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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4 Finale: Blood is Thicker

Wow! What a way to end the season! Read on for a Plot Summary of the Season 4 Finale of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island. Although I could have included an Analysis at the end of this article as I usually do, speculating as to the nature of the mysterious discoveries made in this episode, I imagine many of our questions will be answered in The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down episode scheduled to air next week. See you then!

Plot Summary

The episode begins at the Money Pit, where the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. are sinking a fourth shaft, dubbed GAL1 (George and Anne Lagina #1) in honour of Rick and Marty’s late parents. Craig Tester, upon observing the hand-hewn wooden timbers being extracted from the shaft, expresses his belief to Rick Lagina that they might have intersected a searcher tunnel constructed in 1861 by the Oak Island Association, which connected the ‘Oak Island Association Shaft #2’ with the Money Pit, located 18 feet to the east.

oak island money pit map

Meanwhile, on Oak Island’s Lot 18, Marty Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, and metal detection expert Gary Drayton sift through the debris brought up from GAL1 with a metal detector. In time, Drayton discovers what he believes to be an iron sailing cloth needle, used for sewing canvas sails. Shortly thereafter, he discovers a gold-plated military officer’s button. The narrator reminds us that this find is congruent with Oak Island Tours Inc.’s discoveries in Season 4, Episode 8, which included a dandy button, a lead ingot used for making musket balls, an identificatory plate from a musket, and six copper coins bearing the image of King George II of Great Britain- items suggesting that Oak Island’s subterranean anomalies are the work of 18th Century British military men.

Later that day, the Oak Island crew is visited by sisters Jean and Joan McGinnis, descendants of Daniel McGinnis, one of the three co-discoverers of the Money Pit. This is not the McGinnis sisters’ first Oak Island adventure; in Season 3, Episode 13, Jean and Joan, along with their late sister Joyce, paid a visit to the island, where they presented the Oak Island team with a small gold cross allegedly discovered by Daniel McGinnis in the Money Pit more than 200 years ago.

Jean and Joan have come to Oak Island to honour the memory of their late sister Joyce. Rick Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Jack Begley accompany the sisters to the foundations of the old McGinnis home on the western end of Oak Island. There, beneath one of the foundations stones, they inter a bauble of colourful blown glass crafted from Joyce’s ashes.

Later, the party heads to the Oak Island Visitor’s Centre, where art and antiquities expert Dr. Lori Verderame examines the McGinnis sisters’ gold cross. After careful scrutiny, Dr. Verderame concludes that the cross is composed of high quality (22-24 carat) rose gold, and was likely cast in the Spanish West Indies sometime between 1550 and 1700. She also states that the purpose of the cross’s many holes was to house emeralds. The narrator follows up on this revelation by summarizing the theory that Oak Island’s underground workings are attributable to the crew of a Spanish treasure galleon, and that the Oak Island treasure consists of silver, gold, precious stones, and other New World riches.

Next, Rick Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Charles Barkhouse ask Dr. Verderame to appraise additional historical artifacts they have unearthed on Oak Island. Verderame quickly concludes that the identifactory musket plate discovered in Season 4, Episode 8 is inscribed with the name ‘Ball’, indicating that it likely belonged to Samuel Ball, the one-time Oak Island resident and Revolutionary War veteran on whose property the item was discovered. Verderame also examines the railroad spike-like object Gary Drayton discovered in the Oak Island swamp in Season 4, Episode 7, which Drayton claimed to be a nail from the deck of a wooden sailing ship. Dr. Verderame claims that she will need to examine this object more closely before she can accurately speculate as to its nature.

The following day, Marty Lagina and Craig Tester meet with contractor Andrew Folkins of Irving Equipment Ltd. at the Money Pit site. Folkins informs the two treasure hunters that Borehole GAL1 has been excavated to a depth of 151 feet, and that it has, thus far, encountered nothing of interest aside from a handful of wood fragments.

On Oak Island’s Lot 18, Dave Blankenship, Jack Begley, and Gary Drayton examine more of the spoils from GAL1. After searching for some time, they discover a piece of hammered metal sheet bearing a small square hole.

Back at the Money Pit area, Marty Lagina and Craig Tester watch as the men of Irving Equipment Ltd. bring up load after load from Borehole GAL1. As Rick Lagina joins the men, the hammergrab being used to excavate the shaft emerges from the caisson with large wooden timbers in its jaws. A subsequent hammergrab scoop reveals more of the same. However, the timbers from this second scoop appear to be coated in a viscous black substance which Marty suggests is resin or pine tar.

Shortly after Dave Blankenship joins the crew, the hammergrab emerges from the caisson with a sizable sheet of hammered metal. Every crew member present is dumbfounded by this strange new discovery. Craig Tester suggests that perhaps the metal- which was brought up from a depth of 154 feet- is a remnant of a protective cover used in conjunction with the Onslow or Truro Company’s cast iron steam-powered pumps. Veteran treasure hunter Dave Blankenship states that the metal scrap”has no business being down there that I know of.”

The next load from GAL1 contains similar metal scraps. It also contains a piece of charcoal, one of the items allegedly discovered in the original Money Pit by the Onslow Company in 1804, along with coconut fibre, clay putty, and beach stones. The narrator reminds us that, over the years, some Oak Island researchers have postulated that the charcoal discovered in the Money Pit are relics of a subterranean furnace which the original excavators used to draw fresh air into the shaft.

Upon hearing of the new discoveries, Marty Lagina joins the crew. He examines the metal scraps, and theorizes that they might comprise the impenetrable iron object encountered at a depth of 171 feet (161 feet today, as a result of Robert Dunfield’s heavy duty operations in the late 1960’s) by the Oak Island Treasure Company in 1897.

As members of Oak Island Tours Inc. speculate as to the nature of the mysterious metal sheets, Andrew Folkins informs them that the GAL1 caisson has encountered an impenetrable substance and is no longer advancing into the earth. After some deliberation, the crew agrees that they ought to attempt to break up the impenetrable substance with a 4-ton chisel bit, and then excavate the broken rubble with the hammergrab.

While the crew waits for Irving Equipment Ltd. to perform the chisel bit operation, Rick Lagina, Jack Begley, Charles Barkhouse, and Dan Blankenship meet with Dr. Lori Verderame at Blankenship’s Oak Island residence. There, Dr. Verderame informs the men the spike discovered by Gary Drayton in the Oak Island swamp is, as Drayton predicted, a wrought iron barrote nail of the type commonly used in the construction of Spanish galleon decks. She dates the artifact to between 1575 and 1600.

Back at the Money Pit, Marty Lagina and Craig Tester watch as the men of Irving Equipment Ltd. prepare to continue excavating GAL1 with a smaller hammergrab. The narrator informs us that the chisel bit operation sufficiently loosened the earth below the 154-foot level to allow it to be excavated with a smaller hammergrab, but that the caisson will still not advance any deeper.

The first load brought up from GAL1 with the smaller hammergrab contains a thick, bent, perforated steel rectangle which Craig Tester believes to be a “corner plate”. This load also contains a large rusted steel washer which is congruent with the corner plate’s perforations. Additional loads from GAL1 contain primitive-looking steel nuts, screws, and other interesting metal objects.

Suddenly, during a retrieval operation, the hammergrab snags on some sort of underground obstacle. After some maneuvering by crane operator Michel Ouellette, the hammergrab breaks free and is winched to the surface. Loathe to damage the hammergrab or further jeopardize the structural integrity of the underground object they seem to have discovered, the Oak Island team decides to wrap up operations in Borehole GAL1.

Three days later, the Oak Island crew congregates at the War Room. There, they contact Dr. Lori Verderame via Skype. Verderame informs the team that the button discovered in GAL1 is, indeed, a gold-plated button which bears the characteristics of British military officer buttons used between 1775 and 1815. She goes on to claim that the bent, perforated steel rectangle brought up from GAL1 is a decorative bracket “used to actually attach the metal or wooden sides of treasure chests”. She maintains that the nature of this artifact- dated from 1650-1800-, along with other pieces of metal brought up from GAL1, seems to imply that the men who buried treasure on Oak Island used recycled ship materials to construct their treasure chest. The team thanks Dr. Verderame for her work and ends the call.

After the call, the men of Oak Island Tours Inc., cognizant of the rapid approach of winter and the end of another season on Oak Island, discuss what they would like to accomplish in the future. Rick proposes that the team conduct a rigorous metallurgical analyses of the metal brought up from GAL1- a proposal to which Marty agrees wholeheartedly. Craig Tester then expresses his desire to further explore the Oak Island swamp- an endeavor which Marty is less keen on pursuing, but which both Rick and Charles support. Jack Begley then maintains that he would like to continue excavations on Smith’s Cove in light of their recent discoveries there.

Marty Lagina commends the team on their incredible discoveries this season, and asks whether or not they think it is “prudent to continue”. Dan Blankenship advises the team to spend the winter contemplating that question, and recommends that they “take sufficient time to analyze the pros and cons” before making a decision. Marty, Craig, and Rick agree to consider Blankenship’s advice, while Charles and Dan passionately implore their fellow team members to not give up the search. In the end, the team agrees to “adjourn for the season and contemplate what comes next.” With that, the season is ended.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 14: Of Sticks and Stones

This week’s episode of The Curse of Oak Island is out. Let’s have a look.

Plot Summary

At the Money Pit area, brothers Rick and Marty Lagina examine fragments of wood that have just been brought up from the 100-102-foot depth of their newest shaft, Borehole T1. Of particular interest is a small oak log, a sample of which has been sent away for carbon testing. Rick suggests that the log might be a component of the oak platforms allegedly found in the original Money Pit at 10-foot intervals more than 200 years ago.

The Lagina brothers consult contractor Andrew Folkins of Irving Equipment Ltd., who tells them that Borehole T1 is currently 112 feet deep, and that he and his team plan to excavate to the 160-foot level. The contractors continue their work, hauling up another load of debris from T1 which contains yet another small oak log.

While the men of Irving Equipment Ltd. continue their work, Marty Lagina reveals that the crew brought up a peculiar piece of worked wood from Borehole T1. This piece of wood, which Marty speculates is a hardwood on account of its density, is fashioned into a wedge, and is unlike any other piece of wood the team has extracted from the Money Pit area.

After Irving Equipment Ltd. shuts down operations for the day due to uncomfortably proximate lightning, Rick and Marty pay a visit to Dan Blankenship. At Blankenship’s Oak Island residence, the Lagina brothers present the veteran treasure hunter with the various pieces of wood brought up from Borehole T1. Blankenship sniffs several of the dark oak logs, finds them to be foul-smelling, and concludes that they are, indeed, considerably old.

Later, Rick Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, and Jack Begley invite stone masons Mike Welling and Mark Fougere to inspect the large, head-shaped boulder unearthed from the centre of Nolan’s Cross (a cross-like arrangement of five conical boulders on Oak Island) by the late Oak Island treasure hunter Fred Nolan. The top of the stone bears a cutlass-shaped indentation which Barkhouse claims was much more defined when he first laid eyes on it twenty years ago. Welling and Fougere declare that the stone is sandstone, and that it is “difficult to say” whether or not it was shaped by man.

nolans cross map

After they have finished with the ‘head stone’, the treasure hunters take Welling and Fougere to the large granite boulder at the bottom of Nolan’s cross. The stone masons immediately marvel at the smoothness of a particular section the boulder’s surface, near its base. Mike Welling remarks “I don’t think it’s natural at all.” The stone masons suggest that it is possible that the boulder’s smoothness is a result of its being dragged.

Later that day, members of Oak Island Tours Inc. meet in the War Room. There, Craig Tester briefs them on the results of the carbon dating of the wood brought up from Borehole T1. The first piece of wood, a fragment of timber brought up from the 102-foot level, was dated from 1670-1780 with a 95% degree of accuracy. The second fragment of wood was dated from 1655-1695. The third and final piece of wood, a length of blackened oak log, was also carbon dated from 1655-1695. The team members share their suspicions that the oak log might be a piece of one of the original Money Pit platforms, and discuss the implications of this possibility.

Later, at the Money Pit area, Rick and Marty Lagina learn that Borehole T1 has nearly reached bedrock. Unfortunately, aside from fragments of old wood, nothing more of interest has been brought up from the shaft. After watching the hammergrab bring up several loads of rock, clay, mud, and water, the Lagina brothers concede that things are looking bleak for Borehole T1.

Suddenly, the Oak Island team is approached by Andrew Folkins, who explains that the men of Irving Equipment Ltd. are unable to advance the T1 caisson beyond the 156-foot level. Marty suggests that perhaps the caisson has encountered metal. The narrator then describes how previous treasure hunters, including William Chappell and Frederick Blair of the Oak Island Treasure Company, had encountered what appeared to be impenetrable iron barriers at depth. Unfortunately, a subsequent hammergrab investigation reveals Oak Island Tours Inc.’s impenetrable object to be bedrock. With great reluctance, the team decides to put an end to excavations in Borehole T1.

Later, at the War Room, Rick and Marty Lagina phone up Craig Tester in order to discuss their predicament. Marty begins by saying, “Well, by this time you are aware that we have now dug three very deep, very expensive, very large holes in the Money Pit, but no vault, no treasure.” He says that Oak Island has dealt them three strikes, and that if their Oak Island treasure hunt were a baseball game, they would be ‘out’. Rick counters by saying that the analogy would be relevant if they were in the ‘bottom of the ninth’; according to Rick, Oak Island Tours Inc. is, in fact, in the bottom of the eight inning, figuratively speaking. For some time, the brothers passionately discuss whether or not they ought to wrap up their affairs in the Money Pit area. Ultimately, Rick, Marty and Craig agree to sink one last shaft at the location at which Rick believes the Money Pit treasure to be. The Lagina brothers preemptively christen this new shaft “the George and Anne Lagina #1”, or GAL1, in honour of their parents.

Rick explains that, according to accepted Oak Island history, the original Money Pit shaft collapsed two times in the last 200 years. These collapses, he believes, likely scattered the Money Pit treasure throughout a relatively wide area, and he would like to sink Oak Island Tours Inc.’s fourth shaft in the location at which it will most likely intercept treasure fragments. The narrator then describes how the Oak Island Association, in 1861, dug a shaft beside the Money Pit and tunneled laterally towards it in order to avoid the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. Unfortunately, this tunnel undermined the structural integrity of the entire Money Pit area; before the tunnel reached its destination, the Money Pit itself collapsed, immediately flooding the tunnel with mud and clay. Ever since this first collapse of the Money Pit, many Oak Island theorists have speculated that the Oak Island treasure is dispersed throughout the Money Pit area.

Later, the Lagina brothers relay their decision to sink a fourth shaft to Andrew Folkins. The men mark the location of the future borehole with spray paint and prepare to sink their final hole.


Oak Logs

In this episode, the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. brought up a number of old oak logs from Borehole T1. When the logs were carbon dated from 1655-1695, crew members speculated that they might be relics of the 10-foot oak log platforms allegedly discovered in the original Money Pit.

According to many versions of the 1795 Oak Island discovery legend, Daniel McGinnis, John Smith, and Anthony Vaughan unearthed three platforms comprised of tightly-fitted oak logs embedded into the clay walls of the Money Pit at 10, 20, and 30 feet below the surface. Most sources claim that the oak logs were six to eight inches in diameter, and were rotten on the outside, indicating that they had been there for some time before the discovery.

Building uponMcGinnis’, Smith’s, and Vaughan’s discovery, the Onslow Company’s (Oak Island’s first real treasure hunting syndicate) excavations revealed that platforms of oak logs embedded in the clay walls that surrounded them punctuated the circular shaft of the Money Pit to a depth of 90 feet. According to some accounts, covering some of the oak platforms were layers of charcoal, beach stones, blue clay, and coconut fibres.

Nolan’s Head Stone

In 1981, Oak Island treasure hunter Fred Nolan, a professional surveyor, discovered five large cone-shaped granite boulders on his property which, when viewed from the air, form a massive cross- Nolan’s Cross. Nolan also discovered a sixth stone buried underground at the centre of this cross. This sixth stone, composed of softer sandstone, vaguely resembles a human head, and bears a cutlass-shaped indentation on its crown. To date, no one is really sure whether the stone’s peculiar features are the result of natural erosion or the hand of man.

The measurements between Nolan’s head stone and the four granite boulders that surround it are all exactly the same: precisely 360 feet.

Money Pit Collapse

In this episode, Rick Lagina states his belief that the Money Pit treasure is scattered at depth as a result of two major Money Pit collapses.

money pit daigram

The Money Pit first collapsed in 1850. The men of the Truro Company, Oak Island’s second major treasure-hunting syndicate, had just discovered the box drains at Smith’s Cove, and were determined to circumvent the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel (which’s existence the box drains implied). They dug a shaft 18 feet south of the Money Pit to a depth of 112 feet before tunneling laterally towards the Money Pit. Unfortunately, this shaft flooded with seawater once it came within a short distance of its destination. The flooding was accompanied by a tremendous crash and the crumpling of the cribbing in the Money Pit, leading the company men to speculate that the bottom of the Money Pit had likely dropped out into one of the three tunnels below it. This unfortunate development spelled the end of the Truro Company.

More than a decade later, in 1861, members of the Oak Island Association encountered a similar situation. Cognizant of the presence of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel, the Oak Island Association members sank a 118-foot shaft 18 feet west of the Money Pit (the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel almost certainly approached the Money Pit from the east) before tunneling laterally towards it. Much to the pleasure of the Association men, the tunnel reached the Pit without being flooded out; the circumvention was a success.

With the elusive treasure nowhere to be seen at that 118-foot depth, the labourers dug through the Money Pit to the eastern side. This decision would cost them dearly; as soon as they had breached the eastern wall of the Money Pit, water began to seep in from the east. In no time, the shaft was completely flooded with seawater. To make matters worse, crew men noticed that water was also starting to seep into the Money Pit which had, until then, remained relatively dry. George Mitchell, the superintendent of the Oak Island Association, rose to meet this new challenge by initiating a huge bailing operation involving sixty men, thirty horses, and several 70- gallon bailing casks. The men, animals, and machines worked around the clock for three days straight. By the third day, the flooding problem was under control.

At this point, the Association men hoped to clear the tunnel they had previously dug- which, as a result of the flooding, had become choked with mud and clay- and resume their excavation of the Money Pit where they had left off. No sooner had labourers entered the tunnel to clear the mud, however, than, according to Jotham McCully, “they heard a tremendous crash in the Money Pit and barely escaped being caught by the rush of mud which followed them into the West pit and filled it up 7 feet in less than three minutes. In the meantime a stick of oak timber of considerable girth and 3 ½ feet in length was ejected with the mud.” Apparently, as had been the case with the Truro Shaft in 1850, the tunnel underneath the Money Pit had weakened the structural integrity of the layer of earth above. The Money Pit had collapsed, and along with it all the cribbing the Oak Island Association had constructed. The only comforts the Association members could find in this catastrophe were in the discoveries made by labourers who had been clearing the tunnel of debris at the time of the Money Pit’s collapse. One of the labourers recovered man worked wood which was “stained black with age.” Another recovered an object which has been described as yellow-painted wooden dish or bottom of a keg. Another still had recovered what treasure hunter James McNutt described as “a piece of juniper with bark on [and] cut at each end with an edge tool,” as well as “a spruce slab with a mining auger hole in it.” These encouraging finds verified what the Oak Island Association already believed: that sometime in the distant past, men with more primitive technology had made a colossal effort to dig deep beneath Oak Island, presumably to bury a treasure of incalculable value.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 13: One of Seven

Let’s take a look at Season 4, Episode 13 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island, entitled One of Seven.

Plot Summary

The episode begins at the Money Pit area, where contractors are excavating Borehole T1- Oak Island Tours Inc.’s third shaft in the area- with a hammergrab. There, contractor Andrew Folkins of Irvine Equipment Ltd. informs Rick Lagina and Craig Tester that they have dug the shaft to a depth of 72 feet, and are encountering significantly less water than they had encountered in Borehole V3, located a mere four feet away, at that particular depth. The narrator suggests that perhaps the Oak Island team has been successful in avoiding the infamous flood tunnels that have plagued Oak Island treasure hunters for centuries.

Later that day, the Oak Island team congregates in the War Room. There, they meet with researcher Doug Crowell, and also with Dr. Kevin Knight, a professor of Computer Sciences at the University of Southern California, and his graduate assistant Nada Aldarrab, via Skype. Knight and Aldarrab have attempted to decode La Formule, the code inscribed on one of the documents introduced by New York Knights Templar researcher in Season 4, Episode 1. Knight briefly explains how he used a number of computer programs to determine that La Formule is likely a simple substitution cipher which, when decoded, forms a French message. Knight maintains that the decoded message, which is worn and truncated at the edges, likely reads:







When translated into English, this message reads:







Craig Tester suggests that Knight and Aldarrab’s interpretation of La Formule is a good one, but that too many of the symbols are missing (it appears as if the material on which La Formule was initially inscribed had worn away at certain sections, leaving the message fragmented and incomplete) for him to concede that their interpretation is, without a doubt, entirely accurate. Doug Crowell and Marty Lagina then suggest that, if Knight and Aldarrab’s interpretation is indeed accurate, or mostly accurate, then the message on La Formule warns treasure hunters not to dig past the 90 foot stone, but rather to tunnel away from the 90-foot level at an angle towards some sort of chamber. Rick then suggests that the “FIVE HUNDRED TWENTY TWO FEET” might refer to Smith’s Cove box drains, which are believed to be located 520 feet east of the Money Pit.

The narrator then explains that Zena Halpern, who introduced La Formule in Season 4, Episode 1, told the team off-camera that La Formule was, according to a note written at the bottom, but one of seven similar documents. Rick Lagina then suggests that the team ought to try to find the other six pieces of La Formule puzzle. All agree, and with that the meeting is ended.

Later, Rick Lagina, Jack Begley, Dan Henksee, and archaeologist Laird Niven meet at Smith’s Cove, around which, in the previous episode, a cofferdam was successfully erected. With the help of heavy equipment operator Billy Gerhardt, the team digs into a particular section of the Cove prescribed by Dan Henskee. Immediately, Gerhardt’s shallow hole fills with water, which Dan Henskee suggests is not seepage from the ocean.

After pumping the water out and digging further, the team uncovers what appears to be a layer of carefully-placed beach stones- one of the layers of the Smith’s Cove filter purportedly discovered by the Truro Company in the mid 1800’s. Unfortunately, they are unable to further excavate this section due to the presence of a large boulder, which’s removal, Gerhardt maintains, would compromise the structural integrity of the cofferdam. The team agrees to postpone their Smith’s Cove excavations until the area contained within the cofferdam is drier and more structurally sound.

