AuthorHammerson Peters

HomeArticles Posted by Hammerson Peters (Page 6)

The Miracle at Loon Lake

The Miracle at Loon Lake

For Christians the world over, this year’s Holy Week- the week preceding Easter Sunday- is overshadowed by the tragic immolation of Notre-Dame de Paris. On April 15, 2019, millions of Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians watched in horror as the vaulted ceiling of that magnificent, 850-year-old symbol of Christendom went up in flames. The structure burned for fifteen hours before collapsing into the nave below, mercifully damaging little of the cathedral’s historic interior.

Despite eclipsing it in scale, this disaster eerily echoes the cremation of another house of God by the name of ‘Notre Dame’ which took place in the Holy Week of 1885, on the northern edge of the Albertan prairies. A savage act of arson, this event played a pivotal role in the story of one of Saskatchewan’s least known and most baffling historical mysteries.


Whispers of Revolution

1885 was a year of transition in the Canadian West, marking the end of one era and the beginning of another. That fall, the Last Spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway- the iron road connecting the easterly Dominion of Canada with the westerly Province of British Columbia, and bridging the vast North-West Territories that lay in between- was driven home at Craigellachie, B.C. The ringing of the sledgehammer might have served as a summoning bell for hordes of homesteaders who would soon pour into the Canadian prairies, and as a death knell for the days of Canada’s brief and fiery Wild West. By 1885, the huge herds of buffalo that had blanketed the prairies since time immemorial had dwindled to near extinction, destined to be replaced in a few short years by their domestic counterparts, beef cattle. The traders, prospectors, and wolfers who, decades prior, had comprised the North-West Territories’ only white civilian population had gradually traded in their repeating rifles and revolvers for the lasso of the rancher and the pitchfork of the farmer. And the Blackfoot, Cree, and Assiniboine Indians who had once dominated the region on horseback had been coerced by the Mounties, who brought law and order to the Canadian West in 1874, to abandon the nomadic lifestyle of their ancestors and settle onto Reserves, where their livelihood was reduced to waiting for government rations.

Naturally, there were many who were vigorously opposed to these changes that were swiftly reshaping the face of Western Canada. Foremost among these were the Metis people- the progeny of French-Canadian and Scottish fur traders and Cree and Ojibwa women. Nearly two decades prior, in the wake of Canadian Confederation, the French Metis of the Red River Valley south of Lake Winnipeg had rebelled against the newly-established Canadian government, fearful that Dominion agents would force them to abandon their homesteads along the Red River, which they did not legally own. The uprising, called the Red River Rebellion, was led by a well-educated Metis revolutionary named Louis Riel, who fled south to Dakota Territory when the Canadian government sent a military expedition to enforce peace in the region.

By 1885, the Metis people, who had relied on the bison almost as heavily as their First Nations cousins to the west, were in dire straits. That spring, they invited Riel to return from his long exile in the United States in the hope that he might lead them once again in this their time of need. Answering the call of his people, the Metis expatriate rode north into Canada and up the wagon-rutted Carlton Trail to the village of Duck Lake in what is now Central Saskatchewan, where many Metis had resettled following the Red River Rebellion. In no time, whispers of an upcoming revolution were rippling throughout the Canadian prairies.

The Frog Lake Massacre

About 300 kilometres (185 miles) northwest of Duck Lake, just west of the eastern border of what is now Alberta, at a place where the southerly prairie meets the boreal forest, lies the settlement of Frog Lake. In 1885, this tiny community boasted a grist mill; a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post; a small North-West Mounted Police barracks and stables; a Catholic Mission church called Notre Dame du Bon Conseil, or ‘Our Lady of Good Council’; and an office for Indian Agent Thomas Quinn, who was responsible for the three bands of friendly Woodland Cree who pitched their teepees nearby.

In the spring of 1885, while Louis Riel was receiving a warm welcome at Duck Lake, two very different Cree bands joined their fellows at Frog Lake. One was comprised of the so-called ‘Bush Indians’, a peace-loving clan of Chipewyan Dene who hailed from the forests to the north. The other was composed of fearsome Plains Cree from the southerly prairies who were led by a grizzled, pox-scarred chief named Big Bear.

Big Bear was a true member of the old guard- a man with one moccasin firmly planted in the past and the other begrudgingly thrust into the present. He was the veteran of a thousand skirmishes and horse raids, having spent most of his adult life on the warpath against the Blackfoot, his people’s hereditary enemy. He had even played a prominent role in the 1870 Battle of Belly River– the world’s last great intertribal Indian battle. Like his ancestors before him, his sole occupations prior to the coming of the Mounties in 1874 had been hunting and warfare- activities which, in his mind, tested his mettle as a chief and defined his worth as a man.

Big Bear detested the changes that had taken place in recent years and stubbornly refused to give up the traditional Plains Cree way of life. Hoping to retain his freedom for as long as possible, he was the last chief to sign Treaty 6- an agreement between the Canadian government and the various Cree and Assiniboine nations of what is now Alberta and Saskatchewan, which stipulated that the natives surrender their hunting grounds to the government in exchange for provisions. When the buffalo finally disappeared from the prairies and his people began to go hungry, Big Bear had no choice but to accept the terms of the treaty. Instead of settling on a reserve as had his contemporaries, however, the old chief and his band attempted to retain some semblance of their traditional nomadic lifestyle, spending nearly a decade wandering aimlessly from trading post to trading post without any buffalo to pursue. When they finally rode into Frog Lake (where they intended to spend the winter) in the spring of 1885, they were bitter, frustrated, and hungry.

On March 30, 1885, word reached Frog Lake of a battle which had taken place five days prior at southeasterly Duck Lake. On March 19, Louis Riel had declared himself the leader of the so-called ‘Provisional Government of Saskatchewan’- an independent Metis state comprising much of what is now Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. When a handful of North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) officers from Fort Carlton (a Hudson’s Bay Company post located about 20 kilometres (13 miles) northwest of Duck Lake, on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River) had attempted to make a routine trip to Duck Lake for supplies, Metis revolutionaries had stopped them on the trail and forced them to return with a message from Riel demanding the fort’s peaceful surrender. Leif Crozier, the Superintendent of Fort Carlton’s NWMP detachment, had no intention of giving in to Riel’s demands. On March 25, he led 95 Mounties down the road to Duck Lake, where 250 Metis revolutionaries were waiting for them, having occupied a defensive position behind several log cabins at the edge of a thicket. Led by their general, Gabriel Dumont, the Metis militia engaged Crozier’s force in a 30 minute firefight which left 12 Mounties and 6 Metis dead. Heavily outnumbered, Crozier had no choice but to retreat to Fort Carlton. And thus Riel and his forces won their first victory in what would come to be known as the North-West Rebellion.

The Plains Cree at Frog Lake were encouraged by news of Riel’s success, and almost overnight, Big Bear’s son, Imasees, determined to start his own rebellion and fight his way across the prairie to join forces with the Metis malcontents; his father, the old chief, was away on a hunting trip at the time. Eager as he was for an opportunity to change the his people’s pitiable circumstances, however, Imasees’ enthusiasm for the upcoming conflict was eclipsed by that Wandering Spirit, a hotheaded, curly-haired sub-chief who held more sway over the band’s young braves than even Big Bear himself. Wandering Spirit hated white men and blamed them for all the problems the Cree people were currently facing. When Frog Lake’s eight Mounties left for Fort Pitt (a Hudson’s Bay Company post located 50 kilometres (30 miles) southeast, on the banks of the North Saskatchewan) at the request of Frog Lake’s white residents, who thought their presence might provoke the Plains Cree to violence, Wandering Spirit decided that the time had come to mete out Indian justice.

Big Bear returned to Frog Lake from his hunting trip on the evening of April 1, where he learned of Riel’s rebellion and of Imasees and Wandering Spirit’s desire to take to the warpath. Weary from his journey, he went to sleep, whereupon Wandering Spirit and his most loyal braves painted their faces with blood red vermillion and yellow ochre before stealing the horses from the unguarded Mountie stables.

On the morning of April 2, Wandering Spirit and his warriors broke into the homes of Frog Lake’s white residents and seized their firearms. “Riel and his half-breeds came last night and stole the red coats’ horses!” the Plains Cree lied to the bewildered settlers. “But don’t be afraid. We will protect you.”

