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Wild Horse Creek- Canada’s Forgotten Gold Rush

Tales of Wild Horse Creek

I’m going to tell you a story about a little adventure I had in the summer of 2014, which led to my accidental discovery of a ghost town in the wilderness of southern British Columbia.

That summer, I took a week-long solo road trip through the Canadian Rockies, in part for the purpose of acquiring photos for my own website. About halfway through my trip, I decided to pay a visit to Fort Steele, a living history museum just up the B.C. Highway 95 from the city of Cranbrook.

Fort Steele was once a town called Galbraith’s Ferry, established in 1864 by a ferry operator named John Galbraith, who made his living transporting prospectors across the Kootenay River. The settlement acquired its new name in 1888, when the famous Mountie Sam Steele came to town to settle a contentious dispute between a local prospector and a Kootenai Indian whom he accused of murder (Fort Steele was never a ‘fort’ in the truest sense of the term, although it did house a NWMP outpost). Although the original settlement dwindled into a ghost town in the early 1900s, a true-to-life replica of the frontier community was built in the late 1960s and opened to the public as the Fort Steele Heritage Town, a living museum designed to imitate Fort Steele as it appeared in the 19th Century. Today, visitors to Fort Steele can walk down the raised wooden sidewalks past horse drawn carriages, a steam engine locomotive, and actors dressed in period costume who appear baffled by the size of your tiny camera.

 

 

After enjoying the sights and sounds of Fort Steele, I set out to get a photo of the confluence of the Kootenay and Wild Horse Rivers, where an old CPR railway station once stood. Near a gas station graced by one of those goofy cutout board inviting passersby to transplant their faces onto the vacant countenance of a faceless prospector, I ended up taking a wrong turn and heading up a narrow and somewhat precarious logging road which runs along a cliff overhanging the Wild Horse River. This dirt road (which, in retrospect, must have been the Fort Steele-Wildhorse Road) was a bit of a one-way trail, and I had little choice but to follow it until it widened sufficiently to allow me to turn my car around. I drove on and on into the mountains, praying that I wouldn’t run into another vehicle bound for Fort Steele.

After driving for what seemed like an eternity, I came to a ‘turnoff’ which was really nothing more than an eroded bank leading down to the Wildhorse River. As I drove onto the rocky beach and prepared to turn around, I spied, to my astonishment, a man standing knee deep in the Wild Horse River, leaning forward with a pan in his hand. The man waved to me, and I got out of my vehicle and walked over to say hello.

The guy, who was dressed in knee-high rubber boots and waterproof coveralls, must have been a few years older than I was. He told me that he was panning for gold, and that he’d already had some luck that morning.

“Here, I’ll show you,” he said, producing a quantity of sand from a container. “See that?” He pointed to a cluster of tiny glittering gold nuggets that stood out from the surrounding sediment. “That’s fifty, sixty bucks, right there.”

For an instant, a primal flicker of jealously rippled through me- a startling and unexpected sensation which whispered of the power of the yellow metal that had driven conquistadors through the jungle and Stampeders to the arctic in centuries past. “Very cool,” I said, suppressing a shudder at my involuntary reaction.

“Oh yeah, the creek is full of it. Best place to pan in BC, hands down.”

“Really?”

“Yep.” The prospector looked up at me in surprise. “Don’t you know what this place is? This place used to be a boomtown. Right here, where we’re standing. You can still see some of the old graves. Just head back along the road you just came up and look for the sign on your left.”

I did as the prospector suggested and headed back down the one-way trail, barely managing to get my vehicle back up the steep embankment. Sure enough, about twenty seconds down the road, I saw a stock paper sign nailed to a tree on the left hand side of the road. The sign read “FISHERVILLE HISTORIC TRAIL” and included a picture of a finger pointing down a narrow trail leading into the woods. I guided by car down the steep trail, parked in a small clearing, and got out to do some snooping.

Wild Horse Creek- Canada’s Forgotten Gold Rush

As it turned out, I had stumbled upon Fisherville, the epicenter of the youngest offshoot of the Fraser River Gold Rush.

Back in 1857, when British Columbia was a cluster of fur trading districts and British colonies, gold was discovered near the confluence of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers not far from present-day Lytton, BC. In no time, prospectors of American, British, and Chinese extraction flocked to Victoria, took steamers across the Strait of Georgia to New Westminster (present-day Vancouver), and headed up an old Hudson’s Bay Company trail called the Douglas Road in what is known today as the Fraser River Gold Rush.

In the 1860s, some of the Fraser River prospectors who ventured off the beaten path in search of gold made strikes in the Cariboo Plateau of south-central British Columbia. In no time, prospectors from the Fraser Canyon were streaming into the interior of British Columbia in what is known as the Cariboo Gold Rush.

In 1864, a handful of Cariboo prospectors who had wandered east of the diggings around Barkerville and Williams Lake, the heart of Cariboo Country, discovered gold on Stud Horse Creek, a tributary of the Kootenay River. By the end of summer, nearly a thousand prospectors were panning for gold on this waterway, which would soon be renamed Wild Horse Creek (and ‘Wild Horse River’ many years later).

The Legend of Wild Horse Creek

According to one of the handful of CIBC-sponsored didactic posters erected throughout the ruins of Fisherville, there is an old Kootenai Indian legend purporting to explain the origin of the gold which lies scattered across the bed of Wild Horse Creek. Said to have been “passed on by Field Supervisor Bob Jeffrey” of Cranbrook, B.C., in 1965, the story goes:

“Once upon a time, the Spirit of the Red Man battled with the Spirit of the Mountains, and in that battle was sorely wounded. As he lay stricken, the Spirit of the Mountain sowed the floor of what is now the valley of Wild Horse Creek and all the creeks nearby with a yellow gleaming metal. ‘Mark you,’ said the Spirit of the Mountain to his foe as he cast in the last handful, ‘this will call thither men who will possess your land and enjoy your hunting grounds, and these men will be your masters.’ Truly the prophecy came to pass. Over 100 years ago came the Argonauts, who found the gold on the Wild Horse Creek, and discovered that this is a fair and delectable land.”

The Discovery

No one truly knows who first discovered gold on Wild Horse Creek, although there are a number of different stories which purport to be the true account. One of these stories was recounted by a miner named Dan Drumheller, who had participated in the rush of 1864. Drumheller’s story appeared in the February 22, 1932 issue of the Lethbridge Herald:

“The Wild Horse Creek discovery was made by a bunch of prospectors numbering about 60 men during March 1864. Many of these prospectors had been ordered to leave Montana by the vigilance committee. They headed for the Walla Walla country late in the fall of 1863. When they reached Frenchtown, a Canadian-French settlement, near where the city of Missoula now stands, they decided they were out of reach of the vigilantes and continued to spend the winter in the French settlement and hit the trail early the next spring for Walla Walla. I do not pretend to say all these men were bad, but many of them were hard cases.

“During the winter there came a mixed-breed Indian of the Finley tribe form the upper Kootenays of British Columbia to visit the French settlement. This breed had some small nuggets with him which he exhibited to this bunch of prospectors and of course they were interested. He told the prospectors he picked the nuggets out of seams on the bedrock at the bottom of a small clear stream of water flowing into the Kootenay River 40 miles above where Fort Steele now stands. The prospectors employed the half-breed to pilot them to his find. They left Frenchtown the first of March for the upper Kootenays.

“When they reached what is now Wild Horse Creek, many of their horses were fagged out. Here they left their worn horses and the greater portion of their supplies and three men, Pat Moran, Mike Brennan, and Jim Reynolds, to take care of their stock and supplies. The balance of the party went on up the Kootenay River to Finlay Creek. They did not find sufficient gold at Finley Creek to satisfy them. While the main body of men were at Finley Creek, the three men left with the supplies had begun prospecting on the Wild Horse Creek at the mouth. They found a little gold there.

“They then prospected up the creek some four miles to a box canyon and a perpendicular fall in the creek, but still without success. Then Pat Moran worked his way around above the falls and struck rich pay dirt. When the party returned from Finley Creek the discovery had been made. Then these men called a miners’ meeting and made their own mining laws according to the American custom, notwithstanding that they were in British Columbia, Canada. They made their claims large enough so the 60 prospectors could cover all of the rich ground on the creek…”

Fisherville, British Columbia

No sooner had gold been discovered on Wild Horse Creek than a boomtown called Fisherville sprouted up in the vicinity of the new diggings. Sir Arthur N. Birch, the Colonial Secretary of the newly-established Colony of British Columbia, travelled to Fisherville that summer and reported that the town boasted 700 residents, three restaurants, several saloons, and a large brewery.

According to another of the CIBC posters at the Fisherville ruins:

“Named after Jack Fisher, one of the first men to come to Wild Horse Creek, Fisherville was home to the 5,000 miners who would eventually try their luck here. From the beginning, the men who flocked to the Wild Horse rush were much the same as those who frequented other gold rush towns. These were often desperate men, with little money to show for their work, some one step ahead of the American or British authorities…

“In the first days of the camp, decisions and legal matters were often decided by elected committees. This followed miners’ traditions formed as far back as the California rush of the 1840s. Elected judges and sheriffs would often use force of numbers and arms to mete out laws created as circumstances arose…”

The Shooting of Tommy Walker

Unlike the crowd at Barkerville, which was made up of prospectors of chiefly Great British and Chinese extraction, the population of Fisherville in 1864 was predominantly American. The “wild boys” of Wild Horse Creek, many of whom had cut their teeth in the rough-and-tumble world of the California and Colorado goldfields, were notoriously rowdy. One incident which serves to illustrate the anarchy that reigned in the early days of the Wild Horse Creek Gold Rush is the shooting of Thomas Walker, an event described thus by one of the CIBC posters at Fisherville:

“… In the early days of the rush, before the Colonial authorities had arrived to assert British sovereignty, Fisherville was a fast and loose town. As some men toiled for a pittance and others grew wealthy overnight, tensions on Wild Horse Creek grew. On an August night in 1864, there was a bout of drinking in progress at one of Fisherville’s finer establishments. Words were exchanged, anger boiled over, and the name-calling began. The prospectors lined up behind two men, Tommy Walker and William Burmeister, known as ‘Yeast Powder Bill’. No one know why the fight started in Charlie Fortier’s saloon, but by the time it was finished, five men were terribly wounded and one lay dead [according to the aforementioned article in the Lethbridge Herald, men named “Overland” Bob and Paddy Side were hit on the head with hand spikes during this brawl, and a fellow by the name of Kelly was stabbed in the back with a knife].

“Walker fired first, shooting off one of Yeast Powder Bill’s thumbs, but Bill made his shot count, and Walker fell to the ground dead. Bill high-tailed it out of camp but was pursued by Bob Dore, president of the Law and Order Committee. Dore caught up with Bill and, aided by his six-shooter, convinced him to return to Fisherville. His wounded thumb was attended to and he and the other wounded men were put under lock and key. An angry mob gathered, hot for revenge, but Bob Dore and his men dispersed them by firing their guns into the air.

“In the democratic tradition of mining camps all aver the west, a judge and sheriff were elected, Yeast Powder Bill was provided with defense counsel, and a miner’s court was convened to try Bill for the murder of Tommy Walker.

“Conflicting accounts of what actually happened came out at the trial and the jury of prospectors found Yeast Powder Bill not guilty for lack of evidence. Bob Dore let Bill know that he had one half hour to get out of town and it is told that Burmeister was gone in half that time.

“A few days later, Judge John Carmichael Haynes rode into camp. An inquest was conducted into the death of Tommy Walker, but Judge Haynes came to the same conclusions as the miners. British law had come to Wild Horse Creek.

“Thomas Walker was a young 27 years old when he fell to Yeast Powder Bill’s bullets on August 6, 1864. He was born in County Donegal, Ireland, and like many of his fellow miners, had probably left the emerald Isle to find his fortune in the gold fields of the West.

“In the 1960s, Mr. and Mrs. Reg Egge of Fort Steele visited the grave and noted that it was in need of some care. They retraced the letters on the headstone and, with the East Kootenay Historical Association, constructed a protective case for the grave maker. Eventually, a replica was made and the original is now in safe keeping at Fort Steele Heritage Town.

“Tracked down in Ireland, the Walker family was grateful to finally learn what had happened to their long-lost relative. All trace of Tommy Walker had been lost to his family after his arrival in North America. His father made two voyages across the Atlantic from Ireland to New York in an attempt to find his son. Little did he know that Tommy had met his end here on Wild Horse Creek, buried in the lonely grave where he still lies today.”