That night, Rick Lagina and Charles Barkhouse meet in the War Room with local property owner and treasure hunter Gary Clayton. The narrator explains that Clayton, who hails from Arizona, owns Little Mash Island, a tiny island located a short distance from Oak Island. When prompted by Rick, he declares, “Friend, I brought you the key that unlocks the door to your dreams.” The narrator then explains that Clayton, upon purchasing Little Mash Island in 1988, conducted a series of surveys, drilling operations and excavations there on a hunch that it might have a connection with Oak Island. Clayton then explains to Rick and Charles that his investigations on Little Mash Island have led him to believe that a tunnel runs from his island, beneath the sea floor, to Oak Island.

Clayton then explains that he is in the possession of some sort of undisclosed technology which can accurately map out underground caverns and voids. This technology, he claims, enabled him to discover a 63-foot-long foot-shaped void located 231 feet beneath Little Mash Island.

When prompted, Clayton outlines his believe that Oak Island and Little Mash Island’s underground workings can be attributed to Admiral George Anson, an 18th Century British Royal Navy officer perhaps most famous for his circumnavigation of the globe in the 1740’s. The narrator then explains that, according to legend, the Royal Society- an English scientific society with alleged ties to Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, and the Knights Templar- entrusted Anson with “a vast, priceless treasure”, and “revealed a coded map [to him] that relied on constellations, and which was based on navigation calculations made at the Royal Greenwich Observatory under a commission by King Charles II in 1675.” According to Clayton’s theory, Anson’s circumnavigation of the globe in the 1740’s was really a mission to follow the Royal Society’s celestial map to a location in the New World, and to bury the treasure there. The narrator remarks that this theory is compatible with metal detection expert Gary Drayton’s Oak Island discoveries in Season 4, Episode 8.

Clayton goes on to explain that his underground mapping of Little Mash Island apparently revealed the presence of underground chambers which contain tables, cups, altars, Maya calendars and codices, a tomb, several hundred tons of gold bullion, and other unidentifiable objects. He then offers to serve as a consultant for Oak Island Tours Inc. in exchange for “15% of anything [found] using [his] information for one year.” Rick agrees to discuss Clayton’s offer with Marty, Craig Tester, and Dan Blankenship. With that, the meeting is ended.

Later, the Oak Island team gathers at the Smith’s Cove cofferdam. There, they analyze the layer of beach stones they have dug into and debate whether or not they were placed there by man. As they examine the stones, veteran treasure hunter Dan Blankenship arrives on the scene and suggests that the find bears characteristics of a French drain, a trench filled with rocks designed to redirect surface water away from an area. Unfortunately, the team is still unable to further excavate in the direction they would like to, due to the risk of compromising the integrity of the cofferdam. The team, satisfied that they may have discovered original workings, agrees to terminate the Smith’s Cove search for the season.

Later that day, Rick Lagina and Craig Test pay a visit to the Money Pit area, where Borehole T1 is being excavated. As they watch, a hammergrab emerges from the caisson bearing old, hand-cut oak timbers. The contractors inform the treasure hunters that the timbers came from a depth of 102 feet, Craig Tester speculates that the wood might have come from a lateral searcher tunnel.

At the 105-foot depth, the hammergrab brings up a small oak log or branch, reminiscent of the oak logs said to have comprised the platforms in the original Money Pit. Rick and Craig agree that they ought to test the wood to see if it predates the Money Pit’s 1795 discovery.


George Anson

In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, researcher Gary Clayton informs Oak Island Tours Inc. of his theory that Oak Island’s underground structures are the work of celebrated 18th Century English naval officer George Anson. He suggests that Anson, during his famous circumnavigation of the globe in the 1740’s, deposited a treasure on Oak Island at the behest of London’s Royal Society.

George Anson was born in Shugborough Hall- a manor in Staffordshire, England- on April 23, 1697. In 1712, 15-year-old Anson entered the British Royal Navy. At that time, most of Europe was embroiled in the War of Spanish Succession, a conflict in which the Holy Roman Empire (and its allies, the Grand Alliance: England, Portugal, Hapsburg Spain, and the Dutch Republic) and France (and its allies: Bourbon Spain and Bavaria) fought to put and keep, respectively, their preferred royal candidates on the Spanish throne. During this turbulent period, teenage Anson got his first taste of Navy life, a life which he would pursue to the fullest.

Anson continued to serve in the Royal Navy after the war was over, earning a promotion to lieutenant in 1716. That same year, he was transferred to England’s new Baltic Fleet, aiding Russian Tsar Peter the Great in his Great Northern War against Sweden in the frigid Baltic Sea.

Anson served in the Baltic Fleet for two years before being deployed to the Mediterranean, where Philip V, King of Spain, had just invaded the islands of Sicily and Sardinia (which he had lost in the War of Spanish Succession and hoped to regain). Under the command of Admiral George Byng, Anson and the British fleet attacked the Spanish fleet off Sicily in the Battle of Cape Passaro, a battle which would touch off the War of the Quadruple Alliance (fought between Spain and the Quadruple Alliance (the Holy Roman Empire, Great Britain, France, and the Dutch Republic)).

In 1722, two years after the war, Anson was promoted to commander, given command of the HMS Weazel, and tasked with suppressing smuggling between Britain and Holland. He carried out his task quickly and efficiently, and was rewarded with a promotion to post-captain. In the ensuing years, he climbed the ranks of the Royal Navy, eventually earning the rank of commodore. His various duties included protecting trans-Atlantic convoys from South Carolina; patrolling the English Channel; patrolling the West African coast; and attacking Spanish holdings in South America during the War of Jenkins’ Ear (a conflict between Britian and Spain, which was precipitated by the amputation of British merchant captain Robert Jenkins’ ear at the hands of the Spanish West Indies Coast Guard).

Commodore Anson

In 1740, during the War of Jenkins’ Ear, Commodore Anson was given command of six warships, 1354 sailors, and five hundred troops of questionable quality (half of them comprised of sick, old, and wounded soldiers from the Royal Hospital Chelsea (an English veterans’ hospital), and the other half consisting of green, untrained marines), along with instructions to cross the Atlantic, round Cape Horn (the southernmost tip of South America), sail north up South America’s west coast, and attack the Spanish port cities of Callao (Peru), Lima (Peru), and Panama.

Ansons Voyage around the world map

Anson’s voyage across the Atlantic was a nightmare. After narrowly avoiding a squadron of Spanish warships near the Portuguese island of Madeira, Anson’s crew was ravaged by typhus (a disease transmitted by lice) and dysentery. Upon reaching Santa Catarina Island off the southern coast of Brazil, the squadron stopped to take on firewood, fresh water, and provisions, to purge the ship of vermin, and to make some much-needed repairs. During this time, Anson’s already-sick crew was plagued by mosquito-borne malaria. By the time the squadron was ready to set sail again, scores of crewmen had succumbed to sickness.

After evading Spanish warships near the eastern mouth of the Strait of Magellan, Anson and his men stopped at the natural harbour of Puerto San Julian. After resting some time the squadron continued down the coast and around Cape Horn, battling storms, icebergs, unknown ocean currents, and scurvy in the process. By the time they reached the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of sailors had died, two ships had turned around, and a third ship had wrecked on an island off the Chilean coast, where its crew mutinied.

Anson’s remaining crew stopped at the Juan Fernandez Islands, where they recovered their health and repaired their ships. During this time, they captured a number of unsuspecting merchant vessels, appropriating their bullion and imprisoning their crew. An Irish crew member of one of these newly captured merchant vessels informed Anson that a Spanish ship bound for the town of Paita, Peru, had spotted Anson’s ships not long before. Anson decided to attack the town immediately, and succeeded in capturing it almost completely without bloodshed. After stripping the town of its wealth, Anson burned it to the ground, with the exception of two churches. He also sank the Spanish vessels in the town’s harbour.

Hoping to capture a Manila galleon- a Spanish treasure galleon richly-laden with Ming Chinese goods, which regularly hauled its precious cargo across the Pacific, from Manila (Philippines) to Acapulco (on the west coast of Mexico)- Anson and his crew headed west. A short distance into their journey, they began to suffer from scurvy and serious ship leaks. By the time they made it to the tropical isle of Tinian (one of the Mariana Islands), about nine men, on average, were dying each day.

After recovering on Tinian, Anson and his crew set out for the Portuguese trading port of Macau, China (although Manila galleons typically departed from Manila, Anson reasoned that the next convoy would likely go by way of Macao, as the Spanish were now aware of his presence). Anson reached Macau without incident, and, after encountering some difficulties with the Chinese authorities, had his one remaining ship completely repaired. When the repairs were complete, Anson and his crew headed south in search of a Manila galleon.

By chance, the British sailors stumbled upon a Spanish galleon, called Nestra Señora de Covadonga, en route to Manila. After Anson and his crew mercilessly bombarded the vessel with cannonballs, grapeshot, and carefully aimed musket balls fired from marksmen stationed in the masts, the Spanish surrendered. The British boarded the ship, discovering the gruesome product of their barrage on deck, and millions of pesos-worth of Acapulco silver in the cargo hold below.

After appropriating Nuestra Señora de Covadonga and its incredible argentic cargo, Anson made brief stops in Macao and Canton before sailing south to the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java. From there, he sailed east to Cape Town, South Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope, north up the west African coast, and around Spain to England, successfully completing his circumnavigation of the globe. He presented his plunder to King George II, and was subsequently promoted to admiral. Although the silver of the Manila galleon made Anson, his crew, and King George II fantastically wealthy, it came at a tremendous price; of the 1,854 men who initially set out with him from England, only 188 returned.

Anson went on to serve in the Austrian War of Succession, winning a major victory at the First Battle of Cape Finisterre. He was subsequently elevated to the peerage as Lord Anson, and made First Lord of the Admiralty. Following that, he thwarted several French invasion attempts, and led the British Royal Navy to victory in the Seven Years’ War. Among the Royal Navy’s major victories during the Seven Years’ War was the Battle of Havana (1762; See Season 4, Episode 8), an event which Anson personally orchestrated. Anson was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet on July 30, 1791. Roughly a year later, he died.

It is interesting to note that Shugborough Hall, the manor in which Anson was born, has a role in several prominent Oak Island theories, most notably the Rosicrucian theory espoused by Norwegian organist and amateur cryptographer Petter Amundsen. Using George Anson’s considerable, hard-won wealth, George’s elder brother Thomas made major renovations to the manor. One of these renovations included the addition of eight megalithic monuments to the Shugborough House gardens. One of these monuments, called the Shepherd’s Monument, depicts a carved mirror-image relief of the painting The Arcadian Shepherds, by Nicolas Poussin, along with two strange carved heads and a mysterious cryptic inscription which has yet to be deciphered. Some theorists, including Petter Amundsen, believe the Shepherd’s Monument and cryptic inscription is a coded map which leads to Oak Island.

Gary Clayton’s Theory

In this episode, Oak Island Tours Inc. is visited by Gary Clayton, an Oak Island theorist who owns the neighbouring Little Mash Island.

In his book The Secret Treasure of Oak Island (1978, 1988, 2004), acclaimed Oak Island researcher D’Arcy O’Connor writes that Gary Clayton, a former Baptist minister, claimed to have “solved the Oak Island mystery through the use of ciphers, mathematics, and research.” As of 2004, Clayton believed that Oak Island’s underground workings are an intricate network of tunnels constructed by the members of the Maya civilization and/or Aztec Empire “sometime between 1480 and 1520.” These tunnels lead to waterproofed, cement-lined chambers inside which, Clayton believed, the Maya and/or Aztec interred gold, silver, religious artifacts, and priceless pre-Columbian Maya codices. According to O’Connor, Clayton believed that a party of Swedes shipwrecked off the Mexican coast in the late 15th Century helped the Aztec and/or Maya people bury their treasures on Oak Island so as to save them from Spanish conquistadors. The Aztecs/Maya intended to return to Oak Island to retrieve their treasure at a later date, but were killed by the Spanish, taking the secret of the treasures’ location with them to their graves. Clayton, through the use of codes and ciphers, however, believed that he had discovered the precise locations of these long-lost treasure caches.

In 1972, Clayton, a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, formed the FHG (For His Glory) Corporation, an Oak Island treasure hunting syndicate. Despite numerous attempts, Clayton and his partners were never able to convince Triton Alliance or Fred Nolan- the two parties who owned Oak Island and its Treasure Trove licence at the time- to allow them to prove their theories. According to O’Connor, Clayton, in 2004, stated, “I’ve done 45,000 hours research on this, minimum, and I just know I’m right. The individual who directed the [Oak Island] operation left clues and codes, and I’ve broken them all.”

O’Connor, with whom the secretive Clayton shared some of his findings, believes that there are several problems with the Arizonan’s theory. In his book, he maintains that some of the information which Clayton used to formulate his theory is false, including the location of Borehole 10-X. Others pieces of information from which Clayton’s theory derives include the inscriptions on the H/O stone and the 90-foot stone. Unfortunately, the only known interpretation of the inscription on Oak Island’s long-lost 90-foot stone is the Kempton inscription, which many Oak Island theorists believe to be a fabrication.

French Drains

In this episode, Oak Island Tours Inc. uncovered a layer of carefully-placed beach stones beneath a section of Smith’s Cove. The Oak Island crew members were hopeful that they had located one of the layers of the legendary Smith’s Cove filter, believed to cover the Smith’s Cove box drains which funnel seawater into the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel.

Veteran Oak Island treasure hunter Dan Blankenship, upon examining the beach stones, suggested that they bore a resemblance to French drains. A French drain is a trench filled with rocks or gravel which directs groundwater away from an area. Named after American polymath Henry F. French, who first wrote about them in his book Farm Drainage (1859), French drains have been commonly employed for centuries.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 12: Hyde Park & Seek

Wow, they sure packed a lot into this episode! Read on for a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 4, Episode 12 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island

Plot Summary

At the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum in Hyde Park, New York, researcher Paul Troutman shows treasure hunter Rick Lagina and Rick’s nephew Alex a document indicating that Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, believed that Oak Island’s treasure consisted of the Crown Jewels of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the last monarchs of France. The narrator briefly explains that Roosevelt, whose maternal grandfather invested in the Truro Company (Oak Island’s second major treasure-hunting syndicate) in the mid 1800’s, developed an interest in the Oak Island mystery at a young age, invested in the Old Gold Salvage and Wrecking Company (another Oak Island treasure-hunting syndicate) in 1909, and retained an interest in the treasure hunt until his death in 1945.


Troutman continues to read the document, which outlines the Oak Island theory espoused by FDR: namely, that Marie Antoinette, while fleeing Paris with her husband, King Louis XVI, on the night of June 20, 1791 (during the height of the French Revolution), entrusted her Lady-in-Waiting with the Crown Jewels of France and other priceless gems. After the French monarchs’ subsequent capture, the loyal retainer brought the jewels with her across the Atlantic to the French colony of Acadia (present-day Canadian Maritimes). There, according to legend, she buried them, perhaps on Oak Island.

Rick Lagina suggests that they try to find more information on Marie Antoinette’s Lady-in-Waiting, who, he argues, held a high enough position in the French court to warrant a place in the history books. Troutman agrees, saying “we need to get to the bottom of it.”

Later that night, Rick contacts his brother Marty via Skype in his hotel room in New York City. Rick tells him about his and Alex’s experience at the FDR Presidential Library, relating Roosevelt’s Oak Island theory involving Marie Antoinette’s Lady-in-Waiting and the Crown Jewels of France. He then tells Marty that he plans to meet with Zena Halpern, the New York-based researcher who provided Oak Island Tours Inc. with several mystifying Oak Island-related documents in the Season 4 premiere. Marty congratulates him on his findings and wishes him further success, and the conversation is ended.

The following day, Rick Lagina and Oak Island researcher Doug Crowell travel to Roslyn, New York, to meet with historian Zena Halpern. Halpern, upon meeting the two men, invites them into her home. While the three of them settle around Halpern’s kitchen table, the narrator explains that Helpern discovered three strange documents by chance while researching hypothetical pre-Columbian trans-Atlantic voyages. One of these documents, bearing the date ‘1374’, appears to be a map of Oak Island. In Season 4, Episode 2, the Oak Island team investigated one the points of interest on this map, labelled “la traffe”, or “the hatch,” without making any significant discoveries. The second document Zena discovered is a map of what appears to be Nova Scotia, bearing the date ‘1179’. Halpern’s third document is a code which, when deciphered, appears to form a French message (see Season 4, Episode 1).

Zena Halpern informs Lagina and Crowell that, in her upcoming book The Templar Mission to Oak Island and Beyond, she “covers a 12th Century [1178-1180] Templar voyage” undertaken by an English nobleman and alleged Templar knight named Ralph de Sudeley for the purpose of recovering “ancient scrolls that were hidden in North America.” The narrator briefly mentions that some historians believe that de Sudeley discovered precious religious artifacts, including the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail, while crusading in Palestine. Halpern claims that de Sudeley and his crew sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to North America, and stopped at Oak Island along the way.

Helpern then makes the claim that her maps seem to suggest that the eastern shore of Nova Scotia was once riddled with natural gold deposits. Crowell remarks that Gold River, a river which empties into Mahone Bay only several miles northwest of Oak Island, does indeed contain a modest quantity of gold dust. The narrator follows up on Crowell’s remark by alluding to a frenzied gold rush in Nova Scotia which lasted from 1861-1874. He then suggests that perhaps the Knights Templar exploited Nova Scotia’s auric riches during the High Middle Ages, and that their New World headquarters consisted of a castle located at present-day New Ross, Nova Scotia, a town which the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. visited in Season 4, Episode 1.

Next, Halpern shows Lagina and Crowell an image of a Crusader coin bearing a symbol consisting of a cross with a dot in each quadrant, a variation of what is known as the ‘Crusader cross’. She observes that this Crusader cross is strongly reminiscent of one of the three symbols carved into what many Oak Island enthusiasts refer to as the H/O stone, a fragment of stone discovered on Joudrey’s Cove on Oak Island in the 1930’s.

oak island h o stone

After concluding the meeting with Zena Halpern, Rick Lagina returns to Oak Island. There, he, Craig Tester, and Jack Begley meet with Jack Nichols of Dam-it-Dams, a cofferdam manufacturing company. The team tasks Nichols with building a cofferdam around a section of Smith’s Cove so that they can search for remnants of the stone box drains believed to be buried there without having to contend with the Atlantic tide. While Nichols explains how he intends to construct the cofferdam, the narrator recounts how contractor Jeremy Frizzell’s attempt to build a cofferdam in Season 4, Episode 11 was unsuccessful.

Fortunately, Nichols and his team construct the cofferdam without incident, and the seawater within is immediately pumped out. With that accomplished, Rick Lagina and long-time Oak Island treasure hunter Dan Henskee meet with archaeologist Laird Niven, whom they have tasked with supervising the upcoming dig. Under Niven’s direction, Rick, Henskee and Jack Begley begin manually digging in a particular section of Smith’s Cove with shovels. After some time, they encounter hard clay, which Henskee declares should not be naturally present at that particular section of Oak Island at that particular depth, and suggests that it was placed there by man. Shortly thereafter, Jack Begley uncovers a fragment of what appears to be coconut fibre, a substance which is not endemic to Nova Scotia. These finds indicate that the Oak Island crew is digging in the right spot; according to members of the Truro Company, which first discovered the Smith’s Cove box drains in the mid 1800’s, the Smith’s Cove box drains were covered by layers of clay putty, coconut fibre, eelgrass, and beach stones.

Encouraged by the discoveries, Rick Lagina begins excavating the area in question with a backhoe. Immediately, he unearths a number of old logs which appear to be aligned in the same direction. After further exploration, he uncovers the remains of a wooden shaft, likely constructed by treasure hunters Robert and Bobby Restall in the 1960’s. Unfortunately, the team is unable to further excavate this shaft that day, as the sun is going down. They decide to call it a day.

Before returning to the dig site the following morning, the Oak Island team pays a visit to Dan Blankenship’s home on Oak Island. There, they pore over maps and diagrams in an effort to determine a suitable location for a third shaft in the Money Pit area. In an aside, Marty Lagina explains that the Oak Island team does not have an “obvious target” for a third Money Pit shaft, but that they do have a number of “inferential targets”.

After studying a number of interesting documents, Marty suggests that they sink a shaft in the vicinity of the Valley 3 Borehole, which the crew now believes intersects a searcher tunnel leading from the Chappell Shaft (dug by the Oak Island treasure-hunting syndicate Chappells Ltd. in 1931) to the Money Pit as a result of their hammergrab excavation in Season 4, Episode 6. Rick, however, disagrees with Marty’s proposal, suggesting that they dig in a slightly different location. Craig Tester then suggests they dig at yet another location. The crew members agree to try to come to a decision later, and terminate the meeting.

Later, it is revealed that the crew decided to sink a third hole in the Money Pit at the location championed by Craig Tester, which they dub ‘Tester 1’, or ‘T1’. At the Money Pit, they watch as contractors of Irving Equipment Ltd. prepare to begin work on the new shaft. With that, the episode ends.



Marie Antoinette, the French Revolution, and the Crown Jewels of France

According to some Oak Island theorists- most notably former United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt- Oak Island’s treasure consists of the Crown Jewels of France. Proponents of this theory typically hold that Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France, entrusted her Lady-in-Waiting with the jewels’ safekeeping during the height of the French Revolution- a period considered by many to be one of the most important events in world history.

In the wake of the Seven Years’ War (1754-1763 ; see Season 4, Episode 8’s ‘The Battle of Havana’), France- for centuries one of the most powerful kingdoms in Europe- had lost much of its wealth and international prestige. Burdened with post-war debt and all but bankrupt, France found itself in a serious financial crisis eleven years after the war, when nineteen-year-old Louis XVI ascended the French throne.

Louis XVI- by all accounts a shy and indecisive monarch- had married a beautiful 14-year-old Austrian archduchess named Maria Antonia four years before his coronation in 1774. While many of the French peasantry warmed quickly to their new queen, whose name was Gallicized to Marie Antoinette following the marriage, others disliked her from the start, as she was a member of one of the nations that had caused France such grief during the Seven Years’ War. These disgruntled Frenchmen grew to resent her even more when they learned of the extravagant lifestyle she enjoyed, courtesy of often-starving (as a result of poor harvests and subsequently-soaring grain prices) French taxpayers. Marie Antoinette lived in Versailles, which had served as the capital of France since 1662, when King Louis XIV (also known as the ‘Sun King’) had his father’s hunting lodge there transformed into the magnificent Palace of Versailles. The ‘Sun King’ built his palace as a “gilded cage” for France’s power-hungry nobles, stipulating that each noble spend a certain amount of time living there each year, and implementing a court culture revolving around a series of elaborate rituals and ceremonies designed to occupy the visiting nobles and prevent them from conspiring against him. This court culture was still very much alive when Marie Antoinette came to Versailles. To entertain herself amidst the ritual tedium, she indulged in fashion, gambling, and theatre. Her heavy expenses earned her the nickname “Madame Deficit”.

