In the next section we will discuss McCully?s possible motives in adding the Masonic material, but before doing so it is useful to have some idea of his background, interests, and biography. Paul Wroclawski has discovered a very brief biographical sketch (28) which I take the liberty of now paraphrasing:
Jotham Blanchard McCully born 19 January 1819, presumably in Nova Scotia. Died in Truro, Nova Scotia, 9 September 1899 at age 80. He appears to have resided in Truro, Nova Scotia, for most of his life. Married Isabelle McConnell 27 July 1844 by whom he had 10 children. He appears to have been involved in many and probably most of the treasure digging attempts which were made in the Money Pit on Oak Island from the 1840?s through to the 1860?s. An engineer, in 1845 he was appointed manager of operations of the Truro Company which conducted the Oak Island treasure hunt from the late 1840?s through to the 1850?s. The Truro company eventually ran out of funds and folded, but in 1861 McCully became secretary of the Oak Island Association of Truro which resumed the treasure hunt at that time by raising a large sum of money from the public and by employing a workforce of 63 men and 33 horses. This syndicate was also unsuccessful in locating the treasure and it folded in 1864. In 1866 McCully participated in yet a third company, the Oak Island Eldorado Company also known as the Halifax Company, which also raised funds from the public and resumed treasure digging but ceased operations in 1867.
It seems that McCully was familiar with Masonic ritual and I therefore infer he was a Freemason. This conclusion finds some support from the following passage posted online by Oak Island researcher GrailKnight7 (29):
?I am almost certain that Jotham Blanchard McCully, one of the key members of the Oak Island Association in the early 1860?s, was himself a Freemason. One of the documents.... is an 1874 letter from a Mr Williams......to the members of ?Peoples Lodge? in Truro. Mr Williams refers to the members of the Lodge as ?good Templars? and asks that Mr McCully keep the letter once it has been read to all.?
What Were McCully?s Motives?
What were McCully?s motives in adding the Masonic symbolism to the Oak Island Legend? There are two possible motives I can think of:
(A) McCully was perpetrating a Masonic prank, or a kind of in-joke with his fellow Masons.
(B) There is the more speculative and sinister possibility that the Oak Island Treasure Hunt in the 19th century was a deliberate fraud, and McCully inserted the Masonic elements as a coded warning to his fellow Scottish Rite Masons that Oak Island was fraudulent and they shouldn't waste their money by investing in it.
I personally consider motive (A) the more likely, and for that reason and because I have no direct evidence in favour of motive (B) I have relegated the discussion on the latter motive to the Appendix to this article.
Did McCully Perpetrate a Masonic Prank?
Let me start this section by observing that Masonic pranks of the nature I suggest McCully perpetrated are not as farfetched or as uncommon as non-Masons might suppose. Being a Freemason myself, I know that Masons in the presence of non-Masons enjoy inserting Masonic allusions and bits of ritual into the conservation with a knowing nod and wink, in the certain knowledge that the Masons present will understand the significance but the non-Masons will not. Professional sceptic Joe Nickell in his article on Oak Island (3) refers to a number of apparent Masonic pranks including the Legends of the Moving Coffins of Barbados, Swift?s Lost Silver Mine in Kentucky, and the Beale Treasure all of which have become part of the canon of unsolved mysteries. Nickell also notes that author and Freemason Arthur Conan Doyle was in the habit of inserting Masonic allusions into his Sherlock Holmes stories, knowing that Masons would understand the significance but his non-Masonic readers would not. Nickell goes on to imply the Oak Island Money Pit Legend similarly started as a Masonic prank, so the idea is not original with myself, albeit Nickell does not use the terminology of ?prank? or ?joke?.
I'll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.: LBJ's Ghost
I suggest that McCully?s motive in adding the Masonic symbolism to the legend was simply to have a joke which would be recognised as such by his fellow Scottish Rite Masons, but whose significance would be lost on all other people. Do I have any evidence for this hypothesis? There is in fact some indirect but highly suggestive evidence which takes this form: other Masons obviously recognised the joke and in the years after McCully?s 1862 article they embellished the joke by adding numerous additional Masonic elements to the legend:
First Masonic element added after McCully?s 1862 article: One of the first Masonic elements added after McCully?s 1862 article appeared in the 22 February 1863 issue of the Halifax Morning Sun (30), where a brief article noted that the treasure diggers on Oak Island ?chanced to turn up two or three small oblong pieces of wrought silver, which from the indentation of the edges, and the impressions on the surface, were deemed to be antique coins of remote date. But, .....from the representations of them, roughly sketched on paper, for which we are indebted to a friend, our conclusion is, that the supposed coins are neither more nor less than Masonic jewels ? small, and perhaps not very artistically wrought, but jewels withal......the supposed Chinese ?inscription? we shrewdly suspect, could be easily deciphered by a ?speculative Mason?.? Many, if not most Masonic Degrees have their own ?jewel?, a small piece of metal or other decoration worn by the members of that Degree as part of their regalia. The Thirteenth Degree at the time had its own jewel: Crafts page 156, Richardson page 149. I have been unable to trace any reference to the current whereabouts of the Masonic jewels dug up in 1863 and I infer they are either lost or were always mythical.
Second Masonic element added: The next Masonic element added to the legend occurred in the Colonist article of 2 January 1864 (24) which referred to the three original excavators encountering a layer of flagstones two feet [60cm] below the surface of the pit, echoing the Thirteenth Degree reference to ?the ruins of an ancient edifice? found by the three Grand Master Architects when ?digging for the foundation of [King Solomon?s] Temple?: Crafts page 154. As the flagstones were supposedly dug up about 1802/03, they have long been lost if indeed they ever truly existed at all.
Third addition of Masonic elements: At some unknown date in the 1860?s, the purported inscription on the inscribed stone found at depth in the pit was supposedly translated by Professor Liechti of Dalhousie University to read ?40 feet below two million pounds are buried? (31) which is strikingly reminiscent of the Thirteenth Degree referring to Enoch engraving hieroglyphics on a marble pillar disclosing the existence of his treasure nearby: Richardson page 149. The symbols traditionally claimed to have been carved on the inscribed stone (32) have not been able to be traced back beyond the first half of the 20th century (33), but it is singular that so many of those symbols have Masonic overtones: there is a circle with a point in the middle evoking the common Masonic motif of a ?point within a circle?; there are triangles both resting on their base and inverted which are the traditional emblems of both the Holy Royal Arch and Thirteenth Degrees; and there are squares and three-sided squares redolent of the Masonic pig pen cipher (34). The alleged actual inscribed stone was reportedly last seen in 1919 and is now lost (35).
