The air is thick with history and haunts at this Arizona ghost town, an easy day trip from Kingman and Zuni Village RV Park. From an Apache “death cave” to curses, it’s murder and madness with some supernatural thrown in for good measure. Crumbling ruins form the skeletal remains of what was once a thriving trading post turned cursed community. So, if you’d like to fill your fall travel scrapbook with some spine-tingling tales of things that go bump in the night, read on to learn more about Two Guns, Arizona…if you dare.
Ghosts of the Past
Canyon Diablo. The Devil’s Canyon. Peering down into the dark, gaping maw of the hundred-foot canyon, visitors to the ghost town of Two Guns, Arizona might just be inclined to actually believe the canyon to be the Devil’s front door—especially when you consider the haunted history of the abandoned tourist stop along the storied Route 66. Once an active stop where travelers could fill up their tanks and bellies, all that’s left now is a crumbling stone wall and scrawled graffiti—ghosts of the town’s cursed past.
Two Guns lies in Coconino County, just twenty-five miles from Kingman. It wasn’t always known as Two Guns, however. Canyon Lodge, as it was originally known, was founded by early Arizona homesteaders, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel B. Oldfield. Prior to that, several rival Native American tribes lived in the area. In the early 1920s, Earle and Louise Cundiff purchased an additional acreage and turned Canyon Lodge into a thriving trading post until Henry Miller made a visit with his vision to turn the town into a tourist destination. Miller leased land from the Cundiffs, renamed the town, and, for a while, it enjoyed a brief life as a bustling tourist stop complete with a southwestern style zoo. But Miller brought more than Gila monsters and mountain lions to Two Guns. Some say Miller brought a curse.
The park’s location affords visitors to experience all four seasons and the varied seasonal behaviors of its residents. Summer visitors will find the average temperature around 80 degrees. Winter visitors will delight in watching the animals cavort under the snow-dusted Ponderosa pines. It’s a completely different, but always enjoyable, experience no matter which time of the year you choose to visit.
A Cave…and a Curse
Miller’s plans for Two Guns didn’t just involve zoos. His plans included capitalizing on the town’s tragic past and the horrific incident that occured at the nearby Apache Death Cave. In 1878, a group of Apache raided some local Navajo encampments. As the story goes, the Navajos lost most of their valuables and their lives. The remaining Navajo tracked the raiding Apache to Canyon Diablo and the underground cavern in which they had taken refuge.
The Navajo laid a trap for the Apache, setting a raging inferno at the mouth of the cave. The intense smoke forced the Apache to flee from the cave, exposing them to the vengeful wrath of the waiting Navajo. Many believe this deadly incident imbued the land with a fateful curse. But it wasn’t until years later, when Henry Miller, a/k/a Chief Crazy Thunder, began selling unearthed skulls of the fallen Apache that Two Guns seemingly began to experience the effects of the curse.
Chief Crazy Thunder
While most historians agree that Henry Miller possessed little, if indeed any, Native American blood in his veins, it didn’t stop the crotchety conman from calling himself “Chief Crazy Thunder” and sporting long braids. He claimed to be Apache, but a true Apache would have displayed far more reverence for the dead at the Apache Death Cave. Miller, however, desecrated the site and the remains, rigging up gaudy electric lighting and a concession stand at the cave and selling the bones of the dead Apache to curious tourists in his tacky gift shop.
It wasn’t long after Miller started giving his tours of the cave that it seemed the curse began to take its toll on Two Guns. First, Miller himself was robbed of a substantial sum by a couple of drifters passing through town. Soon after, more blood was spilled on the streets of the town when Miller murdered Earle Cundiff, his landlord, in a contract dispute about rental terms. When he got away with the shooting, Miller must have thought he’d escaped the curse’s clutches. But the curse haunted him still as he discovered when he was attacked by both of the mountain lions in his zoo and bitten by the poisonous Gila monster.
Miller hightailed it out of town not long after that, but it appeared the curse still lingered. Louise Cundiff made a valiant effort to revive the dying town, but as the new interstate diverted traffic, the town of Two Guns died like a shot echoing on the wind.
So, if you’re looking to fill your next visit to Arizona with ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties, look no further than the ghost town of Two Guns, Arizona. An easy day trip from Kingman and the Zuni Village RV Campground, you can experience the ghosts of Arizona’s past.