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Old 05-31-2011, 09:32 PM  
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Oak Island for Dummies II

Part II of the tale:

Quote:
The Pit's Collapse

The next attempt at securing the treasure was made in 1861 by the Oak Island Association. First they cleared out the Money Pit down to 88 feet. Then they ran a new hole to the east of the pit hoping to intercept the channel from the sea. The new shaft was dug out to120 feet without hitting the channel and then abandoned.

A second shaft was run, this one to west, down to 118 feet. They then attempted to tunnel over to the Money Pit. Again the water started to enter this pit as well as the Money Pit. Bailing was attempted and appeared to work. And then

CRASH!

The bottom fell out. Water rushed into the shafts and the bottom of the Money Pit dropped over 15 feet. Everything in the Money Pit had fallen farther down the hole. The big questions were why and how far?

Over the next several years different companies tried to crack the mystery unsuccessfully. They dug more shafts, tried to fill in the drain on the beach, built a new dam (which was destroyed by a storm), and drilled for more core samples. They met with little success.

The Cave-in Pit

In 1893 a man named Fred Blair along with a group called The Oak Island Treasure Company began their search. Their first task was to investigate the "Cave-in Pit". Discovered in 1878 about 350 feet east of the Money Pit, the cave-in pit appears to have been a shaft dug out by the designers of the Money Pit perhaps as a ventilation shaft for the digging of the flood tunnel. It apparently intersected or closely passed the flood tunnel. While it was being cleared by the Treasure Company it started to flood at a depth of 55 feet and was abandoned.

Over the next several years The Oak Island Treasure Company would dig more shafts, pump more water, and still get nowhere. In 1897 they did manage to clear out the Money Pit down to 111 feet where they actually saw the entrance of the flood tunnel temporarily stopped up with rocks. However, the water worked its way through again and filled the pit.

The treasure company then decided that they would attempt to seal off the flow of water from Smith's Cove by dynamiting the flood tunnel. Five charges were set off in holes drilled near the flood tunnel. They didn't work. The water flowed into the Money Pit as rapidly as ever.

At the same time a new set of core samples were drilled at the pit itself. The results were surprising.

Cement Vault

At 126 feet, wood was struck and then iron. This material is probably part of the material that fell during the crash of the Pit. On other drillings the wood was encountered at 122 feet and the iron was missed completely indicating that the material may be laying in a haphazard way due to the fall.

Between 130 and 151 feet and also between 160 and 171 feet a blue clay was found which consisted of clay, sand, and water. This clay can be used to form a watertight seal and is probably the same "putty"; that was found at the 50 foot level of the Pit.

The major find was in the gap between the putty layers. A cement vault was discovered. The vault itself was 7 feet high with 7 inch thick walls. Inside the vault the drill first struck wood, then a void several inches high and an unknown substance. Next a layer of soft metal was reached, then almost 3 feet of metal pieces, and then more soft metal.

When the drill was brought back up another twist was added to the whole mystery. Attached to the auger was a small piece of sheepskin parchment with the letters "vi"; "ui"; or "wi"; What the parchment is a part of is still in question.

More convinced than ever that a great treasure was beneath the island, The Treasure Company began sinking more shafts in the attempts to get to the cement vault. They all met with failure due to flooding.

2nd Flood Tunnel

In May of 1899, yet another startling discovery was made. There was a second flood tunnel! This one was located in the South Shore Cove. The designers had been more ingenious and had done more work than previously thought. Though this find certainly strengthened the case that something valuable was buried below it didn't bring anyone closer to actually finding the treasure.

Blair and The Oak Island Treasure Company continued to sink new shafts and drill more core samples, but no progress was made and no new information obtained.

Between 1900 and 1936 several attempts were made to obtain the treasure. All met with no success.

Stone Fragment

In 1936 Gilbert Hadden, in conjunction with Fred Blair, began a new investigation of the island. Hadden cleared some of the earlier shafts near the Pit and made plans for exploratory drilling the next summer. However, he made two discoveries away from the Pit.

The first was a fragment of a stone bearing inscriptions similar to those found on the inscribed stone discovered at the 90 foot level of the Money Pit. The second discovery was of several old timbers in Smith's Cove. These timbers seem to have been from the original designers due to the fact that they were joined using wooden pins rather than metal. As will be seen later these timbers were only a small part of a much larger construction.

Mystery Deepens

The next treasure hunter was Erwin Hamilton. He began his search in 1938 by clearing out previous shafts and doing some exploratory drilling. In 1939 during drilling two more discoveries were made. The first was the finding of rocks and gravel at 190 feet. According to Hamilton they were foreign and therefore placed there by someone. The second finding came after clearing out an earlier shaft down to 176 feet. At this point a layer of limestone was encountered and drilled through. The drilling brought up oak splinters. Apparently there was wood BELOW the natural limestone.

Tragedy Strikes

In 1959 Bob Restall and his family began their attack on the island which ultimately proved tragic.