Fourth Masonic element added: A further Masonic element was added to the legend with the 1890?s prospectus of the Oak Island Treasure Co (6) which contains the first published reference I am aware of to ?an iron ring bolt, bedded in the rock?, and which ?can be seen only at very low tides?, corresponding to the iron ring bolt referred to in the Thirteenth Degree: Crafts page 154, Richardson, page 149. As far as I know, there is no actual iron ring bolt on the shore of Oak Island.
Fifth Masonic element added: An equilateral triangle of stones was discovered on the south shore of Oak Island in 1897 by treasure digger Captain Welling (36), and was rediscovered by the Chappell and Hedden treasure digging expeditions of the 1930?s. The triangle measured about 10 feet [3 metres] on each side, and was accidentally destroyed by the earthmoving operations of the Dunfield treasure hunt of the mid-1960?s. Passing through the northern apex of the triangle was a straight line of stones pointing directly at the Money Pit to the north. We have already noted that the equilateral triangle is the symbol of both the Thirteenth and Holy Royal Arch Degrees. The southern base of the triangle also formed a chord off which was a semi-circle of stones, so that the triangle, the line pointing to the pit, and the semi-circle together formed a design reminiscent of a sextant (37). The sextant shape is very similar to the traditional Masonic symbol of the plumb-rule. The Welling triangle definitely did exist at one time, but its discovery as late as 1897 would seem to indicate it was created as part of the evolving Masonic prank.
Sixth Masonic element added: In 1897, a small piece of parchment was allegedly drilled up from a cement vault at a depth of 153 feet in the Money Pit, bearing the letters ?VI? (38). Although the parchment fragment exists, we shall see in the Appendix that there are now serious doubts as to its authenticity, and the existence of the cement vault was disproved when the Chappell, Hedden, and Hamilton treasure hunts of the 1930?s dug right through where it supposedly was without finding it (39). However, this parchment fragment is pure Masonic symbolism: in the Holy Royal Arch Degree of Masonry, when the three sojourners enter the secret vault under the ruins of King Solomon?s Temple, they find among other treasures an ancient parchment containing passages from the Old Testament: Crafts page 97. The Masonic symbolism in fact goes further than this: the American Freemason Albert Pike revised the Scottish Rite rituals during 1855-1868 (40) and the revised rituals were published by McClenechan in 1884 (41) where the revised Thirteenth Degree ritual refers to the initials of the Latin phrase ?in arc leonis verbum inveni?, the initials being IALVI which include the letters ?VI?. While it might be superficially tempting to dismiss this as coincidence, the Latin phrase translates as ?in the lion?s mouth I found the word?, so that the literal translation of the words corresponding to ?VI? being ?verbum inveni? is ?word found? which of course is a good two word summary of what the Holy Royal Arch and Thirteenth Degrees are all about, being the rediscovery of the lost word or name of God. It is therefore seen that the letters ?VI? on the parchment fragment are a very subtle and very clever Masonic pun which, however, would only be recognised as such by Scottish Rite Masons who knew their Thirteenth Degree ritual very well. So we now start to see that the Masonic elements being added to the legend are starting to reflect changes in Masonic rituals occurring after McCully?s 1862 article.
Seventh Masonic element added: As far as I am aware, none of the 19th century references to the Oak Island Legend refer to the type of rock comprising the inscribed stone supposedly found at depth in the Money Pit. However, at some point in the 20th century, the inscribed stone began to be described as ?porphyry? (42). ?The Discrepancies of Freemasonry? by George Oliver (43) published in 1875, is the first published reference I am aware of to the ninth or lowest level of Enoch?s Temple in the Thirteenth Degree containing a pedestal of porphyry. So again we see how changes in Masonic ritual occurring after McCully?s 1862 article are reflected in later additions to the Oak Island legend.
Eighth Masonic element added: Treasure hunter Gilbert Hedden in 1936 found a stone in Joudrey?s Cove, Oak Island, bearing a number of Masonic symbols, including a point within a circle, a three-sided square (which appears in the Masonic pig-pen cipher), and the letter H which is a Masonic emblem for God (44). The stone undoubtedly existed, as photographs exist (45), but its discovery as late as 1936 would seem to indicate it was manufactured in the 19th century as an element in the evolving Masonic prank.
Ninth Masonic element added: In 1967, a bulldozer overturned a rock near the so-called Cave-In Pit on Oak Island, and carved on its underside was the letter ?G? (46). The rock and its ?G? inscription does or did exist as there are a number of photographs (47). The letter ?G? is an important Masonic symbol referring to the Grand Geometrician of the Universe or God. The rock and its ?G? symbol had obviously been there for many years when discovered, and may well have dated back to the 19th century and if so it seems plausible it may have been carved as part of the Masonic prank.
I'll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.: LBJ's Ghost
The above list of nine Masonic elements added to the Oak Island Legend since McCully?s 1862 article is not exhaustive, and I could have added others, eg the great Christian Cross found by Fred Nolan, the heart-shaped stone, and the metal set square found underneath the Smiths Cove finger drains (3). While any one of them considered in isolation might by itself be ascribed to coincidence, the sheer number of them collectively points to something beyond mere chance in my opinion, and in fact points to active Masonic ?buying in? to McCully?s prank. I suggest that various Masons, recognising McCully?s Masonic joke, bought into it and actively added to and embellished the joke by adding more and more Masonic elements, knowing that Scottish Rite Masons in particular would recognise the joke for what it was and deriving perverse pleasure from knowing that non-Masons would not understand.
