by Doug Crowell - Blockhouse Investigations - Nova Scotia
We've often heard it said that Dan Blankenship chose the spot to sink Borehole 10X on Oak Island, Nova Scotia, by dowsing. So we dug into the records to see if we could find indication of whether this oft repeated "fact" was true or not.
Dowsing is a technique used in search of subterranean targets, such as minerals, water and, even grave sites, through the use of a pointer; usually a forked stick or a pair of dowsing rods.
What we found shows that Blankenship did indeed use dowsing to select the spot. And, not only that, but he also reported many other items of interest, in the same manner. While dowsing is far from a scientifically accepted method, and is often referred to as a pseudoscience, there are those that firmly believe in the method. Blankenship, as you will see, performed extensive investigations by applying the technique, and reported some intriguing outcomes.
In this article we bring you information on dowsing discoveries from the archival records of Triton Alliance.
Dan Blankenship describes the Dowsing Method used
"These particular 'Divining rods' are made of welding rods about 30" long x 1/8" thick probably steel. They are bent at right angle making a handle to hold about 8" from one end. They are then placed in front of you and gripped rather firmly and held horizontally. Upon hitting an attraction the rods will twist and cross in your hands regardless how tightly you grip them. I have had a second person grab the end of the rod while they are motivated by some unknown force and pull them straight. As soon as he lets go the rods return to their original strained position. The force is unmistakable. Following are the tests and controls which I have made in order to check out the authenticity and accuracy of these so called "divining rods". These tests were made with the help and participation of Gerald Dorey, Western Shore, Nova Scotia, when these "rods" work for equally as well as myself." - Dan Blankenship report, 1966
The following is Blankenship's explanation of how they tested the accuracy of dowsing. He'd been in the tunnels at the bottom of the Hedden shaft prior to dowsing, so was familiar with their layout. He let the tunnels fill back up with water and had Gerald Dorey try to identify where the tunnels were and how they were laid out using the dowsing rods. This is Blankenship's own report on the outcomes of his test dowsing.
"#1 Extending outwardly from the Hedden Shaft are two major tunnels at a depth of 110". While we had the shaft pumped down a year ago, I've been in these tunnels many times. In fact I took pictures of them with my movie camera and also my polaroid. I have measured these tunnels with a 100' tape. One is a straight and goes to the Ss.W. 87' where it blanks off. Another short one branches off from it at a sharp angle and extends for about 8' where it blanks off. The third one goes out from the S. side of the Hedden Shaft and circles around to the West coming back into the same shaft in the N.W. corner. This tunnel is about 85' long. Gerald had no way of knowing of the existence of these tunnels, as he never worked on Oak Island until this year and I was the only one currently working there that has been in them. Shortly after I was down in January of last year, the pump was shut off and pulled out of the shaft, the water quickly rising to tide level. I started Gerald walking in the vicinity of the tunnels and told him what to look for. He quickly picked up each tunnel and followed it accurately, encluding telling me where the first two evidently blanked off. I checked his findings with a tape and found he was 100% correct, including telling me the exact width of these tunnels, the circeling one being about 1' narrower than the straight ones. These tunnels incidently go back to the Halifax Co. in 1860 and were still in pretty good shape." - Dan Blankenship report, 1966
Report by Dan Blankenship on the results of dowsing performed on Oak Island.
The following report on the use of dowsing to search Oak Island was written by Dan Blankenship in 1966.
"#2 We found a total of sixteen little fingers sticking out between low and high tide which were made by the original people in order to collect the ocean water and carry it to a central shaft which was filled solid with stone in "Smith's Cove". After finding them with the rods we could actually see twelve with the naked eye, of which we dug up four, and found out how they were constructed."
"#3 We were able to pick up all of the known searching tunnels put in by Halifax Co. in 1868. these were confirmed by comparing our findings with old drawings which Mr. Chappell showed us."
"#4 A complete new system was found in Smith's cove which takes up a different direction than the flood tunnels found. This system was dug into and the old leather soul of a man's shoe was found as well as a man made heart shape stone. The chisel marks are still quite obvious."
"#5 A complete new depository location has been discovered with its own flood tunnel system. The drilling of holes #43-44 and 48 proved their existence. Subsequent tunnels, and small rooms away from the work chambers complete with their own spiral tunnel have been found. This opens up a brand new theory of what was done by the original people and one that could at last explain why nobody before us have been successful. This discovery also explain how they (depositors) fooled their own people and kept their treasure safe."
"#6 In checking a certain area of beach removed from Smith's Cove, I got an attraction about 5' wide and 245' long running parallel with the beach between low and high tide. We quickly dug into this and found these conditions to be true. The original sides of the trench were very obvious and the trench was full with stone, gravel and sand."
"#7 We also traced out a flooding tunnel from the "Money Pit". This tunnel was followed 1155' away to the opposite side of the island. We later put in dye in the "Pit" and pumped in thousands of gallons of water, and went skin diving in order to find out where it was leading to. It showed up at this location 1155' away about 3 to 4 hours later."
"#8 At least eight new flood tunnels were found by the use of "diving rods". All of these have subsequently been checked out either by digging or by skin diving.
"#9 In following the longest of these flood tunnels from the "Money Pit" we found sunken areas of depressions. In digging these up a few feet we definitely would find the circular outline of a shaft. These are air shafts which these people had to have."
Out of these items reported, #7 caught our attention the most, as it seems that they confirmed the dowsing results with a dye test. Not only that, but it seemed to indicate a channel through the island in terrain vastly different from that of the Money Pit location. We've not found a follow-up on this report as of yet.
Regardless of the end results of dowsing on Oak Island, its application in the search has given us major milestones in the history of the island, such as:
Who knew dowsing could generate such interest?
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
by John Wonnacott - Contributing Writer
In 1970, David Tobias and Dan Blankenship built a temporary earthfill cofferdam at Smith’s Cove on Oak Island, located in a position where it would isolate a section of the shore from the ocean - the place where the artificial beach, coconut fibre filtration system and finger drain system had once been said to be located.
David Tobias raised the money necessary to do the work, and he collaborated with Dan to decide on what work they would attempt to undertake in the cove.
The cofferdam was built out of glacial till, dug from the higher ground nearby. Here is the full report regarding its construction, as written by Dan Blankenship on September 18th, 1970:
"On August 13th, we started the dam around Smith's Cove. The purpose of this dam is of course to more fully explore original workings. I am very glad that this course was recommended by Ben and agreed to by David. Personally, I have felt all along that this was the logical area to explore and quite possibly prove or disprove past history. According to the record, this beach was never thourghly and systematically explored and some evidence even after these many years should still be there. After all, if any one of these five drains are encountered, when followed into the beach, should lead to the vertical shaft that would almost have had to be there in order to make the flooding effective.
The dam took 13 working days and cost $5778.72 in direct costs, which included two dozers, on front-end loader, two trucks, all common labor and bags for sand and spikes for making log coffer cribbing, which were sunk with rock in order to stabilize the deepest part. Aug. 22nd we lost the end 30 feet due to a storm and Aug. 24th we lost over 40 feet and only succeeded in saving another 100 feet by taking emergency measures which included installing a 2in. continuous plank wall 4 ft. high and about 100 ft. long to save our earth from washing away. The dam was completed August 28th.
This dam is well beyond any previous one put up by earlier searchers according to the rocks that were left. The inside top of the road measures 450ft from original shore line and the outside is much longer. the base averages 60 or more and the top is about 15 ft. wide with remaining average high tide. Approximately 12,00 yds. of earth was used in its construction."
What transpired, after the water was pumped out of the cofferdam, was that Dan Blankenship exposed a number of very interesting artifacts that were buried in the old sea bottom inside the cofferdam. One of the most interesting finds in that investigation was what has been called the “U-shaped Structure” (item #2 in the photo below).
Les MacPhie has done some great work, by keeping track of the location of many different investigations, tying them together by resolving differences in the survey systems used to locate significant items in each investigation. Following is a drawing that I received from Les, which accurately shows the U-shaped structure in relation to the finger drain system (and other notable Oak Island features) discovered by Robert Dunfield Senior, but which was mostly obliterated by the time that Dan Blankenship’s cofferdam was built.
An unusually high tide flooded Dan’s cofferdam before the Tobias and Blankenship investigation at Smith’s Cove could be completed. Subsequent tides washed out the cofferdam and the work was never repeated.
In 1970 Blankenship had observed (and recorded in photographs) that the U-shaped structure had notches sawn into it every 4 feet along the base log and also along each “arm” that pointed toward shore. Each notch had a different roman numeral cut with a hand saw beside the notch. The bottom of each notch was 6 inches wide and pointed upward and shoreward at an angle of 45 degrees. Several timbers were also found, still attached to the base log, with their upper ends rotted off, with the lower end of the timber secured into one of the notches, with a 2 inch diameter oak peg. It looked like the timbers were used to support lateral planks that would have been caulked, to form a water-tight wooden structure.
Many people have speculated that the U-shaped structure was built to serve as the inner water-tight barrier, that would have been buried inside an earthen cofferdam, to make it more permanent and more water-tight. We know that there were cofferdams built by Searchers in 1850 and again in 1866, in about the same location as the U-shaped structure; and quite possibly the U-shaped structure is partial remains of one of those searcher’s cofferdams. However the shape of the structure is a concern for me. All indications are that earthen cofferdams would be built in a smooth concave arc shape, stretching from one shore, out into the ocean as far as low tide or possibly lower, and then back to shore. Instead, the U-shaped structure has 2 asymmetrical arms that form sharp angles with the base log that runs parallel to the shore. I always ask myself: “Why would anyone build a water-tight structure in that shape – why not build it along the alignment of a cofferdam? The sharp angles between the arms and the base log are a mystery to me.
Another oddity in regards to this structure is that it does not line up with the artificial beach and the finger drain system. If the structure was part of a cofferdam, it would have been intended to either cut off the water supply to the finger drain system and flood tunnel that connects to the Money Pit - if it was built by a Searcher – or it would have been built to allow construction of the finger drains and flood tunnel if it was built by an original Depositor.
Back around the year 2000, when I was working with David Tobias and Les MacPhie, we started talking about the U-shaped structure, wondering about its real purpose, and who built it. We decided that we should go back to Smith’s Cove at low tide, dig up the shoreward end of one of the U-shaped structure arms, and recover some pieces of it so that we could do some scientific testing to determine the age of the structure.
So I used the old photograph of Dan Blankenship’s diggings, and I measured distances between large rocks to establish a scale factor, and then I went to the site where I marked out the probable location of the shoreward end of the north arm of the structure. I hired a backhoe and with the help of two laborers, we started digging an 8 foot deep trench that should intersect the structure. We set up my portable water pump to keep the excavation reasonably dry and quite miraculously we found pieces of an old log in a matter of a few minutes. At first I didn’t think we had found the structure, because everything was covered in mud. But as soon as I washed off some of the mud, I could see notches with roman numerals beside them. We recovered 3 pieces of log, backfilled the trench and tidied up the site..
After carefully washing the log pieces, I collected a clean sample of wood from one piece and sent it off for radio-carbon dating. Unfortunately the lab test came back indicating a probable age of 1860 plus or minus 30 years. I had taken the wood sample from near the center of the log, with an average of 30 tree growth rings out to the outer edge of the log, so radio-carbon dating was saying the log was cut in 1890, plus or minus 30 years. This was not very encouraging, as I was hoping that the wood was much older.
The next thing that was done, was to cut an end off one of the log pieces and send it off to a specialist in dendrochronolgy. That’s the study of tree ring growth, that allows researchers to determine the exact year that a tree stopped growing, by matching the pattern of tree rings in a log sample, to a master data base of tree rings which span a long time period. Each species of trees has a different pattern of growth, and each regional weather pattern would create a different growth pattern. So we needed to find a dendrochronological researcher who has a data base valid for Oak Island, and valid for the red spruce which was the species of log used to make the U-shaped structure. Again luck was not in our favor, and the dendrochronology researcher failed to find a match for our sample.
"...basically all radio-carbon dating results for objects less than 500 years old are unreliable."
So these two negative results discouraged me, and not much more was done on this front until 2015. However last year, when I was looking at the radio-carbon dating test results that the Lagina brothers obtained for a sample of wood they had had recently tested, I noticed two things. First, they used the same test lab that I had used 15 years ago (Beta Scientific in Miami). And secondly, the test result came back with five different age ranges. It seems that recent research into the Carbon-14 isotope concentration in the atmosphere has determined that the atmospheric C-14 concentration varied a lot in the past 500 years, and basically all radio-carbon dating results for objects less than 500 years old are unreliable.
So I decided to go back to the U-shaped structure pieces that we recovered about 15 years ago, get a new sample and have it examined by a new dendrochronological researcher who has a much bigger and more detailed set of data bases for Nova Scotia tree species. I had donated the U-shaped structure samples to Danny Hennigar, for his use as displays in his Oak Island museum in Mahone Bay. So I asked Danny to help me get a new sample from one of those log pieces. Danny supported the new research completely, we got a good sample from one of the old logs and I sent the sample off for dendrochronological testing. And that’s where we are right now – waiting for a dendrochronology researcher to see if he can get a match with the new sample. I say “we” because Les MacPhie and Danny Hennigar have supported this new research and have contributed ideas and suggestions all along the way.
It’s pretty exciting for me. If we can get a match to a date earlier than 1795, we might have the first scientific proof that the U-shaped structure was built by the original Depositors. Of course there is a bigger probability that we will just prove that the structure was built by Searchers. But if we can pin an exact date to the U-shaped structure, that will at least fill in a few blanks in the Oak Island mystery.
“Why do you think the U-shaped structure was built in the shape and location that it is?”
I would like to challenge all our readers with a question: “Why do you think the U-shaped structure was built in the shape and location that it is?” If we can learn the real purpose that the structure was built to serve, it might unlock some more answers to this part of the mystery. If the U-shaped structure was built by Depositors, it could be a vitally important question.
Missing! An investigative report into Oak Island's long lost 90 Foot Stone (Part 2 in a special series)
by Doug Crowell - Blockhouse Investigations - Nova Scotia
In Part 1 of this special series, we related the story of the discovery of the inscribed stone found ninety feet deep in Oak Island's Money Pit in 1802 or 1803, which is often referred to as the 90 Foot Stone. We also took a look at what it was said to look like. The image shown here at the top of this article is an artist's (G. Metson) conception of what the stone may have looked like. It was conceived for a map of Oak Island printed by the Provincial Government's Book Store in 1979. Can you see the error the artist made in the cipher?
