The Deserted Ruins of Route 66’s Two Guns and its Apache Death Cave

When Route 66 paved the way for motorists to make their way to California, all sorts of roadside attractions sprung up along the side of the road. But perhaps none as disturbing as Twin Guns, with its Apache Death Cave, located along the edge of Canyon Diablo.

A hollowed out stone structure reads "Mountain Lions" in massive, faded black text.

I’ll start out by saying Two Guns is a casual historian’s nightmare. There are very few of what I consider reliable sources, but there are some solid facts to this bizarre and in many ways, haunting place.

Long before Route 66 ever made its way into Arizona, the area was home to several Native American tribes, including the Apache and Navajo. In 1878 a fight between the two tribes laid the foundation for what this area would become. Trying to escape from the attacking Navajo, a group of Apache hid in a cave, but when the Navajo discovered them, they decided to set fire to sagebrush at the cave’s opening, suffocating the people within. Supposedly 42 members of the Apache tribe died within the cave, and after that the cave was known as the “Apache Death Cave.” The following decades were filled with more bloodshed and a string of failed enterprises.

In 1922 or 1924 (sources vary) Earle and Louise Cundiff, an Arkansas couple, arrived and began homesteading. They also built a store and offered other services to travelers. In 1925 the colorful character Harry E. “Indian” Miller arrived looking to cash in on the Route 66 tourist trade, and leased part of the Cundiff’s land. Miller claimed to be Apache and Mohawk, and dubbed himself “Chief Crazy Thunder.”

Miller explored the Apache Death Cave, clearing it, creating faux ruins within and boasting it as a tourist destination. He even claimed to have found Apache skulls within and sold them as souvenirs. He also built more faux ruins along the edge of Canyon Diablo. If the Apache Death Cave wasn’t enough of a lure for passing motorists, Miller also opened up a zoo, featuring all sorts of wild desert animals. However some of those animals were known to turn on him. He was attacked by a mountain lion at least once, and supposedly by a lynx and even a gila monster that bit him causing a massive infection.

The relationship between Cundiff and Miller ended abruptly when Miller shot and killed Cundiff during an argument over the property. Despite Cundiff being unarmed, Miller was acquitted, and that it was an act of self-defense. However, Miller was still haunted by what happened when Cundiff’s headstone read “Killed by Indian Miller.” Angered, Miller destroyed the headstone, and was charged with defacing a grave. Perhaps due to this, he left in 1930 for New Mexico, where he constructed a similar tourist attraction with a zoo and fake ruins.

The land changed hands several times, with various people trying to revive the tourist trade, but on August 1, 1971 a fire (supposedly arson) leveled much of the area. There has been a rumor for nearly a decade that Russell Crowe purchased the property to do a remake of Westworld, but there is no solid evidence of that, and well, HBO already jumped on that idea.

Today the ruins, both real and fake, of Miller’s enterprise still stand on the edge of the Devil’s Canyon, and are inhabited by nothing more than the wind. And boy was it having fun when we were there. The Apache Death Cave is still accessible by a rickety wooden ramp and if you venture in, you’ll need a flashlight and good shoes.

Ruins, whether they are faux or real as a result of the fire, it's hard to tell.

Myself, wearing a white peasant top, and a long, navy skirt with cattle skulls printed on it, and a necklace featuring a cattle skull standing next to one of the rock work ruins that overlooks the canyon.

A faux ruin stands over the entrance down into the Apache Death Cave.

The rickety wooden walkway ramp down into the Apache Death Cave.

Myself, wearing a white peasant top, and a long, navy skirt with cattle skulls printed on it, and a necklace featuring a cattle skull walking down the ramp into the Apache Death Cave

The small opening into the Apache Death Cave.

The opening of the Apache Death Cave with the wooden ramp down above.

Myself, wearing a white peasant top, and a long, navy skirt with cattle skulls printed on it, and a necklace featuring a cattle skull standing near the opening of the Apache Death Cave.