Those readers sufficiently patient to have read my two earlier papers on the Masonic aspects of Oak Island will appreciate my approach in this third paper is completely different, and reflects my now much greater knowledge of the evolution of Masonic ritual and of the evolution of the Oak Island Legend itself. However, the essence of my earlier writings on this topic remains unchanged: I think Joe Nickell was absolutely correct when he theorised in 2000 (3) that Masonic symbolism had been added to the Oak Island Legend, although he has understandably very much underestimated how much Masonic symbolism has been added, and his theory that the added symbolism came from the Holy Royal Arch Degree is only partly correct, with most of the symbolism having come from the related Thirteenth Degree of the Scottish Rite.
Speculations that various 19th Century Oak Island treasure hunts may have been fraudulent
The following material has been relegated to an Appendix because we lack direct evidence that any of the 19th Century treasure hunts on Oak Island were fraudulent. However, we do possess considerable indirect evidence that fraud was involved in the 1800?s and in any event every prosecutor knows that direct documentary evidence of fraud rarely if ever exists, and fraud is nearly always proved in the Law Courts without direct documentary evidence, usually by indirect or circumstantial evidence. The indirect evidence suggesting that fraud was involved in the 19th Century may be summarised as follows:
1. The Historic Context: The Prevalence of Lost Treasure Legends in 19th Century Maritime Canada and New England. To understand the fraud theory, we need to have some appreciation of the historic context as it existed in 19th Century Maritime Canada and New England. AL Spedon in his ?Rambles Among the Bluenoses? (23) published in 1863 refers to the frequency of buried treasure legends along the coast of Nova Scotia in these words (48):
?Scarcely a nook or corner along the coast [of Nova Scotia] but has had its dreamers and diggers of ?hidden treasures?; but beyond the mere circumstance of the thing itself little else appears to have been generally preserved. Scarcely a bay or river, but is noted by the fictitious dreamers of the ?golden treasure?, who can still point to some particular spot, where some pirate or navy vessel has been necessarily deserted and destroyed, and the specie carried off and deposited in the adjoining banks. Again, and again have votaries of the golden god excavated and searched among the rocks for his secretious droppings; but all appear to have vanished and evaporated into airy and fictitious daydreams. These golden tales of deposited treasures are too numerous to admit of a general description; one or two instances, however, merit a passing notice?.
2. The Historic Context: Treasure Digging Frauds in 19th Century Maritime Canada and New England. The prevalence of lost treasure legends along the coast of New England and Maritime Canada in the 19th Century gave rise to a species of swindle or fraud known as ?treasure digging?. Fraudsters would convince a landowner that a fabulous treasure (often Captain Kidd?s) was buried on his land, and they possessed the means to find it, and the landowner would be hoodwinked into paying the fraudsters to locate and excavate the treasure. Of course the treasure always slipped out of reach at the last minute.
American Folklorist Richard Joltes on his Oak Island webpage includes in his chapter 3 (49) a number of eloquent and erudite sections on the treasure digging manias which periodically infected parts of the Northeast United States and Atlantic Canada in the 1800?s. Joltes mentions, among many other examples, that Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith (1805-1844) practiced treasure digging as a livelihood before embarking on his career as a prophet. He also mentions the Daniel Lambert treasure digging mania which occurred in Maine in the year 1804, when the fraudster Lambert used his supposed discovery of buried treasure to circulate forged bank notes to the enrichment of himself and to the impoverishment of his victims. Joltes recites many other examples, many of which involved fraudsters inveigling their ?marks? into schemes to dig for Captain Kidd?s treasure.
It was in this context that Oak Island in the 19th Century became the scene for repeated attempts to locate Captain Kidd?s treasure at the bottom of the Money Pit. Oak Island in the 19th Century may well have been only one of many treasure digging scams then being carried on in Atlantic Canada and New England.
3. First Hint of Treasure Digging Mania in the Oak Island Area.
Chester is the town nearest to Oak Island, being roughly four miles [6 km] distant. Joltes (49) mentions that a treasure digging hysteria of some kind gripped the Chester area in the early 19th Century in these words:
?.....the Mephibosheth Stepsure letters, a series of satirical letters published in Halifax newspapers in 1821-23, mentions an incident in which a man paid a sheriff?s debt by ?pulling out the leg of an old stocking tied at both ends, he told out of it as many doubloons as satisfied the sheriff....he told us he had been turning up his fields and found it there.? The same passage goes on to say the man ?advised us all to do the same thing? and ?to follow his plan, and not do like the Chester folks; who once dug for money, and at last got so deep that they arrived in the other world; and falling in with the devil, were glad to get away with the loss of their tools??.
It should be noted that the first reputed treasure syndicate to excavate the Oak Island Money Pit was the Onslow Syndicate which reportedly carried out its operations around 1802-1804 (50).
I'll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.: LBJ's Ghost
4. The Pitblado Incident. The Truro Syndicate was engaged in the hunt for Captain Kidd?s treasure in the Money Pit in the late 1840?s and early 1850?s (51). They drilled a number of holes in the Money Pit with a mining auger, and the syndicate foreman James Pitblado was reportedly seen to secrete some item from the drillings tailings. When challenged he said he would show the item to the next directors meeting, but left the Island that night and neither returned nor attended the directors meeting, but his associate Charles Dickson Archibald immediately attempted to buy the eastern end of the Island where the Money Pit is located (52). It has become a part of the Oak Island Legend that Pitblado found a jewel in the tailings (53).
The precise circumstances of the ?Pitblado Incident? appear to have been somewhat embellished by later writers, as the first article to mention it being McCully?s 1862 essay, does not mention the name Pitblado and says only that ?....the results [of an auger boring] were known only to the persons [sic] who conducted the boring, which he managed to keep to himself. But a short time after he made such disclosures to Mr Charles D Archibald, who was then concerned in the Londonderry Iron Mines, that he, Mr Archibald, went to the Government and got a license to dig. But from our having applied for a license before, they could only get permission to dig on unoccupied ground, which kept them from doing anything while our lease held good?. (19).
However, in spite of any exaggeration by later writers, this incident is surely a classic example of ?salting the mine??
We don?t know if Pitblado shortly afterwards offloaded his shares in the Truro Syndicate at a large profit, but certainly the shares in at least one later treasure syndicate fluctuated considerably in value, as we shall see below, providing opportunities for fraudulent share price manipulation.