The Grave of Thomas Walker

Tommy Walker’s grave lies a twenty feet or so from the poster detailing his demise. A plaque nailed to a nearby tree reads:

“Thomas Walker, a native of Donegal, Ireland, died at Wild Horse Creek, August 6, 1864, aged 27 years. He met his death in a gun fight with ‘Yeast Powder Bill’ Burmeister…”

Cuddy’s Gold

Another crime alluded to by the CIBC posters at Fisherville describes the robbery of a wily gamester named Old Cuddy:

“One of the most popular ways to pass the time in the gold camps was gambling. One such gambler was an Irishman by the name of Old Cuddy. He ran a small store and held shares in a large placer mining company. Cuddy was not much of a gambler and owed money to many Fisherville residents, often refusing to pay his debts. However, as gambling was officially illegal, Cuddy’s card-playing compatriots could hardly go to the authorities to remedy the situation.

“Cuddy had managed to acquire 1,000 ounces of gold dust, a small fortune which he planned to take with him when he left Kootenay. He kept the gold in his store under the watchful eye of a trusty guard.

“Late one evening, two men approached Cuddy’s store and fired their revolvers. They let out a cry that someone had shot Old Cuddy. The guard ran from the store to a nearby saloon to save his friend, only to find Cuddy, playing poker, quite alive and well. When the two men ran back to the store they found the two men were gone and Cuddy’s gold along with them.

“There were rumours that the whole episode had been a scheme concocted by Cuddy to get his gold past the Gold Commissioner and the 50 cent per ounce export duty. The robbery did prove genuine, but there was little sympathy in the camp for Old Cuddy because of his infamous reputation for reneging on his debts.”

Kootenai Brown’s Tenure

Incidents like the shootout at Fortier’s saloon and the robbery of Old Cuddy prompted Sir Arthur N. Birch to dispatch a Constable of the Colonial Civil Service to the new diggings in an attempt to bring law and order to that wild frontier.

Wild Horse Creek’s first lawman happened to be 26-year-old John Brown, a celebrated Irish-Canadian frontiersman who would later take up residence at Waterton Lakes, where he would come to be known as “Kootenai” Brown in his later years. In his journal, Brown described one of his more notable brushes with the shady underbelly of Wild Horse Creek which took place in the summer of 1865:

“Three men came into Wild Horse and succeeded in passing several thousand dollars worth of bogus gold dust. It was an amalgam composed of 75 per cent copper, 5 per cent lead, and 20 per cent gold. It was a very good imitation…

“Well, these three fellows- Kirby, Conklin and a third whose name I forgot… these three brought in the amalgam, bought goods and paid for them with it. They were pointed out to me at once and I marked them as suspicious-looking characters. When it was discovered that a lot of bogus nuggets were in circulation on the creek, I went to arrest the three strangers. They were living in a one-roomed cabin and I knocked at the door. Getting no reply, I burst open the door and Kirby grabbed for his gun. I had him covered and I called out to him ‘Throw up your hands or I’ll make a lead mine of your carcass.’

“While I was getting Kirby out of the cabin, the other two escaped. After putting my prisoner under lock and key, I organized a posse and we were not long in locating Conklin and his pal, both of whom were also put behind bars.”

 

Following the arrest, Brown tendered his resignation from the Colonial Civil Service, unable to make a living on account of a sudden decrease in his pay eager to head east in search of gold. He described the unfortunate sequel to the arrest in his journal:

“My successor, whom I recommended… as a suitable man for the job, had a streak of bad luck with the three men I left him in the jail.

“Among the pieces of good advice I offered the young fellow was never to allow more than one prisoner out at a time and never, on any account, to turn his back on a prisoner. I regret to say that one morning he thoughtlessly disregarded this advice and let all three out at a time to wash for breakfast. He turned his back for a moment when Conklin ‘put the mug on him’ (threw his arm under his chin and held his head back) then gagged and tied him. Then they took his horse and what money he had, his clothes and his gun and made a clean get away. The jail was in a lonely part of the creek and their escape was not known till the butcher called for the meat order. He knocked at the door but got no response. Returning with a blacksmith, the lock was pried off and on entering they found the constable bound and gagged and locked in a cell, but the cells of the prisoners were empty. A search party was organized but no trace of the desperadoes was ever found.”

The Chinese Burial Ground

A short walk uphill from the grave of Thomas Walker is a small parcel of land punctuated by a number of equidistant coffin-sized depressions. Another CIBC poster explains that this area once served as a graveyard for Chinese prospectors who passed away in and around Fisherville during the Wild Horse Creek Gold Rush. According to the poster:

“Chinese miners came soon after news of the Wild Horse goldrush broke. They worked poorer claims or provided services to other miners. White miners seldom honoured Chinese claims; in fact, Chinese miners often could only secure rights on the ground previously exhausted by other miners.

“The Chinese founded and maintained this, their own ‘Chinese’ cemetery. In this ground the Chinese buried those who died far away from home, performing their traditional burial rituals. However, there are no longer any bodies in this cemetery.

“Chinese tradition at that time stated that a son or daughter of China must be buried in the land of their birth. Many Chinese arranged ahead of time that should they die here, their bodies would be disinterred and sent back to China for burial. Institutions such as the Chinese Benevolent Society would arrange such services, paid for ahead of time by those to be transported.

“Unlike white miners, the Chinese presence on Wild Horse Creek increased with the end of the gold rush. The sight of a Chinese placer miner patiently working with his rockerbox (or later with a hydraulic monitor) would have been common to many that visited Wild Horse in the years following the 1860s. The legacy of Wild Horse Creek that we have today was formed in part by the painstaking work of the Chinese miners.”

The poster goes on to describe a funerary custom practiced by the Chinese prospectors of Wild Horse Creek in a piece written by Mrs. Annie Yip of Fernie, British Columbia, in 1998:

“Qing Ming: The Chinese Meal for the Dead

“Each year the meal for the dead was prepared on the anniversary of a relative’s death. The meal was an old Chinese tradition venerating one’s ancestors. All children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were expected to participate, forming a large group for the ceremony.”

“The meal consisted of:

  • Roasted chicken
  • Assorted and expensive fruits
  • Cooked pork
  • Rice
  • Wine or whiskey
  • The deceased’s favourite food

“The meal would be taken to the cemetery and laid out as would a regular meal. Three bowls, three glasses, and three sets of chopsticks would be set. The whole family would bow and pray to the ancestor, asking for the security of the family.

“Once the table was laid, the youngest child present would pick up the glass with the alcohol and pour it onto the grave, providing a drink for the ancestor. Then all present would partake in the food, assuring that the dead would not have to dine alone.

“This ritual was performed to assure that the dead were not hungry on the other side, and provided good fortune for all attendants.”

The Rise and Fall of Fisherville

By 1865, the population of Fisherville and the surrounding area had swelled to nearly 5,000. Soon, rough women with names like “Axe-Handle” Bertha, Little Lou, “Gunpowder” Sue, and “Wildcat” Jenny began to move into town, establishing their own district called Toneyville.

Another CIBC poster at the Fisherville site attempts to give readers an idea of the harsh life led by the prospectors at Wild Horse Creek:

“…In the hills, the miners had to survive on poor rations while doing hours of tedious back-breaking work digging through rock and gravel immersed in ice-cold mountain water. There were few remedies for disease or injury and the 19th Century doctor was often of more harm than help to his patient…

“Few of these men actually made their fortune. Most of the gold they found went to pay the inflated prices of supplies. What they had left might be spent on a ‘spree’ in the dance halls and saloons of San Francisco. These celebrations were fueled with plenty of liquor and gambling and often ended in violence and death.”

The residents of Fisherville soon discovered that the town itself was built on gold deposits. The buildings were demolished so that the ground beneath them could be relieved of its auric contents.

By the end of 1865, many of the town’s residents began to move on in search of brighter prospects- namely Big Bend Country to the north and Helena, Montana, to the south- and as suddenly as it had boomed, Fisherville was abandoned. Despite being briefly resurrected as a Chinatown by Oriental prospectors who arrived to sift through the claims that the Americans had deserted, Fisherville was gradually devoured by the British Columbian forest.

In total, an estimated 48 tons of gold was removed from the Wild Horse Creek diggings in the short-lived rush of 1864 and ’65, worth about $907,000,000 CAD in today’s currency.

Fisherville’s Last Remains

Today, all that remains of the original Fisherville is a ruined stone chimney and a heap of hand-milled, age-silvered wooden planks which once comprised the Kootenay Post Office, abandoned in 1888 when the government of British Columbia moved their offices to Fort Steele.

Last but not least, the Fisherville cemetery is also intact. A sign near its entrance states:

“In this cemetery lie the remains of a number of Wild Horse Creek’s original residents. These men came from all over the world in search of fortune and faced countless hazards and hardships in the mountains of the Kootenays. Their only reward; a lonely grave here under the windswept pines of Wild Horse Creek…

“Small, forgotten cemeteries like this one are scattered across the West. Take a moment to reflect on the arduous lives led by the ill-fated adventurers who now lie beneath your feet and enjoy the silence of this, their final resting place, so far from home.”

Harrison Hot Springs- The Sasquatch Capital of Canada

Harrison Hot Springs- The Sasquatch Capital of Canada

If you drive east of Chilliwack, British Columbia, take a left on the B.C. Highway 9, cross the Fraser River, and continue north for about ten minutes, you’ll enter an enchanting corridor through the Coast Mountains known as the Agassiz-Harrison Valley. This stretch of farmland, flanked by dark green mountains covered from base to peak with thick coniferous jungle, leads to a little village hugging the southern shores of vast Harrison Lake.

If you meander through the streets of this tiny community and keep a vigilant eye, you may begin to realize that there’s something distinctly different about the place. For instance, you might notice the hairy sentinel who keeps perpetual watch at the village entrance, lounging contentedly on a wooden bench beneath the town’s welcome sign.

Perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of another more startling village guardian standing further up the road, poised to hurl a wooden boulder at passing cars.

If you’re especially observant, you may detect a certain pattern in the titles of various establishments; the names of various inns, liquor stores, and ski resorts seem to suggest a recurring theme. Even the street signs are topped with a stylized silhouette of British Columbia’s most elusive resident. Welcome to Harrison Hot Springs, the Sasquatch capital of Canada.

Introducing the Sasquatch

Sasquatch” is a household name in the Fraser Valley, inducing chuckles in some and primal shivers in others. Derived from an old Halkomelem (Central Salish) word meaning “wild man of the woods”, it denotes a legendary race of hairy giants which, according to First Nations tradition and regional folklore, roams the forests of British Columbia to this very day.

Although a number of explorers recorded variations of it in their journals and memoirs, the legend of the Sasquatch was first introduced to the general public by a school teacher and later Indian Agent named J.W. Burns, who began teaching at the Chehalis First Nation Reserve- located a mere fifteen minutes from Harrison Hot Springs- in 1925. Burns used the word ‘Sasquatch’ for the first time in an article published in the April 1, 1929 issue of Maclean’s magazine, and the name stuck.

The Sasquatch Capital of Canada

Throughout the 1930s and ‘40s, Burns published a number of accounts of Sasquatch sightings which were reported to him by his Chehalis friends. These sightings took place in the mountainous country surrounding the Chehalis Reserve, from the so-called ‘Mystery Valley’ west of Harrison Lake to the Sasquatch Cave outside Yale, B.C., far to the east.

Through what is probably sheer coincidence, the epicenter of the various Sasquatch sightings reported by Burns’ informants seemed to be Harrison Hot Springs, a resort community renowned for its thermal mineral waters, which had been used by the Chehalis for centuries and discovered by white prospectors during the Fraser River Gold Rush. The village’s community fully embraced its newfound status as the Sasquatch capital of Canada and began holding an annual summer festival called ‘Sasquatch Days’ with the neighbouring residents of the Chehalis Reserve- a cherished tradition which endures to this day.

The Sasquatch of Ruby Creek

Since the publication of Burns’ first article, Sasquatch sightings have taken place in the wilderness surrounding Harrison Hot Springs with casual frequency. Perhaps the most famous of these sightings is the one which took place just outside Ruby Creek, a tiny rural community situated on the banks of the Fraser River about 14 kilometres (9 miles) northeast of Harrison Hot Springs, as the crow flies.

In 1941, a Chehalis man named George Chapman lived in a cabin near Ruby Creek with his wife Jeannie and their three children. One day, while George was away from home, working as a tie gang labourer on the nearby railroad, the eldest of the Chapman children ran into cabin and declared that a cow had emerged from the woods. Alarmed by the inexplicable panic in her 9-year-old son’s tone, Jeannie stepped outside to investigate and spied what she first took to be a grizzly bear ambling along a distant hillside. Her two remaining children, aged 7 and 5, were playing in a nearby field at the time, and did not appear to be in any imminent danger. Nevertheless, Jeannie decided to call her children to the cabin as a precaution.

The bear’s strange physical appearance unnerved Jeannie, and so she decided to keep an eye on it from the cabin door as it made its way down the hill towards the railroad. Upon reaching the tracks, the animal, to Jeannie’s astonishment, reared up on its hind legs and began to stride towards the cabin like a human. Mrs. Chapman quickly realized that the creature was not a bear at all, but rather an enormous eight-foot-tall man covered with long brown hair. “I had much too much time to look at it,” she would later say of the incident. Jeannie described the giant has having an enormous chest and shoulders, inhumanly long arms, and a small head with a dark face.

