Deep in the Grapevine Mountains in Death Valley National Park, California, a Spanish colonial-style villa stands as a landmark to Death Valley Scotty. Walter E. Scott, better known as Scotty, was a conman and a self-pronounced wealthy gold prospector, whose legend comes from his tales of owning a secret gold mine in the Death Valley.
No one had ever seen or heard of the gold mine Scott raved about, even Albert Johnson, the treasurer of the National Life Insurance Company of Chicago and Scott’s most loyal investor and friend. In 1904, Scott boarded a train to visit Johnson, supposedly carrying US$12,000 in gold dust, which he later reported was stolen. Scott, who was keen on any form of self-promotion, excitedly spoke with newspaper reporters about the theft, making headlines that week.
Scott swindled thousands and thousands of dollars out of Johnson, constantly reassuring him that the delay in the secret gold’s delivery was caused by various disasters. When Johnson and other investors asked to see the mine, Scott led the men on a multi-day excursion to the imaginary mine.
When the group travelled over Wingate Pass, an ex-deputy sheriff from Nevada came to them claiming to have heard shots being fired by a group of ambushers. Scott assured his companions that he could fight off any outlaws, so he and his group continued their journey.
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