It's tough finding anyone who doesn't know who Johnny Cash is, and isn't a fan of at least some of his music. His songs are timeless. One of them was inspired by a terrifying west Texas legend.

Ever hear of Stampede Mesa?

Somewhere Between Lubbock and Dickens Texas... where you'll find Stampede Mesa. It's supposedly located in Crosby County. To be even more specific, it's in the White River, Blanco Canyon area. One account places it around the Blanco Canyon Reservoir area. Look at the southeast corner of the highlighted area on the map. That's the area.


It's on this this land formation that a terrifying legend was born, and where one of Johnny Cash's biggest hits got its start.

Death, Death, and More Death On Stampede Mesa

You have to go back to the days when cowboys would drive cattle from Texas up north. There are probably several more stories about tragedy on Stampede Mesa,  but the first one you see widely referenced is about a trailboss named Sawyer.

Sawyer was driving longhorns north, and was looking for a spot for everyone to stay the night. They found themselves resting up on Stampede Mesa.

Some say the trouble was caused by a nester, others say that Sawyer just became agitated and started acting irrationally. Either way, the next morning the herd was laying at the bottom of the mesa. Dead. So were some of the riders who had joined Sawyer on the drive.

Photo by Benjamin Bousquet on Unsplash
Photo by Benjamin Bousquet on Unsplash

Ghostly Cowboys and Cattle Signal Doom

Legends say that there were several other trailbosses over the years who tried to survive the trip on Stampede Mesa, and they all met the same fate as the ones before them. Cattle and cowpokes would be found laying dead at the bottom.

Reports of ghostly apparitions of riders and cattle became the stuff of legend. Some even said that what at first looked like a storm would turn out to be these cowpokes and the cattle in the sky barreling down on the mesa.

Photo by Linhao Zhang on Unsplash
Photo by Linhao Zhang on Unsplash

Eventually The Legends Became A Classic, Furthered Inspired By Irish Folk Music

In 1948, a songwriter named Stan Jones wrote a song based on Stampede Mesa set to the Irish folk song Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye.

It would later be recorded by a laundry list of other artists, but the most famous version undoubtedly belongs to the Man In Black, Johnny Cash.

That song was titled, Ghost Riders In The Sky.

Keep reading for more ghostly Texas tales.

Check Out These 10 Horrifying Ghost Legends From Texas

Here comes 10 ghost legends from the state of Texas:

Notable East Texas Legends

The Abandoned Herring Hotel in Amarillo, Texas

You may have passed it a million times while driving downtown, or you may be new to town. Either way, chances are you've seen the beautiful Herring Hotel. The beautiful aging brick tower sits unoccupied on 3rd and Pearce streets. It's a grand building that stands as a reminder of Amarillo's early days as a cattle and oil town and it tells the stories well.

If you've ever wondered what's inside this towering building, just take a peek below.