This fictional (at least we believe it to be fictional) story was written by Mrs. Freda, and submitted to The Suburban, which was a weekly periodical published in Nova Scotia between 1903 and 1907. It is interesting to note that Mrs. Freda also had an account of the Oak Island Treasure Hunt published in Collier's Magazine (September 23rd 1905) titled "The Lure of Pirate Gold".
The Freda family seems to have had Oak Island connections spanning several decades as the author of this story, Josephine Freda, also submitted several photos of Oak Island for publication during the 1903-07 period, and later in 1950 a man by the name of Arthur Freda was in charge of the workings on Oak Island at that time. Without further ado, here is Josephine's Oak Island Halloween story.
A TALE OF HALLOW-E'EN
One in a series of stories published by Mrs. Freda under the series titled
The Diary of a Nova Scotia School Ma'am
The “Clique” was a secret society, composed of five members, so closely incorporated, as to be regarded by the community at large, as a unit. To enumerate, there was Timmy Murphy, as slick and polite as any prize Sunday-school scholar, yet devising mischief in his heart continually. He could pull the wool over one’s eyes with a skill and address that were truly artistic. He could pull the wool over one’s eyes with a skill and address that were truly artistic. He could tell a more plausible story than the other four combined, and his tongue had rescued the clique from many a tight corner.
Next came “Frisky” Brown, whose name was essentially descriptive of his nature. He was never to be found in a state of rest, except under compulsion. But he was just the dearest boy! If you know any one kind of boy that is more likeable than all the rest of the species, he was that kind. He was a prime favorite and always ready for any fresh escapade which might offer.
Then there was “The Dude”, whose title was thrust upon him in scornful acknowledgement of his immaculate appearance, on emerging each morning from maternal supervision. But once around the corner, he endeavored to erase from his attire, all outward signs of ultra-nicety. The spotless collar and fresh necktie were hastily removed and jammed into his coat pocket; his hair was next rumpled beautifully and his cap adjusted at a rakish angle with the peak over his left ear. The nearest mud-puddle completed this readjustment of his morning toilet. There was no room for reasonable doubt that The Dude fully realized the ignominy attached to a starched collar and shiny shoes.
The “Captain”, who was a born leader, and “Puddin’” Smith, whose name is also self-explanatory, completed the circle of friends, and a right jolly crowd they were.
A favorite place of rendezvous was the “Boat-Shop”, whose proprietor made and repaired boats of all sorts and welcomed the clique at all times and seasons. He was always ready to loan then his tools or donate a dab of paint or putty towards the building of their little yachts, which was a favorite occupation in winter. These little yachts, from two to three feet long, were constructed with considerable skill, and were exact duplicates of favorite boats belonging to the Yacht Club. In summer the boys held races on Saturday afternoons as regularly and with as much enthusiasm as their elders.
In the Boat-shop, too, on stormy days they swapped yarns and held many a dark and fearsome conference. To this resort, too, many a night, they dragged driftwood, and made roaring fires in the great box-stove; and here, betimes, they cooked and ate the food, pilfered with painful stealth from garden-plots or cellar-bins at home; any and all of which they might have had for the asking, but which were as dust to their palates, unless secured with cautious cunning. And after supper they lounged about the fire and pretended they were pirates, or shipwrecked mariners, or something equally attractive.
Outside their own special circle, probably the clique extracted most clear enjoyment out of Uncle John Moss. Uncle John spent a good deal of his time either in doing things for the boys, or in escaping from them.
Uncle John was an old, broken down sailor. He lived alone not far from the school-house, and the clique seldom failed to call on their way to and from school. He had many accomplishments, but chiefest of all, he could lie. He lied with such unblushing effrontery, and such artistic effulgence of detail, that the boys fairly turned green with envy of his skill. In the course of his very ordinary existence he had hunted lions and fished whales; he had been through earthquakes and cyclones; (he called them sizzle-ones); but, best of all, he had seen, yes, and could describe real ghosts. He was always ready to help the boys with a kite or yacht, except at rare intervals when a deadly feud was in progress, on account of some too strenuous practical joke perpetrated upon him.
For some time before Hallow-E’en, Uncle John’s patience had been sorely tried. The boys had sprinkled pepper on his stove and tobacco in his teapot. They had laid a trap for him by which he had got a good ducking. Worst of all, they shaved the face of his beloved cat, while The Dude, dressed as a young lady, called upon Uncle John, and was most politely entertained. The old man laid crafty plans for speedy retribution.
About this time he began to fill their heads with stories of hidden treasure. The story of Cocos Island was recounted with several artistic additions. Sadie Mason’s treasure in the Magdalens was discussed in solemn conclave. Then he enlarged on the story of Oak Island, with its millions in gold and jewels, lying almost at their doors. He hinted that he could tell a thing or two about the location of this treasure to a few discreet and close-mouthed friends. Having brought their curiosity to the proper pitch, he extracted a solemn and blood-curdling oath of secrecy, and confided to them his story.
He told them how, coming across by boat from Western Shore, one dark and starless night, he had been attracted by a strange and lurid glare in the curve of Smith’s Cove. Paddling softly inshore, he distinctly saw a dark, wild looking man in broad, plumed hat, flowing cloak, great top-boots and armed to the teeth. Instinctively he recognized Captain Kidd, or rather, his ghost, who was directing the removal of three great casks which were being rolled to the beach by three giant negroes. He described with great prodigality of detail, how the iron hoops of the casks glowed red as blood and flamed up when the hands of the negroes touched them, yet never really burned away. He told how the gold chinked as the casks were loaded into a queer looking waiting boat, and how, on their departure, he had followed at a discrete distance, and witnessed the ultimate deposit of the treasure at a point which he persistently refused to disclose.
By this time the boys began to lie awake at night, to whisper secretly by day, and to dream of large divisions of recovered treasure. In fancy they sat around a camp-fire and plunged their hands deep in masses of shining coins, or watched great strings of jewels slip through their fingers in a glittering stream. By the last of October, Uncle John had worked them up to the proper climax. If they would come to him at dark on a certain night he would disclose to them the hiding-place.
For days there was much sharpening and secreting of picks and shovels, and making of torches and bags in which to carry home the spoil – hidden where? Only Uncle John knew and he would not even whisper it until the date agreed upon. In their excitement they quite forgot that that date was Hallow-E’en.
At length came the appointed time. The clique, having severally presented plausible excuses for the evening’s absence from home, trooped to Uncle John’s abode. There, with a final charge of extreme caution, and a last solemn pledge of secrecy, the old man named the place. He directed them to proceed to the spot and begin to dig, and as soon as he finished up his chores, he would come across in his boat and join them.
They walked, when they did not run, a long three miles to the rendezvous, reaching the spot nearly an hour ahead of the time Uncle John had promised to arrive. The night was dark and gloomy. Not a star was visible. The wind was rising and fitful gusts rustled the trees about the lonely little clearing. But the clique at once set to work to dig in the spot designated by Uncle John. Beginning with great enthusiasm, nearly an hour elapsed before their zeal began to cool. No Uncle John appeared.
Suddenly, from out the gloom sounded a long, blood curdling groan. A chain clanked and a flickering, bluish flame glimmered under a tree on the edge of the clearing. The boys dropped their tools, and, with starting eyes, drew together at the edge of the excavation. Cold horror chilled them to the marrow. Every hair on their heads prickled as they watched the sulphurous light resolve itself into the figure of a man – yet not a man, for they could plainly see the entire framework; its whole ghostly shape flickered with uncertain cloudy flame. A moment more they gazed, and the gruesome shape lifted a skeleton arm, all dripping with blue flame; they heard its bony fingers rattle as it pointed towards them, while another awful groan broke the stillness.
It was too much. The clique turned and fled wildly away through the darkness. “they stayed not for brake, and they stopped not for stone”, till, more dead than alive, each crept trembling into his own little bed.
Back in the lonely clearing, Uncle John and the young medical student regarded their evening’s work with keen satisfaction.