After raiding the HBC post of its knives, bullets, and gunpowder, the warriors herded most of Frog Lake’s white settlers to the Mission church, where the resident priest, Father Farard, and a visiting priest named Father Marchand, were saying Holy Thursday Mass for the local Metis and Woodland Cree. In the middle of the service, Wandering Spirit sauntered into the church and genuflected in the centre aisle, a Winchester rifle in his hand. According to 23-year-old HBC clerk William Bleasdell Cameron, a witness of the event who described the experience in his 1926 book Blood Red the Sun:

“His lynx-skin war-bonnet, from which depended five large eagle plumes, crowned his head; his eyes burned and his hideously-painted face was set in lines of deadly menace. Never shall I forget the feelings his whole appearance and action excited in me as I watched in stupefied amazement while he half-knelt, glaring up at the altar and the white-robed priests in sacrilegious mockery. He was a demon, a wild animal, savage, ruthless, thirsting for blood. I doubted then that we should any of us ever again see the outside of the chapel.”

Fathers Fafard and Marchand concluded the Mass prematurely on account of Wandering Spirit’s hostile antics, whereupon the war chief’s followers ushered most of the white settlers towards the Plains Cree camp. Wandering Spirit himself headed to the home of Thomas Quinn and ordered the Indian agent to follow his white compatriots. Quinn refused. Wandering Spirit repeated his demand twice more, and each time the government man refused to comply. “Die then!” spat the war chief, raising his rifle and shooting Quinn in the head.

The gunshot was like a spark in a powder keg. Immediately, a Plains Cree warrior shot Quinn’s Metis interpreter in the shoulder; another pockmarked brave then ran up to the wounded man, pressed the muzzle of his rifle against his chest, and finished him off.

Chief Big Bear, who had been lounging in the kitchen of the HBC post, ran towards the bloody scene bellowing “Tesqua! Tesqua!” (Stop! Stop!) in a great booming voice. His entreaty fell on deaf ears; two more white men- William Gilchrist and George Dill- were subsequently murdered by Wandering Spirit’s unruly warriors, as were Fathers Fafard and Marchand.

“Dust and smoke filled the air,” wrote William Cameron. “Whoops and shrieks and the ghastly clatter of galloping hoofs blended in a weird and ghastly symphony. High over all swelled the deadly war-chant of the Plains Crees, bursting from a hundred sinewy throats. I heard the peculiarly-ringing voice of Wandering Spirit calling on his followers to shoot the other whites and burst after burst sounded the death knell of other of my friends.”

At that time, Theresa Gowanlock, the wife of a local miller named John Gowanlock- was among the crowd of white settlers who were being led to Big Bear’s camp. She described her harrowing experience in a later reminiscence entitled Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear, writing:

“Mr. Williscraft, an old grey-headed man about seventy-five years of age came running by us, and an Indian shot at him and knocked his hat off, and he turned around and said, ‘Oh! Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!’ But they fired again, and he ran screaming and fell in some bushes.”

“My dear wife,” whispered Theresa’s husband, John, in an attempt to comfort her, “be brave to the end.” No sooner had he said this than he was fatally shot in the back. Theresa fell down beside her dying husband and prepared herself for the inevitable bullet. “But death just then was not ordained for me,” she wrote. A Plains Cree warrior roughly hauled her to her feet just in time for her to see the murder of John Delaney, who had formerly instructed the local Woodland Cree in farming; Delaney’s grieving widow, who was also named Theresa, was torn from her husband’s prostrate body and made prisoner.

By the time the smoke cleared, nine white men lay dead and four white residents- Theresa Gowanlock, Theresa Delaney, William Cameron, and HBC agent James Simpson- were held captive in the camp of Big Bear. That Cameron and Simpson were spared the slaughter is due to the intercession of their Woodland Cree friends, who sheltered them in their own camp after the shooting broke out. Similarly, the two female prisoners, Mrs. Gowanlock and Mrs. Delaney, were saved from cruel usage and death by local Metis interpreters named John Pritchard and Adolphus Nolin, who purchased them from the braves who had claimed them as their wives.

The Plains Cree spent the following days feasting and dancing, gorging themselves on HBC bacon and sacramental wine from the Mission church. After mutilating the bodies of their victims, they allowed several devoutly Catholic local Metis to inter some of the bodies in empty houses and the church cellar; others were left out in the open at the command of Wandering Spirit, at least one of them being propped up against a tree with a pipe jammed in his mouth in a perverse display of frontier humour.

On Easter Sunday, Big Bear’s Plains Cree burned Notre Dame, the Mission church, before setting fire to the rest of the buildings at Frog Lake. That accomplished, they and their Woodland Cree brethren, whom they had bullied into joining their wild crusade, proceeded southeast, bound for Fort Pitt.

Big Bear’s Campaign

For two months, the Cree war party roamed throughout northern Saskatchewan with their prisoners in tow. Theresa Gowanlock, Theresa Delaney, and William Cameron, in their memoirs, detailed the particulars of the campaign, describing the Cree’s nearly bloodless capture of Fort Pitt; the constant infighting that took place between the warlike Plains Cree and the more peaceably inclined Woodland cousins; various Cree ceremonies, including the agonizing Thirst Dance and a ritualized feast which centred around the consumption of dog stew; and the Cree’s final skirmishes with government forces at the edge of the boreal forest. All the while, the prisoners- particularly those of the fairer sex- suffered from bitter cold, severe privation, and the ever-looming threat of execution at the hands of Wandering Spirit.

After their defeat at the Battle of Loon Lake, the Plains Cree and the Woodland Cree went their separate ways, the prisoners proceeding under the protection of their Woodland Cree friends. The captives were finally rescued by government forces in mid-June and brought back to civilization.

Most of the surviving perpetrators of the massacre at Frog Lake were eventually captured, although some of them escaped to Montana. On November 27, 1885, six of the culprits, along with two Cree and Assiniboine murders from the band of Chief Poundmaker, another participant in Riel’s rebellion, were executed at Fort Battleford in what was to be the largest mass hanging in Canadian history. Chief Big Bear himself, who had eluded government forces sent to capture him, eventually turned himself in at Fort Battleford. Due in part to the testimony of William Cameron, who described Big Bear as an unwilling participant in the campaign that was ascribed to him, the great Plains Cree chief was sentenced to three years of imprisonment.


The Miracle at Loon Lake

In October 1955, an article entitled ‘Memories of Frog Lake’ was published in the Montreal-based magazine Family Herald and Weekly Star. The piece was submitted by Arthur Johnson, nephew of Theresa Gowanlock, who claimed it to be a second memoir of the North-West Rebellion written by his aunt shortly prior to her premature death in 1899; indeed, the narrative’s style corresponds perfectly with that of Gowanlock’s in Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear.

According to the late Canadian writer Francis Dickie in articles for various Western magazines, the unedited original manuscript on which ‘Memories of Frog Lake’ was based contains a startling anecdote which Mrs. Gowanlock failed to include in her earlier memoir, presumably for fear of ridicule. Dickie claimed that this story was corroborated by the writings of Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin, an Oblate missionary who “took down the statements of Indian and Metis prisoners” in the months that followed the rebellion; the author of this piece has been unable to verify this claim.

According to the original manuscript, the progress of Big Bear’s campaign was hampered by the foreboding of an old woman who portended disaster for the Cree. Gowanlock wrote:

“Her predictions that terrible things would overtake the band for their share in the killing of the priests unnerved the Indians. Then one morning a young brave, with an axe in his hand, led the old woman away. He returned alone.

“Late in the afternoon some days after this, toward the end of May when we had been captive eight weeks, as Mrs. Delaney and I were inside the lodge, we heard cries of consternation outside. We ran out to see all the band staring in fright at the sky. There in a break among low clouds was a representation of a church resembling that at Frog Lake burned down nearly two months ago with the bodies of the priests and the other white men. As we gazed a priest on a white horse appeared approaching the church. Reaching it he dismounted, stretched out his hand as if in blessing. The summer clouds closed in, and the vision faded away.

“Fear possessed all in the camp. The warning of the murdered old woman was recalled. The squaws, wearied by two months of extra labor of continually moving camp set up a wailing. The warriors had lost the last of their courage. Even the evening meal was untouched. And now the headmen began accusing the young braves of having caused the trouble. The camp did not move again.

“The end had come. A troop of soldiers travelling fast surrounded the camp two days later. Under a flag of truce the officers and the Chief met, and the Indians surrendered.”

It is interesting to note that several elements of Gowanlock’s manuscript, particularly the execution of the old woman and the vision in the sky, evoke events she had described in her earlier memoir. In Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear, Gowanlock claimed that, on Easter Monday, 1885, after a night of heavy storm:

“…The Indians came in and told us what they saw in the heavens. They saw a church and a man on a large black horse with his arm out and he looked so angry, and they said God must be angry with them for doing such a thing…”

Later on, Theresa Gowanlock described the Cree’s execution of a senile old woman who exhibited the symptoms of Wendigo psychosis- a mental malady characterized by a strange desire to eat human flesh, which the Cree attributed to the woman’s possession by an evil cannibalistic spirit. This event, which William Cameron described in gruesome detail in his book Blood Red the Sun, is hauntingly reminiscent of Gowanlock’s story about the old woman whom the Cree executed for her disturbing prophecies.