In this article, follow the journey of the 90 Foot Stone from its discovery on Oak Island, to the store in Halifax from which it disappeared some 116 years later- a time period in which no known drawings, tracings, or photographs were created of this famous and much described artifact. The following is a timeline we've created from source documents. Let's follow the stone(y) path!
Timeline of the 90FT Stone
The story of the 90ft Stone begins in 1862, when mentioned in passing by treasure hunter Jotham B. McCully in a letter. As a date of discovery for the Money Pit eventually emerged, that letter helped to set a date of 1803 for the discovery of the stone, so we will start our timeline at that date of discovery, but we want to emphasize that no documents are known to exist to firmly set the date of discovery of the stone, or the date that the first company of men, known as the Onslow Company, performed their dig to that depth.
The 90ft Stone is found in the Money Pit on Oak Island.
"About seven years afterwards, Simeon Lynds, of Onslow, went down to Chester, and happening to stop with Mr. Vaughn, he was informed of what had taken place. He then agreed to get up a company, which he did, of about 25 or 30 men, and they commenced where the first left off, and sunk the pit 93 feet, finding a mark every ten feet. Some of them were charcoal, some putty, and one at 80 feet was a stone cut square, two feet long and about a foot thick, with several characters on it."
- Source: A letter written by McCully of Truro on June 2 1862, and printed in the Liverpool Transcript in October of 1862. Since a discovery date of 1795 was eventually stated elsewhere, it is generally believed that the dig in which the stone was found took place in 1802 or 1803, because of the statement here, that the dig occurred "seven years afterwards".
The first public mention of the 90ft Stone.
The first public mention of the stone was made in a letter written by McCully, who was responding to criticisms on the treasure hunt being performed at that time on Oak Island. A local paper had written an article entitled, "The Oak Island Folly", to which McCully responded with his letter relating why those involved in the current attempt had faith in their endeavor. The stone was mentioned as one piece of evidence for their conviction.
“at 80 feet was a stone cut square, two feet long and about a foot thick, with several characters on it. “
- Source: A letter written by J.B. McCully of Truro on June 2 1862, and printed in the Liverpool Transcript in October of 1862.
Note that the stone is said to be cut square, and measure two feet long, and about a foot thick.
The 90ft Stone is used as part of a chimney in a house on Oak Island.
At some point after being taken from the Money Pit, the stone was used in the chimney of house on Oak Island.
“…and the eighty feet mark was a stone about two feet long, cut square, which is yet to be seen in the chimney of an old house near the pit.”
- Source: 1863 February 19 – Yarmouth Herald (Newspaper)
Note that the stone is said to measure two feet long, cut square.
John Smith's house on Oak Island is identified as the house in which the 90ft Stone was used to build a chimney.
"This remarkable stone was pretty far down in the pit, laying in the centre with the engraved side down. As it was preserved in the family of Mr. Smith it may be seen by the curious at the present day.“
- Source: 1864 January 2 - The Colonist, Tri-weekly Edition, Halifax N.S. (Newspaper)
First mention that the inscribed side of the stone was found facedown in the pit.
"a flag stone about two feet long and one wide, with a number of rudely cut letters and figures upon it. They were in hopes the inscription would throw some valuable light on their search, but unfortunately they could not decipher it, as it was either too badly cut or did not appear to be in their own vernacular."
- Source: 1864 January 2 - The Colonist, Tri-weekly Edition, Halifax N.S. (Newspaper)
The Historical Society of Nova Scotia asks who currently has the stone.
On January 2nd of 1864, John Hunter-Duvar, secretary of the Historical Society of Nova Scotia, writes to George Cooke, a member of the current treasure hunters on Oak Island, asking to learn who currently possesses the 90ft Stone.
“Sir, An interesting sketch of the Oak Island enterprise appears in the “Colonist” newspaper of this morning, and of which I believe you are the author. You mention a flagstone bearing an inscription was found and as it was preserved in the family of Mr. Smith ‘it may be seen by the curious at the present day.’ May I beg, in the name of the society, to be favored with the name of the person in whose possession the stone is, as, if authentic, it cannot fail to be important as a historical object. I have the honor to be Sir, Your most obedient servant J. Hunter Duvar Corr. Sec.
- Source: 1864 January 2 – Letter written by John Hunter Duvar to George Cooke
George Cooke replies to the Historical Society and says the stone as still part of the chimney/fireplace.
“On my return I found your letter of the 2nd instant, desiring information respecting the flag-stone bearing an inscription taken out of the Old Pit on Oak Island, awaiting me… The stone in question was saved by Mr. Smith, who owned the place. About 40 years ago, at a time when nothing was doing at the island & when the prospects of the treasure seekers appeared altogether hopeless. Mr. Smith built, what was then called, his new house. In building it, he found that this interesting stone would suit admirably a corner in the back part of his chimney, and as he began to consider it of no value to himself or to any one else, on account of the operations at the island having ceased, he unfortunately put it into the chimney, the flat side out. Fourteen years ago Mr. Smith pointed out the stone, then & I believe still in the chimney, and assured me that it was the identical stone taken out of the “Money Pit” on the Island, in his presence. Mr. Smith has since died & the property has passed into other hands. Mr. Graves now owns the property & building is occupied by the present Oak Island Association. I am not aware whether Mr. Graves knows anything about the stone being in the Chimney. On making inquiries since receipt of you letter, I find that the chimney has been boxed round by a wood partition, and that a flight of stairs goes up near where the stone is inserted. I was not aware of this before. This may prevent the stone from being got at without trouble, and perhaps, expense, but as it is very important for the interests of the “Oak Island Association” if for no other object that the inscription on the stone should be deciphered, its position in the chimney ought not to ___ be an insuperable barrier to the attempt to decipher it being made. At the time I saw the stone I noticed that there were some rudely cut letters, figures or characters upon it. I cannot recollect which, but they appear as if they had been scraped out by a blunt instrument, rather than cut with a sharp one. I have the honor to be sir, Your Most Obedient Servant George Cooke
- Source: 1864 January 27 – Letter written by George Cooke to John Hunter-Duvar
This account of the 90ft Stone is notable as the first Eyewitness account. George Cooke is the first person to indicate that he has personally seen the stone and was not simply passing a story along. He does not mention measurements, but describes the inscription as rudely cut and that they "appear as if they had been scraped out by a blunt instrument, rather than cut with a sharp one. The stone is still part of the fireplace as of January 27, 1864.
The stone appears in the first work of fiction about Oak Island. Indications that it hasn't been decoded as of yet.
In 1873, author James De Mille (also a Professor at Dalhousie University at the same time as Professor Liechti, who is credited with deciphering the inscription on the 90ft Stone), wrote a book entitled, "Treasure of the Sea". This book, though fictional, relates the state of Oak Island at that time. De Mille summered in Chester, so was well positioned to learn of all the developments in the treasure hunt as they happened. De Mille is noted for including real history, places, and events in his books. As the book is a work of fiction, we can not place too much weight on the facts presented in it about Oak Island, but we can assume that De Mille related them as they actually were.
“They went to work and dug away for a little distance, when they came to something hard. It was a stone hewn, - not very smooth, - a kind of sandstone, and on this they saw some marks that looked like strange letters. They were ignorant men, but they knew the alphabet, and they knew that this was no kind of English letters at all; but it seemed to them that they might be letters of some strange alphabet. They took this stone away, and it has been preserved ever since, and it is there yet on the island, built into the wall of a cottage there for safe keeping. That’s what I mean when I say I’ve seen the traces of Captain Kidd, for it’s my solemn conviction that he cut that inscription on the stone in some foreign letters, or perhaps some secret cipher.”
“Then there’s that stone with the mysterious inscription. It’s been seen by hundreds. No one has ever been found yet who can make out what it means. As I said before, it is either some foreign language, or else, as is quite probable, it is some secret cipher, known only to Kidd himself.”
“They have the impudence to say that it isn’t an inscription at all. Actually, because no one can decipher it, they say it ain’t an inscription! They say it’s only some accidental scratches! Now, I allow,” continued the landlord, “that the marks are rather faint, and irregular; but how can any man look at them, and say they are not an inscription – how can any man look at them and say that they’re accidental scratches – is a thing that makes me fairly dumb with amazement.”
- Source: 1873 – Treasure of the Seas (Book) by James De Mille
We take note of two points that De Mille's story seems to convey to us.
1. The statement "that the marks are faint, and irregular" seems to agree with George Cooke's earlier account.
2. De Mille states that "No one has ever been found yet who can make out what it means." One would think that if the "Ten Feet Below", or even the "Forty Feet Below" decoding had been made by the time De Mille wrote this book, he would have related that in his story, as he seems to have kept very close to the details stated in the non-fictional reports.
The 90ft Stone has been removed from the chimney, taken to Halifax, and decoded.
A Prospectus is published in Boston to attract investors for a new attempt on recovering the treasure. A history of the discovery and the attempts to date are given in the prospectus.
“The 90 Foot mark was a flat stone, about three feet long and 16 inches wide. On it marks or characters had been cut. Afterwards it was placed in the jamb of a fireplace that Mr. Smith was building in his house, and while there was viewed by thousands of people. Many years afterwards, it was taken out of the chimney and taken to Halifax to have, if possible, the characters deciphered. On expert gave his reading of the inscriptions as follows: “Ten feet below are two million pounds buried.” We give this statement for what it is worth, but by no means claim that this is the correct interpretation. Apart from this however, the fact remains that the history and description of the stone as given above has never been disputed.”
- Source: Oak Island Treasure Company Prospectus, published in 1893 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA
We learn, for the first time, that the stone has been taken to Halifax to have the characters deciphered.
This prospectus seems to be the origin of and the first mention of the inscription having been deciphered. after this point in time, most newspaper accounts start mentioning the decoded message of "Ten Feet Below Two Million Pounds are Buried."
We also now know that sometime between George Cooke's letter to John Hunter-Duvar (January 27,1864) and this Prospectus (after November 23rd, 1893) the stone was removed from the chimney of John Smith's former home (Smith died in 1857, and his house was being rented by the new owner, Anthony Graves, to the Oak Island Association for their base of operations on the island. We still do not know where in Halifax it was taken.
Creighton's Book Store is named as the place in Halifax where the 90ft Stone is residing, but the inscription is worn away due to blows from a bookbinder's mallet.
The 90ft Stone is now located in Creighton's Bookstore (which may be because former owner A.O. Creighton was a member of the earlier treasure hunting companies in the 1860s). It is thought that he was displaying the stone in the window of his bookbinders shop (A&H Creighton), in order to raise interest in buying stock in a new attempt on the Oak Island Treasure. By 1909 though, Augustus O. Creighton had passed away and Herbert Creighton had merged the business with Edward Marshall to form Creighton & Marshall Stationers and Blank Book Manufacturers. We know that this is where Captain Bowdoin, who was heading up the latest treasure hunt (with future U.S. President FDR), went in person to see the stone. He later wrote about his visit to the shop in Colliers Magazine in 1911.
’The quaintly carven stone’ is on exhibition at present in Creighton’s Book Store, in Halifax, but the inscriptions were erased long ago after the stone had endured the blows from a bookbinder’s mallet. But at the time of the discovery of the stone the inscriptions were translated to read: ‘Ten feet below, 2,000,000 pounds lie buried.’”
- Source: 1909 April 29 – Fairbanks Daily News Miner (Newspaper)
The 90ft Stone is still in Halifax. Was used for beating leather in a book-binder's shop until the inscription had worn away.
“Ninety feet below the surface, the laborers found a large flat stone or quarried slab, three feet long and sixteen inches wide, upon which was chiseled the traces of an inscription. This stone was used in the jamb of a fireplace of a new house belonging to Smith, and was later taken to Halifax in the hope of having the mysterious inscription deciphered. One wise man declared that the letters read, ‘Ten feet below two million pounds lie buried.” But this verdict was mostly guess-work. The stone is still in Halifax, where it was used for beating leather in a book-binder’s shop until the inscription had been worn away.”
- Source: 1911 – The Book of Buried Treasure (book) by Ralph D. Paine
We learn the inscription was worn away because of its use as a surface upon which to beat leather, which is more specific than the 1909 statement, "the inscription is worn away due to blows from a bookbinders mallet.
Captain H.L. Bowdoin sees the 90ft Stone at Creighton's Bookbindery.
“…and at ninety feet a large flat stone was found, upon which was a curious inscription. The stone was taken to Halifax, and one expert declared the characters read as follows: ‘Ten feet below two million pounds lie buried.’” –Page 19
“I have seen the rock found in the Money Pit, which is now in Creighton’s bookbindery in Halifax.” –Page 20
“While in Halifax we examined the stone found in the Money Pit, the characters on which were supposed to mean: “Ten feet below two million pounds lie buried.” The rock is of a basalt type hard and fine-grained.” –Page 20
“Sixth – There never were any characters on the rock found in the Money Pit. Because: (a) The rock, being hard, they could not wear off. (b) There are a few scratches, etc., made by Creighton’s employees, as they acknowledged, but there is not, and never was, a system of characters carved on the stone.” –Page 20
- Source: 1911 August 19 – Collier’s Magazine [H.L. Bowdoin’s Eyewitness Account]
Whether from sour grapes at being denied a second attempt to recover the treasure, or because he really felt that the stone never had an inscription on it, Bowdoin stated as much in the 1911 Collier's Magazine article he wrote about his expedition to Oak Island. Regardless, it stands as one of the few eyewitness accounts that can be referenced at present day.
The 90ft Stone taken to Truro, Nova Scotia.
A newspaper article published on November 17, 1920 seems to be the first to mention that the stone may have been taken to Truro. No source is mentioned for this claim.
“At 95 feet they came across a stone, with an inscription chiseled into its surface. The stone was taken to Truro where people said they could read on it: ‘Ten feet below $10,000,000 lies buried.”
- Source: 1920 November 17 – Waterloo Evening Courier (Newspaper)
This is the first indication that we have found of the 90FT Stone being taken to Truro.
The 90ft Stone goes back to Halifax, to the Bookbinder's shop.