In addition to her lavish lifestyle, the French people began to take umbrage at their queen’s apparent inability to produce an heir; Marie Antoinette did not conceive until seven years after her marriage to Louis XVI (although it should be mentioned that many historians believe that the fault more likely lay with her husband). Marie Antoinette’s slowness to deliver a royal heir spurred political satirists to produce libelles– small, often obscene books designed to slander public figures- accusing her of outrageous, deviant behavior. The quantity and vulgarity of these pamphlets increased wildly in the latter years of the 18th Century. According to American historian Robert Darnton, “the avalanche of defamation that overwhelmed [Marie Antoinette] between 1789 and her execution on October 16, 1793, has no parallel in the history of vilification.”

The French people’s aversion to the French elite didn’t stop at the queen, however. Many members of France’s poor peasant class (known as the Third Estate), which made up about 95% of France’s population, detested both the aristocracy and high-ranking clergymen of the Catholic Church for the heavy taxes they levied upon them- taxes from which members of both of these upper classes were often exempt. In addition to the Third State, members of a growing middle class known as the bourgeoisie (literally “town dwellers”), which chiefly consisted of wealthier merchants and craftsmen, held the French elite in contempt for their monopoly on political power. Adding fuel to the fire were radical new Enlightenment ideas espoused by French intellectuals like Montesquieu, Rousseau, Descartes, and Voltaire. These ideas, which circulated throughout France by way of coffeehouses and salons, included the notions of ‘separation of power’, ‘consent of the governed’, republicanism, and ‘separation of Church and State’- ideas which contested the authority of France’s absolute monarchy and the Catholic Church.

The ideals of the Age of Enlightenment, which contributed massively to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s unpopularity, also contributed to the American Revolution, a conflict in which colonists of Britain’s Thirteen Colonies rebelled against the authority of the British Crown. Eager to make up for France’s humiliating defeat at the hands of the British during the Seven Years’ War, Louis XVI entered the war against Great Britain in 1778. Although France only engaged in a handful of naval battles with British forces, it provided significant strategic and economic aid to American revolutionaries. Due in part to France’s intervention, America won their War of Independence in 1783.

While France’s key role in America’s victory over Britain restored much of the international prestige that it had lost during the Seven Years War, it also exacerbated its already-staggering debt. In order to combat France’s mounting financial crisis, King Louis XVI appointed and dismissed a succession of financial ministers whose proposed policies were either ineffective or unpopular with the king’s advisers. Finally, in a desperate move, Louis XVI called a meeting of the Estates-General- an assembly of representatives from France’s three estates: the clergy, the nobility, and the common people.

Although members of the Third Estate occupied the vast majority of the seats in the Estates-General- which convened in Versailles in the spring and summer of 1789- , their collective voice held as much weight as that of the much smaller First and Second Estates; each Estate was allowed one vote, no matter its size. When their appeals to establish representation by population were overturned, the representatives of the Third Estate declared themselves the ‘National Assembly,’ a body independent of the Estates-General which would address France’s fiscal and agricultural issues with or without the members of the other two Estates.

In order to prevent this renegade body from convening, Louis XVI ordered the hall in which the National Assembly planned to meet to be closed on a false pretense. Undeterred, the National Assembly congregated in a proto-tennis court nearby. There, they swore the Tennis Court Oath, a vow to continue to assemble until a constitution was established which would limit the power of monarchy and the First and Second Estates.

It just so happened that around this time, in July 1789, King Louis XVI had sent foreign mercenaries to Paris to quell the bread riots- uprisings characterized by bakery looting and vandalism in response to high bread prices- that had plagued the city that summer. Members of the National Assembly, fearing that the incoming troops had come to put an end to their crusade, looted Parisian armories and armed themselves with muskets. Then, on July 14, they stormed the Bastille, a medieval castle that served as an armory, political prison, and a symbol of royal tyranny. Supplemented by sympathetic members of the National Guard, the rioters quickly overwhelmed the fortress’ few defenders. They celebrated their victory by decapitating the Bastille’s governor and parading his head- mounted on a pike- through the streets.

Expecting royal troops to respond to the attack, Parisian revolutionaries constructed makeshift barricades in the streets. Instead of countering the revolutionaries, however, the mercenaries that had arrived to quell the bread riots dispersed on the king’s orders. Word of this victory over the French monarchy spread quickly throughout the country, and soon the nation was seething with the spirit of the revolution. On August 4, the National Assembly took the next step towards popular sovereignty by abolishing feudalism. Later that month, they published the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, a constitution-like document championing freedom, equality, and sovereignty of the people.

The months following the storming of the Bastille were characterized by peasant revolts and the establishment of free, often radical newspapers throughout France. Some of these newspapers incited violence against members of the First and Second Estates, and many nobles, fearing for their safety, left the country.

In early October, a mob of angry peasant women marched on Versailles itself. This march, which began as a search for bread, evolved into a movement to bring King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the royal court away from the palace to Paris, where, they believed, the aristocracy could more effectively govern the French people. Upon reaching Versailles, the women selected six of their number to bring their entreaties to the king. These representatives gained audience with Louis XVI without trouble and convinced him to distribute food to the mob. Many of the women, still unsatisfied, loitered around the palace. In a second attempt at pacification, Louis XVI signed the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which the women had brought with them. The Parisian women, still hoping to drag the king back to Paris, stayed the night outside the palace gates. Early the following morning, the mob discovered an open gate and stormed the palace, searching for the queen’s bedchamber. In the process, they killed several guardsmen and mounted their heads on pikes. Eventually, Louis XVI defused the situation by emerging to address the mob. Without further violence, he, his family, and his courtiers accompanied the women back to Paris and took up residence in the Tuileries Palace.

For two years, Louis XVI, held captive by National Assembly revolutionaries, governed France from Paris, regularly signing documents that eroded his power bit by bit. Fearful of the increasing fanaticism of the revolutionary movement, the king, at the behest of Marie Antoinette, decided to attempt to flee Paris with his family and make for Austrian Netherlands, where he might raise an army with which to reestablish the old order. On the eve of June 21, 1791, the French Royal family disguised themselves, piled into a single horse-drawn coach, and headed east. Unfortunately, they were recognized en route by a postmaster, who relayed the news of the royal journey to revolutionaries. The royal family made it to the town of Varennes-en-Argonne, only a few miles from the Austrian border, where they were captured by revolutionary forces and ultimately forced to return to Paris.

Despite Louis XVI’s attempt to flee France, the National Assembly allowed the king to continue to rule the nation, albeit with considerable restrictions to his authority. That fall, they finished drafting the French Constitution of 1791, France’s first constitution, and promptly dissolved. Their successors, members of the new Legislative Assembly, shared power with the king, transforming France into a constitutional monarchy like Great Britain.

In the spring of 1792, France declared war on Austria- which was governed at that time by Marie Antoinette’s nephew, Holy Roman Emperor Francis II- , fearing that it would invade France with the goal of crushing the revolution and reestablishing the old regime. That summer, after suffering a number of crushing defeats at the hands of the Austrian army, the French learned that Prussia was about to join the war against them. The leader of the Prussian forces, a celebrated German general named Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, drafted a proclamation, known as the Brunswick Manifesto, which threatened to harm French citizens if anything happened to the royal family. The proclamation, which was intended to intimidate Parisians, backfired, spurring the radical revolutionary citizens, known as federes, and members of the National Guard to storm the Tuileries Palace, where the French royal family lived, and engage in a ferocious battle with the king’s Swiss Guards. Although Louis XVI and his family managed to flee to the safety of the Legislative Assembly, the monarchy was effectively overthrown, if not officially.

At that time, Austrian and Prussian forces were pushing towards Paris. Afraid that these foreign armies might take Paris and supplement their ranks with Parisian prisoners, National Guardsmen and radical federes emptied Paris’ dungeons and slaughtered their inhabitants en masse. These slaughters are referred to as the September Massacres.

Later that month, following the Battle of Valmy in which French troops decisively defeated Ferdinand’s Prussian army, the Legislative Assembly officially declared the end of the French monarchy and the establishment of the First French Republic. Emboldened, the new Republic put Louis XVI, now known by the common name Louis Capet, on trial for his ‘treasonous’ attempt to flee France with his family on the night of June 21, 1971. The Capetian king was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death via guillotine, a newly-invented decapitation machine which would become a hallmark of the Reign of Terror that would follow his death. He was publicly beheaded on January 21, 1793. His wife, Marie Antoinette, met a similar fate on October 16 of that year.

According to legend, before her flight from Paris to Varennes, for which she and her husband were ultimately executed, Marie Antoinette packed up the Crown Jewels of France, along with her vast collection of rubies, diamonds, pearls, and other precious gems she had accumulated at Versailles. When she and her husband were capture in Varennes, however, the jewels were nowhere to be found. Legend has it that the French queen entrusted her most loyal servant- her Lady-in-Waiting- with the precious stones, and that the courtier managed to make her way across the Atlantic Ocean to the Acadian fort of Louisbourg, located in what is now Nova Scotia, following the capture of her mistress. Some Oak Island theorists believe that she, accompanied by loyalist French troops, later buried these jewels on Oak Island when it became clear that the French monarchy was no more.

According to the late Oak Island researcher R.V. Harris in his book The Oak Island Mystery (1958, 1967), there are several potential problems with this theory. The most obvious problem is that most of France’s Crown Jewels are not missing. In fact, they were stolen in 1792, a full year after the royal flight to Varennes, and were all eventually recovered. The second problem with this theory is the fact that Louisbourg, the French fort Marie Antoinette’s Lady-in-Waiting purportedly brought the jewels to, had been in British possession since the 1758 Siege of Louisbourg, during the Seven Years’ War. Third, it seems unlikely that French troops could have buried treasure on Oak Island after 1791 and kept it a secret; Oak Island and surrounding area had been inhabited by New English settlers since the mid 1700’s.

Zena Halpern

In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, Rick Lagina and Oak Island researcher Doug Crowell met with Knights Templar historian Zena Halpern in Roslyn, New York. Halpern briefed the men on her theories regarding the nature of Oak Island’s underground workings, which revolve around hypothetical pre-Columbian Knights Templar voyages to Nova Scotia.

According to Halpern’s website, the New York researcher has uncovered “the story both of a secret 12th century Knights Templar mission to Oak Island and a mountain range in New York State, and of the efforts made by various secret societies over the centuries to either conceal or uncover the reasons for this mission.” Halpern intends to lay out her theory in her upcoming book, The Templar Mission to Oak Island and Beyond- Search for Ancient Secrets- The Shocking Revelation of a 12th Century Manuscript.

Interestingly, Halpern, in the ‘About’ section of her website, reveals that she has worked with Gloria Farley, a close colleague of the late Harvard professor Barry Fell, who had developed his own Oak Island theory involving 5th Century Coptic Christians.

The Stones of Joudrey’s Cove

In the summer of 1936, Oak Island treasure hunter Gilbert Hedden discovered four granite stones on Joudrey’s Cove inscribed with characters. The stones were rough and jagged, indicating that they had at one time been part of larger stones, or perhaps one large stone. Three of them bore deeply-engraved Latin letters. The smallest of these was inscribed with the letter ‘W’. The middle-sized stone bore the words ‘S.S. Ross 1864.’ The largest stone was inscribed with what might have been half of the letter ‘U,’ followed by the letter ‘H,’ followed by the Roman numeral ‘II,’ followed by the letters ‘GIN.’

Although little can be gleaned from the smallest stone, Gilbert Hedden assumed that ‘S.S. Ross 1864,’ the inscription on the middle stone, was graffiti carved by a labourer apparently named S.S. Ross who had worked on Oak Island in 1864. As for the largest stone, many Oak Island researchers suspect the ‘GIN’ might be part of the larger word ‘MCGINNIS,’ the family name of Oak Island co-discoverer Daniel McGinnis and his descendants, who lived on Oak Island for many years.

In addition to these three stones, Hedden found another stone on Joudrey’s Cove which stood out from the rest. This stone, which bore three strange, well-worn characters, is believed to be a fragment of a large boulder discovered by Oak Island workers in the 1920’s. Seeing the strange symbols carved onto its surface, these workers theorized that the boulder might be lying over top of some sort of subterranean treasure deposit. They dynamited the boulder accordingly, only to find that there was nothing of interest beneath it. Some of the workers kept inscribed stone fragments as souvenirs, and the boulder was largely forgotten until Hedden’s discovery.

Although I investigate the history of the leftmost and rightmost symbols carved into the H/O stone in my book Oak Island, which you can access by clicking this link, in this article I will focus on the middle symbol, the cross with a dot in each quadrant, which is addressed in this episode.

The cross with four dots is vaguely reminiscent of the Jerusalem Cross (also known as the ‘Cross of the Holy Land’ and the ‘Crusader’s Cross’) a large Greek cross (in which all arms are of equal length) with a smaller Greek cross set in each of its quadrants. Although commonly associated with the Crusades and the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Cross is believed by some historians to have been, along with the Ichthys and the Chi Rho, an early symbol of Christianity adopted by 1st Century Middle Eastern Christians. The five crosses of which the Jerusalem Cross is comprised are widely held to represent the five wounds sustained by Christ on the Cross. Some Oak Island researchers believe that the Jerusalem Cross on the Joudrey’s Cove stone is an indication that the Knights Templar, a Christian order of monastic knights which had a key role in the Crusades, might have some sort of connection with Oak Island.

To medieval and Renaissance-era alchemists, the cross with four dots represented distilled vinegar, also known as ‘spirit of vinegar’. Some adherents to the theory that the Rosicrucians- members of a secret Renaissance society closely associated with alchemy- are behind the Oak Island workings cite the inscribed cross with four dots as evidence to support their theory.

Some Oak Island researchers interpret the cross with four dots to be a variation of the Coptic Cross, a symbol used by Coptic Christians, another group believed by some to have a connection with Oak Island.

It is also interesting that the cross with four dots is also a variant of the Taxila Cross, a symbol of South Asia’s historic Indus Valley, as well as a symbol used as a reference mark in Japanese typography.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 11: Presidential Secrets

Plot Summary

The episode begins at Borehole 10-X, where the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. are in the process of airlifting water from the chamber at the bottom of the shaft in the hope that they might bring up evidence of a human presence in the chamber prior to 1795. During this process, the slurry from the chamber at the bottom of 10-X is pumped up to the surface and deposited in a sediment tank. After running for some time, the airlift abruptly stops working. The machine operators suspect that some debris might be lodged in the upcoming hose and make some adjustments accordingly. In no time, the airlift is running smoothly again.

borehole 10x

After running the airlift for some time, the team decides that if there was anything of interest inside the chamber at the bottom of 10-X, it should now be in the sediment tank on the surface. Once the water from the tank is drained, Rick Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, Jack Begley, and former Oak Island resident Dan Henskee shovel the sediment into the bucket of a loader. While shoveling, the treasure hunters discover several pieces of material they are unable to immediately identify, along with a small bone. These items are bagged and set aside for future analysis.

Once all the 10-X sediment has been transferred to the loader bucket, it is revealed that Jack Begley will be in charge of sifting through the debris. The next scene shows Begley and his stepfather Craig Tester sifting through the last of the 10-X debris, which they have spread out on a diamond mesh trough. Immediately, the pair discover a hand-sized chunk of milled wood bearing the marks of an old-fashioned hand saw lying among the sludge. Shortly afterwards, Begley find some wood slivers covered with a black, viscous substance he speculates might be pitchblende (also known as uraninite, a radioactive uranium ore which had previously been discovered on Oak Island by treasure hunters). The narrator then briefly describes how pitch (or resin, a blanket term used to describe dark, viscous substances like tar, bitumen, asphalt, and tree resin) has been used for millennia to caulk ships and waterproof wooden containers.

oak island bore hole from 10x

Later that day, the Oak Island team meets in the War Room. There, Jack Begley presents his fellow treasure hunters with the items of interest he discovered while sifting through the debris brought up from the chamber at the bottom of Borehole 10-X. First, Begley shows the team several pieces of hand-sawn wood he uncovered. Upon being prompted, Dan Blankenship proclaims that the wood is nothing like anything he, his son Dave, or fellow treasure hunter Dan Henskee might have dropped into 10-X while working in it in the 1970’s and ’80’s, speculating that the pieces are likely “older than [he is].”

Next, Begley shows the Oak Island team a handful of old wood slivers covered in a substance which he believes might be pitch or pitchblende.  Again, Dan Blankenship is adamant that these items could not possibly have made their way into 10-X during his excavations in the ’70’s and ’80’s.

The team decides to have the items from 10-X carbon dated. In light of the new evidence, Marty Lagina states “there’s not quite an ‘X’ in 10-X.” With that, the meeting is ended.

The following day, the Oak Island crew gathers at Smith’s Cove, where they hope to uncover evidence of the legendary box drains believed to be buried there. With the help of contractor Jeremy Frizzell and veteran Oak Island treasure hunter Dan Henskee, they begin to construct a small, temporary, 8-foot-high inflatable cofferdam around a section of Smith’s Cove which will allow them to excavate the area inside without having to content with the tide. Suddenly, the cofferdam inexplicably ruptures, rendering it useless. The narrator reveals that Frizzell, the contractor in charge of installing the cofferdam who has witnessed hundreds of successful inflatable cofferdam installations in the past, has never seen an inflatable cofferdam burst in this way. Rick Lagina tries to reassure the contractor, saying “there have been multiple, multiple equipment failures on this island. Things that just should not go wrong go wrong.” The narrator follows up on this by explaining how labourer Maynard Kaiser, on March 26, 1897, fell to his death in an Oak Island shaft when the rope to which the bucket he rode in was attached inexplicably slipped from the hoist. He goes on to explain how Kaiser’s death unnerved many of his fellow labourers, some of the more superstitious of whom feared that some sort of malevolent force guarding the Oak Island treasure was responsible for their co-worker’s untimely demise.

Following the setback, a crestfallen Jeremy Frizzell assures the Oak Island team that he will replace the cofferdam and attempt to install it in several weeks. Craig Tester tells him “you may not be used to this, but we’re used to to this.” With that, the crew wraps up the operation.

Later, in the War Room, Rick Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, and Rick and Marty’s nephew Peter Fornetti meet with Oak Island researchers Doug Crowell and Paul Troutman, the latter being the son of James Troutman, a man who worked alongside treasure hunter Robert Dunfield in the mid-late 1960’s. There, Troutman informs the treasure hunters that he has dug up several letters and documents pertaining to former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Oak Island treasure hunt. The narrator then explains how a young Franklin Roosevelt was one of the financiers of the Old Gold Salvage and Wrecking Company, an Oak Island treasure hunting syndicate headed by engineer Harry L. Bowdoin which operated in 1909, and how Roosevelt, throughout his 12-year term as President of the United States (which spanned the Great Depression and World War II), retained his interest in the Oak Island treasure hunt.

Troutman reveals that one of the documents he has brought to the War Room confirms that Roosevelt was a Freemason. Barkhouse responds by remarking that many people involved in the Oak Island treasure hunt over the years, including treasure hunters Irwin Hamilton and Gilbert Hedden, were also Freemasons. The narrator then briefly describes the theory that the Knights Templar buried sacred religious artifacts on Oak Island following the suppression of their Order in 1307, and that their secret rituals and ideals lived on in Scotland, where they were eventually reconstituted as Freemasonry.

At the end of the meeting, Troutman informs Rick, Charles, Peter and Doug that a wealth of information on Franklin Roosevelt’s Oak Island connection is available in the archives of the FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York. Troutman invites the treasure hunters to accompany him to the archives to check out these documents, and the men heartily accept his invitation.

Later, Rick Lagina and his nephew (Marty’s son) Alex carpool to the FDR Presidential Library. There, they meet with the library’s Public Program Specialist Clifford Laube, who directs them to where Paul Troutman is hunkered down, pouring over archival material. Rick informs Troutman that he is interested in learning why Roosevelt retained such an intense interest in the Oak Island treasure hunt throughout most of his adult life, and Troutman informs Rick that, if such information exists, it could likely be gleaned from Roosevelt’s “personal files”, which he has already assembled on the table. Unfortunately, these files contain a whopping 17 million pages, only 10% of which have been scanned. Rick remarks, “it looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us,” and with that, he, Alex, and Troutman begin pulling files.

In time, Troutman uncovers a letter addressed to FDR stating that there were at least two treasure hunts on Oak Island in addition to Bowdoin’s in and around 1909. The narrator then describes how Franklin D. Roosevelt’s grandfather, Warren Delano, was a shareholder of the Truro Company, Oak Island’s second major treasure-hunting syndicate which operated in the mid 19th Century.

Next, Troutman shows Rick and Alex a transcript from an interview of Duncan Harris, a schoolmate and confidant of Franklin Roosevelt, conducted by biographer Joseph P. Lash. In it, Harris maintains that Roosevelt believed that Oak Island’s mysterious treasure consisted of “the lost jewels of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette,” the last monarchs of France who were executed by guillotine during the French Revolution.

With that, the episode abruptly ends.



In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, Jack Begley, while sifting through the sludge airlifted from the cavern at the bottom of Borehole 10-X, discovered several slivers of old wood coated in a viscous black substance which he speculated might be pitch (tar), or perhaps “pitchblende”. Interestingly, pitchblende- a radioactive uranium ore- has been discovered in Borehole 10-X in the past.

In 1970, Dan Blankenship and David Tobias of Triton Alliance hired Golder Associates- a Toronto-based geophysical company- to drill on Oak Island at spots prescribed by Blankenship, which he found by dowsing. From one of the many holes they drilled, Golder Associates brought up thin, low-carbon steel from a depth of 165 feet. This find prompted Triton Alliance to expand the drill hole into a 230-foot-deep shaft, which is known today as Borehole 10-X.

While digging Borehole 10-X, Dan Blankenship unearthed spruce wood coated in a thick, black substance at a depth of 167 feet. Triton Alliance had the wood carbon dated, and were astonished to learn that the test results, incredibly, indicated that the wood came from the future, specifically some time in the early fourth millennium A.D.