His one discovery was made on the Smith's Cove beach while attempting to stop the drain system. He found a rock with "1704" inscribed on it. Though others believed it was prank left by a previous search team, Restall believed it was from the time of the original construction.

In 1965 tragedy struck. While excavating a shaft Bob passed out and fell into the water at the bottom. His son, Bobbie, attempted to rescue him as did two of the workers. All four apparently were overcome by some sort of gas, perhaps carbon monoxide from a generator, passed out and drowned.

Heavy Machines

Bob Dunfield was the next to take on the island. In 1965 he attempted to solve the problem with heavy machinery - bulldozers and cranes. He attempted to block the inflow of water at Smith's Cove, and may have succeeded. Then on the south side of the island an trench was dug in the hope of intercepting the other water tunnel and blocking it off. The flood tunnel wasn't found, but an unknown refilled shaft was found, possible one dug by the designers of the Pit. The shaft apparently went down to 45 and stopped, its purpose is unknown.

Dunfield's other findings were based on drilling. It was determined that at 140 feet there was a 2 foot thick layer of limestone and then a forty foot void. At the bottom of the void was bedrock. This information matched with a drilling done back in 1955. There seemed to a large, natural underground cavern, something apparently common with limestone around the world.
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Old 05-31-2011, 09:36 PM  
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Oak Island for Dummies III

Part III of the tale:

Quote:
Recent Discoveries

Daniel Blankenship, the current searcher, began his quest in 1965. In 1966 he dug out more of the original shaft found by Bob Dunfield in 1965. It turned out that the shaft did go beyond 45 feet. Blankenship found a hand-wrought nail and a washer at 60 feet. At 90 feet he met a layer of rocks in stagnant water. He assumed this was part of the south water tunnel but couldn't explore further because the shaft could not be stopped from caving in.

A pair of wrought-iron scissors were discovered in 1967 buried below the drains at Smith's Cove. It was determined that the scissors were Spanish-American, probably made in Mexico, and they were up to 300 years old. Also found was a heart shaped stone.

Smith's Cove revealed some more secrets in 1970 to Triton Alliance, a group formed by Blankenship to continue the search. While Triton was building a new cofferdam they discovered the remains of what appeared to be the original builders' cofferdam. The findings included several logs 2 feet thick and up to 65 feet long. They were marked every four feet with Roman numerals carved in them and some contained wooden pins or nails. The wood has been carbon dated to 250 years ago.

The western end of the island has also revealed several items. Two wooden structures, along with wrought-iron nails and metal straps were found at the western beach. Nine feet below the beach a pair of leather shoes were unearthed.

Borehole 10-X

The next major discoveries came in 1976 when Triton dug what is known as Borehole 10-X, a 237 foot tube of steel sunk 180 feet northeast of the Money Pit. During the digging several apparently artificial cavities were found down to 230 feet (see: drilling results).

A camera lowered down to a bedrock cavity at 230 feet returned some amazing images. At first a severed hand could be seen floating in the water. Later three chests (of the treasure type I would presume) and various tools could be made out. Finally a human body was detected.

After seeing the images, the decision was made to send divers down for a look. Several attempts were made but strong current and poor visibility made it impossible to see anything.

Soon after the hole itself collapsed and has not been reopened.

Today

Blankenship and Triton still continue the quest.
Known

Facts:

Possible dates when it could have been buried

Recnet carbon dating of wood sugests no earlier than 1500

Possibilities:

English writing

Parchment had writing on it

The "writing" is unknown - so if real then either total unknown culture OR it was a code
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Old 05-31-2011, 09:45 PM  
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Cerris Francis's Version

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There's more but you need to visit his link.

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Old 05-31-2011, 09:49 PM  
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Critical enquiry i

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History, Hoax, and Hype
The Oak Island Legend


Quote:
Preface

The attached chapters present current research into the infamous Oak Island, Nova Scotia Money Pit legend, which has intrigued treasure seekers and others for many years. A great deal of original work was conducted in libraries and archives throughtout the eastern United States, Canada, and England in order to produce this site, which offers a very different viewpoint than most works on the subject. Other writers have made the mistake of largely accepting the original tale as true without researching its early development; had they done so, it is unlikely the legend would have persisted as long as it has.

The primary objective of this work is the dissection of the legend in order to analyze each part on its own merits. It grew out of an effort in the late 1990s to review the available material and remove bogus elements added by later writers, thus exposing the core story. It had been noted the earliest available news articles (circa 1860) were very different from the tale found in modern books, most of which are poorly researched and rely solely on one another as supporting material. The progression of the legend emerged as sources from the late 19th and early 20th centuries were uncovered, showing that each generation added, altered, and removed details as it saw fit. Thus it was decided to find the earliest available material while simultaneously analyzing the historical context in which the events of 1795 (plus 1849 and 1860) occurred.

