A mountain -- well, honestly, it's a small 400-foot-tall hill -- in the middle of the Hembrillo Basin in southern New Mexico. Named after the famous Apache chief.

The mountain is best known for the legend of the lost Victorio Peak gold. The stories got started back in the 1920s, when gold bars started to turn up here and there. In 1937, a convict-turned-podiatrist named Milton "Doc" Noss went hunting deer one day and found a shaft in the side of Victorio Peak. Noss later claimed that the shaft was "big enough for a freight train."

Once Noss entered the shaft, he discovered a number of small caverns. Exploring with only a flashlight, he first came upon the grisly discovery of 27 human skeletons and, just not far beyond, obscene amounts of treasure, including jewels, guns, saddles, swords, boxes full of old letters, "enough gold and silver coins to load sixty to eighty mules," and thousands of bars of pig iron. Noss loaded his pockets with coins and jewels and lugged out some of the pig iron. Once he got home and was showing off his find to his wife, Ova, she rubbed one of the bars of pig iron and discovered that it was actually a bar of gold! Realizing that there were thousands of gold bars back at the cavern that no one knew about, Noss' wife later described it as the "happiest moment in our lives."

Unfortunately, a couple of years later, there was a cave-in that completely blocked the entrance into the cave. In 1958, after the founding of White Sands Missile Range swallowed up Victorio Peak, Air Force personnel found another way in, but it was soon blocked up as well. The gold was apparently lost forever.

Noss was murdered in 1949 in an unrelated incident, but his wife kept trying to relocate the cave. For years, she suspected that the military was stealing the gold, and she sought permission from the government to conduct lengthy searches. For years, all her requests were denied, but eventually, the military agreed to a search. In 1977, Ova Noss, along with Army officials, professional treasure hunters, scientists, reporters, miners, and curious onlookers, spent ten days searching Victorio Peak, but turned up nothing. However, Ova Noss and other spectators said it was obvious that the army had been conducting extensive searches -- there was evidence that blasting had occurred, and a number of large iron doors were erected over some cave entrances. Though the military claims the stories about treasure on Victorio Peak are just myths, Ova Noss accuses the Army of illegally jumping her claim, stealing the gold, and destroying the entrances to the caves to cover up their theft.

Research from "It Happened in New Mexico" by James A. Crutchfield, published by Falcon Press Publishing, 1995, pp. 102-104.

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