In order to understand the reason for this bizarre test result, it helps to have a basic understanding of  carbon dating. Carbon dating is a method of determining the age of an organic (once living) material by measuring its carbon 12/ carbon 14 ratio. Regular carbon, or carbon 12, makes up 99% of of all the carbon in the universe, and is a stable molecule which does not decay over time. Carbon 14 (a.k.a. radiocarbon), on the other hand, is a volatile, naturally-occurring, much less common carbon isotope with two additional neutrons (which is a fancy way of saying that carbon 14 is slightly heavier than carbon 12, but has the same magnetic charge). Carbon 14 is radioactive, which means that it spontaneously emits radiation and decays (i.e. transforms into nitrogen 14) over time. When an organism dies, the carbon 14 present in it immediately starts to decay, while the amount of carbon 12 in it remains constant. Since the carbon 12 / carbon 14 ratio in the atmosphere and living organisms is relatively constant, and since carbon 14 decays at a relatively constant rate, scientists can determine the age of a sample of dead organic matter by measuring its carbon 12/ carbon 14 ratio. Today, this is achieved with mass spectrometers, devices which can accurately determine isotopic ratios (i.e. the ratios between versions of the same element which differ only in weight, like carbon 14 and carbon 12) present in a sample through the use of electromagnets. Back in 1970, however, scientists determined the carbon 12 / carbon 14 ratio present in organic material by using Geiger counters- devices which measure the radiation emitted by substances (which, in the case of carbon dating, was the radiation emitted by decaying carbon 14). The radiation emitted by the slivers of wood coated with thick black goo, which Blankenship and his crew found in Borehole 10-X at the 167-foot depth, was off the charts (seemingly indicating that the sample contained way more carbon 14 than it ought to).

As it turned out, the black goo that coated the wood slivers was pitchblende, or uraninite, an extremely radioactive mineral ore containing large amounts of uranium and smaller quantities of highly radioactive radium. Pitchblende is not endemic to Nova Scotia, but rather to northern Saskatchewan, Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories, and parts of Germany, Czech Republic, Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, Australia, the United States, and, significantly, Cornwall, England (several theories regarding the nature of Oak Island’s treasure involve Cornish miners). Before Polish chemist and physicist Marie Curie used it to isolate radium in the the late 19th Century, pitchblende was chiefly used to colour glass and porcelain. According to some sources, it was also employed as a preservation agent for timber.

FDR and Oak Island

In 1909, engineer and inventor Henry L. Bowdoin founded an Oak Island treasure hunting syndicate called the Old Gold Salvage and Wrecking Company. One of the company’s shareholders was a young law clerk from New York City named Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who would later go on to become the 32nd President of the United States.

The Oak Island Mystery (1958, 1957), a book written by a lawyer closely associated with the Oak Island treasure hunt named R.V. Harris, posits that FDR first heard of the Oak Island mystery “from the people of Campobello Island, in the Bay of Fundy, where his mother had a summer residence.” In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, however, the narrator briefly intimates that Franklin Roosevelt might have learned about Oak Island from his grandfather, Warren Delano Jr., a wealthy businessman involved with the British-Canton opium trade who invested in the Truro Company, Oak Island’s second treasure hunting syndicate, in 1849. Whatever the case, FDR retained an intense interest in the Oak Island treasure hunt, regularly corresponding with Oak Island landowners, Treasure Trove licence holders, and treasure hunters until his death in 1945.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 10: About Face

Let’s take a look at Season 4, Episode 10 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island, entitled About Face.

Plot Summary

The episode begins where the previous one left off: at Borehole C1, where diver Mike Huntley, with a hand-held metal detector, has just discovered what appears to be a metal object, or perhaps up to three metal objects, embedded in the wall of the cavern at the bottom of the shaft. The Oak Island crew members- with Marty Lagina and Craig Tester in virtual attendance through Skype- stand by on the surface with professional divers John Chatterton and Howard Ehrenberg, listening as Huntley describes his apparent find via radio. Due to lack of visibility, Huntley is unable to visually identify whatever set the metal detector off, and eventually returns to the surface.

oak island money pit diagram

Upon Mike Huntley’s ascent, John Chatterton, equipped with a hand-held metal detector, descends the shaft in the hopes of verifying Huntley’s find. Chatterton reaches the cavern at the bottom of C1 without incident and begins searching the chamber walls for any sign of Huntley’s metallic object. Try as he might, however, he is unable to replicate the metal detector ‘hits’. After searching for some time, Chatterton returns to the surface empty-handed.

Later, the crew meets with Chatterton, Huntley, and Ehrenberg in the War Room. Upon being prompted by Craig Tester (who, along with Marty Lagina, had apparently returned to the island sometime after the diving operations), Huntley and Chatterton maintain that the two of them had collectively explored about 90% of the walls and floor of the cavern at the bottom of Borehole C1. Chatterton explains to the crew that the potential tunnels indicated by Blaine Carr and Even Downie’s sonar scan (conducted in Season 4, Episode 9) are, in fact, a deep and narrow fissure and an irregular, naturally-formed ‘opening’, respectively. Ultimately, the two divers both agree that there is a “very small” chance that the cavern at the bottom of Borehole C1 is man-made.

Talk then turns to the shiny, gold-coloured object which’s presence inside the chamber at the bottom of Borehole C1 was indicated by an earlier underwater camera operation, and which both Chatterton and Huntley failed to recover. The narrator speculates that perhaps the hammergrab and drill used to widen C1 knocked the object to the cavern floor, where it was covered by a layer of silt and sediment. Rick Lagina asks the divers what the Oak Island crew could do to further the search for the shiny object. Chatterton responds by suggesting that they improve visibility in the chamber at the bottom of C1 by flushing out the water, and the Oak Island crew agrees to consider the suggestion.

Later, Rick Lagina and Charles Barkhouse travel to nearby Peggy’s Cove to meet with historian Terry Deveau. As the men shake hands, the narrator explains how, in Season 3, Episode 4, Deveau showed the Oak Island crew the ‘Overton Stone’, a stone near Overton, Nova Scotia, bearing a strange carving which Deveau suggested was indicative of a 15th Century Portuguese-Mi’kmaq peace pact.

Deveau leads Rick and Charles to a large rock in the wilderness which’s shape is vaguely suggestive of a human head. Rick notes that there are several small, rounds stones lying beneath the larger one- somewhat evocative of the mysterious, dolmen-like, Neolithic-esque megaliths scattered throughout the Canadian Maritimes- and suggests that they maybe have been placed there by man so that the stone could be oriented in a particular direction. Deveau suggests that ancient Mi’kmaq sculptors made “some modifications to [the stone’s] outline to make the facial features more prominent.” And Barkhouse notes that the late Oak Island treasure hunter Fred Nolan, years ago, discovered a large head-shaped stone buried beneath the centre of Nolan’s Cross (an array of five conical boulders on Oak Island which form a perfect cross), implying that there might be some sort of connection between this Peggy’s Cove stone and Oak Island.

After examining the stone for some time, Deveau suggests that the “distinctly Mi’kmaq features” of the supposed face carved into this Peggy’s Cove stone “absolutely look like a depiction of the Mi’kmaq” cultural hero Glooscap, to which Rich responds, “do you mean Prince Henry Sinclair?”. The narrator then outlines the theory that Oak Island’s underground workings are attributable to 14th Century Scottish-Orcadian nobleman Henry Sinclair- a knight with alleged connections to the disbanded Knights Templar who, according to legend, travelled to Nova Scotia in the late 1300’s, where he interacted with and thoroughly impressed the local Mi’kmaq, and in doing so became the basis for the Mi’kmaq cultural hero Glooscap.

Following the narrator’s explanation, Rick states that he has long believed that the legends of Glooscap were based on Henry Sinclair. He then suggests that the Peggy’s Cove stone might have a maritime connection, as the face carved onto it- if it is indeed a face- is gazing out over St. Margaret’s Bay. Using a compass, Deveau determines that the face is facing due west, in the general direction of Oak Island.

Later, Rick and Marty Lagina- along with Craig Tester on Skype- meet with father-and-son treasure hunters Dan and Dave Blankenship in the War Room. The Lagina brothers reveal that they are “running into financial constraints”, and that it seems that they will have to commit to one of two major projects: 1) airlifting the water from and exploring Borehole 10-X; 2) or digging a third hole in the Money Pit area. Dave Blankenship immediately advocates tackling Borehole 10-X, remarking that, due to lack of hard evidence, digging a third hole in the Money Pit area would be a shot in the dark. Rick echoes that sentiment, stating his desire to “put an X through” 10-X, one way or another. Marty, however, objects to spending the remaining budget on 10-X, reminding his fellow treasure hunters that, with all the equipment already in place, it will never be cheaper to dig in the Money Pit area. Craig, for the same reasons, agrees that they should focus on sinking another shaft in the Money Pit area. Finally, the elderly Dan Blankenship says that he would prefer to see 10-X thoroughly explored, as it was from there that he once extracted bits of old low-grade steel chain and other materials manufactured prior to the mid 1700’s.

After debating for some time on which enterprise to sacrifice, Marty decides to go over budget and explore both 10-X and the Money Pit. Every treasure hunter at the table agrees with the decision.

The episode ends at Borehole 10-X, where the Oak Island crew- along with Dan Henskee, a former Oak Island treasure hunter and sometime resident- watch as contractors prepare to airlift the water from the shaft.



Equipment Malfunctions on Oak Island

In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. experienced something very strange. Professional diver Mike Huntley, while exploring the cavern at the bottom of Borehole C1 with a hand-held metal detector, got a succession of hits on his metal detector indicating the presence of up to three metallic objects embedded in the walls of the cavity. However, when professional diver John Chatterton attempted to replicate Huntley’s hits, the mysterious metallic objects were nowhere to be found.

Strange as it may seem, this phenomenon is commonplace on Oak Island. For over two hundred years, Oak Island treasure hunters have been plagued by a myriad of mysterious technological mishaps which seem to occur with uncanny frequency. Some Oak Island enthusiasts take this as a sign that Oak Island is cursed, and that its supposed subterranean treasure is guarded by some sort of supernatural entity. Others attribute these many mechanical and electrical malfunctions to the aura of the treasure itself, which many believe to be a sacred religious artifact such as the Ark of the Covenant or the Spear of Longinus. Whatever the case, the sheer magnitude of equipment malfunctions experienced by Oak Island treasure hunters lends credence to the notion that some strange force, natural or otherwise, is at work on Oak Island.

The following is a list of some of the many equipment malfunctions experienced by Oak Island treasure hunters over the years:

  • In the fall of 1804, members of the Onslow Company, Oak Island’s first real treasure-hunting syndicate, tried to drain the flooded Money Pit with a large, expensive, steam-powered pump- a pump which’s effectiveness and dependability was vouched for by an engineer from Newport (now Brooklyn), Nova Scotia, named Mr. Mosher. The men of the Onslow Company lowered the brand new pump into the Money Pit, only to see it blow out immediately upon being started up.
  • In the summer of 1850, members of the Truro Company built a cofferdam around Smith’s Cove in the hopes that it would allow them to dismantle and plug the Smith’s Cove box drains without having to contend with the Atlantic tide. The cofferdam was swept away shortly after its construction by an unusually ferocious Atlantic storm. Similar events occurred in 1866, when the Halifax Company attempted to build a cofferdam around Smith’s Cove, and in 1970, when Triton Alliance attempted to do the same.
  • In 1861, members of the Oak Island Association attempted to drain the seawater from the Money Pit with a steam-powered cast-iron pump. No sooner had the pump started up, however, than the steam engine’s boiler exploded, spewing boiling water all over the worksite. Many of the labourers were seriously scalded. One of them succumbed to his wounds. This labourer, whose name has been lost to history, was the first man to die in search of treasure on Oak Island.
  • In the spring of 1897, an employee of the Oak Island Treasure Company named Maynard Kaiser was sent into the one of the pumping shafts that had been sunk beside the Money Pit to check on the pump at the bottom. He completed his work in the shaft and was in the process of being hauled to the surface when the rope to which his bucket was attached slipped off the hoist. Kaiser fell to his death, and in doing so became the second man to die on Oak Island in search of treasure.
  • From 1959-1965, motorcycle stuntman and steamfitter Robert Restall and his son Bobby headed the Oak Island treasure hunt. Robert’s daughter, Lee (Restall) Lamb, reveals in her book Oak Island Obsession that her father, from 1961-1963, wrote dozens of letters to his friend Fred Sparham describing various “mechanical failures, breakages, and needs” pertaining to his Oak Island treasure hunt. In 1965, Robert and his son, along with two other men, lost their lives as a result of one of these mechanical failures. On August 17 of that year, the four men, one after the other, fell to the bottom of a shaft after being exposed to hydrogen sulfide gas. Although the rising water level in the shaft should have been kept at bay by a pump placed in the shaft’s bottom, the pump mysteriously stopped working that day. The water in the shaft continued to rise, and Robert, Bobby, and their two companions drowned.
  • In 1976, Dan and Dave Blankenship decided to concentrate on re-excavating Borehole 10-X, pump the water that filled it down to a more manageable level, and cut a series of holes in the steel casing Dan had inserted into the shaft in order to see if anything of interest might be found on the other side. One day that fall, Dan was working in the shaft at the 145-foot depth, while Dave stood by on the surface, operating the winch which controlled the elevation of the bucket Dan stood in. Suddenly, a deep rumble shook the shaft, and pieces of debris began to fall on Dan’s helmeted head. Dan radioed David to winch him up to the surface, saying, “Bring me up; bring me up! Out, out, out, out!” David hauled his father from the shaft as fast as he could, and not a moment too soon; Borehole 10-X’s casing imploded at the 95-foot level mere seconds after Dan cleared it.
  • In Season 1, Episode 1 of The Curse of Oak Island, Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, Jack Begley, and Dave Blankenship lowered a Spectrum 90, a high-definition robotic camera designed to take deep-water pictures, into Borehole 10-X. After taking some footage of the shaft bottom, they met with Dan Blankenship in the War Room and began to play the footage they shot. The footage revealed what appeared to be the entrance to a tunnel and a vertical support beam in a cavern at the bottom of the shaft. With an hour of footage yet to play, however, the video file mysteriously disappeared. Some of the crew members, while frustrated, jokingly suggested that the technological mishap might be attributed to the ‘Oak Island curse’.
  • In Season 1, Episode 3 of The Curse of Oak Island, Rick and Marty Lagina and Dave Blankenship met with the Chester Area Paranormal Society, a group of local paranormal investigators, in Dan Blankenship’s house. The Society members briefed the Laginas and Blankenship on the results of a previous investigation they carried out on Oak Island, showing them a number of photographs they took which appeared to contain eerie, unexplainable anomalies, and describing how they heard disembodied footsteps near the swamp. After the meeting, the Lagina brothers and Dave Blankenship accompanied the Society members to the swamp, where the latter conducted another investigation using a K-II electromagnetic field meter (a device designed to locate, qualify, and quantify sources of electromagnetic radiation). After some time, the meter started to beep, indicating the presence of anomalous electromagnetic radiation. Society member Jenn Morrow interpreted this “as an indication that something [in the swamp was] trying to communicate” with them.
  • In Season 1, Episode 4, the Oak Island crew attempted to drain the Oak Island swamp for the first time. Immediately after the pump was started up, a link of one of its two outgoing hoses ruptured, necessitating a replacement- a mishap which Rick Lagina suggested might be a manifestation of the Oak Island curse.
  • In Season 1, Episode 5, following the discovery of the Spanish 8 maravedis, diver Tony Sampson investigated the ‘Mercy Point’, located in the Oak Island swamp, with a hand-held metal detector and his bare hands. While in the water, the metal detector got some erratic and “very confusing” hits which Zazulyk termed “ghost targets”. Although Samson searched for some time, he was unable to locate the source of the metal. (It should be mentioned that later, in Season 2, Episode 1, metal detecting expert Stu Auerbach suggested that the ghost targets Samson received in the Mercy Point area might be attributable to a cloud of dissolved metal emitted from a the copper coin on the swamp’s bottom, which was likely agitated into dispersal by Sampson during his manual exploration of the area.)
  • In the winter of 2013/14, Oak Island Tours Inc. conducted a metal detection scan of Oak Island’s then-frozen swamp. The data from this scan indicated the presence a large non-ferrous metal object about 15-20 feet long and 3 feet wide lying under the western edge of the swamp. Later on, in Season 2, Episode 4, it is revealed that the data from this winter scan was faulty, and that there are only “one or two ferrous metal objects” in the swamp area.
  • In Season 3, Episode 2, the men of Oak Island Tours Inc., with the help of a boom truck, began to winch a corroded eight-inch-in-diameter, 180-foot-long riser pipe from Borehole 10-X in order to clear for an upcoming dive. The pipe was removed 20-foot piece by 20-foot piece, each of which was winched up, secured, and severed with a blowtorch. At first, the operation went smoothly. However, after cutting off one of the 20-foot sections, the slip holding the pipe in place gave out, allowing the remainder of the pipe to plummet down into the water shaft. This pipe knocked a smaller metal pipe on the shaft wall loose during its descent, thus creating a major obstacle that thwarted many future diving operations.
  • In Season 3, Episode 10, divers Harvey Morash and Michael Gerhartz began a descent into Borehole 10-X, hoping to explore the chamber at the bottom. Immediately upon entering the water, it became clear that the receiving end of Gerhartz’s communication equipment was not working. The dive was aborted, and a subsequent dive was scheduled. Gerhartz aquired another mask, microphone, and headset in Halifax and prepared to perform another dive with Morash. Unfortunately, he had to cancel the second dive as well on account of newly-developed “breathing problems” with his new mask.
  • In his 2017 documentary Seven Steps to Mercy, Norwegian organist, amateur cryptographer, and documentarian Petter Amundsen attempted to access his ‘Mercy Point’ in the Oak Island swamp (which he introduced in Season 1, Episode 3 of The Curse of Oak Island) when the swamp was pumped dry. Strangely, the navigational implements he used to locate the Mercy Point- specifically a smartphone compass and an old fashioned magnetic compass, which both operate on magnetism- acted erratically the closer he got to the Mercy Point.
  • In Season 4, Episode 11 of The Curse of Oak Island (the following episode), contractor Jeremy Frizzell attempted to construct an inflatable cofferdam around a section of Smith’s Cove. The cofferdam inexplicably ruptured before completion, and the project was abandoned.
  • In Season 5, Episode 4, a hose on a drilling rig burst, blasting the hardhat off driller Max Williamson. Although Williamson suffered a broken wrist and a contusion on his leg, he was otherwise unharmed.
  • In Season 6, Episode 12, while attempting to conduct a sonar scan of Shaft H8 in the Money Pit area, the ROV used to conduct the scan suddenly and inexplicably malfunctioned.
  • In Season 6, Episode 15, while attempting to pump water into Borehole C1 as part of a dye test, the hose though which the water is being pumped is found to be twisted. The crew shuts off the pump and bleeds the pressure from the hose before untwisting the kink and resuming the operation, narrowly avoiding a potentially dangerous blowout.

Terry Deveau and the Overton Stone

In this episode, historian Terry J. Deveau led Rick Lagina and Charles Barkhouse to a large stone which he claimed was a carved Mi’kmaq monolith depicting the Mi’kmaq deity Glooscap. This is not Deveau’s first Oak Island experience; the historian and rock expert has appeared on The Curse of Oak Island several times before, perhaps most notably in Season 3, Episode 4, in which he introduced the Oak Island team to the Overton Stone.

The Overton Stone is a large glacial boulder on the Atlantic coast near Overton, Nova Scotia, upon which is carved- likely with a steel chisel- a stylized Christian cross in a circle surrounded by four dots, an eagle feather, two crossed tobacco leaves, and a crescent moon. It was first publically discovered in around 2009 by a local resident named Beverly Wells-Pinkney (now deceased). Some researchers believe the stone’s carving is evidence of some sort of friendship treaty between early European explorers and the local Mi’kmaq Indians, while others label it a hoax.

Terry Deveau wrote a 35-page essay on the stone, which he published on December 2, 2015. In his article (which can be found at, Deveau states that the stone, discovered as recently as 2009, is located at “a popular recreational spot for shore walks, watching the waves, and picnicking… [which] leads to the suggestion that the carving was made fairly recently.” In the same vein, he acknowledges that it cannot be ruled out that the stone is a genuine archeological artifact, and thus launches into an investigation of the carving’s various aspects.

Deveau first points out that the weathering of the carving’s patina, when compared with the patina on the rest of the stone, indicates that the carving may indeed be several centuries old. He goes on to theorize that the crossed tobacco leaves- an aspect of the carving which has led some researchers to suggest the carving’s connection with the Mi’kmaq people- are of the species Nicotiana tabacum, a supposition which is corroborated by First Nations rock art expert Edward Lenik. This particular species of tobacco was not cultivated by the Mi’kmaq, although Deveau suggests that the peri- Columbian Mi’kmaq may have acquired it through trade with tribes to the south. On the other hand, the Mi’kmaq have traditionally used Lobelia inflata, a different species of tobacco commonly known as Indian tobacco, as medicine.

In regards to the carved crescent moon, Deveau writes that the Mi’kmaq used a lunar calendar, and suggests that the moon image might be some sort of evocation of the “the Creator, God, or the Great Spirit.”

Deveau states that the eagle feather, another image depicted on the Overton Stone, is another Mi’kmaq symbol associated with the Creator.

Next, Deveau analyses the stone’s stylized cross. He states that, despite extensive research, he was only able to find a few examples of carved crosses stylistically similar to the Overton Stone cross. One of the best examples of these was the cross on the Yallala Rock on the Congo River on the west coast of Africa, the inscription on which is believed to have been carved by Portuguese explorers in 1485. Deveau explains that 15th and 16th Century Portuguese explorers “frequently left wood, stone, and iron crosses as monuments to their activities; these are called padrao crosses and padrao stones.” Upon analyzing these other Portuguese crosses, Deveau has determined that the cross on the Overton Stone “appears to be consistent with the possibility that it was carved by Portuguese explorers…” Later, Deveau makes the case that these unique Portuguese explorer crosses are a variations of the Order of Christ Cross, the symbol of the Order of Christ, a Portuguese military order which was really a continuation of the Portuguese Knights Templar. Deveau explains how the Order of Christ played an important role in the early Age of Discovery, and how many early Portuguese explorers were members of the order.

Deveau states that, if the Overton Stone was indeed carved by Portuguese explorers in commemoration of a friendship treaty with the local Mi’kmaq, the stone would probably also include an inscription of the date and the carver’s initials a short distance from the main carving. Following this assertion, he points out an area below the carving with very little patination relative to the carving and the rest of the stone, indicating that it had been deliberately defaced sometime in the past. Deveau theorizes that the area once held the carving’s date and the carver’s signature, and that 17th Century French or 18th Century British colonials likely struck those markings off in order to destroy evidence of what they might have viewed as an earlier Portuguese land claim without damaging the beautiful carving itself.

Deveau then draws from historical evidence to show that 16th Century Portuguese explorers almost certainly did have an intimate “working friendship” with the Mi’kmaq people, and that the Portuguese, judging from their actions in other parts of the globe, would probably have commemorated this friendship with a padrao stone. He goes on to suggest that Joao Alvares Fagundes, a Portuguese explorer who conducted expeditions- and later founded a Portuguese colony in- Newfoundland and Nova Scotia in the early 1520’s, “could have been the very person responsible for commissioning the memorial exhibited on the Overton Stone.”

