There is always a certain appeal for things we can’t quite explain. Years and years may pass, yet only some of life’s big questions get finally answered. For a little more than two centuries, the mystery of Oak Island and its coveted treasure have been a buried secret, and an obsession for some.
After 220 years and a good deal of research surrounding this enigmatic case, a big revelation has finally been brought to light. Many clues have been left behind and later deciphered to get to the bottom of this story. Now it is your turn to gather the pieces, come to your own conclusions, and discover what this big mystery is all about.
1. Nova Scotia’s deepest secret
Where is this mysterious place, you may ask? Oak Island is a 57-hectare island that boasts a humid climate of hot, sultry summers and chilly winters. It is located in the southern shore of Nova Scotia, in Canada.
A temperate broadleaf and mixed forest, this island is made up of bedrock of two different types: “Mississippian Windsor Group limestone” and gypsum, and Cambro-Ordovician Halifax Formation slate.
The island has been owned by many treasure hunters since the late 1700s. However, luck has not always been by their side. In some cases, quite the contrary, as some believe that those who look for the treasure may be forever cursed.
2. The promise of a hidden treasure
Even though there is nothing solid except for rumors and stories spread throughout the years, the belief that a hidden treasure awaits to be discovered is enough for those with a thirst for adventure. 220 years have passed, and still many men are willing to risk their lives looking for a treasure in Oak Island.
But what exactly will they find? Is it gold? Is it jewelry? Or it a piece of information, a secret that proves to be just as valuable? No one really knows. Nevertheless, there have been clues left behind that tell us how much the treasure is worth.
3. Jewels, precious objects or gold?
Some believe that the treasure is composed of many jewels and other items brought by a maid of Marie Antoinette, France’s last queen before the French Revolution. The girl was instructed to escape France, and ended up in Nova Scotia. There, the French Navy helped her hide her mistress’ treasure.
Others say that Francis Bacon, presumed to be the real writer of Shakespeare’s acclaimed plays, hid many manuscripts and that those are the true treasure. After all, there’s a Baconian theory, which claims that Bacon secretly wrote the plays because such action would have damaged his career as England’s Attorney General and Lord Chancellor.
4. Strange theories
There are many other theories surrounding the Oak Island treasure’s origin. This is one of the most intriguing ones: researchers believe that the treasure has ties with Masonry because some Masonic markings were found, which indicate some kind of initiation rite that involves a secret vault.
Other theory suggests that Francis Bacon acted as leader of the Rosicrucian movement, a secret society that believed they were the true philosophy of Freemasonry, on the island. Therefore, some believe that Bacon hid religious documents and other objects, including Shakespeare’s manuscripts, which contained many clues. It’s hard to say what theory is real!
5. The pirate’s booty
Ever heard of Captain William Kidd, a famous Scottish sailor who later in life turned into a pirate? Well, it is believed that he hid many treasures across the world. Particularly, folklorists say he buried the riches he got from looting a Muslim ship named “Quedag Merchant” on the island.
The treasure was composed of gold, jewels from the passengers, silver, bales of raw silk, luxurious fabrics, chests full of opium and other exotic merchandise from the Mughal Empire of India.
Legend says that one of Kidd’s crew members confessed that the captain had buried a treasure on an island located east of Boston. Could that be just a coincidence?
6. A lucky find
Many men have looked for this coveted treasure in different points in time. Nonetheless, Daniel McGinnis’ finding of a circular depression in 1795 was decisive, as it caused the treasure hunt to become a more serious business.
Some say McGinnis was a young boy, while others say that he was a grown man looking for a spot to build a farm. Either way, McGinnis needed the help of John Smith and Anthony Vaughn with the digging of the particular spot, which wasn’t easy to do due to the conditions of the soil.
McGinnis had heard all about the stories surrounding the treasure, but also about its curse. However, he couldn’t have expected what they were about to find.
7. But why dig in that exact spot?
As McGinnis was walking around the island, searching for the perfect place to start his own farm, he didn’t know he was about to go on a very different adventure. He coincidentally stumbled upon what can be described as a circular depression in the ground.