The results were startling; no documents earlier than 1849 could be found. A review of the historical context and frequency of treasure tales in New England showed a marked propensity toward belief in the presence of buried gold in every locale. This, in conjunction with certain elements found in the Money Pit tale itself, indicate the story known to us today most likely started not in 1795 or even 1804, but in the 1840s. It likely began as a scam that used the massive California gold strike of 1849 as its basis, or perhaps as a mining operation gone wrong. It is also possible an early episode of treasure-digging near Chester N.S. in the late 18th century became the foundation for the story after it was altered and enhanced by others in the 1840s. Once published as newspaper articles in the 1860s the tale took root over the next half century, finally evolving into a legend that fed off its own history and artifacts. Each generation added its own twist to the tale while certain central themes remained intact.

This is a work in progress, and material from the earliest phases of the legend's development is still being sought. It is possible some of the conclusions offered in these chapters will be rendered invalid or updated if data are uncovered from the period between 1795 and 1850. This seems unlikely given the currently available information, which suggests the Oak Island tale is simply the outgrowth of known instances of treasure manias during the latter 18th and early 19th centuries. Those who believe strongly in the legend undoubtedly will object to the results of this research; this is to be expected given the emotional and pecuniary investment made by many who find the legend compelling and, on occasion, of nearly religious significance. I am quite willing to accept critiques and evaluate additional data, as long as such discussions are based on the evidence...not on subjective opinions unsupported by fact.

Next on the agenda are chapters on the geology, archaeology, and physical evidence allegedly found on the island.

This material would not have been possible without the help of many others, including Kel Hancock (a descendent of the one and only Dan McGinnis), Dennis King, John Bartam, Allison Jornlin, and last but certainly not least my wife, Kristin, who has suffered for many years through efforts to codify and present this material.

--Richard Joltes, Aug 2006
Quote:
Chapter 1
Introduction

The hunt for the vast treasure thought to lie concealed at the bottom of the legendary Oak Island "Money Pit" has inspired generations of hopeful searchers. Each group has been convinced that they, and only they, possessed the knowledge and technical ability required to solve the puzzle and recover the treasure. On several occasions, individuals have been so convinced of the correctness of their solution and the efficiency of the available technology that they predicted recovery of the elusive treasure within a few weeks. Well known figures such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt have participated or invested in various excavations, either in hope of recovering the treasure or simply in order to satisfy a sense of adventure. Large sums of money have been invested over a documented period of roughly 150 years, with each expedition sinking shaft after shaft to increasingly remote depths in the hope that they might succeed where others failed. None have succeeded in recovering even a single gold coin from the depths, yet efforts continue to this day.
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Old 05-31-2011, 09:52 PM  
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Critical enquiry ii

Chapter I cont.:

Quote:
Groups and individuals involved in (at least) the most recent treasure recovery efforts have also been characterized by a frequently fanatical devotion to the legend; this results in a lack of objectivity and precludes acceptance of information that might jeopardize their belief in the story. Worse, the end result of such fanaticism is that contradictory material is selectively ignored or dismissed out of hand when made available; evidence that fails to support the legend's authenticity is simply not discussed and does not appear in most written material dedicated to the subject. The Money Pit is practically a religion to many of the people who have devoted their lives and, sometimes, their fortunes to its resolution. Challenges to the veracity of the archetypal version of the story, no matter how well documented or researched, are met with a storm of criticism and invective as well as, unfortunately, ad hominem attacks.

What most Oak Island "believers" do not realize, or (worse) refuse to accept, is that the tale as known today is vastly different from the version known during the 1950s, which itself barely resembled the version as described by writers between 1861 and 1863, when the first written documentation appeared in the form of newspaper articles, allegedly dictated by members of that era's treasure hunting company. Later chapters will discuss in detail the changes that have occurred and possible reasons behind these modifications.

A darker motive for the fanatical devotion described above may be related to the tale's true origins, however. As will be discussed later, the Money Pit almost certainly began as a scheme to defraud investors. Its future depends on maintaining the illusion that a treasure exists; public knowledge of the wealth of available contradictory evidence is unlikely to attract new investors.

Today's version of the legend argues for the existence of a complex series of tunnels, shafts and traps, radiating out from the Pit - from which, it is claimed, items such as pieces of chain and wood from the original construction work have been recovered. It includes a system of cleverly constructed tunnels, an "artificial beach" said to feed these tunnels with a constant flow of sea water, and huge boulders laid out in the shape of an immense Christian cross. The most recent addition involves a previously unknown set of allegedly man made horizontal tunnels, cut into bedrock some 200 feet beneath the surface and possibly leading to the nearby mainland. This follows a pattern seen throughout the evolution of the legend since its first appearance in the 1850s: each succeeding generation of treasure seekers has believed the gold lies "just out of reach" of their current excavation, and therefore concocted a new reason for their failure to retrieve it. The concept of a treasure "moving" or "sinking just out of reach" is an important component of the legend, as will be seen in subsequent chapters regarding pirate folklore and the practice of "scrying" for treasure.