After presenting and defending his theory that the Overton Stone carving was a commemoration of a centuries-old friendship treaty between Portuguese explorers and Mi’kmaq tribesmen, Deveau critically investigates other possibilities regarding the carving’s origins. The first of these possibilities is the notion that the carving is a relatively modern creation. One piece of evidence to back this theory up are the initials ‘HT’ and the numbers ‘06/07’, which are carved on the same boulder a good distance from the original carving. Some believe that these additions are evidence that an artist with the initials HT created the Overton Stone carving in June 1807, 1907, or 2007. Deveau counters this theory, along with other theories suggesting the stone is a Norse Viking runestone or a Mi’kmaq petroglyph.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 9: Echoes from the Deep

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 9: Echoes from the Deep

The Curse of Oak Island’s Season 4, Episode 9 is out. Is anyone else on the edge of their seats? Let’s have a look at this latest chapter in the Oak Island treasure hunt.






Plot Summary

Brothers Rick and Marty Lagina, treasure hunter Dave Blankenship, and Oak Island historian Charles Barkhouse meet at Borehole 10-X with geophysicist and sonar scanner Brian Abbott. Abbott- who has appeared in earlier episodes of The Curse of Oak Island, including Season 2, Episodes 9 and 10; and Season 3, Episodes 1 and 6-  has returned to Oak Island to conduct a sonar scan of of the chamber at the bottom of the 230-foot-deep shaft. While Abbott prepares his equipment, the narrator describes how the sonar scan expert, in 2015, conducted a sonar scan of the chamber at the bottom of Borehole 10-X, analyzed the data, and determined that the chamber contained a number of man-made objects. One of these objects appeared to be wooden chest. While manually exploring the cavern in Season 3, Episode 13, however, celebrity wreck diver John Chatterton found no evidence of artificiality. He did, however, find a large rectangular rock, which he believes was the chest-like object indicated by the results of the sonar scan. He maintains that he picked up the rock and moved it from its original location. Marty Lagina, who would like to conclude investigations at 10-X so that he and the crew might focus on other areas of interest on Oak Island, hopes that another sonar scan will solve the 10-X mystery once and for all; if a second scan reveals the presence of a single chest-like object situated a short distance from the similar object in the first scan, then the rock that Chatterton picked up and moved is almost certainly Abbott’s ‘chest’.

While the crew looks on, Abbott conducts his sonar scan of Borehole 10-X. As the operation progresses, Abbott- while watching the scan data on a screen- states that the rectangular object appears to be in the same general location on the chamber floor as it was on the 2015 scan, but that he will need to properly analyze the scan data in order to determine exactly where this new object lies relative to the old one.

That night, the Oak Island crew meets with Brian Abbott in the War Room. Abbott, who has finished analyzing the data from his sonar scan of 10-X and comparing it with that of his previous scan, presents his findings to the crew. He maintains that the two scans are nearly identical save for the rectangular, chest-like object; in the most recent scan, the object is nowhere to be found. According to Abbott, this is an indication that the object John Chatterton picked up and moved during his dive is indeed the chest-like object indicated by the older scan. With that, Abbott wraps up his presentation and leaves the crew to their thoughts.

Following Abbott’s presentation, Marty Lagina states that he doesn’t “want to do anything more in 10-X.” Rick Lagina and Dave Blankenship, on the other hand, indicate their unwillingness to give up on the shaft into which Dave and his father Dan poured so much of their time, energy, and resources. The crew members continue to discuss the issue of 10-X for some time, each man attempting to justify his own position. In the end, they tentatively agree to put 10-X on the back burner and direct their attention towards the Money Pit, namely Borehole C1. With that, they conclude their meeting.

Later, the Oak Island crew meets at Borehole C1 with professional wreck diver John Chatterton and his dive supervisor Howard Ehrenberg. In order to prepare for Chatterton’s upcoming dive, the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. have arranged for sonar experts Blaine Carr and Evan Downie to conduct a sonar scan of the chamber at the bottom of C1 with the 3D Multibeam Scanning Sonar device by BlueView, a piece of cutting edge sonar scanning technology. Carr and Downie arrive on site, unpack their equipment, and lower the BlueView scanner into Borehole C1 by a cable. The scanner reaches the void at the bottom of C1 without incident. The subsequent sonar scan reveals the presence of what appears to be a narrow augmentation of the chamber at the bottom of the void, which Carr suggests might be the entrance to an underground tunnel.

That night, Carr, Downie, Chatterton, and Ehrenberg meet with the Oak Island team in the War Room. There, Carr and Downie present their survey data taken from the void at the bottom of C1. They elaborate upon the augmentation they discovered in the side of the void, which they now believe extends at least “10 feet… from the centre of the” main shaft, and may well “carry on” further. They also discuss the chamber at the bottom of the void, the dimensions of which Chatterton succinctly simplifies to “about 7 foot high, and 10′ x 10′.” Chatterton and Ehrenberg consider the data and decide to perform a dive in C1 the following morning. With that, the meeting is concluded.

The following morning, Chatterton, Ehrenberg, and their crew meet with the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. at Borehole C1. The diving crew reviews safety procedures before lowering a geared-up Chatterton into Borehole C1 on a bosun’s chair, a suspension device somewhat akin in appearance to an old-fashioned playground swing. Chatterton descends the caisson into the cavity below without incident. As he explores the void, he observes that the walls appear to be composed of “cut rock”.

In time, Chatterton reaches the bottom of the void. His vision is impeded by the thick cloud of black silt that characterizes the water in C1 at that particular depth. He proceeds to explore the chamber manually, feeling the walls and floor with his hands. He proclaims the cavern floor to be made of soft clay, and the stone walls to be “very rough, irregular in shape, [with] a lot of sharp edges”.

After being in the water for twenty minutes, Chatterton is slowly brought to the surface so as to avoid decompression sickness (a potentially deadly condition involving the formation of nitrogen bubbles in the bloodstream, which can result if one ascends from a dive too quickly). Upon surfacing, he tells the crew “I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is… visibility is terrible. The good news is… there’s another hole.” The narrator then explains that, in accordance with Carr and Downie’s sonar scan, Chatterton discovered the presence of what could be a tunnel leading away from the chamber at the bottom of Borehole C1. Upon being prompted by Rick Lagina, he suggests that a diver could conduct some metal detecting at the bottom of the chamber in a future dive.

Immediately, another expert diver, Mike Huntley, prepares to make a dive to the bottom of C1 with the express purpose of retrieving the shiny, gold-coloured object observed in an earlier underwater camera operation. Huntly promptly suits up and descends the 170-foot-deep shaft.

Huntly makes his way to the bottom of the C1 void without incident. Equipped with an underwater metal detector, he begins scanning the chamber for any sign of metal. Immediately, he discovers a large, smooth, block-like chunk of metal embedded in the cavern wall. He is unable to pry it out or extract a sample from it, and is unable to visually identify it due to the presence of heavy silt. Rick, Marty, and other members of the Oak Island crew wait in anticipation on the surface, wondering if they have finally, in Rick’s words, “[opened] the chapter on the book that I call ‘The Oak Island Mystery'”.



John Chatterton

In the summer of 2015, Oak Island Tours Inc. enlisted the help of professional diver John Chatterton. The treasure hunting company hoped Chatterton might dive to the bottom of Borehole 10-X and explore the cavity there in order to determine whether it is natural or man-made. In Season 3, Episode 13, Chatterton successfully dove into the 10-X cavity, explored it manually, and could find no evidence suggesting that the cavern is man-made.

John Chatterton is a celebrity wreck diver and Vietnam War veteran who served as co-host for the History Channel’s show Deep Sea Detectives. Throughout his career, Chatterton has explored a number of famous sunken ships, including German submarine U-869 (a sunken U-boat of Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine which Chatterton and his team discovered off the coast of New Jersey in 1991), RMS Lusitania (a British ocean liner which was torpedoed by a German U-boat in World War I), the HMHS Britannic (an Olympic-class ocean liner which sank off the island of Kea, Greece, in 1916), the MV Struma (a ship carrying Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust which was torpedoed by a Soviet submarine in the Black Sea off Istanbul in 1942), the SS Andrea Doria (a luxury Italian ocean liner which sank in 1956 off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts, after colliding with another ship), and the famous RMS Titanic (a massive British superliner which hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic on her maiden voyage in 1912 and sank, resulting in the deaths of around 1,500 passengers and crewmembers).


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 8: The Mystery of Samuel Ball.

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 8: The Mystery of Samuel Ball


The Curse of Oak Island’s Season 4, Episode 8 is out. Let’s have a look.








Plot Summary

Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, Dave Blankenship, Charles Barkhouse, and Jack Begley meet at Borehole C1 with crew members of Irving Equipment Ltd., a contracting company. There, they lower an underwater camera into the shaft in order to get a better look at a the shiny, gold-coloured object located in a cavity at the bottom, the existence of which Oak Island Tours Inc. first learned of in Season 3, Episode 13, upon lowering an underground camera to the bottom of what was, at that time, a narrow drill hole. As the camera makes its descent, the treasure hunters, watching a live stream at the surface, note that the water in Borehole C1 is remarkably clear, especially when compared with that of Borehole 10-X, which Oak Island Tours Inc. explored throughout Seasons 2 and 3. Eventually, the camera reaches the cavity at the bottom of the shaft. There, the treasure hunters observe an angular indentation in the cavity’s wall and speculate on whether or not it is artificial.

After exploring the cavity for some time, the camera picks up a shiny object which Craig Tester suggests is gypsum or anhydrite. Somewhat crestfallen, Marty Lagina remarks, “I hope that wasn’t Dave [Blankenship]’s gold shiny thing.” Charles Barkhouse reminds the crew that the shiny object the camera picked up in Season 3, Episode 13 appeared to have a curved shape, whereupon the camera operator decides to lower the camera deeper into the cavity in order to look for it. At a depth of 177 feet, the camera encounters opaque water saturated with black silt in which visibility is severely limited. The narrator explains that this silt-filled void is about fourteen feet deep, and that Oak Island Tours Inc. “will have to resort to other options if they are ever to find anything like a precious artifact” within it.

The crew members discuss their next course of action, and decide to thoroughly excavate the chamber at the bottom of Borehole C1 with a hammergrab, explore the cavity with a sonar device, and possibly have a diver manually examine the cavity, in that order.

Later, Oak Island historian Charles Barkhouse and metal detection expert Gary Drayton hunt for metallic artifacts on Oak Island’s westerly Lot 24, a lot once owned by Oak Island landowner Samuel Ball. The narrator explains that Samuel Ball was a black South Carolinian slave who escaped his life of bondage by enlisting in the Loyalist Militia during the Revolutionary War. At the end of the war, Ball came to Nova Scotia, where he received a plot of land on Oak Island. Ball farmed his land, and used the profit he made selling his produce to purchase a number of other lots on the island. Some Oak Island researchers have suspected that the former slave’s somewhat mysterious rise to affluence was attributable to a treasure he discovered on his land. The narrator also explains how, in Nova Scotian historian Mather Myles DesBrisay’s 1870 book History of the County of Lunenburg, Samuel Ball is listed as one of the three co-discoverers of the Money Pit instead of John Smith. DesBrisay makes no mention of John Smith- a strange omission considering that DesBrisay likely used information provided to him by his close friend Mary Smith, John Smith’s daughter, as a main source.

While scouring Lot 24 with a metal detector, Barkhouse and Drayton discover a small button, which Drayton labels an 18th Century ‘dandy button’. Shortly thereafter, Drayton discovers a copper coin bearing the head of King George II of Great Britain, whose reign spanned from 1727-1760. After that, he uncovers a lead ingot of the type used by British soldiers for crafting musket balls. Barkhouse remarks that these three discoveries are congruent with late Oak Island treasure hunter Fred Nolan’s theory that Oak Island’s artificial swamp, the Money Pit, and the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel were constructed by the British during the American Revolution, and that the treasure they buried was bullion and specie from the Thirteen Colonies, as well as silver taken from the Spanish during the 1762 Battle of Havana.

Gary and Charles continue to scan Lot 24 for artifacts, and soon discover a small metal plate bearing a faded signature, which Gary suggests likely came from the stock of a musket or grip of a flintlock pistol. Gary explains that this find, coupled with his previous finds- which include five additional copper coins bearing the head of King George II, discovered off camera- leads him to believe that Oak Island’s Lot 24 was the site of some sort of British military encampment some time in the 1700’s. He says as much to Marty Lagina when the treasure hunter joins him and Barkhouse, whereupon Marty commends him for his work.

That night, the Oak Island crew meet in the War Room with author and investigative journalist Randall Sullivan, who is currently in the process of writing a book on Oak Island. Sullivan explains to the crew that throughout his extensive research on the subject of Oak Island, the “one theory” regarding the history of the Oak Island treasure “that really has connected with [him] is the whole thing involving Francis Bacon.” The narrator explains that Francis Bacon was a 16th/17th Century English scientist, philosopher, and nobleman whose name frequently appears in connection with Oak Island theories. Many researchers, known collectively as ‘Baconians’, have theorized that Francis Bacon was the true author of the Shakespearean works, and that William Shakespeare, the ‘Bard of Avon’, was simply a front man. Some researchers believe that the lost original Shakespearean manuscripts, handwritten by Bacon, lie somewhere beneath Oak Island.

Upon being prompted by Marty Lagina, Sullivan states that Francis Bacon “founded the Rosicrucians”. The narrator then briefly describes how the Rosicrucians, members of a European Renaissance-era secret society, are believed by some to have ties with the medieval monastic military order the Knights Templar, and that the Knights Templar, in turn, are believed by some to have come into the possession of sacred artifacts, including the Holy Grail, the Menorah, and the Ark of the Covenant.

Sullivan explains that one of Francis Bacon’s most famous works, a fiction novel entitled New Atlantis, tells of a futuristic Utopian society on an island in the Pacific Ocean in which “generosity and enlightenment, dignity and splendour, piety and public spirit” are widely-practiced virtues. He goes on to explain how a number of theorists have suggested that the island described in New Atlantis is really an allegory for Oak Island.

The crew members consider the plausibility of the Oak Island theory involving Francis Bacon and thank Sullivan for sharing the fruits of his research before ending the meeting.

Days later, the Oak Island crew meets at the Money Pit area with the Irving Equipment Ltd. contractors. They wait in anticipation as the contractors begin excavating the void at the bottom of Borehole C1 with a hammergrab. In one of the first loads the hammergrab brings up from the void, Oak Island historian Charles Barkhouse- the man who prescribed Borehole C1 in the first place- discovers a small, mysterious black object. Barkhouse presents the find to veteran Oak Island treasure hunter Dan Blankenship, who proclaims the object to be “old, decayed wood”.

Another load the hammergrab brings up from the void contains fragments of a strange rock that is not limestone anhydrite, which the bedrock on the eastern end of the island is known to be comprised of. After examining the rock, Dave Blankenship proclaims, “I’ll tell you right now: that rock that you got out don’t belong there…”

The next load the hammergrab brings up contains more fragments of old wood. Encouraged by the finds, the team decides that a sonar scan of the void is in order, and that a manual exploration of the void by a diver might be necessary in the future.

That night, Rick Lagina, Jack Begley, and Charles Barkhouse meet in the War Room. There, they agree that they would like to send a diver into the void at the bottom of Borehole C1, and that John Chatterton is the ideal man for the job. The narrator explains how Chatterton, a celebrity wreck diver, successfully entered and explored the chamber at the bottom of Borehole 10-X, and ultimately determined, to the Oak Island team’s chagrin, that the chamber was naturally formed.

The three treasure hunters proceed to call John Chatterton and his business partner and safety diver Howard Ehrenberg on Skype. The two divers express their willingness to attempt a dive in Borehole C1, and suggest that Oak Island Tours Inc. first conduct a sonar scan of the void at the bottom for safety purposes. The treasure hunters agree to do so and end the call.



Samuel Ball

See Season 4, Episode 6

The Treasure of Havana

In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, metal detection expert Gary Drayton discovers a dandy button, a lead ingot used for making musket balls, an identificatory plate from a musket, and six copper coins bearing the image of King George II of Great Britain (who reigned from 1727-1760) on Oak Island’s Lot 24. Oak Island historian Charles Barkhouse, while reflecting upon the discoveries, remarks that they are consistent with the late Oak Island treasure hunter Fred Nolan’s theory that the British were responsible for Oak Island’s underground workings, and that members of the British military buried treasure from the Thirteen Colonies, along with a significant percentage of the spoils of the 1762 Battle of Havana, on Oak Island during the American Revolution.

The Battle of Havana was an engagement between British and Spanish forces fought outside the walls of Havana, Cuba, in 1762. Nearly a decade earlier, British forces attacked French forts on disputed North American territory. This led to an unofficial war between French and English colonists and their respective First Nations allies, known today as the French and Indian War. This North American conflict eventually spilled over into Europe, evolving into what is arguably the first real ‘world war’. European powers allied with Britain- including Prussia and various Germanic states- went to war with nations allied with France- including Austria, Russia, and Sweden. Battles were fought in North America, continental Europe, West Africa, Mughal India, and eventually the Philippines. This global conflict is known as the Seven Years’ War.

Although allied with France, Spain remained neutral throughout much of the Seven Years’ War. In 1759, the Spanish King Ferdinand VI died and was succeeded by his ambitious younger brother Charles III. Cognizant of the fact that a British victory over France would alter the European balance of power out of Spain’s favour, Charles III decided to enter the war against Britain. In 1762, Spain and France executed a series of assaults on Portugal, a kingdom allied with Britain. In response, Britain launched a massive attack on Havana, Cuba, the heavily-fortified capital of the Spanish West Indies (Caribbean).

Since the early 1500’s, the port city of Havana- dubbed “The Key to the New World and the Rampart of the West Indies” by the Spanish Crown- was the hub of Spain’s New World colonies. It was also centre of Spain’s three major trans-oceanic trading routes. The riches of the New World- which included Aztec, Maya, and Inca plunder in the early 1500’s, and goods such as silver, gold, emeralds, indigo, cochineal, hardwoods, cow hides, cocoa, tobacco, and vanilla in the ensuing years- first made their way to Havana, where they were loaded into treasure galleons and shipped across the Atlantic to Spain. Spanish goods bound for New World colonies, in turn, were shipped to Havana before being consigned to their respective destinations. And Ming Chinese goods from the Spanish colony of Manila made their way to Spain by way of Havana. As such, Havana was an especially wealthy New World city of utmost importance to the Spanish Crown.

In 1762, Britain launched a 30,000-man assault on Havana, headed by General George Keppel (Earl of Albemarle), Admiral George Pocock, and Major-General George Elliott. Although the city was well fortified and situated in a protected harbour, its 11,000-man garrison was not entirely prepared for the attack; the colonial governor of Cuba,  Captain General Juan de Prado, had been unable to properly strengthen Havana’s defenses in time due to a debilitating colony-wide epidemic of yellow fever. British forces, unable to enter the Havana Bay due to a boom chain, laid siege to Castillo del Morro, a stalwart fortress guarding the entrance to the bay. After installing artillery on a nearby hill, they barraged the fortress’ stone walls with mortar and cannon fire. Every night, their destructive work was patched up by the tireless Spanish defenders on the orders of their resourceful commander Luis Vicente Velasco de Isla.

The British besieged El Morro for nearly two months, engaging in occasional minor skirmishes with the Spanish defenders. Although the Spanish were heavily outnumbered, they refused an official invitation to surrender, working furiously to repair and defend their fortress and harrying their British besiegers at every opportunity. So valiant was the Spanish defense effort that the British later erected statues of Velasco, the Spanish commander, in Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. For nearly 150 years following the battle, British ships sailing past Noja, Spain- Velasco’s hometown- would fire a salute in honour of their esteemed enemy.

After the British detonated a mine near one of El Morro’s bastions and stormed the breach, Velasco led his troops to meet them. In the ensuing skirmish, Velasco himself was mortally wounded, recieving a musket ball in the chest. Following the Spanish commander’s demise, the British quickly overtook El Morro, and pushed onwards to the gates of Havana. Less than two weeks later, the city surrendered.

With the capture of Havana, the British had taken the most important harbour in the Spanish Americas. In addition to defensive artillery and a significant portion of the Spanish Navy, which the defenders had neglected to burn, the British appropriated 1,800,000 Spanish pesos and 1,000,000 pesos-worth of treasure from the port city’s coffers and warehouses. This booty was brought back to England by way of Halifax.

According to some Oak Island theorists, British navy men- perhaps rogue British officers loathe to surrender their hard-won plunder to the Crown- buried a portion of their treasure on Oak Island, a short distance from Halifax.

Francis Bacon, William Shakespeare, the Rosicrucians, and Petter Amundsen

Note: The following chapter is an excerpt from our book Oak Islanda comprehensive guide to Canada’s greatest treasure hunt. Click the picture below to check out the PDF version of this book.

Some researchers believe that a mysterious post-Renaissance fraternity known as the Rosicrucians might be behind the Oak Island mystery.

The Rosicrucian fraternity, also known as the Fraternity of the Rose Cross and the Order of the Rosy Cross, is a secret society which is said to have been founded in Germany during the late medieval period. It is believed that members were keepers of ancient philosophical and scientific wisdom which had been passed down to them by Arabian wise men and Maghrebian Moors. For 120 years after their founding, the Rosicrucians purportedly kept their knowledge secret, fearing that the intellectual climate in Europe was not ready for it. Then, in 1614, they published the first of what have been come known as the Rosicrucian manifestos- documents revealing their secret history and general philosophy. The Rosicrucian doctrine quickly spread throughout Europe, engendering a 17th Century furor which has been termed by Renaissance historian Dame Francis Yates the “Rosicrucian Enlightenment”.

Although no one has openly admitted to being a member of the Fraternity of the Rose Cross, a number of European intellectuals have championed the secret society’s philosophies in their writings. Some have long been suspected of having some involvement with Rosicrucian fraternity. These potential members include prominent artists and scientists such as William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Francis Bacon, Dr. John Dee, and Fernando Pessoa.

One of the most difficult problems with the theory that the Order of the Rosy Cross might have some connection with the Oak Island mystery is the fact that no one is really sure that the society actually existed at all. The only real evidence we have supporting its existence are the Rosicrucian manifestos.

