A Collection Of Bizarre Solved & Unsolved Mysteries
Associated With The University Of Arizona
Located In Tucson, Arizona U.S.A. From 1885 To The Present Day
(Not a website of the University of Arizona)
The Professor's Strange Obsession
Old Main 1893
It was in the late fall of 1893 after the weather was just starting to cool in Tucson when the imminent Dr. Ambrose L. Horn arrived at the Territorial University of Arizona in a large cloud of dust kicked up by the Tucson Livery Service's wagon with its team of mules in which the professor was riding in.
The newly elected President Grover Cleveland had just appointed Louis Cameron Hunt, a civil war veteran, as the 11th Territory of Arizona Governor, 15 year old boys could walk into any of the Congress Street Saloons for a drink, the Kingdom of Hawaii had been overthrown by a group of wealthy United States Businessmen secretly working for the government, the Apache & Yavapai Wars had since ended with the 'hostiles' being relocated to reservations or other relocations individually into various cities all around the United States.
The able doctor's long series of traveling on wood burning steam powered locomotives and on stage coach rides from back east had conferred at least some no-nonsense Out West Wisdom into his entire thinking processes. He now knew some of the ways that The West really was.
Tying his fine silk cloth handkerchief around his mouth and nose to filter the dusty blowing desert sand, the doctor jumped out of the back of the horse drawn wagon onto the bare packed Territorial University of Arizona desert sand in front of what was then known as The Arizona Territorial College of Mines in Tucson (now known as Old Main).
Dr. Horn was known in some of the upper circles of the U.S. medical profession of the later 1800's as an unusually exceptionally gifted surgeon, and medical instructor.
After a short period of standing out in the warm sun on the dusty dirt entrance road the doctor was quickly shown to his new home on the mostly desert and cactus filled campus except for the main building located with just a very few sheds and small outbuildings around nearby.
The 1873 stock market crash had lasted until 1878, then not so many yaers later from 1892 to 1893 in the United States the public experienced first a rampant financial panic, then a stifling depression, finally followed by then an almost complete economic meltdown including a stock market crash and a run on the banks which left many people suddenly penniless. Many banks would suddenly quickly escort their depositors outside, closed their doors, and never opened again while their management suddenly and quietly left town during the night as the population slept.
The good doctor had lost a part of his savings but was not at all in the dire straits of many of the people of the era, many of whom had committed suicide or merely quietly disappeared at night never to be seen again while their familes were sleeping rather than face their family and business associates with the reality of bankruptcy.
Doctor Horn's recent employment at the University of Arizona was proving to revitalize his means considerably and rather quickly. But, the doctors memories of the financial crashes, bank failures, and public panics he had experienced left the professor with a very leery feeling of banks and the ones in Tucson were no exception.
Night janitors along with night owl predisposed students on campus noted observing what they thought was Dr. Horn on various nightly occasions digging in and around what was then the many cactus gardens located all around the dark shadowy unlit 20 acre desert grounds of the college.
Given the already well known eccentricity of both professors and doctors in the latter 1800's era the rumors and matter of the doctors nocturnal activities quickly passed through the idle gossip phase and were in time almost forgotten just about as quickly.
Then one late stormy night in 1894 as the wind howled through the desert, two members of the football team (both were also members of the same fraternity ) were walking around campus after drinking some Red Eye Whiskey they had purchased at the Bucket of Blood Saloon down along the Congress Street area.
Tucson's Red Eye Whiskey in the 1800's often arrived in Tucson in large wooded barrels as a cheaper and always clear grain alcohol liquid. To make it look like the dark expensive whiskey variety, the saloon owners would drop a couple handfuls of rusty nails in the barrels to darken the color of the clear liquid and within a few hours that would give it the very characteristic dark amber whiskey look of expensive whiskey from the East Coast.
On the walk back to the college the two football players eyes caught the dark shadowy shape of a man off in the distance seemingly bent over near the middle of what is now the University of Arizona's Mall area, which at that time was a very large and well kept cactus garden.