Fearing that the monster was after her children, Mrs. Chapman unfurled a blanket and used it as a screen to shield her little ones from the wildman’s gaze. Ordering her children to stay behind her, she walked backwards from the cabin in the direction of the Fraser River. When they had put considerable distance between themselves and the giant, which had begun to examine the house, Jeannie and her children raced for the safety of Ruby Creek.

Two hours later, George Chapman, none the wiser, returned home from work to find that his home had been ransacked. Specifically, he found that his storage shed had been broken into, and that a heavy barrel filled with dried fish had been hauled outside and torn open, apparently without the use of tools. George knew from the pair of 17-inch-long, humanlike footprints which encircled his cabin that the intruder had been a Sasquatch, one of the legendary wild men of the woods of which his people had long spoken. The tracks indicated that the giant had loitered about the home for some time before finally heading back into the mountains, tripping over a barbed wire fence as it departed the Chapmans’ property.

To his relief, George quickly spied four smaller sets of footprints leading along the Fraser River in the direction of Ruby Creek. He followed the footprints to his father’s house, where he discovered his family had taken refuge.

Accompanied by George’s father, who armed himself with a hunting rifle, the Chapmans returned to their cabin the following day. In the nights succeeding the incident, they heard strange howls emanating from the nearby woods. Sometimes they would awake in the morning to find huge footprints in the vicinity of the cabin. When the terrifying nocturnal visitations persisted for a week straight, the Chapmans decided to abandon their cabin and relocate.

In 1957, the Ruby Creek incident attracted the attention of John Willison Green, a Canadian journalist and one of Canada’s most prominent Sasquatch researchers. Green was so impressed by the Chapmans’ testimonies that he decided to settle in Harrison Hot Springs, where he lived and carried out his research until his death in 2016.

Frank Dean’s Sighting

The incident at Ruby Creek, of course, was not the only Sasquatch sighting to take place around Harrison Hot Springs. Not by a long shot.

Back in March 1932, for example, several newspapers around Canada and the United States reported on an alleged sighting experienced by Frank Dean, a resident of Harrison Mills, located across the Harrison River from the Chehalis Reserve.

One night, the story goes, Dean was roused by the barking of his dog. He stepped outside to investigate the commotion and saw an enormous hairy man standing in the moonlight. The creature growled at Dean and began to advance towards him. Terrified, Dean stumbled back into his cabin and barred the door. The giant prowled about his cabin for some time before finally retreating into the bush.

Mrs. Caulfield’s Experience

In the summer of 1934, the experience of a Mrs. James Caulfield, who lived with her husband on a farm outside Harrison Hot Springs, hit papers across the continent. While washing her clothes in the Harrison River, Mrs. Caulfield heard a noise similar to that of a hummingbird. In her own words:

“I turned my head but instead of a bird there stood the most terrible thing I ever saw in my life. I thought I’d die for the thing that made the funny noise was a big man covered with hair from head to foot. He was looking at me and I couldn’t help looking at him. I guessed he was a Sasquatch so I covered my eyes with my hand, for the Indians say that if a Sasquatch catches your eye you are in his power. They hypnotize you. I felt fait and as I backed away to get to the house I tripped and fell. As he came nearer I screamed and fainted.”

Fortunately, her scream attracted the attention of Mr. Caulfield, who ran to her assistance just in time to catch a glimpse of a huge hairy figure darting into the woods.

The Ruby Creek incident, Frank Dean’s sighting, and Mrs. Caulfield’s experience are but a few of the many Sasquatch stories to come out of Harrison Hot Spring. From peeking through windows at hapless farmwives to hurling rocks at Chehalis fishermen, the Sasquatch made fairly regular appearances in the Harrison area throughout the 1930s and ‘40s. Some say that the legendary wild man of the woods pays the occasional visit to his old stomping grounds to this very day.

Things to Do in Harrison Hot Springs

If, like J.W. Burns and John Green, you find yourself enthralled by the mystery of the Sasquatch, consider paying a visit to Canada’s Sasquatch capital. There, you can hike the trails of Sasquatch Provincial Park- a natural area located about six kilometres (four miles) west of Ruby Creek- or brush up on your Sasquatch lore at the local Sasquatch Museum. A long relaxing soak in Harrison’s thermal waters makes for an excellent wind-down after a long day of Sasquatch hunting, and Sasquatch Days, with its canoe races and traditional salmon barbeque, offers a tantalizing glimpse into the culture of the Chehalis people, from whom the legend of the Sasquatch derives.

If you do decide to pay a visit to Harrison Hot Springs, remember to keep your eyes peeled. If you’re really lucky, you might just catch a glimpse of the most famous forest-dwelling denizen of the Sasquatch Capital of Canada.

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6 Finale- Lost and Founding

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6 Finale- Lost and Founding

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 6, Episode 22 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!]

 

 

Plot Summary

Rick Lagina, Marty Lagina, and Dave Blankenship pay a visit to the home of Dan Blankenship. There, they inform the veteran treasure hunter of the results of the dendrochronological analysis of the wood from the U-shaped structure, namely that the wood was determined to have been cut in 1769. The elder Blankenship exhibits some surprise, explaining that he was never quite sure whether the structures at Smith’s Cove were built before or after the 1795 discovery of the Money Pit.

Later, the treasure hunters gather at Smith’s Cove, where the search for the convergence point of the box drains is underway. While excavating with his trowel, Laird Niven discovers what appears to be a wooden wall composed of horizontal boards, the whole structure ensconced in clay. Shortly thereafter, the archaeologist uncovers a vertical support beam on the far side of the wall which appears to indicate that the structure was intended to resist the tide. The team decides to dig behind the structure, which Rick dubs the ‘Mystery Wall’, and soon discovers another wooden wall, this one composed of vertical boards.

After spending a night at the swamp, where members of Eagle Canada carry out the final step of their seismic survey, the Oak Island team meets in the War Room with researcher Bruce Lindahl; Bruce’s brother, author Cort Lindahl (via video conference); and treasure hunter Justin Cannady; who have come to brief the Fellowship of the Dig on their own Oak Island theory. First, Cort Lindahl expresses a belief in the Duc D’Anville theory, citing Zena Halpern’s map as evidence. Next, he suggests that the Duc D’Anville’s son, Louis-Alexandre de La Rochefoucauld, revealed the secrets of Oak Island to his American friends, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, who hoped to use Oak Island’s treasure to finance the American Revolution. As evidence to support this theory, Lindahl cites the ‘Evans Stone’- a particular boulder, introduced for the first time in this episode, which is located on Oak Island’s northeastern shore. The Evans Stone bears several inscriptions, including the date ‘August 9, 1897’, the word ‘CHESTER’, the name ‘E.W. EVANS’, and the image of what appears to be a horizontal pine tree. Lindahl explains that the stone’s tree bears remarkable resemblance to the pine tree on a particular variation of the Appeal to Heaven flag, a battle standard used during the American Revolution which represented a belief in the right to revolt, and suggests that the image on the Evans stone was carved by an American revolutionary who came to Oak Island in the hope of retrieving its treasure.

After the Lindahl brothers and Justin Cannady finish presenting their theory, Marty Lagina and Doug Crowell take Bruce and Justin to the Evans Stone, which lies on the beach of Lot 14. The theorists count the branches on the stone’s tree and find that there appear to be thirteen of them on each side- the same number of branches, they claim, which grace each side of the tree on the particular version of the Appeal to Heaven flag to which they likened the carving in the War Room. The number 13, the theorists suggest, was significant to the American revolutionaries not only because the republic they fought for was composed of thirteen states, but also because the Knights Templar, to which many Founding Fathers were allegedly connected, were arrested on Friday 13, 1307. Although the narrator does not mention it, a closer look at the two trees shows that neither of them have thirteen branches on any side; the tree on the Evans Stone has 17 branches on its top side and 15 on its bottom side, while the tree on the Appeal to Heaven flag displayed in the show has eight branches on each side.

Later that afternoon, Rick and Marty Lagina meet at the swamp with the Eagle Canada crew. The crew’s leader, Alex Gauthier, informs the treasure hunters that, although they have finished collecting data on the island, they will need about a month and a half to analyze the data. By that time, the narrator tells us, the Fellowship of the Dig will have packed it in for the season.

At Smith’s Cove, Billy Gerhardt and Laird Niven discover a third wall paralleling the other two found earlier this episode, this last one being located furthest from the ocean. This newly-uncovered wall and the one preceding it appear to constitute the sides of a shallow shaft. Gerhardt and Niven are soon joined by Marty Lagina, who likens the structure to a “sluice box”- a tool used by prospectors to separate gold dust from dirt through the use of gravity. The narrator then erroneously states that sluice boxes are devices “designed to channel and regulate the flow of water”- perhaps an indication that Marty actually meant to suggest that the structure was built for the purpose of diverting water.

Later, the Oak Island crew members meet in the War Room for their final conference this season. Marty Lagina begins the meeting by stating that the season is rapidly coming to an end, and asks his fellow treasure hunters what they would like to do with Smith’s Cove. The crew members all agree that the analysis of the wood from the Smith’s Cove structures is particularly intriguing and ponder over whether the people who built them circa 1769 were the depositors of the Money Pit treasure or pre-1795 searchers. The treasure hunters then discuss whether the discoveries they have made so far justify further search efforts. With the exception of a somewhat skeptical Marty, who appears to suspect that the Oak Island treasure may have already been retrieved by the creators of the U-Shaped Structure, the treasure hunters unanimously agree that the evidence indicates that there is still something worth finding on Oak Island.

 

Analysis

Cort Lindahl’s Theory

In this episode, author Cort Lindahl presents his own theory on the nature of the Oak Island mystery. Lindahl appears to subscribe to the theory that the crew of Jean-Baptiste de La Rochefoucauld, the Duc d’Anville, buried treasure on Oak Island during their disastrous expedition of 1746. Lindahl also appears to believe that d’Anville’s son informed America’s Founding Fathers of the Oak Island treasure, and that George Washington dispatched a crew of Patriots to retrieve the treasure in order to finance the American Revolution.

Cort Lindahl has written a number of books in which he outlines his theory, the latest being Oak Island and the Arcadian Mysteries (2017). Although Lindahl neglects to clearly define his theory in his 2017 book, raising suggestive questions instead of making arguments or suppositions, he succeeds in creating an extremely complex web of associations connecting all sorts of famous historical figures- including, but not limited to, Sir Francis Drake, Mary Queen of Scots, Mary Sidney Herbert, Admiral George Anson, Nicolas Poussin, the Jacobite Stuarts, Edgar Allan Poe, and Sir William Alexander– to Oak Island.

The Evans Stone

In this episode, we are introduced to the Evans Stone- a boulder located on Oak Island’s northeastern shore, on Lot 14, bearing several inscriptions, namely the date ‘August 9, 1897’, the word ‘CHESTER’, the name ‘E.W. EVANS’, and the image of what might be a horizontal pine tree.

The inscription ‘August 9, 1897’ appears to indicate that the stone was inscribed by a member of Frederick Blair’s Oak Island Treasure Company during a particularly fruitful season of treasure hunting; the summer of 1897 saw the discovery of the supposed Chappel Vault, the piece of parchment bearing the letters “vi”, and the mysterious stone triangle on the South Shore Cove.

The word “CHESTER” is likely a reference to the nearby town of Chester, Nova Scotia, presumably the hometown of the man who made the inscriptions.

The name “E.W. EVANS” is probably that of the man who made the inscriptions.

The meaning of the etching of the horizontal pine tree is somewhat more enigmatic than the other inscriptions on the Evans Stone. In this episode, theorists Bruce Lindahl and Justin Cannady attempted to connect this image with the Appeal to Heaven flag, a battle standard used by the Thirteen Colonies during the American Revolutionary War, in an effort to bolster Cort Lindahl’s theory.

Forgotten Oak Island Theories

Forgotten Oak Island Theories

When I told him that I was working on a second edition of my 2016 book Oak Island, my friend and fellow researcher Gary Mangiacopra, who owns what I believe might be the largest personal Fortean archive in North America, sent me reams of old magazine and newspaper articles on the subject of Canada’s greatest treasure hunt. I’ve spent the past few months going through these articles and found that many of them contain unique theories regarding the contents of the Money Pit and the identities of those who buried them. I’ve decided to compile the more notable of these forgotten Oak Island theories and present them here for your consideration. Enjoy!

 

Treasure is Buried in a Cave on the Side of the Island

In an article published in the April 1951 issue of the magazine Fate, reader Lionel Goodwin of Laguna Beach, California, tells of a trip he made to Oak Island fifteen years prior (i.e. around 1936, at the start of Gilbert Hedden’s treasure hunt).