The first manifesto, Fama Fraternitatis, was published in Kassel, Germany, in 1614. It tells the story of the Order’s founder, a man named “Father C.R.” The manifesto explains how Father C.R., while still a young man, set off on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On the way, he stopped in Damascus, where he learned medicine and mathematics from the so-called “Wise Men of Damasco”. After three years, he left Damascus and travelled to Egypt by ship before sailing further east along the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea to the city of Fez, in North Africa. There, he learned science, alchemy, and philosophy from the city’s co-called “Elementary Inhabitants.” He spent two years in Fez before sailing to Spain, where he tried to impart all he had learned in his travels to the Spanish scholars. The scholars were proud, however, and, unwilling to admit that their knowledge was lacking, they rejected the teachings of Father C.R. The German continued to travel throughout Europe, trying to share the wisdom he had learned with whomever would listen, but was similarly rejected by the academic authorities of the day. Finally, he settled in Germany, where he and seven others formed a secret brotherhood known as the Fraternity of the Rosie Cross. The Brothers agreed to spread themselves throughout Europe so that they could, as a whole, better understand the areas in which European knowledge was lacking. They also agreed to cure the sick free of charge, convene with each other once a year, find worthy successors for themselves, and keep their Fraternity secret for one hundred years. The manifesto goes on to tell of how the Rosicrucian brotherhood, many years after their founding, discovered the tomb of Father C.R. in a seven-sided vault. When they opened the casket, they found Father C.R.’s body “whole and unconsumed,” holding an important parchment book which, next to the Bible, was the Rosicrucians’ greatest treasure.

Many believe Fama Fraternitatis was not meant to be taken literally, but is rather an allegory laced with symbolic meaning. Others believe that the manifesto was a hoax carried out in the hopes that it might popularize the notion of spreading knowledge among Europe’s lower classes. Some, however, believe that the document is the first piece of evidence proving the existence of the Rosicrucians.

If the latter is truly the case, the second piece of evidence was published a year later, once again in Kassel, Germany. The second Rosicrucian manifesto, the 1615 Confessio Fraternitatis, addresses a number of misgivings people have had about the Fraternity of the Rosie Cross following the publication of Fama Fraternitatis, asserting that the brotherhood is not heretical and that its members “acknowledge [themselves] truly and sincerely to profess Christ.” It also invites the “Learned of Europe” to be open-minded to new knowledge and philosophies, and implies that the Rosicrucians were preparing to reform the prevailing intellectual status quo in Europe.

The Rosicrucian manifestos were hugely popular at the time of their publication, as many intellectuals at the time found the notion of an impending cultural revolution, compounded with the apparent existence of secret society privy to esoteric knowledge, to be very exciting. In the years following the publication of the manifestos, academics all over Europe attempted to get in touch with the Rosicrucians, most of them apparently without success.

In 1616, a pamphlet entitled the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz was published anonymously in Germany. Some considered it to be the third of the Rosicrucian manifestos. However, as it was dissimilar in style and content to the previous manifestos, some rejected the idea that it was truly Rosicrucian. The Chymical Wedding tells the story of a man named Christian Rosenkreutz, who is identified as the Father C.R. from Fama Fraternitatis. The story is an allegoric romance chock-full of alchemic symbolism which tells of how Rosenkreutz was invited to a magical castle in order to assist with the wedding of a king and queen.

Over the years, many academics have theorized that the Rosicrucians were the predecessors of the Freemasons, members of a fraternity which was formed in Scotland in the early 1700’s. Some have even suggested that the Order of the Rosy Cross was a descendant of the medieval Christian military order the Knights Templar. Others suspect that the Order of the Rosy Cross was never a real fraternity at all, and that the Rosicrucian manifestos were nothing more than well-intentioned hoaxes perpetrated by anonymous pioneers of the Age of Enlightenment. Perhaps we will never know for sure.

For years, various academics and scholars have argued that the Rosicrucians likely had something to do with the Oak Island mystery. There have been a number of books written on the subject, many of which have evolved into conspiracy theories.

One of the most recent and well-researched arguments supporting the Rosicrucian theory is the one presented by Norwegian organist, amateur cryptographer, and Freemason Petter Amundsen. Amundsen, who resides in Oslo, Norway, claims that he has uncovered hidden messages in several 17th Century publications, including the First Folio (the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare’s plays), which suggest that: a) the plays and sonnets attributed to William Shakespeare were, in fact, authored by the English nobleman, scientist, and philosopher Sir Francis Bacon; b) the Shakespearean works were a Rosicrucian project; c) the Rosicrucians buried a treasure of historic and religious value in Oak Island’s swamp. Amundsen presents his incredible theory, along with reams of evidence which he claims supports it, in several books and films.

Amundsen’s quest began while he was reading The Tunnel Thru the Air, a 1927 science fiction novel written by William Delbert Gann. Gann was a finance trader who, in the early 1900’s, developed unorthodox technical analysis tools with which he claimed he could forecast the stock market. Eerily, many of Gann’s predictions- even some not related to the stock market- appear to have come true. Some believe that Gann concealed some of his most valuable trading secrets inside The Tunnel Thru the Air through the use of codes and cyphers. According to the book’s forward, “The ‘Tunnel Thru the Air’ is mysterious and contains a valuable secret, clothed in veiled language.” Amundsen, who dabbled in the stock market himself, hoped to uncover this ‘valuable secret’ and apply it to stock trading.

On page 126 of the book, Amundsen came across a sentence which made him pause and scratch his head. The sentence read: “Lord Bacon, the literary genius and philosopher lifted the Bible one day above his head and said: There God speaks.”

The ‘Lord Bacon’ the sentence refers to is the English Renaissance man Sir Francis Bacon. Francis Bacon was an English philosopher, parliamentarian, scientist, legal expert and writer who lived from 1561-1626. Many consider Bacon to be the father of the scientific method (the formulation of a hypothesis through observation, measurement, and experimentation) and the Napoleonic Code (a civil code established by French dictator Napoleon Bonaparte in 1804). Bacon also played an instrumental role in the colonization of the British colonies in North America.

What caused Amundsen to take a second look at this particular sentence were the facts that: a) although Francis Bacon was certainly a prolific writer, he is not typically considered to be a ‘literary genius’; and b) to the best of his knowledge, there were no records of Bacon lifting a Bible above his head and saying, “There God speaks.”

Amundsen suspected that this strange sentence might be a clue that would help him unravel the mystery of Gann’s book. Steganographers- people who conceal hidden messages in larger, otherwise normal-looking messages- often make intentional mistakes in the larger, innocuous message in order to indicate that there is more to it than meets the eye. In order to verify to himself that the sentence in Gann’s book might indeed be one such intentional error, Amundsen read up on Francis Bacon to see if there were any references to him raising a Bible above his head and saying, “There God speaks.”

While researching Francis Bacon, Amundsen learned that the English Renaissance man was the inventor of a binary alphabet which could be used to conceal messages within text. In this alphabet, every letter of the Latin alphabet (i.e. the alphabet we use today; ex. A,B,C,D,E, etc.) is replaced with a five-character string in which each character is either an ‘a’ or a ‘b’. For example, the letter ‘A’ becomes ‘aaaaa’; the letter ‘B’ becomes ‘aaaab’; the letter ‘C’ becomes ‘aaaba’; etc. The following picture, a reproduction of an excerpt from Francis Bacon’s 1640 book The Advancement of Learning, shows this binary alphabet which Bacon developed:

If a steganographer wanted to conceal a smaller code in a larger one using this alphabet, he or she would have to find a way to make two distinct categories of letters. One of the letter categories would represent ‘a’, while the other letter category would represent ‘b’. As an example, I’m going to write some text containing a secret message. In this instance, lowercase letters represent ‘a’, while capital letters represent ‘b’.

To find the secret message in this text, we first have to separate it into five-letter blocks:

Then we have to turn each letter into either an ‘a’ or a ‘b’. In this message, lower case letters turn into ‘a’, and capital letters turn into ‘b’:

Finally, we use Francis Bacon’s binary alphabet to find the letter which corresponds to each five-character block:

Now we see that the secret message is:

After learning about Bacon’s binary alphabet, Amundsen came across the 1900 book, The Cipher in the Plays and on the Tombstone, written by former U.S. Congressman Ignatius Donnelly. In his book- and in an earlier 1888 book entitled The Great Cryptogram: Francis Bacon’s Cipher in Shakespeare’s Plays– Donnelly claims to have discovered codes in the sonnets and plays of the famous English poet and playwright William Shakespeare. According to Donnelly, these codes, when decrypted, indicate that many of the Shakespearean works were, in fact, actually written by Sir Francis Bacon. Donnelly further claims that the inscription on Shakespeare’s tombstone contains a code which can be deciphered using Bacon’s binary alphabet. When deciphered, the tombstone message suggests a Shakespeare-Bacon connection.

Where is Shakespeare’s tomb? It is located in the chancel (the space around the altar) of Holy Trinity Church in the English market town of Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace. Beside Shakespeare’s tomb is the grave of his wife, Ann Hathaway, as well as the graves of his daughter Suzanna, his son-in-law Dr. John Hall (Susanna’s husband), and his grandson-in-law Thomas Nash (the husband of Shakespeare’s granddaughter Elizabeth (who is the daughter of Suzanna and Dr. John Hall)). The inscription on Shakespeare’s tombstone reads:

Translated into modern English, the gravestone reads:

There is nothing about the inscription on Shakespeare’s tomb which suggests that it might contain a hidden code which could be decyphered using Bacon’s binary alphabet. The letters on the stone cannot be divided into two different categories, like uppercase and lowercase. There are no randomly-modified letters in boldface or italics which could separate the letters into ‘a’s and ‘b’s.

However, in his book, Donnelly references an article written in the North American Review in 1887 by a resident of Kincardine, Ontario, named Hugh Black. In his article, Black maintains that the headstone that adorns Shakespeare’s grave today is not the original headstone, but rather an 18th or 19th century replacement. According to Black, the epitaph on the original headstone, while bearing the same message as its replacement, contained alternating uppercase and lowercase letters- a’s and b’s- which, when decoded using Francis Bacon’s binary alphabet, suggested a Shakespeare-Bacon connection.

The notion that the headstone that currently marks Shakespeare’s grave is a replacement is corroborated by an 1882 book written by Shakespearean scholar James Halliwell-Phillipps entitled Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare. In his book, Halliwell-Phillipps maintains that the inscription on Shakespeare’s tomb, designed to deter grave robbers and relic hunters from exhuming the poet’s remains, was designed by a friend of Shakespeare’s. This friend, Halliwell Phillipps writes, knew that Shakespeare hated the idea of his bones being re-interred in the nearby charnel house (a vault where human skeletons, exhumed from their graves, are stored en-masse in order to make room in the graveyard for fresh corpses), which was apparently a common practice in Stratford-upon- Avon at the time. According to Halliwell-Phillipps, the warning on the inscription seems to have worked, as nobody has tampered with Shakespeare’s remains. He continues:

“The honours of repose, which have thus far been conceded to the poet’s remains, have not been extended to the tomb-stone. The latter had, by the middle of the last century, sank below the level of the floor, and, about fifty years ago, had become so much decayed as to suggest vandalic order for its removal, and, in its stead, to place a new slab, one which marks certainly the locality of Shakespeare’s grave and continues the record of the farewell lines, but indicates nothing more. The original memorial has wandered from its allotted station no one can tell whither, – a sacrifice to the insane worship of prosaic neatness, that mischevious demon whose votaries have practically destroyed so many of the priceless relics of ancient England and her gifted sons.”

In other words, Halliwell-Phillipps suggests that Shakespeare’s original headstone, decrepit and sagging into the floor, was replaced in about 1825, and that the original stone was lost to history.

A more recent discovery may shed some light on the reason behind the pitiful condition of Shakespeare’s original headstone circa 1825. In order to commemorate the 400 year anniversary of Shakespeare’s death (April 23, 2016), in the early spring of 2016, a team of archaeologists and geophysicists led by English historian Dr. Helen Castor used non-invasive ground-penetrating radar to conduct the first archaeological investigation of Shakespeare’s grave. The team discovered that Shakespeare’s skull appeared to be missing, and that a strange stone or concrete structure, possibly serving some sort of structural purpose, lay in the area where Shakespeare’s head should be. The archaeologists concluded that their findings verified an old legend, first published in an 1879 edition of the Argosy magazine, which states that Shakespeare’s skull was stolen from Trinity Church by grave robbers in 1794. Perhaps the excavation carried out by those 18th Century grave robbers, along with the lack of structural support brought about by the absence of Shakespeare’s skull, contributed to the poor condition of the tombstone and the floor it was adhered to.

Anyways, if it is true that the original headstone of Shakespeare’s grave was replaced, that the original headstone contained a secret code, and that the original headstone, and thus the code, was lost to history, the mystery would end there. However, an 18th/19th Century English publisher named Charles Knight, while doing research for a Shakespeare biography (which was first published in 1843), copied the inscription on the original headstone and included it on page 535 in his work, William Shakspere: a biography. The original inscription included a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, seemingly placed in no rational order. Knight’s copy of the inscription looks like this:

Hugh Black, the author of the article in the 1887 North American Review, speculated that the inscription, with its seemingly-random uppercase and lowercase letters, was actually a code that could be cracked using Bacon’s binary alphabet. Accordingly, he did the following.

First, he separated the text into five-character blocks. He included the dashes between ‘T-E’ as characters.

Next, he postulated that the uppercase letters were the b’s, and the lowercase letters were the a’s. He included the dashes between the ‘T-E’s as lowercase letters, or a’s.

Finally, he assigned each 5-character a group a letter using Bacon’s binary alphabet:

At first glance, the supposed message appears to be nonsense. However, Black quickly annagrammed the letters to form the word SHAXPEARE. He further re-arranged the remaining letters:

To form FR BA WR EAR AY, which he maintained stood for “Francis Bacon Wrote Shakespeare’s Plays”. After that, the letters T and A remained.

Although Amundsen was convinced that there might be something to Black’s first step in forming the anagram ‘SHAXPEARE’ from the decrypted letters, he wasn’t so sure about the second part. He played with the letters, and came up with: W SHAXPEARE and FR BA (the FR BA apparently standing for Francis Bacon). He was left with the following letters:

From here, Amundsen seperated the remaining letters into two sections. Into one section he grouped the letters YETA. In the original code solution, YETA are the four letters that make up the middle section. They remain the four middle letters after W SHAXPEARE and FR BA are taken out. Amundsen also suspected that the letters YETA, which seemed to be enclosed in the code solution, were somehow related to the inscription words “the dust encloased here”. Into the other section, he grouped the letters RAAR.

At first glance, RAAR appears to have no meaning. However, Amundsen rearranged the letters so that they spelled ARRA. An ‘arras’ is a fine wool tapestry with Flemmish/French origins which plays an important role in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. In Hamlet’s Act 3, Scene 4, Hamlet, the protagonist, stabs and kills the character Polonius through an arras, behind which the latter was hiding. Later on, when a character asks Hamlet what he did with Polonius’ body, he replies, “I compounded it with dust.” From this, Amundsen deduced that he should ‘compound’ the word YETA with the word DUST.

An old tradition in cryptography is to assign numbers to letters. In this system, the letter A is equal to 1, B = 2, C = 3, etc. In his book, Abecedarium, Francis Bacon apparently reveals, in a roundabout way, that he is familiar with this system.

Amundsen compounded YETA with DUST thusly: Y+D, E+U, T+S, and A+T. After he assigned each letter its numerical value and added them together, he got the values 27, 25, 37, and 20. The first three numbers here are too high to correspond with a letter of the alphabet. In order to rectify this, Amundsen subtracted 24 from the first three numbers (remember the Latin alphabet during Elizabethan and Jacobean times only had 24 letters) and arrived at 3, 1, 13, 20. These letters correspond with the letters CANV, respectively.

Amundsen replaced the letters YETA in the original code solution with these new letters, CANV, so that the new solution reads:

Here, the name enclosed reveals itself to be FR BACAN.

In the end, this solution reveals the ‘words’ W SHAXPEARE FR BACAN. The remaining letters are ARRAV.

Although this supposed solution of the supposed code on Shakespeare’s gravestone is far from being concrete proof that Francis Bacon was the real author of the Shakespearean works, it was enough to cause Petter Amundsen to abandon his original search for the code in Gann’s The Tunnel Thru the Air and concentrate wholeheartedly on getting to the bottom of this Shakespearean mystery.

By now, some of you might be wondering So what? Even if there is a possibility that Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare’s plays, what does any of this have to do with Oak Island? The answer, according to Peter Amundsen, lies in Shakespeare’s First Folio.

The First Folio is the first collected edition of William Shakespeare’s plays. It was published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, by John Heminges and Henry Condell, actors of the King’s Men playing company for which Shakespeare wrote his plays. Before the First Folio was published in 1623, a number of Shakespeare’s plays had already been published individually in Quarto. A Quarto is a booklet comprised of pages which have been folded in half twice (to make four double-sided pages). However, as many of these early Quarto editions were considered ‘bad Quartos’- Quartos which were pirated by audience members who attended the performances of Shakespeare’s plays and wrote down the scripts as they heard them- and as all of Shakespeare’s original, hand-written manuscripts have been lost to history, the First Folio is considered to be one of the earliest and most authentic publications of the Shakespearean works.

In the 2006 book Organisten, Petter Amundsen reveals a myriad of what he claims to be secret messages and clues linking the Shakespearian works with Francis Bacon, Free Masonry, and Rosicrucianism, hidden inside the First Folio. Specifically, Amundsen claims that these alleged clues imply that Francis Bacon was the actual author of the Shakespearean works, and that the Shakespearean works were a Rosicrucian project. Some of these clues are manifest in acrostic messages (in which the first letter of each line spells out a message vertically down the page). Others Amundsen reveals by counting words, lines, and pages using Masonic and Rosicrucian numbers, as well as the numerical values of particular words (remember, it was an established policy for cryptographers and steganographers to assign numerical values to letters; ex. A=1, B=2, C=3, etc.), such as FRANCIS BACON and POET. Others still Amundsen uncovers by drawing Masonic shapes and symbols (like Pythagorean 3-4-5 triangles, pentagons, circles, and the Masonic Square and Compass) directly onto pages of the First Folio; reversing words, numbers, and geometric shapes; taking note of mysterious typographical and page-numbering errors; translating English words and letters into Latin and Greek; identifying anagrams (words which are made by rearranging letters); and interpreting plays-on-words. In addition, Amundsen uses these same methods to find similar clues in the works of Francis Bacon and Ben Jonson (a 17th Century English playwright and poet who was a friend of Shakespeare’s and a close associate of Francis Bacon), as well as in the plaque on Shakespeare’s funerary monument, located in Stratford-Upon-Avon’s Trinity Church in which Shakespeare is buried. To the skeptic, many of these supposed clues appear to be the result of nothing more than coincidence when considered individually. However, the sheer magnitude of Amundsen’s findings, coupled with a handful of particularly convincing pieces of evidence, give credence to the notion that the Norwegian organ player might be onto something.

Why would Francis Bacon hide the fact that he was the true author of the Shakespearean works? Why wouldn’t he take credit for the spectacular plays and poetry which have come to be regarded as some of the greatest pieces in the history of English literature? Amundsen- along with many so-called ‘Baconians’ who believe Francis Bacon was the true author of the Shakespearean plays and sonnets- believes that Bacon did this so as to not hinder his political career. Bacon was a noble, and during the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, it was seen as unbecoming for someone of the upper class to write verse and dramatic poetry. Furthermore, much of the content of the Shakespearean works is politically volatile, and could land its author, were he a member of the upper class, in serious trouble.

Another question that arises when considering the possibility that Francis Bacon wrote all of the Shakespearean works is that of where Bacon found the time to complete them. There are a total of 835,997 words in Shakespeare’s plays alone. It would have taken a single man a tremendous amount of time to conceive of, pen, and edit such a quantitatively tremendous and qualitatively exquisite volume of work. And Francis Bacon was not an idle man; the English nobleman accomplished an impressive amount in his 65 years under his own name. As mentioned earlier, he was a parliamentarian, a jurist, a scientist and a philosopher who wrote a number of texts relevant to his professions. Amundsen addresses this question by stating that is it entirely possible that Bacon received help in writing the Shakespearean plays and sonnets from fellow Rosicrucians. He maintains that a number of these freethinkers might have worked under the supervision of Bacon, who was likely their leader, and published their collective content under the name of an up-and-coming actor from Stratford-upon-Avon named William Shakespeare, with whom they had made a deal.

Amundsen goes on to point out a number of hidden messages in Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets which, when combined with other secret messages found in the writings of Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, and the Rosicrucian manifestos, apparently illustrate a celestial map using stars and constellations. The hidden messages seem to indicate that a treasure of some kind is buried at a point where the star Deneb was in zenith over the earth in the early 1600’s- a point which, when calculated, appears to be one of the many islands off the coast of Nova Scotia. Amundsen uncovers secret messages in various 17th Century documents which suggest that this island was Glouchester Island. Glouchester Island is an early name for the place we know today as Oak Island.

Interestingly, the idea that Francis Bacon might somehow be connected with Oak Island is not a new one. A number of books linking Bacon with the island have been written by various authors since the 1930’s. Up until Petter Amundsen, however, most of these writers have based their suppositions on two different Oak Island discoveries. The first of these discoveries was made in 1897 by the Oak Island Treasure Company. While drilling to a depth of 153 feet at the Money Pit, the Company recovered a small piece of sheepskin parchment, about the size of a dime, with the letters ‘vi’ handwritten on it in India ink with a quill pen. According to some accounts, when later tested, it was revealed the scrap of parchment contained traces of mercury. Today, this piece of parchment resides in Dan Blankenship’s small personal museum on Oak Island. Also, in 1937, several thousands of pieces of broken pottery were discovered by treasure hunter Gilbert Hedden at Joudrey’s Cove on Oak Island. These pottery shards also contained traces of mercury. Some speculate that the presence of mercury on Oak Island artifacts, combined with the parchment discovered on the drill bit, is evidence that Francis Bacon was somehow connected; Bacon, in his natural history book Sylva Sylvarum, writes briefly about how quicksilver, or mercury, can be used to preserve ‘bodies’ such as flowers.

To summarize thus far: Petter Amundsen has purportedly unearthed a number of secret messages hidden in various 17th Century publications- including the writings of Francis Bacon and Ben Jonson, the Rosicrucian manifestos, and Shakespeare’s First Folio- which indicate that: a) Francis Bacon was the true author of the Shakespearean works; b) there is a treasure buried on an island somewhere off the coast of Nova Scotia; c) the island in question is probably Oak Island. These claims give rise to a number of questions: 1) Who buried this treasure on Oak Island? 2) Where exactly on the island did they bury this treasure? 3) What does this treasure consist of? 4) Why was the treasure buried in the first place?

Amundsen believes that his research has already revealed the answer to the first question. Many of the hidden messages which helped Amundsen to arrive at the conclusions he did were revealed through the use of Rosicrucian and Masonic numbers and geometry. From this, Amundsen deduced that the people who buried the Oak Island treasure were probably Rosicrucians- either sympathizers with the Rosicrucian philosophy or members of an actual Rosicrucian fraternity- or some sort of proto-Freemasons, or perhaps both. Judging from the content of the plethora of hidden messages he claims to have unearthed, Amundsen also believes that Francis Bacon somehow had a major role in the treasure’s burial.

