One of the Haunted places in Arizona
The Ghost Of Dirtwater Springs
How did Dirtwater Springs become one of the haunted places in Arizona? The story of the December 29, 1947 murder and robbery in Apache Junction began at the King’s Guest Ranch near Dinosaur Mountain in the area we know today as Gold Canyon.
Julian and Lucy King had begun construction on their guest ranch in 1945 and continued to improve the place. During the summer of 1947, the were asked to give Angel “Rocky” Serna a job. The county probation officer, a friend of the Kings, explained to the Kings that Serna was an ex-convict and needed another chance to go straight. The Kings gave Serna the job.
“Rocky”, as he liked to be called, helped the Kings put in their water system at the guest ranch. He worked all summer without any problems. When the weather cooled off, Rocky usually went to town on the weekends. He was very interested in horses and wanted to become a jockey and own his own racehorse.
Early in September, 1947, Rocky found the racehorse he wanted to buy. The only problem was the horse cost $400. Rocky didn’t have the money or any way of obtaining it. Julian King tried to explain to Rocky that $400 was a lot of money for a horse. Rocky insisted he would earn or find the money to buy the horse somehow. He quit working at the King’s Ranch near the end of October and took a job in Apache Junction, almost ten miles from the King’s Ranch.
Serna spent most of the fateful morning of December 29, 1947, at Apache Junction Inn. His first trip down to the Superstition Mountain Shell Station was to try and borrow the $400 from the owner, Mr.s Katherine M. Gohn, to buy a racehorse in Chandler.
Johnny Baker, the cook at the Apache Junction Inn, drove Rocky down to the service station, but Mr.s Gohn wasn’t at the station.
Rocky left, but returned a short time later. When the owner still wasn’t there, he left again but apparently had decided to rob the Superstition Mountain Shell Station. Rocky stole a pistol from a man named Grady Haskins and walked back down to the station. He walked in and demanded money with the gun in his hand.
Mrs. Fairy Thompson, 32, the daughter of Katherine Gohn, knew Rocky and thought he was joking around. When Mrs. Thompson laughed and said, “You’re kidding, Roccky,” he shot her in the chest.. Mr.s Thompson’s two young daughters ran out the back door and toward Jack Anderson’s Apache Junction Inn to summon help. Bonnie Thompson, the older of the two Thompson girls, stopped a motorist and sought help for her mother.
After shooting Fairy Thompson, Rocky proceeded to the home of Katherine Gohn. He shot Mrs. Gohn in the hand, then dragged her into the bedroom where he raped her and the shot her in the head. He then stole her car and headed east on Highway 60. For some reason he turned up King’s Ranch Road and got stuck in a wash.
Serna walked to King’s Guest Ranch and approached Paul Marchand, asking him for a ride to Stafford. He further told marchand he “just killed two women.” Marchand refused to help and Serna wandered away on foot.
Marchand immediately drove to Sand Tanks Station and reported the incident to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.
Serna was captured several hours later by Earl Parrish, a Chandler constable, and Coy Beasley, a Highway Patrolman. When arrested, Serna had fifty dollars in his possession. He was booked into Pinal County Jail at Florence
Fairy Thompson survived her chest wound, but her mother, the owner of the Superstition Mountain Shell Station, Katherine Gohn, was dead.
Serna was born in a small town near Douglas, Arizona, called Franklin. He had been in trouble with the law before. He was on parole from the Arizona State Prison for robbery at the time he shot Fairy Thompson and killed her mother.
Angle B. “Rocky” Serna was tried and found guilty of Murder in the First Degree and the punishment was set at death. The Pinal County Superior Court set the execution date for Serna on May 22, 1948. The Arizona State Supreme Court then gave Serna a temporary stay and then ordered Serna to be executed on January 21, 1950. Governor Dan E. Garvey granted Serna a Reprieve of Execution on December 10, 1949, and another on April 13, 1950.
Angel B. “Rocky” Serna’s luck ran out at 4:05 a.m. on July 29, 1950, when he became the first man to be executed in Arizona’s new gas chamber.
Dirtwater Springs Restaurant now occupies the sight of the old Superstition Mountain Shell Station. Waitresses and staff say they can occasionally hear the ringing of the old bell that rang as customers drove up. Some even say they have seen the ghost of Katherine Gohn wandering about the restaurant after closing time. Come in and see for yourself if this restaurant in Apache Junction is one of the haunted places in Arizona.
Original article was found in the Apache Junction local News paper. Links to other articles: