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Friday Video: Mysterious Treasure on Oak Island

Submitted by on April 1, 2011 – 11:49 AM13 Comments | 2,227 views

Happy April Fools day.

Some of you may have noticed the pop-up message that appeared on GhostTheory this morning:

GhostTheory announcement:

Starting tomorrow, GhostTheory.com will become a subscription based website. Due to the increasing prices of webhosting, we can no longer afford providing this free and wonderful content. If you wish to keep reading our articles and participating in the exhilarating discussions, we ask for members to pay a $5.00 monthly fee.

The money will help us pay for the expensive webhosting fees and help pay for Karate classes for the GhostTheory writers.

I received some emails and messages on Facebook about this. Some people got the joke, others were upset to hear about the changes. LOL.

Although I wanted to keep the message up for the rest of the day, it proved to be to resource intensive given the large traffic GhostTheory handles. Making the lightbox message come up every time someone loads the front page was weighing down the server heavily. So just to reiterate: April Fools!

For today’s installment of Friday Video I wanted to show the documentary on the great mystery of the ‘Mysterious Treasure on Oak Island‘. Never heard of it? It’s OK. Not many people have. According to the historic events that unfolded, a couple of teenagers came upon a circular indentation on the ground on Oak Island, Nova Scotia. When curiosity got the best of them, they decided to dig through the earth in hopes of uncovering a buried treasure. What followed was decades of digging by many famous people, tons of earth being dug up and a few deaths in what seems to be a futile effort to find a buried treasure.

Why on earth would people, like the young Franklin D. Roosevelt, travel to this island and risk their lives in order to pursue this treasure hunt? Well the fact that decades before, the teenage boys did stumble upon something peculiar. As they dug past 10 feet, they noticed a floor board that was placed in the hole, as some sort of platform. This proved to be the birth of countless rumors and speculations.

The website ActiveMind.com has some good information on this:

The Discovery

One summer day in 1795 Daniel McGinnis, then a teenager, was wandering about Oak Island, Nova Scotia (see Geography) when he came across a curious circular depression in the ground. Standing over this depression was a tree whose branches had been cut in a way which looked like it had been used as a pulley. Having heard tales of pirates in the area he decided to return home to get friends and return later to investigate the hole.

Over the next several days McGinnis, along with friends John Smith and Anthony Vaughan, worked the hole. What they found astonished them. Two feet below the surface they came across of layer of flagstones covering the pit. At 10 feet down they ran into a layer of oak logs spanning the pit. Again at 20 feet and 30 feet they found the same thing, a layer of logs. Not being able to continue alone from here, they went home, but with plans of returning to search more.

It took the three discoverers 8 years, but they did return. Along with The Onslow Company, formed for the purpose of the search, they began digging again. They quickly got back to 30 foot point that had been reached 8 years ago. They continued down to 90 feet, finding a layer of oak logs at every 10 foot interval. Besides the boards, at 40 feet a layer of charcoal was found, at 50 feet a layer of putty, and at 60 feet a layer of coconut fiber.

At 90 feet one of the most puzzling clues was found – a stone inscribed with mysterious writing.

Note: For more information about the stone inscription and to try your hand at translating the stone’s inscription go here.

After pulling up the layer of oak at 90 feet and continuing on, water began to seep into the pit. By the next day the pit was filled with water up to the 33 foot level. Pumping didn’t work, so the next year a new pit was dug parallel to the original down to 100 feet. From there a tunnel was run over to The Money Pit. Again the water flooded in and the search was abandoned for 45 years.

The Booby Trap

As it turns out, an ingenious booby trap had been sprung. The Onslow Company had inadvertently unplugged a 500 foot waterway that had been dug from the pit to nearby Smith’s Cove by the pit’s designers. As quickly as the water could be pumped out it was refilled by the sea.

This discovery however is only a small part of the intricate plan by the unknown designers to keep people away from the cache.

In 1849 the next company to attempt to extract the treasure, The Truro Company, was founded and the search began again. They quickly dug down to 86 feet only to be flooded. Deciding to try to figure out what was buried before attempting to extract it, Truro switched to drilling core samples. The drilling produced some encouraging results.

First Hints of Treasure

At 98 feet the drill went through a spruce platform. Then it encountered 4 inches of oak and then 22 inches of what was characterized as “metal in pieces”"; Next 8 inches of oak, another 22 inches of metal, 4 inches of oak and another layer of spruce. The conclusion was that they had drilled through 2 casks or chests filled will coins. Upon pulling out the drill they found splinters of oak and strands of what looked like coconut husk.