Is it possible that Gowanlock’s 1899 reminiscence is the product of the fevered brain of a dying woman- an inadvertent perversion of the events described in her earlier memoirs? Or did Mrs. Gowanlock, Mrs. Delaney, and members of the Cree war party truly see something extraordinary in the sky in the summer of 1885? Until we unearth the writings of Bishop Grandin alluded to in Francis Dickie’s writings, the answers to these questions will likely remain a mystery.



  • What Saved Mrs. Gowanlock? by Francis Dickie in the Nov. 1964 issue of Real West
  • Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear (1885), by Theresa Gowanlock and Theresa Delaney
  • Blood Red the Sun (1926), by William Bleasdell Cameron
  • Capturing Women: The Manipulation of Cultural Imagelry in Canada’s Prairie West, by Sarah Carter
  • The Last Hostage (1968) , by Duncan McLean as told to Eric Wells, “Weekend Magazine No. 32”
  • An Opinion of the Frog Lake Massacre, by Rev. Dr. Edward Ahenakew in the Summer 1960 issue of the “Alberta Historical Review”
  • An Account of the Frog Lake Massacre, as told to A.E. Peterson by George Stanley Mesunekwepan), in the Winter 1956 issue of the “Alberta Historical Review”
  • Massacre Street (September 2010), by Paul William Zits


The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 20- Short Days and Tall Knights

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 20- Short Days and Tall Knights


The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 6, Episode 20 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.




Plot Summary

The Oak Island team meets in the War Room to discuss their plan for the next few weeks in light of their contractors’ recent strike. The treasure hunters agree that they ought to shift their focus towards the excavation of Smith’s Cove and a close examination of Money Pit area spoils.

“I was prepared for seawater,” Marty Lagina laments. “I was prepared for hurricane. I was prepared for collapse. I was prepared for equipment breakdown. I was prepared for all manners in which the curse could get us, but I was not thinking about a strike. So it’s interesting how the Island just… throws you something. But you know what? … Sempre avanti, we’re going to move forward…”

Later, various members of the team head to Smith’s Cove, where Billy Gerhardt is busy digging up the crane pad. As in the previous episode, Gerhardt uncovers more underground wooden structures suggestive of previous searcher attempts to stem the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. Marty Lagina suggests that these structures might actually constitute one of the exploratory shafts which Robert and Bobby Restall sank at Smith’s Cove in the mid-1960s. Further examination indicates that the latest structure discovered may indeed be such a shaft.



Next, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley go metal detecting on Oak Island’s Lot 1. Not far from the beach, Drayton comes across a piece of old pottery, which he dates to the 1700s. At Drayton’s suggestion, Jack Begley removes a nearby log using a winch attached to his vehicle. Drayton then searches the freshly-cleared area with his metal detector and discovers a military shirt cuff button, which he also dates to the 18th Century. Begley remarks that the artifact resembles the gold-plated military officer’s button found in GAL1 in the Season 4 finale.

Later, the Fellowship of the Dig meets in the War Room with author and historian James McQuiston, who has come to showcase his own Oak Island theory. McQuiston begins his presentation by regaling the treasure hunters with the story of the Knights Baronets of Nova Scotia, which he claimed to have cobbled together “piece by piece, just like you folks are finding things piece by piece on this island.” The Knights Baronets, McQuiston states, was a chivalric order established by King James I of England (who was simultaneously King James VI of Scotland). King James had

tasked his courtier, William Alexander, with ousting the French Catholics who inhabited the Acadian settlement of Port-Royal (present-day Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia) and replacing them with Scottish colonists. Alexander acceded to his king’s demand on the condition that he be allowed to name his new Scottish colony Nova Scotia, or “New Scotland”. James responded by creating the Baronetage of Nova Scotia in 1625. To become a member of this order, candidates would have to pay a large fee which would be used to support Alexander’s new Scottish colony.

“If you look at the overall list of the Knights Baronet,” McQuiston continues, “25% of them had some kind of connection back to the Knights Templar.” The writer goes on to claim that the order was really a “continuous legacy” of the Scottish Templars. After suggesting a potential connection between the Baronetage and the supposed Templar ruins at New Ross, Nova Scotia (which the crew investigated in Season 4, Episodes 1 and 2), McQuiston outlines his theory that members of the Scottish order buried the treasure of the Knights Templar on Oak Island sometime in the 1630s.

Finally, McQuiston shows the treasure hunters a list of items he found in a copy of History of the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel) No. 1– a history of the oldest Masonic Lodge in the world- which he suggests might be an inventory of the Oak Island treasure. Some items on the list include “36 dozen gold buttons, rich jewel set of diamonds… [and] gold bracelets at 600 pounds, the pair”. McQuiston estimates the treasure to be worth half a billion American dollars today.

The next day, Marty Lagina and Gary Drayton head to Oak Island’s Lot 16, not far from the Money Pit area. They intend to investigate a potential connection between an old water well there, located near the site at which the Tory Martin stone was discovered, and the mysterious stone well at New Ross, which the crew examined in Season 4, Episode 2.

“Nobody seems to know anything about it,” says Marty Lagina of the Lot 16 well in a later interview. “I agree,” concurs his brother Rick, voicing his curiosity regarding the identity of the structure’s builders.

Gary Drayton observes that the well appears to have a modern cap overtop an antiquated body, and suggests that they remove the cap in order to better examine the older structure below. Marty agrees and calls up Laird Niven, whose consent is required for the cap’s removal. Niven gives the treasure hunters the green light over the phone, whereupon Marty removes the well’s cap with a backhoe.


Drayton examines the freshly exposed well with his metal detector and gets several elusive hits. He and Marty proceed to pump the well dry. That accomplished, Drayton dons a hardhat and climbs down the shaft. After removing two stones with potential markings on them from the bottom of the well, he discovers a small piece of lead, as well as a modern Canadian loonie. Although he gets several more hits with his metal detector, he is forced to abandon the investigation and climb out of the well on account of freshwater seeping in from the bottom.

Later, the Lagina brothers meet with Laird Niven and Billy Gerhardt at Smith’s Cove. Hoping to determine the ages of the U-shaped and L-shaped structures discovered there through dendrochronology (tree ring dating), they remove cross-sectional samples of the structure under Niven’s direction.


Oak Island Buttons

In this episode, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley discovered a military shirt cuff button on Lot 1, which Drayton dated to the 1700s. This find evokes other old buttons discovered on Oak Island, including:

  • The military button discovered on Lot 8 in Season 5, Episode 16
  • The dandy button found on Lot 24 in Season 4, Episode 8
  • The gold-plated military officer’s button found in GAL1 in the Season 4 finale
  • The flat, military-style button discovered at Smith’s Cove in Season 2, Episode 2
  • A “navy button” discovered near the foundations of the home of Samuel Ball, the existence of which Gary Drayton disclosed to the public in an article on his personal website. 

Knights Baronets of Nova Scotia

In this episode, writer James McQuiston presented his own theory regarding the nature of Oak Island’s treasure, which revolves around a chivalric order called the Knights Baronets of Nova Scotia.

The order’s story begins in the early 1600s, during the infancy of North American colonization. At that time, King James I of England (a.k.a. King James VI of Scotland) hoped to control a huge swath of North American territory stretching from his newly-established Colony of Virginia to his even younger Newfoundland Colony to the north. His designs were thwarted, however, by French explorers Samuel de Champlain and Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons, who had recently established a number of New French colonies in Acadia (the Canadian Maritimes) and along the St. Lawrence River.

The oldest of these New French colonies was the settlement of Port-Royal, a village situated on the Bay of Fundy on the western coast of what is now Nova Scotia. Although King James had successfully commissioned Samuel Argall, the Admiral of the Virginia Colony, with razing the town to the ground in 1613, the French had simply rebuilt the settlement 8 kilometres (five miles) up the Annapolis River on the opposite shore. If James were to drive the French away from the colony, he would need to establish a colony of his own in the area.

In 1621, William Alexander, one of James’ Scottish courtiers, approached him with an interesting proposal intended to effect this end. Alexander suggested that the king finance a New Scottish colony in the heart of French Acadia by creating a new chivalric order and selling membership to Scottish aristocrats, using the funds raised to purchase outfits for prospective colonists. King James had tried a similar scheme in 1611 in order to populate Ireland with English settlers, with excellent results. The king agreed to the proposal, and on September 10, 1621, he appointed William Alexander the mayor of this vast new colony, which was to be called Nova Scotia, or “New Scotland”. Several years later, on October 18, 1624, he announced his intention to form the Knights Baronets of Nova Scotia, through which he would finance this new colony.