If the Pitblado incident was a mine salting scam, then it represents further evidence that the 19th century Money Pit excavations were fraudulent.
Why do I regard the Pitblado Incident with such scepticism? According to the legend, James Pitblado died shortly afterwards in an accident so that the secret of what he found died with him (53). However, the legend is in error here: we now know that James Pitblado lived to the ripe old age of 81, finally dying over half a century later in 1903 (54). It is inconceivable that if Pitblado had really found something, he would have lived another half century without saying anything about it. Any objective researcher must regard the Pitblado Incident with considerable suspicion.
5. The Three Metal Chain Links. It was the Truro Syndicate whose auger borings in about 1849-50 also brought up the three metal chain links discussed at some length above. We have already referred to the mutual inconsistencies of the contemporary accounts, which range from no metal at all being brought up to copper wire, to gold links being recovered. Such contradictions are in themselves suspicious, and the air of suspicion is only reinforced when we learn that there have been persistent hearsay reports over the intervening years that the three metal links were deliberately planted to encourage further investment in the Truro Syndicate which was running short of funds at the time.
For example, on 10 July 2008 Mutakawe posted on the internet forum called ?Oak Island Treasure? the assertion that a Mountie friend had known a treasure digger who tossed his own watch chain in the Money Pit because ?money was becoming tight and he did it to attract investors? (55). On the same day ?Tank? posted a reply on the same internet forum that he had heard the same story from five or six different people all quoting different grandfathers who had supposedly salted the pit with their own gold watch chains (56). These stories are admittedly all rank hearsay, but they are consistent with the atmosphere of suspicion which hovers over the Oak Island Legend.
6. The Fanny Young Pit: The 1890?s prospectus of the Oak Island Treasure Co (6), which was the syndicate digging for the treasure in the late 1890?s and early 1900?s, refers to the Fanny Young Pit dug close to the Money Pit in about 1850 in these words:
?....Mr Isaac Blair....states: ?you asked me to tell you what I saw when the old Pit (or what is called the treasure pit) on Oak Island caved in, while the men were tunnelling through from what was then called the ?Fanny Young Pit? (so called from a clairvoyant who had been consulted on the subject). That was in 1850 and the fact of the pit being named for her would indicate that it was dug at that time. The probability is that it was, and afterwards deepened in 1861. To the believers in clairvoyants and spiritualism many interesting things as told by Miss Young and others of the same faith can be related and when they struck the old pit they said the earth there had been dug over?.?
We have already noted that Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith (1805-1844) practised the type of fraud known as treasure digging when a young man. His 34th and last wife was Fanny Young (1787-1859) a sister of later Mormon Church leader Brigham Young (57). We do not at the present time have any direct evidence that the Fanny Young associated with Oak Island was the same person as Joseph Smith?s 34th wife, but if they were different women, then it is a most remarkable and singular coincidence that the 34th wife of a known treasure digger and prophet had exactly the same name as a ?clairvoyant? who was consulted on digging for the Oak Island treasure. The coincidence is heightened when we note that Joseph Smith?s 34th wife was still living when the Fanny Young Pit on Oak Island was dug about 1850, when Joseph Smith?s 34th wife was once again a widow (Joseph Smith having been her third and final husband) and it is therefore plausible she would have reverted to her maiden name of Fanny Young at that time. If the Fanny Young Pit on Oak Island was named after Joseph Smith?s 34th wife, then the links of Oak Island to the widow of a known treasure digger does nothing to enhance the credibility of the Oak Island Legend. It is also worthy of note that Joseph Smith was distantly related by marriage to Antony Vaughn who was reputedly one of the Money Pit?s three initial excavators in the late 1700?s (58).
7. ?The Oak Island Folly? Revisited: We have already mentioned the third known article on Oak Island titled ?The Oak Island Folly? published in the 20 August 1861 issue of the Liverpool Transcript (11). That article includes the following passage:
?It was thought that almost a fortnight ago they had struck upon the treasure: a day was set on which the copper bound casks were to be raised from their long resting place. Expectation grew high ? shares sold at an enormous premium ? hundreds of people flocked from all directions, and while each one was straining his eyes to get their first glimpse of the gold the middle hole ?caved in?, and disappointment was soon pictured on the countenance of each one present.?
If the Oak Island treasure hunt in the middle of the 19th Century was fraudulent, then we see here one way the fraud could have operated: the fraudsters would put about the story the treasure was about to be recovered, and would then offload their shares in their treasure digging syndicate at a profit before the treasure once again just ?slipped out of reach?.
I'll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.: LBJ's Ghost
8. Written Accusations of Fraud on Oak Island in the 1860?s: The syndicate digging for the Oak Island treasure in the early 1860?s was the Oak Island Association, one of whose investors was Paul Pry Junior who wrote a letter published in the Yarmouth Herald on 12 March 1863 (59) which included the following passage:
?Now Mr Editor, it is well-known that the water in the Money Pit (so-called) has been the only obstacle in the way of clearing said pit out, and getting the treasure (if any is there), and the present and former company have been engaged since 1849 (as they say) to stop or pump the water out of said pit, and when the managers have discovered (after the large amount of money was put into their hands for this very purpose) that the pumps would keep the Money Pit dry, I say when this discovery was known, not to go into the Money Pit, but to go to the shore to dig a new pit, I say can you not see that the managers have no faith in the treasure, or at least do not intend to be in haste in clearing said pit. This movement is enough to convince any sane man that the present managers on the Island ?know which side of the bread the butter is on? ? that the business will not be closed up in a hurry. This is a lucrative business to some stockholders, and those who have not taken stock will have ample time to do so for 10 years to come, if the present managers are only kept in office?.
In other words, Mr Pry is making what is virtually a direct written public accusation that the Oak Island treasure hunt is fraudulent, carried on for the ?lucrative? benefit of a few stockholders at the expense of the rest.