“By gosh, it looked mighty fearsome”, said Uncle John. “I felt kinder scared myself, for all I knowed it were you workin’ the thing.”
“Yes, sir; he is a bird, all right,” laughed the young chap, as he rattled the skeleton back into its box. “If the boys have no further use for these picks and shovels, we might as well remove them, Uncle John.”
Folks say that even the oldest inhabitant can scarcely remember when Hallow’E’en passed so quietly in our village.
We hope you enjoyed this story by an author local to the Oak Island area.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
In reviewing the R.V. Harris fonds, held at the Nova Scotia Provincial Archives (MG1 Volume 380), we noted that the following statement was written, “The full history of the stone was written up in “The Suburban” about 1903 or 1904.”
What was The Suburban? Much speculation has taken place regarding what “The Suburban” is or was, but no copy of this article has been revealed as of this date. Some have speculated that it may be a periodical from Chicago. It is not the large Quebec weekly newspaper by the same name, as that publication was not founded until 1963. We believe it to be a weekly publication local to Nova Scotia, as we have found a short lived periodical named “The Suburban News”, published in Rockingham Nova Scotia, a suburb of Halifax, from 1903 until 1907.
We felt it was very important to find this article, as former Oak Island Treasure Hunter H.L. Bowdoin wrote an article, published in the August 19th 1911 edition of Collier’s Magazine, in which he states that he viewed the 90ft Stone at Creighton’s Bookbindery and that there were no markings on the stone, and that they could not have worn off as the staff of the store said, because the stone was too hard.
This article about the 90ft Stone in The Suburban would predate Bowdoin’s viewing of the stone by several years. It is our hope that the article would either confirm or refute Bowdoin’s statement. Some believe that Bowdoin may have been spiteful when he made his claim, as it is said he was denied a desired second attempt at a recovery effort. This missing account of the inscribed stone could very well shed new light on what we have been told about the stone.
We were able to find archived copies of many of the issues, all with accession dates after Harris’s mention of the periodical, meaning that these collections would not have been available to Harris at the time in which he was looking.
We found collections in the following places:
We had been able to view the copies held by Acadia University and we had also reviewed all of the microfilm at the Public Archives by October 22 of 2015. None of the issues reviewed contained the article sought, but it quickly became evident that The Suburban was a weekly publication, issued every Saturday. This gave us an idea of how many issues we had to find.
The issues archived at Harvard University are not available directly to the public, only via inter-library loan. This also has its limitations, as full copies of an issue cannot be requested. They required that the article be identified. Since we did not know which issue actually contains the article, we were at an impasse with Harvard. Also, none of the above collections are complete in and of themselves, so we had to find a way to view all of the collections
In the summer of 2015, about the same time we were chasing this lead, we had the pleasure and good fortune to meet Paul Troutman, an Oak Island researcher and son of Oak Island treasure hunter, James Troutman. Paul's father worked alongside of Robert Dunfield and Dan Blankenship on Oak island back in the mid 1960s. Paul lives in the New England states.
When we mentioned to Paul that we were following up on this lead from R. V. Harris' research papers, but had hit a hurdle with Harvard. Paul offered to see what he could do about gaining access to the collection at that university. He recognized the importance of trying to find this full history of the 90 foot stone, and began what turned out to be a time consuming quest to gain access and review the collection at Harvard University. Paul had to first obtain a time limited visitors pass which involved about the same level of effort as getting your passport approved does. He was required to get someone to vouch for him and submit an application, which had to be approved before he would be granted a pass. This accomplished after a long wait, he then spent most weekends, for over three months, driving several hours each way, back and forth between his home and the Harvard archives. During his visits he scanned their issues of The Suburban. During this time, our hopes rose high several times when mention of Oak Island was found. For example, the cover for the June 16th 1906 issue looked very promising.
Despite the cover photo, which is valuable in its own right, the issue did not contain the article on the full history of the 90 Foot Stone. A Halloween ghost story that involved Oak Island was found in one issue, and several different Oak Island photos were found, but we never found the article sought.
The Suburban issues contain a wealth of Nova Scotian history, some of which we have never seen published elsewhere. It would provide historical researchers on other Nova Scotian topics with a great source of information on all corners of the province, so it is with great enthusiasm that we get to tell you that Paul Troutman has generously provided the Public Archives of Nova Scotia with a complete copy of the issues he laboriously scanned, making this rare resource available to all researchers. Thanks Paul!
As often happens when chasing down a lead, the end goal is not achieved, but in this case at least some minor Oak Island discoveries were made, and a huge amount of general history has been made more widely available. We have accounted for every regularly issued Saturday edition. We did find mention of one special business edition, which was released on a day other than a Saturday, so there remains a possibility that there is more than one special edition of The Suburban that was printed, and that they are out there somewhere waiting to be discovered.
The search for the Full History of the 90 Foot Stone article continues, so please keep your eye out for issues of The Suburban and give them a quick review, because you might just stumble across a special edition that hasn't been discovered yet.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
Missing! An investigative report into Oak Islands long lost 90 foot stone (part 3 in a special series)
By Doug Crowell Blockhouse Investigations
In the summer of 2015, we found a picture in the Creighton Family Archives at Dalhousie University that was labeled as A & H Creightons. The sign above the door read Halifax Seed Co. Ltd. As we know from the well known statement given by Harry W. Marshall in 1934, about the 90 foot stone (click here to view it), the bookbindery business of A & H Creighton merged with Edward Marshall's business in 1879 and became Creighton & Marshall Stationers. We also know that when Creighton & Marshall closed down in 1919, the Halifax Seed Company took over their premises.
Here is where the confusion is encountered. R.V. Harris and the Marshall Statement indicate that A & H Creighton bookbindery was located at 64 Upper Water Street in Halifax Nova Scotia, and it was. Marshall recalls that it was 64 Upper Water Street, but Business Directories for the 1870s state the address was actually 68 Upper Water Street. Street numbers may have changed by the early 1900s.
However, we do know for certain that the route of Upper Water Street changed at some point in time and most people believed the building gave way to urban development and was lost to history. Take a look at a map of Halifax in 1830
Upper Water Street, Brunswick Street, Hollis Street, and Lower Water Street all converged in the same area indicated by the red arrow (which we added). Now look to the right side of the map to where you see the word "UPPER". We had to crop the map here for display in this article, but the full map indicated "UPPER WATER STREET". Note that the street address numbers are rising as you travel to the left along Upper Water Street. Now look back to our red arrow. Note that the building on the lower right corner of the block labeled "E" is angled. Now look at a current Google Maps image of the same location.
A more modern traffic flow system has been developed in this area and Upper Water Street now continues on a straight path, rather than passing by the angled building indicated by the red arrow in the above image. This gives the impression to current researchers that the now existing overpasses, the Casino, and the Purdy's Wharf Office Towers now reside where 64 Upper Water Street was likely to be located, when in fact the addressing at this location would now likely be listed as Hollis Street.
Now take a look at the picture we found in the Creighton archive papers at Dalhousie University.
See how the Halifax Seed Company unit is on an angle from the unit to the left of it. This angled feature is almost as well known to those who know their way around Halifax as the Flatiron Building in New York is to most New Yorkers and movie goers, so it was easy to go and check out the location.
Here is a comparison image of the same building then and now.
The doors, the 2nd Floor windows, and even the off white bricks above the NSCAD awning, marking where the small windows and the vent had previously been located, show us that this is the same building.
So to recap, the building in which the Oak Island 90 Foot Stone was taken and put on display, which was A & H Creighton's Bookbindery, located at 64 (or perhaps correctly 68) Upper Water Street in Ordnance Square, still exists. This is where Captain H. L. Bowdoin would have gone to see the stone in 1909, when it was then known as the location of Creighton & Marshall. After Creighton and Marshall closed up shop in 1919, R.V. Harris wrote that the premises was renovated and a company by the name of S. R. Cossey & Co. occupied the location from 1919 to 1927, at which time the Halifax Seed Company moved into the unit. Harris further writes that he, Frederick L. Blair, and Tregunne (owner of the Halifax Seed Company) "made a thorough search of the premises and basement today and found no trace of the stone."