“At ninety feet, the diggers unearthed a thin flat stone, about three feet long and sixteen inches wide. On one face it bore peculiar characters which nobody could decipher. The searchers felt, however, that the treasure hunt was getting hot. The stone was shown to everyone who visited the Island in those days. Smith built this stone into his fireplace, with the strange characters outermost, so that visitors might see and admire it. Many years after his death, the stone was removed from the fireplace and taken to Halifax, where the local savants were unable to translate the inscription. It was then taken to the home of J. B. McCulley in Truro, where it was exhibited to hundreds of friends of the McCulleys, who became interested in a later treasure company. Somehow the stone fell into the hands of a bookbinder, who used it as a base upon which to beat leather for many years. A generation later, with the inscription nearly worn away, the stone found its way to a book store in Halifax, and what happened to it after that I was unable to learn. But there are plenty of people living who have seen the stone. Nobody, however, ever seriously pretended to translate the inscription.”
- Source: 1929 June – The Oak Island Treasure by Charles B. Driscoll (Book)
Driscoll tells us the 90ft Stone went from Oak Island to Halifax, then on to Truro to the home of Jotham B. McCully, and then back to Halifax to the Bookbinder's shop. From there it went on to the book store, which sounds like the transition from A&H Creighton Bookbinders, to Creighton & Marshall Stationers, after A.O Creighton's death.
The 90ft Stone is missing!
“Am sorry that the stone you refer to, cannot be located. Several attempts have been made to trace it, but without success. The last authentic word I had of this stone, was from Jefferson McDonald, who told me in 1894, that some thirty years before that, he helped to take down a partition at the rear of a fire-place in which the stone was used as a back, with the cut characters at the rear. The Partition was torn down for the purpose of examining and reading, if possible, the characters. He said the characters were easily discernible, but no person present could decipher them. The house and stone have long since disappeared, and no trace of the later has ever been obtained. This is most unfortunate, but it is just one more illustration of the great neglect of all connected with this project in the early days, to the historical features of this most interesting island.”
- Source: 1933 December 19 – Letter from F.L. Blair to Thomas Nixon
In this letter from Oak Iskland Treasure Trove License holder and former treasure hunter Frederick L. Blair to Thomas Nixon, Blair indicates that the stone is missing. The way he tells the story agrees with George Cooke's letter of 1864, but the wording is vague as to whether the stone ever left John Smith's house before it was torn down.
A detailed description of the 90FT Stone is given by Eyewitness.
“The business of ‘A. & H. Creighton’ bookbinders, 64 Upper Water Street, Halifax, was established in 1844 and lasted until 1879 when A. Creighton either died or retired, and Herbert Creighton and Edward Marshall my father, formed the firm of ‘Creighton & Marshall’. I was born in 1879. One of the Creighton’s was interested in the Oak Island Treasure Co. and had brought to the city a stone which I well remember seeing as a boy, and until the business was merged in 1919 in the present firm of Phillips & Marshall. The stone was about 2 feet long, 15 inches wide, and 10 inches thick, and weighed about 175 pounds. It had two smooth surfaces, with rough sides with traces of cement attached to them. Tradition said that it had been part of two fireplaces. The corners were not squared but somewhat rounded. The block resembled dark Swedish granite or fine grained porphyry, very hard, and with an olive tinge, and did not resemble any local stone. Tradition said that it had been found originally in the mouth of the “Money Pit”. While in Creighton’s possession some lad had cut his initials ‘J.M.” on one corner, but apart from this there was no evidence of any inscription either cut or painted on the stone. Creighton used the stone for a beating stone and weight. When the business was closed in 1919, Thos. Forhan, since deceased, asked for the stone, the history of which seems to have been generally known. When Marshall left the premises in 1919, the stone was left behind, but Forhan does not seem to have taken it. Search at Forhan’s business premises and residence two years ago disclosed no stone. The full history of the stone was written up in ‘the Suburban” about 1903 or 1904. Alfred Tregunno of the Halifax Seed Company stated to Messrs. Blair and Harris that S.R. Cossey & Co. occupied the premises 64 Upper Water Street from 1919 to 1927. The premises were remodeled and occupied by the firm in 1919. In 1927 the premises was taken over by the Halifax Seed Store. About 6 mos. After being occupied, enquiry was made of the premises but failed to locate the stone. Blair, Harris, and Tregunno made a thorough search of the premises and basement today and found no trace of the stone. Mr. Laing and Mr. Tracey of the Brookfield Construction Company states that that Company remodeled the premises 64 Upper Water Street in 1919. Laing does not remember the stone, but says that it is possible that it would have been taken to their storeyards on Smith Street, or mill-yard on Mitchell Street, to be used in construction if suitable. The yards are now covered in snow, but a search will be made at an early date.
- Source: 1935 March 27 – Statement of Harry W. Marshall to R.V. Harris and Fred L. Blair
The investigation, by Harris and Blair, in to the whereabouts of the 90ft Stone, tell us many new pieces of information. It gives us another supposed eyewitness account of the 90FT Stone, along with the most detailed description of it yet. Two Smooth surfaces, with rough sides . the corners not squared but somewhat rounded. The letters "J.M." carved in one corner, and lastly but not least it "resembled dark Swedish granite or fine grained porphyry, with an olive tinge. These details given in a statement by Harry Marshall, son of Edward Marshall, who was one of the owners of Creighton & Marshalls.
We also learn that Creighton & Marshalls closed down in 1919, and the Halifax Seed Store eventually took over the premises in 1927. Harris and Blair made a thorough search of the Halifax Seed Store and did not turn up the stone.
Rev. Austen Tremaize Kempton produces a copy the alleged inscription, and its decoding, for the 90FT Stone.
“In their digging they came to charcoal, planks, putty, and coca nut fibre. But the most important thing they found was when about 90 feet a stone 3 feet long, 16 inches wide with this inscription cut on it with much care, as the cutting was said to be very distinct and protected by pieces of board carefully laid over the inscription.”
- Source: 1949 April 19 – Kempton Letter to Frederick L. Blair contains Oak Island Story alleged to have been written in 1909
Rev. Kempton had been given this story and a copy of the cipher in 1909. It was written by a retired school teacher from Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia. Kempton did not name the teacher in his letter to Blair. Right or wrong, this cipher has been used as the basis for all illustrations of the 90ft Stone since this time. It is interesting that the version of the Oak Island Story that accompanies this cipher, and which relates that treasure was found in the early dig, has not gained wide acceptance.
This version of the story describes an inscription that was more than rudely scratched symbols.
Kempton first gave the cipher to Edward Rowe Snow, a popular treasure hunter and author of books about treasure. Edward used the cipher in a book of his, in 1954, in which the story of Oak Island was told. Edward knew Frederick Blair, and this may be how the connection was established between Blair and Kempton.
Kempton Cipher revealed in print for the first time.
“The mystery grew stranger and stranger, but when the ninety-foot mark was reached, the greatest mystery of all awaited the diggers. It was a round, flat stone, about three feet high and sixteen inches wide. On the face of the stone curious characters had been cut. Reverend A. T. Kempton of Cambridge, Massachusetts, believes that an old Irish schoolmaster worked out the code and translated the inscription to read, letter for letter, as follows: Forty Feet Below Two Million Pounds Are Buried. However, it is only fair to state that there are many who claim that the above inscription was not the one found on the stone… Perhaps the continuous flood of the shaft was caused by the removal of the strange, flat stone. In order to defeat anyone who persevered in looking for the treasure to the extent of digging ninety feet underground, the stone many have been placed as a key to unlock the drains from the ocean."
- Source: 1954 – True Tales of Buried Treasure (Book) by Edward Rowe Snow
Edward Rowe Snow introduces the public to the Kempton Cipher, and suggests that the message of the cipher, Forty Feet Below Two Million Pounds are Buried, was enticement to cause anyone persistent enough to dig to a depth of 90 feet to remove the stone and spring the flood traps. Or perhaps the message was meant to mock the treasure hunters with the knowledge that they were so close, and yet so far, to recovering the treasure.
Professor James Liechti, of Dalhousie University, named as the person who decoded the 90ft Stone.
“McNutt states: At forty feet a tier of charcoal; at fifty feet a tier of smooth stones from the beach, with figures and letters cut on them; at sixty feet a tier of manila grass and the rind of the coconut; at seventy feet a tier of putty; at eighty feet a stone three feet long and one foot square. With figures and letters cut on it, and it was freestone, being different than any on that coast.” -Page 15
“An Inscribed Stone The DesBrisay account says: Farther down was a flagstone about two feet long and one wide, with a number of rudely cut letters and figures upon it. They were in hopes this inscription would throw some valuable light on their search, but unfortunately they could not decipher it, as it was too badly cut, or did not appear to be in their own vernacular. This remarkable stone was pretty far down in the Pit, lying in the centre with the engraved side down. As it was preserved in the family of Mr. Smith, it may be seen by the curious at the present day (1864).” –Page 19 & 20
“Other versions of the story of the inscribed stone differ as to the depth at which it was found, and respecting its dimensions. The stone was removed and later placed in the back of a fireplace in John smith’s house, which he was building near the site, and while there was seen by hundreds of people. About 1865-1866 the stone was removed and taken to Halifax. Among those who worked to remove the stone was one Jefferson W. MacDonald, who told Mr. F. L. Blair, in 1894, that the inscription was easily traced, but that no person present could decipher it. Apparently no photograph or rubbing was ever made.” –Page 20
“The stone was brought to Halifax by either A.O. or Herbert Creighton of A. & H. Creighton, bookbinders, 64 Upper Water Street, Halifax, a firm established in 1844. A.O. Creighton was Treasurer of the Oak island Association, formed in 1866, and it was exhibited in the shop window when the company was endeavouring to sell shares. It is said that James Liechti, a Professor of Languages (1866-1906) at Dalhousie College, expressed his opinion that the inscription meant “Ten feet below two million pounds lie buried” but most people were skeptical respecting this version, because of the concurrent efforts being made to sell stock.” –Page 20
“The business of A. & H. Creighton continued until 1879, when Mr. A.O. Creighton either died or retired and Mr. Herbert Creighton and Edward Marshall formed the firm of “Creighton & Marshall” and carried on business at the old stand. Mr. Harry W. Marshall, son of Edward Marshall, was born in 1879, and entered the employ of the firm as a boy in 1890. In a statement made on March 27th, 1935, by him to Frederick L. Blair, and the writer, Mr. Marshall said: I well remember seeing it as a boy and until the business was merged in 1919 in the present firm of Phillips and Marshall. The stone was about two feet long, fifteen inches wide and ten inches thick, and weighed about 175 pounds. It had two smooth surfaces, with rough sides and traces of cement attached to them. Tradition said that it had been part of two fireplaces. The corners were not squared but somewhat rounded. The block resembled grained porphyry, very hard, and with an olive tinge, and did not resemble any local Nova Scotia stone. While in Creighton’s possession someone had cut his initials “J.M.” on one corner, but apart from this there was no evidence of any inscription either cut or painted on the stone. It had completely faded out. We used the stone for a beating stone and weight. When the business was closed, in 1919, Thomas Forhan, since deceased, asked for the stone, the history of which seems to have been generally known. When we left the premises in 1919 the stone was left behind, but Forhan does not seem to have taken it. Search at Forhan’s business premises and residence two years ago (1933) disclosed no stone.” –Page 20 & 21
“Thorough searches of the old premises in 1935, and of the stone yards of Brookfield Construction Company, on smith and Mitchell Streets, failed to discover the stone. Captain H. L. Bowdoin, mentioned in a later chapter, saw the stone in 1909. It was then at the Creighton book-bindery but no characters were found on the stone at that time.” –Page 21
“(6) There never were any characters on the rock found on the Money Pit.” –Page 118 (Bowdoin's claim)
“Sixth: The existence of an inscribed stone and the tradition respecting it were also matters in the same class as the ring-bolt. Its history was incontrovertible, and spoke for itself.”- Page 120
“…It should be recalled that no satisfactory explanation has yet been found regarding the untranslatable inscription on the porphyry stone” –Page 173
- Source: 1958 June -The Oak Island Mystery (Book) by Reginald Vanderbilt Harris
R.V. Harris relates much of what we have already reviewed about the 90ft Stone, and the search for this stone, in his famous 1958 book. What he tells us, which is a new revelation, is that Professor James Liechti is the school teacher / professor who translated the inscription (or cipher). Liechti passed away in 1925, so it was not possible for anyone to confirm this with him directly after publication of Harris' book.
An Alternate Decoding of the 90FT Stone is made by Professor Wilhelm
"As has been indicated above, the present whereabouts of the carved stone is not known today. All reports are that the stone has been "lost". It seems very doubtful that such a possible key to the mystery could be lost or carelessly treated, since there is the tenacious belief that the Oak Island structure contains an enormous treasure. It seems much more likely that the stone was hidden away by one of the treasure seekers. since the persons who have been associated with the Oak Island effort have been in many cases second and third generation relatives of the earlier seekers, it is more plausible that the carved stone still exists. The depth at which the carved stone was found as well as its dimensions and appearance also are a matter of controversy. From the deciphered message set forth below it seems likely that the stone was found at eighty feet or less as is indicated in the DeBrisay account. The message carved on the stone also is in doubt. However, as will be shown below, the message, as remembered, appears to be substantially correct. Faulty memory, erosion of some of the carving, and XVI Century cryptological practices could explain the few "errors". When the author (Wilhelm) first examined the message on the carved stone, he was struck by the resemblance between the symbols and those used on the Cipher Disk which were first described in Porta's book De Furtivis Literarum Notis, published in 1563..."
- Source: Bureau of Business Research Working Paper No. 23, The Spanish in Nova Scotia in the XVI Century: A Hint in the Oak Island Treasure Mystery (Research Paper) by Ross Wilhelm, Associate Professor of Business Economics, University of Michigan
Dr. Wilhelm uses the Kempton Cipher to create his decipherment of the inscription, "At eighty guide maize or millet estuary or firth drain F" and clarifies his translation by inserting his own words in parenthesis as so, ""At eighty (you) guide maize or millet (into the) estuary or firth drain F". Doctor Wilhelm also makes a couple of adjustments to the Kempton cipher to make his decoding work. He attributes the need to do this, rightly or wrongly, as errors in the Kempton Cipher due to incorrect recollection of the remembered cipher. There is no real indication of whether the cipher given to Rev. Kempton as part of an Oak Island Story, and written by a retired teacher in Lunenburg County was a remembered inscription, or taken directly from an unknown tracing or drawing of the cipher on the stone. Dr. Wilhelm may be making an assumption here, based on the knowledge that no cipher copies were known to exist in the public knowledge.
