The Legend of the Four Skulls

The Devil’s Punchbowl, Little Rock, CA

To preface this tale, I grew up in what is possibly one of the most boing parts of California imaginable, Victorville, CA. Just recently, we made the top 10 of worst cities in California in which to live.

I think this list is biased personally, how did we beat San Bernardino this year? Really?

Meanwhile, I spent a lot of time hiking, camping and exploring out in the desert. My mom and her mother came to Victorville in the late 1950’s when there was even less there. My grandmother and the rest of the family were migrant workers during the great depression in California. They had many intriguing tales that they had picked up over the years about the desert and why things were the way they were.

Trona Pinnacles

But one legend I remember hearing over and over as a child was the legend of the Four Skulls. My grandmother and later my mother always joked, because of strange occurrences at our house and in our backyard, one of the four skulls must be buried under the house.

Me in front of a Joshua tree out in Bell Mountain, CA

This of course fired mine and my cousin Jacob’s imagination. We would dare each other at night to go out back and touch the tamarack tree (that’s where we were sure it was buried). On every adventure out into the desert we would speculate on whether we would find a skull and bring about the end of the world. I wrote more than one horror story based on this legend I heard growing up.

View of the ghost town of Rhyolite from the cemetery.

I don’t know to this day where my grandmother and the great-aunts came up with it. I have not been able to find it written down anywhere in an official version, but if any of my readers have heard this too, please let me know. I would love to compare notes.

Old wooden grave marker, Rhyolite Cemetery, NV

The Four Skulls

As told to me by my Great-Aunt Verne

The white man encroached on the desert, digging holes and searching for gold, driving the first people from the land. There was continual slaughter. The white man’s leader sent a message that he wanted to make a treaty, to talk with the tribe and come to an agreement. Four warriors of the tribe left to meet where the river flows though the narrows.

Old Rail Station, Rhyolite Ghost Town, NV

It was a trap. The white man had the four warriors killed, and their heads removed. But the Shaman of the tribe was able to get the four heads back. He laid a curse upon the four heads.

Mine shaft, Lead Field. Death Valley, CA

Knowing the white man’s desire for gold, he had the four heads buried in the desert. The curse would be that as each one was dug from the ground, the woes upon the white man would increase. When the final head was pulled, it would bring about the end of the world for the white man. Once wiped from the earth, the first people would emerge again.

The Church at the Cerro Gordo Mine

Thanks for reading. As previously mentioned, this is a legend my grandmother and great-aunts would tell me growing up. If anyone else has heard a similar tale, I would love to hear it.

Hiking in New Mexico. It is good to get away!