“A party of us sailed out to the island in a large sloop,” Goodwin wrote, “anchored off-shore, and rowed into land. It was summer, and just growing dusk. There was a moon to light up the surroundings.”

“We climbed the hill,” Goodwin continued, “and came to the side of the island where the digging was now going on. That part of the island was literally honeycombed with huge pits. We counted 15 in one locality.”

Goodwin described how workers used an elevator in one 101-foot-deep shaft to haul mud up in buckets, which they then wheeled along a wooden boardwalk to anther shaft, into which they dumped it. “The whole scene was one of romance and fascination,” he wrote. “The night had come and the moon was now bright. The men digging in the pit below kept clanging the elevator bell when they wanted the man at the winch to bring up the next load of mud.”

Goodwin concluded his story by claiming that the prevailing theory at the time was that pirate Captain William Kidd “had buried his treasure in a cave at the side of the island, now completely inaccessible because of tidal changes and shifting land structure.” The treasure hunters, he claimed, planned to descend on this trove from above.

 

The Little Island to the West

In his article “A Real Live Treasure Island: S&M offers it readers a previously unpublished and undiscovered clue to locating a long-lost buried treasure on a tiny island near Nova Scotia”, published in the November 1968 issue of the magazine Science and Mechanics, author Franklynn Peterson presents his personal theory regarding the location of Oak Island’s elusive treasure. This theory involves five flat stones located on the western end of the island and a tiny, circular spit of land in Mahone Bay just west of Oak Island.

Near the end of his long article, in which he outlined the history of the Oak Island treasure hunt, Peterson wrote:

“One clue has not appeared in the wealth of literature purporting to explain the history of Oak Island; a clue so easy to find, under proper conditions, that someone like Anthony Graves [a one-time resident of Oak Island] could have found it during his long stay on the puzzling knoll of clay and trees. At the western extreme of Oak Island there is a sandy point jutting out at low tide. Just off the sandy point is a tiny island, almost perfectly round and peaked. In line with this island’s peak and Oak Island’s western point, there are five huge, flat stones almost buried in the dirt. The stones are too large to have been casually dropped there, in all true alignment to have been shoved there by nature. Right alongside the five stones is the remains from one of the buildings used by Anthony Graves! Did Graves solve the enigma of Oak Island?

“The line drawn from the pointed island to the sandy point and through the stones would seem to be aimed directly at the Money Pit some three-quarters mile away. Or is it pointing somewhere else? To a new pit? Or maybe it points the opposite way, to the top of that tiny island overshadowed all these years by bigger Oak Island.

To our knowledge this clue has never before been published. It’s yours, courtesy of this poor writer who can ill afford another trip to Nova Scotia. Happy Hunting.”

 

Another Look at Fred Nolan’s Theory

Avid fans of The Curse of Oak Island may recall that the late Fred Nolan believed Oak Island’s treasure to be spoils from the 1762 Battle of Havana, seized by members of the British Royal Navy and buried in the swamp. An article in the March 1979 issue of the magazine Lost Treasure by Al Masters, entitled “Is There Another Oak Island Money Pit?”, may shed some light on the reason for Nolan’s theory.

According to the article, Fred Nolan stumbled upon an old carved stone surveyor’s monument in the Oak Island woods sometime in early 1977. The stone bore chisel scars and scorch marks and had a shape vaguely suggestive of a Spanish treasure galleon.

“The discovery of it was purely accidental,” Nolan said of the find. “We were following a survey line from one of our other reference points which led us right through the woods. I was crawling along on my hands and knees and came across this stone sticking out of the ground directly along the survey line. We felt the monument was placed in its position for a purpose…”

After placing the stone marker on a survey map of the island containing other objects of interest, Fred Nolan became convinced of two things: that whoever buried the Oak Island treasure had training as a surveyor, and were therefore almost certainly former army or navy personnel; and that the bulk of the treasure was actually buried in the swamp.

“There is so much loot still in the swamp,” Nolan claimed, “that it would take you a long time to count it… The swamp is man-made and at one time was completely dry. Chests of gold and jewels of unimaginable wealth were buried when it was dry, then flooded with sea water for concealment. Who would have thought to look in an old, inconspicuous swamp that’s full of mud and flies and bugs? That’s why they buried it there.”

Nolan went on to explain that he was unable to drain the swamp in order to test his theory on account of a disagreement with Dan Blankenship. Said the latter regarding Nolan’s discovery of the stone survey marker when pressed by author Al Masters: “Of course, we have taken it into due consideration, but we have our own ideas, so the discovery will not change our present plans.”

 

Blackbeard’s Hoard

In his article “Oak Island”, published in the January 1990 issue of the magazine Treasure Search/Found, theorist Jesse E. Boyd puts forth the hypothesis that the notorious English pirate Edward Teach, better known by his nickname “Blackbeard”, and his one-time partner in crime Stede Bonnet, are the men behind the Oak Island mystery.

Blackbeard is perhaps the most famous pirate to sail the Atlantic in the wake of the War of Spanish Succession- the final wave of the so-called ‘Golden Age of Piracy’. From 1716 until his death in battle in battle two years later, he and his crew plied their nefarious trade in the Caribbean and along the eastern coast of North America, attacking and ransacking more than thirty English, French, and Spanish merchant ships. A firm believer in the power of appearances, Edward Teach wore a long black beard which he tied into pigtails, and is said to have tied lit slow matches (slow-burning wicks used in old matchlock firearms) under his hat during battle for dramatic effect.

Jesse Boyd suggested that Blackbeard used Oak Island as a haven at which he could careen his ships and clean their barnacle-encrusted hulls with little fear of being harassed. After recovering a portion of the treasure of a Spanish treasure fleet which was dashed to matchwood off the coast of Florida during a hurricane in the summer of 1715, he and his crew, unable to immediately fence their tremendous treasure, buried much of it on Oak Island in the hope of retrieving it in the future. As fate would have it, each member of Blackbeard’s crew was killed in battle or hanged before any such retrieval operation could be made.

Unfortunately, the six pieces of evidence which Boyd used to support his theory are extremely weak and circumstantial, the most compelling of them being the legend that two Nova Scotian fishermen disappeared while investigating mysterious lights on Oak Island sometime around 1720. If Blackbeard and his crew are indeed the men behind the Oak Island mystery, then they appear to have left behind very little implicative evidence.

 

The Lost Loot of La Buse

In the November/December 1989 issue of the magazine Treasure Search, an article entitled “New Oak Island Theory” details a hypothesis put forth by Dmitry Romanov, a resident of the city of Rostov-on-Don, in what was then the Soviet Union. Romanov believed that the Oak Island treasure was the legendary lost horde of Olivier Levasseur, a ruthless French pirate and a contemporary of Blackbeard’s who is alleged to have hidden one of the largest treasures in pirate history.

Levasseur began his career as a highwayman of the seas in the early 1700s. He had served as an officer aboard a French privateer during the War of Spanish Succession and decided to retain some semblance of his former occupation once the war was over, royal orders be damned. In 1716, he joined the crew of Benjamin Hornigold, an English pirate who had established a Republic of Pirates in the Bahamas ten years prior, and who would appoint Blackbeard his first mate in a years’ time.

After a year of pillaging and plundering in the Caribbean, Levasseur took his trade to the West Coast of Africa, and later to the Indian Ocean. With a patch covering one eye, which had been scarred by a Spanish sabre during his years as a privateer, Levasseur cut the figure of the quintessential pirate captain. His predations soon earned him formidable nickname: “la Buse”, or “the Buzzard”.

In 1721, Levasseur and his crew captured a huge Portuguese galleon named Nossa Senhora Della Cabo. The pirates discovered, to their unspeakable delight, that Nossa Senhora was carrying both the Bishop of Goa, the head of the Catholic Church in India, and the Viceroy of Portugal, the governor of Portuguese India, along with the gold and jewels which necessarily accompanied officials of such high personage. Destined for Lisbon, the ship also contained religious treasures of staggering value, including an enormous jewel-encrusted cross made of solid gold.

Turning down an offer of clemency extended by King Louis XV, Olivier Levasseau was eventually captured by French authorities and hanged on an island off Madagascar on July 7, 1730. Legend has it that, as he stood on the scaffold on the day of his execution, Levasseau removed a locket from his neck which contained a cryptogram composed of seventeen lines. The condemned man tossed the necklace into the crowd which had come to watch him dangle, shouting, “Find my treasure, the one who may understand it!”

A code purporting to be Levasseau’s surfaced sometime in the 20th Century, and many have since attempted to decrypt it. Intriguingly, particularly in the context of Oak Island, one interpretation of the message instructs treasure hunters to approach the underground treasure chamber from the north so as to avoid flooding it. The message, according to this interpretation, declares that the treasure is protected by tides, which could only be held back by a dam in the event of a flooding.

Romanov spent ten years attempting to crack Levasseau’s code himself, consulting Persian, Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Japanese manuscripts in his effort to solve the mystery- an effort which apparently proved successful. Although he did not reveal his hard-won secret to Daniel Finch, the author of the article in Treasure Search, Romanov did give him a tantalizing hint as to the contents of the message, saying: “They [Triton Alliance] are looking in the wrong place. They should look underwater- not underground.”

 

The Treasure of St. Andrew’s

An article in the April 1988 issue of Treasure Magazine, entitled “The 13 Million Dollar Mistake?” briefly outlines a theory that the Money Pit contains an old Scottish treasure said to have once been housed at the Abbey of the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Scotland.

According to this theory, the Kingdom of Scotland acquired a vast treasure consisting of English gold, silver, priceless jewels, and statuary at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314), a Scottish victory in the First War of Scottish Independence, which some Oak Island theorists have attributed to the interference of a supposed army of rogue Templar knights. Following the battle, the Scots allegedly stored the English treasure in the Abbey of the Cathedral of St. Andrew, the seat of the Catholic Church in Scotland.

“In 1560,” the article contends, “not long after the British Parliament ordered dissolution of the Abbey of the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Scotland, the entire 1,000-year-old treasure that was stored in the Abbey mysteriously disappeared without a trace. How this treasure… found its way to Oak Island is not made clear by those who favor this theory.”

It must be noted that, if the Abbey indeed once contained a treasure which was indeed found missing in 1560, history indicates that its absence might not be so mysterious. In the spring of 1559, when the Protestant Reformation was swiftly sweeping Europe, a Protestant minister named John Knox, known today as the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, delivered a suggestive sermon in the Scottish city of Perth on the subject of Christ’s cleansing of the Temple. In response to the sermon, Knox’ congregation began looting local churches, friaries, and monasteries, stripping them of their religious artwork. Their actions prompted a wave of similar sackings throughout Scotland which eventually reached St. Andrew’s, the Catholic capital of Scotland. That June, a Protestant mob ransacked the cathedral and gutted its interior. St. Andrew’s never recovered from the riot and promptly fell into disuse. Today, the once-magnificent cathedral is nothing more than a roofless stone ruin.

It seems unlikely that the cathedral’s appendant Abbey was spared the ravages of the Protestant mob. Barring the possibility that the treasure was secretly removed sometime prior to the Protestant Reformation, it seems probable that the supposed treasure of the Abbey of St. Andrew’s Cathedral was stolen by zealous looters in the summer of 1559. Where it wound up next, however, is a matter of conjecture.

 

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Canada’s Lost Worlds

Canada’s Lost Worlds

All around the world, folklore is replete with tales of lost lands which modern explorers have failed to relocate. Since Classical Antiquity, Greek scholars have written about Atlantis, a bygone island continent in the Atlantic Ocean whose inhabitants besieged ancient Athens before their homeland sank into the sea. In the mid-1400s, Portuguese mariners kicked off the Age of Exploration by searching the western coast of Africa for the Kingdom of Prester John, a legendary Christian enclave in the heart of the Islamic world, whispered of in Christendom since the days of the First Crusade. Nearly a century later, Spanish conquistadors scoured the jungles of South America for El Dorado, a legendary lost city of gold. Other lost lands include Shambhala, a paradisiacal valley in the Himalayas alluded to in Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist mythology; the Isle of Avalon, the legendary final resting place of King Arthur; and Aztlan, the mythical homeland of the Aztecs.

 

The Lands of Viking Legend

It might surprise some Canadians to learn that Canada has a few ‘lost world’ legends of its own. The oldest of these have their roots in the 10th Century Viking voyages to Canada– legendary Norse expeditions immortalized in medieval Icelandic sagas and verified by the ruins of a Viking settlement discovered at the northernmost tip of Newfoundland in 1960.

Helluland, Markland, and Vinland

The Icelandic sagas describe Viking discoveries of three regions west of Greenland. The northernmost of these is Helluland, a barren domain of arctic foxes and flat stones which many believe to be the eastern shores of Baffin Island. Below Helluland, Viking mariners discovered Markland, a region carpeted with dense evergreen forests filled with wild animals, believed to be northern Labrador. South of Markland, Norse explorers came upon a land abundant with wild grapes, which they called Vinland.