Dr. Wilhelm uses DeBrisay, Harris, and Snow for his source materials and therefore duplicates their descriptions of the 90FT Stone. He does not provide us with a new descriptive of the stone itself, just of the cipher that may have been inscribed upon it.
Stone said to read, "Forty Feet Below Two Million Pounds lie Buried"
“Shortly after the shaft was discovered a team of sweaty excavators was supposed to have written (etched in flag-stone) announcement, left by the original diggers no doubt, which read: ‘Forty feet below two million pounds lie buried.’”
- Source: 1972 November 29 - Lethbridge Herald (Newspaper)
First mention that we have found that changes the "Ten Feet Below" decoding to "Forty Feet Below". This seems to be an adoption of Kempton's decoding as released by Edward Rowe Snow in his book.
Blockhouse Investigations finds the Book Store and inspects the premises.
Kel Hancock, Thomas Kingston, and Doug Crowell search the former premises of Creighton & Marshalls and make some interesting discoveries.
Join us in Part 3 when we relate our investigation of the Creighton Book Store premises. More to come...
By the way, did you catch the error in the 90ft Stone illustration from the Provincial Governments Tourist Map? It decodes to read, "Forty Feet Bebelow". There is an extra "T:" in the cipher.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
by Doug Crowell - Blockhouse Investigations - Nova Scotia
There has long been an argument over whether the supposed man-made flood tunnels on Oak Island are real or not. Those in favor of such structures point to the physical indications that had been found at various times over the history of the search, like finger drains and an artificial coconut filtration system in Smith’s Cove. Opponents to the existence of the flood tunnels point to the geology of that part of the island, and posit that it is simply natural fissures in the bedrock or overburden which cause the flooding, with no man-made work required other than the digging of a hole.
When the topic of geology enters the debate, it is time to turn to science for an answer. For science, we here at Blockhouse Investigations turn to men or women of science. Better yet, should those individuals already be very familiar with the Oak Island mystery and the physical island itself. We sat down with John Wonnacott this past weekend and he enlightened us on a few facts about Oak Island that we are sure you are going to find really interesting.
Mr. Wonnacott (he prefers John) began his career as a military engineer in the Canadian Armed Forces, overseeing engineering and construction projects, and rising to the rank of Major by the time he finished serving. He has worked as a field engineer on such private sector projects as the Alaska Highway Gas Pipeline project, and managed construction projects for JD Irving Limited. He was awarded the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers’ Award for Engineering Excellence for his work as Deputy Project Manager for the Diavik Diamond Mines north of Yellowknife, Canada. He met David Tobias and Les MacPhie about 20 years ago, and this led to a deep interest in all aspects of Oak Island. David Tobias and his wife Pearl became his friends, and he spent many hours reading documents, talking over theories and making new investigation plans with Les and David. Back around 2000, John conducted an excavation at Oak Island, which resulted in the recovery of several pieces of the U-shaped structure built at Smith’s Cove. In recent years, John has done some work to assist the Lagina brothers in their on-going investigations, and he is currently working with Les MacPhie and Danny Hennigar on an important Oak Island project.
John has graciously agreed to share some of his insights with us and we are extremely fortunate to gain his knowledge and experience in both engineering and Oak Island. We know that he has already opened our eyes with some of his island insights and we are sure that you are going to really enjoy hearing what he has to say about some components of the mystery.
Doug Crowell: When Kel and I sat down with you for a chat this past Monday, you surprised us by stating that the flood tunnel or tunnels on Oak Island are most likely real. Can you elaborate on this for our readers?
John Wonnacott: I would like to mention some common engineering properties of the soil that covers part of Oak Island – and some basic physics – to explain why I am convinced that there must be a manmade Money Pit and at least one Flood Tunnel approximately where they have been believed to exist.
DC: By all means, please continue!
JW: There is not much hard physical evidence regarding Oak Island that an open-minded, skeptical person would accept without question; but here are a few points that I think we can all agree with:
DC: I would agree with that. Oak Island is like a huge pincushion of boreholes in the Money Pit area.
DC: So what was found in those boreholes to convince you that man-made structures exist?
JW: Glacial till.
DC: Now I am curious indeed.
DC: How does glacial till prove flood tunnels?
JW: Glacial till is a type of soil that is common in Canada. It consists of an unsorted mixture of sand, gravel, cobbles, boulders, silt and clay, that was deposited by glaciers. In many cases, including at Oak Island, thick glaciers lay on top of the till for many centuries, causing the soil to be heavily compressed. Because till has so many different size pieces of soil, the voids between pieces are filled with smaller and smaller pieces and because it is often very heavily compressed, it is a dense, impervious material that water cannot even seep through, except in very small quantities over very long time periods.
DC: So the weight of the glaciers, sitting on top of the soil for a long, long time, compacts that soil so tightly that it is water tight?
JW: Yes. Glacial till is so reliably impermeable, that engineers often use natural till deposits as water-tight barriers when designing dams etc.
JW: That’s because glacial till does not form deep, permanent cracks that could conduct ground water. It’s soil that would shift and move if water was moving through cracks, so if any cracks did form, they would naturally seal themselves. If there was ever a large cavity in the till soil, it would naturally collapse over time.
DC: So this applies to the Money Pit side of Oak Island?
JW: It does, and that said, no drill hole in the Money Pit area has ever found cracks, natural cavities or porous zones in the till.
JW: By the way, you might think that glaciers must be so cold that the soil beneath them would be frozen - so that liquid water could not be squeezed out of the till by the weight of the ice - but that is not usually the case. Ice is a decent insulator, and with glaciers, at a depth of somewhere between 200 and 300 meters there is liquid water along with the ice. So when thick glaciers lie on the ground, the soil beneath them is unfrozen.
DC: If the glacial till doesn’t naturally allow water to run or seep through it, how did the Money Pit flood?
JW: I can answer that by explaining what I believe, and the easiest way for me to do that is to get you to cast your mind back to the time when the first of the Searchers excavated at the Money Pit. Where did the water come from, that flooded them out once they reached about 100 feet below ground surface? There are only three possible situations to consider:
DC: Very interesting John. This may change the way people think in regards to the flooding.
JW: The way I see it, it does not matter whether there was a Money Pit or not. When the first Searchers dug down about 100 feet and were flooded, the water had to have come from a Flood Tunnel. It does not make any sense at all, for a man-made Flood Tunnel to exist without there being a Money Pit that was dug to at least 100 feet. And it does not make much sense either, to have a Flood Tunnel unless the Money Pit went somewhat deeper than 100 feet. So I believe there was a Money Pit and a Flood Tunnel. How else can anyone explain the water?
DC: Thanks for the great insights from a scientific and engineering perspective John. We really look forward to our next interview with you, and the research you are going to share.
We here at Blockhouse Investigations hope that you find the implications of what John Wonnacott conveyed to us, in the above interview, as thought provoking as we have. As John has stated that glacial till is water tight and self sealing, and since it is what the Money Pit was created in it, and is surrounded by it on all sides, including the bottom, then this suggests that water could not have found its way into the shaft unless a man-made water delivery system had been created for that very purpose. Many of us may have assumed that those who point out that water can move through fissures in the anhydrite bedrock had a legitimate argument to counter the idea of flood tunnels, but maybe we didn't know the rest of the story until now.
Stayed tuned, because John hasn't finished surprising us with science yet.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
Doug Crowell- Blockhouse Investigations- Nova Scotia
You never know what you might find when searching through archives for information on Nova Scotia's Oak Island mystery. Sometimes you'll stumble upon a little treasure. That's what happened on cold and gloomy Saturday afternoon in January when Blockhouse Investigation's Kel Hancock and Doug Crowell, found an old yellowed newspaper clipping in a scrapbook held at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, in Halifax.
The article was printed in the December 1st 1971 issue of the now defunct Dartmouth Free Press under the headline, Local diver who worked on Oak Island describes descent into mystery chamber, and was written by reporter, Graham Colville. What's significant about the piece is that it describes the descent of a lone diver into the cold, dark depths of Oak Island's famed Borehole 10x.
“I suddenly fell into a small cavern, rather square in shape, and about 12 feet deep, with a flat floor. There seemed to be odd-looking things there, irregular contours on the side of the chamber jutting out.”- Alan Sagar in the Dartmouth Free Press, 1971
In 1971 Alan Sagar, a retired Lieutenant Commander and former Commanding Officer of the Fleet Diving Unit HMCS Granby, was owner-operator of Merganser Diving Services in Halifax, when he was contacted with a unique job offer on Oak Island. In October 1971 he descended down into Borehole 10X, gaining access to the cavity at 235 feet. His dive involved being lowered into the 27 inch pipe which, at that time, ran all the way from the surface down into the bedrock -the shaft had not been enlarged above bedrock yet. The first 90 feet was dry shaft and above water. He didn't use traditional diving gear because the narrow space wouldn't accommodate a diver with large tanks. Instead, he hugged a small bottle of compressed air to his chest as they lowered him into the chamber, in order to reduce the risk of snagging.
“I wouldn’t let it out of my hands. It’s very hazardous using it in their conditions because it gets bashed around a lot.”- Alan Sagar, 1971
Blockhouse Investigations interviewed Sagar, now 90 years old, at his sea-side home, earlier this week, where he recalled that when he emerged into the cavity, he could see the far wall. He was looking through the camera, filming the cavity. As he slowly panned the camera over the area, he attempted to move forward, and the motion caused the silt to bloom up and he could no longer see anything at all. There was nothing to do but return to the surface.
“I got caught up on a weld between pipe segments”
One thing the 1971 newspaper article doesn’t tell you, is that during his ascent he became stuck in the pipe while still underwater. The humble veteran diver didn't mention this at first. But it was quickly pointed out by his wife Margaret, who has just lately learned of some of these fascinating details of her husband’s Oak Island adventure. The couple recently watched some episodes of The Curse of Oak Island TV Show, and that spurred some family discussions. Sagar then matter-of-factly told us, “I got caught up on a weld between pipe segments”
“Once I came up, I didn’t want to go back down again. A bit stupid to do that”
Sagar told us that he got caught up on a weld while being pulled up out of the pipe, and it caused some tense moments. He was unsure of just how long it took them to get him moving again, but he recalled that he thought those on the surface used a backhoe to apply enough upward pressure on the steel cable to free him. When we asked this very experienced diver if he found this situation frightening, he gave us very reserved answer, suitable to a wartime veteran,“Once I came up, I didn’t want to go back down again. A bit stupid to do that” .
“I met Blankenship at a diner on the mainland. We had breakfast and then headed over to the island.”
Lt. Commander, The Reverend, Alan Sagar began his British Naval career in 1943, at age 18, serving in the Royal Navy as Signalman, visiting Hiroshima not long after the bomb was dropped. In 1954 he qualified as a Clearance Diver at HMS Vernon, Portsmouth, and in 1955 joined the Royal Canadian Navy in Halifax as an instructor for Clearance Diving. He retired in 1970, and founded Merganser Diving Services, utilizing knowledge of underwater explosives, camera work, and exploration for various clients. Among the less desirable tasks was diving to recover bodies. It was these skills that likely brought him to the attention of Triton Alliance of Oak Island and led to his historic dive in 10X. “I met Blankenship at a diner on the mainland. We had breakfast and then headed over to the island', he told us.
When we questioned him on the details of what he observed in the 10X cavity Sagar said that his focus was on working the camera, while the crew on the surface were monitoring the video feed, so he no longer recalls much detail. We learned from Margaret that the surface crew for Merganser Diving Services consisted of an employee and Sagar’s then 12 year old son Robie, who often assisted his dad on his dives for the family owned business. During our pleasant afternoon chat with these fine folk, we learned that Alan Sagar had inaugurated a magazine for divers , back in 1954, called Dippers’ Digest, which is still being published today. He not only wrote articles for the digest, he also drew illustrations and cartoons for it. We were treated to a look at some of those excellent cartoons. In later years, he gave more attention to his artwork, and very kindly gifted us with a couple of his illustrations featuring Nova Scotia’s maritime heritage.
After meeting with Alan we determined that we should try and interview the Merganser surface crew, and Margaret was instrumental in helping us set up an interview with Robie Sagar, who also graciously agreed to meet with us. On Monday, February 15th 2016, we took a road trip to visit with him, at his home, and over a cup of tea, Blockhouse Investigations conducted the following interview.
Kel Hancock: Thanks for meeting with us to talk about your dad’s dive into Borehole 10X in October of 1971. The newspaper article says your dad had a very expensive underwater video camera that he used to film in the 10X Cavity.
Robie Sagar: He would take that to go look at wharves and stuff. He would dive down and sort of record all this stuff.
KH: In regards to the camera your father used, do you know if this state of the art video camera was something he had utilized in his company before diving 10X, or did he acquire the camera to do 10X?
RS: No, no, he definitely had it before. We were doing all kinds of funky stuff with it.
Doug Crowell: So going into pipes; diving into pipes; your dad wasn’t a stranger to that?
RS: Well there was a couple we took on, one crazy one for Scotia Square in Halifax. Their sceptic there was built in 4x4 chambers. I was down there with him at 4am in the morning. We were filming the system, and there were rats there too; big rats! Yeah, he would go down in these manholes, some of them really deep. So he was pretty accustomed to going in pipes. So there was a lot of that.
KH: I am trying to put together how Blankenship may have heard about your dad and why he may have contacted him. His work was more or less specialized and he had this high tech camera.
RS: Oh yeah, he was high tech. They [the Navy] would send him in to demine these mines, and do explosives. Then when he retired, and he got this camera, Oak Island would be the perfect scenario for him, because, like you know, it was tight quarters, and he was a top end highly qualified diver as it were. He’s gotten the bends I don’t know how many goddamned, I don’t know. We thought we lost him many times. He was once in the decompression chamber for two weeks one time.
KH: Your dad worked with Triton Alliance from the end of July until October in 1971. Besides a consultation period, in which your dad told us he met Dan Blankenship for the first time over breakfast in a diner on the mainland, do you know what else he might have been doing for them in that period?