One account of the drilling also mentions that three small gold links, as from a chain, were brought up. Unfortunately no one knows where they have gone.

Interestingly, the earth encountered beneath the bottom spruce platform was loose indicating that the pit may have gone even deeper. A later group of searchers would find out how much deeper.

The Truro Company returned in 1850 with plans to dig another parallel hole and then tunnel over to the Money Pit. Just like before, as they tunneled over, water began to rush in. They brought in pumps to try to get rid of the water but it was impossible to keep the water out. During the pumping someone noticed that at Smith’s Cove during low tide there was water coming OUT of the beach.

This find lead to an amazing discovery – the beach was artificial.

Artificial Beach

It turns out that the pit designers had created a drain system, spread over a 145 foot length of beach, which resembled the fingers of a hand. Each finger was a channel dug into the clay under the beach and lined by rocks. The channels were then filled with beach rocks, covered with several inches of eel grass, and then covered by several more inches of coconut fiber. The effect of this filtering system was that the channels remained clear of silt and sand while water was still allowed to flow along them. The fingers met at a point inland where they fed sea water into a sloping channel which eventually joined the Money Pit some 500 feet away. Later investigations showed this underground channel to have been 4 feet wide, 2 1/2 feet high, lined with stone, and meeting the Money Pit between the depths of 95 to 110 feet.

To the Truro Company, the answer was now simple – just block off the water flow from the beach and dig out the treasure. Their first attempt was to build a dam just off the beach at Smith’s Cove, drain the water, and then dismantle the drain channels. Unfortunately a storm blew up and destroyed the dam before they could finish.

An interesting note: the remains of an older dam were found when building the new one.

The next plan was to dig a pit 100 feet or so inland in the hopes of meeting with the water channel underground at which point they could plug the channel. This scheme too failed. And this was the last attempt by the Truro company to uncover the secrets of Oak Island.

The Pit’s Collapse

The next attempt at securing the treasure was made in 1861 by the Oak Island Association. First they cleared out the Money Pit down to 88 feet. Then they ran a new hole to the east of the pit hoping to intercept the channel from the sea. The new shaft was dug out to120 feet without hitting the channel and then abandoned.

A second shaft was run, this one to west, down to 118 feet. They then attempted to tunnel over to the Money Pit. Again the water started to enter this pit as well as the Money Pit. Bailing was attempted and appeared to work. And then

CRASH!

The bottom fell out. Water rushed into the shafts and the bottom of the Money Pit dropped over 15 feet. Everything in the Money Pit had fallen farther down the hole. The big questions were why and how far?

Over the next several years different companies tried to crack the mystery unsuccessfully. They dug more shafts, tried to fill in the drain on the beach, built a new dam (which was destroyed by a storm), and drilled for more core samples. They met with little success.

The Cave-in Pit

In 1893 a man named Fred Blair along with a group called The Oak Island Treasure Company began their search. Their first task was to investigate the “Cave-in Pit”. Discovered in 1878 about 350 feet east of the Money Pit, the cave-in pit appears to have been a shaft dug out by the designers of the Money Pit perhaps as a ventilation shaft for the digging of the flood tunnel. It apparently intersected or closely passed the flood tunnel. While it was being cleared by the Treasure Company it started to flood at a depth of 55 feet and was abandoned.

Over the next several years The Oak Island Treasure Company would dig more shafts, pump more water, and still get nowhere. In 1897 they did manage to clear out the Money Pit down to 111 feet where they actually saw the entrance of the flood tunnel temporarily stopped up with rocks. However, the water worked its way through again and filled the pit.

The treasure company then decided that they would attempt to seal off the flow of water from Smith’s Cove by dynamiting the flood tunnel. Five charges were set off in holes drilled near the flood tunnel. They didn’t work. The water flowed into the Money Pit as rapidly as ever.

At the same time a new set of core samples were drilled at the pit itself. The results were surprising.

Cement Vault

At 126 feet, wood was struck and then iron. This material is probably part of the material that fell during the crash of the Pit. On other drillings the wood was encountered at 122 feet and the iron was missed completely indicating that the material may be laying in a haphazard way due to the fall.

Between 130 and 151 feet and also between 160 and 171 feet a blue clay was found which consisted of clay, sand, and water. This clay can be used to form a watertight seal and is probably the same “putty”; that was found at the 50 foot level of the Pit.

