Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Legend of Red Ghost

by Marshall Trimble, the state’s official historian.
Most folks will tell you camels are not found in Arizona’s high country. Truth is, the U.S. Army introduced camels to the Southwest back in the 1850s, using them as beasts of burden while surveying a road across northern Arizona. But, the Civil War interrupted the great camel experiment and the camels were turned loose to run wild—and therein lies the basis for the legend of Red Ghost.

This picture is from the website of Joe Parzanese at: If you want to learn all about other great stories please visit his website at 

The story begins back in 1883 at a lonely ranch near Eagle Creek in southeastern Arizona. The Apache wars were drawing to a close. However, a few renegade bands were on the prowl, keeping isolated ranches in a constant state of siege. Early one morning, two men rode out to check on the livestock leaving their wives at the ranch with the children. About midmorning, one of the women went down to the spring to fetch a bucket of water while the other remained in the house with the children.
Suddenly one of the dogs began to bark ferociously. The woman inside the house heard a terrifying scream. Looking out the window, she saw a huge, reddish-hued beast run by with a devilish-looking creature strapped on its back.
The frightened woman barricaded herself in the house and waited anxiously for the men to return. That night they found the body of the other woman, trampled to death. Next day tracks were found, cloven hoof prints much larger than those of a horse, along with long strands of reddish hair.
A few days later, a party of prospectors near Clifton were awakened by the sound of thundering hoofs and ear-piercing screams. Their tent collapsed, and the men clawed their way out of the tangle just in time to see a gigantic creature run off in the moonlight. The next day, they too, found huge cloven hoof prints and long, red strands of hair clinging to the brush.
During the next few years, stories of the Red Ghost grew to legendary proportions. One man claimed he saw the beast kill and eat a grizzly bear. Another insisted he had chased the Red Ghost, only to have it disappear before his eyes.

The creature made its last appear­ance nine years later in eastern Arizona. A rancher awoke one morning and saw the huge animal casually grazing in his garden. He drew a careful bead with his trusty Winchester and dropped the beast with one shot. An examination of the corpse convinced all that this was indeed the fabled Red Ghost. The animal’s back was heavily scarred from rawhide strips that had been used to tie down the body of a man. Some of the leather strands had cut into the camel’s flesh. But how the human body came to be attached to the back of the camel remains a cruel mystery.
Hi Jolly
Jefferson Davis, as secretary of war, approved the plan to experiment with camels for carrying freight in the Southwest desert. Major Wayne of the army and LT. Porter of the navy bought 33 camels from the Near East and shipped them to Texas in 1856.
hi jolly1
With the camels came their caretaker, Hadji Ali, whose name was promptly changed to Hi Jolly by the solders. In 1857 the war department abandoned the camel experiment and the camels were turned loose to shift for themselves on the Arizona desert. 
hi jollyAccording to Hi Jolly, the experiment didn’t work, not because the camels didn’t do a good job, but because they scared prospectors and their mules. He said the camels were lonesome for the caravans of their home country and every time they sighted a prospector’s mule train they’d make a break for it. There wasn’t anything compared to the fright those ugly, loping camels threw into mules. Finally the prospectors raised such a fuss the government just gave up and let the camels go.
Hi Jolly was grieved to lose his animals but he took up scouting for the army and also did some mining. He died in Quartzsite, AZ on December 16, 1902, at the age of 64.
We visited the Hi Jolly Cemetery today with Mickey and Ginny.
Hi Jolly’s grave



  1. Interesting story - I loved reading it. thanks for a nice post.

    I notice the sky is blue but I still see a lot of LONG sleeves haha.

  2. That's a cool piece of history, thanks for relating it.

  3. Isn't that the weirdest place? To stand there and read all the lore that goes along with the camels and the Hadji Ali.... Also look into the Naked Bookseller's daughter Celia that passed away at a young age. She has a garden and quite the story in the cemetery...

  4. What a story! Thanks for sharing it. I notice you have blue skys but you're wearing a sweatshirt....

  5. What an unusual grave marker. Quite the story thanks for sharing.

  6. Ahh, now we have some background before we visit the site.

  7. Wow that was truley an interesting story... loved it!
    Have fun & travel safe

  8. Now that was quite a History Story......Very interesting.....Thank you for sharing!!!
    Love, Carol

  9. I thought the Red Ghost was Jeri and Terry zipping around the desert in their Jag... ;c)

  10. We've known about Hi Jolly and his camels, but we'd never heard the Red Ghost story before. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Thanks for the great photos and history of High Jolly et al!

  12. Like a good story. I knew about the camels but not about the Red Ghost.

  13. We too had never heard the Red Ghost story either.

  14. The picture of the Red Ghost has been taken without permission or citation from my website:

    Please either remove or cite properly.

    Thank you.

    - Joe Parzanese

    1. I want to apologize as I did not have any idea I was using anything incorrectly. I am not sure how to fix this. I bought a new computer and I cannot locate the original post on live writer. I will definitely try and get this figured out.


Thanks for visiting today. I look forward to reading your comments. Have a beautiful day.