King James I never lived to carry out his plan, dying of dysentery on March 27, 1625. His eldest living son and successor, King Charles I, promptly carried on where his father had left off, forming the Knights Baronets of Nova Scotia two months after James’ death. Charles ultimately managed to sell 122 baronetcies to Scottish lairds and clan chiefs, which allowed William Alexander’s son, also named William Alexander, to establish the colony of Charlesford in the ashes of the old Port-Royal.

The colony was short-lived. In the late 1620s, the English fought against the armies of French King Louis XIII in the Siege of La Rochelle, a conflict between Catholic France and a defending army of French Huguenots (Protestants). The Anglo-French War which revolved around this battle ended in 1629, and in 1632, the defeated Charles I signed a treaty returning all of New France (Charlesford included) to the French. The nearby settlement of Port-Royal, later called Annapolis Royal, would remain in French hands until 1710.

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 19- Striking Distance

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 19- Striking Distance

The following is a Plot Summary of Season 6, Episode 19 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

Rick Lagina, Doug Crowell, Paul Troutman, and Terry Matheson stand by at the Money Pit area and oversee the excavation of Borehole GG1. Oscillator operator Danny Smith informs them that the caisson has reached a depth of 111 feet, and that “the oscillator pressure is the highest it’s [ever] been…” Matheson ponders over the possible subterranean media that could impose such a high torque pressure on the oscillator.

While they wait for their contractors to determine what sort of material the caisson is biting into, the Oak Island crew members examine some of the timbers that GG1 has yielded. Some of the beams appear to be oak- an indication that they might have belonged to the original Money Pit.

Later, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley go metal detecting on Oak Island’s Lot 25. First, they discover an old iron lock plate from a box or a chest, evoking the keyhole plate discovered on Lot 8 in Season 5, Episode 15. The narrator then suggests that the artifact might have belonged to either Samuel Ball or Captain James Anderson, the latter being an 18th Century American privateer and British spy who once owned Lot 26, and whose sea chest the Oak Island team examined in Season 5, Episode 2.

Back at the Money Pit area, Rick Lagina, Craig Tester, and other members of the team watch as the excavation of GG1 continues. Now below 111 feet, the shaft is yielding load after load of old wood, one particularly large beam (brought up from a depth of 113 feet) measuring five feet in length. Doug Crowell states that the beam was likely part of the Halifax Tunnel– a somewhat mysterious searcher tunnel constructed by the Halifax Company in 1866 or 1867. The narrator then suggests that perhaps the various artifacts discovered at depth in the area are all part of the Halifax Tunnel, located 200 feet south of the Money Pit, and that the team has not located the original diggings as they had hoped. The crew sinks the shaft to a depth of 159 feet before deciding to terminate the excavation.

While Billy Gerhardt begins to dismantle the crane pad at Smith’s Cove, the rest of the team meets in the War Room with theorist Richard Moats, a friend of the late Oak Island theorist Zena Halpern. Moats suggests that Nolan’s Cross “provides a means of relocating specific places on the island by using navigation principals along with markers that could not be changed by natural processes.” He further suggests that the cross was constructed by the Knights Templar before showing the treasure hunters a map of the Cross with several lines drawn through various stones. Moats believes that the intersections of these lines, one of which is located in the Money Pit area, are possible areas of interest.

The next day, while Irving Equipment Ltd. commences the sinking of another shaft called Site 3 in the Money Pit area, various members of the Oak Island team head to Smith’s Cove. There, Billy Gerhardt shows them a trench he dug beneath the crane pad into which water is leaking from below. Rick Lagina examines the trench and discovers several wooden boards protruding from its side. Marty suggests that the board constitutes a previous treasure hunter’s attempt to staunch the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. Gerhardt then expands the trench with his backhoe to reveal additional boards and more flowing water. “I think you’ve got your answer there,” remarks Gary Drayton. “The water’s running. They tried to stop the water.”

The following day, Craig Tester, Paul Troutman, and Terry Matheson oversee the excavation of the Site 3 shaft in the Money Pit area. Now at a depth of 104 feet, the shaft is yielding old hand-hewn timbers, which Terry Matheson suggests constitute the remains of early searcher shafts. Eventually, the hammergrab brings up huge oak timbers, which Terry Matheson speculates might be support beams for the original Money Pit.

Meanwhile, Alex Lagina, Jack Begley, and Dan Henskee sift through pre-washed Site 3 spoils at a wash table. Jack Begley discovers a thin shard of pottery, which Henskee suggests might be a piece of a fine china teacup. Alex Lagina then comes across a fragment of purple wood, evoking the purple book spine unearthed from Borehole H8 in Season 5, Episode 7.

Later, the Lagina brothers and Craig Tester return to the Money Pit area, only to find the place quiet and deserted. They meet with Mike Jardine in an on-site trailer and learn that the crane operators are on strike, their union having decided to protest the wages stipulated by the Nova Scotia Construction Labour Relations Association. Jardine explains that the wage dispute is expected to be resolved within 21 days, and that work in the Money Pit area will necessarily be suspended until its resolution.  “We understand completely,” replies Marty Lagina. “We’ll just soldier through this. I think we ought to respect the workers’ rights here. So we’ll let this play out.”

The Liverpool Packet: Canada’s Most Successful Privateer

The Liverpool Packet: Canada’s Most Successful Privateer

If you’re into classic literature, you may have heard of Rudyard Kipling’s 1897 boys’ adventure novel Captains Courageous. This story is about the spoiled son of a New York millionaire who falls overboard a steamer in the North Atlantic, only to be rescued by the crew of a fishing boat off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland (a rich fishing ground southeast of ‘the Rock’). The young protagonist quickly learns that lipping off his new shipmates, as he was wont to do his father’s employees, will earn him nothing but misery. Accepting his situation, he begins to earn his keep on the fishing vessel, forging himself a more virtuous character in the process.

About halfway through the novel, the fishermen bust out a fiddle and begin to sing various maritime tunes, from old sea shanties to an ancient Celtic dirge. One of the first tunes they intone is the Dreadnought, which details the trans-Atlantic route of a speedy American clipper that regularly carried mail from New York City to Liverpool, England, in mid 1800s. The song’s chorus goes: “She’s the Liverpool packet- O Lord, let her go!”- ‘Liverpool packets’ being courier ships that routinely sailed to and from the Port of Liverpool.

The Original Liverpool Packet

Although Kipling’s novel makes no mention of it, there was once a famous schooner actually named the Liverpool Packet which sailed the North Atlantic in the early 1800s. This vessel was a British privateer licensed to capture American ships, and has the distinction of being the most successful privateer to ever sail out of a Canadian port.

Initially christened the Severn, the Liverpool Packet began its life as an American slaver, hauling hapless human chattel from the West Coast of Africa to the fledgling United States. In 1808, both the United States and the United Kingdom outlawed the importation of new slaves into the Americas. Instead of seeking out new legitimate cargo, the captain of the Severn decided to continue the illicit trade with which he had previously been engaged.

In the summer of 1811, a British Royal Navy sloop-of-war captured the slave ship and sold it for 420 pounds sterling to Nova Scotian businessman Enos Collins and two other partners. Collins renamed the schooner the Liverpool Packet and used it to carry mail and passengers between Halifax and the southwesterly town of Liverpool, Nova Scotia.

The War of 1812

A year following the capture, the United States of America, in response to a British naval blockade intended to prevent U.S. trade with Napoleonic France, declared war on British Canada. The enterprising Collins used the opportunity to convert the Liverpool Packet into a 5-cannon privateer. Command of the schooner was awarded to Liverpool native Joseph Barss Jr., a veteran of the Caribbean theatre of the French Revolutionary Wars who was determined to make up for his lackluster stint in the West Indies. On the advice of his brother, John- an experienced importer familiar with American shipping practices- Barss sailed the Liverpool Packet behind enemy lines to the northern shore of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and lay in wait for American merchant ships bound for Boston Harbor. The schooner’s exceptional speed and Barss’ skill as a captain allowed the Liverpool Packet’s 45-man crew to capture 33 American ships in a single year- a tremendous achievement which earned the vessel a legendary reputation in the North Atlantic, as well as a suitably sinister nickname: the Black Joke. The Packet’s uncanny success even prompted one American shipping intelligence officer, in a dispatch describing the Packet’s relocation to the more northerly coast of Maine, to label Barss an “evil genius”. Soon, a number of American privateers were hunting expressly for the Canadian vessel, determined to pluck that painful thorn from the side of the U.S. shipping industry.

Finally, on June 11, 1813, the Liverpool Packet found herself forced into a battle with a 12-gun American privateer called the Thomas, light winds having precluded her escape. The five-gun schooner was no match for the larger vessel, and Barss wisely surrendered before serious loss of life could occur (despite his efforts, three American sailors were subsequently killed in a panicked boarding skirmish resultant of the two ships smashing together). The Nova Scotian captain and his crew were taken as prisoners of war. Although the crew of the Liverpool Packet was promptly exchanged for American POWs held by the British, Barss himself endured a more lengthy captivity in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as punishment for the severe damage he had inflicted on American commerce.