The major find was in the gap between the putty layers. A cement vault was discovered. The vault itself was 7 feet high with 7 inch thick walls. Inside the vault the drill first struck wood, then a void several inches high and an unknown substance. Next a layer of soft metal was reached, then almost 3 feet of metal pieces, and then more soft metal.

When the drill was brought back up another twist was added to the whole mystery. Attached to the auger was a small piece of sheepskin parchment with the letters “vi”; “ui”; or “wi”; What the parchment is a part of is still in question.

More convinced than ever that a great treasure was beneath the island, The Treasure Company began sinking more shafts in the attempts to get to the cement vault. They all met with failure due to flooding.

2nd Flood Tunnel

In May of 1899, yet another startling discovery was made. There was a second flood tunnel! This one was located in the South Shore Cove. The designers had been more ingenious and had done more work than previously thought. Though this find certainly strengthened the case that something valuable was buried below it didn’t bring anyone closer to actually finding the treasure.

Blair and The Oak Island Treasure Company continued to sink new shafts and drill more core samples, but no progress was made and no new information obtained.

Between 1900 and 1936 several attempts were made to obtain the treasure. All met with no success.

Stone Fragment

In 1936 Gilbert Hadden, in conjunction with Fred Blair, began a new investigation of the island. Hadden cleared some of the earlier shafts near the Pit and made plans for exploratory drilling the next summer. However, he made two discoveries away from the Pit.

Fragment of Inscribed StoneThe first was a fragment of a stone bearing inscriptions similar to those found on the inscribed stone discovered at the 90 foot level of the Money Pit. The second discovery was of several old timbers in Smith’s Cove. These timbers seem to have been from the original designers due to the fact that they were joined using wooden pins rather than metal. As will be seen later these timbers were only a small part of a much larger construction.

Mystery Deepens

The next treasure hunter was Erwin Hamilton. He began his search in 1938 by clearing out previous shafts and doing some exploratory drilling. In 1939 during drilling two more discoveries were made. The first was the finding of rocks and gravel at 190 feet. According to Hamilton they were foreign and therefore placed there by someone. The second finding came after clearing out an earlier shaft down to 176 feet. At this point a layer of limestone was encountered and drilled through. The drilling brought up oak splinters. Apparently there was wood BELOW the natural limestone.

Tragedy Strikes

In 1959 Bob Restall and his family began their attack on the island which ultimately proved tragic.

His one discovery was made on the Smith’s Cove beach while attempting to stop the drain system. He found a rock with “1704″ inscribed on it. Though others believed it was prank left by a previous search team, Restall believed it was from the time of the original construction.

In 1965 tragedy struck. While excavating a shaft Bob passed out and fell into the water at the bottom. His son, Bobbie, attempted to rescue him as did two of the workers. All four apparently were overcome by some sort of gas, perhaps carbon monoxide from a generator, passed out and drowned.

Heavy Machines

Bob Dunfield was the next to take on the island. In 1965 he attempted to solve the problem with heavy machinery – bulldozers and cranes. He attempted to block the inflow of water at Smith’s Cove, and may have succeeded. Then on the south side of the island an trench was dug in the hope of intercepting the other water tunnel and blocking it off. The flood tunnel wasn’t found, but an unknown refilled shaft was found, possible one dug by the designers of the Pit. The shaft apparently went down to 45 and stopped, its purpose is unknown.

Dunfield’s other findings were based on drilling. It was determined that at 140 feet there was a 2 foot thick layer of limestone and then a forty foot void. At the bottom of the void was bedrock. This information matched with a drilling done back in 1955. There seemed to a large, natural underground cavern, something apparently common with limestone around the world.

Recent Discoveries

Daniel Blankenship, the current searcher, began his quest in 1965. In 1966 he dug out more of the original shaft found by Bob Dunfield in 1965. It turned out that the shaft did go beyond 45 feet. Blankenship found a hand-wrought nail and a washer at 60 feet. At 90 feet he met a layer of rocks in stagnant water. He assumed this was part of the south water tunnel but couldn’t explore further because the shaft could not be stopped from caving in.

A pair of wrought-iron scissors were discovered in 1967 buried below the drains at Smith’s Cove. It was determined that the scissors were Spanish-American, probably made in Mexico, and they were up to 300 years old. Also found was a heart shaped stone.

Smith’s Cove revealed some more secrets in 1970 to Triton Alliance, a group formed by Blankenship to continue the search. While Triton was building a new cofferdam they discovered the remains of what appeared to be the original builders’ cofferdam. The findings included several logs 2 feet thick and up to 65 feet long. They were marked every four feet with Roman numerals carved in them and some contained wooden pins or nails. The wood has been carbon dated to 250 years ago.