RS: I know there was quite a buzz around it for a period of time. For my involvement, was like, I am there for the work, but yes I do remember there being quite a bit of a buzz around for one summer.
DC: Were you aware of the Oak Island mystery, the story, before you went down there for this job?
RS: No, not really. Not really; twelve years old, I’m just kind of like, “Oh Jesus, I’ve got to go off to another frigging job.”
KH: At that time in 1971, we believe that Borehole 10X was still only 27 inches in diameter all the way from the surface down to the cavity at 235 feet. The diver, John Chatterton, would dove into the cavity this past year, in 2015, only have to navigate the 27 inch pipe and hole from a depth of 180 feet, where the expanded shaft ends at bedrock, down to 235 feet. That would be 55 feet of the 27 inch pathway. Your dad had to dive 235 feet of 27 inch pathway. Can you confirm this for us?
RS: I remember when we were there, you know, if the pipe wasn’t 27, it was pretty small around. Right. And they had; I am trying think; to remember details as clearly as I could, and I remember I was the one feeding the line to him, and every 10 feet there would be a mark. 100 feet. 110, you know, and all that sort of stuff. Feeding the cable and watching the monitor. And Dan the man; they called him Dan the man; Blankenship I guess it was. Dan the man, they always referred to him as that. He was there, looking into the back of the camper.
KH: The camper was part of your Dad’s business?
RS: Yeah, that’s right. That was his thing. He did it all, the cable came out of the camper, went into this double recording tape. So there should be a record of the whole thing, and I’m surprised it hasn’t shown up yet, because I was watching it recording when I was lowering the cable and all the boys were there watching. He hit water at 50 feet, or even less than that; 30 feet; can’t remember. I am getting vague about when he hit the water. He had a single tank on, and a regulator, and you know, he was like this. [ holds his arms out like he is hugging something to his chest]
DC: He was holding his canister of air?
KH: Oh my god. Clutched to his chest?
RS: Yes, he was. You had to. He was like this, holding this frigging full tank. Crazy, absolutely insane.
KH: That must have been quite a day?
RS: You know, at the time it didn’t seem like anything, other than I knew he was putting himself at a lot of risk. I mean, oh man, you are going down like, what was it 230 feet.
KH: So there were no comms?
RS: No what?
KH: No communications?
RS: No, no, no, no. Nothing. I mean the only way you could say; and this is the crazy part, because one tug is yes, two is stop, and one is yes, pull me up, or whatever.
DC: So you say there were other people there besides Dan Blankenship, you, and your dad the day of the dive?
RS: I was twelve years old. I’m just; been thinking about it a lot. About what went down, and yeah, there was a lot of guys there. Dan the man, and all the other guys with the hard hats, and they were standing over top of the hole, and I was lowering it and lowering it and lowering it, and I was thinking it was really deep, he was going down; down. And um anyway, he went down, and like I said, he finally hit the bottom, and he came around and I distinctly remember that, that – hopefully it is on the tape to back me up – but as he comes along, and as he sees the pole, and then, I do believe, there was some part of a hand. There was a skeleton hand, and when he did see it, I noticed that there was kind of like this type of thing [indicates with his own arm that a forearm and hand were sticking up in a vertical position]. Oh Jesus, you know.
DC: You said earlier that that was sticking up out of the silt?
RS: Out of the silt. Yeah, out of the silt, not far away from the beam. And it was across this; this sort of; sort of a room I guess, or a cavern size, but you opened up into it, it seemed like a good; a good size, and you know, these guys were just freaking out at this point in time, “Oh my god man, this is it, it’s got to be here!”, right. So there is a real big commotion up top. It really got them stirred up. And so anyway, you know, he did that, and then I just remember he was looking at it, and he held there for a little bit, and then he ah, and he sort of like moved forward, and the silt was so fine, it was about, at least, a couple feet thick. So as soon as he went forward it just ballooned up, and it just; it just blackened out right after that. But that was enough to just set these guys, like, smiling, and just get them really excited, about; you know, what is going on. So the hard part was getting him back out of the hole. So again, no communication, so they’re pulling him; you know, winding him up out of the hole on a steel cable, and pulling up and winding him up, and where the; the pipes got stuck together, the welds, he got hung up. I don’t know if it was part of a regulator, or part of his suit, I can’t remember what part actually was getting hung up. And we were sort of pulling him apart, cause we were cranking on him, right. Trying to get him to hell out of there, and he was pulling on this thing himself.
DC: What kind of winch, manual or electric?
RS: A cable, steel cable and a winch. No, not electric. It was manual. So that was one thing that did kind of save him, because, like, if it was electric, or like much stronger…
KH: It would have pulled him apart?
RS: Yeah, because he got totally fetched up. I’m just not sure if it was his regulator or suit. I can’t; I’m not going to say which one it was, and he didn’t tell ya which one it was?
DC: No, he said he got hung up on a weld, and then he said he thought they used a backhoe to get enough force to pull him out of there.
RS: Ah, yeah…
DC: That was his recollection
RS: Yeah, I guess. Wow. Man. I don’t know… geez. It could have been, I just know he was really freaking out, and he was hung up, what; like, when he came out, he was really upset because of the fact that, you know, he was hung down there, and thinking he was going to run out of air you know.
DC: The newspaper article said the water was drained down to 80 feet. So there was air down to 80 feet and then the water started and we asked him, did he make it out of the water before he got hung up, or was he still under the water, and he said he was still under the water.
RS: Yes, that is how I remember it.
KH: How long do you think he was down total?
RS: An hour, hour and a half.
KH: How much of that time do you think he was actually in the cavern?
RS: Probably not that long, because once he was in the cavern and moving towards this hand, or… the silt just went black.
KH: They are having the same problems today.
RS: So then he had to find his, you know, come back out, follow the cable, and just head for out, because there is nothing else you can do. So he wasn’t there for more than a few minutes.
DC: Did they pull the camera out ahead of him?
RS: Oh, what did we do?
DC: Because in the newspaper article they talked about the camera being lowered down ahead of him.
RS: It had to go down below him, and then he did the filming, and I can’t remember if; yes, it would have to, it would have to, it would just be an awful mess.
KH: So he sent it up?
RS: Yes, he sent it up first, and then they wound him up and then he got snagged in the pipe.
DC: You would almost think you would loosen off a little bit, a give him a little slack.
RS: Well, see, you would just think he is getting heavier or whatever, or something, I’m not sure. But there was a certain point where, hey, he isn’t coming anymore.
DC: Our understanding is that that hole isn’t plumb either, so when he was being raised up through the pipe, he likely was brushing up along one side of the pipe. So it is easy to believe that he could snag on the welding of a joint between pipes.
RS: So there is no way to find out; I know there is a tape out there.
KH: We are going to try and find it.
RS: There is a tape out there, I’ll tell ya. I was there when it was made.
DC: So that is what you remember. Your dad came out into the cavity, and with the camera, he was panning and you saw what looked like a hand and a timber?
RS: Yeah, yup, oh definitely the timber. That is why I was hesitant about saying there was like a hand because geez, like I mean you know, but; that’s what we all kind of thought it was.”
RS: I wish you could see the tape.
DC: It was your impression that it was a wooden timber?
RS: Oh god yeah.
DC: It wasn’t drill casing or pipe?
RS: No, no; it was square. That is something I am pretty clear on.
DC: Have you ever been back to Oak Island since that day?
RS: No, never been back. Like I said, it was a one-time thing.
KH: Robie, we greatly appreciate you for allowing us to interview you. Thank you!
On our drive back to the Annapolis Valley, we marveled at what it must have been like for those present on that day in October of 1971 when, as video recordings were being made, they viewed what they perceived to be a man-made timber post and a skeleton hand sticking up out of about a 2 foot thick layer of silt. No chest was mentioned this day. The diver himself, then as now, was more reserved in his comments to the press in that article back in December of 1971.
“I think all these things are sort of open to interpretation. On screen there were various sorts of wood-shaped or wooden-looking objects which can be interpreted as man-made.”- Alan Sagar, 1971
Thanks for reading, and Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
also a well known and sad event in the history of the Oak Island treasure hunt. More can be read about the Restalls in the book Oak Island Family, written by Lee Lamb. We highly recommend it as an excellent look into work on the island in the 1960s, and the life of a treasure hunting family. You will also enjoy pictures from the island that have rarely been seen.
Here at Blockhouse Investigations, when researching the "curse" to try and determine its (most likely recent) origins, we wondered just how many people could be proven to have died on the island since the Money Pit was discovered. Many of those engaged in the treasure hunt have passed away since the inception of the recovery operations back in 1795. Simeon Lynds, Jotham McCully, Frederick Blair, and Gilbert Hedden, have all passed beyond the material concerns of this world, just to name a few, but how many have departed while on the island itself? The following is a list of those that are documented to have died on Oak Island since 1795:
The work of one Oak Island researcher suggests that there is at least one cemetery on Oak Island, the location of which has been lost to current knowledge. Some of the 14 who have died on the island, as listed above, may be buried on the island itself, as their graves are yet to be found on the mainland. Of those fourteen people listed, seven of them can be identified as having engaged in treasure hunting on the island. Does this mean the "Curse of Oak Island" has been fulfilled? We leave that up to you, the reader, to decide what you believe, and believe in.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
Blockhouse Investigations-Nova Scotia
By now most people have heard about Oak Island being cursed and that seven men must die before the mysterious treasure reveals itself. In fact the aptly named reality television show, The Curse of Oak Island, makes full use of the legend. But is Oak Island really cursed? And, if so, whom?
Blockhouse Investigations has sought to answer those questions and, not surprisingly, like most of the legends associated with Oak Island, nobody seems to know. The mention of a specific number makes it a rather specific legend so one would think that somewhere there is a specific reference that could lead us to its origins.We do know that a couple of authors writing about Oak Island have attributed it to famed Nova Scotia folklorist, Dr. Helen Creighton, but we’ve found no reference to it in either her published works or her archival material. There are a number of local anecdotes that allude to the island being haunted and that a ghost guards the treasure, but nothing about a curse. Some people say it’s mentioned in her 1957 book, Bluenose Ghosts, and some say it comes from her earlier, Folklore of Lunenburg County, published in 1950. But there is no specific seven must die curse mentioned in either.
One thing that Creighton’s work can tell us though is that the legend contains two very common folklore motifs: the magical number 7, and a treasure requiring blood to be shed in order to recover it. The former is almost ubiquitous in treasure and ghost lore- the other number being 3. And the latter is also a common theme that’s normally based on belief that blood was shed when the treasure was first gotten or when it was buried so therefore, it must be shed to recover it. Although several newspaper accounts over the past two centuries have made use of allusions to the island being haunted and/or cursed in some way, we’ve yet to find specific mention of the seven must die motif or information on the origins of the curse.
“Men fear death as children fear the dark, and as that natural fear is increased in children by tales, so is the other”- Francis Bacon
There is a tradition handed down in the McGinnis family, descendants of famed Money Pit discoverer Daniel McGinnis (Donald MacInnes), that the Mi’kmaq in the area placed a curse on them but it only applies to McGinnis men for some reason. And, of course, immediately following the 1897 death of worker Maynard Kaiser stories sprang up that his demise was no accident but the work of the supernatural- in fact, the ghost of Captain Kidd himself. But once again, neither of these make specific reference to a seven must die curse.
Recently a bit of a sensation resulted from the untimely death of a young producer on The Curse of Oak Island’s production team. This was shamelessly exploited and sensationalized by a self-styled treasure hunter who had made a brief appearance on the show. The gist of the many unfounded rumours that began to spread was that, perhaps, this young man’s death represented the 7th and that the treasure may now reveal itself. We won’t comment on how deeply repulsed we were by these repugnant rumours that led to this man’s death being discussed in the most uncaring and insensitive way. But we will say that it was shameful and was made even more so by the people right here in our home province who, not only bought into it, but fueled it with more rumour and nonsense.
“If you want to tell a grownup fairytales, you have to look for the dark side” –Juan Antonio Bayona
Regardless, even if there was any truth at all to the legend, we have no way of knowing that the six people whose names appear on Oak Island's monument to fallen treasure hunters, are the only diggers who have died on the island. McGinnis family tradition has it that sometime before 1827 young Henry McGinnis, son of Daniel, drowned when the pit flooded- presumably the Money Pit. We’re continuing to investigate.
Although we can’t yet tell you the origins of the Seven Must Die curse, we can tell you that it has never been an intrinsic element of the telling of the Legend of Oak Island. This leads us to think that it may be something that is relatively new and, either totally made-up or the result of a misinterpretation of local folklore. We are continuing our research into the legend and hopefully we will be able to establish how it came to be. We welcome any thoughts and comments our readers may have on the subject.
In closing, I’ll leave you with a quote from a fisherman and storyteller whom Dr. Creighton interviewed when collecting folklore, “Sometimes I tell the truth and sometimes I don’t”. This reminds me of what I often tell kids when I’m entertaining them with tall-tales, “All my stories are true except for the ones I make up”. Folklore, although it may often have an intrinsic relation to a real event, is after all just folklore. And I personally feel that it behooves serious and ardent Oak Island enthusiasts to recognize it as such. Don’t get me wrong, the legends and myths in the Oak Island mystery are great. They are fun, interesting and intriguing. They add colour, mystique and a unique Nova Scotia flavor to the entire story. But in the end, they are not evidence. Here at Blockhouse we’ve been accused of being outright skeptics and we’ve even been accused of seeking to destroy the entire Oak Island mystery by disproving everything. Nothing could be further from the truth. And truth is the operative word.
Many Oak Island theorists have either willfully or unwittingly repeated countless untruths. Many times an entire theory that is otherwise very well researched and presented, totally falls apart because so much is being supported by one little linchpin of fable. We urge readers to be attentive to this fact and not to believe everything they read just because it’s on a website or even in a book. To theorists that wish to be taken seriously I have but two pieces of advice, only use credible information and always, always, be truthful.
Good day from the Blockhouse!
