The Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction is like a dated, miniature theme park. Even though its glory days have passed, it’s wildly popular. I learned about it when I read a very brief article called “Elvis Lives” in the Official Travel Guide to Greater Phoenix. The article began, “Graceland isn’t the only place that memorializes Elvis Presley.” The Superstition Mountain Museum, which closes at 4 pm every day, is kitschy but fun.
The museum is packed with minerals, info about the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine, aggressively posed stuffed animals, details about Native American ruin sites, etc. The chapel is packed with movie memorabilia. The gift shop is packed with attractive non-essentials and full of customers. All 3 are fun to explore.
The Apacheland Barn is also stuffed with movie memorabilia. Many westerns were filmed in it. Some of the actors listed as making appearances in this barn while making movies include Audie Murphy, John Wayne, Ronald Reagan and James Garner. What do you notice about these actors? Of course, they’re all dead. And that’s a bit of the problem with this museum and its appeal. If, say, Chris Pratt was among them, contemporary movie goers, most of whom would ask, “Audie who?” would maybe be more engaged. Even the outbuilding activities-a miniature railroad display, mining equipment including a 20-stamp ore mill, a nature trail–appeal mainly to nostalgic souls. But remember, all of this is still fun. And soaring, jagged Superstition Mountain in the background is inarguably scenic.
In the chapel, Elvis stands under a trellis behind the communion rail in mannequin mode about to strum a guitar and break into song. Its walls are lined with very old movie posters. Elvis made just over 30 films. None of them won Academy Awards. He sang in all of them except for Charro! He wore a beard and a thin tache in Charro! Charro! was advertised with the phrase “on his hip he wore vengeance”. Charro! was the only movie Elvis made at the Apacheland Movie Ranch below Superstition Mountain.
A lot of early TV westerns were made at the Apacheland Movie Ranch (AMR) too. The 1st was Have Gun, Will Travel. There were major fires here in 1969 and 2004. Today the Superstition Mountain Lost Dutchman Museum is owned and maintained by an enthusiastic, well-meaning historical society. When we got home, Ruth and I tracked down The Ballad of Cable Hogue, a Sam Peckinpah movie made at AMR in 1970. It was really dated.