On August 28th of 2015, after confirming the building still existed, Kel Hancock, Thomas Kingston, and myself gained access to the building and conducted a search. The fellow that arranged the access for us had said that a lot of old equipment was still tucked away in the basement, so it was with a high state of excitement that we walked down the steps and into the basement.
Did we come up as empty in our search as Harris and Blair did in 1935? Did we find the stone described in the 1935 Statement of Harry Marshall? Did we see the 90 Foot Stone as seen and described by Oak Island Treasure Hunter Captain Bowdoin in 1909?
We reveal that very soon in Part 4, which is the final installment of this special series.
Thanks for reading and goodnight from The Blockhouse!
By Doug Crowell - Blockhouse Investigations - Nova Scotia
In February of 1979, a prolonged spell of bitter cold weather caused a wide area of Mahone Bay to freeze over, during which time an interesting phenomenon was observed just off the shoreline, on the south side, of Oak Island. Four sets of fairly evenly spaced holes opened up in the otherwise solid ice. This caused some excitement as the treasure hunters were pretty quick to conclude that this oddity was somehow connected with the pumping they were doing to facilitate their digging of 10X. Maybe it is best to let Dan Blankenship's activity report for March 21, 1979 describe the events.
"Report on four flooding systems discovered in ice during extreme cold spell in February 1979. During Feb. past, we had two weeks of bitter cold weather. The ice froze in Mahone Bay, from Chester to Lunenburg. Using our derrick for an observation vantge point, it appeared that the ice extended all the way to Tancook Island. We estimated the thickness to be from 5 to 6 inches just south of the island where the enclosed pictures were taken.
During the time the ice was freezing, we were working in 10-X. That meant that we would start our large pump up at about 7 to 8 A.M. each day and pump most of the day quitting around 6 P.M.. During this time the pump would run steadily until about 11 - 11:30 A.M., at the rate of about 800 - 900 g.p.m. The pump is set up the hill, about 100 ft. away. We have a 6" pump hole that use to contain our small pump, about 5 ft. away from 10-X. This hole is used for monitoring the water level. The water in 10-X is partially plugged off in the bottom, consequently we usually have to lower the level of the water in our 6" hole to between 125 - 130ft. before it completely drains in 10-X, even though at that time we probably were only working at the approx. 70 - 75 ft. depth.
As soon as the bottom becomes workable we shut off our large pump. By constantly checking the water level in the 6" hole adjacent to 10-X we know when the water is rising close to where we are working and then we turn the pump on, until the water gets down to about 125 - 130 ft. again. This way we save a considerable amount of fuel. Each evening we shut the pump off until the next morning.
By diligently monitoring the water levels, especially on recharge we have pretty much established the fact that a large reservoir exists between 95 to 115 ft. This has been repeated many times and the recovery is quite constant. the enclosed graph shows the water recovery rate [Editor's note: Graph is missing from report].
After a few days of extreme cold and the bay was frozen over, we noticed an area to the south that wasn't frozen, however, it was hard to really make out any distinct shape at first.
The colder it got and the more the ice froze, the more distinct the shapes became. the enclosed sketch shows the shapes that eventually resulted, before we had a mechanical break-down, that shut our pump down for about four days"
"We noticed a thin film of ice forming after the second day we were shut down and by the fifth day when we finally started pumping again, the whole area was frozen to approx. 1 to 1 1/2 inches. the difference in the ice could clearly be seen for several days until the weather changed and we got fog and rain.
The enclosed pictures were taken one or two days before they were reduced to their smallest size before they froze over when the pump was off. Bad weather, consisting of driving snow and wind, prevented any better pictures later. Some pictures were taken, however, they didn't show much."
"Using our derrick for a vantage point, sight lines were spotted and steel pipes driven in the frozen ground so that we wouldn't lose these locations when the ice melted.
As soon as the ice melted, I went out in a row boat and a view box, which I made up in 1965. The whole area was riled up and you couldn't see the bottom. However, you could see air bubbles rising in the water on our sight lines. when the weather and conditions are right and I have the time, I will again put the view-box to use, and I am certain these area can be pin pointed accurately.
Of course, the conclusions that we came to are obvious. During thee day, our pumping dewaters the flood tunnels. Monitoring the recharge seems to place this area between 95 and 115 feet (The wide spread is to be expected, if the tunnels are inclined).
After we shut the pump off, the water again fills up the flood tunnels. However, air occupies the space that was water filled. Consequently, the air is compressed as the tunnels fill and a considerable amount escapes thru their tunnels to their vertical shafts and their collection area in the ocean.
We know that this is true, because much of this air can be heard coming from the pumping hole after it is shut down for a while and the water is recharging.
Back in 1973 - 74 we had a similar incident regarding a flood tunnel. We had the water lowered in 10-X to about the 100 ft. level and we had a driver from Liverpool down 10-X. The water was clear until he reached the depth of 181' where the casing is partially seated in bed-rock. Muddy water was coming into 10-X from an elliptical space about 3" x 12" between the 27" casing and the bed-rock. He went below this area but couldn't see anything because of the muddy water and so terminated the dive.
Upon searching around Smith Cove, we found an area just north of our coffer dam that was all riled up and the water muddy. I took pictures showing this condition clearly.
Seeing the area was close to the shore we hired a bull-dozer and pushed earth over the suspected area.
A week later we hired the same diver again and he repeated the dive under the same conditions. This time, no mud came under the casing and he went to the bottom with the visibility remaining good until his shoulders hit the rock walls entering the cavity at the bottom, partially obscuring his vision.
When the weather improves and we have the finances , we can use this same principal to cover the areas found in the ice. However, seeing these are out approx. 200 ft. in about 7 - 8 ft. of water, dumping dirt on them isn't practical and won't work.
They have concrete pumpers available that pump concrete up a 3" hose, maybe as much as 20 stories high. It seems to me to be the most practical method to employ in order to greatly reduce or maybe even stop the water from coming from these particular locations. I believe that these are at least the most active if not all the water coming into this particular system.
The application of the concrete would be quite simple, with a diver walking on the bottom and by using the 3" concrete hose, place about 3 to 4 inches of concrete over these area. Of course these areas would be clearly defined with markers before starting with the concrete. The road is good right to the shore at this location so getting the material close wouldn't be a problem. Naturally, we would check with an engineer first to find out what thickness of concrete would be sufficient, as well as what kind, if any, of additives should be incorporated in the concrete mix to facilitate quick setting of the concrete place in salt water with a minimum of separation."
- Daniel Blankenship, March 21st, 1979
It does not appear that the sealing of the possible flood tunnels, indicated by the ice holes and the air bubbles, was pursued as we found no further mention of such work in the subsequent reports that were filed. We found no other mention of the ice holes until another report, that was filed submitted on November 9th of 1987. Here is what that report had to say:
"We first noticed these holes in the ice in Feb. 1979. It was bitter cold and the bay had frozen over with about 2 to 3 inches of ice. We were working enlarging our shaft from the existing 27 inch casing to about an 8 foot diameter steel and concert shaft. In order to conserve fuel we would shut the pump off each night, and restart pumping very early in the morning. At that time it took about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to dewater. It was while the shaft had reached the level of about 105 to 110 ft. that we noticed the phenomenon of the spaced holes in the ice. When we first noticed them, there were four sets of holes widely spaced of two holes each. These holes were quite symmetrical in that they contained two holes each of about 25 to 30 feet and the holes aligned themselves at right angle to the beach, in other words, one hole behind the other. The hole to the right apparently was the most active and it enlarged itself to compass both small holes into one.
At that time it was assumed that we had reached a level of man made flood tunnels, out dailey pumping dewatered these areas. when the pumps were shut off for the night it allowed these areas to fill up and the compressed air found its way thru the system where the warm air bubbles prevented the direct area above them to freeze.