The schooner’s new owners renamed their prize the “Young Teazer’s Ghost”- a nod to the American privateer that exploded in Nova Scotia’s Mahone Bay during a skirmish with two Royal Navy warships just two weeks after the Packet’s capture. Despite her lofty appellative, the schooner mysteriously failed to perform in American hands, prompting her crew to rename her the Portsmouth Packet. After a brief and unsuccessful career, the schooner was recaptured by two British Royal Navy warships near Mount Desert Island (Maine’s largest island) and brought back to Halifax, where she was returned to Enos Collins and named the Liverpool Packet once again.

Incredibly, the vessel seemed to regain her good fortune with a Union Jack on her mainmast and a Canadian captain on her quarterdeck. Under the command of Captain Caleb Seeley, another Liverpool resident, the Liverpool Packet captured at least seventeen American ships off the coast of New England. By the end of the conflict, the schooner had captured a whopping 50 ships for the British, their collective cargoes worth nearly a million American dollars- the largest haul of the War of 1812.

When the war was over, Enos Collins (who would invest the small fortune he acquired during the war, eventually becoming the richest man in Canada) and the other co-owners of the Liverpool Packet sold their celebrated schooner to a buyer in Jamaica. Her fate following the purchase remains a mystery to this day.

Want to Help?

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article and would like to help support this website, please check out our online bookshop:

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 18- Heavy Metal

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 18- Heavy Metal

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 6, Episode 18 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

Rick and Marty Lagina meet in the War Room with Craig Tester, the latter in attendance via video conference. The three partners discuss the ongoing operation at Smith’s Cove, and agree that they ought to dismantle the crane pad and search for the flood tunnel- a project for which they have recently acquired permits from the provincial government.

Later, the crew gathers at the Money Pit area, where the excavation of Borehole S6 is underway. Charles Barkhouse explains that the spoils from the excavation are being washed and sorted by the wash plant. Billy Gerhardt then shows Rick Lagina some of the artifacts recovered from the spoils, including several fragments of pottery, a shard of old black glass, and what appears to be a piece of a pipe stem. When Rick, in turn, shows the artifacts to the rest of the crew, Doug Crowell remarks that one piece of white and blue pottery evokes similar shards discovered in Borehole H8.

The following day, the crew members meet in the War Room, where they present Laird Niven with some of the artifacts brought up from S6. First, Niven dates the blue and white glazed pottery from the 1810s to the 1840s. Next, he dates the pipe stem to post-1850. Finally, the archaeologist dates a fragment of red earthenware to the early 1700s, saying “this is the kind of thing you’re hoping for.”

That evening, the crew meets at S6, where oscillator operator Danny Smith informs them that the shaft has reached bedrock at a depth of 175 feet. The treasure hunters agree to terminate the operation.

Some days later, Rick Lagina, Doug Crowell, and Paul Troutman head to the Oak Island Research Centre. There, Troutman voices his opinion that, based on recent discoveries and Steve Guptill’s master map of the Money Pit area, they ought to sink a shaft at a location dubbed ‘FG-5.5’.

Later, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley go metal detecting at Lot 21, where they discovered a bejeweled brooch in the Season 6 premiere and a French military hat ornament in Season 6, Episode 5. After some searching, the pair unearth a thin piece of lead. Immediately afterwards, they uncover another lead rod which appears to fit perfectly with the other. A square hole seems to have been punched at the intersection of the two pieces, reminding Gary Drayton of the square hole in the lead cross found at Smith’s Cove. “This might be Holy Shamoley: Part 2!” Drayton exclaims as he high-fives his bearded partner.

Later, the crew meets in the Oak Island Research Centre, where Gary Drayton shows them the pieces of lead he and Jack recently discovered. Drayton points out a potential floral pattern on the artifact, which Paul Troutman attempts to connect with the Tree of Life. Marty Lagina suggests that they have the lead chemically analyzed.

Three days later, the crew gathers at the Money Pit area, where Steve Guptill identifies and marks the location of the future Borehole FG-5.5. Contractor Vanessa Lucido, after an invitation from Marty Lagina, names the hypothetical shaft GG1 after her daughter, Grace.

Later, the team members congregate in the War Room, where they call up geochemist Tobias Skowronek of the German Mining Museum- the scientist who analyzed the lead cross in Season 6, Episode 6. Skowronek explains that he has analyzed the lead artifact recently unearthed on Lot 21, and believes it might have been an “art object”. He then describes an ancient metalwork technique called cloisonné, in which artists beautified objects by affixing them with thin strips of metal and then filling the area within the strips with glass or gemstones. He goes on to state that the lead object found on Lot 21 appears to bear evidence of cloisonné work on its surface.

Skowronek concludes his presentation by revealing that “the lead isotope data from [the Lot 21 artifact is] identical to [that] of the cross… That means that both pieces probably come from the same ore deposit… So, it’s pre-15th Century.”

“It seems incredible and stretches belief,” says Marty Lagina of the find in a later interview. “But the lead from the cross and the lead from this other piece were from the same ancient mine in France.”



The Cloisonne

In this episode, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley went metal detecting on Oak Island’s Lot 21- the site of Daniel McGinnis’ old cabin and an area which they have searched extensively in the past. There, they discovered two thin pieces of lead a short distance below the surface. The pieces fit together, a square hole having been punched at their junction. Drayton remarked that the artifact reminded him of the lead cross found on Smith’s Cove, the metal of which geochemist Tobias Skowronek determined came from a pre-modern French mine.

The Oak Island crew sent these new lead pieces to Skowronek for analysis. The German geochemist examined the artifacts and determined that they form a cloisonné– a decorative piece inlaid with glass through the use of metal wires affixed to its surface. He also analyzed the lead’s isotopic signature and determined that the metal came from the same pre-modern mine which yielded the metal of which the lead cross is composed- a mine located in close proximity to the town of Renne-les-Chateau, which features in the Knights Templar theory seemingly favoured by the show’s producers. This startling coincidence, coupled with the fact that these new lead artifacts were discovered near the surface in an area which Gary Drayton had searched thoroughly in the past, almost hints at the possibility of a hoax.

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 17- Clue or False

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 17- Clue or False

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 6, Episode 17 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

While Laird Niven dismantles the slipway at Smith’s Cove, the rest of the Oak Island crew meets in the War Room with surveyor Steve Guptill. Guptill, having completed the task he was charged with the previous episode, shows the treasure hunters an extremely cluttered diagram depicting all the shafts and drillholes that have been sunk in the Money Pit area. He then explains that the combined data helped him to pinpoint what he believes to be the location of Shaft 6 (a.k.a. the Oak Island Association Shaft #2; an older searcher shaft connected to a tunnel which intersected the original Money Pit). Intriguingly, Guptill’s Shaft 6 tunnel corresponds perfectly with the data extracted from drillholes IJ5.5 and K5.5. The treasure hunters agree that they ought to sink a caisson at the place where Guptill’s map indicates the Money Pit met the Shaft 6 tunnel.

That afternoon, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley head to Smith’s Cove, where Laird Niven has dismantled a section of the slipway. They proceed to metal detect the freshly-uncovered area and discover an undefinable clump of material which reads as ferrous. That accomplished, Billy Gerhardt removes one of the slipway’s two large side timbers with his backhoe before digging the earth beneath it. The earth he removes is taken to the wash plant for cleaning.

Once the earth from beneath the slipway is cleaned and sorted into piles, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley search through it with a metal detector. Drayton quickly discovers a silver coin which he suggests might be a Spanish 1 real. The treasure hunters show the coin to Rick Lagina, who observes that it has a milled edge– an indication that it is likely no older than 1730 .

The next day, the treasure hunters prepare to sink a caisson, dubbed ‘S6’, at the spot where Steve Guptill’s diagram indicates the confluence of the Shaft 6 tunnel and the original Money Pit once lay. “We’re about to begin on probably the most important excavation on Oak Island this year…” says Marty Lagina of the operation in a later interview. “We think we’ve focused in on the most likely spot in the Money Pit to find some actual treasure.”

That afternoon, Rick Lagina heads to Smith’s Cove, where he meets with geophysicist Mike West. West, equipped with his deep-penetrating EM61 Metal Detector, begins to scan the entirety of Smith’s Cove for any sign of metal. The detector gets five hits, each of which West marks with a pink flag. The geophysicist tells Rick that one of the targets, located next to the crane pad, appears to be particularly large.