Today, historians disagree as to the location of this third region discovered by Viking explorers. Some believe Vinland to be northern Newfoundland, where archaeological evidence indicates a Norse settlement once stood around the turn of the last millennia. Others argue that Vinland must lie further south, perhaps in New Brunswick or New England, where grapes grow naturally in the wild. Others still believe Vinland to be a fabrication intended to attract Viking settlers to a harsher, more northerly colony in the New World.

Land of the One-Footers

In the Saga of Erik the Red, the younger of the two Icelandic sagas to chronicle the Norse exploration of the Americas, a party of Viking explorers abandoned their temporary settlement at Vinland after surviving a skirmish with the Skraelingar– Vinland’s diminutive fur-clad natives. They sailed their longships northwest along North America’s Atlantic coast before proceeding up an east-flowing river.

One morning, while camped on the river’s northern shore, the Vikings were attacked by a “One-Footer”- a mythical one-legged dwarf which hopped from place to place. Also known as “monopods” and “sciapods”, these characters feature in the writings of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, even appearing in Roman polymath Pliny the Elder’s 1st Century encyclopedia Naturalis Historia. These agile one-footed monsters were said to abide in India, and their appearance in the Saga of Erik the Red might be reflective of a mistaken belief held by the Vikings that Helluland, Markland, and Vinland constituted the eastern shores of the Orient.

The One-Footer hopped up to the Vikings and shot their leader in the lower abdomen with an arrow. The Norseman drew out the projectile and joked that Vinland must be bountiful indeed, as he had grown such a belly that winter that the arrow had failed to harm him. The One-Footer then hopped away to the north, quickly out-distancing the Vikings who pursued him. The Norsemen briefly ventured north into what they assumed must be the land of the One-Footers. Not particularly desirous of another encounter with the little arrow-wielding monsters, however, the explorers soon decided to return to their ship.

Kingdoms of the Skraeling

After spending three more years in the New World, the Vikings sailed for Greenland, their home. En route, they stopped in Markland, where they came upon a family of Skraelings consisting of a bearded man, two women, and two children. Although the Norsemen managed to capture the children, the man and the two women disappeared down holes in the earth.

The Vikings adopted the children and taught them their language, Old Norse. The little natives later told their captors that two kings- one of them named Avalldamon, and the other Valldidida- ruled over the land of the Skraeling. The children claimed that their people did not live in houses, but rather dwelled in caves or holes in the earth.

White Man’s Land

The native children whom the Vikings captured also alleged that adjacent to their homeland was another territory inhabited by people who dressed in white garments, whose customs included uttering loud cries, carrying long poles, and wearing fringes. The Vikings dubbed this place Hvitramannaland, or “White Man’s Land”.

According to a 14th Century Icelandic manuscript called the Hauksbok, the Vikings believed “White Man’s Land” to be inhabited by a people called the Albani, or “Albinos”, whose hair and skin were “as white as snow”. Other medieval Icelandic manuscripts, including the Landnamabok and the Saga of the People of Eire, indicate that the Albani were believed to be of Irish Gaelic descent, and that “White Man’s Land” was also known as “Hibernia Major”, or “Great Ireland”. Some academics have attempted to draw a connection between the Albani and the Papar, the latter being Irish monks who had occupied the Orkney Islands, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland prior to Viking expansion in the Early Middle Ages, and whom some believe fled their remote abodes as a result of pagan persecution. In his controversial 1998 book The Farfarers: Before the Norse, Canadian writer and biologist Farley Mowat identified “White Man’s Land” as the desolate western coast of Newfoundland, positing that its Albani inhabitants were Neolithic Britons who voyaged across the Atlantic thousands of years ago, having been displaced by the Celts.

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Today, most historians dismiss the Land of the One-Footers, the Kingdoms of the Skraeling, and White Man’s Land as either fictional embellishments resultant of centuries of oral transmission or fables dreamed up by the author of the Saga of Erik the Red, the more fantastical of the two Icelandic sagas to describe the Viking voyages to the Americas. A few imaginative scholars have treated the stories seriously and attempted to pinpoint the locations of these lost lands of Viking legend, but none of their theories have gained universal acceptance in the academic community. Unless they are illuminated by new archaeological or historical discoveries, it is likely that the true identities of these lost Viking lands will remain a mystery.

 

The Lost Kingdom of Saguenay

In 1492, Italian navigator Christopher Columbus rediscovered the New World under the auspices of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, the rulers of what would soon become a united Spain. Five years later, another Italian navigator named Giovanni Caboto, or John Cabot, sailed west from Bristol, England, in the hope of discovering an alternate route to Asia on behalf of King Henry VII. Instead, he discovered the eastern shores of what was either Newfoundland or Nova Scotia.

A little late to the game, France launched its own New World expeditions in the early 1500s. First, in 1524, an Italian mariner named Giovanni da Verrazzano explored the Atlantic seaboard from Florida to Newfoundland, claiming everything between the southern colony of New Spain and the northern English colony of Newfoundland for King Francis I of France. A decade later, Breton mariner Jacques Cartier explored and mapped the Gulf of St. Lawrence on behalf of the same French king, planting a 10-metre-tall wooden cross bearing the words “Long Live the King of France” (in French) on the shores of Gaspe Bay near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.

In the summer of 1534, while erecting that cross, Jacques Cartier and his crew encountered a band of Iroquois Indians who had come to the area for their annual seal hunt. Using sign language, Cartier spoke with the band’s chief, Donnacona, and coerced him into allowing two of his sons, named Taignoagny and Dom Agaya, to accompany him across the ocean to France.

During the homeward voyage, Cartier learned from his two Iroquois guests that the village over which their father presided- located at the site of what is now Quebec City- was called a “kanata”. Cartier misinterpreted this Iroquois word, which means “village”, as a denotation for the entire region, and dubbed the country “Canada”.

In May 1535, Jacques Cartier embarked on his second voyage to Canada, equipped with three ships and 110 men and accompanied by the two sons of Chief Donnacona. After a long voyage across the Atlantic, Tainoagny and Dom Agaya led the French explorers across the Gulf of St. Lawrence and up the St. Lawrence River, bound for their father’s village, Stadacona. At a point about 190 kilometres (118 miles) downriver from the village, the natives pointed out the mouth of a tributary which emptied into the St. Lawrence on their starboard side (known today as the Saguenay River) and casually remarked that if they travelled west up that river for two days, they would come to the border of a kingdom called Saguenay.

Cartier wrote of the incident in his journal. When translated into English, this entry reads:

“… in the middle of the steam lie three islands, and opposite to them there is a very deep and rapid river, which is the river and route to the kingdom and country of the Saguenay, as we were informed by our two men from Canada. This river issues from between lofty mountains of bare rock with but little soil upon them…”

Cartier’s native informants did not elaborate that day on the qualities of this mysterious Kingdom of Saguenay- a domain which would prove in the coming months to be among the most exotic, intriguing, and baffling of Canada’s ‘lost lands’.

After visiting and exchanging gifts with Donnacona and his band at Stadacona, Cartier and his men, against the chief’s advice, continued up the St. Lawrence River in search of another Iroquois village called Hochelaga, to which the chief’s sons had alluded during their time in France. Cartier and his crew quickly discovered the village opposite what we now call the Island of Montreal.

The Frenchmen visited Hochelaga and exchanged gifts with the natives. The Iroquois packed a pipe to celebrate the occasion, and thus the explorers became the first Europeans to smoke tobacco.

During the explorers’ stay in Hochelaga, the natives pointed to the gold and silver medals that Cartier and his officers wore and explained, using gestures and hand signs, that these metals could be found in great quantities in a land to the northwest- a country occupied by warlike tribes which fought with each other constantly, which could be accessed by a the river we know today as the Ottawa. As if to test his informants, Cartier presented them with copper objects and asked if that metal, too, could be found in that mysterious region to the northwest. The Iroquois indicated that the country was not known for its copper, although the metal could be found further to the south.

Could this nameless land of gold and silver, the explorers wondered, have any connection with the mysterious Kingdom of Saguenay?

After concluding their business in Hochelaga, Cartier and his men returned downriver to Stadacona, where they decided to spend the winter. During the cold and bitter months which followed, the Frenchmen learned from their Iroquois hosts that the Kingdom of Saguenay was indeed the same land alluded to by the Hochelaga villagers, said to contain vast quantities of gold and silver. Goaded by their eager French audience, the natives claimed that Saguenay was a vast and populous country whose people dressed in clothing not unlike that worn by the French explorers. Donnacona himself informed the Frenchmen that Saguenay was rich not only in gold and silver, but also in rubies, fine furs, and a large variety of valuable spices, and that its citizens not only wore European-style clothes, but also had white skin, evoking the mysterious “White Man’s Land” alluded to in the Viking sagas.

It is interesting to note that, among the many fantastic tales which Donnacona related to the credulous explorers around the campfire that winter was a story echoing the Viking legend of the Land of the One-Footers. “He told us furthermore,” Cartier wrote in French, “that he had been… to another country whose inhabitants have only one leg…”

Spring came and Cartier and his men prepared to depart for France. Before leaving, they kidnapped Chief Donnaconna and nine other Iroquois villagers by luring them onto the deck of one of their ships. The explorers pacified the enraged chief by promising him that the King of France would bestow great gifts upon him and his people. With little choice but to submit to the explorers’ wishes, Donnacona bid his family farewell as Cartier and his men guided their ships down the St. Lawrence.

The explorers and their indigenous captives arrived safely in France after an uneventful voyage, whereupon Cartier presented the Iroquois chief to King Francis I. In the newly-constructed gallery of the Chateau de Fontainebleau, on the outskirts of Paris, Chief Donnacona regaled the French king with the same tales he had told to Cartier and his men that winter. Foremost among these was the tale of the fabulously wealthy Kingdom of Saguenay, a story in which King Francis I took tremendous interest.

Before the French king had the chance to outfit Cartier for another voyage to Canada, war broke out between France and the powerful House of Habsburg (which controlled both the Spanish and the Holy Roman Empires), the conflict revolving around a dispute regarding control over Northern Italy. Three years after Francis I and Emperor Charles V finally affixed their seals to a truce in 1538, the King of France commissioned Jacques Cartier with leading a third voyage to Canada, this time for the purpose of colonizing New France.

Unfortunately, neither Jacques Cartier nor any of the North American explorers who followed him were able to discover evidence of the mysterious Kingdom of Saguenay. By the end of the 16th Century, even the most imaginative mapmakers had, as one historian put it, “become firmly convinced that Saguenay was a myth, and it disappeared from maps as it had disappeared from the minds of men. It lingered on only in the name of the gloomy river that was supposed to lead to the great empire.”

Is there any truth behind the incredible tales that Jacques Cartier and his crew learned from the St. Lawrence Iroquois during their second voyage to Canada?

Maybe, as suggested earlier, the lost kingdom has some sort of connection with the “White Man’s Land” alluded to in the Viking sagas.

Perhaps the tale is related to some indigenous memory of the Vikings themselves, who colonized northern Newfoundland more than five hundred years before Jacques Cartier first set foot in the New World.

Maybe the elusive kingdom was nothing more than a fable invented by Donnacona and the natives of the St. Lawrence for the benefit of their gullible European guests, who were clearly interested in the acquisition of gold and silver.

Or perhaps there truly was a kingdom gilded with gold and rubies hidden away in the wilderness of Quebec, its legacy little more than a fading Iroquois legend by the time of Cartier’s first voyage…

 

The Isle of Demons

In 1541, following his third and final voyage to the New World, Jacques Cartier established a small colony of 400 souls at the site of what would later become Quebec City, not too far from the Iroquois village of Stadacona. This colony, called Fort Charlesbourg-Royal, was the first French attempt at permanent settlement in what would become New France.

Although Cartier and his fellow colonists would abandon the fort two years later on account of harsh weather, scurvy, and incursions by hostile Iroquois warriors, Fort Charlesbourg-Royal enjoyed a brief tenure as the capital of France’s first North American province. King Francis I appointed a French corsair named Jean-Francois de La Rocque de Roberval as Lieutenant General of his new colony, and in the spring of 1542, Roberval set out across the Atlantic, determined to join Cartier and his colonists and assume his position as France’s highest-ranking representative in the New World.

The Affair of Marguerite de La Rocque de Roberval

Roberval was accompanied on this voyage by his young unmarried cousin, Marguerite de La Rocque de Roberval. Marguerite caught the eye of a certain French nobleman aboard the ship whose name has been lost to history (although some fictional accounts identify him as Etienne Gosselin, a shipwright), and soon the gentleman began paying visits to young demoiselle’s cabin. Encouraged by her servant, an old Norman chambermaid named Damienne, Marguerite began to reciprocate the aristocrat’s affections, and in no time the couple were engaging in illicit trysts while Damienne stood watch nearby.