This conclusion seemed to be confirmed this last February when the same phenomenon occurred again. The ice had formed on the bay, but not as thick as in 1979. We were working in our shaft at about 127 feet when our shaft broke on our pump and the area recharged with ocean water. The next day the ice holes appeared in the same location. We took pictures of this occurrence again but have not been able to locate these pictures. Before we had a chance to hire an airplane to take pictures, the wind came up and broke up the ice.
I have talked with people from the Dept. of Fisheries who do a lot of flying and asked them if they have ever seen any holes like this in the bay, and they said "NO".
- Dan Blankenship, Nov. 9th 1987
No further mention of the ice holes, or attempts to uncover and follow these suspected flood tunnels have been made in the reports that we reviewed. It is intriguing to think that the location of the mouth of these possible tunnels have been identified, and it is frustrating to know that current laws forbid 'working' these locations in a marine environment. Proof of original works may be so close, and yet so far away.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
By Doug Crowell -Blockhouse Investigations - Nova Scotia
In the October 13th 1934 issue of the Toronto Star Weekly, a Canadian periodical published from 1910 until 1973, there appeared an article entitled, "Oak Island Mystery." This article was written by Frederick Griffin, recounting his experience while visiting Oak Island in Mahone Bay. He related the events of his visit and what he learned in talking with many of the locals and current treasure hunters. Here is the original article:
Oak Island Mystery
"What is the secret buried deep in back of Smith's Cove on the east edge of this mile-long island in Mahone Bay? What, actually, is the mystery that has baffled generations of treasure seekers?"
A CHURN drill has this year bored nearly a score of holes around the "money pit" on Oak Island off the coast of Nova Scotia. As I write, the umpteenth expedition in the last 149 years to see treasure there pauses with disappointment. The island still guards its secrets. The tide rises and falls with mysterious mocking inconsequence. What is the secret buried deep in back of Smith's Cove on the east edge of this mile-long island in Mahone Bay? What, actually, is the mystery that has baffled generations of treasure seekers? Is it a pirate hoard of old-time implications? Doubloons, pieces of eight, bullion, gold of the Incas, jewels of Peru, spoils of the Spanish Main, loot of caravels ravaged by sea gangsters sailing under the black flag of piracy?
Did Captain Kidd, credited with fabulous exploits, or some other big league buccaneer, actually dig down deep to hide a king's ransom? If so, why did this ocean Dillinger dig so deep a cache? Why did he construct a veritable catacomb? Why did he not scratch a hole by the light o' the moon, so many steps this way, so many paces that, in traditional story book fashion, stick his iron-bound chests down and then draw a map of the place in faded ink or blood, all covered with cryptic references?
Why did he excavate mightily for at least a hundred feet, building a series of sturdy oak and spruce platforms each ten feet up as he filled in the big hole? Why did he, further, excavate tunnels whereby the sea might surge inland - underground - and flood his safety deposit box?
Yo, ho, ho and a whole barrel of rum, but this thing seems beyond the powers of a seventeenth-century sea dog. Why should he dig down deep, apparently to bed rock, as if he were going to build a skyscraper or a pyramid?
Incidentally, as every schoolboy now knows, Captain Kidd was not the great ruffian of myth, but was hanged as the fall guy in some political intrigue. Cross out Kidd, Morgan, Blackbeard, and other knights of the Jolly Roger. What then?
If this treasure was not left by a buccaneer - if truly, there is no treasure - by whom, before the memory of the first Nova Scotian, was this Oak Island engineering done?
That is the mystery of the place which it would be worth while solving. It is a mystery to which a man might well devote his money and his life - as men have devoted themselves to digging up dinosaurs in Alberta, or the Gobi desert or excavating tombs in Egypt or scratching for buried cities of Sumeria or the skulls of paleolithic man. What of history lies buried back of the shore of Oak Island? Was it here the Norsemen made a cache before Columbus came or the Mayflower landed? Did the ancient Irish erect here a subterranean retreat?
Or, more startling thought still - any why not? - was Oak Island the outer fringe of a lost Atlantis?
I have just come back from hearing the man in charge of the present digging expedition suggest that the treasure there, which he does not doubt, either came from an ancient monastery of St. Andrews, Scotland, or was placed there in times long past by the Aztecs. The Aztecs, no les. And why not again?
Lure of Treasure
If I were a millionaire I could imagine no more fascinating idea than to seek to solve the secret of Oak Island, not to earn dividends from some treasure chest of the ancients, but possibly to dig up something more wonderful than coins or gems. History! Human knowledge! I would hire the kind of engineers who build big hydro plants, put up coffer dams or breastworks to keep back that old debbil sea which has beaten a score of treasure-hunting groups in the past and then have them excavate until they found, once and for all, the secret of Oak island.
Even if they found that the whole thing was a joke - that shrewd Nova Scotians of a hundred-odd years ago had planted come-on hints of buried riches to lure the first tourists and money-spenders to these fair shores - I would still think that my cash had been well spent.
Some people calculate exaggeratedly that up to a million dollars has already been spent by treasure hunters digging holes on Oak Island - only to be driven back by the waters of the ocean which pour in through the mystery tunnels, already referred to. Again, who built these tunnels and why? - on this otherwise not very remarkable island, on e of 365 islands, an island for every day of the year, which dot with beauty this beautiful Mahone Bay which lies between Halifax and Lunenburg and of which the lovely town of Chester is the central point of habitation.
By the way, you don't find any of the Chester natives digging for mystery treasure on Oak Island. They leave that to outlanders who spend welcome money in Chester. This year's expedition came, it is said, from British Columbia. On my recent visit to the island, I saw evidences of their faith and work this summer. A drill, described to me as a churn drill, a tall affair which gave the place an oil field look, had, up to that time, bored some seventeen holes in the vicinity of the "money pit" without, I was told, finding as much gold as you would find on a crowned tooth.
Thar's gold in them thar hills of British Columbia, they say - why you can pan it in streams there - but I talked to a man who had come all the way from Victoria, B.C., to bore for mythical riches on Oak Island.
I did not blame him, for the island lures with question marks. As you approach Smith's Cove by heaving motor boat from Chester, with Still Smith at the helm predicting a storm and the need of hurry, you feel as if this might inded be a Treasure Island. an island of the south, it seems, soft, mystic, tropical. You would not be surprised to see in the offing the ghost of a long, low, rakish craft flying the skull and cross-bones - and, on the low spit of shore, to come on a bunch of scoundrels with colored kerchiefs on their heqads, pistols in their belts, rings in their ears and scowls on their black, villainous faces, digging.
Puzzle of the Live-Oaks
Illusion of the Spanish Main and the age when piracy was in flower comes from the presence of half a dozen live-oak trees. You'd swear they were palms on the sand spit. They are without branches or foliage low down and their spreading tops have a palm tree look.
These oaks are a part of the island mystery. Where did they come from? How did they grow here? These live-oaks, it is said, are southern trees, found not north of Texas and Louisiana. Yet here they are on Oak Island. None was ever found on any of the other 364 islands of Mahone Bay which are, in many cases, crested with the trees of the region, including many northern conifers.
"...there is a legend that when that when the last live-oak dies, the island will yield the secret of its treasure..."
Fifty years ago, old Chester people remember, there was a regular little grove of these live-oaks on the spit at Smith's Cove. Most of them have died. Now a mere half dozen hoary and moribund old-timers remain with a kind of struggling majesty. I would like to say that there is a legend that when that when the last live-oak dies, the island will yield the secret of its treasure, but I heard of no such legend. It seems a pity.
What is the significance of those oaks? In back of them lies the spot where men have dug and still dig for buried riches.
To reach Oak Island I hired Still Smith and his motor boat on a somber afternoon and pushed out through the mists, past island after island. Two Nova Scotia ladies. Mrs. W. D. McNeill and Miss May O'Regan, came along to make sure Still Smith did not lose his way among the islands. There are so many of them, Goosebury, Frog, Clay, Quaker, Hume's, and Mrs. Finney's Hat, the last, with its crest of trees, like a tufted toque - and many others. At last we made a landing, four miles out from Chester in Mahone Bay, at Smith's Cove on Oak Island. The top of the drill and a smith's forge were the only signs of recent activity, but the sight of a small tent over by the other shore spelled the presence of men.