The next day, the Oak Island crew congregates in the Money Pit area, where the sinking of the S6 shaft is underway. At a depth of around 78 feet, the hammergrab brings up 6’’x6’’ timbers, which Doug Crowell identifies as shoring from the Chappell Shaft.

At a depth of around 95 feet, the hammergrab brings up boulders and hard earth, which geologist Terry Matheson declares are indications that the caisson is now in undisturbed, or “in situ”, soil. Shortly thereafter, when the shaft reaches a depth of 101 feet, the caisson cuts through soft material, which Marty Lagina hopes might be the roof of the Shaft 6 tunnel. In order to determine whether this is truly the case, the team transports that particular hammergrab load to a wash table and washes it by hand. The load yields several pieces of thick wooden sheeting different from the materials used in the construction of the Chappell Shaft. Shortly after discovering the wooden boards, the treasure hunters pick out several large scraps of what appears to be leather. “If there’s leather there, humans were there,” remarks Rick Lagina. “And you can date leather, to a degree.”

“You gotta find a little leather before you find the gold,” an enthusiastic Doug Crowell states as the caisson sunk deeper. “If that ain’t a saying, it should be!”

At a depth of 110 feet, below the location of the suspected Shaft 6 tunnel, the hammergrab brings up several very large chunks of axe-hewn oak. Terry Matheson observes that the ends of some of the timbers are encased in clay, indicating that they may have served a structural function. In a later interview, Rick Lagina remarks that these timbers constitute the first oak they’ve found on Oak Island and suggests that they might be part of the original Money Pit, which was said to contain platforms of oak logs.

While the treasure hunters marvel at the new discovery, Gary Drayton says that, to him, the oak timbers strongly evoke ships’ timbers. “I’ve been on beaches after hurricanes in Florida,” he explains, “and parts of the wrecks have washed up, and this is exactly what they look like. Ships’ timbers.”

The next day, Jack Begley, Doug Crowell, and Paul Troutman sift through the spoils from the bottom of Borehole S6 on a wash table. Jack Begley discovers a piece of iron chain, evoking a similar object discovered by Dan Blankenship at the bottom of Borehole 10-X. The narrator then attempts to connect the chain, as well as the pieces of human bone recovered from Borehole H8, with the legend that the original Oak Island excavators buried slaves alive at the bottom of the Money Pit in the hope that their ghosts would guard the treasure.

After weighing in on the chain, which suggests might have been used in a pulley system, Gary Drayton joins the three treasure hunters in their search through the S6 spoils. Shortly thereafter, Doug Crowell discovers a small piece of what appears to be bone.



Oaken Timbers

In this episode, the Oak Island crew sank a shaft, called S6, at a location prescribed by surveyor Steve Guptill. Having compiled and analyzed previous survey data, Guptill believed he had determined the location of Shaft 6 and the tunnel which led from it to the original Money Pit. Borehole S6 was sank near the hypothetical confluence of the tunnel and the Money Pit, where some of the Money Pit’s contents are believed to have slid following the Pit’s collapse in 1861.

Near the bottom of the shaft, several feet below the suspected location of the Shaft 6 tunnel, the crew found several very large axe-hewn oaken timbers. These pieces constitute the first pieces of oak found by Oak Island Tours Inc. on the island. The crew speculated that the timbers might be the remains of the oak platforms which were said to lie in the Money Pit at 10-foot intervals. Gary Drayton observed that the beams resemble the timbers of old sailing ships, implying that the original Money Pit builders dismantled their own ship and used its timbers to construct the Money Pit and conceal evidence of their presence on the island.

The Iron Chain

In the spoils of the S6 debris, Doug Crowell found a broken link of hand-wrought iron chain. This find evokes the chain discovered by Dan Blankenship at the bottom of Borehole 10-X, as well as the legend that the original Money Pit builders chained slaves to the bottom of their shaft and buried them alive so that their ghosts would guard the treasure.

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 16- Detour

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 16- Detour

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 6, Episode 16 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

The Fellowship congregates in the War Room, where the boys inform Craig Tester via video conference of the results of the dye test conducted the previous episode. After some discussion, Marty Lagina concedes that the rust-coloured fluid discovered at Smith’s Cove is “consistent with a flood tunnel that’s plugged”. Paul Troutman then suggests that the supposed flood tunnel’s entrance might be beneath the concrete crane pad used during the construction of the cofferdam. The treasure hunters agree that they ought to explore the area beneath the crane pad, and remind each other that they will have to obtain new permits from the Nova Scotian government in order to begin this operation.


Later, the treasure hunters meet at Smith’s Cove where, under the direction of Laird Niven, they set about fully uncovering the slipway. While Billy Gerhardt gets as close to the structure as he can with his backhoe, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley search the area with a metal detector. First, they unearth a long iron object which reminds Drayton of a spear point, evoking the alleged Roman pilum tip discovered in Season 6, Episode 3.

Later, Rick and Marty Lagina and Dave Blankenship meet with Vanessa Lucido and Mike Jardine at the Money Pit area. It is revealed that, as a result of the recent collapse, the team will be unable to work in Borehole H8 for the rest of the season. Rick then expresses his belief that a shaft sunk at the terminus of the supposed Shaft 6 Tunnel will reveal items of interest.

That evening, the Oak Island boys meet in the War Room with diver Tony Sampson. The crew plans to have Sampson dive on the targets prescribed by the COGS team, which conducted a LIDAR scan of the waters off Oak Island in Season 6, Episode 14. The first anomaly is a triangular rock off the South Shore which points in the general direction of the Money Pit. The second target is a supposed anchor lying on the sea floor.

Later, Alex Lagina, Jack Begley, and Peter Fornetti head out to the first underwater target on Tony Sampson’s boat. Alex and Tony dive for the target while Jack and Peter remain on the boat, the former in the capacity of a backup diver and the latter being in communication with the divers.

After some searching, Alex and Tony come across two kelp-covered rocks which they believe might constitute the first anomaly indicated by the COGS survey. The rocks form a triangle which indeed appears to point in the general direction of the Money Pit. Legally unable to investigate the rocks without a permit, the divers ascend to the surface.

After the boat, captained by Ryan Mosher, is brought to the general area of the second anomaly, Alex Lagina and Tony Sampson make another dive. The treasure hunters quickly come across a kelp-covered object which appears to be a rock, not an anchor as previously surmised. “I think [that] if you were sensitive to disappointment,” Alex Lagina concludes in a later interview, “you would not be on Oak Island. But it’s not discouraging. We had a list to look at, we got eyes on them, and we still know more than we did this morning.”

While the diving operation is wrapped up, the rest of the crew meets with surveyor Steve Guptill at the Oak Island Research Centre. Doug Crowell explains that they would like Guptill to compile previous survey data in order to pinpoint the precise location of Shaft 6.

The next day, Marty Lagina and Craig Tester head to Smith’s Cove, where Laird Niven has fully unearthed the slipway. After the archaeologist gives the treasure hunters the green light to remove the logs that comprise the structure, the three men contemplate the slipway’s purpose. Marty optimistically suggests that it might have been used to transport chests of gold from a ship to the island.

While the three men chat, Gary Drayton searches through Smith’s Cove spoils with a metal detector and uncovers a wrought iron hinge. Drayton shows the artifact to Rick Lagina and Craig Tester and suggests that it might be very old.

Later, Marty Lagina, Alex Lagina, and Doug Crowell drive to the Ross Farm Museum in the town of New Ross, Nova Scotia. There, they meet with blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge, to whom they show the metal objects recently discovered at Smith’s Cove. Legge identifies several of the pilum-like objects as “crib spikes”- nail-like tools used in the creation of wharves, derricks, platforms, and cribbing. He then dates the artifacts from 1650-1800.

Legge then takes a look at the hinge recently discovered by Gary Drayton and declares that it is “a very old piece of iron” and “a hinge for a very, very thick door”. When prompted, he dates the object from the early 1600s until before 1800. The treasure hunters then speculate as to the object’s purpose. “I’m voting flood gate,” says Doug Crowell.



More Underwater Triangles

In this episode, Alex Lagina and Tony Sampson dove on two anomalies on the seafloor off the South Shore Cove, which were indicated by the LIDAR scan conducted in Season 6, Episode 13. The first anomaly consists of two stones which form a triangle which appears to point in the direction of the Money Pit. The second anomaly, which some had initially suspected to be an anchor, proved to be an ordinary rock.

These underwater rocks evoke the three rectangular stones off Smith’s Cove which were investigated in Season 1, Episode 2. These stones appeared to align with a similar stone on the shore of Smith’s Cove, and with the Money Pit area beyond.