As the two students got closer they could just make out the figure way out in the distance in front of them.
It was unmistakably that of the esteemed Dr. Ambrose L. Horn crouched over looking down at the ground and tamping down some earth with a small hand trowel such as was used by the schools gardeners.
With the whiskey on their breaths, and not wanting to suffer demerits to their records the two fraternity brothers quickly and very wisely veered off and quietly slipped away into the night unnoticed.
Three days later the two students unable to stand it any longer, and waiting on a moon lit night both then returned to the spot where they had observed the professor mysteriously crouching under the cover of the deserts darkness.
The ground was still reasonably soft, but when it did not yield, one of the boys pulled out a small pocket knife and soon found buried about 12 inches down in the desert soil a small leather pouch with a thin lead liner inside.
Upon opening it up, even in the deserts darkness they could still both see that unmistakable gleaming shine before their eyes.
To their amazement it was GOLD!
And, it was in the form of the $20, $10, and $5 dollar gold pieces struck by the United States Mint.
Quickly getting back to their fraternity buddies the two excitingly woke up the rest of them with the very strange and bizarre news of their find. Quickly they all quickly began devising their plans to secretly search for more of the Professor's hidden hoards of gold coins.
However, what none of the boys realized was that the mysterious Dr. Horn had indeed witnessed the two young football players dig up and abscond with the leather pouch that he had so carefully buried that night under the cover of darkness.
And also what none of the fraternity members could not begin to possibly imagine was the diabolical surprise that the good Dr. Horn was now planning for all of them.
Dr. Ambrose L. Horn
The very clever doctor bided his time until the week of the annual Tucson Cotillion Dance that was one of the most very highly popular events of the 1800's held every year in downtown Tucson at the Ebber's Building to introduce the Tucson Communities eligible girls from all the most socially elite and wealthy families in the area to the very best and brightest of young men from the same social strata then attending the University of Arizona.
As part of the era's requirements for the male college students to attend such a prominent social event it was also required that one of the college's own doctors perform a simple health exam.
Dr. Horn carefully made sure that he would be the schools doctor to perform the exams on the young men. The morning of the exam came with all the most athletic and brightest students of the school soon showing up along with the Fraternity Brothers and each waited to be seen by the doctor.
One local young man patiently sitting in the chair was 'Edward' who was not a student, but the son of a prominent Tucson Businessman, and a patient of Dr. Horn being treated for Dipathentic Larangites and had been told to come in that day for his follow up checkup.
Unknowingly, Edward quickly infected all the fraternity brothers with the highly infectious disease that caused those with it to experience laryngitis (the inability to speak), inability to gain an erection, a slight fever, along with vomiting and diarrhea.
The small handful of fraternity members who did attempt to attend the dance despite their mysterious illnesses only lasted minutes before bolting out the exit doors of the building with dark brown stains suddenly appearing down the legs and on the seats of their white formal pants right down to their socks and shoes.
Soon, after each payday, the Professor was once again burying his pouches of gold and silver coins all around the campus under the cover of night due to his total and complete distrust of the banks.
Dr. Ambrose L. Horn died suddenly one afternoon of heart failure while teaching a medical class, and although the face of the University of Arizona campus has changed many many times over the years since then, only a very few of his money pouches have ever been found.
The ones found are usually during the results of construction excavations or other projects, with the last being in August of 2010.
All of the remaining pouches of now very highly valuable gold and silver coins are presumed to be still scattered all over what is now the University of Arizona campus in Tucson, Arizona.
Recently, a prominent coin dealer on Oracle Road mused, "Considering at various times over the years since that time, the U.S. Governments massive melting down of gold & silver coins, and later in the 1930's the federal governments outright making the possession of gold coins by citizens illegal in the United States, and then the goverments melting those coins down also, the Professor's gold and silver coins would now be of really unbelievable value!
The elusive professor's use of a thin lead liner in his pouches has probably contributed to them not being found in modern times with all the electronic gadgets around except if the pouches have gotten torn in some way over the years by soil action and ground movements, new landscaping projects, or excavations."