Imagine the sudden emergence of an unnatural ridge on the horizon, glowing pink in the setting sun and seemingly emitting inhuman groans. Such an anomaly of nature would make us pause, hair on end and goose bumps raised, pondering how such an otherworldly yet natural phenomenon came to be. The aptly named “Enchanted Rock” has been the source of such tepid and terrored speculation for centuries. Generations’ worth of improbable stories full of mysticism and wonder, ghosts and spirits, bloodshed and heartache, surround Enchanted Rock, its crooks and crannies echoing with the shadows of stories both true and false.
Enchanted Rock’s ethereal guise masks a simple form of nature: it is actually a massive pink granite pluton rock formation. Unlike the surrounding limestone, which easily weathered away over centuries, the pink granite is resistant to erosion, forming a “monadnock,” or an isolated ridge or mountain that rises randomly from the surrounding flat plane. Enchanted Rock, which covers an expansive 640 acres and rises 425 feet above surrounding land, is not only mysterious because of its adversity from its surroundings, but also because of its color, an undeniable shade of pink. It is no wonder that settlers and natives alike created expansive stories and myths in order to try to gain some understanding of such a natural mutation.
The legends of Enchanted Rock extend far back into the depths of time. Far before European settlers discovered the rock, Tokawa, Apache, and Comanche tribes inhabited the area; Native Americans attributed magical and spiritual energy to the rock and would supposedly perform and offer sacrifices at its base. The powers of the rock extended beyond simple sacrifices, and some tribes even believed it served as a portal to other worlds, alternate universes that could be accessed through nighttime excursions on the rock—if you were brave enough. When, in the sixteenth century, Tonkawa Indians heard the creaking and groaning of the rocks shifting, their imaginations ran wild, placing ghost fires on the peaks of the rock and morphing the creaks into screams.
Centuries’ worth of ghosts and spirits have been thought to inhabit and haunt Enchanted Rock. Final vestiges of entire tribes, their extinction eminent, fled to the rock, where they were massacred by their rivals; intent on revenge, their spirits remained on Enchanted Rock to haunt its visitors. Visitors have seen the trailing footprints created by a lonesome Native American chief who sacrificed his daughter on the rock and, as retribution for his cruelty, was condemned to walk the surface forever. Others tell tales of the ghost of the beautiful Native American princess, her face frozen in anguish after watching the slaughter of her people, a heartache inescapable even after her suicide jump from its highest peak. The screams heard after nightfall are often attributed to the white woman who escaped to Enchanted Rock after being kidnapped by Native Americans and was left to hide among the rocky coves, fear her only companion. Spanish priests whose flight from a Native American tribe led them to Enchanted Rock disappeared for two days; when they reappeared, they claimed to have fallen into a cavern and been swallowed whole by the rock. Their stories were full of the phantoms and spirits they encountered, tales of devils and specters from another world, pulled from the depths of the rock before they were spit back out into the shallow reality of the world.
Not all of the legends surrounding the ridge are so chilling. References to Enchanted Rock as the mythical El Dorado have circulated for centuries, and Spanish explorers even believed it was made solidly of silver. Some stories even claim the rock to be a source of luck. When a Spanish soldier by the name of Don Jesus Navarro fell in love with Rosa, the Christian daughter of Indian chief Tehuan, he vowed to follow her to the ends of the earth. Rosa was kidnapped by Comanches and whisked away to the imposing Enchanted Rock, but Navarro was not dissuaded; he followed his love and rescued her weakened body from the burning pyre created by her captors.
One such positive story was confirmed and set in stone—literally—with a plaque inserted into the ground near Enchanted Rock. The plaque commemorates the heroic tale of Captain John Coffee Hays. While Hays was leading a surveying trip in 1841, he was cut off from his entourage of Texas Rangers by a group of Comanche Indians. Hays fled to Enchanted Rock where he single-handedly staved off his vicious attackers in a three-hour-long savage battle. The Comanche eventually fled, even more convinced of the rock’s supernatural powers than ever before. The tale of Captain John Coffee Hays serves as a reminder that even the most mythical or unlikely of tales—no matter how eerie, mysterious, or inexplicable—can have a foundation set solidly in the bedrock of truth.