The Pittsburgh Press of November 27th 1982 commented on a long forgotten monster story known as the ‘red ghost of Arizona’. As you will read from the original report, although the mystery was cleared up, another was created, making the ‘red ghost’ a rather eerie enigma.
In 1883, a huge red monster mounted by a ghostly rider killed a woman in the south-eastern corner of the Arizona Territory. The beast left behind cloven footprints and long, red hairs. Nicknamed the Red Ghost it inspired many scary tales. One rancher, however, identified the creature for what it was: a camel with a man – perhaps a dead man – on its back.
Camels were not uncommon then in the West. But who was the rider ? That the man was dead was verified when five miners came across the camel and shot at it, dislodging the skull from a human skeleton on its back.
The camel attacked several other people, but there were no more reports of the Red Ghost after 1884. In 1893, a rancher shot and killed a camel in his turnip patch, and it turned out to be the Red Ghost. The camel’s body was covered with a network knotted rawhide strips. It became clear that the skeleton had been tied to the camel’s back. Perhaps it was a grisly joke, or perhaps a murderer had bound his victim – alive or dead – to a walking coffin.’
A similar misinterpreted beast is the ‘Black Devil’, or the ‘cannibal stallion’. This confused legend originates from the Shoshones (the Shoshoni tribe are Native American people) and was once said to concern a centaur-like monster although some argue that the beast came about due to a misinterpretation of a horse and its rider in the distance.
And he who rides the tiger…
And whilst on the subject of the dead riding around on the back of a phantom animal. The Carp Review of 7th October 1909 speaks of ‘Strange Hindu Beliefs – Say Ghost of Man Killed by Tiger Ride’s on Beast’s Head – The uneducated Hindu (and he is in the great majority) believes that the ghost of a man killed by a tiger rides on the head of the beast that slew him, to warm him of danger and to guide him to new victims. It is declared that God provides the tiger’s daily wants to the amount of one rupee a day; that is to say, if the tiger kills a calf worth six rupees he will not be allowed another victim for five days. Eating the flesh of a tiger is supposed to give one great courage and alertness, but the whiskers must first be singed off the beast or his spirit will haunt the man who fed him and he is likely to be turned into a tiger in the next world. In a small Indian village in the interior a villager was killed by a tiger, says the Washington Star. The police investigated the accidental death and rendered the verdict: “Pandu died of a tiger eating him; there was no other cause of death. Nothing was left of him save his bones and some fingers, which probably belonged to either the right or left hand.”