It was a bit odd, so he took a step closer to get a better look. Then, he realized that there was a tree which branches had been cut off, as if to use the tree as a pulley.
It was then that he decided to ask two more men to help him dig, thinking about a possibility of striking gold. Together they excavated the depression, about two feet below.
8. Excavating a secret
After digging for hours and hours, the excavation led to a true discovery: a strange layer of flagstones, just 2 feet (0.61 m) above the ground. The men noticed that the soil wasn’t as packed as the rest of the area, so they continued digging.
After some time, the men found oak tree logs that were lined up in a way that formed a pit. Then, they continued to find oak platforms every 10 feet (ca. 3 m). After digging for 30 feet (ca. 9 m), they stopped. Some say it was because of the curse. Either way, the place has been called the Oak Island Money Pit ever since.
9. The arrival of the Onslow Company
The discovery of McGinnis and his pals was a good start, but not a complete success. If they had only carried on, maybe they could have found something more valuable. However, the dread of being cursed proved to be more powerful than their greed.
Nevertheless, their findings didn’t go unnoticed. Years later, in 1802 to be exact, a group of interested men arrived at the island to continue the search for the Oak Island Treasure. They were called The Onslow Company. With money to invest, they brought machinery and other resources to continue the excavation. This time, luck would be on their side.
10. Uncovering a revealing clue
The Onslow company arrived approximately 8 years after McGinnis and his friends decided to stop excavating. The organization decided to search further. They dug for another 60 feet (ca. 18 m), and continued seeing layers every 10 feet (ca. 3 m). This time, they definitely found something.
It was a layer of charcoal, putty, and coconut fiber, followed by a stone tablet with hard-to-crack inscriptions and symbols. When the men tried to dig further, the pit began to fill with water. But where did the water come from? What was the message written on the stone? And more importantly: was it safe to be there?
11. Written in stone
The discovery of the stones represented the hope of finding out the whereabouts of the treasure. The message, which was an enigma itself, was surely a map, or the instructions needed to get to the treasure. Thus, it was of the utmost importance to find out the origin of the language or the code written in stone.
It took many years, until 1866 to be exact, to find someone who could translate the meaning behind the inscriptions. It is believed that such person was Professor James Liechtli from Halifax University, who decoded the symbols of the 90-foot Stone. The message read: ““Forty feet below, two million pounds are buried.”
12. The beginning of the curse
When the Onslow Company tried to dig deeper, water began to flood the pit, again. The source was unknown, but that didn’t matter: all they knew was that the flood was deliberately planned, and the water was supposed to stop anyone who tried to put his hands on the treasure.
After many attempts to stop the flood, and trying to find out where the water came from, the men desisted. They pumped water out, but it didn’t help: the water didn’t stop filling the pit. They even tried to make another pit, parallel to the original one, and built a tunnel to get from one pit to the other. That didn’t work either. Was this the feared curse?
13. Another failed attempt
The making of the extra tunnel required a lot of manpower, but the reward might be worth it. Thus, the Onslow Company took a chance and built it, but the mission failed again. At least, the source had been identified.
The pit was strategically designed to allow a 500-foot-long waterway that came straight from the sea. Even when the water was being constantly pumped out, the force of the sea would pull water right in, almost immediately.
This made it impossible for the company to carry on with the search. The pit flooded with 60 feet (ca. 18 m) of water, and the Onslow Company left Oak Island empty-handed.
14. The real curse of Oak Island
Many fear the curse of Oak Island, but what exactly is this curse? Well, it is believed that, before the real treasure is ever found, seven deaths must occur. Up until now, there has been a fair share of tragedy and loss surrounding this perpetual treasure hunt. But is it really a curse?
This belief originated centuries ago, and so far, there have been 6 deaths involved in this treasure hunt. What is astonishing is how intensely men become obsessed with finding this treasure that nobody is certain about, up until this day. Will it continue to cause more deaths? Does it really take one more death to find the treasure? Some people are definitely willing to find it out.