A major reason for the perpetuation of folklore related to Oak Island is that every prior writer who has discussed the tale has, for the most part, blindly accepted the commonly told story as if it were documented, legitimate history. A review of the bibliographies included in most modern books on the subject reveals that few authors have examined the legend's historical context or researched any original sources; instead these writers, none of whom were trained historians or archaeologists, focused on possible solutions for the legend as it was already commonly understood. This resulted in the well known list of possible protagonists - pirates, the Knights Templar, and others - as well as a complete mythology surrounding events that, judging by the historical record, never occurred. While the lives of men such as McInnis, Smith, and Vaughan, the three "boys" who are commonly said to have found the pit, are reasonably well documented, and they are known to have lived in the area of (or on) Oak Island during the period in question, absolutely no documentary or physical evidence has yet been found confirming the events of 1795 or, for that matter, any subsequent excavations until at least the year 1849. No maps, diaries, drawings, letters, news articles, or other written materials have been uncovered - a suspicious set of circumstances given the known popularity of pirate treasure hunts during the latter 18th century and the magnitude of the work said to have been performed circa 1804.

Additionally, items such as the "oak platforms" and "inscribed stone" that comprise the legend's core have long since vanished, if indeed they ever existed. Although the stone is said to have been seen as late as 1912 (1919 by some accounts), the reputation of certain figures involved in documented excavations from roughly 1860 to the early 20th century suggests this stone was created much later than the legend claims. Conclusive evidence has been found proving the inscription depicted in modern day books, which is composed of a set of symbols commonly used in many cultures, appears in no documents dated earlier than the 1940s. This well-known set of symbols was foisted upon Edward Rowe Snow, an author who briefly discussed the Money Pit legend in his books on New England history, as the legitimate article even though Frederick Blair and other Oak Island proponents of that era knew it was a phony. That such a fraudulent inscription was then adopted and uncritically reused in subsequent publications is indicative of the minimal fact checking and research conducted by most authors who have dealt with the Money Pit legend.
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Old 05-31-2011, 09:55 PM  
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Chapter 1 conclusion

conclusion....


Quote:
Further exacerbating these errors, subsequent "discoveries" of various items in and around the pit, as well as features such as the "artificial beach," have been thoughtlessly and wrongly associated with the Money Pit legend, frequently with no supporting evidence whatsoever and no regard for their association with previous treasure excavation attempts. Everything found on Oak Island is automatically thought to represent yet another component in the "puzzle" of the original excavation, and this is simply not the case. Wishful thinking, guesswork, and accumulated folklore have combined to transform the island from the site of an alleged pirate treasure pit in the mid 19th century to a location now said to be riddled with complex flood tunnels, man-made passageways cut in bedrock hundreds of feet below the surface, and linkage with tales ranging from the Captain Kidd legend to Francis Bacon, the Knights Templar and, perhaps most comically, extraterrestrials.

It speaks volumes that the first three known (or at least alleged) attempts to excavate the Money Pit occurred during periods of intense interest in buried treasure of one type or another. The first phase, from 1795 through at least 1804, fell precisely within a period of pirate treasure mania that raged across Nova Scotia and New England. An 1849 excavation exactly parallels the California gold rush that broke out during the same year. The work conducted in 1861, the first mentioned by sources not directly tied to the excavation company, closely correlates with news of the Colorado gold rush at Pike's Peak - not to mention the first Nova Scotia gold rush, that began in roughly 1860.

No matter whether the 1861-63 news articles represent an accurate history or a fabrication, the dates noted in the previous paragraph are suspicious since it is common for criminals and con artists to capitalize on the mania produced by events such as gold strikes. Many vulnerable, often starry-eyed investors are available during such periods, and it would be a simple matter to entice them into investing in a potentially valuable treasure when newspapers are filled with stories of rich returns and wealthy investors. The level of interest in Nova Scotia at this time can be gauged by the fact that a short article in an 1861 Liverpool [N.S.] Transcript newspaper entitled "The Oak Island Folly" was found alongside others called "The Gold Diggings: Tangier" and "The Lunenburg Gold Diggings." Both described the progress made in these areas, the amount of gold being produced, and prospective future yields. This shows that gold fever was strongly in the minds of local residents at this time; such a situation is ideal for the creation of a fraudulent pirate treasure legend on Oak Island.

Either the 1795-1804 events actually occurred as part of an earlier fraud created by McInnis and friends, by others who misused their names, or the writers of the 1860s era articles created the story from their own imaginations in order to lend an air of respectability to their efforts. Without contemporary documentation from these periods, it will never be known whether the earlier events occurred and, if so, if the 19th century news articles represent accurate accounts.