One of the French sailors aboard the vessel discovered the secret affair and reported it to Roberval. Infuriated by his relative’s scandalous behavior, the Lieutenant General resolved to maroon his cousin, her lover, and their accomplice Damienne on an island off the coast of New France. He rolled out his personal map of the country, which he had acquired from Cartier, and quickly found a place which suited his purpose perfectly- a spit of land with a sinister name, the “Isle of Demons”.

The Isle of Demons first appeared in print in 1507, on a famous map of the world drawn by Dutch cartographer Johannes Ruysch, who was an acquaintance and possible shipmate of John Cabot. The isle was said to be large, beautiful, and uninhabited, and natives and whites alike would often hunt and fish on its shores in the daytime. The island’s physical charm, however, was but a material façade which served to disguise a dark and frightening secret that lay at its core.

Legend has it that the Isle of Demons was haunted by ghosts and evil spirits, and that if any of its visitors ventured too far into the island’s wooded interior, its spectral inhabitants would attack them. The island’s sinister nature was first alluded to in an inscription accompanying Ruysch’s 1507 map, which reads, in Latin: “Demons assaulted ships near these islands, which were avoided but not without peril.”

According to Andre Thevet, a 16th Century French traveler and Franciscan priest, a number of mariners personally told him that, while passing the island during a storm:

“…they heard in the air, as if on the crow’s nest or masts of their vessels… human voices making a great noise, without their being able to discern intelligible words, only such a murmur as you can hear on market-day in the middle of the public market. These voices caused them a hundred times more astonishment than the tempest around them. They well knew that they were close to the island called the Isle of Demons, but they paid no heed to this fact until some good people offered up prayers and invoked the holy name of Jesus; and little by little the murmur died away, although the storm continued for a long time afterward.”

It was on this haunted island that Lieutenant Governor Roberval decided to maroon the hapless trio, leaving them with four aquebuses (matchlock muskets), a quantity of shot and gunpowder, a fire-steel, some provisions, a few iron tools, and a copy of the New Testament.

Resigned to their fate, the castaways decided to make the most of their lamentable situation and set about constructing crude beds and a primitive shelter from spruce boughs. They began to subsist on wild game, which they hunted with their arquebuses, and supplemented their diet with wild fruit.

Each night, the trio was tormented by the island’s demons, which assumed hideous forms and capered outside their shelter in the darkness, sometimes shrieking so loudly that, as Thevet put it, “it seemed as if there were more than 100,000 men together.”

Weeks turned into months, and soon Marguerite learned that she was pregnant. Unfortunately, her paramour would not live to see the birth of his child. After he succumbed to a fever acquired from consuming contaminated water, Marguerite buried her lover in as deep a grave as she could dig. Her efforts did little to prevent the scent of his decomposing corpse from attracting wild animals, however, and Marguerite found herself spending many an evening driving bears and other scavengers from the noble’s tomb with her arquebus.

Unable to withstand the privations of the primitive lifestyle that had been forced upon her, old Damienne passed away before the first snowfall, leaving Marguerite to deliver her child alone. Although both Marguerite and her child survived the birthing, the infant tragically followed her father to the grave shortly thereafter, leaving her mother utterly alone but for the Isle of Demons’ eponymous residents.

For nearly three years, Marguerite eked out a living on the accursed island, surviving by her wits and her steadily-dwindling supply of gunpowder. Repenting her sins, she turned to prayer and sacred scripture, spending many hours thumbing through what would become a well-worn Bible. Her prayers were finally answered when, in the autumn of 1544, a crew of Basque fishermen spotted her walking along the shore and rowed over to investigate. After listening to her incredible tale, the fishermen brought Marguerite, along with several bear skins she had preserved (one of them belonging to a polar bear), across the Atlantic to the French city of La Rochelle, where she would later teach reading and writing to the daughters of local noblemen.

Today it is believed that Marguerite and her fellow castaways were marooned on Quirpon Island, a tiny island off Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula which bears little resemblance in shape or location to the Isle of Demons which featured so prominently in 16th and 17th Century maps of North America. It appears that Lieutenant Governor Roberval equated Quirpon Island with the sinister-sounding Isle of Demons in an effort to deter future rescue attempts.

If the island on which Marguerite and her companions were stranded was not the real Isle of Demons, then what can account for the diabolical visitors whom Marguerite claimed harassed them at night? Some writers have observed that the sound of the wind whistling through the sea rocks off Quirpon Island has a peculiar humanlike quality, and that great auks- a species of large flightless bird which once thrived in the North Atlantic; which were hunted to extinction in the 19th Century- made truly ghastly noises at night. Perhaps Marguerite’s demonic tormentors were little more than the product of this unsettling nocturnal cacophony and an overactive imagination.

If Quirpon Island is truly not the Isle of Demons, then where is that accursed isle located? Despite a once-widespread belief in its existence, the Isle of Demons began to vanish from European maps in the mid-1600s. Today, the Isle of Demons is believed to be a phantom island- a fictional location based more upon travelers’ tales than on actual survey work. Perhaps the Isle of Demons is nothing more than a piece of 16th Century fantasy… or perhaps there really is an island in the North Atlantic where demons prowl, waiting for some hapless explorer to venture inland from the island’s lonely shores.

 

The Tropical Valley in the Arctic

Set in Northern Canada in the wake of the Klondike Gold Rush, the fourth and final lost world on this list is far removed from the Atlantic Northeast and the early days of North American colonization. I describe this elusive locale in great detail in my book Legends of the Nahanni Valley, and thus will restrict my depiction of it here to a few short paragraphs intended to summarize the legend in general.

In 1897, thousands of prospectors from all over the world flocked to the Yukon Territory in northwestern Canada, prompted by news of a gold strike on a tributary of the Klondike River. Few of those who set out for Dawson City, in the heart of the Klondike, actually made it to their destination, and of those few, even fewer managed to strike it rich.

Undaunted, many of those who failed to find their fortunes in Klondike Country searched for gold in other far-flung regions of Northern Canada and Alaska. Throughout the early 1900s, some of these prospectors returned from their boreal wanderings with strange tales of ghosts, phantom lights, and hairy wild men. One of the many incredible tales which made it to the Outside, as northerners often referred to southerly civilization, spoke of a steamy tropical valley in the arctic which remained free of snow and ice through even the most severe winters.

Like the beyul of Tibetan Buddhist tradition (Edenic hidden valleys in the Himalayas, said to be protected from snowstorms and wild animals), this arctic oasis was reported to be thick with lush and exotic greenery, kept warm by the many hot springs which ran through it. Despite the huge herds of game which took refuge in this northern paradise, the regional natives who knew of its existence shunned the place, fearful of the evil spirits and huge prehistoric monsters whom they believed inhabited its jungle.

 

Sources

The Lands of Viking Legend

  • Saga of Erik the Red (13th Century), author unknown
  • The Farfarers: Before the Norse (1988), by Farley Mowat

The Lost Kingdom of Saguenay

  • The Glorious Kingdom of Saguenay, by Joseph Edward King in the 1950 issue of the Canadian Historical Review
  • Jacques Cartier, by Bernard Allaire in the August 29, 2013 issue of the Canadian Encyclopedia

The Isle of Demons

  • Andre Thevet’s North America: A Sixteenth-Century View (1986), by Roger Schlesinger and Arthur P. Stabler
  • Heptameron (1558), by Queen Marguerite de Navarre
  • Sea Birds, Castaways, and Phantom Islands off Newfoundland, by J.R. Carpenter in a speech at the British Library on August 7, 2015

The Tropical Valley in the Arctic

  • Legends of the Nahanni Valley (2018), by Hammerson Peters

 

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14 Magnetic Hills in Canada

14 Magnetic Hills in Canada

Canada is full of strange places, from the Headless Valley in the Northwest Territories, where tales of lost gold, evil spirits, and headhunting monsters abound, to Oak Island, Nova Scotia, the site of Canada’s longest-running treasure hunt. Among the most mystifying of these creepy locales are Canada’s so-called ‘Magnetic Hills’. Also known as ‘Spook Hills’ and ‘Gravity Hills’, these mystery mounds typically consist of sloped roadways lined with trees where cars, when put in neutral gear, seem to roll uphill.

Local legend often attributes this bewildering phenomenon to some sort of extraordinary force. Some people believe that ‘magnetic hills’ lie at magnetic vortexes, where the laws of gravity which govern the rest of the world cease to apply. Others suggest that the hills are capped with large deposits of lodestone- natural magnets which draw steel cars to their summits. Others still ascribe the hills’ antigravitational properties to the work of ghosts and spirits.

In reality, the magnetic hill phenomenon is an optical illusion. Despite all appearances to the contrary, roads on which the ‘uphill’ rollings take place are actually sloped downhill. Often, they are lined with trees and other objects oriented at unusual angles which obscure the horizon and give the driver the false impression that the road has a positive incline.

 

Although the phenomenon of the magnetic hill is not much of a mystery to those acquainted with its secret, it can still make for a truly head-scratching experience. If you ever get the chance, consider paying a visit to one of Canada’s fourteen magnetic hills, some of which may lie in your neck of the woods.

 

Magnetic Hills in British Columbia

Abbotsford’s Gravity Hill

If you drive to the northeasternmost corner of Abbotsford, BC, you’ll find a lonely thoroughfare called McKee Road. If you take this road and head for Sumac Mountain, you’ll come to the site of an old gravity hill just before you hit the Ledgeview Golf & Country Club. According to Lynn, the writer of a blog called ‘The One Constant’, this attraction was “worth the trip” back in 2011.

Regrettably, it appears that the hill may have since lost its ‘magnetic’ properties. According to journalist Ben Lypka in an article published in the April 11, 2019 issue of the Mission City Record, recent repaving of McKee Road has destroyed the optical illusion, causing Abbotsford gravity hill to “lose its powers”.

Fortunately for posterity, YouTuber James Waugh managed to videotape his car rolling up the hill back in 2009, at the height of the hill’s former glory. “Stay tuned next time,” concludes a young narrator, “for another exciting episode of ‘Up the Hill’”.

 

The Magnetic Hill of Maple Ridge

If you drive about 40 minutes northwest of Abbotsford, you’ll come to the city of Maple Ridge- the fifth oldest municipality in British Columbia, located at the northeastern edge of Greater Vancouver. Between Maple Ridge and the historic easterly community of Whonnock is a sleepy rural neighbourhood called Thornhill which skirts the southern slopes of a butte called Grant Hill.

If you drive south down Thornhill’s 256th Street, past its intersection with 100th Avenue, home to the old Thornhill Elementary School, you’ll come to what appears to be a small hill preceding a downwards slope. If you put your vehicle in neutral at the base of this hillock, it will roll up the ‘incline’ and down the other side, apparently defying the laws of physics.

YouTuber and Maple Ridge native Scott Leaf showcases the phenomenon this this 2009 YouTube video:

 

Vernon’s Dixon Dam Road

British Columbia’s third and final magnetic hill is situated in the city of Vernon, located north of Kelowna at the northern end of Lake Okanagan. In the northeastern section of town is a rural street called Dixon Dam Road where objects rolling ‘uphill’ can accrue speeds of up to 20 km/hour (12 mph).

This mystery spot has elicited local amazement for at least 60 years. In an April 1959 issue of The Vernon News, reporter Miles Overend described heading out the area to investigate the “silly rumour” of the magnetic hill with fellow journalist Harvie Hay. “We drove to the bottom of the slope, as instructed,” he wrote, “and stopped the car. Looking back we could see the slight uphill grade which we had just come down. I cut the ignition, released the handbrake. In eerie silence the car started rolling slowly backwards- uphill.”

If you’d like to see this strange phenomenon in action, check out this video by YouTuber Rick Slobodian:

 

Magnetic Hills in Ontario

Caledon’s Magnetic Hill

It might come as no surprise to learn that Canada’s three Prairie Provinces, to the best of this author’s knowledge, are completely devoid of magnetic hills. An obscured horizon is often a requisite for the ‘gravity hill’ phenomenon, and Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have no shortage of open spaces.

The nearest gravity hill east of Vernon, BC, is the Magnetic Hill of Caledon, Ontario, located on Escarpment Side Road just off King’s Highway 10, at Escarpment’s intersection with the street leading to Devil’s Pulpit Golf Course.

As if to complement the weird landmark, the land surrounding this remote location is associated with an old Indian legend which tells of a beautiful maiden of the Neutral Nation and a young brave whose advances she spurned. Long ago, the warrior stole the girl from her father’s wigwam and brought her to a cliff ledge on the Niagara Escarpment- a long ridge which spans the Great Lakes, over which the Niagara River falls. The unwilling captive died of grief, incurring the wrath of a local thunder god. The angry deity used lightning to isolate the kidnapper’s camping spot from the rest of the cliff, creating a rocky spire known today as the ‘Devil’s Pulpit’, for which the nearby golf course was named.

