State’s Urban Legends: Arizona

Like Alaska, Arizona only has three or four cities that qualify as urban. The rest of the state is as barren as Alaska. Only drier. And much warmer. Still, Arizona has a few interesting offerings, especially up in the northeastern corner of the state where the Navajo Reservation lies.



There are many Navajo legends. Some, like the Coyote, are pretty easy to deal with. The Coyote is a trickster. He’s that cousin that pulls a stunt and somehow you wind up taking the blame for it. On the good side, Coyote’s tricks usually backfire on him, so no worries there.

Arizona urban legend: The Skinwalker


But, if you find yourself confronting a Skinwalker… well, you’re pretty much screwed. A Skinwalker is here to do one thing and one thing only – kill someone or do as much damage while working toward that goal. Saying they are evil is putting it mildly.

Legend has it that they are medicine men who’ve gone bad – a Native American version of the Jedi in Star Wars if you will. These dark side devotees use the powers of a Navajo medicine man for evil. And you don’t want to encounter one.

But if you feel you must, there is an area of the state called the Skinwalker Ranch where legend says you can see them roaming about.

As for how serious the Navajo take the Skinwalker legends you need only look at the murder of a Navajo woman in Flagstaff, Arizona. The defense in the trial actually argued that the murder was so brutal it could only have been carried out by a Skinwalker.


Slaughterhouse Canyon Ghosts

On the Arizona map, it is called Luana’s Canyon. But during the Gold Rush days in the 19th Century, legend has it that a poor family lived in the canyon. To feed his family, the father left the canyon daily in search of whatever food he could find. One day, he did not return.

What followed was a slow trek toward starvation for the mother and her children. The stress of hearing her children cry out finally got to her.

She donned her wedding dress and murdered her children. After she disposed of their bodies in a river, the now-insane mother starved to death all alone. Slaughterhouse Canyon was born that day.

According to legend, if you are in the canyon at night you can hear the pitiful cries of that mother.



Legend has it that during that same gold rush, a German immigrant named Jacob Waltz located a huge gold mine. Only problem is, Jacob never told anyone exactly where that mine was. The area of Arizona where the mine alleged lies has been scoured by searchers ever since.

None have ever found it – or at least reported that they did – but some have found a lot more than they bargained for. More than a few searcher have disappeared, only to be found by others. Well, their bodies were found.

Their heads…not so much while others have reported being shot at by unseen snipers. And others have disappeared and have never been seen again. I’m thinking even Indiana Jones might pass on this legend.


Previously: Alaska

Next: Arkansas

About the author

Richard Paolinelli