Oak Island shore, showing oak trees (circa 1930)

The Oak Island legend of today is the direct descendent of a type of fantasy originally crafted by religious charlatans and tricksters who parlayed a strong local belief in the presence of pirate treasure into an ongoing hoax that brought them, if not large fortunes, at least a comfortable living. Such men profited from the legend they invented, while the shares they sold to finance their ventures became worthless. Many were related by blood or marriage, and strong familial ties have emerged through research into the histories of individuals who played key roles in the early popularization of the story. These families included men who, like others who prowled the northeastern USA and eastern Canada in the early 19th century, claimed the ability to find buried treasure using supernatural methods involving "seeing stones" and "rods."

A close examination of the available historical materials, often in the form of documents written by men such as J.B. McCully, Charles Archibald, and John Pitblado (who are now thought to be the primary architects of the original hoax) also reveal many internal inconsistencies that call into question the story's legitimacy. Statements made by these men in the 1890s contradict those found in documents written in, for instance the 1860s. For example, the Sales Prospectus of the Oak Island Treasure Company, written by J.B. McCully in 1893, states "The funds of this company in the meantime having been exhausted nothing was practically done that we are aware of until 1863." This contradicts a statement found in a newspaper article entitled "The Oak Island Folly" published in 1861: "[m]en have been diligently at work, nearly every Summer, for the last ten or twelve years, on Oak Island, near Chester Basin, in search for treasure supposed to have been buried by Captain Kidd, a noted pirate, a century ago" (italics mine).

The following chapter explores the problematic nature of research into legends such as Oak Island, where historical data have been corrupted or overlain by folklore and poor documentation. Subsequent material presents the historical context in which the legend was invented, as well as the available physical evidence, both geological and archaeological, and how both were misused to perpetuate the legend. The lack of direct evidence regarding the earliest components of the story, i.e. those said to have occurred prior to 1860, prevents us from making a definitive statement regarding the exact date when the hoax was created. The wanton destruction of archaeological evidence by treasure hunting groups in the immediate area of the original Pit similarly prevents a firm determination of exactly what, if anything, existed on the site prior to known excavation attempts. However, the available documentary and physical evidence is more than sufficient to demonstrate the Pit is a hoax, or at best a piece of runaway folklore that now feeds on its own past, despite the claims of believers who willfully ignore or deride efforts to prove otherwise. That these believers choose to ignore such data suggests their own complicity in maintaining the illusion that a treasure lies buried beneath the island.
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Old 05-31-2011, 09:57 PM  
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Chapter 2

Chapter 2
The Problem of Legend And History

Quote:
?This site also demonstrates one of the great dangers of archeology, not to life and limb, although that does sometimes take place, I'm talking about folklore?? - Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark

The most problematic aspect of research into tales such as Oak Island involves the level of historicity, or historical authenticity, that can be deduced from available sources. If the existence of an event, person, or place is unsupported from a historian?s point of view ? i.e. little or no reliable evidence can be found in the historical record to confirm whether an event occurred, it may be considered ahistorical.

It should be noted that, while laypersons use the terms myth, legend, and folktale almost interchangeably, folklorists consider each a specific subtype with identifiable characteristics. The Oak Island tale falls most closely into the legend category, which is identified as follows:

Legends are prose narratives that, like myths, are regarded as having happened in some historic or remembered time by their narrators and the audience.
? legends are set in a less remote period than myth, when the world was something like we know it today
? they tend to be more secular than sacred (though there are many legends about religious figures like saints)-their principal characters are human
? legendary topics include migrations, wars and victories, tales about past heroes, succession in dynasty or family, and so forth
? they are the verbal counterpart of written history, but also contain unverifiable elements like buried treasure, fairies, ghosts, saints, and other topics[1]

It must also be remembered that none of these terms are in any way pejorative or insulting. While someone may use the phrase "oh, that's just a myth" conversationally when making a disparaging remark about a story, the folklorist makes no such judgement. It is not necessary for a legend or myth to be false, and indeed many such tales contain kernels of fact and verifiable detail. This is what makes legends believable ? the listener identifies known locations, people, or events that lend credence to the story. But as mentioned above, a legend nearly always contains unverifiable and frequently fantastic elements. The Oak Island story also contains elements of folklore, such as the claims that "strange lights and fires" gave the island a reputation of being haunted, and that men who rowed to investigate such sightings failed to return.

The story also contains kernels of fact, such as the "artificial beach" (a real and interesting feature that deserves proper study by qualified industrial archaeologists) and many of the documented events occurring after roughly 1865. It is the earlier material (from 1795 to 1860) that is problematic and currently ahistorical, as will be demonstrated below. As this is the core of the legend upon which all later elements depend, the whole premise of the treasure hunt is placed on shaky ground.

