Excavators hunting “lost gold” in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, believed their 1963 search was aided by electronic tools from a downed flying saucer.
This is in my book “Tumbleweed Forts: Adventures of an Army Brat,” but here are some of the details, and they’re not in any Fort Huachuca history book – not yet anyway.
Silas Newton of Phoenix, Ariz., who claimed to be an expert dowser, brought the “magnetic radio” equipment into Huachuca Canyon to help find the gold. My father, my brothers and I saw him there, but we didn't talk with him.
Newton’s equipment looked like small antennas attached to flashlights. The Mahan excavators of Chino Valley said Newton's special dowsing rods – also called “doodlebugs” – came from a flying saucer that crashed in New Mexico.
The Mahan Brothers said they hired Newton for the gold dig, but they apparently were unaware of Newton's reputation in Colorado as a con man.
The 1963 gold hunt attracted nationwide attention after the Kennedy administration approved digging at Fort Huachuca, where former Army private Robert Jones said he stumbled into a chamber full of gold bars in 1941.
Jones, of Dallas, Texas, signed up the Mahan Brothers to do the digging, and the Mahans brought in Newton, who showed up in Huachuca Canyon with a half-dozen assistants. You can find out more in "Tumbleweed Forts."
News stories during the 1963 gold hunt made no mention of Silas Newton, whose 1948 reports of extraterrestrials crashing in Aztec, N.M., helped shape the world’s first concepts of flying saucers.
Newspapers in 1963 did report on prospector C.O. Mitchell, using “a gadget” to help the Mahan Brothers pinpoint gold, and “spiritualist” Mitchell Holland, interpreting his “visions” to advise the excavators.
At the time, the Mahans talked to my father about Newton at the Huachuca Canyon dig. Thirty years later, while I was preparing to write my book, one of the Mahans, Gordon Mahan, confirmed that Newton was part of the gold search.
Newton, formerly of Denver, Colo., was convicted in 1953 of fraud for selling dowsing rods he claimed could find oil in Colorado. He moved to Phoenix in 1957, and around 1964 he moved to Sedona, Ariz. He died in 1972 at age 83 or 84.
The Mahans had good reason to reach out for gold-detecting help in 1963. Jones had a general idea where the gold was, but digging and drilling was expensive, and the Army had given the Mahans only one month to complete the dig. Getting a precise location was vital.
The Army and Jones would have split 50-50 the value of whatever gold was found in Fort Huachuca. The Mahans were promised 11.5 percent of Jones’s share.
Using Jones’s description of the underground chamber and the gold bars inside, experts estimated the treasure could be worth $6 million to $275 million, and the Mahans’ 11.5 percent would have been at least $345,000.
The Mahans dug a huge hole into Huachuca Canyon, about two miles south of Colonels Row, from mid-February 1963 to early March. But with no sign of the gold and with their money running out, the Mahans called off the dig after three weeks.
The gold dig is one of several memorable events in my book. Among the others are the Army’s drone testing on the West Range, the loss of several Fort Huachuca-trained soldiers in a Pacific plane crash, and the filming of the “Captain Newman, M.D.” movie.
Other chapters of the book involve Helldorado Days in Tombstone, and a visit to the Tucson KGUN-TV studio to be in the audience of "The Marshal K-GUN show."
I lived at Fort Huachuca for two and a half years with my soldier father, my mother and my three brothers. We left Fort Huachuca in 1963.
“Tumbleweed Forts: Adventures of an Army Brat” is for sale in paperback and ebook at Amazon. The book also is on sale in at the Fort Huachuca Museum Gift Shop.
Terrell Mahan, excavating contractor (right), and Private Robert Jones's friend William Hawhorne supervise the 1963 dig for 'lost gold' in Huachuca Canyon. Private Jones, who at this time was ill in Texas, said he was in the canyon in 1941 when he stumbled into a chamber full of gold.
This is a place to discuss the book, Tumbleweed Forts: Adventures of an Army Brat, and any subject related to the story.
Tumbleweed Forts, by Frank Warner, is about a boy's life in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, in the early 1960s. It’s about youngsters making friends and exploring, soldiers experimenting with drones, and all sorts of people looking for gold. It’s also about making a new home and then suddenly leaving it behind.
The book has just been published. You can order it by clicking here.
This Tumbleweed Forts should not be confused with another ‘Tumbleweed Forts’ published in 2011. The similar titles are purely a coincidence. The 2011 book is a fantasy. The new Tumbleweed Forts book is a true story.
Millions of Americans have spent part of their childhoods with at least one parent in the armed forces, and regularly moving from one base to another. Many are likely to find something of their own lives in Tumbleweed Forts. They’ll also see differences.
And even you civilians can appreciate the adventures in Tumbleweed Forts.
Here’s your place to talk it over.