9. Written Accusations of Fraud on Oak Island in the 1870?s: After the treasure hunts of the Oak Island Association in the early 1860?s and of the Halifax Syndicate in the mid to late 1860?s, treasure hunting on Oak Island remained quiescent until the Oak Island Treasure Co resumed treasure digging in the 1890?s. During this period of inactivity an article was published in the Halifax Morning Chronicle of 5 August 1873 containing this passage (60):
?About nine miles from Chester is Oak Island, notorious as the supposed burial place of the treasures of the renowned Captain Kidd. During the last 70 or 80 years interested speculators and gullible dupes have, at intervals of 10 or 12 years, renewed the old story of the buried wealth, estimated at millions of dollars in solid bars of gold, and aroused the over credulous to a fever heat of excitement. Upon the flimsiest thread of circumstantial evidence ? the old rope, a ship?s block, a few old, decayed planks ? stock jobbing operations that would throw some of those in the Wall Street far in the shade, have been too successfully carried on, to the heavy loss, in many instances, of confiding fortune hunters and a corresponding gain of the knowing ones of the Oak Island ring.?
So we have another contemporary account containing what is essentially a direct written accusation in a public newspaper that the Oak Island treasure hunt in the 1800?s was fraudulent, ?carried on, to the heavy loss.... of confiding fortune hunters and a corresponding gain of the knowing ones of the Oak Island ring?.
10. Oak Island Treasure Co, Late 1890?s-early 1900?s: It was the Oak Island Treasure Co which supposedly recovered by drilling in 1897 the parchment fragment containing the letters ?VI? from a depth of 153 feet in the Money Pit (38). As already alluded to above, there are now serious doubts about the authenticity of this parchment fragment. Oak Island researcher Paul Wroclawski has in 2010 pointed out in the internet forum on the ?Friends of Oak Island? website that prior to the recovery of this fragment, the wife of the supposed parchment fragment discoverer Putnam mentioned a parchment in a letter to treasure digger Captain Welling about 6 months prior to the parchment fragment?s alleged recovery by drilling in 1897! Paul Wroclawski also mentions other inconsistencies in the accounts of the recovery of the parchment fragment (61).
If we combine these disclosures of Paul Wroclawski with the Masonic symbolism of the parchment fragment, it seems plausible to conclude it was in fact a plant designed to inspire investment in the Oak Island Treasure Co which appears to have struggled for funds and eventually went bankrupt (62).
11. The Masonic Symbolism Added to the Oak Island Legend: We have recorded above that McCully?s 1862 article referred to at least 10 elements of Masonic symbolism, of which nine were drawn from a single Masonic Degree (the Thirteenth Degree of the Scottish Rite) and of which six originated with McCully himself and of which he added to a seventh in a way which made it much more strikingly reminiscent of the Thirteenth Degree. We further noted that in the years after McCully?s 1862 essay, at least nine further Masonic elements and probably even more were added to the legend by other writers. Although, as adverted to above, I incline to the theory that the Masonic symbolism represents a Masonic prank started by McCully and continued by other Masons, nevertheless the possibility exists that the Masonic emblems were added as part of 19th Century treasure digging frauds being conducted on Oak Island.
The fact that Masonic imagery, which after all is entirely fictitious, was added to the legend could be seen as evidence of the fraud. There is also the sinister possibility the Masonic elements were added as a coded warning to Scottish Rite Masons that the 19th Century treasure syndicates on Oak Island were fraudulent and Masons shouldn't waste their money by investing in those syndicates: certainly Scottish Rite Masons would have recognised the Masonic emblems but nobody else would so that this would have been an effective way of ensuring a small and select favoured group would not be taken in by the 19th Century frauds. I concede I have no real evidence to support this ?sinister possibility?, but nevertheless it is an intriguing idea.
12. Revival of the Fraud Theory in the 21st Century: British researcher John Bartram revived the fraud theory of 19th Century Oak Island in 2005 on his Oak Island website which unfortunately no longer exists. The speculation that the 1800?s treasure digging syndicates on Oak Island may have been fraudulent is therefore by no means new to myself, and I credit John Bartram with first alerting me to a significant fraction of the ideas canvassed in this Appendix. I hasten to add there is no evidence of any fraud in the treasure digging which has occurred over the last century, and to avoid doubt, I expressly do not claim any of the treasure hunters over the last 100 years were fraudulent in any way.
I'll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.: LBJ's Ghost
While I personally believe the Masonic prank theory of the Masonic symbolism in the Oak Island Legend is the preferred one, I concede there is also the possibility that the Masonic elements were added as part of the theorised treasure digging frauds carried out on Oak Island in the 1800?s. Further, the two theories of Masonic symbolism are not necessarily mutually exclusive: it is possible the Masonic imagery was added as a prank while the 1800?s treasure digging fraud was going on without the Masonic elements being a part of that fraud.
This paper would not have been possible without the diligent research efforts of many others. While I hesitate to name names for fear of unwittingly offending those who are not named, I feel I must acknowledge the research efforts of the following:
I have already referred to British Researcher John Bartram who first alerted me to the possible fraudulent nature of the 19th century treasure hunts on Oak Island.
I have also already referred to American Folklorist Richard Joltes, who has carried out much of the research into the historic context in which the Oak Island Legend evolved in the 19th century. He also maintains the best sceptical website on Oak Island (33), (49).
Paul Wroclawski has tirelessly tracked down many previously unknown early accounts and documents of the 19th century treasure hunts on Oak Island.
I record that my paper does not necessarily reflect the views of such three researchers, and I bear full responsibility for the opinions and views herein expressed.
? ?Oak Islands Mysterious Money Pit? by David Mac Donald from January 1965 issue of the Readers Digest, condensed from an article in the Rotarian, copy of Readers Digest version online at http://www.oakislandtreasure.co.uk/a...dersdigest.pdf last accessed 12 May 2010.
(8) Copy online at Paul Wroclawski?s website ?Oak Island Theories? at Welcome to Oak Island Theories - May you find what others have missed in discussion forum at thread entitled ?History: Treasure Hunting History of Oak Island?, subthread entitled ?Archibald Pitblado 6 August 1849?. You need to apply to Paul Wroclawski at his said website for permission to join his forum. Last accessed 12 May 2010.
(14) Example of Masonic exposure online: Duncan?s Masonic Ritual and Monitor, third edition 1866, by Malcolm C Duncan, New York: Dick & Fitzgerald, copy online at Duncan's Masonic Ritual and Monitor Index last accessed 12 May 2010.