Myself, wearing a white peasant top, and a long, navy skirt with cattle skulls printed on it, and a necklace featuring a cattle skull standing in the doorway of the faux Native American ruin near the entrance to the Apache Death Cave.

A faux ruin overlooks Canyon Diablo.

A hollowed out stone structure reads "Mountain Lions" in massive, faded black text.

Myself, walking through the opening of the Mountain Lions building, wearing a white peasant top, and a long, navy skirt with cattle skulls printed on it.

Myself, wearing a white peasant top, and a long, navy skirt with cattle skulls printed on it, and a necklace featuring a cattle skull leaning against a doorway within one of the stone ruins of Tow Guns.

Myself, wearing a white peasant top, and a long, navy skirt with cattle skulls printed on it, and a necklace featuring a cattle skull, walking down the steps of the backside of the stone Mountain Lion structure.

The crumbling back of the Mountain Lions building, with a long wide staircase, that is flanked by broken down old cages.

Remnants of the animal cages, made up of rocks and chicken wire.

Myself, wearing a white peasant top, and a long, navy skirt with cattle skulls printed on it, and a necklace featuring a cattle skull, walking down the steps of the backside of the stone Mountain Lion structure.

The ruins of the Mountain Lions building, with broken down old cages.

Myself, wearing a white peasant top, and a long, navy skirt with cattle skulls printed on it, and a necklace featuring a cattle skull, standing near one of the rotting wooden and wire cages.

A concrete bridge stretches across Canyon Diablo, with a single story tan rock work structure in the background.

A hollowed out tan and brown structure made of various rocks. No roof, and the walls are crumbling.

The landscape as seen through one of the broken out windows of one of the abandoned stone structures.

Myself, wearing a white peasant top, and a long, navy skirt with cattle skulls printed on it, and a necklace featuring a cattle skull, walking toward one of the pale tan rock work ruins.

Crumbling stone walls sit near the edge of the canyon.

Myself, wearing a white peasant top, and a long, navy skirt with cattle skulls printed on it, and a necklace featuring a cattle skull standing next to one of the rock work ruins.

Crumbling walls along a path at the edge of the canyon.

Ruins, whether they are faux or real as a result of the fire, it's hard to tell.

Myself, wearing a white peasant top, and a long, navy skirt with cattle skulls printed on it, and a necklace featuring a cattle skull standing next to one of the rock work ruins.

Pale tan and brown rocks make up one of the remaining structures at Two Guns.

Myself, wearing a white peasant top, and a long, navy skirt with cattle skulls printed on it, and a necklace featuring a cattle skull standing next to one of the rock work ruins.

Myself, wearing a white peasant top, and a long, navy skirt with cattle skulls printed on it, and a necklace featuring a cattle skull climbing the stairs of one of the rock work ruins.

Myself, wearing a white peasant top, and a long, navy skirt with cattle skulls printed on it, and a necklace featuring a cattle skull climbing the stairs of one of the rock work ruins.

Myself, wearing a white peasant top, and a long, navy skirt with cattle skulls printed on it, and a necklace featuring a cattle skull standing next to one of the rock work ruins.

A roofless stone structure is missing one entire outside wall.

Myself, wearing a white peasant top, and a long, navy skirt with cattle skulls printed on it, and a necklace featuring a cattle skull leaning against a doorway within one of the stone ruins of Tow Guns.

Venture into the Apache Death Cave and explore the ruins of Two Guns, located just off Interstate 40 at exit 230.

Sources
Bruher, Betsey. “Colorful and cursed Two Guns.” Arizona Daily Sun, 8 November 2005. Accessed 23 September, 2019.
Hinckley, Jim. Ghost Towns of Rout 66. Minneapolis: Voyager Press, 2011. Print.
Richardson, Gladwell. Two Guns, Arizona. 1968. hkhinc.

Outfit
Peasant top & Skirt: Buffalo Exchange
Necklace: West of Texas
Shoes: Minnetonka
Turquoise: Here and there…

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