Although Caledon’s Magnetic Hill is not associated with any supernatural legends itself, it does produce an eerie visual effect, which YouTuber Kelly Vo demonstrates in this video:

 

Burlington’s King Road

Ontario has three more magnetic hills, two of which are located off the northwestern shores of Lake Ontario. The first of these is situated in the city of Burlington, about an hour’s drive south of Caledon.

In the southwestern end of Burlington is a rural thoroughfare called King Road, which winds through Burlington’s Bayview Park. After rounding a bend in the road near the park’s off-leash section, drivers will come upon two small hills, the second of which appears to have antigravity characteristics. Check out this video by YouTube’s Mr. Burlington to see the hill for yourself:

Unlike the other magnetic hills on this list, Burlington’s gravity hill is associated with ghost stories, UFO sightings, and other tales of the supernatural. According to BurlingtonGhostWalks.ca, drivers have experienced power failures, engine failures, and the sensation of being electrically “zapped” while cresting the second ‘hill’ near Bayview Park. Some witnesses have reported seeing strange lights in the sky overhead, while others claimed to have spotted spectral 19th Century pioneers walking through Bayview Park, or heard the whinnies of phantom horses and the rumble of ephemeral wagons while driving down King Road. Perhaps Burlington’s magnetic hill is more than an optical illusion after all.

If you decide to investigate Burlington’s gravity hill for yourself, you may want to avoid planning your visit in the spring; every March, the city closes King Road in order to allow Jefferson salamanders, which Ontario classifies as an endangered species, to safely seek their mates on the other side of the asphalt.

 

Oshawa’s Magic Hill

About 100 kilometres (62 miles) northeast of Burlington, on the northern shores of Lake Ontario, lies the city of Oshawa, which contains yet another magnetic mound known locally as Magic Hill. Like most gravity hills on this list, Magic Hill is located on the outskirts of town, at Oshawa’s northeastern corner on a thoroughfare called Ritson Road North. Just south of Ritson’s intersection with the Canadian National Railway is another strange hill that might have baffled Sir Isaac Newton himself.

 

Dacre’s Magnetic Hill

About 222 kilometres (138 miles) northeast of Oshawa, not too far from Barry’s Bay and Palmer Rapids, is the tiny community of Dacre, Ontario. There, one kilometer south of the junction of Highways 41 and 132, is a place where vehicles appear to coast uphill. Even more intriguing than the wacky road is the little creek which parallels it- perhaps the only creek in Canada that appears to flow uphill.

 

Magnetic Hills in Quebec

The Magnetic Hill of Chartierville

The next stop on our tour of Canada’s gravity hills is the tiny rural community of Chartierville, Quebec, which shares a border with the state of New Hampshire. Chartierville’s Magnetic Hill lies right on Quebec Route 257, the only road connecting Canada with New Hampshire, just before the Pittsburg-Chartierville Border Crossing. Incidentally, back in December 1999, an American border guard stationed at this crossing via a Remote Video Inspection System prevented a would-be al-Qaeda terrorist with a truck full of explosives from entering the United States and carrying out the planned ‘Millennium’ attack at Los Angeles International Airport.

Chartierville’s Magnetic Hill was born in 1939, when the road that would become Route 257 was first constructed. As early as the 1940s, tourists travelling to and from the United States marveled as their vehicles inexplicably rolled uphill without the assistance of their engines.

Today, travelers are informed of the hill’s presence by a sign which reads, in both French and English:

Stop here

Put hazard lights on

Put car in neutral

Look behind and experiment.

Have a nice day!

To see the hill in action, check out this YouTube video by Lopstick, purveyor of rental cabins in Pittsburg, New Hampshire.

 

Cote Magnetique of Buckland

Nearly three hours northwest of Chartreville, nestled in the Appalachian Mountains not too far from Quebec City, lies the beautiful parish municipality of Notre-Dame-Auxiliatrice-de-Buckland. A little more than a mile southeast of this quiet rural community, on a lonely stretch of road called Route Saint-Louis, lies Buckland’s Cote Magnetique, or Magnetic Hill.

Visitors are alerted to the presence of the mysterious landmark by a sign which reads, in French:

Put the vehicle in neutral

Remove the brakes

Look out for traffic behind you

Watch your vehicle roll

To virtually tour this little-known attraction, check out this YouTube video by Yves Vincart:

 

Magnetic Hills in New Brunswick

Moncton’s World Famous Magnetic Hill

Without a doubt, the most famous gravity hill in Canada is the Magnetic Hill of Moncton, New Brunswick. This internationally renowned attraction has been one of New Brunswick’s most popular tourist destinations since 1931, when an old cart path skirting the base of Lutes Mountain was expanded into a paved road suitable for automobile traffic. Drivers quickly realized that cars would roll backwards up the hill when placed in neutral, and almost overnight a Maritime sensation was born.

Moncton’s Magnetic Hill is located at the northwestern edge of town and can be accessed for a fee of $5. The landmark’s popularity has allowed for a number of attractions to thrive in its vicinity, including Magnetic Hill Zoo, the Magic Mountain Water Park, the Hotel Moncton, the Magnetic Hill Winery, and the Magnetic Hill Wharf Village. To see the striking illusion to which the Hill owes its tremendous popularity, check out this video by YouTuber Jean-Daniel Cathell-Williams.

 

Magnetic Hills in Nova Scotia

Bridgetown’s Hampton Mountain Road

Incredibly, there are said to be three little-known magnetic hills crammed within a 30-mile strip of eastern Nova Scotia paralleling the Bay of Fundy.

The southernmost of these is located on Hampton Mountain Road, about a five minute drive from the village of Bridgetown and approximately two kilometres south of Valleyview Provincial Park. According to a certain local resident, it is a place where “automobiles coast upgrade with ease, yet pedestrians huff and puff their way downgrade”.

 

The Magnetic Hill of Route 221

If you drive a mere 25 minutes northeast of Bridgetown up the Annapolis Valley, you’ll come to a tiny community called Melvern Square. Here, take the northeasterly Nova Scotia Route 221, also known as Spa Springs Road. On Route 221, about halfway between Melvern Square and an ancient volcanic ridge called North Mountain, is another magnetic hill where, according to one writer, “it looks like you are going down but you obviously are climbing.”

 

North Mountain’s Magnetic Hill

If you proceed beyond Route 221’s magnetic hill, you’ll come to 221’s intersection with Nova Scotia Route 360, which bridges the fishing community of Harbourville, on the shores of the Bay of Fundy, with the village of Berwick, located 15 minutes southeast. Take a left and right there, just preceding a hairpin turn known locally as ‘the Oxbow’, is another magnetic hill where, according to one writer, “by stopping your vehicle at what appeared to be bottom of the hill, shutting off the motor and putting the gearshift in neutral; the vehicle would begin moving backwards by itself up the hill.”

 

Magnetic Hills in Prince Edward Island

Darnley’s Gravity Hill

The most easterly magnetic hill in all of Canada is located near the town of Darnley, Prince Edward Island, a mere 7 minutes’ drive west of the Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush. County Line Road, which extends south of town, leads the way through woods and farmland to what one writer described as “a very high ‘magnetic hill’, the summit of which provides a spectacular view of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the north and rolling hills to the south.” One PEI tourism website claims that “the hill is apparently so steep at its base that, in the days of yore, a wagon driver with a full load of grain could touch the ears of his horses while sitting in his seat”- a characteristic which did not deter rumrunners from using the secluded road during the days of prohibition.

It is not entirely clear to this author whether Darnley’s ‘magnetic’ hill elicits the same optical illusion as the other gravity hills in this post or has been given its ‘magnetic’ appellative for some other reason. Whatever the case, PEI tourism websites seem to indicate that Darnley’s magnetic hill is well worth the visit.

 

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Top 5 Canadian Conspiracy Theories

Top 5 Canadian Conspiracy Theories

 

When it comes to conspiracy theories, our southern neighbour is undeniably king. Did U.S. Naval Intelligence have advance knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor? Was John F. Kennedy really assassinated by a lone gunman? Was the moon landing a hoax? These questions hardly scratch the surface of the bottomless labyrinth of rabbit holes that are America’s manifold conspiracy theories.

Although they pale in scope and gravity to those of the United States, the Great White North has a few collusion delusions, sedition suspicions, and connivance contrivances of her own. From the chillingly plausible to the downright absurd, here are five conspiracy theories unique to the land of a maple leaf. Enjoy!

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1. There’s Something in the Coffee

Whether you regularly snag a double-double on your way to work or limit your consumption to RRRoll-Up season, if you’re a Canadian java junky, chances are you’re intimately familiar with Tim Hortons’ coffee. For over half a century, Canada’s favourite restaurant has supplied untold road trippers with their caffeine fix, warmed countless frozen fingers at outdoor sporting events, and provided the caffeic catalyst for many a friendly get-together. No doot aboot it, Timmy’s coffee is good… some say too good.

Conventional wisdom holds that the popularity of Tim Hortons’ iconic beverage is attributable to its rich full-bodied flavour, its reasonable price, and its oft-touted perpetual freshness. According to some, however, that widely-held yet seldom-spoken assumption just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Although Tim Hortons undoubtedly makes a solid cup of joe, its brew is objectively far from the finest of its kind. Spend a week indulging exclusively in high-quality coffee from a local roastery and your next cup of Timmy’s will probably taste like mud. Yet that very same day, when 5 o’clock rolls around and you fancy an afternoon pick-me-up, it won’t be that artisanal coffee you crave…

For some, the only explanation for the irresistible allure of Tim Hortons’ coffee is that it contains some sort of ultra-addictive narcotic. Some say that Tim’s takes a page out of Coca Cola’s old playbook and laces its beans with sprinklings of cocaine. Others whisper that the waxy coating that lines the interior of its paper cups contains trace amounts of nicotine- too little to produce any noticeable effects, but just enough to get you hooked. Whatever the case, many Canucks half-jokingly surmise that there might be more to Tim Hortons’ coffee than meets the eye.

 

2. The NHL is Biased Against Canadian Teams

If there’s anything that Canadians love more than Tim Hortons’ coffee, it’s watching Hockey Night in Canada- a TV program featuring live National Hockey League (NHL) games. Despite Canada’s unbridled enthusiasm for its national sport, however, it’s been 26 years since a Canadian NHL team won the Stanley Cup, the coveted NHL championship trophy.

There are currently 31 teams in the NHL, and seven of them- namely the Calgary Flames, the Edmonton Oilers, the Montreal Canadiens, the Vancouver Canucks, the Ottawa Senators, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and recently resurrected Winnipeg Jets- are Canadian (the remaining 24 are American).

If the winners of the Stanley Cup were chosen at random, the odds that American NHL teams would win the championship 26 years in a row would be around 1 in 500. Of course, the NHL championship is not a game of chance, and there are many factors which determine a team’s likelihood of making and progressing through the playoffs. So what sets Canadian NHL teams apart from their American counterparts?

Are the coaches of Canadian teams less competent than those of American teams? No.

Are the players paid differently? No.

Do American teams have an unfair advantage in the draft? No.

According to some, the only difference between Canadian and American NHL teams is the sort of treatment they receive from the officials during playoffs.

For years, Canadian hockey fans have observed that NHL referees seem to favour American teams, especially during playoff season. Not only do the refs appear to be disproportionately tough on Canadian players- they also seem to turn a blind eye to a staggering number of American infractions. For example, during the third period of this year’s first playoff game between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto’s Nazem Kadri was suspended for the remainder of the series for crosschecking Boston’s Jake DeBrusk- an incident from which DeBrusk was quick to recover. In game seven of that same series, at a critical moment in the second period when the series was on the line, Boston’s Zdeno Chara sucker punched Toronto’s captain John Tavares in the side of the head so hard that he fell to the ice… and got away scot free. Hockey fans may recall a similar double standard characterizing this year’s playoff series between the Calgary Flames and the Colorado Avalanche.

Why would hockey referees favour American teams over Canadian teams? Some paranoid Canadians suspect that they are pressured to do so by the National Hockey League, which has a financial motive to increase hockey’s popularity the United States. Securing the fanship of America’s larger and wealthier pool of sports lovers would certainly allow the NHL to make more money off network revenue. Perhaps, some say, the NHL is doing everything in its power to extend the seasons of American hockey teams for as long as possible in an effort to spread the game throughout the Land of Opportunity.

 

3. Justin Trudeau is Fidel Castro’s  Son

Whether your love him or hate him, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau elicited a universal facepalm across the Western world when he issued his praise-filled eulogy following the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in November 2016. Sure, Justin’s father, former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, was a personal friend of the one-time Communist revolutionary, and Justin himself had met with El Jefe three months prior to his finis. But haven’t the Holodomor, the Cambodian genocide, and the Great Chinese Famine taught leaders of the free world to think twice before showering their dissent-crushing, human-rights-abusing, nuclear-holocaust-flirting Communist counterparts with commendations?

