The Ghost of Cochise

Juncos flit from the roadside, the conspicous flash of white tail feathers disappearing into the cover of brush as the bus engine approaches. The tires crunch and rumble as we creep over the moderately — by Arizona standards — washboard road. The road winds its way through dry desert grassland, interspersed with yucca and thorny mesquite trees, up into the foothills of the Dragoon Mountains where Arizona Oaks and Alligator Juniper cluster around the dry river beds and on up the rocky slopes of the mountains.

I’ve been into Dragoon Mountains several times, from both the east and west side. The west is my favorite, but that road is far too rough for both the big blue bus and the Volvo. Both sides have access to the same central cluster of rock gardens and peaks in the middle, but the east is home to Cochise Stronghold, the place where Chihuicahui leader Cochise lived, later hid and eventually died and was buried.

By all accounts this is where Cochise loved to be and I happen to believe Cochise still wanders this place.

Every time I’ve been here odd things have happened. I have seen strange shapes in the shadows, heard whispers whipping through the wind, and found some downright hard to explain things. If I were of the scientific-materialist type I’d have a really hard time reconciling my experiences in the Dragoons with my worldview. Whatever the case, there is something here. As happens with some places, there is something more here than is elsewhere. Call it what you will.

Our plan was to boondock a few nights at some spots on the way into Cochise Stronghold, but they ended up being already occupied by the time we go there, late afternoon on a Friday. We continued up the road and snagged a spot in the campground proper, which is a little densely packed, but it isn’t too bad. The cold drove most people away in short order anyway.

Just one more chip photographed by luxagraf
“Just one more chip, then we go.”
Playing in the sand, cochise stronghold photographed by luxagraf
Dry riverbed are the best sandboxes.

And it was cold, down near freezing nearly every night and well below it for a couple of them. We have a propane heater that we use to take the edge of morning, but during the night all we can do is pile on the blankets. Fortunately we have a lot of blankets.

During the day the temperatures were nice, great for hiking. We trekked up above the stronghold area into the canyons and passes.

hiking, dragoon mountains, AZ photographed by luxagraf
Snack break with a view.
aligator juniper photographed by luxagraf
Aligator Junipers are well named.

It’s hard to walk in this place though without thinking of the Chiricahua.

As with most of American history, learning about what happened to Cochise and the Chihuicahui-Chiricahua makes for a dismal read. The United States suffered heavy losses every time it engaged with the Chiricahua, and eventually managed to capture leaders only by resorting the lying and murder under white flags.

Cochise was once almost captured for a crime he didn’t commit, but he slashed his way out of an Army tent and escaped. The Army held some of his relatives though and later killed them, which marked the beginning of what would best be called relentless guerrilla warfare, which Cochise kept up for 11 years, reducing, as Dan Thrapp puts it, “most of the Mexican/American settlements in southern Arizona to a burned-out wasteland”. Thrapp estimates the total death toll of settlers and travelers in the region may have reached 5,000, but that’s apparently a controversial figure.

Cochise was never captured or defeated by the U.S Army. In 1872 the Army negotiated a treaty granting Cochise and his band some land here in the Dragoons. That land was later taken away, but Cochise died of natural causes before that happened. Geronimo continued to fight long after Cochise had moved on from the obvious parts this world.

The less obvious, who knows.

We decided to move on when the temperatures in the area threaten to drop below 20 degrees. We wanted to get over to the Chiricahua Mountains, but they were even colder at the time so we decided it was time to hit the road again, bound for warmer climes.

earth fissures possible photographed by luxagraf
On the drive out we went by a couple of these signs. I’m still trying to figure out what they’re referring to. Perhaps out here the earth just opens up and reclaims its own.


Catherine Carter April 06, 2019 at 6:32 p.m.

In 1984 my family and I,in July that year came to camp in Cochise’s stronghold campground. I remember the long trek of a drive on gravel road,approx 10 Mike’s in thru thicket of sorts. We arrived at mid afternoon, and had a late picnic lunch after paying the drop in a envelope $5 to stay overnight. There were no other campers. After lunch I alone, as my two children and husband were resting in our rv I, alone preceded to clean food items,etc from outside table. To the sites right I remember the dry creek bed, that day. As I looked up I saw the ghost of a man,approx 25 to30yrs of age, all dressed in the most magnificent native American dress. Beautiful white feathered headdress the length of his body. He stood out in the dry creek bed and never moved, just looking at me. In questioning myself on what I was seeing, I twice thereafter took about 5seconds looking down, before again looking up again at him. The second time in doing so he was gone. I have never forgotten that of which I experienced there, due mostly because of the beautiful snow white native attire, he wore. Do I believe I was lucky to have seen the spirit of Cochise, in a prime year of age? Oh yes, I do believe it was his spirit. That stronghold campground,former home of his tribe, does put across a spiritual peace, about it.

Scott April 11, 2019 at 1:10 p.m.


Great story, thank you for sharing. What I’ve seen out here was similar, though different in some aspects as well. Interesting to me, I’ve main had these experiences on the west side, once in about 92 or so and again in 96.

Niki July 21, 2019 at 5:15 p.m.

My aunt owns land on the ranch near the camp site and has access to the dragoon mountains. We went up to see the ancient Native American cave paintings and I saw a dark/black figure jump behind a large boulder, looked like it was in Native American dress due to the length of the outfit around its legs. It was however like a black shadow, but standing up like a human not on the ground.

I got back to her adobe house and looked at my photos on my DSLR, I caught two orbs following my aunt down as we were going back ( past the boulder where I definitely saw the shadow 40 seconds after taking the photo ) I took two in immediate succession and it follows her and I do not move.

Just after I see the shadow a snake crosses our path.

Was it warning us of the snake or was is doing something more malicious ?

Scott July 24, 2019 at 8:34 a.m.


Fascinating, thank you for sharing. I’d love to see those photos if you have them.

Brandon March 15, 2024 at 2:12 p.m.

The Earth fissure signs you saw refer to this: Earth fissures occur in areas of extensive ground subsidence as a result of groundwater withdrawal. As the ground subsides unevenly, stress along the basin margins lead to earth fissure formation. Counties in Arizona host earth fissures, include, Cochise, La Paz, Maricopa, Pima and Pinal County.

Scott March 15, 2024 at 2:42 p.m.


Fascinating, the earth really does open up. Thanks for the link.


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