Beside the drill was a deep pit, possibly 12 feet wide, dug by a previous expedition two or three years ago. It was boarded over but a hole permitted sight of heavy planking with which it was shored all the way down. A dropped stone went deep before sending up a splash of the sea, which had, as always, come pouring in through those mysterious tunnels, to defeat this as it had defeated other projects.
All around were unspectacular evidences of other earlier diggings. An old fence surrounded a partly filled-in pit in which lay rusted tin cans and junk. Yet other pits showed. Heaps and ridges of earth showed how the place had been tortured by men seeking treasure.
A lean man came strolling over from the tent. He was a pleasant but uncommunicative. He gave his name but refused to let it be printed. He said he was an engineer from Victoria. I pressed him for results of his drilling. "We have seen - and heard - strange things," he said cryptically. I pressed for more.
There was a ghost, it appeared, On Oak Island.
One moonlight night, he related, he and a partner were sitting in the tent when they heard a sound like that of a man dropping an armful of timber from the vicinity of the place where they had been drilling - "money pit" so called. They went out and looked and listened. They saw nothing. But again, distinctly, came the sound of an armful of timber being dropped.
"We ran out," the engineer went on. "I went toward the drill. the other man made a circle and came in over there. Our idea was to hem in whoever was there. We each got to our places and waited. There was nothing to see. But suddenly, right there between the drill and the forge, came the sound as if a man was dropping planks. Yes, sure, we heard it again, five times altogether that night. Then it stopped."
He stopped, too, and his eyes twinkled. A ghost? Sure, and he shrugged. Explanation? Another shrug. Yes, sure, it had been heard again. One night he was away from the camp. An old fellow was left behind. "Anything doing?" asked the engineer on his return. "Somebody," said the old fellow, "has been trying to build a cabin up by the money pit. I looked out, but could see nothing. Guess it's a ghost."
Then he, the engineer, had on a third occasion heard the ghost in action.
"Would Startle the World"
But what of the treasure? Ah, now he was pretty silent. They had, he said, bored seventeen holes. One had gone as deep as 170 feet. That one, right there, went to about 110 feet. No, they had done no digging. His idea was to locate some real evidence before going to the expense of digging. It would cost $125,000, he figured, to get the treasure forth. "Is there treasure?" I asked him bluntly. "A treasure that would startle the world," he said. "I believe that down there in a great vault is a great religious treasure." "Why religious? I thought it was commonly credited with being a pirate treasure. Don't you believe, like so many people, that Captain Kidd buried it there?"
"That's bunk. Captain Kidd was never within a thousand miles of Oak Island. Who buried it then? I think it might be buried by one of two parties. It may be the St. Andrew's treasure or it may have been buried by the Aztecs."
Quizzing brought little further light on his theory. The St. Andrew's treasure, he said came from St. Andrew's monastery in Scotland at some vague time of persecution, possibly the time of Henry the Eighth was spoiling the English monasteries. He did not know about this and I did not press him. I asked him what proof there was that the Aztecs of Mexico had ever come sailing north. Well, at any rate, there was the treasure. He had seemingly no doubt of that.
What proof had he? Were there any charts, maps, evidences in his possession heretofore unknown? No, he said. But he had faith. There was the evidence of the past. He cited the history of the digging: the fact of the oak and spruce platforms every ten feet down to a depth of a hundred feet and evidence of previous digging having brought up a worked stone with hieroglyphics on it which had never been deciphered.
"My belief," he said, "is that that stone had the key to the vault and how to get into it. But it was built into a fireplace and later used by a bookbinder who hammered all the language off of it."
He cited the fact that cement had been found in the "money pit" and that stuff like cocoanut fibre had been disclosed. As he reconstructed it, down deep had been placed the treasure vault, sealed. Above it had been an empty space. Then there was a platform and over this was placed oak, iron bound chests. the purpose of these? To throw any possible discoverer off the scent and make him think he had found all the treasure there was, whereas the real treasure was in the secret vault below. The original pit, he believed had been filled in over these chests, with planking every ten feet up. But the purpose of the planking? To keep the weight of the fill off the vault below.
Yes, he said, there were the tunnels. but why the tunnels? So that the sea might come in and guard the treasure from intruders, as it had , so far, done. But would not these same tunnels and sea prevent the people who buried the treasure from getting it again themselves? No - and he smiled enigmatically. There had originally been gates to the tunnels, he said. He explained further about the tide, but this was beyond my engineering grasp.
But would not the sea, I asked, defeat him - if he found evidences of treasure - as it had defeated previous expeditions? No, he claimed, modern engineering could defeat the sea.
"You spoke of finding something since you started boring," I said. "Has the drill actually brought up anything? Have you any proof that you have struck the hiding place of riches?"
"No, but we have found things." What things? I pressed him and he said that the drill had brought up a piece of oak and a piece of china. what kind of china? Blue and gold china.
"It wasn't," I said, "by any chance, five-and-ten-cent-store china?" He did not answer. In fact, he did not give any further information - though he hinted that some fine day there might be a story that would astonish the world. He repeated his faith that down there was religious treasure that was one of the world's most startling hoards."
What is the Secret?
On my return to Chester I sought out the veteran longshoreman, Clyde Walker. He was resting in his boathouse. The eyes of this white-haired man twinkled at mention of Oak Island treasure. "In my time," he said, "I have moved on and off seven companies seeking it."
"And did any of them ever discover anything?"
"not a one. I was always on the receiving end myself, naturally." And he laughed.
"Some thirty-seven years ago, he forgot the names, but there was an outfit went down, if he remembered, 112 feet. They struck what they thought was coin. they put their drill through what they thought was cement and planking, then into space six inches. "Then," said Mr. Walker, "this man told me with all the faith in the world that the drill seemed to be going for about three feet as if it was going through tin caps or loose metal. That's what they thought was a chest of money or jewelry or whatever it was, left by the Perus or some other people a long time ago."
That expedition failed. Years later, he said, the same outfit came back. There had been a lot of digging in the meantime and the man could not find his original pit. He got down, if he remembered, however, to 160 feet. He was off, he told Mr. Walker, his old line by four feet.
"So," the old man went on, "he starts and tunnels in four by six feet. He built a door six by six to shut so as he wouldn't lose any men, if anything happened. but one morning there was a rumpus. the stuff came running in on them like mortar and they backed out in time. What was it? It was the same stuff as you find on the beach at the island."
"What did that prove - that there was a tunnel such as is spoken of?"
"To my mind it didn't prove anything. The salt water, you can't keep it out. All I know is at low tide the pressure of the water falls off. That goes to show there is an underground drain of some sort, but no man knows what it means. I've known people who make a study of such who can't explain."
"Did people dig elsewhere on the island and not strike salt water?"
"There's been an awful lot of pits dug, but they always fill up."
"Do you yourself think there is treasure on Oak Island?"
"That's a long story, My father - he's dead now twenty years and he was 84 when he died - he always thought there was something but that it was taken out a hundred years ago nearly. He worked as a young lad on the island with a broad axe. The man he worked for sent him off on a vacation and when he came back paid him off. the explanation he had was that the treasure was removed while he was away; a vessel came and took it off."
"Mr. Walker, do you think there is a treasure there now?"
"I tell you, there is supposed to be $17,000,000 there, but I don't see how it could be put down a distance of 100 feet. Besides, how in the devil would they dig a tunnel from the seashore and why would they? That's what I think."
He referred to the presence of the live-oaks, foreign oaks he called them, on Oak Island. Why were they there? His father told him that when he was a boy the island had been all oaks. There was also said to be foreign clover growing there, near what was afterwards called the "money pit." What was the explanation of that foreign clover? Then there was something else. You could dig up cocoanut husk on the island. He had seen it himself, thirty-odd years ago.