(15) The Mysteries of Freemasonry by Captain William Morgan, revised by George R Crafts, published in New York by Wilson & Co in 1850?s according to library of Congress Catalogue.
(22) Article in Yarmouth Herald of 12 March 1863, by Paul Pry Junior, copy online at Paul Wroclawski?s website [supra, note (8)], in forum thread ?Oak Island Related Media?, subthread ?Yarmouth Herald Various Articles from 1863?. Last accessed 12 May 2010. You need to apply to Paul Wroclawski at his website for permission to join his forum.
(23) Rambles Among the Bluenoses: Reminiscences of a Tour Through New Brunswick and Nova Scotia during the Summer of 1862. By Andrew Learmont Spedon. Published by John Lovell, Montreal, 1863. Copy online via Paul Wroclawski?s website [supra, note (8)], in forum thread ?Discovery Stories?. Last accessed 12 May 2010.
(24) ?A History of the Oak Island Enterprise? by a ?Member? in the Colonist Issues of 2nd, 7th, and 14th January 1864.
(25) ?The Toilers of the Isle? in 2 September 1866 issue of the New York Herald.
(26) ?Extraordinary Story of Hidden Treasure? in 22 September 1866 issue of the Scotsman.
(28) Internet posting by Paul Wroclawski on April 23, 2010, entitled ?Found ? Jotham McCully Fonds? on his website [supra, note (8)] in forum thread ?Found in Archives or Collections?. Last accessed 12 May 2010.
(29) Internet posting by GrailKnight7 on Oak Island Treasure Forum on November 18, 2005 in News and Press Section in thread entitled ?Extraordinary Discovery? at this link: Oak Island Treasure • Login last accessed 12 May 2010.
The provenance of the letter below is unknown, since we do not know who "Patrick" was or what his relationship to the alleged earlier works might have been. This document appeared in the Nova Scotian newspaper on 30 September, 1861, presumably in response to earlier articles discussing the history of the Money Pit.
Generally the article provides no new information over that presented in the earlier Oak Island Diggings or Original Sketch articles, but it does provide interesting details that observant readers should be aware of.
1) the "memorandum" is the first known mention of the results of earlier auger work. The writer obviously means to suggest they bored through two oak treasure chests filled with coins; the specific mention of "coin, if you will" is a leading statement designed to direct the reader toward that conclusion. However, he fails to mention a note from another writer who claimed the works around the old pit collapsed on at least one occasion in the past; thus the bottom reaches of this earlier excavation would be filled with debris, including oak and spruce beams, chain, gravel, and other materials that could easily have been encountered when the auger was passed through them. Given the claim that cross tunnels were excavated under the Pit by earlier expeditions, the best explanation for the oak and voids encountered by the auger is that the operators accidentally drilled through the hoardings and other material left over from these earlier works; the "small pieces of metal" was actually gravel and debris filling this tunnel.
This observation builds on the concept that later treasure excavation attempts wrongly claim to have found evidence of the "original" construction, when in reality they have simply encountered the trash and debris left behind by earlier treasure hunters. The latest Oak Island hunts have built their reputation on the garbage of their predecessors.
2) he claims that "the treasure and platforms came down with a crash" when the water broke through last. If this is the case, what happened to the layers of wood and metal he claims they encountered while boring? Are we to believe that they only recovered a few pieces of wood and no chests of gold, or that the violence of the collapse would not have ruptured one of the chests, sending "coins" all over the excavation?
3) he claims that only the "old pit" was encountering water at 98 feet, while they dug 4 others (one on each compass point around the original pit) in the same area, effectively surrounding it and encountered no water. Are we to believe they dug 4 large shafts and failed to encounter the alleged "flood tunnel?"
4) He also claims they dug directly underneath the old pit and encountered no water. If true, then this disproves the assertion that the treasure was concealed in a much deeper location as claimed by modern treasure hunters, since these earlier diggers would have encountered further disturbed soils when they dug underneath the original pit. No such claim is made; instead these men are said to have believed the treasure lay above the 110 foot level and saw no evidence that would lead them to dig deeper under the original pit.
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As he wise editor of the Witness, and the wiser correspondent of the Liverpool Transcript, have been meddling with business not their own, on Oak Island, please permit one who is acquainted with the facts of the case to state a few of them.
The ground on the part of the island where search is made for the treasure is formed of compact clay, mixed with round lumps of stone to the depth of 110 feet, perfectly dry, excepting in one pit where the water comes in at 98 feet from the surface. Over 50 years ago, a company from Onslow took the earth from this pit, and found it was dug at some former period, and carefully filled in with earth, in which they found wood, charcoal, putty, &c. At 93 feet from the surface they probed with a crowbar, and struck a platform of wood 5 feet beneath them; after which the water came in, and neither they nor any company that followed them, ever again sent a shaft so far down.
About ten years ago a company, of which the writer was one, bored into this place with mining augers, and at 98 feet passed through wood. The following is a memorandum of one of several holes bored through this platform at 98 feet.
1st. Six inches, spruce wood.
2nd. A space of 12 inches, through which the auger fell
3rd. Four inches, oak wood
4th. Twenty inches of a material, which by its action upon, and the sound conveyed along the auger, resembled boring through small pieces of metal -- coin, if you will -- through which the auger passed by its own weight, in one turn.
5th. Eight inches, oak wood.
6th. Twenty inches, similar to the twenty above.
7th. Four inches, oak wook[d]; and then through spruce wood, into the clay below.
It is asked "what did you get up out of the twenty inches which you twice went through?" Answer -- nothing. The valve sledger that would bring up coin was broken in the first platform, and that used would bring up no coin, even if bored through. Samples of the earth, and specimens of the wood, it brought up without fail, but of the material within these twenty inches, it brought up nothing.
The part of the pit occupied by this wood, &c, is deluged with water. Four shafts have been dug north, south, east, and west of the old pit, from six to ten feet deeper than we wish to go in it; none of them distant from it more than twenty, and some of them not more than ten feet, and yet no water. This season we have gone directly underneath both platforms and water, within two or three feet of them, and yet dry.