The first problem is that no primary sources ? contemporary, first-hand evidence such as letters, plans, sketches, journals, or even news articles ? have been discovered that describe the initial events said to have occurred prior to 1860. As will be discussed in subsequent chapters, the first evidence of a treasure hunt on the island does not emerge until 1849 ? a single document involving the grant of a treasure hunting license. Detailed accounts of events prior to 1860 were not published until 1861-63. This is disturbing, since an event as unusual as the discovery of a deeply excavated shaft with a mysteriously ?inscribed? stone at the bottom and wooden platforms every ten feet should have found its way into news articles or other media soon after the first major excavation allegedly occurred circa 1804-05. Its failure to make such an appearance is not damning on its own, but it is unusual.

The delay in publication also presents an additional problem. A significant time lag between an event and the creation of a written account describing it introduces the need for caution, since observers? memories are certain to change over time. Details are lost or jumbled, others are added as the tale is passed from one person to another. First person, eyewitness accounts are just as likely to become confused over time; only if multiple accounts containing similar details are available (that hopefully match the physical evidence) can these be trusted. Even if the event did occur in some form, an account written decades later is certain to contain fabrications, errors, omissions, and other flaws.

The probability of invented evidence being introduced into the Oak Island tale is high for other reasons. Many authors, especially those who produced early accounts of the treasure hunt, had a vested interest in preserving and perpetuating the tale. It is also likely one or more men invented the story out of whole cloth in an effort to hoax or swindle unsuspecting investors, since treasure related hoaxes were very popular in the early 19th century.
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Old 05-31-2011, 09:59 PM  
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Chapter 2 continued

Chapter 2 continued

Quote:
The subject matter itself ? a supposedly vast buried treasure ? is one that invariably involves wild claims and invented details unsupported by objective evidence. It also involves romanticized notions of hidden wealth, secrecy, and discovery that lend the topic to even more invention of detail. Fantastic tales, whether related to treasure, the supernatural, or other events, must always be treated with suspicion by the historian unless a great deal of confirmatory evidence is available. Large portions of the Oak Island tale are also peculiar or unique ? in particular, the claim that an extensive set of excavations and flood tunnels was constructed there, and that no other site exhibiting similar features is known to exist elsewhere.

Additionally, many features and artifacts said to have been found on the island - the inscribed stone, pieces of chain recovered from the depths, bits of wood, or the so-called ?Spanish? shoe, can be more readily explained by invention, misinterpretation, or mistaken identification. The men who are said to have found these and other objects had fixed expectations regarding the island and its history: they were psychologically predisposed to associate items found in the vicinity of the excavation (and, indeed, across the whole island) with the legendary treasure. Often there was no reason for such associations to be made, and in other cases much more prosaic explanations existed for the presence of certain objects.

For instance, the chain and other artifacts said to have been found buried in the shaft were almost certainly debris that fell into the depths during one of many recorded collapses or floods caused by earlier excavation attempts. Expedition after expedition sank dozens of shafts and horizontal connecting tunnels, largely unrecorded, during the mid 19th century; many of these collapsed or were filled with debris after they were abandoned. Later excavations have since recovered bits of debris from earlier attempts and mistakenly claimed these represented evidence of the "original" excavation. Finds made by these men provided confirmation of preconceived beliefs, justifying their emotional and monetary investment in the validity of the treasure tale.

Taylor cites another historian, Whitney R. Cross, to describe those personality characteristics necessary to early Yankees' emotional investment in treasure related tales.

[T]hey were credulous in a particular way: they believed only upon evidence. Their observation, to be sure, was often inaccurate and usually incomplete, but when they arrived at a conclusion by presumably foolproof processes their adherence to it was positively fanatic.

Cross' description, it should be said, is also extremely accurate when describing subsequent generations of treasure hunters even to the present day. Taylor also supplies a description of early treasure hunting that exactly parallels the evolution of the Oak Island tale: "[p]ersistent failure and insistent belief progressively promoted evermore complex techniques and tools in the search for treasure. Unwilling to surrender their treasure beliefs, seekers concluded that they needed more sophisticated methods. They remained confident that, by trial and error, they would ultimately obtain the right combination of conductor, equipment, time, magic circle, and ritual." [2] It is only necessary to remove references to magic circles when describing modern day treasure hunters, though they continue to rely on supernatural means in order to determine the most likely place to dig.

The Oak Island story is analogous to many other legends involving buried treasure, and such tales are prone to cross-pollination of story elements. Elements of the Money Pit story that may be found in other tales of buried treasure include those described below.

The Marker

The pulley in the tree, the "stone triangle" said to point to the location of the Pit, and the "inscribed stone" allegedly found at the ninety foot level fulfill the role of the " ?X? marks the spot" motif found in other tales of treasure.

We also find mention of "marks" denoting treasure sites in period literature. For instance, according to Taylor "a 1729 Philadelphia newspaper essay by Benjamin Franklin and Joseph Breitnal described local treasure seeking's extent: [...] They wander thro' the Woods and Bushes by Day to discover the Marks and Signs; at Midnight they repair to the hopeful spot with Spades and Pickaxes." [3]

Mysterious Location

Later versions of the Money Pit story talk of lights and fires on the island, and the disappearance of local men who attempted to investigate these events. These elements do not appear in early versions of the story, thus providing yet another example of the amount of alteration and fabrication that occurred over time. This represents an attempt to justify the initial belief in the presence of treasure on the island, since many pirate tales (both historically accurate and fictional) involve men landing in remote locations to bury their gold under cover of darkness.

