Does Phoenix Have Its Own Area 51?
Excerpt from Valley 101: A Slightly Skewed Guide to Living in Arizona, a collection of Clay Thompson’s columns for The Arizona Republic. (Originally published February 9, 2003.)
Q: My friends and I often mountain-bike in the Dreamy Draw area. Recently one of the guys started talking about how a UFO crashed there in 1947 and was buried under the Dreamy Draw Dam. What’s up with that?
A: Well, I guess it depends on if you believe in UFOs or not. If you don’t believe in UFOs, then this story is just hooey. If you do believe in UFOs, then the Dreamy Draw Dam was built to cover one up.
Personally, I’m not sure what I think about UFOs and ETs and all that stuff. They don’t seem very likely, but on the other hand, it would explain a lot of my masters’ behavior. And clothes. They just haven’t learned our Earth ways yet. But I digress.
The Dreamy Draw UFO story, as you might expect, has several variations. One has it that in 1947, about three months after the famous UFO incident in Roswell, N.M., a UFO crashed somewhere in the Dreamy Draw area. Another version has the spaceship setting down in that area but actually crashing about 10 miles away near a Cave Creek landfill.
Supposedly, the remains of its two passengers, described as about 4½feet tall, were recovered. They were kept in some guy’s freezer for a while and then taken away by the military.
And supposedly the reason the Army Corps of Engineers built the Dreamy Draw Dam was not for flood control, as you might suppose, but to bury the UFO. Do you know where the Dreamy Draw Dam is?
If you’re going north on the Squaw Peak Parkway, it’s off to your right a bit above Northern Avenue. I asked Ted Kester, who is in charge of the city’s mountain preserves in that part of town, about this, and he said he’d heard the legend but couldn’t recall anyone ever asking about it. So it’s not exactly a mecca for ufologists.
There was a horizontal mine shaft in that area in mid-70’s. We high-schoolers were famous for using it for vary dramatically played out pledge rituals, (hooded capes, blindfolds, candles–very innocent.) The shaft was just darned creepy; we had great fun scaring each other! Then we’d eat Dunkin’ Donuts at sunrise and go home exhausted.
Wouldn’t there be some sort of residual radiation or something if this was truly a UFO crash site?
Could be something to it. I’ve never thought that the area was a crash site, but I’ve always found it odd that the dam area is gated and has no trespassing signs on it when there really is nothing there to vandalize. I’ve considered that the area might actually be a “staging area” for one of the local national guard units. Meaning that in a time of war or a terrorist attack of some kind, this might be an area the military would use to deploy troops or set up a command post. It is located close enough to the city, but not directly in harms way. That might account for why I regularly see military helicopters flying over the area. One time when I was walking along the road that goes around the dam (yes the gated one) there was a military helicopter that flew around the area three times, perhaps keeping an eye on me. I was concerned that they might send some ground unit after me, but nothing happened. Probably snapped a few photos of me from the chopper though!
In the 1970s and ’80s we heard frequent news reports of people being seriously injured or dying when they fell down the shaft of an abandoned mine. Some parts of the Valley are riddled with old shafts that have tempted so many (especially kids) to go exploring. (My horse and I came close to going down a wide open vertical shaft when I was riding in the rugged hills north of Carefree Highway, simply because the shaft’s entrance was and unfenced, and so old that there was no evidence of any human presence having been there. In the late 1980s, legislators and other concerned citizens began pressuring Arizona’s mine inspector to locate and close dangerous, abandoned mines, and new law was passed in that regard in the 1990s. Thousands of abandoned mines have been inspected and closed.
Dreamy Draw was the site of cinnebar mines. Cinnebar is a mercury sulfide. My understanding has always been that the quantity of mercury that was produced from the ore in that area wasn’t great, but it was high in demand during World War II because of its use in explosives, as well as other familiar uses such as thermometers, thermostats, and hatting. Supposedly, the miners who worked in the cinnebar mines were made a bit demented (“dreamy”) by their constant exposure to mercury, hence the draw’s name.
Knowing the above, it has never seemed illogical, to me, to think that the Dreamy Draw area is fenced off because of the presence of dangerous old mine shafts and the potentially hazardous remains of mercury in an area that has long been right in Phoenix’s back yard. I find this a bit more believable than ETs and UFOs.