Amundsen believes that the answer to the question of the treasure’s exact location can be found by studying Nolan’s Cross. Nolan’s Cross is the name given to five conical 10-15-ton granite boulders spread throughout the middle of Oak Island which form a perfect cross. The Cross was discovered in 1981 by surveyor and treasure hunter Fred Nolan, a recently-deceased resident of Oak Island who had been searching for the Oak Island treasure since 1958. Amundsen believes that Nolan’s Cross is not only an artificially-created cross, but also a section of a larger, man-made Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life, or Etz haChayim, is a Judaic Kabbalistic symbol which represents one of the two trees in the Garden of Eden as described in the Book of Genesis (the other being the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which bore the fruit which Adam and Eve disobediently ate). The Tree of Life has 10 Sephirot, or attributes, which represent the nature of divinity. According to Fama Fraternitatis, the first Rosicrucian manifesto, Rosacrucians were both Christians and cabalists (practitioners of Kabbalah). Therefore, according to Amundsen, Nolan’s Cross, being both a cross and a Tree of Life, would be a perfectly appropriate Rosicrucian symbol.

When Amundsen projected the Tree of Life onto Nolan’s Cross, it fit perfectly. The stone labelled stone A corresponded with the ‘Crown’ Sephirot, stone C matched ‘Understanding’, stone B matched ‘Wisdom’, stone D matched ‘Beauty’, and stone E matched ‘Foundation’. Amundsen believed that the key to the Oak Island Treasure lay at the site of one of the Sephirots, and intended to travel to Oak Island to investigate the points himself.

Upon contacting David Tobias, one of the two partners of the Triton Alliance (the contemporary Oak Island treasure-hunting syndicate; the other partner being Dave Blankenship), Petter Amundsen received permission to investigate his hypothetical Sephirots for three days in the spring of 2003. On May 25, 2003, he, along with a small crew, arrived on Oak Island and immediately set about measuring the distance between the tips of the conical stones that made up Nolan’s Cross. As anticipated, the length between the stones was perfectly congruent with the corresponding Sephirots on the Tree of Life.

Amundsen and the crew went on to investigate several of the sites where Sephirots would be if the Tree of Life was projected onto Nolan’s Cross. The first one they investigated was ‘Kingdom’, at the bottom of the Tree of Life. Although a metal detector found no traces of metal in the area, a quick manual dig revealed that a large flat stone lay buried at the ‘Kingdom’ site just below the surface.

After finding the flat stone at the Kingdom point, the crew located the ‘Victory’ point. There, the crew found another flat stone similar to the one they had found at the ‘Kingdom’ point.

After finding the ‘Victory’ stone, the crew rowed into the middle of Oak Island’s triangular swamp on a dingy in search of the ‘Mercy’ point. Although the crew found the point with little difficulty, they could do little more; the ‘Mercy’ point is covered by several metres of swampy water. Having done all they could do in the time allotted to them, Amundsen and his team packed it in and returned to Norway.

Somewhat crestfallen, Amundsen returned to the aforementioned 17th Century manuscripts to see what he had missed. In those books, he discovered what he believes to be clear indications that the ‘Mercy’ point is the precise location at which the treasure is buried. The problem with the ‘Mercy’ point, however, is that it is located in the centre of Oak Island’s triangular swamp. If something were indeed buried at the ‘Mercy’ point, it follows that the Oak Island swamp might possibly be a man-made pond constructed in order to hide the burial spot- a theory which treasure hunter and Oak Island resident Dan Blankenship had held for years- and that at least one among those who buried the treasure on Oak Island was an engineering genius who possessed the technology and the skill to manipulate vast quantities of water.

Fortunately for Amundsen, one such aquatic engineer was a close associate of Francis Bacon. 17th Century British mining engineer Thomas Bushell was Bacon’s servant from 1608 until 1621, when Bacon was impeached on charges of corruption. Bushell was one of Bacon’s servants who had accepted bribes from people engaged in lawsuits on his master’s behalf. When Bacon was convicted, Bushell disappeared for three years. Some believe he retired to the Isle of Wight in the Irish Sea, where he lived disguised as a fisherman. However, Amundsen, using passages from Bushell’s 1659 book Abridgement as evidence, believes Bacon sent him on a special mission to the New World, possibly to oversee digging operations on Oak Island. After a three years’ absence, Bushell returned to England. He remained there until Francis Bacon’s death in 1626, whereupon he left England again, ostensibly travelling to either Lundy, another island in the Irish Sea, or the Calf of Man, a tiny island off the southwest coast of the Isle of Man. Amundsen instead believes he went back to Oak Island in order to carry out Francis Bacon’s last request. Bushell eventually returned to England in 1628, where he made a name for himself as Britain’s foremost mining engineer. One of his specialties was the manipulation of water.

Amundsen believes that it is possible that Bushell, during his extended absences, buried a treasure on Oak Island through the use of penal labour (a subject on which Bushell has written). Then, using his aquatic engineering expertise, he manipulated freshwater that was already on the island and drowned the burial site in a swamp.

If Bushell and company really did bury something on Oak Island, what was it? Amundsen maintains that clues in Bushell’s writings- as well as those in the writings of Francis Bacon, the first of the Rosicrucian manifestos, and an inscription below the Francis Bacon tomb/monument in St. Michael’s Church in St. Albans, UK- suggest that the Oak Island treasure might include a mummified body (perhaps the preserved corpse of Francis Bacon), a number of specially-preserved manuscripts (perhaps medieval Rosicrucian texts, the original, handwritten Shakespearean manuscripts, or the lost works of Francis Bacon), the Menorah (the seven-branched lampstand of pure gold crafted during the Exodus and used in Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem), and possibly even the Ark of the Covenant (the chest containing the stone tablets on which Moses inscribed the Ten Commandments, which occupied the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Solomon).

If Amundsen’s theory is to be believed, we know the When, the Who, the Where, and the What behind the treasure buried on Oak Island. One final question remains: Why was the treasure buried in the first place? Amundsen believes that the Rosicrucian proto-Masonic Europeans who buried a body, secret manuscripts, the Menorah, and the Ark of the Covenant on Oak Island in the 1600’s were realizing an ancient dream shared by many orthodox Jews and fundamentalist Christians: specifically, the construction of the Third Temple, a Holy Temple prophesized in the
Book of Ezekiel.

In Jewish tradition, and according to Masonic and Cabbalist teachings, the First Temple, also known as Solomon’s Temple, was built in the mid-10th Century BC on the orders of the Hebrew King Solomon. This Temple, which was erected on what is now the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, housed the Ark of the Covenant and the Menorah in an inner sanctuary known as the Holy of Holies. According to Rabbinic literature and the Hebrew Bible, the First Temple was destroyed in 587 BC by the armies of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II. The Babylonians razed the town and kept meticulous records of their plunder. Although their booty included Temple treasures, the Menorah and the Ark of the Covenant were never mentioned.

According to the Old Testament, the Jewish people built a Second Temple on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in 516 BC. Between 20 and 19 BC, the Judeo-Roman client-king Herod the Great expanded it on a massive scale. Thereafter, the Second Temple was also known as Herod’s Temple. Herod’s Temple stood until 70 AD, when Roman legions under the Emperor Titus sacked Jerusalem and razed much of the city.

Ever since the destruction of the Second Temple, many orthodox Jews, and later fundamentalist Christians, have yearned to see the construction of a Third Temple on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, as prophesized in the Book of Ezekiel. The most obvious impediment to realizing such a goal is the fact that the Temple Mount in Jerusalem has been dominated by the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the iconic Dome of the Rock- both Islamic structures built under the Umayyad Caliphate since the 7th Century AD. In order to build the Third Temple in accordance with the specifications laid out in the Book of Ezekiel, one of these historic Islamic structures would have to be destroyed.

Fortunately, Amundsen believes that a Third Temple of sorts is already built on Oak Island. He speculates that Bushell and the Rosicrucians used boulders to construct a temple layout which unified the Christian Cross with the Jewish Tree of Life; i.e. Nolan’s Cross. Underneath this Third Temple they buried the Menorah and the Ark of the Covenant, two of the most sacred artifacts in Judeo-Christian tradition. Specifically, Amundsen believes the Rosicrucians buried the Temple treasures at the Mercy point, which is located in the middle of the Oak Island swamp.

Amundsen’s theory first appeared in print in the 2006 book Organisten, or The Organist (renamed The Seven Steps to Mercy: with Shakespeare’s Key to the Oak Island Templum in 2015), by Norwegian novelist Erlend Loe. Organisten is essentially a series of edited interviews in which Amundsen explains his theory to Loe, along with a truly impressive, complicated, and often-interconnected assortment of supposed evidence for it.

In 2009, Amundsen presented his theory again, this time in the form of a 4-part TV mini-series directed by Jorgen Friberg called Sweet Swan of Avon. In this TV series, which first aired on Norway’s largest TV station NRK1, Amundsen has his theory assessed by a number of academic professionals, including Shakespearean scholar Professor Stanley Wells, Rosicrucian scholar Tobias Churton, cryptographic historian David Kahn, and 17th Century print expert Jola Sigmond. The TV series is now freely available on Vimeo.

In 2013, Amundsen theory was showcased in a documentary directed by Jorgen Friberg entitled Shakespeare: The Hidden Truth. In this film, English actor and Shakespearean scholar Dr. Robert Crumpton confronts Amundsen in an attempt to debunk his theory that the Shakespearean works were not, in fact, written by William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon. The inconsonant pair embark upon an adventure which takes them to Norway, England, Switzerland, and ultimately to Oak Island.

That same year, in the summer, Amundsen worked with the film crew of The Curse of Oak Island. This work was later showcased in the show’s fourth episode, The Secret of Solomon’s Temple, which first aired on January 26, 2014. In the episode, Amundsen submits his theory to Rick and Marty Lagina and their crew. Later in the episode, Amundsen sets out with Marty and Marty’s son Alex to ‘search’ for a hypothetical stone buried at the Kingdom Point which Amundsen had actually discovered years earlier, during his 2003 visit to Oak Island. However, since Amundsen’s 2003 adventure, treasure hunter and Oak Island landowner Dan Blankenship had re-buried the stone in order to hide the potential breakthrough from rival treasure hunter Fred Nolan. Amundsen, who was not entirely sure where the stone was reburied, guided the Laginas to the stone’s general location, and unwittingly selected the wrong stone to unearth. While the trio dug it up, Marty recited relevantly-adulterated lines from Robert Service’s The Cremation of Sam McGee while Amundsen winced to himself, realizing halfway through that he had indeed selected the wrong stone. When the stone was finally dug up, Amundsen admitted his error, much to the chagrin of the Lagina father and son. The Norwegian organist was saved further humiliation thanks to the resourcefulness of Alex Lagina, who promptly identified the correct stone, which the trio immediately unearthed.

According to Amundsen in a 2015 addendum to Organisten, his relationship with the Lagina brothers and with The Curse of Oak Island’s production team came to an abrupt end in 2014, when he publicly supported an amendment to Nova Scotia’s Bill 40, the Oak Island Treasure Act. Specifically, Amundsen supported a proposal submitted by Denise Paterson-Rafuse, the MLA of Chester, Nova Scotia, that there should be a stipulation that Oak Island treasure hunters have their work supervised by an archaeologist. The Laginas and the TV show’s producers are in staunch opposition to this proposition, ostensibly fearing that having an archaeologist on board might greatly hinder excavation projects.

Amundson further elaborates upon his theory in his own 2014 book entitled Oak Island & the Treasure Map in Shakespeare. In this book, he fleshes out concepts he introduced in Organisten, and presents many new pieces of supporting ‘evidence’ which he has gleaned from various 17th Century publications and artwork.

Although Amundsen has successfully outlined his theory via several different media, his is far from finished. Right now, he and director Jorgen Friberg are in the process of creating yet another TV series on his Rosicrucian theory. This TV series is to be called Seven Steps to Mercy.

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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 7: All That Glitters

The Curse of Oak Island– Season 4, Episode 7: All That Glitters


This week’s episode of The Curse of Oak Island is out… in America, at least; we Canucks will have to check out the History Channel this Sunday to catch the newest episode in Canada’s longest-running treasure hunt, entitled All That Glitters. Let’s have a look.






Plot Synopsis

Michigan brothers Rick and Marty Lagina, while driving from the town of Western Shore, Nova Scotia, to Oak Island, express their disappointment at the results of their erstwhile excavation of borehole Valley 3, which they hoped had intersected the famous ‘Chappell Vault’. The narrator elaborates on this by explaining that the Chappell Vault is a supposed concrete-covered wooden treasure vault located deep within the Money Pit area which was drilled through by treasure hunters Frederick Blair and William Chappell in 1897. In Season 2, Episode 4 of The Curse of Oak Island, the Lagina brothers and their crew attempted to locate this vault by drilling at a location prescribed by fellow company member and engineer Craig Tester. A core sample taken from this drillhole, which Oak Island Tours Inc. dubbed ‘Valley 3’, revealed the presence of curiously-oriented wood and concrete-like clay at a depth consistent with that of the Chappell Vault. Hopeful that they had indeed located the long-lost Chappell Vault, the Laginas and their crew excavated Valley 3 in Season 4, Episode 6, only to discover that the peculiarly-aligned wood their core sample had brought up was merely a relic of an earlier treasure hunt; the Chappell Vault was nowhere to be found.

Following the narrator’s explanation, Marty Lagina declares that Oak Island Tours Inc. will now excavate borehole C1, drilled in Season 3, Episode 12 at the behest of Oak Island historian Charles Barkhouse. The narrator then explains how a special camera lowered down the drillhole in Season 3, Episode 13, revealed the presence of something shiny and gold-coloured at the bottom, which Oak Island Tours Inc. hopes is a glimpse of the elusive Oak Island treasure.

The Lagina brothers arrive on Oak Island and drive to the Money Pit area, where they meet with fellow treasure hunter Dave Blankenship, Oak Island historian Charles Barkhouse, and two contractors who are currently in the process of excavating Borehole C1 with a hammergrab. The contractors inform the four men that they have been extracting massive boulders from C1, and that they intend to employ a drill rather than a hammergrab upon reaching bedrock at the 150-foot depth.

While the contractors continue to make progress at C1, Rick and Marty and their crew turn their attention to the Oak Island swamp, somewhere beneath which many Oak Island researchers believe lies a crucial key to the Oak Island treasure hunt. The narrator explains that the crew plans to drain the swamp by pumping its water overland into the Cave-In Pit, a water-filled depression situated between the Money Pit and the easterly Smith’s Cove, as the pumping of freshwater into the nearby ocean- a far more practical solution- is against environmental law. The narrator goes on to briefly describe how the Cave-In Pit was formed as a result of some sort of subterranean collapse. Following that, he recounts how, in Season 4, Episode 3, professional diver Tony Sampson discovered a long wooden plank submerged at a section of the swamp at which metal detectors indicated the presence of a significant quantity of buried metal.

In order to prevent the drainage hose from hindering work at the Money Pit area, Oak Island Tours Inc. buries a steel pipe beneath the Money Pit access road and pulls the hose through it. The crew attaches the hose to the pump without incident and starts up the machine, initiating the long-awaited drainage of the Oak Island swamp.

Two days later, the swamp is completely drained and dry enough to allow for a heavy-duty excavation. Marty Lagina- who has, in the past, expressed his aversion to the Oak Island swamp- climbs into an excavator and begins to dig at the location at which Tony Sampson discovered the wooden plank. In accordance with environmental law, Marty does his best to separate the organic peat and vegetation from the inorganic rock and clay, dumping each respective material into a hay-bounded stockade. Throughout this process, treasure hunter Jack Begley inspects the dump piles and the pit from which they were extracted with a hand-held metal detector in the hopes of locating the mysterious metal indicated by previous surveys. Initially, he finds nothing of interest.

While the rest of the crew labours in the swamp, Oak Island historian Charles Barkhouse travels to nearby Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, along with author and investigative journalist Randall Sullivan. The two men plan to scour the archives of the South Shore Genealogical Society in the hopes of uncovering useful or interesting information regarding Oak Island’s history.

At the Genealogical Society headquarters, the Lunenburg Academy, Charles and Randall meet with archivist and photographer Stephen Ernst. Upon being prompted, Ernst shows the two historians a topographical map of Oak Island drawn up by A.F. Church and Company, a Bedford-based surveying firm, in 1883. Immediately, Charles Barkhouse observes that one of the labels designating Oak Island says ‘Kidd’s Treasure’, a reference to the theory that the Money Pit is the site of the lost treasure of 17th Century pirate captain William Kidd. The narrator then launches into a brief account of Captain Kidd’s piratical exploits and his hanging in 1701 at Execution Dock in London, England.

Barkhouse and Sullivan notice that the map also includes the names of Oak Island’s landowners at that time. Among the names is a ‘McInnis’, almost certainly related to the Daniel McGinnis who, according to legend, was one of the three men who discovered the Money Pit in 1795. Barkhouse and Sullivan dig around in the archives and quickly unearth an old book which includes the genealogy of the McGinnis/McInnis family of Nova Scotia’s South Shore area. In the book, they come across an old legend which tells of a sailor who, while on his deathbed in the mid 1750’s, confessed to his bedside companions that he had been a member of Captain William Kidd’s crew, and that the pirate captain had, prior to his execution, buried a treasure amounting to ‘two million’ on an island east of Boston. Interestingly, the code known as ‘the Kempton symbols’, believed by some to have been inscribed on the stone slab discovered at the 90-foot depth in the Money Pit in 1804, form a simple substitution cypher which, when decoded, reads “FORTY FEET BELOW TWO MILLION POUNDS ARE BURIED”.

Back at the swamp, Marty continues to excavate the location at which Tony Sampson discovered a long wooden plank, and at which earlier metal detecting surveys indicated the presence of metal at depth. Unfortunately, Jack Begley, equipped with a hand-held metal detector, is unable to locate any metal objects in the pit or the dump piles. When the excavator can dig no deeper, the crew decides to refill the hole and postpone the excavation of that particular section of the swamp until another metal detecting survey has been conducted in the area.

Later, treasure hunter Dave Blankenship, Jack Begley, and Marty’s son Alex Lagina meet at the Money Pit area with Andrew Folkins of Irving Equipment Ltd. Folkins informs the crew that the steel caisson being driven down drillhole C1 has encountered a very hard substance, probably either a large boulder or bedrock, and that progress is slow but steady. The narrator and Marty Lagina then inform us that the contractors plan to drive the caisson to a depth of 160 feet (and not 150 feet, as initially planned), and will excavate the rest of the drillhole with a 39” drill bit.

While the Money Pit excavation continues, Rick Lagina accompanies metal detection expert Gary Drayton to the point of interest in the Oak Island swamp and leaves him in the company of Jack Begley and Alex Lagina. Instead of immediately investigating the point of interest, Drayton begins to explore other sections of the swamp with his metal detector, determined to make the most of this rare opportunity to investigate the dry swamp. In time, he discovers some sort of metallic object buried beneath the mud which, upon being unearthed, turns out to be a massive iron nail, very much akin to a railroad spike, which he claims “was specifically made for putting decks down… on the old boats.” This finding, when considered in conjunction with the wooden plank discovered by Tony Sampson, apparently bolsters the theory that an old ship, perhaps a treasure galleon, lies buried beneath the Oak Island swamp. Intriguingly, Drayton then states “I’ve found exactly the same objects as this off Spanish galleons from the late 1600’s/early 1700’s.”

That night, the Oak Island crew celebrates Drayton’s find in a local bar. They discuss the difference between railroad spikes, which Drayton’s discovery appears to be to the ignorant observer, and old ship nails, which Drayton maintains the artifact actually is. They agree to have the artifact analyzed by a professional who will be able to definitively determine its nature. The treasure hunters also express their excitement regarding the excavation of drillhole C1, which is expected to be completed shortly.

Later, Rick Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, and Andrew Folkins of Irving Equipment Ltd. stand by the Money Pit area in anticipation as the last few inches of C1 are drilled through. Rick and Charles, who are soon joined by their fellow treasure hunter Craig Tester, remark to Andrew Folkins that, if he and his crew manage to extract something significant from the cavern below, they will go down in history. Folkins leaves to join his crewmembers, and returns in short order to announce that the cavern at the bottom of C1 has been breached.



The Cave-In Pit

In 1875, Sophia Sellers, daughter of Oak Island’s contemporary landowner Anthony Graves, was tilling the land east of the Money Pit when her plough and ox team fell into a 10-foot sinkhole. This cavity, which was about 6 or 7 feet in diameter, was located directly over the hypothetical path of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel, believed by many to feed seawater from Smith’s Cove into the Money Pit. Many Oak Island researchers believe that the Cave-In Pit might be the remains of an airshaft dug by the original builders of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel.

In 1893, treasure hunter Frederick Blair and his Oak Island Treasure Company excavated the Pit and were flooded out by seawater when they reached a depth of 55 feet. Later, when charges were detonated near Smith’s Cove over the suspected flood tunnel, the water in Cave-In Pit (as well as the Money Pit) frothed and bubbled. These findings suggesting that the Cave-In Pit is indeed connected with the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel.

Captain William Kidd and the Legend of the Dying Sailor

When Daniel McGinnis, John Smith, and Anthony Vaughan first discovered the Money Pit in 1795, they initially
speculated that they had stumbled upon a cache of long-forgotten pirate loot. From the late 16th Century to the
early 18th Century, Mahone Bay, in which Oak Island is located, had been a frequent haunt of Spanish, French,
British, and Dutch pirates, and as a result, local yarns of lost pirate plunder abounded. One particular legend
favoured by the early settlers of nearby Chester, Nova Scotia- who were, with some exceptions, predominantly
Scotsmen from New England- was that of the lost treasure of pirate captain William Kidd.

William Kidd was born in the Scottish Lowlands in January 1654 (not 1645, as is popularly perpetuated). Although
little is known of Kidd’s early years, history shows that the Scotsman, at the age of 35, served aboard the Sainte Rose, a French privateering ship. At that time, King James II of England had friendly relations with the ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV of France, a fellow Catholic monarch. In 1688, however, King James was ousted from the British throne by the Dutch monarch William III, Prince of Orange, following William’s invasion of England with a fleet of 600 ships and 40,000 soldiers. The Protestant William III, upon taking the English throne, thrust England into the ongoing Nine Years’ War, a conflict between France and much of the rest of Europe. Thus, England went to war with France, and the French privateering ship Kidd served on was given a letter of marque to capture English vessels.