15. Third time’s the charm
It wasn’t until 1847 that another organization decided to look for the treasure. The search was carried on by the Truro Company, a group of investors willing to give the treasure hunt another go. They decided to excavate again, but this time, to the 86-foot (26 m) level. Unluckily, the pit flooded once again.
Thus, they came up with another idea. They decided to drill, and they did it until they struck gold. Like, literally! The Truro Company was able to dig out two chests filled with gold coins, along with three gold chain links. It was the first time such a valuable discovery was made, and many believed there was much more gold to look for.
16. Hungry for more gold
Unfortunately, greed is a very powerful thing. When the crew from the Truro Company found the treasure chests, they were absolutely thrilled, but they also became hungry for more. Powered by this strong feeling, they drilled more without thinking of the consequences.
Thus, another shaft was dug along with a tunnel in the hope of intersecting the treasure, but the seawater flooded the pit again. They tried their best to carry on, but the original shaft broke too, and the entire operation had to be stopped. As the cost of the entire undertaking was very high, the company decided to leave the site in 1851.
17. The amazing discovery
So much drilling brought more information to the surface: as the men from the Truro Company were trying to pump out the water from the Oak Island Money Pit, some noticed the low tide at Smith’s Cove. It turns out that the pit had some sort of drain system, made up of channels, which ended at the beach.
With this new information, workers tried to build a dam that would stop the water flow. During its construction, they found an old dam that had already been built there. The following step was to dig a pit that would intersect the channel to ultimately block the water supply. This unfortunately didn’t work and caused the company to end its operation.
18. The next adventurers
Almost ten years passed before another group of men dared to resume the excavation. After what had happened with the Onslow Company, not many were keen to invest in a treasure hunt that seemed doomed.
However, in 1861, The Oak Island Association reactivated the search and invested a vast amount of money to do so, as they were convinced that there must be more gold, and they were going to get it, no matter what.
Although the new operation seemed riskier than the one before it, they were willing to put their lives on the line to find the treasure. And that is exactly what happened.
19. A promise of discovery
The Oak Island Money Pit was a promise of a better life to many people. 63 hopeful men were looking tirelessly for the hidden treasure, as they strongly believed it would completely change their lives. Also, the plan might not have worked before, but this time, the excavation was in the hands of professionals.
Their strategy included drilling new shafts and building more tunnels, one of which would hopefully strike the treasure vault. However, that tunnel was mistakenly driven through the pit until it reached the east pipe, causing water to come in from the east side. As a result, the Money Pit was flooding all over again.
20. Not an easy task
To clear the water out, The Oak Island Association used a pumping gin. Nevertheless, this didn’t work out as expected, as water kept flowing in. So, after three days of trying to fix the situation, the still hopeful diggers came up with an alternative: to build another tunnel at a depth of 120 feet (ca. 37 m), but this time horizontally from the new direction.
As they were approaching the vault, just mere feet away from it, the second tunnel also started to inundate with water. These hard-working men couldn’t believe their bad luck. After looking tirelessly for the hidden treasure, they were exhausted and moody, yet not entirely defeated.
21. An unexpected turn of events
The second flooding came as a surprise. Thus, The Oak Island Association carried on an inspection to understand why the second tunnel also inundated with water.
While two men were working in the shaft, figuring out what had happened, the people above the ground heard a deafening noise. The two men rushed back outside, just in time before water started rushing into the shaft.
Then, they all heard another startling crash: the Money Pit had collapsed. They would have to start over, it was unbelievable! The way to go was to install a cast iron pump and a steam engine to clear out the water from the pit. What happened next, nobody could have expected.
22. The first fatality
The company’s efforts were fruitless, but not only that: the operation turned out to be fatal. As the men were trying to drain the tunnel, a boiler exploded, causing the death of one of the workers, and severely injuring others.
To many believers, this was the first death of the Oak Island Curse, and there were 6 more to go. Even though the tragedy left a mark in the crew, the operation continued for four more years.
Unfortunately, the company couldn’t make any new discoveries and money dried up. For this reason, in 1866, The Oak Island Association decided to leave, putting an end to a very tragic, and utterly expensive, treasure hunt.