Hedden was referring to Sir Francis Bacon and the theory that Bacon was responsible for the workings on Oak Island, created to hide documents and manuscripts that may include, among other things, the original manuscripts of Shakespeare. If you remember from our last article, one of the three things that Hedden absolutely believed in was the piece of parchment said to have been brought up out of the ground, from 153 feet below, during drilling done by William Chappell in 1897. Hedden believed that it would be of interest to study this theory more, with Oak Island in mind. Here in his own words, is what he imparted to Harris:
"One correspondent was a Mr. B. F. Ruth of Ames, Iowa, who wrote me after the article in the Saturday Evening Post. He wrote a thirty page letter giving his arguments as to why the cache was undoubtedly that of Bacons lost manuscripts and some of his arguments were quite plausible. He gives two references as applying to the work done at Oak, both taken from Sylva Sylvarum. The first - Page 7, Century 1, Experiment 25 (2nd edition(1628)) refers to an artificial water course. The second describing the preservation of objects is Page 33, Experiment 100 which refers to preservation in Mercury. He also notes that Bacon went into the preservation of documents at great length all through his writings in that book. He also makes appoint of Bacon's will in which he says "As for my name and memory, I leave it to men's charitable speeches, to foreign lands, and to the next ages." He accepts the date 1669 as the probable time of origin and states that it was probably planned and executed by Bacon's chaplain Rawley, after Bacon's death.
I also corresponded with a Mrs. Gladys Stewart of Rochester, the daughter of a prominent Baconian - Dr. Owen. Dr. Owen in his life had made many discoveries and interpretations of the Baconian cipher messages contained in early printings of Shakespeare and others and had found enough to induce him to lead an expedition to the river Wy in Scotland in search of a buried cache. He was successful in finding a cement vault under a river in its center but found it to be empty. It received quite a bit of publicity at the time and is a matter of record. Mrs. Stewart wrote me much along the same line as Ruth, also quoting the Sylvarum and somewhere between them I received the information I passed on to you. I paid little attention to it at the time being more or less amused and feeling that recovery was necessary to prove anything. I met Mrs. Stewart when she visited New York and was quite impressed with her knowledge and sincerity."
R.V. Harris, though in receipt of this information from Hedden, did not include this theory in the first edition of his book, The Oak Island Mystery, published in 1958 by the Ryerson Press of Toronto. He did however, preserve this letter from Hedden in his research papers donated to the Nova Scotia Public Archives. We're very fortunate he did, otherwise it might never be known that this particular theory, quite popular now, was being considered in relation to Oak Island some 63 years ago. Hedden didn't know about Nolan's Cross or the swamp though. We have more current researchers and theorists to thank for that.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
By Doug Crowell- Blockhouse Investigations-Nova Scotia
I built a gay-roofed little house upon a sunny isle
Where Heaven is very close to Earth and all the world’s a-smile
It took my savings, every cent, although the cost was small
But, oh, the lovely things I bought and paid for not at all!
The crystal waters that below in sun and shadow lie,
The oaks that sprawl across the point and climb to meet the sky,
Stray winds that sing of other things than those our eyes may see,
Blue wisps of fog and raveling clouds that, fleeing, beckon me.
White suns of mad glad April, Octobers wine to quaff
On crystal Autumn mornings my hearth stones crackling laugh,
The silent stars that march at night so close above my head
The sound of rain-drops on the roof, when I am snug in bed
For joist and beam and shingles grey, I spent my savings small
But on the lovely things God gave, He put no price at all.
When financial burdens leading into World War II forced Hedden to give up financing his own hands-on quest to solve the mystery of Oak Island, he still retained ownership of the island. In an often contentious alliance with Frederick L. Blair, who owned the treasure trove license, he continued to seek out others to pursue the quest in his stead. Through those years, property taxes were often paid late, as he continued to struggle financially, until he finally sold the island to another treasure hunter named John Whitney Lewis on May 26, 1950. Hedden had this to say in correspondence to R.V. Harris, author of the 1958 book The Oak Island Mystery, after relating the above poem:
“I think really that that is what Oak meant and means to me. I am deeply sorry I ever lost it.”
In reviewing and copying papers from the R.V. Harris Collection, at the Nova Scotia Archives, we found correspondence written by Hedden to Harris, offering feedback and proofing for Harris’ book on the Oak Island mystery. Here at Blockhouse Investigations, we thought you may be interested in reading the reflections of a treasure hunter who spent 16 years trying to solve the riddles of the island, and the knowledge and insights he gained from those efforts.
Hedden on the Putty
“In putting down my shaft, adjacent to the Chappell shaft, we passed through a vein or layer of putty-like clay, my recollection is that it was at about 60 feet. A large quantity was removed. It could be worked with the hands exactly like a good putty and was somewhat oily in texture. We used some to putty the windows of the various shacks we erect and of my cabin and it worked very well. As I recall it the vein was about 20 inches deep, extended across the shaft and was about eight feet wide. It was solid and was not mixed with stones or debris.”
“I would use the resemblance to putty, only. Some of it was used to putty the windows of my shack. Cannot subscribe to talc or pumice as it had absolutely no resemblance to either substance.”
Hedden on the Parchment Fragment
“Chappell Sr. At an interview in 1937 I was very much impressed with his character. He stated to me at that time that he was in charge of the drill when the bit of parchment was recovered. He stated that he firmly believed that he saw traces of gold or yellow metal on the bit, though he had never made that statement public. He said that he had been induced to return in 1931, because of his earlier experiences and because of the enthusiasm of his son.”
Hedden on the Boatswain’s Whistle
“Miss Stewart has in her possession bone bosin’s whistle found at the shore on Oak. I have a photograph and it is quite ancient. I believe it was found in dirt excavated by Chappell at the center point above the Coffer Dam. According to local gossip, Talbot spent most of Miss Stewart’s money on local females and liquor.”
Hedden on the Efforts made by Treasure Hunters
“In the semi-circular tunnel my recollection is that some of the timber was oak. I would suggest that you indicate that that it entered my shaft on one end and went out at the far end to one side. It was collapsed in that the left side and bottom (looking North) had fallen away from the top and right side.”
“In our excavation of the Chappell pit and my own adjoining pit, we noted an inflow of water from the Smith’s cove side at 98 feet and from the other side at about 105 feet. There was no evidence of water inflow at any lower depth. If you are so informed I believe that your informer is mistaken. I was in the pits all the time and carefully examined and recorded the data. The inflow from the Smith’s Cove side was a bit the stronger.”
“There is no evidence that the original pit was 155 feet. Suggest you use 100 feet. Later collapse may have carried cache to 155 feet but early statements locate it at 100.”
Hedden on the Stone Triangle
“The Triangle was ten feet to the side with a pointer line directed to True North intersecting the base just off of center dividing the base line about 4” and 6#. There was also a curved line about three feet below the base connecting both base points and the pointer line went through the base line to end at the curved line. I have been told that this forms an ancient symbol for “life” or “eternity”. It is very significant that the pointer line was to True North rather than the magnetic North which at this point shows a wide and varying deviation. Whoever laid it out wanted it to remain unchanging. A triangle 7x8x4 fitted into the unclosed ends of the lay-out and the line 8 passed almost directly through the Treasure Pit location as near as we could determine.”
“The pointer line of the triangle is True North. True North can be determined but it is quite a job to do so though I am told any good navigator could do so. It is strange that the pointer line should actually be True North. I had hoped to find it just off North as I had hoped to determine its date of origin by tracing the probable declination at the time.”
Hedden on Captain Kidd
“My only conclusion is that Kidd in his wanderings, learned of a very valuable cache, but he was uncertain as to its exact location or description. To my mind the various charts are originals by Kidd or copies by some-one else. I thought the one with the triangle mentioned was the most authentic. I also believe Kidd and his followers searched for the island but failed to locate it.”
Hedden on the Coconut Fibre
“I disagree with Hamilton in that I found fibre at the depth of six feet at Smith’s cove in fair quantity and had it identified as cocoanut fibre. Hemlock’s bark under salt water will deteriorate rather quickly. Cocoanut fibre will remain intact almost indefinitely or at least for an established period of over 200 years. I am thoroughly convinced the original fibre used to construct the beach was cocoanut cut in pieces of about five inches. I was also convinced from my interview with Captain Vaughan who was present as a water-boy when the beach was excavated. He stated to me that there were tons of it removed at that time. His recollection was that it was in a layer about two feet thick over most of the area. He of course did not know just what the fibre was. There was no evidence of hemlock bark in any I recovered. It was all quite fibrous and I am familiar with cocoanut fibre having seen it numerous times when in Florida. I never found any evidence of the fibre in the main pits. I am just as familiar with hemlock outer bark and can see no resemblance, so add me in as disagreeing with Hamilton.”
Hedden on the Ring Bolt
“Unless you have actually seen it yourself I would be very dubious about its existence as I was very familiar with every foot of the island shore-line at high and low tide and I know of no such bolt.”
Hedden on the Original Works
“Cannot agree that your conclusion of piratical origin is correct. I believe there are manuscripts included in the cache and I cannot conceive of a pirate leaving that identity with his loot. Nor can I conceive of a pirate who would bury his loot beyond any chance of contemporary recovery or exert such engineering skill for an unselfish objective.”
“I believe and maintain that the original work could be duplicated in another part of the island today, using the same tools then available, and that it could be done with a force of 100 men in four months time, given favorable weather. Block and Fall, pail, tub, wheelbarrow, shovel, pick, rope, axe, hammer and saw were then in use, even as early as 1600, and there was no water interference until they made it. No cribbing would be needed, or very little.”
“I cannot agree that there is any evidence that the original work went to 175 feet. All real evidence points to 100 feet the other is pure conjecture and fantasy. The same applies to the thought that there was a permanent vault at the bottom or 175 feet. I know it is based on drilling reports and evidence of disturbed earth at those depths but still contend that it is pure conjecture or wishful thinking. If, as we have reason to believe, the original cache was in several containers, all filled with bullion or coin, it is obvious that the weight of those containers was somewhere in the neighborhood of nine or ten tons. Bear in mind that a ton of gold is only a 14 inch cube. When the bottom floor of the cache was undermined and the vault collapsed, the nine or ten tons had to go somewhere. With the ground underneath in a very soft and puddled state it could have sunk quite a distance over the years and in fact may still be sinking. Remember that the water in the pits in that area is not in a static condition but is constantly in motion induced by the tides. The tide motion plus the enormous suction caused by the various pumping efforts of many of the expeditions, including mine, have constantly stirred up the ground and have aided further settlement of the cache. With the countless tools lost, and drill pipes abandoned by various groups, it is not at all surprising that iron could be detected at almost any depth. In fact we found a ten foot section of drill pipe seven feet below the end of the Chappell shaft when we drove it down that far in 1936.”
“Believe the tunnels were purely for flooding purposes and that they were small. I also believe that the shore end at Smith’s Cove is still in place somewhere near the center of this beach.”
“Unfortunately I could not complete my solution either way, though I believe given two years time and sufficient funds I could have cracked it one way or the other. I was never convinced from my research that there was or ever had been any real treasure. I WAS convinced that at some time, for some purpose, somebody had done a highly complicated bit of engineering at the site and I wanted to find out why. In all of my association with the project I have been convinced of only three facts: 1. The truth of the story of the recovery of the parchment; 2. The truth of the story of the work found on the beach; 3. The Truth of the cocoanut fibre found in quantity at the beach. All the rest is legendary or speculation. However I am convinced that some-one did an enormous amount of work there at a very early date for some unknown purpose.”
In bringing today’s article to an end, we want to direct your attention to one final quote made by Gilbert Hedden in regards to his much-loved island that he simply referred to as “Oak”.
“I might set you right on my connection with the mystery. I think I was never governed by lust of treasure recovery myself. I was more interested in a solution to the mystery. Did it have some basis of fact; I thought it did. Or was it purely a figment of the imagination and a monstrous hoax? I did not and do not think so.”
If we hadn't told you that these were Hedden's sentiments regarding Oak Island, we think you could easily believe it a quote from Rick Lagina.
Gilbert Hedden passed away in September of 1974. We like to think he is up there, keenly following the current efforts on his beloved, Oak.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
Kel Hancock- Blockhouse Investigations- Nova Scotia
with files from the late, Paul Wroclawski
Much has been written about the alleged Masonic symbolism in the Oak Island Mystery. Theorists are prone to see these signs in everything from a letter G carved on a stone, a supposed skull shaped boulder, to stone triangles and crosses, the 90 Foot Stone, and even in a fragment of a simple colonial carpenter's square. By assuming that all of these items are connected and have a Masonic significance, writers have produced volumes of speculation that the Oak Island treasure was deposited in time immemorial by Freemasons, the Rosicrucians or even the Knights Templar. All this, of course, is still just conjecture.
But were actual Freemasons ever really associated with Oak Island? The answer is, yes.
Many treasure-hunters who have dug on Oak Island have been Freemasons. In a list with almost too many members to count we can name, McCully, Archibald, and Pitblado in the 19th century, to Blair, Roosevelt, Hedden and the Chappells in the 20th. Aside from actual searchers many Freemasons have been investors or enthusiasts- the most famous being the likes of John Wayne and Errol Flynn.
But aside from treasure-hunters, were there Masons connected to Oak Island in other ways? The answer, once again, is yes. Some of the island's earliest landowners and residents were Freemasons. Let's have a look at a couple.
Dr. Jonathan Prescott
Jonathan Prescott was a Captain of Engineers in the British Army and was also Under-Surgeon to the Surgeon-General during the Siege of Louisbourg in 1748 He was made a Mason in Boston on January 14, 1746 and settled in Halifax in 1751. Prescott owned Oak Island Lot Nos. 8 and 22 from 1765 to 1784. As a highly successful businessman, he distilled rum in Halifax when rum was an accepted currency in the colonies. He also operated a fleet of fishing boats and was able to set the government's price for fish. He filled many government contracts for supplies, then branched out into lumber and lime and operated a lumber mill near the Chester during the French and Indian Wars. He eventually quarried lime and set up a kiln in the area as well. An original grantee of the Shoreham Grant (Chester), he became a major landowner on both the mainland and the islands directly opposite Chester. Prescott was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Chester in 1778 after his friend, Timothy Houghton, forfeited the office by getting himself convicted of sedition during the American Revolution. Although he was a Captain of the Chester Militia, it seems Prescott fully supported the American cause. In fact, the good doctor enjoyed tea in Chester with rebel privateer Captain Noah Stoddard, the day before Stoddard proceeded to sack the nearby town of Liverpool on July 1st, 1782. Prescott's son, Jonathan, joined Washington's Continental Army as a surgeon and was a founding member of The Order of Cincinnati.