Kidd and seven other British crewmembers were loath to attack fellow Englishman. Under the leadership of Kidd and a Cornish privateer named Robert Culliford, the Britons mutinied against the Sainte Rose’s French crew, succeeded in taking he ship, renamed the ship the Blessed William (after the Blessed William of Hirsau (an 11th Century Benedictine abbot)), and named William Kidd their new captain. Kidd and his crew sailed the Blessed William into Nevis, a small English island colony in the Caribbean Sea, where the governor of the colony welcomed them into his own small fleet. Although the governor could not afford to pay Kidd and his crew, he allowed them to take whatever booty might be had from the French ships and settlements they would inevitably attack. And thus William Kidd became a respectable English privateer.

Throughout the Nine Years’ War, Captain Kidd and his crew defended the island of Nevis from French navy men and privateers. During this time, they attacked the small French Caribbean island of Marie-Galante, looting a modest sum in the process. They also captured a French privateer ship, which they adopted as their own.

In February 1690, Robert Culliford, the Cornish privateer who had help Kidd commandeer the French-crewed Sainte Rose back in 1689, led a mutiny against Captain Kidd. While Kidd was ashore the island of Antigua, Culliford and the rest of the crew, tired of the strictures that accompanied licenced privateering, left the docks and sailed into the Caribbean to pursue the pirate life. Relieved of his command, Kidd boarded a ship to New York, where he promptly married Sarah Bradley Cox Oort, a wealthy young English widow, and became one of the richest men in town.

In the small colony of New York, Kidd became an active member of the community. In addition to opening up a tanning mill in what is now Manhattan’s Upper East Side, he used his newfound wealth to sponsor community projects, such as the construction of Trinity Church, located at the intersection of New York’s Wall Street and Broadway, today near the base of the Freedom Tower. Kidd lived with his wife, and later his daughter Sarah, in an opulent three story mansion built half a century earlier by a Dutch merchant of what was then New Amsterdam.

Kidd quickly tired of city life and returned to the sea. For four years, he worked as a merchant captain, shipping goods to and from New England and the Caribbean. In time, he tired of that life, too, and decided to seek fame and fortune in London, England. There, he was approached by New York merchant Robert Livingston and Governor of New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire Richard Coote, 1st Earl of Bellomont. The two men asked Kidd if he would consider accepting a commission to attack pirates and enemy French ships and appropriate whatever plunder he could from them. Kidd agreed to take on this privateering assignment, and his venture was subsequently (and privately) financed by four of the most powerful lords in England: The Earl of Orford, the Baron of Romney, the Duke of Shrewsbury, and Sir John Somers. These men stood to gain 75% of whatever booty Kidd managed to accumulate, notwithstanding the tax he owed the Crown. Finally, Kidd was given a letter of marque, signed by King William III, reserving 10% of any loot he acquired to the English Crown, which authorized him to attack and plunder both pirate ships and enemy French vessels.

On his new 34-cannon ship, Adventure Galley, Captain Kidd sailed down the Thames River to the coast. On the way, he and his crew humorously disrespected the crew of a yacht of the Royal Navy. As punishment for the offense, the captain of the yacht pressed a large number of Kidd’s loyal, hand-picked crew into naval service, leaving Kidd with a barely functional skeleton crew.

Short-handed, Kidd sailed across the Atlantic, legally capturing a French vessel in the process, to the port of New York. There, he supplemented his meagre crew with a large number of hardened pirates. In order to convince these rough sailors that service aboard his ship would be a worthwhile endeavour, Kidd violated is letter of marque. Specifically, he agreed to give the crew 75% of whatever plunder they might acquire, as opposed to the 25% stipulated by his licence. This misdemeanour would contribute to his eventual undoing.

His ranks filled, Captain Kidd set of for the Indian Ocean off the Mughal Coast where pirates, sometimes referred to as Roundsmen, frequently plundered Mughal ships filled with exotic goods and Mecca-bound Muslim pilgrims, along with the merchant vessels charted by the British East India Company that often accompanied them. He set out determined to abide by his letter of marque and capture as many pirate ships and French vessels as he could.

By the time Captain Kidd and his crew reached the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa, a third of the men aboard Adventure Galley had succumbed to cholera. After failing to sight any pirate ships in Madagascar, a
notorious pirate haven, Kidd and his crew sailed north to the Horn of Africa at the entrance to the Red Sea. Again, there were no pirate ships in sight. By this time, Captain Kidd’s crew was growing restless, and whispers of mutiny rippled throughout the decks.

In the summer of 1697, Kidd’s ship fell in with a south-bound British Royal Navy squadron commanded by Commodore Thomas Warren. Fearing that Warren, whose vessels were severely undermanned, would press a large number of his crew into naval service, Kidd quietly evaded the squadron at night. This evasion led Warren to believe that Kidd and his crew had something to hide, namely that they had been engaging in piracy, and subsequently spread the rumour throughout the East India Company that privateer Captain Kidd had gone rogue.

By the fall of 1697, Kidd’s crew was on the brink of mutiny. On October 30, 1697, one of Kidd’s crewmembers, gunner William Moore, sat on deck sharpening a chisel and muttering under his breath. When Kidd inquired as to Moore’s rumblings, the gunner urged Kidd to attack a nearby Dutch ship and thereby commit an act of piracy. When Kidd, ever loyal to the Crown, refused, a quarrel ensued which ended with Kidd cracking Moore over the head with an iron-ringed bucket. The blow fractured Moore’s skull, and the gunner succumbed to his wound the following day.

Not long after Moore’s death, Kidd and his crew, through the devious practice of flying false colours, managed to capture a French ship without a shot being fired. This capture was in accordance with Kidd’s legal commission. On January 30, 1698, Kidd, using similar tactics, captured the massive Quedagh Merchant, an Indian merchant vessel loaded silk, tea, spices, satin, muslin, gold, silver, and other valuable East Indian goods. Kidd learned that the ship was chartered by the French East India Company and owned by a company of Armenian merchants, and was initially satisfied that this capture was a legitimate one. However, upon further investigation, he learned, to his dismay, that the ship’s captain was English, and that it was part of the same Muslim fleet which’s piratical predators he was tasked with combatting. Worse, a large proportion of the ship’s cargo was owned by a senior official of Mughal India, a nation allied with England. Kidd tried to convince his crew to return the ship’s cargo, but the disgruntled sailors would have none of it. Unwilling to risk a mutiny, Kidd reluctantly acceded to their demands and set sail for Boston. His capture of the Quedagh Merchant branded him as a pirate, and his notorious reputation quickly preceded him throughout the Atlantic.

With the wealth of the Quedagh Merchant in their hold, Captain Kidd and his crew sailed to Madagascar, where he met with the crew of Captain Robert Culliford, the Cornish privateer-turned-pirate who had led the mutiny against him back in February 1690. Instead of attacking Culliford and his crew as he ought to have done, Kidd instead boarded Culliford’s ship and drank to the pirate’s health (although it should be mentioned that some historians believe Kidd was bent on attacking the notorious pirate, but refused to do so out of fear that he was outmanned). This act further cemented his reputation as a pirate. Following this incident, a large number of Kidd’s crew defected to Culliford’s, leaving Kidd with a 13-man skeleton crew. Captain Kidd and his tiny crew, having abandoned the rotting Adventure Galley for the Quedagh Merchant, set sail for New York.

On the island of Hispaniola, Kidd abandoned the Quedagh Merchant, the ship he unlawfully captured from the Muslim fleet, for a new ship called the San Antonio before sailing northwest to New York. Just outside the New York harbour, Kidd received word that his backer Richard Coote, 1st Earl of Bellomont, was in Boston, and that he agreed to offer Kidd clemency for his piracy. Kidd agreed, first caching a large part of his treasure on Gardiners Island before continuing to Boston by a circuitous route. There, Coote betrayed him by having him arrested on July 6, 1699.

Over the following year, Kidd endured a long imprisonment followed by a short, hugely unfair trial in which he was ultimately convicted of piracy and the murder of his gunner William Moore. Throughout this trial, he pleaded his innocence, pointing out that the Quedagh Merchant he captured had a French pass, and that his letter of marque licenced him to capture French vessels. After a verdict of guilty was passed, Kidd told his captors that he had buried a large portion of his treasure, and that he would help them find it if they spared his life. His entreaties fell on deaf ears. On May 23, 1701, at London’s Execution Dock, Captain William Kidd was hanged. His body was suspended in a gibbet over the Thames River for three years as a warning to pirates.

Legend has it that half a century later, in the mid-1700’s, and old sailor from New England lay dying. On his deathbed, he confessed to his family that he had been a member of Captain Kidd’s crew. Before passing away, he disclosed that he had helped the pirate captain bury a sizeable treasure on an island east of Boston. Some Oak Island researchers speculate that this island was none other than Oak Island.

The Iron Nail

 In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, metal detection expert Gary Drayton discovered a large iron nail in the north end of the Oak Island swamp. Although the object at first appeared to be a railroad spike, Drayton claimed that the item was in fact a nail used in the construction of old ship decks, and that he had discovered many similar artifacts which were used to build the decks of Spanish galleons. This find, coupled with diver Tony Sampson’s discovery of the plank in the Oak Island swamp, lends credence to the theory, held by a number of Oak Island researchers, that an old ship of some sort lies at the bottom of the Oak Island swamp. Drayton’s comment about the possibility of the nail’s being from a Spanish galleon is particularly intriguing considering the theory held by veteran Oak Island treasure hunter Dan Blankenship and acclaimed Oak Island authority D’Arcy O’Connor that Oak Island’s underground workings are attributable to the crew of a wrecked Spanish treasure galleon which beached on Oak Island while en route from Havana to Spain sometime in the 17th or early 18th Centuries.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 6: Circles in Wood

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 6: Circles in Wood


Merry Christmas ladies and gentlemen, Canucks and Yankees, and MysteriesOfCanada readers of all ages! May your holidays be filled with love, family, good food, and ferocious street hockey games.

Last Tuesday in America, the History Channel released the latest episode in its TV series The Curse of Oak Island (in Canada, the same episode premieres on Christmas Day). Read on for a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 4, Episode 6: Circles in Wood.




Plot Summary


The men of Oak Island Tours Inc. meet in the War Room with Vanessa Lucido and Kent Peterson of ROC Equipment; Louis Fritz, an engineer of Berminghammer (the engineering branch of Bermingham Foundation Solutions Ltd. of Hamilton, Ontario); and Andrew Folkins of Irving Equipment Ltd. There, they inform the contractors of their fear that the hammergrab currently being used to excavate the Money Pit area might damage the contents of the Chappell Vault (discovered by Oak Island treasure hunters William Chappell and Frederick Blair of the Oak Island Treasure Company in 1897), which they suspect they are right over top of- a sentiment voiced perhaps most strongly by Rick Lagina at the end of Season 4, Episode 5. The contractors suggest that they try to wash whatever is in the hypothetical Chappell Vault to the surface through the use of water and air pressure- a suggestion which the Oak Island team adopts.

The following day, the crew meets with the contractors at the Money Pit area. There, it is revealed that the shaft dug the previous episode has been flooded with seawater, reminiscent of the Onslow Company’s (the first Oak Island treasure hunting syndicate) experience in 1804 upon reaching the 90-foot level. In an effort to measure the flow rate of the incoming water, Marty has the contractors push the water in the caisson-lined borehole down into the earth- and perhaps into the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel beyond-  through the use of air pressure. Upon observing the water’s resurgence, Marty remarks, “the amount of water coming in as we tried to pump it out was enormous- thousands of gallons a minute, I would say.” He determines that this significant flow rate is an indication that items inside the Chappell Vault will almost certainly not be able to be brought to the surface through the use of an air lift system.

Following the flow rate test, Rick Lagina agrees to allow the contractors to continue to pick at the ‘Chappell Vault’ with the hammergrab on the condition that they progress downwards in minute increments. Unfortunately, the device penetrates deeper into the earth than Rick had stipulated, bringing up the very oak beam Oak Island Tours Inc. had drilled through in Season 2, Episode 4.

Now that the ‘Chappell Vault’ (if it is indeed a vault) has been breached, the crew decides to throw caution to the wind and excavate the shaft even deeper with the hammergrab. The device disappears into the shaft and emerges with two sizeable square wooden beams. Upon close inspection, it appears that the sides of the beams are coated with clay. The presence of the clay and the dimensions of the beams are consistent with the results of William Chappell and Frederick Blair’s drilling operations in 1897, indicating that these boards comprise a portion of the lid of the Chappell Vault.

Unfortunately, a close examination of the beams reveals surficial scratches akin to those made by a circular saw, which Marty Lagina laments is “a relatively new invention”. Specifically, the circular saw was invented in the late 18th Century, and was not commonly used in North America until the early 19th Century. Therefore, the wooden planks unearthed from the shaft are almost certainly not relics of the original pre-1795 Money Pit. With that unfortunate development, the crew decides to temporarily postpone operations in the Money Pit area.

While work is deferred at the Money Pit area, Marty Lagina’s son Alex and Craig Tester’s step son Jack Begley travel to Oak Island’s Lot 6, accompanied by metal detecting expert Gary Drayton. As the three men approach the spot, the narrator explains that Lot 6 was one of the Oak Island lots once owned by Samuel Ball, a former American plantation slave who earned his freedom by enlisting in the Loyalist Militia during the Revolutionary War. Alex and Jack stand by with shovels as Drayton begins to scan the ground of Lot 6 with a Minelab CTX 3030 metal detector.

Meanwhile, Rick Lagina and Oak Island historian Charles Barkhouse travel to the home of veteran treasure hunter Dan Blankenship. There, they show the elderly Oak Island resident the two beams they pulled up from the Money Pit, both of which bear the marks of a circular saw. Blankenship examines the beams, independently observes that their sides bear circular saw marks, and suggests they are likely remnants of the Chappell Shaft- a shaft dug in 1931 in the general vicinity of the Money Pit by Chappells Limited, a treasure hunting syndicate comprised of William Chappell, his son Mel, his brother Renwick, his nephew Claude, and Oak Island landowner Frederick Blair. Rick and Charles thank Blankenship for his wisdom and conclude their visit.

Back on Lot 6, Gary Drayton gets a number of hits on his metal detector. Alex Lagina and Jack Begley explore the site of one of these hits with shovels and quickly unearth the end of a thick, rusted iron chain. Upon observing that the chain appears to run in a relatively straight line, and is not coiled up as one might expect a derelict chain to be, Drayton remarks that certain pirates were known to lay chain on the ground leading towards their buried treasure. The three men, who have since been joined by Charles Barkhouse, work to dug up the remainder of the chain, which proves to be only several feet long (no treasure chest at the end!). Nevertheless, Drayton follows the imaginary line indicated by the chain with his metal detector and soon gets another hit. Jack Begley explores the area and uncovers a small copper ring.

Bolstered by the interesting finds, Drayton explores more of Lot 6 with his metal detector. After some time, he uncovers another artifact of interest- a coin which he speculates might be up to 200 years old. He and his crew present their findings to Rick Lagina, Craig Tester, and Dan Blankenship, when the three treasure hunters roll up in a truck.

The following morning, Rick Lagina and Craig Tester meet with Andrew Folkins of Irving Equipment Ltd. in the War Room. There, they discuss an upcoming excavation of Borehole C1, the drill hole punched in Season 3, Episode 12, at the bottom of which a camera revealed the presence of something shiny and gold. After watching footage taken from the interior of the drill hole, Folkins affirms his belief that his hammergrab is the optimal tool with which to retrieve the mysterious item at the bottom. With that, the meeting is concluded.

Later, Rick and Marty Lagina meet with Charles Barkhouse at the site of Borehole C1, where the men and women of ROC Equipment and Irving Equipment Ltd. are preparing to conduct another excavation similar to the one recently carried out at Valley 3. The two brothers congratulate Barkhouse on prescribing C1 (using his extensive knowledge of Oak Island history, Barkhouse suggested this particular area is the true location of the original Money Pit in Season 3, Episode 12 of The Curse of Oak Island), and watch in anticipation as a caisson is secured over top of the drill hole. The episode ends as an oscillator slowly grinds the toothed caisson into the earth.




Chappell Shaft

In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, Oak Island Tours Inc. finished excavating a shaft over top of the Valley 3 borehole, first drilled in Season 2, Episode 4 at the behest of Craig Tester. One particular core sample taken during the first drilling operation led Oak Island Tours Inc. to believe that the drill hole had intersected the Chappell Vault, a hypothetical treasure chamber drilled through by Oak Island treasure hunters William Chappell and Frederick Blair in 1897. Unfortunately, when Rick and Mary Lagina and their crew dug a shaft to the bottom of the Valley 3 borehole, they unearthed milled wood bearing the markings of a circular saw. Although the circular saw was invented in the late 18th Century, it was not used in North America with any regularity until the early 19th Century. As the Money Pit was first discovered in 1795, the lumber uncovered from the bottom of the Valley 3 shaft was almost certainly not a part of the original Money Pit structure.

If the wood at the bottom of the Valley 3 shaft is not a relic of the original Money Pit, where did it come from? In this episode, veteran Oak Island treasure hunter Dan Blankenship proposes the wood is a piece of cribbing that once supported the Chappell Shaft.

The Chappell Shaft was a shaft dug in 1931 in the general vicinity of the original Money Pit by Chappells Limited, an Oak Island treasure hunting syndicate composed of William Chappell (the man who discovered the Chappell Vault along with Frederick Blair in 1795), his son Melbourne, his brother Renwick, his nephew Claude, and Oak Island landowner Frederick Blair. The men of Chappell Ltd. did not know the precise location of the Money Pit, but hoped to intersect it with their large 12′ x 14′ shaft, which they sank to a depth of 163.5 feet- deeper than any Oak Island treasure hunting syndicate had dug before. Today, it is believed that that Chappell Shaft was situated slightly southwest of the original Money Pit. Perhaps because of this, the Chappells found no evidence of timber, iron, cement, and soft metal discovered by Oak Island Treasure Company drillers in 1897 aside from some wood chips found under a granite boulder at the 119-foot level. They did, however, unearth what appeared to be an old anchor fluke solidly embedded in clay at a depth of 116 feet. The fluke showed no signs of rust, indicating that, until the point at which it was unearthed, it had been entombed in a compact, airtight cocoon of clay. This indication, coupled with his observation that the fluke was “of an ancient design,” led William Chappell (the head of the syndicate) to believe that the anchor fluke might be an artifact left behind by the original Money Pit builders. The Chappells also discovered what has been described as a rusted “Acadian axe” at 123 feet. At a depth of 127, they also found a pickaxe, along with the remains of a seal oil lamp once commonly used by miners.

Gary Drayton

Gary T. Drayton, a metal detecting expert who features in this week’s episode of The Curse of Oak Island, is a world-renowned treasure hunter who hails from south Florida, U.S.A. Originally from Grimsby, Lincolnshire, U.K., Drayton has been treasure hunting for more than 25 years. He has compiled his considerable knowledge of metal detecting and treasure hunting into several books (which he sells on his websites and, including:

  • Metal Detecting for Spanish Treasure: The Beach Treasure Hunter’s Guide
  • The Ultimate Sovereign Beach Hunter’s Guide
  • Hardcore Beach Hunting
  • The CTX 3030 Beach and Water Hunter’s Guide
  • Minelab Excalibur: Pro User Guide
  • The Shallow Water Hunter’s Guide to South Florida
  • Advanced CTX 3030 Beach and Water Hunting Techniques
  • Water Hunting
  • How to Find Old Coins and Artifacts at the Beach
  • Jewelry Hunting
  • How to Read the Beach

This week’s episode is not Drayton’s first Oak Island experience; the treasure hunter’s The Curse of Oak Island debut took place in Season 2, Episode 1, in which he and a number of other metal detection experts did a winter metal detection scan of Oak Island’s then-frozen swamp. He appeared again in Season 2, Episode 2, to assist treasure hunters Dan Henskee and Peter Fornetti in searching for metallic artifacts on Smith’s Cove, and in Season 2, Episode 3, in which he led Rick Lagina, Dan Henskee, and Peter Fornetti on a similar metal detecting excursion on the South Shore Cove.

Samuel Ball

Most hardcore Oak Island enthusiasts are aware of the legend of the the discovery of Oak Island’s Money Pit in 1795. According to this popular legend, the Money Pit was discovered a local setter named Daniel McGinnis, and first excavated to a depth of 30 feet by he and his friends John Smith and Anthony Vaughan shortly thereafter. However, the late Nova Scotian historian Mather Myles DesBrisay, in his 1870 book History of the County of Lunenburg, maintains that McGinnis, upon discovering the Money Pit, enlisted the support of Anthony Vaughan and Samuel Ball, a black landowner from South Carolina who escaped a life of slavery by enlisting in the Loyalist Militia during the American Revolution. DesBrisay makes no mention of John Smith being one of the co-discoverers of the Money Pit- a strange omission considering that DesBrisay likely used information provided to him by his close friend Mary Smith, John Smith’s daughter, as a main source. Curiously, DesBrisay also claims that the Money Pit discovery occurred in 1799, not in 1795.

Who is Samuel Ball and how is he connected to Oak Island? According to The Oak Island Tourism Society and African Canadian journalist F. Stanley Boyd, Samuel was born into a life of slavery in 1765 on a South Carolinian plantation. During the American Revolutionary War (1775-1784), he was given the opportunity to serve in the Loyalist Militia in exchange for freedom, an opportunity which he enthusiastically took advantage of. Taking the surname of his former master, teenaged Samuel Ball was ordered to New York to serve as an infantryman under General Henry Clinton. Upon joining Clinton’s army, he was put under the command of Major Artemas Ward. When the war ended in 1784, Ball served briefly under General Charles Cornwallis before being deported by the victorious Patriots to Port Roseway (Shelburne), Nova Scotia, in 1783 (similar to Daniel McGinnis). Ball lived in Port Roseway for two years before making his way to Chester, where he purchased some land on Oak Island. The house he built on his land would remain his home for 23 years.

In 1809, upon petitioning the local justice of peace to grant him the land promised to all blacks who joined Loyalist forces during the Revolutionary War, Ball secured 4 acres on Oak Island’s Lot 32. Ball, along with a servant named Isaac Butler, farmed his newly acquired land and made a steady profit. With this profit, Ball, over a number of years, purchased Oak Island’s Lots 6, 7, 8, 24, 25, 26, 30, 31, and 32. The former slave purchased additional land on the mainland and on nearby islands until, in time, he owned about 100 acres of Mahone Bay land.

In 1795, Ball married a Halifax woman named Mary. The couple would have three children: Andrew, Samuel, and Mary. Sometime in the 1800’s, Mary passed away. Ball eventually remarried, taking a woman named Catherine as his wife.

On December 14, 1846, Samuel Ball died at the age of 81. In his will, he left his land to his servant Isaac Butler, on the condition that Butler change his surname to Ball.

Many Oak Island researchers find it curious that Ball, who made his living selling his produce to  settlers on the mainland, became one of the wealthiest and most prolific landowners in the Mahone Bay region during his time. Some speculate that Ball’s considerable wealth might be attributable to a treasure he discovered on the island.

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