Now, we are "deluded" enough to believe that the water comes from the sea through a tunnel cut by the art of man, because we saw the end of it at the shore, and by sinking shafts struck it twice between the money pit and the shore. At the shore there were drains laid most skilfully, and underneath, the sand covered with a kind of grass, which one of the best Botanists of the province informed us grew nowhere in the British North American Provinces. This same grass was bored up from about the platforms in the old pit; it was also found in these drains-- shewing [showing] the two works to be connected.
This season two pits were prepared for bailing the water, by sinking them a few feet below the depth we wished to go in the old pit, and tunneling in at the proper height for the water, when with five gins we found we could conquer the water, and intended to go down in the old pit 98 feet; but having undermined the water and wood, before a way could be made for the water to come down to our tunnel leading to the west pit, the treasure and platforms came down with a crash, driving wood and clay before them through 17 feet of a tunnel 4 feet by 8 feet in size, and raised this earth and wood 6 feet in what we call the west pit. While the water was hindered by this earth from coming through, we took out part of the earth and wood. The wood was stained black with age; it was cut, hewn, champered, sawn, and bored, according to the purpose for which it was needed. We also took out part of the bottom of a keg, but in digging down we again made way for the water, and as this pit by its position was the deepest all the bailing of water came upon one pit, and not being able to apply enough power at this point, we could clear out no more of what fell.
The association is now preparing a steam engine and pumps. Over one hundred shares of ?5 each are issued, and the money is coming in again. Hear it, O Witness, and thou, Liverpool scribe.
I remain, the digger.
Truro, Sept. 16th, 1861
Note: Original document is in the public domain. Commentary on this page is ? 2006 Richard E. Joltes
I'll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.: LBJ's Ghost
Over the years, many authors have offered ideas regarding the supposed contents of the "Money Pit" and about Oak Island in general. Since many of these musings (they're not "theories" in a scientific sense) are scatted across a number of books, it seems advantageous to offer a synopsis of each so they can be more easily compared. Some will not be covered since information about several is sketchy at best. Neither will a great deal of background detail be presented since this material has been covered by other authors. The reader is referred to the bibliography for in-depth works discussing the various theories.
Captain Kidd's Treasure
This is the mother of all Oak Island theories since, according to the earliest accounts this writer has yet discovered, the inhabitants of the Mahone Bay area believed it to be the most likely explanation for the supposed Pit. However, it can be dismissed in the light of modern knowledge of Kidd's actual adventures and career. Kidd was never in the area of Oak Island and was never actually a traditional pirate; instead he was a privateer with a commission to seize "enemy" commerce. The small amount of treasure he amassed was buried in the present United States. Consequently there's no reason to believe that he buried anything at Oak Island.
Nearly everyone knows the story of the Templar Knights and their fabled mass of treasure; many authors have theorized that said treasure was not seized by the French government or Papacy after the Knights were outlawed, and that said treasure was spirited away to be hidden in some remote location. Having read a few of the books concerned with this particular topic, this writer finds the evidentiary chain to be at best tenuous and at worst imaginary.
However, for the sake of argument let's accept the idea that the Templar treasure was spirited away and hidden somewhere in the world. By all accounts this was accomplished sometime between 1398 and 1450; certainly no later than 1500. As noted elsewhere, the Oak Island legend states that McInnis found "a small clearing that appeared to have been cleared of trees and other growth at some time in the past, and which new trees and other plants [italics mine] were beginning to fill in again." If this is the case, then any digging on the island must have occurred much later than 1450. A gap of 300+ years between that date and 1795 means that the clearing would have been filled in and any surface evidence of the alleged excavation erased by time. In any case the "sawn-off branch with burn marks" and quite likely the tree to which it was attached would be dead and gone. No, the Templar theory simply doe not fit the parameters of the legend.
Also, another researcher made the following insightful comments:
"Two hundred men in twelve ships sail off with the True Grail one hundred years before Columbus. There are only two possibilities:
1. None came back, and so it is entirely unknown the fate of any of them or their possessions by historical record. But it can be safely be surmised that all are at the bottom of the ocean or remnants would have been found. (Or did they bury their ships and selves as well?) If 200 men and 12 ships had ever spent long enough ashore on O.I. to dig a hole deeper than what's been dug since, there would be a ton of coins and boot buckles and pistol shot and broken discarded tools found all over that freckle of an island. And even more incredulously, it requires the very type of men who had risked their lives and fortunes protecting the grail and building temples for it, to decide the best course of action was to abandon it in a muddy hole, literally in the middle of nowhere. No wonder God didn't let them make it home.
2. Some of the men and ships returned and all managed to keep to themselves not only the location of the grail, but the news that there was a whole freaking continent over there. Or maybe they missed it, being at least a couple hundred feet away and only being a couple of thousand miles wide. Probably was foggy the morning they dropped by, dug that hundred foot pit, chucked the Holy Grail into and refilled it, and then sailed away home. And of course they would see no reason to return, having their deforested little rocky outcropping of a homeland and the British constantly trying to drive them into the sea for entertainment, Who could ask for more? And since they told no one, their descendants didn't know they should protest the Portuguese claiming to be the discoverers of the New World. Well, they probably told their sons, but we all know kids pay no attention to anything their parents tell them."
(Thanks to Thomas McManus for this commentary.)
The Nuestra...de la Concepcion
This theory, involving the historically documented salvaging of Spanish treasure ships by Sir William Phips, is very rationally presented but, as with all Oak Island theories, suffers for a lack of hard evidence. While Harris & MacPhie present a sketch of a scenario that may have taken place, there is no documentary evidence to suggest that it actually did occur. All Oak Island theories--even mine--are currently little more than supposition, and only the discovery of evidence which is more than circumstantial will change this. The Nuestra/Phips theory also suffers from the same date-related problem as that of the Templars--Phips' recovery of the treasure from the ship in around 1687 is too early to be correlated successfully to the Oak Island legend.
The Francis Bacon Manuscripts
One author (Penn Leary) has proposed that the treasure hidden within the Pit includes the lost manuscripts of Francis Bacon, who some theorize was the actual author of what we know as Shakespeare's plays and sonnets. Again, this idea suffers from our classic date-related conundrum. If we're to believe the evidence of the legend itself, then these very early theories can't be trusted. However, if the legend is wrong and the trees growing in the "former clearing" were fully mature, then the date range could be thrown wide open. But if the trees were mature, then there would have been no clearing or depression for McInnis to discover in 1795. So what should we believe?