The Prime Minister’s baffling public statement prompted many Canadians to take a closer look at Justin’s relationship with the late Cuban leader. Almost overnight, a wild theory took form. Perhaps, some said, Justin Trudeau is really not Pierre’s son at all, but rather the illegitimate love child of Fidel Castro and Pierre’s wife, Margaret.

Immediately, photographs comparing Justin Trudeau with young Castro began to circulate throughout the internet. Take away Fidel’s scruffy beard and exchange his combat fatigues for a suit and tie and the resemblance is truly uncanny.

Proponents of the theory noted that both Pierre Trudeau and his wife Margaret, the latter nearly thirty years Pierre’s junior, were notoriously promiscuous, and that Fidel became fast friends with Pierre in the 1970s, eventually serving as a pallbearer at his funeral in 2000.

Various fact-checking websites, in response to the rumour, were quick to point out that Justin Trudeau was born on Christmas Day, 1971- five years prior to Pierre and Margaret’s famous three-day visit to Havana in January 1976- and that, barring a secret rendezvous, there was no plausible opportunity for the alleged affair to have taken place in the timeframe required for Justin to be el hijo del Comandante.

That resemblance, though…

 

4. Russian Military Jets in Northern Canada

If you’ve spent much time on this website, chances are that you’re familiar with the Nahanni Valley– a mysterious region hugging the junction of the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and British Columbia where, in the early 1900s, prospectors searching for a legendary lost gold mine routinely lost their heads.

Back in the summer of 2018, while interviewing an authority on the Nahanni Valley named Frank Graves, the author of this piece learned of yet another mystery endemic to this infamous vale in Northern Canada. During an expedition to the Nahanni Valley in the summer of 1965, Mr. Graves was informed by the local RCMP that Soviet fighter jets were often seen flying through the region. Frank elaborated on this phenomenon in a contemporary letter to his mentor, Ivan Sanderson, writing:

“Some people- and notably a highly educated white man who has lived in the valley most of his life- remarked to me quite casually one day that enormous airplanes quite often came down from the north and sometimes fly so low in good weather that he could read their large markings even without his binoculars. Besides numbers, they bear ‘names’ or identifications in the Cyrillic alphabet. Some of these he had tried to copy down, and on showing them to another educated old-timer who had also seen these planes for some years, he learned that a priest from Ontario had had them translated, and that they were Russian, and standard markings for a certain series of overfly planes known to the Canadian authorities. I have asked around, but I never heard of such planes being spotted anywhere else; so why are the Russians so all-fired interested in this crazy valley? And crazy it is, and in all kinds of ways I later found out…”

Chillingly, recent news suggests that Russian violation of our northern airspace might not be some bygone exercise of the Cold War. Just four months ago, on January 26, 2019, U.S. Air Force and R.C.A.F. fighter jets were scrambled to escort two Russian bombers that had ventured too close to Canada’s Arctic coast.

 

5. The Shag Harbour UFO Cover-Up

Speaking of mysterious flying objects, no list of Canadian conspiracy theories would be complete without a nod to the UFO of Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia, and the alleged cover-up surrounding its subsequent investigation by the Canadian military.

On the eve of October 4, 1967, in the tiny fishing village of Shag Harbour on the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia, dozens of witnesses saw an unusual pattern of yellow lights flashing in the night sky. After approaching from the east, the lights hovered over the harbour for some time before plunging down into the water, producing a bright flash of light and a loud boom suggestive of an explosion. Initially fearing that an airplane had crashed into the harbour, several witnesses scrambled to get a better view of the crash site so that they could accurately relay its position to the local authorities. Instead of finding the wreck of a downed aircraft, however, the witnesses met with a strange sight- a pale yellow dome of light floating atop the water’s surface. Several young fisherman informed the local Mounties of the incident, and in no time a rescue operation was underway. By the time the R.C.M.P. arrived on the scene, the dome was heading east along the surface of the water, leaving a trail of sparking yellow foam in its wake. The policemen watched as the mysterious object disappeared into the night.

A subsequent Mountie investigation failed to turn up any bodies or debris at the crash site. Suspecting that the mysterious object might have been some sort of secret Soviet military device, the Royal Canadian Navy immediately flew in a team of divers to scour the site for anything out of the ordinary. Like the Mounties before them, the Navy divers were unable to recover anything of interest… at least, that’s the official story. Local rumour has it that the Navy divers did recover a component of the mysterious craft on the seafloor, which they wrapped underwater and brought to the surface in secret.

According to UFO researcher Chris Styles, who tracked down and interviewed a number of the divers in the 1990s, one of his informants claimed that the Navy investigation at Shag Harbour was nothing more than a charade conducted for the benefit of the locals and any foreign agents who took an interest in the case. The Canadian military, which diligently monitored the Atlantic Northwest for Russian submarines, knew early on that the mysterious object that crashed in Shag Harbour had actually moved northeast to the waters off Shelburne, Nova Scotia. The Canadian Navy conducted another diving operation near Shelburne, which it kept secret from the public. During this covert retrieval operation, Navy personnel discovered two large crafts underwater, one of which appeared to be lending assistance to the other.

Before the Royal Canadian Navy could conduct a thorough investigation of the crafts, a Soviet submarine entered Canadian waters, apparently in an effort to locate the mysterious objects. While the Canadian cruisers on scene departed to intercept the submarine, the strange crafts slipped away, ascended to the surface, took flight, and disappeared into the sky.

Could there be some truth to the diver’s incredible tale? Did the Royal Canadian Navy really cover up evidence of a UFO crash at Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia? Perhaps we’ll never know for sure.

 

Did We Miss Anything?

Thanks for reading! If you about any more Canadian conspiracy theories, please feel free to share them in the Comments section below.

 

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The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 21- Seismic Matters

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 21- Seismic Matters

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 6, Episode 21 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!]

 

 

Plot Summary

Craig Tester, Rick Lagina, and Marty Lagina, the latter in attendance via video conference, meet in the War Room to discuss their plans for the immediate future in light of recent news that the workers’ strike will likely last the full 21 days. Marty suggests that they finish up the excavation at Smith’s Cove, then “take a long deep breath” and decide whether or not to pack it in for the season. Craig and Rick both agree with the first part of Marty’s proposal but have different ideas regarding the second, Craig being in favour of wrapping up after the work at Smith’s Cove is concluded and Rick expressing a desire to continue working on the island for as long as the weather permits. Marty agrees with his elder brother, saying “I want to do everything we possibly can this year because… we’ve been at this for a long time, we’re not getting any younger… for right now, though, I feel like ‘let’s do it all’, and even if that includes resurrecting that damned swamp.” Rick and a seemingly reluctant Craig concur on the provision that the rest of the team members are “on board”.

Later, Rick Lagina, Gary Drayton, Laird Niven and Terry Matheson watch as Billy Gerhardt excavates the area of the old Smith’s Cove crane pad with a backhoe. It is revealed that, aside from the recently-discovered Restall shaft and the underground wall dug up in Season 6, Episode 19, little of interest has been found in the area or in its washed and scrutinized spoils. While the treasure hunters chat, Gerhardt unearths a wooden board which proves to be part of another subterranean shaft. “If structures were treasure,” jokes Drayton, “we’d be rich”.

After the narrator reveals that the crew plans to conduct a seismic survey in the Oak Island swamp, we see the crew congregated in the War Room, where theorist Chris Donah has come to deliver a presentation. Donah tells the crew members that he believes the depositors of the Oak Island treasure used boulders and other markers to create an astronomical map on Oak Island. After the narrator reminds us of similar theories- namely Travis Taylor’s star map theory and Petter Amundsen’s theory regarding Nolan’s Cross, which was introduced back in Season 1, Episode 4- Donah begins talking about the Royal Arch- an important symbol of Freemasonry associated with a particular Freemasonic degree. This symbol depicts a stone archway consisting of a seven-piece arch resting atop two pillars, each piece of the arch representing a particular constellation.

Donah goes on to suggest that the depositors of the Oak Island treasure associated Oak Island’s triangular swamp with the constellation Virgo, and considered the star Spica, which represents the hand of Virgo, to be of special significance. When Donah overlays the constellation Virgo on a map of the swamp, the star Spica is located in the swamp’s southeast corner. There, Donah believes the treasure hunters will find a “back door” to the Money Pit.

In response to Donah’s presentation, Rick discloses that, at the southeast corner of the swamp, the treasure hunters discovered a huge flat stone, the surface of which he describes as being as level as the War Room table.

Later, Rick Lagina, Craig Tester, and Dave Blankenship meet at the freshly-drained Oak Island swamp with members of geophysical survey company Eagle Canada, who conducted the seismic survey of the Money Pit and Mega Bin areas in Season 6, Episodes 1 and 2. The seismic crew members outline their plan for the upcoming seismic survey, explaining that they intend to use 2,025 dynamite charges and 4,000 geophones in the operation.

Later, Marty Lagina and Gary Drayton head to Oak Island’s Lot 27, where muck from the recently-drained swamp has been transported. Marty spreads some of the mud out with a backhoe, whereupon Gary scans the material with his metal detector. The treasure hunters quickly recover an old button, with Drayton dates to the 1700s. Shortly thereafter, they come across what appears to be an old token with a square hole punched through the middle. Regarding this discovery, Drayton remarks that, during the 17th and 18th Centuries, disgruntled

North American colonists sometimes defaced coins by punching holes through them as a protest of the reigning monarch. “I believe this is possibly one of those type of coins,” he concludes.

Later that day, the Oak Island team congregates at the swamp, where the crew from Eagle Canada has finished laying their lines of geophones and blast charges. The treasure hunters watch as the seismic crew detonates 300 charges in the first step of their survey.

While the seismic survey is underway, Charles Barkhouse, Terry Matheson, Laird Niven, Billy Gerhardt, and Alex Lagina continue the excavation at Smith’s Cove. During the operation, they unearth a pile of boulders from which a steady trickle of water appears to be issuing. The treasure hunters speculate whether the rock pile might constitute the convergence point of the legendary flood tunnel.

That night, the Fellowship of the Dig meets in the War Room, where Marty Lagina informs his fellows that the dendrochronological test of wooden structures discovered in Smith’s Cove (initiated in Season 6, Episode 20) has been completed. The treasure hunters then call up Dr. Colin Laroque of the University of Saskatchewan, the dendrochronologist who conducted the test, who proceeds to give them the results of his findings:

  • The wooden wall unearthed in Season 6, Episode 9, is made from tamarack wood, which Laroque explains was “very common… in the ship building areas [of] Nova Scotia and New Brunswick”. Unfortunately, due to wormholes in the wood, Laroque and his crew were unable to determine the age at which the tamarack trees were felled.
  • The northeastern arm of the slipway is made of red spruce felled in 1771.
  • Wood from the U-shaped structure is made of red spruce felled in 1769.

The treasure hunters are visibly impressed with Colin Laroque’s findings. “We can pretty much be sure that all that work in Smith’s Cove occurred in about 1770,” concludes Marty Lagina. “That’s pretty amazing.”

 

Analysis

Chris Donah’s Theory

In this episode, theorist Chris Donah presented his hypothesis, which holds that the depositors of the Oak Island treasure equated Oak Island’s triangular swamp, vaguely evocative of a womb, with the constellation Virgo- a cluster of stars which many Freemasons associate with benevolent femininity. When he placed the constellation overtop a map of the swamp, the star Spica, which represents Virgo’s hand, lay at the swamp’s southeast corner. Donah believes that the treasure hunters will find a “back door to the Money Pit” at this location.

In response to Donah’s theory, Rick Lagina alluded to a large flat stone the crew discovered at that location five years prior. Rick Lagina and Dave Blankenship first described this discovery in Season 1, Episode 3, claiming that a smooth 3’ by 8’ rock and a tunnel connecting the swamp to the ocean were discovered there during a previous investigation. Later, in Season 2, Episode 8, GPS experts Pat Campbell and Matt Savelle conducted a GPR scan of the swamp and discovered evidence of a flat surface at the bottom of the swamp’s southeast corner.

Dendrochronological Dating of the Smith’s Cove Structures

In this episode, Dr. Colin Laroque of the University of Saskatchewan revealed the results of the dendrochronological test of the various wooden structures unearthed at Smith’s Cove this season. Although he was unable to determine the age of the underground wooden wall on account of wormholes, he was able to determine the years at which the trees of which several other structures are comprised were felled. Specifically, the northeastern arm of the slipway was dated to 1771, and wood from the U-shaped structure was dated to 1769. These findings suggest that the Smith’s Cove filter, the box drains, and the legendary Smith’s Cove flood tunnel were all constructed in the early 1770s. They also correspond perfectly with Fred Nolan’s theory that the Oak Island treasure consists of spoils from the Battle of Havana buried during the American Revolutionary War.

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.

 

Sources

  • 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.

 

[SPOILER ALERT!]

 

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.

Analysis

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.