But then walnuts have been dug up along the Humber river near Toronto and other evidences that southern Ontario was once a tropical zone. Might it be that Oak Island's mystery may be simply linked with ancient geological chance and that its buried treasure hints are simply relics of another age? There would be a fact to unearth, of folk who put up planking and used cement maybe millions of years ago. Talk about a lost Atlantis! Maybe on Oak Island is the proof, the missing link, with a drowned continent, a buried civilization - maybe. I do wish some millionaire would finance the most extensive sort of engineering and dig it up.
Mr. Walker was not much impressed by the fact that the present expedition had drilled and brought up a bit of blue and white china. "Things have ben brought up," he said, "but this china - that might have been thrown in by some other company."
I asked him how he explained the oak planking which had been allegedly found by the earlier digging expeditions.
"There's a funny thing," he said. "My father told me once that when he was a boy, his grandfather was out on day on another island, not Oak Island, Ann Church's Island, shoveling loading sand on the shore and they came to planks hidden underneath, piled up lumber. they covered it up and went away, thinking maybe they had found something. But when they went back they could never find it again."
So, there's not only Oak Island, but An church's island! Over 75 years ago planks were found there, but never found again. Who put this planking there? What does it denote? Were these merely outposts of early French occupation as in the days of Louisburg? But why on insignificant islands in Mahone Bay? Certainly Oak Island bristles with whys.
Ann Church's Island, Mr. Walker said, is four miles from Oak. On that same island, he went on, a bar of silver had once been found about the size of a plug of tobacco. And gold buttons had been plowed up. No, he had never seen them, but he had heard they were officers' buttons.
All this, so far as I know, is new treasure information. Notice to potential treasure hunters; there is not merely Oak but there is Ann Church's Island as virgin treasure ground.
"The local people play the game," said Mr. Walker smiling. "Naturally we're on the receiving end, not spending. If people want to come down here to Chester on a treasure hunt, naturally we don't want to do anything to discouraged them. Maybe there is. It's all very strange and it's hard to say just what there is."
The fact is that for generations a belief has persisted that a shaft thirteen feet in diameter and 100 feet deep was sunk on Oak Island and treasure buried there, and that this was connected by an underground tunnel with the ocean about a hundred yards distant.
The beginning goes back to 1795, when three men; Smith, Vaughan, and McGinnis, landed at Smith's Cove and strolled among the forest of Oaks then growing there. They came, unexpectedly, to a clearing which denoted the hand of man and, still more unexpectedly, according to the tale generally accepted to this day, came on a block and tackle attached to the stump of a lower limb sawn off a big oak. Beneath was a depression of the earth.
Buried treasure! They began to dig and found the earth loose. At ten feet they came on oak planking. they removed this and digged on. At twenty feet they came again on planking, and again at thirty feet. They quit digging and left the spot. They sought help on the mainland, but the people were a superstitious and tales of ghosts on the island were rife. No one would help. Half a dozen years passed and then men came back, backed by a company of prominent Nova Scotians - and they dug. Every ten feet down marks were found, either planking as at the 10, 20, and 30 foot levels or of charcoal spread over cocoanut fibre or of putty sufficiently good to be used subsequently in the glazing of a number of windows in houses being built in Chester.
At the 90-foot level was found the stone with the curious inscription already referred to. At 95 feet the diggers came on a wooden platform. Then water, not previously encountered, came in on them and arose in the pit. Baling proved useless. they were beaten. They sank another pit alongside, meaning to tunnel across, but again the water came in to beat them.
Such is the tale of the original discovery and digging out of the "money pit" whose secret many expeditions since have tried to solve in vain.
There would be little purpose in reciting details of the succeeding attempts. Always they ended in failure. The sea - for it was proven that the water was sea water - came in on them.
Records show that the digging and drilling was not altogether fruitless. Reference has been made in the interview with Clyde Walker of Chester to the fact that a drill once passed through a chest of coin. This first happened in 1849. The drill struck the oak platform at 95 feet, as recorded by the first diggers. It went through 22 inches of metal in pieces and brought up three gold links resembling an ancient watch chain. Oak splinters and cocoanut fibre were brought up from an even greater depth.
There is a lure to it. you cannot visit the island and not feel it. It's a living mystery story. What is the solution?
The End of Frederick Griffin's 1934 article
We wanted to relate this article to you in full because as far as we have been able to ascertain so far, it is the origin of the idea that the treasure would be found only after the last oak tree died. Even though it was presented as a fanciful legend that he wished he could say it was true, he acknowledged that no actual legend existed at that time (1934). It seems the idea caught people's imaginations regardless, and the idea took root. Frederick Griffin also gave us a look inside the local lore at the time, relating the ghost stories and thoughts of the locals from some 82+ years ago.
As for the second treasure island Griffin talks about, we have tried to determine which island in Mahone Bay, 4 miles from Oak, is Ann Church's island. We cannot find it on current maps, and we have not been able to find it named in property deeds. If the Church family owned an island, perhaps it was known by another name. The only island owned by a Church family that appears in property deeds is an island named Saddle Island. There is a present day Saddle Island between Mahone Bay and St. Margaret's Bay, but it is a little over 12 miles away, and the Ann Church's Island mentioned by Griffin was said to be four miles from Oak Island. Maybe one of our readers might know something about Ann Church's Island? If so, we would like to hear about it.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
By Doug Crowell - Blockhouse Investigations - Nova Scotia
Borehole 10X has received a lot of attention during the last couple of seasons of History Channel's Curse of Oak Island television series, as everyone waits to hear the final answer on whether or not treasure or evidence of original works will be found down there. We want to take a look at 10X for another reason. As one of the more recent shafts dug on Oak Island, what can it tell us about the soil conditions above bedrock? Back on February 21st, we published an article called Does Science support a man-made flood tunnel on Oak Island?
In that article, we spoke with John Wonnacott, who outlined the reasons why he felt that the glacial till that makes up the east end of Oak Island resists natural water flow through the soil and is unlikely to have natural voids within the tightly compressed till, and therefore makes the existence of the much sought after man made flood tunnels much more likely. It occurred to us that reviewing the reports filed with Triton Alliance during the digging of the 8 foot wide 10X Shaft might reveal more information on what the soil conditions are really like on the Money Pit end of Oak Island. Afterall, the 10X Shaft was dug from the surface to bedrock, some 181 feet below. Sure enough, we found a wealth of information, as reported by a man who spent many years working on the project alongside Dan Blankenship. You might be familiar with this man from the TV series. His name is Dan Henskee, and from his reports, we have created the illustration below, directly compiled from his descriptions of soil types, depths, and water conditions during the dig.
"We never found any significant horizontal flow of water at any depth from the surface down to bedrock at 180 feet."
- Dan Henskee, February 21st 1997
"By the 155' depth, we were using a 'pavement breaker' to break up the 'marl', which was too tough to be broken up by the 'clay cutter'."
- Dan Henskee, December 9th 2008
Dan Henskee's observations on the soil conditions at the 10X site, and the lack of a water problem while digging, right down to the very bedrock, certainly seem to support the idea that the glacial till in this area of the island does not allow for a strong flow of water naturally. The Money Pit is only 175 to 180 feet away from Borehole 10X, and slightly downhill. What can we infer about the Money Pit and possible flood tunnels from what we have found in the reports on the construction of 10X? Let's let Dan Henskee have the last word on that...
"I consider it probable that there is an open tunnel in the limestone having its 'floor' at the 166' depth, corresponding to the 158' depth in the Money Pit region, which is the depth at which would have been resting the bottom of the presumed chest from which the parchment was brought up in 1897. We know from our own experience that the ideal depth range for safe excavation in the limestone is from 160' depth to 166' depth. That would be above the sandy material we found between 170' and 180', and below 15 feet of tough material which would probably not cave in even if no shoring were used! We actually used a pneumatic pavement breaker to excavate in that material, since the lighter pneumatic spade could not break it apart fast enough! In previous centuries, the material could have been excavated by physically-fit labourers using not the modern 'garden variety' picks that we see for sale in hardware stores, but rather somewhat shorter, somewhat heavier picks having somewhat shorter handles than the ones we are used to seeing. Because the limestone contains many discrete pieces, the excavated places would look rough and rugged and would appear to an intruder to be very unsafe, which would be just fine from the point of view of people who were leaving treasure there. I note in passing that Erwin Hamilton could not say for sure whether a certain cavity in the limestone was natural or artificial. That is very likely to have been a result of the rough and rugged appearance I have mentioned, since the cavity itself was almost certain to have been man-made, the natural formation seeming to be completely void-free.
