Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Tim Kreitz Adventures #43: Riding Castle Gap and Maximilian's lost treasure

In this episode of Tim Kreitz Adventures, we take a Sunday ride on a perfect February day to the Table Top Mountains of West Texas, passing near the Castle Gap and Camp Melvin on the Pecos River. A quick stop in Iraan, Texas finds us enjoying gut bombs from the local convenience store. We end the day with a ride to Picnic Plateau and then head home:


The 95-mile jaunt from Midland to Iraan is one of the West Texas day rides I always try to make happen more than once a year. The rugged countryside and plateau mountains of this region are particularly appealing to me, perhaps because the ambience is so reminiscent of a moonscape or the setting of an old western movie. Certain particulars associated with the area are also of significant interest to me, as you may've noticed from my failed attempt to have a geographical discussion with the guys at the Castle Gap historical marker. One of those particulars is the legend and folklore surrounding the lost treasure of Maximilian I of Mexico, which –– as I alluded to in the video –– is said to be buried somewhere in the region through which we rode.

Maximilian's gold, a legend as big as West Texas
Austrian-born Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, who held the reigns of a short-lived puppet Mexican empire designed in part by Napoleon, was executed by rebels in 1867. Before meeting his maker, however, Maximilian is said to've sent the bulk of his treasure (consisting mainly of Mexican, Austrian, and American gold coins) into Texas under the supervision of his most trusted guard. The goal was to get the treasure, carried in 40-odd wooden barrels, to the port of Galveston where a ship would be waiting to return it to Maximilian's wife Carlotta in Austria. But as the story goes, the gold never made it out of Texas.

From The Life of Adventure:

Troubles began along the trail when Maximilian’s men ran afoul of six former Confederate soldiers. The six had been hired to augment the guard, but when they learned the true nature of the cargo, the southerners killed the Austrians and stole the treasure.

The six bandits were not prepared to transport such a tell-tale store of valuables through hostile indian territory, so they agreed to take only enough coin to satisfy their immediate needs and then, after taking careful note of the landscape of rock and sand, they buried the treasure near the trail in the vicinity of Castle Gap near Horsehead Crossing.

Although the exact location of the crossing has varied throughout the years and can’t be pinpointed, there is a marker 7 miles South of the town of Crane at Hwy 385.

The leader of the pack, Bill Murdock in some accounts, became so ill that he had to be left behind when the group reached Fort Concho. It was his good luck because his compatriots, who went on ahead, were attacked by Indians and killed. When Murdock was well enough to travel he set out for San Antonio. On the way he discovered the mutilated bodies of his friends.

Murdock was now the sole owner of Maximilian’s fortune, the only man on earth who knew where the massive fortune was buried. He decided to go to Missouri and enlist the aid of Jesse James and his gang to help retrieve the loot. But on his way to Missouri it was Murdock’s ill fortune to fall in with a group of men who turned out to be horse thieves. A sheriff’s posse from Denton captured the group and took all of them, including Murdock, to the Denton County jail.

In a dank Denton jail cell, Murdock grew deathly ill. A local physician, Doctor Black, gave him no hope of recovery unless he could secure his freedom. Murdock sent for a lawyer named O’Connor. But when O’Connor arrived, it was already too late, Murdock was on his death bed.

Realizing his fate, Murdock turned over to Black and O’Connor a map to the fortune buried at Castle Gap. He confessed to the murder of Maximilian’s men, then gave up the ghost.

When Black and O’Connor finally made it out to Castle Gap – a dangerous journey then that required time and preparation – the lake was dry, and the terrific sandstorms common to the region had shifted the landscape – the marks called for in the map could not be identified. The dying bandit’s instructions led nowhere.

To this day no one has been able to discover the whereabouts of Maximilian’s gold, although many have tried.

Since I was a kid, I've heard all kinds of crazy stories about this treasure and the people who've tried to find it. So far, no dice. But I will admit that in my younger days, I once had high hopes of finding Max's gold myself. I guess at one point or another, every native West Texas kid –– in whimsical moments of childhood daydream –– has fantasized about being the one to discover the treasure.

Interesting things that didn't make the final cut
I do my level best to keep each episode of Tim Kreitz Adventures under 10 minutes while following some sort of focused flow. To that end, I left out another bit of West Texas legend that was perhaps too 'out there' to include: The secret underground military city beneath Iraan, Texas!

That's right, according to some of West Texas' finest conspiracy theorists, there is a secret and massive underground city in the restricted areas outside of Iraan. Purportedly operated by the government, it houses hundreds –– if not thousands –– of workers/denizens and is overlooked by two subterranean buildings that are over seven stories tall. No one knows its purpose or exact location, and the government is said to deny its existence (of course). But like any other piece of legend or folklore, the stories live on, growing bigger and more extravagant with each iteration.

At any rate, with spring soon on the way, we'll be exploring more of West Texas, as usual. Stay tuned for more fun and thanks for watching.

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