Repeated, failed recovery attempts

This is especially critical, since the tradition of treasure hunting makes especially strong use of imagery involving recovery efforts that fail at the last minute due to some error on the part of the excavators. This imagery is used repeatedly in the case of the Money Pit legend, where numerous groups were said to have been ?just that close? to recovering the treasure before it was snatched away.

Famous associations

In the early days of the Money Pit legend, the famous pirate Kidd was considered the primary architect of the treasure shaft. Later, once it became known his travels did not include this area of Nova Scotia and his treasure hoard was small, his name disappeared from the tale and was replaced with the generic term "pirate." Later writers introduced the Knights Templar, Francis Bacon, and other famous names into the story, frequently with no supporting evidence whatsoever.
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Old 05-31-2011, 10:01 PM  
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Chapter 2 conclusion

conclusion.....

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Traps and impediments

The flooding system said to lie beneath the island represents the primary impediment, aside from the sheer depth of the shaft itself. Water often represents a barrier to treasure recovery, as may be seen in tales of half-flooded caves that can only be reached at certain times of the day or month or stories in which an almost-recovered chest sinks back into quicksand or mud at the last moment.

Involvement of Children

While modern versions of the Oak Island tale use the imagery of children ("boys on an adventure" in many cases) wandering the island and stumbling across the tree and chain, the original story used no such motif; the men said to have found the Money Pit site were adults who owned land on the island. Other treasure-related tales tell of children finding some tell-tale mark that was missed by adults, and the motif of the clever child who locates or holds the key to recovery of an item unobtainable by adults is very common in pirate treasure tales. For example:

It was after the turn of the century when a boat put in, one evening, at Cold Spring Bay, and next morning the inhabitants found footprints leading to and from a spot where some children had discovered a knotted rope projecting from the soil. Something had been removed, for the mould of a large box was visible at the bottom of a pit. [italics mine] [2]

In the above case, the children's discovery of a "knotted rope" was apparently ignored by adults, who only later realized its significance after the pirate treasure was recovered and spirited away under cover of darkness.

Numerous cases have been discovered in which authors introduced a similar story element into fictional works based on the Money Pit tale, which may explain how the original tale of adults finding the site was transformed into an event involving children. James DeMille, a Canadian author and historian whose involvement in the Oak Island tale is not yet fully understood, made use of this motif in his book The Treasure Of The Seas (1872), as well as Old Garth: A Story Of Sicily and possibly in other contexts as yet undiscovered.



Fig. 1: frontispiece from DeMille's The Treasure Of The Seas, showing a young boy chatting with a sailor (courtesy canadiana.org)

Breaking a spell

Many treasure recovery folktales include admonitions involving specific activities during the excavation effort. Often a prohibition against speaking or crossing a magic circle drawn around the site is broken, causing the nearly-recovered treasure to "sink out of sight" or a guardian spirit to awaken. The Money Pit tale includes an element involving excavators driving an iron bar into the bottom of the Pit every evening; the last time this rite is performed, they strike what they believe is a treasure chest several feet below and tap on it repeatedly using the bar. The next day, the pit is filled with water. Various authors have asserted that "those taps on the chest loosened some stopper" and caused the water trap to be sprung ? this action caused the ?spell? to be broken and the treasure to be lost by invoking a "guardian" (in the guise of the flood system) to protect the treasure. Indeed, the term "tapping" or "rapping" is often associated with the presence of spirits or poltergeists in Spiritualist and other supernatural lore.

[this chapter is still under construction...more soon.]

[1] Fair, Susan, Lecture notes for English 248A, spring semester, 2002

[2] Taylor, Alan, The Early Republic's Supernatural Economy: Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast, 1780-1830. American Quarterly, Vol 38, No 1. Spring 1986, p. 15.

[3] Taylor, Alan, Treasure Seeking in the American Northeast, 1780-1830 p. 17.

[4] Skinner, Charles, Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land vol 9
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Old 05-31-2011, 10:03 PM  
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Critical enquiry iii

Chapter 3...........