23. Another finding, another death
Even after the calamity, many other men were still interested in finding the treasure. The Oak Island Eldorado Company attempted to drill further and tried to implement other strategies, but they faced difficulties from start to finish. They tried utilizing a new pump, but the result was a failure, and work was suspended.
Shortly after, a group of men tried their luck, but this time, the outcome was far worse. As a worker named Maynard Kayser was being pulled back to the surface with a rope, the rope slipped from the pulley, causing Maynard to plummet down the shaft, into his imminent death. This was the second death of the curse, and there were only 5 more to go.
24. The president who was also a treasure hunter
Among the many characters who were obsessed with the Oak Island Money Pit was the 32nd President of the United States of America, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. A long time before he took office, when he was just 27 years old, Roosevelt became part of the Old Gold Salvage Group.
Along with his partners, he spent the summer of 1909 looking for the treasure in Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, they didn’t find anything substantial, except for a cofferdam built in 1850. The group left within a year, but Roosevelt monitored all the happenings surrounding the Oak Island Mystery until his final days.
25. A message still unknown
Not only gold or jewels are to be found among the discoveries of past expeditions. During one of the many searches, an unknown group of men stumbled upon a cement vault, which contained a small parchment made of sheepskin with a message yet unknown.
The writing is believed to be coded, as it only has the letters “vi,” “ui,” or “wi.” Up until this moment, nobody has been able to determine what the letters stand for. The inscriptions were made using India ink.
It is strange that it has been kept hidden for hundreds of years. Could it be some kind of map that indicates the exact place where the treasure is buried?
26. A new generation
The 20th century brought along a fresh generation of ambitious treasure hunters, with access to new technology and engineering advancements.
Gilbert Hedden, a businessman who learned about the money pit in a newspaper, became deeply interested in the technical difficulties surrounding previous searches. Thus, he decided to use the latest techniques to look for the cursed treasure.
To that end, he acquired the eastern side of Oak Island. As he operated a steel fabricating company, the Hedden Iron Construction Company, he and his partner Fred Blair carefully studied the area, and the previous structures that were built there, to start their very own treasure hunt.
27. An array of objects
Technology proved to have many advantages. Hedden and Blair started their search in 1936, and they were able to drill further than the rest. They found many objects, including a stone with inscriptions, similar to the one found many decades before, an oil lamp with whale oil, and unused dynamite.
Hedden’s men also reached a chamber that was lined with hemlock timbers. It seems like these timbers were part of the original construction, as they had wooden pins instead of metal ones.
Unluckily, the findings were not what Hedden expected. He had already spent a fortune, so he decided to abandon his quest in 1938.
28. A horrible tragedy
A few years passed until another tragedy occurred. This time, a man named Robert Restall and his family moved to a farm on the island in 1959 to look for the famous treasure.
His hope was rooted in a clue he found: a rock with the year “1714” carved on it. Of course, the rock could have been placed there by an ill-intended man on a previous quest to confuse others, but it was enough for Restall to keep on digging.
Unfortunately, only 6 years later, Restall became a victim of the Oak Island curse, as he got poisoned by carbon monoxide from a gasoline engine, which caused his fall and ultimately his death. His son and two other men died with him, too.
29. The Triton Alliance
Not even a year after Restfall and his team passed away, a new treasure hunt started. In 1965, Robert Dunfield implemented the use of heavy machinery, and he soon found a couple of objects that attracted other investors. This way, the Triton Alliance was formed. Their plan was to use new technology to carry on their operation.
To that end, the team dug a new shaft, which they called Borehole 10X. Its purpose was to reach what was located beneath the limestone, and they introduced cameras and shot images of treasure chests, a few body parts including a hand, some tools, and a few other things. However, the veracity of these claims was never confirmed.
30. New finds, new hope
The Oak Island Treasure is like a gift that keeps on giving. This time, the Triton Alliance found a fair amount of trinkets: first, it was a pair of scissors that dated back 300 years, and a heart-shaped stone.