Another underwater stone was investigated in Season 3, Episodes 8 and 9. While conducting a sonar scan of the sea floor off Oak Island’s southern shore, the crew discovered a perfectly triangular underwater stone which appeared to point to the location at which the mysterious South Shore Cove triangle once lay. While investigating this anomaly, which proved to be a natural rock with a potentially-artificial marking on its surface, Tony Sampson discovered a similar rock along the same hypothetical line, closer to shore.

Crib Spikes

Near the end of this episode, the crew drove to the Ross Farm Museum in the town of New Ross, Nova Scotia. There, they met with blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge, to whom they showed the iron rods discovered at Smith’s Cove, which have been variously identified as medieval crossbow bolts and Roman pilum tips throughout the season. Legge identified the artifacts as “crib spikes”, which he described as nail-like tools used in the creation of wharves, derricks, platforms, and cribbing. He then dated the artifacts from 1650-1800.

The Smith’s Cove Hinge

Another artifact the crew submits to Legge for analysis is a wrought iron hinge discovered by Gary Drayton at Smith’s Cove this episode. Legge declares the artifact to be “a hinge for a very, very thick door”, and dates it from the early 1600s to the late 1700s.

This artifact evokes the decorative hinges discovered on Fred Nolan’s old property in Season 5, Episode 13, as well as the iron brace brought up from GAL1 in the Season 4 finale.

The Phenomenon of Lost Time in Canada

The Phenomenon of Lost Time in Canada

I was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, in the summer of 1992, and spent my first four years growing up in the so-called “Rain City”. In those days, many American movie and TV production companies shot their films in Vancouver and Toronto instead of Los Angeles or New York City, apparently in an effort to take advantage of the lowly Canadian loonie.

One project which began filming in Vancouver and nearby Squamish, British Columbia, when I was fresh out of the incubator was a TV show called The X-Files. This science fiction drama revolves around two FBI special agents named Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, who investigate unsolved cases which invariably involve monsters, aliens, supernatural entities, or some other variety of unexplained phenomena.

About a year ago, my dad informed me that he made an unauthorized (and regrettably invisible) cameo ‘appearance’ in The X-Files’ Season 1, Episode 21, entitled “Tooms”. In that episode, the titular Eugene Tooms- a mutant cannibal who subsists on human liver- murdered his psychologist in the house next to my parents’. My dad, while standing in the shadows of his property, watched as Mulder and Scully raced towards the house, guns drawn, in a vain attempt to save the hapless clinician from his unenviable fate.

My dad’s confession sparked my own interest in The X-Files– an excellent program about which I had previously known next to nothing- and prompted me to binge-watch more episodes than I care to admit. While watching the very first X-Files episode, I was introduced to the phenomenon of ‘missing time’ as an accompaniment to UFO encounters.

In The X-Files’ pilot episode, while driving on a quiet Oregon highway just outside a town haunted by a series of mysterious deaths, Mulder and Scully are beset by a blinding white light. Their car shuts down and rolls to a stop, whereupon Mulder, who had been looking at his watch when the incident occurred, observes that nine minutes inexplicably elapsed since the flash despite that it seemed to have taken place mere moments before. He then explains to the bewildered Scully that unexplained time loss is frequently reported by UFO abductees.

Barney and Betty Hill’s Close Encounter

Indeed, the phenomenon of missing time features in one of the most famous alleged UFO abductions, which took place on the U.S. Route 3 south of Lancaster, New Hampshire, on the night of September 19, 1961. While driving back to their home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, from a vacation in Niagara Falls and Montreal, couple Barney and Betty Hill claimed to have been approached by a flying pancake-like craft. The strange object followed the couple through Franconia Notch, a pass through the White Mountains, before descending upon them. The Hills heard a series of beeping sounds near the trunk of their car before falling unconscious. Another series of beeping sounds restored the couple to consciousness, whereupon they found that they had travelled 35 miles south down the highway without any memory of the drive. They later learned that they arrived at their home seven hours after their departure from Colebrook, New Hampshire, from which they had begun the final leg of their return journey; the drive from Colebrook to Portsmouth typically takes about three and a half hours.

Tormented by disturbing dreams, the Hills decided to undergo regression hypnosis in order to determine what exactly took place that night on the highway. During their hypnosis sessions, both Barney and Betty recalled being approached by short, grey-skinned humanoids who compelled them to enter their pancake-like craft. The creatures escorted the Hills to separate rooms and told them to lie on rectangular tables before subjecting them to a series of medical tests. When the tests were complete, the creatures returned the Hills to their vehicles and departed into the night sky.

Although Dr. Benjamin Simon of Boston, Massachusetts- the psychiatrist who orchestrated the Hills’ hypnosis sessions- concluded that the Hills’ recollections were fantasies inspired by some of Betty’s dreams, many UFOlogists believe the Hills’ testimonies constitute proof that Barney and Betty Hill were abducted by extraterrestrial astronauts.

Ever since the Hills’ strange experience, many people have reported similar abductions by the otherworldly occupants of flying saucers. Most of these abduction stories are remarkably similar, one major commonality being the phenomenon of missing time.

The UFO of Verdun, Quebec

About a year ago, my friend and fellow researcher Mr. Gary Mangiacopra introduced me to a UFO sighting published in the October 1952 issue of the magazine Fate. The event described, which took place exactly one decade before the Hills’ landmark encounter, is remarkable in that constitutes what might be the first reported incident of lost time in association with UFO sightings.

This brief report was submitted by one A.V. Haslett of Verdun, Quebec, a borough of Montreal situated on the banks of the St. Lawrence River.

“One Sunday afternoon in September 1951,” Haslett began, “I was fortunate to sight two very bright objects traveling in a southerly direction of the St. Lawrence River, Verdum, Quebec. The first one seemed to be very large and appeared to me like a huge yo-yo with a red band around the middle of it.”

Haslett continued:

“I looked at my watch to verify the time in case someone else reported the sighting. The time was 3:42 p.m., and I scanned the sky in case others appeared. Suddenly, another appeared in the same part of the sky and headed in the same direction. This one was either flying higher, or further away, and was the same shape as the first one. I again looked at my watch and was surprised to note that the time was 4:42, exactly an hour after the previous object.”

Unless this author has misinterpreted the narrative, Haslett appears to have claimed that an entire hour elapsed between his two UFO sightings in the space of what, in his mind, seemed the blink of an eye. If this is truly the case, then Haslett’s story, to the best of this author’s knowledge, may be the earliest report of missing time in association with a UFO sighting or alleged alien abductions, Canadian or otherwise.

If you know of an earlier account of missing time or would like to share your own thoughts on the phenomenon, please feel to drop us a line in the Comments section below.

Continue Reading

The Traverspine Gorilla- A Wildman From Labrador

The Traverspine Gorilla- A Wildman From Labrador

There is an old tradition among the various Inuit tribes of Alaska, Northern Canada, and Greenland which holds that the North American Arctic was once home to a race of primitive giants called Toonijuk. Physically, these people were said to be immensely powerful, and could easily carry full-grown seals on their backs. They did not live in tents or igloos, like the Inuit, but rather in circular stone pit-houses roofed with whale ribs and animal skins.

Legend has it that, in ancient times, the Inuit began to hunt down the Toonijuk and greatly reduced their number. The giants who survived these predations fled to the mountains of the interior where, some say, their descendants still linger to this very day.

One area that has long been associated with the legend of the Toonijuk is the Torngat Mountain Range- a lonely, barren sierra in the tundra of the Labrador Peninsula characterized by deep fjords and sheer rock faces. “Torngat” derives from an Inuktitut word meaning “place of spirits” which likely has etymological ties with the name denoting the ancient, primitive giants of Inuit lore.

Another Labradorean locale connected with strange tales of wild giants is Happy Valley-Goose Bay, a Royal Canadian Air Force town located about 700 kilometres southeast of the Torngat Mountains, on the shores of Lake Melville and Grand River. In around 1913, a tiny settlement called Traverspine, located on the outskirts of this town, was the setting of several encounters with a mysterious creature which has come to be known as the Traverspine Gorilla.

The tale of the Traverspine Gorilla first appeared in print in American writer Elliot Merrick’s 1933 book True North: A Journey Into Unexplored Wilderness. “Ghost stories are very real in this land of scattered, lonely homes and primitive fears,” Merrick began.

According to Merrick, one autumn afternoon in around 1913, a little girl by the name of Michelin was playing alone in a meadow near Traverspine, not far from her parents’ cabin, when she saw a strange manlike creature emerge from the woods. The thing was about seven feet tall, was covered in hair, and had long dangling arms, while its head was topped with a white mane that ran across the crown like the helmet crest of a Roman centurion. The creature grinned at the little girl, baring its white teeth, and beckoned for her to come closer. Miss Michelin screamed and raced for the safety of the house.