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Chapter 3
Early History, to 1865

It is difficult to determine which, if any, details of the early exploration of Oak Island are historically accurate. A dearth of documentary and other evidence from the period between the alleged discovery of the site in 1795 and roughly 1860 is at least troubling since, such a mysterious find should have generated at least some interest in the press. It should also have found its way into the detailed diaries commonly written and published by travelers during this period, but has not (with one exception). There's a high probability the early Money Pit tale is either simple folklore or a hoax that persisted and grew due to its mysterious nature and the strong appeal such tales have within popular culture. The chance of a hoax is even higher due to cultural conditions in both Nova Scotia and the United States that predisposed citizens toward a belief in the existence of pirate and other treasures beneath their feet. People living in isolated, rural areas were poor and uneducated, and thus open to exploitation by scam artists and other charlatans who seized upon local beliefs in buried treasure. Such men (and women) claimed a supernatural ability to locate buried objects for a fee, and often seem to have created a market for their abilities by starting rumors of local treasure. This chapter examines the earliest known documents relating to the Money Pit tale, and discusses the cultural conditions that contributed to the development of the legend.

First, let's recount the earliest and most critical details of the legend as most commonly told.

Accounts usually begin with Daniel McInnis (or McGinnis), often said to have been a boy in 1795, who was exploring the island when he noticed an old ship's pulley hanging from the sawn-off branch of an oak tree. In some accounts he is described as having "rowed to the island in search of adventure" when he encountered the items noted above. Beneath the pulley, a sunken circle of earth variously described as eight to fourteen feet in diameter led him to believe he had stumbled across the site where Captain Kidd buried his riches. McInnis is said to have recruited two friends named Vaughn and Smith, with whose assistance he excavated the depression. They are said to have found platforms of worked oak beams at ten, twenty, and thirty feet. They abandoned their efforts due to a lack of resources, and the spot lay untouched until 1803 (1804 in some accounts) when a group of investors known as the Onslow Company, led by a wealthy man named Simeon Lynds, re-excavated the shaft to a depth of ninety feet. They are said to have found "marks" of some type every ten feet. They continued digging, finally reaching ninety-five feet where they claimed to have found an "inscribed stone" bearing mysterious marks.

Each day, before work ceased, they are said to have driven an iron bar into the bottom of the pit to determine if anything solid lay below. At ninety-eight feet the work was abandoned for the day, and at this point it is said the iron bar had revealed the presence of another platform a few feet below the bottom of the excavation. According to some accounts the men left work in order to attend church services, while others simply state that they were to return the next day. However the shaft filled with water overnight, just before they were ready to retrieve the wooden chests that seemed to lie beneath their feet. Efforts to extract the water were unsuccessful, and the site was again abandoned.

Later, a group known as the Truro Syndicate, said to have included Lynds and Vaughn, re-excavated the site in the 1848-49 timeframe and again found nothing but some "ancient" looking wood and "three links from a gold chain, possibly forced from an epaulette." These artifacts are said to have been brought to the surface by an auger bit drilled into the bottom of the pit. During this period several additional shafts and cross-tunnels were sunk around the original pit; all are said to have encountered the same problem with water infiltration as the original shaft was approached. On several occasions diggers were nearly killed by sudden "blow out" events, when water erupted into the excavation, filling the shafts with mud and debris, forcing the workmen to flee for their lives.

As outlined in the first chapter however, nothing in the account above is supported either by available physical evidence or the historical record. No contemporary accounts exist to corroborate any such activity and none of the artifacts said to have been found were preserved -- including the chain links, the inscribed stone, and the oak platforms that comprise the core of the legend. It is claimed that a piece of parchment currently in the posssession of treasure hunter Daniel Blankenship is the original fragment brought up by the drill during the 1848-49 excavation. However it is impossible to confirm the authenticity of this artifact. Even if someone produced the other items today, there is no way to determine if they were actually discovered during these early excavations; they are "out of context" from an archaeological point of view and therefore of dubious value.

The first published note mentioning the excavations appeared in print only in 1857, a short comment by a traveler who briefly visited the abandoned site and mentioned the debris he found there. This is the only "diary entry" by a traveler that has been discovered in the historical record. Prior to this date, the only fragment of evidence involves a single note, dated 1849, giving permission to dig for treasure on the island to members of that era's treasure syndicate.

Next, in 1861 and 1863 accounts of the early activities were published in the British Colonist and Liverpool Transcript newspapers - over half a century after the events allegedly occurred. The 1863 article was written by an anonymous author who claimed membership in one of the prior syndicates involved in recovery of the treasure. The other was by J.B. McCully, who was involved in the 1849 efforts. We know this since the 1849 note mentions his name specifically.

An additional article from 1861 entitled "The Oak Island Folly" treated an excavation then underway with some derision. It also provided details, not mentioned in other articles, which are important to our understanding of the formation of the legend. The first is that "according to the theory on which these deluded people are proceeding - the money had been buried and sluices or communications with the sea, so constructed, that the localities of the treasure was [sic] flooded, while the vicinity was comparatively dry" [1] [italics mine]. This latter statement appears to be the prototype for later claims that the flooding of the excavation was due to the presence of man-made flood tunnels since, it was claimed, the island is composed solely of "hard clay soils" that would not permit natural flooding. This claim is completely inaccurate, as will be seen when the geology of the island is discussed in more detail.
Chapter 3 — Early History to 1865
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