The US army camels that escaped or were turned loose in the Southwest in the late 1800s finally succumbed to the forces of nature and the depredations of Westerners. The last reliable report of a wild camel was one seen near a waterhole in 1931 in Arizona.
Among the many legends that arose concerning these animal army veterans who had been released to fend for themselves, none was more intriguing than the tale of the camel known as the Red Ghost. The first incident occurred in 1883, when a woman was discovered trampled to death by some beast, which left clumps of its reddish fur in a nearby thorn bush and huge foot prints in the mud. Several days later, a large, unidentifiable animal careered wildly into a tent in which two miners lay sleeping. It too left behind foot prints twice the size of those left by horses, and strands of red fur. More sightings occurred, and eventually the creature was recognized as a camel. A rancher reported that the animal carried a rider, and that the rider did not appear to be alive. This claim was proved when the beast was next seen, by a group of prospectors, who saw something fall from its back and roll away into the dust. The prospectors eagerly retrieved this object, which turned out to be a human skull.
The Red Ghost and its now headless rider continued to terrorize the populace for the next decade. It was finally killed in 1893 by Mizoo Hastings, an Arizona farmer who caught the huge red camel grazing in his vegetable patch one morning. When examined, it was found that the animal had at last shaken free of its grisly rider, though it still bore the leather straps with which the corpse had been attached. Who was the mysterious rider? How did he come to be tied to the camel, and why? No one knows but the Red Ghost, whose unwanted burden eventually drove him on to madness and death.