Fish Processing Station
Another author (Millie Evans) has proposed that the island was actually used by persons unknown as a large fishing station, and that the alleged "artificial beach" was actually an area onto which freshly-caught fish could be thrown to allow them to dry, drain, and so forth. There's no reason to refute this theory on the basis of dates; however it would be simpler to support if other evidence of such an extensive construction project (i.e. remains of buildings, tools, fish, etc.) were to be uncovered. This may not be possible since the site has been so blatantly altered by treasure hunters over the past 200 years.
Egyptians (or Incas)
This writer knows of no author who has seriously supported either of these ideas, and of no reliable evidence to support the assertion that Egyptians or Incas ever made a journey to the North American coast. Such a proposal totally ignores the fact that the ancients did not possess the technology to conduct deep-pit mining of the type supposedly carried out on Oak Island. Specifically they did not have the technology to ventilate deep mines, and thus shaft excavations of deeper than roughly 30' were impossible for them.
Apparently this idea was proposed by Lionel Fanthorpe, a former author of pulp science fiction novels now specializing in odd phenomena. He has published frequently unsupported ramblings on a number of subjects. Fanthorpe also wrote a book claiming that the Money Pit was somehow involved in the Templar legend, so it seems he is unable to make up his mind which of these 'theories' he favors.
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One site on the Internet, which violated accepted copyright practice by cutting and pasting massive portions of the main Critical Analysis article without the authors' permission, talks of "Lizard Beings" that buried an alien mind-control device at the site now known as the Money Pit. The article, apparently written by a woman who is said to have the ability to "channel" information from some other being, delves into classic paranoid conspiracy theory--most notably one in which world leaders are claimed to be "projections" created by lizard-like aliens who are manipulating humanity for their own purposes. There's really nothing more to be said about it since the whole idea is obviously the product of someone who is either playing a huge joke or has become detached from reality.
The wonderful thing about this article is that it shows how purveyors of fringe pseudoscience tend to pick and choose ideas to incorporate into their fantasy worlds. Oak Island is an obvious candidate for this sort of activity since the pseudoscientist or conspiracist can manufacture any data they like with little fear of having it contradicted by inconvenient facts!
Siege of Havana (or Louisbourg)
In 1762/3 the British lay siege to and captured Havana, Cuba, from the Spanish. It is well documented in the historical record that they captured a large sum of money and probably large amounts of other booty at the same time. This event, as well as the capture of Louisbourg from the French (1756?) fall within the period during which we could reasonably expect activity on Oak Island. Thus, either of these events could represent the actual circumstance behind the legendary excavation/construction project on the island. Again, however, there is no direct evidence available at this time to support either theory. No documentary evidence has yet been discovered to suggest military or government-funded activity by the British or anyone else on Oak Island.
American Revolution/Halifax Unrest
The Revolutionary period (say, 1770-1783) falls easily within our range of proposed dates for activity on the island and seems a likely candidate for such works. The British used Halifax as a naval base (it was referred to as the "North American Station") and it was critical for their North Atlantic activities. There was a revolution in progress in the American colonies and a great deal of civil unrest in the Halifax area at the same time. Martial law was declared in Halifax on at least one occasion during this period, so it seems reasonable to believe they would have desired a "contingency base" for use if Halifax, Boston, and/or New York were lost to rebels. A location such as Oak Island might have been ideal since it was isolated and lay between these three great ports, yet close enough to England to provide a reasonably short voyage.
Many people have claimed it is be impossible for the excavation to have occurred during the latter period (i.e. post 1700) because someone would have noticed, or legends about the activity would have persisted. This is simply wrong. Near Halifax, in fact, are huge concrete bunkers and artillery positions constructed by the Canadian military during World War II. A fellow researcher knew of these and asked local residents about these structures, which are clearly visible from the water. Most of the people he asked had no idea they existed and had never heard a single word about them. This is a common situation; such sites often are simply forgotten about in a very short timeframe. Think of the settlements and cities, such as Pompeii and even gold-rush towns in the American West, that have become "lost" in history.
In the Halifax case, the projects were public, highly visible, and in full view--yet they were forgotten within a generation. A project on Oak Island, even as late as 1780 or so, easily could have been missed or simply ignored by the locals as inconsequential to their lives. Thus, this is a likely timeframe to consider if we are to believe any activity involving the alleged "Pit" actually occurred on the island.
As Joe Nickell has pointed out in his CSICOP article, it's also quite possible that the Pit was simply a sinkhole that was misinterpreted by McInnis and his friends. Since at least one other sinkhole (which was, of course, immediately presumed to be part of the nefarious "box drains") has been discovered on the island, this theory has a great deal of merit.
As noted on the main analysis page, Oak Island was not a virgin wilderness in 1795. The French, and later the English had settled the area around the island (i.e. the town of Chester and others) many years before, and the entire area had been mapped and divided into lots. The Pit portion of Oak Island had been designated at lot #18, and in at least one account of the legend it's said that McInnis and friends bought the site from another owner after they discovered the Pit. Thus it's entirely possible someone had previously begun construction of a home or other building on the site and had simply abandoned their work for some unknown reason. This gives us a simple explanation for the clearing and new plant growth, as well as the "depression" said to have been found. Said depression could simply have been the collapsed remains of an old well or perhaps an incomplete foundation for a home of some type. Remember also that the earliest account of the legend states the "circular depression" was only seven feet in diameter--large for a well, but significantly smaller than the twelve to fourteen feet we have been led to expect.
The point of this exercise is simply to point out that numerous scenarios, many of which involve no treasure or conspiracy theory, might explain the presence of the features supposedly found in 1795. Unfortunately many researchers simply pick a single "pet" explanation and then either selectively ignore evidence to the contrary or inflate questionable details to support their assertions. The simple fact is that we may never know what, if anything, actually existed at the Pit when it was discovered and the excavations began in the latter 18th century. Such is the danger of blindly following folklore without verifying the facts or researching alternative theories.
Note: All material on these pages is ?1995-2004 Richard E. Joltes
I'll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.: LBJ's Ghost