By Charles M. Skinner in 1896
Twenty miles from the capital of Arizona stands Mount Superstition — the scene of many traditions, the object of many fears. Two centuries ago a tribe of Pueblo dwarfs arrived near it and tilled the soil and tended their flocks about the settlements that grew along their line of march. They were little people, four feet high, but they were a thousand strong and clever. They were peaceful, like all intelligent people, and the mystery surrounding their incantations and sun-worship was more potent than a show of arms to frighten away those natural assassins, the Apache.
After they had lived near the mountain for five years the “little people” learned that the Zuni were advancing from the south and made preparations for defense. Their sheep were concealed in obscure valleys; provisions, tools, and arms were carried up the mountain; piles of stone were placed along the edges of cliffs commanding the passes.
This work was superintended by a woman with a white face, fair hair, and commanding form, who was held in reverence by the dwarfs; and she it was — the Helen of a New-World Troy — who was causing this trouble, for the Zuni claimed her on the ground that they had brought her from the waters of the rising sun, and that it was only to escape an honorable marriage with their chief that she had fled to the dwarfs.
Be that as it might, the Zuni marched on, meeting with faint resistance until, on a bright afternoon, they massed on a slope of the mountain, seven hundred in number. The Apache, expecting instant defeat of the “little men,” watched, from neighboring hills, the advance of the invaders as they climbed nimbly toward the stone fort on the top of the slope, brandishing clubs and stone spears, and bragging, as the fashion of a red man is — and sometimes of a white one.
At a pool outside of the walls stood the pale woman, queenly and calm, and as her white robe and brown hair fluttered in the wind, both her people and the foe, looked upon her with admiration. When but a hundred yards away the Zuni rushed toward her with outstretched arms, whereupon she stooped, picked up an earthen jar, emptied its contents into the pool, and ran back. In a moment sparks and balls of fire leaped from crevices in the rocks, and as they touched the Indians many fell dead. Others plunged blindly over the cliffs and were dashed to pieces.
In a few minutes the remainder of the force was in full retreat and not an arrow had been shot. The Apache, though stricken with terror at these pyrotechnics, overcame the memory of them sufficiently in a couple of years to attempt the sack of the fort on their own account, but the queen repelled them as she had forced back the Zuni, and with even greater slaughter. From that time the dwarfs were never harmed again, but they went away, as suddenly as they had come, to a secret recess in the mountains, where the Pale Faced Lightning still rules them.
Some of the Apache maintain that her spirit haunts a cave on Superstition Mountain, where her body vanished in a blaze of fire, and this cave of the Spirit Mother is also pointed out on the south side of Salt River. A skeleton and cotton robes, ornamented and of silky texture, were once found there. It is said that electrical phenomena are frequent on the mountain, and that iron, copper, salt, and copperas lying near together may account for them.
About the Author: Charles M. Skinner (1852-1907) authored the complete nine volume set of Myths and Legends of Our Own Land in 1896. This tale is excerpted from these excellent works, but is not verbatim, as some editing has occurred.