Alexander Pattillo was born in Scotland and arrived in Chester in 1785. He was a major grantee in the Shoreham Grant.
Pattillo quickly established himself as a stone-mason in the area and made bricks, in addition to operating a lime kiln and quarry. As well as being an operative mason he was also a speculative Freemason and is listed as Secretary of the Lodge in Chester in 1786. He was an Assistant Poll Tax Collector from 1792-1794. In February 1785 Pattillo bought Oak Island Lot No. 1 which he sold to Daniel McGinnis (Donald MacInnes) in September of 1794. He later purchased Lot No. 27 in 1786; also sold to McGinnis.
As the team here at Blockhouse Investigations continues to sift through files and conduct new research we are sure to find new connections that we will share with you in upcoming articles. You might want to check in with us when we publish an upcoming piece that examines the Masonic symbolism itself; and the origins of the elements within the Legend of Oak Island which lead many theorists to believe that the islands history and treasure is somehow related to Freemasonry.
For our readers here in Atlantic Canada, hunkering down under another Nor' Easter, we wish you a safe and warm night.
And, as always, to everyone Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
This article is dedicated to the memory of my friend and renowned Oak Island researcher,
Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class Paul Joseph Edward Wroclawski, 1966-2014
Kel Hancock- Blockhouse Investigations- Nova Scotia
The other day someone asked me about the legends that say people associated with Oak Island in the late 18th and early 19th century were reportedly seen spending Spanish coins. The best known of these tales says that Oak Island resident Anthony Graves was seen spending Spanish coins in the nearby township of Chester. We're not sure of the origin of this story, but it's oft been repeated by many writers and researchers as some sort of clue or evidence that implies he must have found some treasure on the island- presumably Spanish treasure. So tonight, we'd like to share some information with you that takes some of the 'mystique' and significance out of these legends.
First of all, it's very likely that Anthony Graves did spend Spanish coin in Chester. In fact it is highly probable that all the residents of Oak Island did likewise. History actually tells us that we should be very surprised if they didn't! What is being overlooked is the historical fact that Spanish dollars were a very common form of currency in colonial Nova Scotia and there are a couple reasons why.
In Nova Scotia during the latter part of the 18th century the primary English coin in circulation was the Guinea. That was great for the Halifax Merchants and the rich, but in places like Falmouth, Liverpool, Lunenburg, and Chester the Guinea was far too large of a denomination of currency for practical use among the settlers. Many of the settlers didn't deal in minted currency for the most part anyway. But when they did, the Spanish dollar was the coinage of choice. It was legal tender, completely acceptable, and it was very common.
'Until the middle of the nineteenth century, each British colony in North America regulated the use of currency in its own jurisdiction. Although pounds, shillings, and pence (the currency system used in Great Britain) were used for bookkeeping (i.e., as the unit of account), each colony decided for itself the value, or “rating,” of a wide variety of coins used in transactions or to settle debts.These included not only English and French coins, but also coins from Portugal, Spain, and the Spanish colonies in Latin America—notably Mexico, Peru, and Colombia. Once rated, coins became legal tender.Ratings were based on the amount of gold or silver contained in the coins and varied widely from colony to colony but were always higher than the rating used in Great Britain. For example, in the mid-eighteenth century, a Spanish silver dollar, “the principal measure of exchange and the basis of pecuniary contracts” in North America, was appraised at 4 shillings and 6 pence in London, 5 shillings in Halifax, 6 shillings in New England...'- The Bank of Canada
Another reason why Spanish currency was in abundance was because ships from our coastal communities carried on a brisk and regular trade with the West Indies. In addition to coming home laden with traded goods from those islands (even perhaps coconut fibre), they came home with chests and purses full of Spanish coin. So, if Anthony Graves was seen buying things in Chester with Spanish 'pieces of eight", guess what? No big deal.
Somehow legend-spinners made it into something mysterious and curious.
But once again, the facts tell us that this just isn't true.
We hope you had a great weekend and Goodnight from the Blockhouse!
Kel Hancock-Blockhouse Investigations- Nova Scotia
Ask just about anyone from Nova Scotia to name a place where gold may be buried, other than Oak Island, and they’ll be sure to rhyme off a few spots. Nova Scotian culture is steeped in legends of buried treasure and hidden gold. And it’s not just the old salts that believe this. Today’s generation seems to have a great passion for these tales and an energetic compulsion to go out and explore some of the province’s most mysterious places. Undoubtedly this passion has been further fueled by the success of The History Channel’s The Curse of Oak Island. But what some “come from away” viewers might not realize is that although The Oak Island Mystery is the most famous of all Maritime treasure tales, it’s just one of many.
Nova Scotia’s colonial era naturally lent itself as a breeding ground of treasure lore. And most of us grew up hearing yarns about lost Acadian gold, missing payrolls, stashed smugglers’ hordes, and the purposeful otherworldly protection of loot from pirates and privateers. The rich maritime and sea-farin’ history of this little province was the perfect Petri dish for such legends to breed and grow. And out of our little harbours and coves they grew indeed!
Take for instance, Ile Haute situated in the Bay of Fundy that captured the interest of American adventurer and treasure-hunter Edward Rowe Snowe. Or how about Plum Island, Canso, Noel, Pictou, Black Hole Cove, Shad Bay, Grand Pre, Pisiquid, Annapolis Royal, Jolicure, Masstown, Ship Harbour Lakes? Yes, all locations in Nova Scotia related to tales of buried treasure and, in fact, only a small sampling. The list could go on and on and on.
What is significant to us at Blockhouse Investigations is that the current generation of Oak Island enthusiast is faced with being terribly misinformed by the myopic perspectives of so-called theorists and self-styled researchers who failed to take the time to learn about Nova Scotia's culture and history. Unfortunately, they see no value in the legends and tales of our region unless they related directly to Oak Island, and discard them as foolish misguided stories- mainly because they don't support their more fantastic theories.
The fad of the last three decades or so, reaching an almost intolerable crescendo in the present day, is to balk at information related to smugglers, pirates and privateers in favour of far-fetched 'theories' based on global conspiracies, secret cabals, Holy Relics, and such truck.
That's a big mistake, in our opinion. We're not saying that one of those theories might not be the answer.
But what we are saying is that, side-by-side, assertions of what may have happened are quickly out-stacked by what history tells us did happen here in Nova Scotia. What verifiable historical evidence does show took place in our region was, piracy, smuggling and privateering. And that is also borne out by our legends, tales and even superstitions!
We won't go into the subject of superstitions in this article, although here in The Maritimes treasure and superstition go hand-in-hand. In a future story we'll bring you lots of information on that interesting and engaging topic. And we won't overwhelm you with scads of historical evidence indicating the level and extent of illicit activities such as smuggling and quasi-legal privateering here in Nova Scotia. There is plenty of information available to the reader in books and archives- much has been written on this subject. What we do intend to show are few examples of other treasure mysteries that made headlines in Nova Scotia, as well as some examples of treasure lore in the media. We invite you to scroll through the images below. Most of these headlines caught the eye of Reginald V. Harris and we found many in a collection of clippings from his personal papers held at the Nova Scotia Archives in Halifax.
We could write volumes about the treasure-lore of Nova Scotia, but who better to do the talking than the experts themselves? And in this case we find no better than Dr. Helen Creighton. Creighton was one of Canada's most celebrated and famed folklorists and left behind a legacy of writings and recordings that are true treasures for researchers and enthusiasts. She wrote two very significant books on the subject of Nova Scotia superstition and lore, Bluenose Ghosts in 1957, and Bluenose Magic in 1968. Both works reflect decades of research collected by Creighton in communities all over Nova Scotia.
Below, we invite you to peruse a selection of treasure related excerpts taken from her writings.
Here at Blockhouse we don't like to draw too many conclusions unless firm evidence supports them, nor do we wish to present our own personal theories in our blog unless we clearly state so at the outset of the piece. What we are committed to doing is providing readers with plenty of information about Oak Island, particularly a lot that is being both inadvertently and intentionally overlooked by current day theorists and writers. This is information which initially drew treasure-hunters to the region. And that, we feel, is important. We truly hope that information we publish is of interest and use to enthusiasts and researchers alike. In the case of today's article we leave it for the reader to ponder and decide for themselves how, when, and why a shift occurred in from the more obvious possibilities in the Oak Island Mystery to the more fantastic and sometimes downright outrageous theories that are being put forth today.
Have a great weekend from all of us here at The Blockhouse!
By Doug Crowell
Blockhouse Investigations- Nova Scotia
Although the advent of photography brought with it pictorial evidence of drilling for treasure on Oak Island, there is precious little evidence to prove that the 1795 discovery of the Money Pit, or any other treasure hunting was carried out on Oak Island before 1848. We only have stories, starting in 1862, which tell of the early years of the treasure hunt. And, as we shared with you in an article yesterday, the McGinnis family story of the gold cross also has the potential to be evidence of early treasure hunting, if it can be verified or corroborated.
For decades researchers have been hunting for documentary evidence that the Onslow Company really existed and conducted their dig in 1803. Even the date of the Money Pit discovery is in doubt among serious investigators. Some accounts set the date at 1799. Some accounts say Sam Ball was one of the three discoverers, leaving out John Smith. Only one thing is certain among authors and researchers alike, and that is that nothing is certain about the early years.
The Onslow Company, it is said, was comprised of Simeon Lynds of Truro, Colonel Robert Archibald, Sheriff Thomas Harris of Pictou, Captain David Archibald and the three discoverers. No one has ever found, or brought forth publicly, any stock certificates, bills of sale, company ledgers, or letters to support that this company existed. We're not saying that it didn't exist. We're simply putting emphasis on how little can be proven at this point in time.
Blockhouse Investigations recently talked with Dr. Allan Marble, Past President of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society (1978-1982), current board member of the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, and the founder and President of the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia. We sought out Dr. Marble, not because of those impressive credentials, but because, as author of ten books on various historical topics in Nova Scotia and the Maritime region, we knew that one of those books was about the Archibald Family. In 2008, Dr. Marble's in-depth research on this family was published in the book The Archibald Family of Nova Scotia. A very gracious Dr. Marble answered the burning question we desired an answer to; in all of his research for his book on the Archibald family, did he ever encounter any evidence that any members of the family were involved in treasure hunting on Oak Island prior to 1848? The answer was no, none.
We've examined all of the archived paperwork that we have found so far for the Archibalds and Sheriff Harris of Pictou (and his son, and grandson, who all held the same position of sheriff, one after the other) and have found no documentary evidence for the Onslow Company or their activities on Oak Island. Again, this doesn't mean it didn't happen, just that physical evidence is wanting.
So after years of searching, what have we found to support truth in the legend prior to 1848?
The answer is that we've found only one solitary printed mention of treasure.
Between December 28th 1822 and March 29th 1823, Thomas McCulloch, founder and principal of Pictou Academy wrote a series of satirical letters to the Acadian Recorder newspaper that related events in his town and province. In the fourth letter we found the following passage:
"...and not do like the Chester folks, who once dug for money, but got so deep at last, that they arrived in the other world; and falling in with the devil, were glad to get away with the loss of all their tools."
This mention of treasure hunting in the Chester area is thought provoking on several accounts:
While all these points can be related to the Oak Island Story, the mention of lost tools is of particular note, because many decades later, tools were indeed found below ground in the area of suspected old workings.
So there you have it. To date, we have one piece of published evidence, from 1823, that suggests that the story of Oak Island, as first related in 1862, may have merit. We continue to dig deeper, and haven`t given up on our quest to find the facts within the legend. Until then, at least a mysterious gold cross may give lustre to legend.
Good night from The Blockhouse!
Missing! An investigative report into Oak Island's long-lost 90 Foot Stone (Part 1 in a special series)
By Doug Crowell and Thomas Kingston Blockhouse Investigations- Nova Scotia
For those who are not familiar with the Oak Island 90 Foot Stone, also referred to as The Inscribed Stone, we can tell you that it is one of the most intriguing purported artifacts found during the 221 year old hunt for treasure on Oak Island, in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, and it is missing! Yes, missing! Like so many other artifacts from the island, the stone has joined the ranks of the misplaced or lost.
Many may be new to the Oak Island Mystery, having discovered it through watching the History Channel’s Curse of Oak Island television show, while others have likely been following this mystery most of their lives. A few of you might even be researchers of this mystery involving a legendary treasure of uncertain origin, placed on an island by unknown persons. Regardless of how you've come to be reading this article, we think you will enjoy reviewing our compiled history of the stone, and hopefully be better informed about this captivating mystery-within- a mystery.
In June of 1795, John Smith, the son of a Loyalist settler, purchased Oak Island Lot No. 18 from Casper Wollenhaupt of Lunenburg. On this 4 acre plot of land he, and two other settlers, Daniel McGinnis and Anthony Vaughan, reportedly discovered a depression in the ground under an old oak tree. It is said that a block and tackle pulley hung from a transom set between a forked limb of the tree. According to legend, the three men became excited at the prospect of buried treasure, and set out to dig it up. About two feet down they encountered a layer of flagstones and set them aside. At ten feet down they came upon a layer of logs that formed a platform. They removed these logs, likely believing that they had reached the treasure they hoped for. Instead, they were greeted by more soil, which had settled somewhat. Not discouraged, the three men continued to dig, finding a second log platform set ten more feet below the first one. Certain that they had reached the treasure, the determined diggers removed the second layer of logs, and found more loosely packed soil. It's generally believed that they dug down about thirty to thirty-five feet before being overwhelmed by the effort. The story states that they approached the people of their community for help, but everyone was afraid by the idea of ghostly guardians of treasure and strange lights seen on the island. Unable to continue on their own, they set aside dreams of treasure, and they went back to earning money in the more traditional and mundane ways.
In 1803, it's said that Simeon Lynds of Onslow Nova Scotia, upon learning of the efforts of these three men, and their stalled attempt to dig up the treasure in that same year, formed a company of interested men and partnered with the three original discoverers. They reopened the pit and dug a shaft that would become known as the Money Pit.
What did the 90FT Stone look like?
No pictures, tracings, or illustrations of any kind have ever been found of the 90 Foot Stone, so we have no detailed idea of what the stone actually looked like. The same is true for the set of symbols that it is said to have carved upon one side. However, a set of symbols, forming a simple substitution cipher, was revealed in 1949, and said to represent the characters that were on the stone.
