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!
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John Wonnacott, P. Eng.
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