapel. Wooden pews inside this small old-west style chapel face a fake flower-covered bower under which stands a life size Elvis statue. Old movie posters line the walls like windows, outlined with curtains. The chapel was once part of Apacheland Movie Ranch, a western town movie setting that opened in the Superstition Mountains in 1960.
Movies and television shows were filmed at Apacheland, including Arizona Raiders, Have Gun Will Travel, Death Valley Days, and The Rifleman. Elvis Presley filmed Charro here. After his death, the chapel was renamed the Elvis Chapel. In 2004, Apacheland burned. Only two buildings survived – the chapel and the barn. Both were moved to Superstition Mountain Museum. The chapel has been brought up to code and can be booked for real-life weddings.
Special events occur at the museum throughout the year. We visited the museum on January 20, 2013 during Heritage Days, which included demonstrations of native American culture, Wild West reenactments, and food and craft vendors. Future events include a celebration of desert gardening, poetry readings, and a juried art show.