Reverend A. T. Kempton provided this cipher to treasure hunter and author, Edward Rowe Snow, for use in his 1951 book entitled, “True Tales of Buried Treasure”. Kempton had, in turn, received it from a retired school teacher from the Mahone Bay area. Kempton was born and raised in Nova Scotia's pastoral and picturesque Annapolis Valley. He was educated at Wolfville's Acadia University, and took up the ministry of a Baptist church in Massachusetts. He was also an avid historian and gave lectures and slideshow presentations in the New England states, mostly about his favorite topics, which were Acadians and the Mi’kmaq. In 1909 he asked a fellow clergyman from the Mahone Bay area to find someone to write up the story of Oak Island, with the intention of putting it into a book. This he never got around to doing, but we are fortunate that he provided this information to Snow many years later, as it is the source of all current depictions of the symbols on illustrations and replicas of the 90 Foot Stone today. You can read our article on Rev. Kempton and the cipher he revealed here.
The above illustration is an artist’s concept of what the 90 Foot Stone may have looked like. It's one of the most well-known depictions of the inscribed stone. It first appeared as part of an article entitled, “The Secrets of Oak Island” by Joe Nickell, published in a 2000 issue of The Skeptical Enquirer. It reflects the Kempton Cipher as interpreted by Edward Rowe Snow. This illustration of the stone was drawn in 1999.
There's some misunderstanding that this image accurately portrays the actual stone and can be used to read the symbols in a "plough" fashion or bi-directional manner. Having learned the origin of the image, we contacted the very busy Mr. Nickell, and he graciously gave us the following clarification:
Dear Doug Crowell,
The drawing of the stone you refer to is my artist’s concept, an original work, produced as part of the “treasure map” illustration I drew in 1999. Of course I did not invent the representation of the cipher (which I adapted from William S. Crooker’s 1993 Oak Island Gold, p. 23), but simply copied it as it might hypothetically have appeared on the stone, according to my imagination.
This should clear up any misconceptions that this image can be used to read the symbols in a bi-directional plough manner, or that the image can be taken as a factual depiction of the stone itself. In regards to the latter, it clearly isn't.
The best description of the 90 Foot Stone comes to us from Harry Marshall, son of Edward Marshall, of Creighton & Marshall Stationers, in Halifax. Harry recounted his memories of seeing the stone in his father's shop prior to 1919. You see, the 90 Foot Stone was reportedly rediscovered by Jotham McCully and his crew on Oak Island about seven years after the death of John Smith. It's said that John used the stone as part of the fireplace in a new farmhouse he built on the island. And there it sat, for all to see, for years, until McCully's crew supposedly removed it from the fireplace as they wrapped up operations on the island. From there they allegedly took it to Halifax where it was displayed in a shop window at A.O. Creighton's Bookbindery at 64 Upper Water Street, a location that has since given way to urban renewal. This was done to promote the sale of shares for a new attempt on the treasure. When A.O. Creighton passed away, his son merged the business with Edward Marshall and formed Creighton & Marshall Stationers (It's important to note that A.O. Creighton was also a shareholder in McCully's treasure venture).
When Creighton and Marshall's closed down in 1919, the stone was nowhere to be found. Extensive searches conducted by Fred Blair, R.V. Harris, and countless other researchers and treasure hunters over the decades since 1919 have so far failed to find the stone. Even the Laginas and other members of the Oak Island Tours Incorporated have invested time and energy in the hunt, at one point enlisting the aid of Blockhouse Investigations partner, Kel Hancock to assist with the search.
Below is our synopsis of the description Harry Marshall gave to Frederick L. Blair and R.V. Harris in 1935. (you can read the full statement here)
We ask the reader to take special note of the physical description of the stone as related by Marshall because in Part 2 of this report we'll take a closer look at all the known descriptions of the 90 Foot Stone, and compare Harry Marshall's memories to the other descriptions we've found. Some rather significant discrepancies exist and we'll tell you why these so important in the hunt for this missing stone. Through this series of installments you'll be able to follow along as we recount the details, and findings, of an in-depth investigation conducted by Blockhouse Investigations right here in Nova Scotia which uncovered clues and real historical evidence that may help solve the mystery of the missing 90 Foot Stone- or stones!
Thank you for joining us again and from the whole team, Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
By Doug Crowell -Blockhouse Investigations- Nova Scotia
The Curse of Oak Island’s Season 3 finale aired last night, bringing some disappointment regarding Borehole 10X, but presenting an interesting story of found treasure. McGinnis descendants Joan, Jean, and Joyce (all sisters) recounted a family story of Daniel McGinnis, John Smith, and Anthony Vaughan discovering the Money Pit on Oak Island. Here is where their story differs from tradition though. According to family legend three treasure chests were actually found in 1795, with each of the three men taking a chest for their own. The sisters went on to explain that a gold cross, which they displayed to those gathered in the War Room, was a part of the treasure held by the McGinnis family- handed down from father to son.
This story has been told before, by Oak Island historian Dan Hennigar, who interviewed one of the sisters a few years ago for a 2007 article that can be read in its entirety here.
In his article, Mr. Hennigar writes:
“Ms. McGinnis informed through family legend that three boxes of treasure came out of the ground back in 1795 or thereabouts and that each family member, McGinnis (spelled several ways), Smith and Vaughan each took a box. The three discoverers reportedly were sworn to secrecy and eventually the story got buried very deeply, if you will excuse the pun. The tale continues that the McGinnis’ were “swindled out of their rights” and eventually that part of the family, remnants of treasure in hand, ended up in America to pursue a life free of Oak Island and prying eyes.”
It's very easy to believe that they found treasure buried not so deep (less than 35 feet), in their first attempt in 1795. And it's reasonable to assume that they would not want it generally known that they had suddenly acquired considerable wealth. Telling a story of digging for treasure, but being forced to give up, is better than letting it be known that they held great wealth, which would certainly attract the attention of every thief and brigand for miles around. To claim that you found nothing would be a prudent thing in 1795 for the safety of yourselves and your families. That would be the end of the story but then along comes someone in 1803 that has heard about your failed attempt and wants a chance to pursue it. Do you confess, or do you allow them to proceed, maybe even hoping that there is more to find. Either way, it is not easy to step forward and tell the truth at this point.
So what can be confirmed about this story?
We do know that a John McGinnis, descendant of Daniel states that the family lost claim to any future treasure found in the Money Pit -we assume he refers to the Money Pit and not Oak Island as a whole, as his own land would be his to do with what he wished in that era. Charles B. Driscoll wrote a story entitled The Oak Island Treasure, which was printed in the June 1929 edition of The North American Review, in which he recounts a discussion he had with John.
I recently spoke with a former Kings County resident, George McInnes, who is a direct descendant from the Daniel McGinnis of Oak Island. We talked about Oak Island, which is something we never got around to doing before he moved out of province. I was fascinated to learn that my friend’s father and grandfather firmly believed that there was treasure there. His grandfather had even dug on the island in pursuit of treasure. His grandfather was born in 1881 and passed away in 1956, so he was likely digging for treasure on Oak Island in the same general era as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Oak Island treasure hunting days in 1909. Of even greater interest was learning that George’s grandfather had an old treasure map that had been passed down in his family through the years. Imagine being able to look at an old Oak Island treasure map! I was very dismayed to learn that the map was lost in a house fire long ago. George says that they tried to recreate the map but never succeeded because “everything changed” and the landmarks were gone. This information may be supported by early accounts of the Money Pit discovery such as,"A Search for Pirate Gold" written in 1899 by James Clarence Hyde, which specifically mentions that Daniel McGinnis had been in possession of a treasure map.
Also a point of interest is that the family also had several really old coins from the island, which were also lost in the house fire. George and I intend to do some metal detecting this summer, when he is home!
Yet another story that supports the idea that treasure was found by the three men in 1795, comes to us from Diana Young Gregory. Diana is a relative of the Vaughan family and very interested in the Oak Island Mystery. Her research uncovered a newspaper article from September 9th, 1991, in which a Carl Mosher states:
In or around 1925, his grandmother showed him a wooden trunk containing about 25 heavy white canvas bags of gold. His grandmother was Lucy Vaughan, relative of Anthony Vaughan, one of the diggers of 1795. The trunk was said to have come from Oak Island. At some point, Uncle Edward Vaughan took the trunk, and disappeared, leaving his property, business, wife, and family.
More Oak Island treasure lost… another win for the island.
So, there you have it. Two of the original families have stories of treasure having been in their possession. What of the Smith family? Circumstantial evidence regarding the Smith family shows us that after 1795, John Smith went on to buy up most of Oak Island, all of nearby Frog Island, part of Birch Island, and partnered with the McGinnis family to buy Long Island. Not bad for a poor farmer and “failed” treasure hunter. There just may be some truth in the family folklore. It's also very intriguing to note that famed Oak Island treasure hunter Fred Nolan, claims he found three old empty oak chests when digging in the swamp in the early 1980's.
This evening Kel Hancock spoke with the daughter of Jean McGinnis from her home in the US Virgin Islands. He's been in contact with his American cousins for several months but, due to an non-disclosure agreement with the producers of The Curse of Oak Island, they were not able to comment on the gold cross until now. Some preliminary information we can share based on this conversation is that the gold cross wasn't the only item handed down in that branch of the family. There was also reportedly, a gold nugget, a gold chain and, a gold coin, recovered from the same treasure trove.
Kel will have more information on this story in an upcoming report and would like to thank his McGinnis relatives for contacting us. We also extend many kind thanks to noted Oak Island historian, Dan Hennigar, for allowing us to use images and quotes from his great story.
Thanks for joining us and until our next report, Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
Coconut Fiber was used as an ingredient in caulking for sealing hulls of wooden ships. It first had to be softened for use. This was done by the use of Rhetting Pits. These pits were built by the shoreline, where daily tides could wash over the fibers. The fibers were either buried under the gravel on the beach, to keep the fibers from being washed away, or put into pits that included drains to allow the dirty water to be let out before the next high tide. The rising tide would flood the pit from the top, filtering through the gravel. The fibers would soak while the tide receded, and after low tide was over and the next high tide was on its way in, the gate or stone that blocked the drain was removed, so that the dirty water could be drained from the pit. This process took many weeks, and at the end of the rhetting, the fibers were washed in fresh water in a nearby pond, lake, or swamp.
Coir rhetting is a documented process in the East Indies, where it was very common to use coconut fiber for marine purposes. This is because it's durable and does not rot as fast as using moss or hemp as a binding agent in caulking, or hemp for ropes. As coconut fiber was a common packing material to stabilize cargos in ships back in the days of sail, it is not impossible that this dunnage was repurposed for marine use here on our coast, using the same techniques as they would have observed during trading voyages.
We leave you to ponder this, and we'll follow up with more detail in an upcoming article about Smith's Cove.
Until then, Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
How did Smith find his way to the island? Short answer is that he didn’t. He was led there by circumstance. Born in Boston Massachusetts on August 20th 1775 to parents Duncan Smith and Margaret Smith (nee MacLean), he was the second of two children -an older brother did not survive infancy. Duncan Smith was from Dumbarton, Scotland and moved to Boston as a young man, where he worked as a blacksmith. We know this because of copies of old letters that were written in Scotland to members of their family in North America. One letter, in particular, written by Margaret Smith's brother, Robert McLean, dated August 22 1775, was addressed to:
Duncan Smith - Hammerman
in Boston, New England
To the care Mr. Paddock
Couch maker there
We also know, from another letter written by Duncan’s brother William, that the Smith family had moved to Halifax Nova Scotia by August 8th 1777.
In the first letter, Duncan is referred to as a hammerman, and in the second letter, a blacksmith. They can both mean the same thing, but the term hammerman can include a wider scope of work. Similar letters written on May 6th 1780 and Sept 28th 1782 show us that Duncan was still working as a blacksmith in Halifax up until at least 1782.
So what took the Smith’s to Chester?
According to a statement made in 1888 by Susannah Laurilliard, the daughter of our John Smith, “Duncan Smith was a blacksmith and while in Halifax used to forge handcuffs for the British Government, and finally the soldiers threatened his life so he moved to Lunenburg County Nova Scotia.”
It appears that Duncan was granted land in Chester, a town lot and a lot on Oak Island. We know this because of Deeds of Sale for these land grants. Duncan sold town Lot No. 125 in Chester on September 3rd, 1784 to James Sharp for £6. Then he sold Lot No. 24 on Oak Island to Ambrose Allen on February 24th 1785 for £10. The work of a Smith family genealogist in 1955, surmised that Duncan Smith died around this time, when John would have been 9 years old. Blockhouse Investigations could find no evidence that Duncan Smith's family lived on their Oak Island lot and the Deed of Sale does not make specific mention of any structures on the lot.
How did John come to live on Oak Island?
Did he move there after buying Lot No. 18 (the Money-Pit lot) in June of 1795, the same summer the three men discovered the Money-Pit? No, John moved to Oak Island in 1788 at the age of 11 or 12, when his mother remarried to Neil McMullen. We're not sure which lot, or lots, Neil McMullen owned at the time he married Margaret Smith. But we know that in 1827 he sold lots 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 to John’s son Neal McMullen Smith. We've not been able to find records that he ever purchased a lot on Oak Island, so it appears as if they were part of a land grant. Our investigation continues into this.
We know that John Smith was aged 18 in 1795, when he bought Lot No. 18- certainly a man by the standards of that day and age. But perhaps writers of the Oak Island mystery can be forgiven for describing him as a teenager in some versions of the story told after 1900. Those that described him as a boy were simply wrong.
Other notable events in John’s life that we should acknowledge are:
By the time that the first account of the Money Pit discovery was being told, both John Smith and Daniel McGinnis (whose story you can read about here ) had passed on from worldly matters and could not tell a first-hand account of their story. This was, and remains, unfortunate.
Thanks for reading our research on John Smith. We hope it helps to connect the name to the actual life of this non-fictional character who holds a prominent role in the story of the Oak Island Mystery.
Stay tuned because we have further information to impart regarding the activities of the parties involved in discovering the Money-Pit, their families, and a more in-depth examination of the discovery story.
Good night from The Blockhouse!
From The Blockhouse
is published by Blockhouse Investigations and oakislandcompendium.ca
in Nova Scotia, Canada
Editors and Chief Correspondents
Kelly W. Hancock, CD
John Wonnacott, P. Eng.
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