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Old West Campfire Tales

Updated on July 7, 2015

In the days of the old West, wagon trains and travelers usually crossed the plains during daylight hours and camped at night. Meals were prepared over a roaring campfire and once these pioneers had eaten, it was time to relax.

For entertainment, these hardy travelers did as many campers do today. They told ghost stories and other legendary tales which have been passed down to this day.

For your enjoyment, here are several such tales. So gather around the campfire dear readers and ponder over a few of them.

Little People & the Pedro Mountain Mummy: Many Native American tribes, such as the Arapaho, Sioux, Cheyenne and crow, tell a tale of "little people” from 20 inches to three feet tall. Just who they supposedly were varies from tribe to tribe. In some they are known as "tiny people eaters,” and in others they were known to have been spirits and healers. Some said they were magical beings, similar to leprechauns or fairies. These legends were being told long before the Europeans arrived.

The Shoshone of Wyoming called these little people ‘Nimerigar’ and their legends told of them attacking people with tiny bows and poisoned arrows. When one of the Nimerigar became too ill to be a useful part of their society they were dispensed with a blow to the head. However, this practice was also a custom for many nomadic tribes.

Of course these "little people” are only made up stories…or are they? Several discoveries indicate they may have been real. A 14” inch fully formed mummy was found in 1932 by two men digging for gold in the San Pedro Mountains about 60 miles southwest of Casper, Wyoming. It is known as the ‘Pedro Mountains Mummy.’

Cecil Main and Frank Carr had been using dynamite in their quest for gold. They discovered a cave in the mountainous rock face following one of their blasts. The small cavern was about 15 feet long and 4 feet high. It had been totally sealed off from the outside world by a thick wall of rock.

Within the cave they found a small a pygmy-like man sitting cross-legged upon a ledge. The miniature mummy was about 6 ½ inches tall seated and estimated to be 14 inches tall if standing. Its skin was brown and wrinkled. Its’ features displayed a low, flat forehead, flat nose, heavy-lidded eyes, and a very wide mouth with thin lips. The face appeared like that of an old man and was well preserved. Fingernails were still intact and the top of its head was covered in a dark, pliable jelly-like substance.

The two prospectors took their discovery to Casper, Wyoming. Scientists across the country immediately flocked to Casper to have a look. Most were certain it would be found a hoax, an elaborately pieced together work of taxidermy. However, the anthropologists were amazed to find their X-rays displayed a perfectly formed, manlike skeleton. The tests also revealed the mummy had been killed violently. The spine was damaged, a collarbone broken and the skull had been smashed by a heavy blow.

The soft substance at the top of the skull was found to be brain tissue and congealed blood. After all tests had been completed, the scientists released their findings. The mummy was a full grown adult, approximately 65 years old at the time of his death. There was one other puzzling find…its teeth were overly pointed.

It is said these examinations were performed by the American Museum of Natural History and certified genuine by the Anthropology Department of Harvard University. However, another study by the University of Wyoming claimed the body was that of a diseased child.

The oddity was displayed in sideshows for many years, before being bought by a Casper businessman named Ivan T. Goodman. When he died in 1950, the mummy became the property of one Leonard Walder and eventually disappeared.

The remains of other such "little people” have reportedly been found near Cochocton, Ohio in an ancient burial ground. They appeared to be a pygmy race of people about three feet tall. In 1876, another ancient graveyard was documented as having been discovered in Coffee County, Tennessee. The reports indicated the six acre cemetery, held the remains of thousands of dwarf like people.

Allegedly, the Pedro Mountains Mummy brought bad luck to anyone possessing it and Native Americans continue to be cautious of the ‘tiny people eaters who are said to still live in the mountains.

Boggy Creek Monster : In Fouke, Arkansas, Miller County, southeast of Texarkana, there reportedly lives the ‘Boggy Creek Monster.’ In the mountainous hills of the Ozarks, the Boggy Creek Monster, sometimes referred to as the Fouke Monster, has been a legend of the Ozarks since the 1840’s. It is said to be about seven feet tall, walks upright, has a smelly odor and covered with hair. One could say it’s Arkansas’s answer to Sasquatch or Bigfoot. The monster has a reputation for killing chickens, livestock, and dogs, although it has never been known to harm humans.

However, in the late 1860’s the beast was accused of harassing two families living outside Fouke. In 1973, the tale was made into a low budget movie called ‘The Legend of Boggy Creek.’

In 1997, over 40 sightings of the Boggy Creek creature were reported. And in 1998, it was said to have seen walking along a dry creek bed about 5 miles south of town. The Fouke Monster was reportedly last seen near the junction of the Sulphur and Red Rivers.

Fort Union

The Death Waltz: A long time ago, the military post at Fort Union, New Mexico, was the only civilized place for miles around where any semblance of social graces could be found. At this post was a young woman, the sister-in-law of a captain.

She enjoyed the adventure of frontier living as well as attention young officers paid to her. Respectable women were few and far apart in this wilderness.

A young lieutenant became especially enamored of her charms, and hoped he would eventually win her affections.

One day, news of an Apache uprising reached the fort. A detachment was promptly formed and ordered out to quell the incident. The young lieutenant was put in charge of the expedition.

Before departing he got up the nerve to confess his love to the young woman. She disclosed her love for him as well.

As he left on his fateful mission she promised if he was to die on the battlefield she would never marry another.

Saying good-by he was heard to say, "That is well. Nobody else shall have you. I will come back and make my claim."

Several days later the detachment returned, minus the young lieutenant. It was apparent to other residents of the fort the young woman did little grieving for him. Therefore, nobody was surprised when she shortly agreed to marry a young man from the East.

The wedding-day arrived and the mess hall was decorated for an evening ball. As the dance progressed a door burst open, letting in a draft of air almost extinguishing the candles. An inhuman sounding cry echoed through the room.

All heads swiveled towards the door. There stood the decomposing, swollen body of a dead man dressed in a blood stained uniform bearing Lieutenant insignia.

The body bore a hatchet-gash to the temple and had been scalped. Its’ eyes burned with a dreadful light.

Walking to the bride, the horrifying corpse dragged her away from the arms of her husband. Everyone in the room, frozen in terror, watched as the gruesome being began a waltz.

The musicians later declared they did not know what they were doing when they began playing eerie music.

The couple spun and twirled around in a sinister dance with the woman growing paler with each turn until she was dead.

The dead soldier allowed her to sink to the floor and stood over her for a moment.

Finally, he wrung his hands and sounded his piercing scream again. Then as quickly as he had appeared he vanished through the door.

A few days following the event, a troop of soldiers returned with the body of the lieutenant.

As you can see, dear readers, our campfire is about to go out. Trundle off to your tents now…and sweet dreams.


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    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Yeh Martie, I could easily play the lead role.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      7 years ago from South Africa

      Africa also had the pygmy race of people about three feet tall – in mythology and scientific proved. Some of them are in fact still alive, though a little bigger than the original. (Bushmen/Coi-Coi). But 14 inches ~ half-a-foot ~ pretty much sounds like a baby midget. Oh, and the blacks in our country believed in a small man (one foot tall about) called ‘Tokkelosi’ – some kind of evil creature – will have to do a hub on him if not already done by somebody.

      The Death Waltz is a very interesting story - a best seller horror movie.

      Thumbs up for this one, JY!


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