The creature left tracks all around the cabin and surrounding area. “It is a strange-looking foot,” wrote Merrick, “about twelve inches long, narrow at the heel and forking at the front into two broad, round-ended toes. Sometimes its print was so deep it looked to weigh five hundred pounds.”

Following Miss Michelin’s terrifying encounter, local lumberjacks began to search for the creature. They set bear traps, of which the wily wildman steered clear, and lay in wait for it all night with their rifles at hand, to no avail. Although none were able to catch the creature, many observed its strange tracks in the dirt and snow. Others came across evidence indicating that the creature ripped bark off trees and uprooted huge logs as if in search of insects.

The wildman hung around the outskirts of Traverspine for two winters. It would often harass dogs, which barked and growled at it in the night, and would sometimes drive its canine contenders into the Traverspine River.

One afternoon, the creature made a second appearance at the Michelin home. One of the Michelin children noticed the creature peering into the cabin through a window and hollered for her mother. Mrs. Michelin stormed out of the house, shotgun in hand, just in time to see a white mane disappear into a clump of willows. She fired a shot at the underbrush and heard a meaty thud which told her that her lead had found its mark.

According to Bruce S. Wright, one-time director of the Northeastern Wildlife Station of Fredericton’s University of New Brunswick, who investigated the tale of the Traverspine Gorilla in June 1947, Mrs. Michelin said of her brush with the creature:

“It was no bear. I have killed twelve myself and I know their tracks well, and I saw enough of this thing to be sure of that. I fired a shotgun at it and heard the shot hit. My little girl was playing behind the house and she came running in saying it was chasing her. I grabbed the shotgun and went outside just in time to get a glimpse of it disappearing in the bush.”

Wright, who documented the findings of his investigation in a letter to Canadian folklorist Philip Godsell, concluded his letter with the suggestion that the Traverspine Gorilla might be a barren ground grizzly, a rare subspecies of grizzly bear which roams the barrenlands of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. He remarked that when he suggested this possibility to his Labradorean informants, “they all laughed at that as they were all very familiar with bear tracks.”

Dr. C. Hogarth Forsyth, an English-American physician who operated a 20-bed hospital in the easterly community of Cartwright, Labrador, under the auspices of a charity called the Grenfell Association, shed some light on the strange footprints found in the Labrador wilderness from time to time in a newspaper interview conducted about six months prior to Wright’s investigation. Forsyth described the tracks as “barefoot” and “ape-like”, and claimed that they sometimes “led to nests under trees… Whatever made them climbed easily over stumps and other obstructions where ordinary man would have gone around.” He stated that the tracks were certainly not bear tracks, as they were discovered and interpreted “by trappers whose living depends on their knowledge of tracks.”



  • True North: A Journey Into Unexplored Wilderness, by Elliot Merrick (1933)
  • “The Camp-Fire” in the June 1949 issue of the magazine Adventure; courtesy of American researcher Gary S. Mangiacopra
  • “Snowman’s Land” in the November 1947 issue of the magazine Adventure; courtesy of American researcher Gary S. Mangiacopra
  • “Canada’s ‘Ape-Men’ of Labrador: Pre-1946 Accounts of Possible Primitive Surviving Hominoid Encounters as Related by the Native Inhabitants of the Labrador Region of the North American Continent”; by Dr. Dwight C. Smith and Gary S. Mangiacopra in the March 2005 issue of the North American BioFortean Review



The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 15- Dye Harder

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 15- Dye Harder

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 6, Episode 15 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

The Oak Island crew meets with Danny Smith of ROC equipment at the Money Pit area, where a huge sinkhole has developed overnight in the vicinity of the H8 caisson. Smith explains that his boss, Vanessa Lucido, is currently discussing the situation with Mark Monahan of Irving Equipment Ltd. and that the two contractors are working on a solution to this new setback.

Later, Rick Lagina and Craig Tester meet with Lucido and Monahan in an on-site trailer. Lucido explains that they will be monitoring the ground in the entire Money Pit area in an effort to anticipate any further collapses before they occur. Monahan suggests that they shake the H8 caisson using a piece of a equipment called a vibro hammer; in all goes as planned, the vibration will cause the earth surrounding the caisson to settle. Monahan’s suggestion is adopted. A vibro hammer is attached to the H8 caisson and begins to shake, causing the sinkhole surrounding the caisson to widen, as anticipated.

While the vibro hammer operation is underway, Marty Lagina, Dave Blankenship, Gary Drayton, Jack Begley, Terry Matheson, and Billy Gerhardt meet at Smith’s Cove, where they proceed to hunt for the convergence point of the supposed box drains with a backhoe. They begin by excavating a trench fronting one of the mysterious wooden walls, which Gary Drayton then examines with his metal detector. Drayton quickly discovers a large metal bucket buried in the mud. The team digs a little deeper, finally hitting the C horizon (a rockier layer of earth) without finding any evidence of the box drains.

The next morning, the Oak Island crew meets in the War Room. It is revealed that the crew intends to conduct a dye test (similar to those conducted by the Oak Island Treasure Company in 1897, Erwin Hamilton in 1941, and Triton Alliance in 1988) in order to locate the entrance to the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. We are reminded that Oak Island Tours Inc. conducted a similar test back in Season 2, Episode 6, in which they pumped non-toxic green dye into Borehole 10-X. They had suspected that the shaft intersected the supposed flood tunnels believed to feed the Money Pit, and hoped that the dye would show up on Oak Island’s shores. Unfortunately, the green dye failed to appear anywhere outside of Borehole 10-X.

Marty Lagina presents the team with red dye that he has acquired, which he hopes will be more visible than the green dye they used in the previous dye test. It is also revealed that the team will watch for the dye using  boats and drones, the latter replacing the helicopter which was used during the previous dye test.

Later that day, Marty and Alex Lagina, Jack Begley, and Peter Fornetti drive to the town of Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, just east of Halifax. There, they visit the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS), where they meet with the team who conducted the underwater LIDAR scan in the previous episode. The COGS crew presents the crew with a 3D model of the seafloor off the South Shore Cove and points out two anomalies which appear to be “possible vent locations”. One of the anomalies appears to be triangular, and the shadow it casts points in a north-south line which, Marty remarks, “would be pointing, more or less, at the Money Pit”.

Later, the Oak Island crew prepares to inject red dye into Borehole C1– a shaft in the Money Pit area which they hope intersects the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. They begin the operation by attempting to pump water into C1. As the hose fills with water, it becomes clear that a section of the hose is twisted up and will not allow water to pass through. They kill the pump, bleed off the pressure, untwist the hose, and carry on with the operation.

As soon as Dan Henskee and Terry Matheson pour red dye into the shaft, three flying drones equipped with high definition cameras are sent to monitor the island’s coastline. The Lagina brothers and Jack Begley observe the cameras’ live feed on a screen at Smith’s Cove. Meanwhile, Charles Barkhouse and diver Tony Sampson travel around the island’s coast by boat, scanning the shore with binoculars for any sign of the red dye.

After some time, Jack Begley, while monitoring the screen at Smith’s Cove, notices an anomaly in the water off the Bald Spot- an enclave in the Oak Island forest strangely devoid of trees, located just uphill from the Boulderless Beach on Oak Island’s northeast shore. Tony Sampson and Charles Barkhouse proceed to investigate the anomaly by boat, but find nothing of interest.

While the operation is underway, Marty Lagina and Jack Begley are visited by Dan Blankenship, who arrives in a golf cart. Shortly thereafter, Gary Drayton, while strolling around Smith’s Cove, notices red dye trickling from beneath a rock. Suspecting that they have finally discovered the entrance to the legendary flood tunnel, Drayton excitedly calls the crew over. Marty, crestfallen, observes that the substance is rust coloured rather than red, implying that it may not be the dye after all, whereupon Drayton suggests that the difference in colour might be attributable to the mediums through which the dye passed on its way to Smith’s Cove. Jack Begley collects some of the substance using a water bottle so that the crew members can determine its chemical makeup and confirm whether or not it is indeed the same dye that they pumped into C1.

Later, Jack Begley and Paul Troutman meet at the Oak Island Research Centre, where they use a fluorometer to compare the fluorescence of the substance that Begley collected at Smith’s Cove with that of red dye fresh from the bottle. The readings are comparable, indicating that the substance found at Smith’s Cove might indeed be the same dye pumped into C1. The treasure hunters phone up Rick Lagina and inform him of the good news.


The New Dye Test

In this episode, the Oak Island boys conducted a dye test similar to those conducted by several of their predecessors. They pumped red dye into Borehole C1 and later discovered the same dye at Smith’s Cove. This discovery, similar to those made by the Oak Island Treasure Company and Erwin Hamilton before them, indicates that the water which fills shafts sunk in the Money Pit area is connected with Smith’s Cove via some sort of subterranean channel. Whether this channel is natural or artificial has yet to be determined.