- Dan Henskee, 1997
So there you have it. Henskee has made the same observations as John Wonnacott has posited in our previous article. This glacial till is not apt to have voids in it unless they are man-made and it does not allow a strong flow of water through it naturally. It gives those who demand real evidence for man-made workings on Oak Island something to ponder.
Thanks for reading, and goodnight from The Blockhouse!
by Doug Crowell - Blockhouse Investigations - Nova Scotia, Canada
On Saturday August 30th 1862 a schooner by the name of Good Intent arrived at Oak Island, carrying William Smith, superintendent of The Oak Island Association, and five others. One of the first tasks performed upon their arrival, was to send all hands to Frog Island for stuff to build a wharf. Frog Island is just under a half of a mile away from Smith's Cove on Oak Island. You have likely seen it in the background of many scenes from the History channel's Curse of Oak Island series. We didn't know that it has had a long standing connection with the Oak Island Mystery, until we reviewed the record of work kept during the Oak Island Association's attempt to recover treasure in 1862.
Throughout the work journal, it is noted that men and horses were at work on Frog Island, cutting timber to crib the various shafts being dug at the Money Pit area, and other structures, such as the aforementioned wharf. Why Frog Island though?
We knew that Anthony Graves, the man who is said to have bought his goods in Chester with Spanish money (see our article on that here), had leased the use of the land around the Money Pit to the treasure hunters. Could he also own Frog Island as well? To find the answer, we turned to the property records of the time. John Smith had died on September 29th 1857, and his property went to his heirs. Those heirs promptly sold the property, on December 5th of the same year, to a man by the name of Henry Stevens for the sum of four hundred and sixteen pounds. This included all of the Oak Island property, and all of Frog Island, so obviously John had bought up the lots on Frog Island at some point. Henry Stevens turned around and sold all of the Oak Island lots, and all of Frog Island, to Anthony Graves less than two months after buying the land. His selling price? Four hundred and sixteen pounds. This means Stevens made a total profit of zero on this sale. Odd. I saw this happen once in my lifetime. A local business owner was selling his shop and another local business man wanted to by it. They didn't like each other very much, and the one business man refused to sell to the other. The second business man hired an elderly couple to buy the business and once the paperwork was signed, he walked in and ordered the former owner off of the property. Was there friction between Graves and the Smiths? We don't know, but it is an interesting side note.
We do know that John Smith started out as a property owner by buying Lot 18 (the Money Pit lot) on Oak Island in the summer of 1795. When and how did John Smith acquire Frog Island?
This gave Smith total ownership of Frog Island, with at least two houses upon it. Did John Smith buy up this nearby island simply because opportunity presented itself (Smith had married Ann Floyd, and Mary Floyd may have been related to his wife), or did he buy it in further pursuit of treasure? Recorded history hasn't revealed his motivation as of yet, but is there any hint that treasure hunting took place on Frog Island?
In his book, The Oak Island Quest (Windsor, Nova Scotia: Lancelot Press, 1978), William S. Crooker speculated that any original builder with enough engineering experience to build the structures thought to be on Oak Island, would have no problem digging a tunnel over to Frog Island, and caching the treasure there, with no disturbed ground or workings on the surface of the island. An interesting thought indeed, especially knowing that Smith, one of the men who discovered the Money Pit on Oak Island, bothered to buy up the lots on Frog Island as well. While there is no known evidence to support such an idea, we do know that there is at least one site on Frog Island in which it seems as if treasure seekers invested some effort. On the North side of the island, there lies the remains of a pit.
We worked all of Frog I. in the years, 76, 77, 78, 79, 1983... There is strong evidence that suggests many men were housed on Frog I. during the period of Oak I. construction."
- Daniel J. Sullivan
Sullivan was one of the people who worked the pit on Frog Island down to a depth of 27 feet, at which point water became a problem. The story of his work on Frog Island can be read on Jo Atherton's Oak Island Treasure Blog here. It indicates that they thought the pit was a sinkhole, but that they had found manmade artifacts down as deep as 25 feet. So we can infer that a pit of some type existed there before they dug into it in the years between 1976 and 1983, be it a sink hole or the remains of a previous dig.
There also exists a copy of a map that suggests that Frog Island was the site of a landing by unidentified parties in 1347AD. Details of this map will be released by a researcher and author who is completing a book on a related treasure topic in the near future. We look forward to learning more about this mysterious map and the people/group behind the alleged fourteenth century visit.
So there you have it. Oak Island and Frog Island are long standing companions in an enduring mystery.
Thanks for reading and goodnight from The Blockhouse!
By John Wonnacott- Contributing Writer- for oakislandcompendium.ca
It's now generally known that the story of how the Money Pit was discovered on Oak Island by three boys who rowed out to an uninhabited island in Mahone Bay in 1795 is simply not true. Learning the real story has not been not easy, and although we know a few important facts now, many more remain to be pieced together by patient researchers.
So if the popular story is not true, how was the Money Pit actually discovered, and by whom? And when? It’s human nature for treasure seekers to want to keep their activities secret whenever public knowledge could compromise their work somehow. I think that's why the story of the three boys discovering the Money Pit was not explained to the public until more than 50 years later – the principals involved had something to hide. So we shouldn't expect to find an old diary with all of the facts dutifully recorded and we’ll have to build the real story ourselves, piece by piece. One way to get at the truth, is to study the people who had the means, motive and opportunity to find and explore the original Money Pit. So let’s look at the first lot owners, and follow one family in particular. You’ll be surprised and intrigued, I promise!
Among the very first Oak Island lot owners was Anthony Vaughan Sr. He acquired Lot Nos. 15 and 17 in 1765 and then Lot No. 14 in 1781 – the same year that Anthony’s brother Daniel bought Lot No. 13. The Vaughn (or Vaughan) family history  says that Anthony Sr. and Daniel moved from Duchess County NY to settle in the Chester area in the 1760’s. The two brothers had equal shares in a saw mill somewhere in the local area. Possibly, they bought the island lots to have access to the timber for their mill.
Daniel Vaughn had lived an interesting life before he settled in the Mahone Bay area. He had been a commissioned British naval officer, with the rank of Lieutenant (equivalent to the rank of Army Captain), serving as a privateer. At that rank, he would have been in command of vessels smaller than three-masted ships – the size of vessel frequently used as British privateers. I don’t know any details about Daniel’s military service, but it would be fascinating to learn more, because privateers figure prominently in local history – including the 1782 sack of Lunenburg by privateers during the American Revolution (OI Lot owner Jonathon Prescott, a local magistrate at the time, is recorded to have entertained one of the privateer captains the night before the raid). In 1791 Lt. Daniel Vaughn sold his mill shares to his brother, he sold his Oak Island lot to Nathanial Melvin and he moved to Newport, NS. Then in 1793 Daniel moved to St. Martins in the newly formed province of New Brunswick, where he received a large grant of land from the Crown . And then things got very interesting for the Vaughn family in St. Martins.
From these apparently prosaic beginnings, Daniel Vaughn and his family started a ship-building business in St. Martins. Daniel’s son David Vaughn launched their first ship in 1803, the "Rachel", and other ships quickly followed. The Vaughns built ships, and they sailed and traded very successfully. At the peak of their success, the Vaughn business had offices in seven ports around the world – including New York, Seattle and Liverpool. And the question that I can’t answer is: Where did the Vaughns get the money to start a ship-building industry?