Later, they found a pair of leather shoes, and wooden logs carved with Roman numerals that dated back 250 years. Of course, the team was very excited and ready to dig some more. Unluckily, the shaft collapsed, and the company ran out of money to continue its pursuit.
Nevertheless, the story of the Triton Alliance made it to the pages of Reader’s Digest, and the article ended up in the right hands. Find out more on the next slide!
31. The Michigan brothers
After reading the article about the treasure hunt of the Triton Alliance published in “Reader’s Digest”, an 11-year-old boy named Rick Lagina vowed to find the treasure of Oak Island someday. What could possibly be more fascinating than a pirate’s story for a young boy?
Just one year before finding out about the Nova Scotia treasure, Rick had already been in many expeditions along with his friends and his younger brother, Marty, in Kingsford, Michigan.
They were natural explorers, and they had the thirst that was needed to follow their dream. What nobody would have thought is that Rick would actually keep his promise.
32. The dream of a lifetime
After dreaming about the Oak Island Mystery for 40 years, the Lagina Brothers finally got their chance to look for the coveted treasure. In 2005, they bought a portion of the island to start their very own hunt. They had had years to plan their approach and gather as much information as possible.
The research gotten through the Borehole 10X became useful once again and new methods would be used to keep the water at bay. Marty Lagina is a well-digging expert and has many contacts who could help him carry out his ideas. On the other hand, Rick is the dreamer who will not quit until they find what they are looking for.
33. This is TV material!
The Lagina Brothers knew very well how costly this operation was going to be, so they had to come up with an idea to further fund the search. They already owned 50% of the land, but the machinery and the technology to be implemented would cost a fair amount of money. So how would they be able to pay for the whole thing?
Their idea was to televise the search. Surely there would be a large audience for this type of thing! To make things more interesting and more credible, they would bring a camera crew in and involve the viewership in this unbelievable task, with the help of the History Channel. The name of the show: “The Curse of Oak Island”. Isn’t that genius?
34. With a little help from my friends
Daniel C. Blankenship is the only remaining person from the Triton Alliance who still lives at the island and owns 50% of it. Talk about a man’s obsession! He hasn’t given up, and he fully supports the Lagina Brothers.
But what makes these brothers so special? Well, it could be their confidence, drive and perseverance, but above all, it is the fact that they are willing to call experts and people who know about the history of the island to collaborate with them.
Others have been too selfish, but the Michigan-born brothers know better! If they bring the best to the team, success will ensue.
35. The first valuable discovery
Thanks to the use of heavy machinery and the knowledge brought by professionals from different fields, the Lagina brothers were able to dig a swamp using sonar technology.
The most valuable find was a Spanish coin from the 17th century, which served as proof that other men had dug there before, long before the ones we already knew.
Also, other people from the island approached the Laginas to tell them about their theories: one of them showed “evidence” that King Solomon’s treasure was buried there, while another one seemed to know of a secret method to find Francis Bacon’s treasure. Who would they choose to believe?
36. Amazing ancient objects
The crew knew that the Borehole 10-X, the shaft built by Blankenship which was located next to the Money Pit, needed to be purged. It wasn’t an easy task, but it would have its reward.
This way, the team uncovered many artifacts, including small bones, a Roman sword, Aztec objects, a stone with Portuguese carvings, and a whole array of items that seemed to arise more questions rather than to answer them.
Later, the Lagina brothers were shown a French map from 1347 which featured the position of a hatch, a valve, and an anchor. There, more artifacts were located, including scrap metal, hex nuts, a washer, and a button.
37. The real deal
The search is far from over. However, there have already been amazing findings that pave the road for more. In a recent discovery, the Lagina Brothers found something remarkable at the H-8 construction site, where the shaft is believed to meet the money pit.
Human remains, leather bindings and pieces of paper are among the new discoveries, along with something that looks like the best clue of them all: evidence of a wooden box which has been mentioned before by treasure seekers in 1897, which is located 160-feet deep.
The excavation has already started. Have the Lagina Brothers found the Oak Island treasure after 220 years? It surely seems like it!