The western end of the island has also revealed several items. Two wooden structures, along with wrought-iron nails and metal straps were found at the western beach. Nine feet below the beach a pair of leather shoes were unearthed.

Borehole 10-X

The next major discoveries came in 1976 when Triton dug what is known as Borehole 10-X, a 237 foot tube of steel sunk 180 feet northeast of the Money Pit. During the digging several apparently artificial cavities were found down to 230 feet (see: drilling results).

A camera lowered down to a bedrock cavity at 230 feet returned some amazing images. At first a severed hand could be seen floating in the water. Later three chests (of the treasure type I would presume) and various tools could be made out. Finally a human body was detected.

After seeing the images, the decision was made to send divers down for a look. Several attempts were made but strong current and poor visibility made it impossible to see anything.

Soon after the hole itself collapsed and has not been reopened.

Today

Blankenship and Triton still continue the quest.

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I'm a writer, a runner, and a hell of a coffee drinker residing in Los Angeles. I'm currently working on a book about Doris Bither and her terrifying account of a haunting in Culver City, California. The case was dubbed "The Entity" and it stands to be one of the most controversial cases ever to be studied by parapsychologists.

  • MurDok

    OMG you did it again Javier, I just watched an “Ancient Aliens” episode about this and now I want to know more!!!!! Thanks man for posting the video suggestion and Happy April Fools Day.

  • Henry

    I remember this from “In Search of.”
    Yes I am that old.

  • bigpunkdrummer

    *On a side note about your April Fool’s joke, it was also a good idea to keep it down because the ‘random stranger that comes across your site for the first time’ guy would see the message and be like ‘oh, well won’t be coming back here (thinking he was going and have to pay to stay)

  • RednGreen

    I saw the same Ancient Aliens last night MurDok mentioned lol. So interesting!

  • http://www.friendsofoakisland.com Rick

    Nice article, this year is an exciting time for us “Oak Island” fans as treasure hunting resumes on the island very shortly. After years of government delays.

    I am a director in the Friends of Oak Island Society, we promote tourism for the island, along with collecting artifacts.. etc. We also we will be conducting tours of the island this summer. (We are not part of the treasure hunting operations)

    Drop by and say hi!

    Rick
    Treasurer – Friends of Oak Island Society.

  • Ramon

    I remember i read about this as a kid.. Very mysterious for a young boy! And as an older guy too. ;-)

  • Valkyrie

    This is super mysterious and I love the idea of a treasure hunt. But really what compels the treasure hider to bury treasure and give clues to some dude in the future? I wonder what has happened to the parchment papers. If they were in water-tight chests, they don’t seem to be any longer and my guess is that they would’ve disintegrated.

  • http://www.ghosttheory.com Scott McMan

    So, what happens should a treasure be found? Is Nova Scotia going to lay claim to it and take it away from those that worked to find it?

    I don’t know about this. There are some pretty big salvage companies out there that could go in and isolate this pit and then dig it all up. Why doesn’t one of them jump in?

  • john P

    I too remember this from In Search Of…in the late seventies or early eighties…great post and thanks for putting it up!

  • MurDok

    What if they buried an item like Pandora’s box? Trying their hardest to keep it buried… Just Sayin’

  • SocialButterfly1976

    The fact is Scott, that Oak Island is part of Nova Scotia, so naturally, it’s part of their country as the Hawaiian Islands are part of ours. Furthermore, the sinkhole/pit is located on privately owned land. Would you like strangers coming by your property to claim it for their past efforts? Would you like for strangers to invade your property to dig up supposedly buried treasure just because you personally aren’t willing to do it?

    It seems very ironic that for centuries, so much effort was not only put into filling it layer upon layer (probably for safety reasons) but also to emptying it at the cost of human life.

  • http://www.ghosttheory.com Scott McMan

    Butterfly, I understand your point and I wouldn’t have any problem sharing the treasure but I’ve seen where countries just claim the entire thing and tell the hunters to take a hike. Of course they don’t stop these crews from making an effort and spending tons of money because they know they will in fact claim it.

    If I owned private land, I’d likely not allow anyone to dig on it because on the other side of the coin some yahoo will eventually sue the land owner for injuries sustained.

    It’s a touchy subject indeed.

  • SocialButterfly1976

    Scott, can you give me an example please? Unfortunately, the only thing that comes to mind for me is Indiana Jones, LOL. :)