One hint regarding the source of Vaughn’s wealth can be traced to the rumors of smuggling in and around St. Martins. There are many delicious stories of smugglers linked to the community and this could be the whole story.There is another clue in Stuart Trueman’s book, “Ghosts Pirates & Treasure Trove: The Phantoms that Haunt New Brunswick”, . Trueman reported that $8000 worth of gold coins were found along the bank of the West Quaco Creek in Southern New Brunswick. (That would be around $480,000 at today’s price of gold). The story says that a box of coins had been washed out of the bank beside the stream, where a passerby found it. The story was printed in the Saint John Telegraph newspaper on 26 Oct 1864. What I found fascinating is that West Quaco Creek runs through the land that Daniel Vaughn was granted in 1793!
I've tried to find a copy of that newspaper article, with no luck. The current Editor of the Telegraph told me that the paper was not in print in 1864, and he thought the date might have been transposed incorrectly – maybe it was 1894? The late Oak Island researcher Paul Wroclawski told me he had always wanted to follow up on this buried gold coin report, and he gave me a microfiche reference number that he thought would lead to the missing newspaper article. But when I looked for the microfiche it turned out that that the critical page of records has gone missing! Not giving up, I located two researchers in New Brunswick who would help me, and I started looking for newspaper stories of gold having been found in the St. Martins area. And lo and behold, I actually found three articles. Here is the first one:
This is a remarkable story. At $5 per gold coin, the find would have amounted to 60,130 coins and the value of the gold would be over $36 million today! The article does not say exactly where the gold was found – only that it washed out of a bank. If we estimate that each coin weighed half an ounce, the physical weight of the hoard would have been over 1800 pounds! Is this the same basic story that Trueman reported on, with one story or the other exaggerated? Or were there two separate finds of gold coins in St Martins?
Now I know we can’t believe everything that is printed in a newspaper. People lied, exaggerated and just got their facts wrong 150 years ago, just as we do today. But I checked up on Mr. W.H. Rourke, who gave the interview for the amazing story. He was a well-known and well respected magistrate in St. Martins and he was a Justice of the Peace. He was also quite wealthy. That doesn’t automatically make him an honest person, but it does make one wonder why he would make that newspaper report, if it was fictional or exaggerated.
The next article that I found was recorded as being published in the same newspaper on the same day. I don’t know if the Saint John Daily Sun had two editions per day, or whether the recorded date for one of these articles is wrong, but whatever the case, the following article was printed:
This article looks to me like someone did not want the first newspaper article printed and had this one printed in an effort to discredit the story. Which one of the articles is true, if either one is? Before I discuss the implications of finding a huge hoard of gold coins on the property of a former old Oak Island land-owner, I’d like to share the third and last newspaper clipping that I found:
This story may be unconnected to the preceding discovery of gold coins at St Martins – after all Mispec is a few miles south of St. Martins, down the Bay of Fundy coast. The helmet and sword have nothing to do with gold coins, and there could be a dozen explanations for their discovery. But the reference to a “pot of old gold coins” found on the same property four years ago (ie.1879) certainly caught my eye. Finding old gold coins is rare, and two or three finds in the same small geographical area goes beyond pure co-incidence, I believe.
My working hypothesis is that Lt. Daniel Vaughn and his brother Anthony, and possibly some other OI lot owners discovered the Money Pit sometime after 1766. I think they could have dug down, found and recovered a decoy treasure that some people believe was buried at a depth around 100 feet. When they attempted to dig further, a flood tunnel was encountered and the hole filled with water to sea level. Those first searchers kept the whole story a secret, known only to close family members. Daniel Vaughn took his share of the recovered treasure and moved away, setting up himself and his family in the shipbuilding business in St. Martins, New Brunswick. Anthony Vaughn Jr. stayed in the Mahone Bay area and in 1795 he started exploring the Money Pit, trying to find more of the treasure that his uncle had found. When Anthony Jr. finally told the story to the public 50 years later, he used his uncle’s description of the log platforms etc, and somewhere between then and now, someone embellished the story with an account of an old oak tree and a ships pulley hanging over a depression in the soil.
Ok, I admit this is a fantastic theory, based on a few thin facts – and in this blog we want to stick to facts and serious investigations. So I want to challenge other readers to investigate other parts of this story. Let’s investigate the details of the lives of the early Oak Island Lot owners. How many of them came into unexplained wealth around the same time as Daniel Vaughn left the area? Can we generally agree to use this as a working theory that further research will help us prove or disprove?
Somewhere in the world, I hope there are old documents sitting in the bottom of a forgotten box, that shed some more light on the Vaughn family and the possibility that Lt. Daniel Vaughn found treasure on Oak Island. Somewhere there may be a few family heirlooms that originate from Oak Island – possibly some gold coins. It would be so gratifying, if this story helped find some of those documents and heirlooms. Studying them would be invaluable!
No matter what you think of all of this, I hope you’ll agree that it is interesting and intriguing. It’s part of our Nova Scotia heritage.
The author of this article writes an excellent review of the treasure hunt on the island, of the Restall family's part in that hunt, and introduces us to the newest treasure seeker, Robert Dunfield, who Sivley describes as, "a fleshy young petroleum geologist from California". Sivley seems to have visited the island and interviewed Dunfield and several others before writing this article.
So who is responsible for the first known citing of the Seven Must Die curse? Is it an embellishment created by Sivley for his article? In the article itself, Sivley credits a Nova Scotia resident, a pretty woman intimately related to the deaths, as the one to tell him about the curse, as seen in the following excerpt from his article which states:
"But along the Nova Scotia shore, the people who have lived with Oak Island all their lives are restless. They are a charming people, but uneducated, suspicious, and highly superstitious. Sitting in her kitchen on the shore, a pretty woman intimately related to the deaths could say without consciousness of oddity. "Legend says that seven men must die before the treasure will be found. One died a hundred years ago in a boiler explosion. Now four more are gone. Maybe someone wants that treasure badly enough for two more to die."
We draw your attention to the fact that the woman mentions the unknown person who died in the boiler explosion, and the four who died on that fateful day in 1965, but she didn't account for the death of Maynard Kaiser, who died from a fall down a shaft on Oak Island in 1897. It's evident that she's only accounting for five deaths when she says, "Maybe someone wants that treasure badly enough for two more to die". (You can read our previous article on the death of Maynard Kaiser here.)
Sivley doesn't identify the woman by name, only that she was intimately related to the deaths. Four people died that tragic day. Robert Restall was the first to topple into the shaft. His son Bobbie (age 23) saw this happen and rushed to his father's aid, but he too was outcome by gas in the shaft. A man named Karl Graeser, longtime friend and financial backer of the Restalls, without hesitation went into the shaft to save the two men. He quickly succumbed to the gas as well. Then Cyril Hiltz (age 16), and Andy DeMont (age 17), both members of the work crew, descended into the shaft, and both collapsed near the bottom. Two other men who had started down the shaft, retreated to the surface. A tourist from Buffalo, New York, a firefighter named Edward White managed to save DeMont, who afterwards said that he was choking on the gas and felt like his legs were failing.
So if we consider who this "pretty woman" was, then we have to consider the families and friends of those who died that day. This same article tells us that Bobby Restall and Cyril Hiltz were both in love and hoping to soon be married. Perhaps our unnamed woman was one of their fiancées, or a sister, mother or other family member of those involved. Whoever she was, we wonder did she fabricate the legend or was it something she heard from another source? For now it remains a mystery.
So we now know that the "Seven must die" curse existed as early as 1967, and that an anonymous local Nova Scotian woman, is the earliest person on record to to speak about it. Whether the curse existed before this article, we can't say, since we've found no previous mention of it. We suppose it is possible Sivley created the idea of the curse himself, but we should extend him the courtesy of believing that it came from his unnamed source.
At this time we can say that the legend has been around for at least 49 years now. Our investigation continues, but for now we hope this information is of interest to all of who've been asking about the curse since it became such a popular, and rather sensational, aspect of the Oak Island mystery.
Thanks for joining us again and, as always, Goodnight 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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