A big thank you to John Westerlund for his recent story in Mountain Living, "Tale in Time," about Little Johnny Elden. I enjoyed reading that bit of Flagstaff history, and finding out what the actual facts are about the gravesite. Thanks for his detective's sense of rooting out what was real, and what was legend! Of course, the facts aren't nearly as heart-wrenching as the stories of Little Miss Elden or Little Johnny Elden but they make for good storytelling.
In past years, what was "printed" in newspapers, books, and magazines was considered no less than Gospel truth and we trusted those information sources (not only because we respected their integrity, but we also knew that printing anything less than the truth could earn them lawsuits for copyright violation or defamation). Now that the Arizona Daily Sun, Platt Cline, George Hochderffer, Gladwell "Toney" Richardson, the Mount Elden Environmental Study Area, and the Forest Service have memorialized the legend, it appears that the repetition of non-existent "facts" has made the legend true. I wonder if this is one of the first false news stories.
"When legend becomes fact, print the legend." I'm only aware of one instance where myth (or legend) becomes fact: in the incarnation of Jesus Christ (see C.S. Lewis, 'God in the Dock').