This is Why a 220-Year-Old Mystery Remained Unsolved Until Now

Treasures, eerie locations, secrets to be unraveled – it’s human nature to be drawn to the mysterious and the unseen. The world has a myriad of myths and legends, passed down over generations, which the human mind has attempted to comprehend for ages.

One of these highly-guarded secrets of all time lies in Nova Scotia, Canada: the great mystery of Oak Island and its mythical treasure. Ever since the 19th century, many explorers have attempted to locate and unearth the famously cryptic artifacts. But do they dare dig deeper into a mystery which is said to be guarded by the original owners of the artifacts themselves?

Despite the death toll associated with Oak Island’s most sought-after bounty, many brave explorers have risked their lives to get their hands on what is said to be buried deep under the soil of the island.

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The Lagina brothers are two such explorers who have paid no heed to the horrifying rumors – in fact, if anything, the 220-year-old mystery surrounding Oak Island has piqued their interests even further.

But will they succeed, or are they simply tempting fate like the countless before them?

A Childhood Fixation

11-year-old Rick Lagina had no idea that his future would be mapped out for him by flicking through a copy of Reader’s Digest in 1965. The magazine featured the legendary treasure of Oak Island, and Rick and his brother were further gripped by the tale when their father showed them an article about Oak Island in The Wall Street Journal.

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Between the two brothers, Rick was more riveted by the mystery, especially when he found that numerous explorers had tried their luck and every single one of them had failed to find the treasure.

Born to Explore

Our young explorer’s fascination with the legend of Oak Island was not unforeseen, for he was an explorer at heart. In his past, he had been involved in a treasure hunt in 1964, right there in his hometown, Kingsford.

Two boys and a dog
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While exploring, Rick was excited to see an enormous rock that was entirely granite. Being a young boy, a natural curiosity arose, encouraging him to see what lay beneath. He enlisted the help of his brother, Marty, and a few friends from his neighborhood to shift the rock. But he was disappointed to find that there was nothing of value hidden beneath the boulder, nor any evidence of any having been there. However, Rick was not discouraged. He knew that there were things elsewhere, centuries older than he was, impatient to be discovered. And he knew that he would be the one to find them.

Written in Stone

In 1796, a young boy came across a circular depression in the ground of Oak Island. Eight years later, the Onslow Company put together a team to search the area.

Explorers from the 1800s
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After locating the strange markings, the explorers excavated the area until they hit something solid. It turned out to be a stone tablet with a peculiar inscription. Experts were called in to try to decipher the code, but nothing of value was revealed until 1886.

A Two-Million Pound Mystery

Almost a century later, it was a Halifax professor who shed light on the transcription. It read, “Forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried.” But what exactly did the inscription mean by “pounds”? Was it actually referring to a two-million-pound treasure, or was it just a ploy?

found treasure
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Deepening the uncanny mystery was the infamous legend that seven people must die before Oak Island unearths its treasure. Six people had already died. Was one more life still at stake?

Shakespeare, Bacon, and Marie Antoinette

With no one able to crack the 220-year-old mystery, many wild theories surfaced about the origins of the treasure. Some speculated that the treasure traces back to William Shakespeare. Others, who believe that Shakespeare’s works were actually written by Francis Bacon, theorized that Bacon buried Shakespeare’s manuscripts and earnings at Oak Island.

Shakespeare’s manuscripts
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Another theory suggests that the treasure actually belongs to Marie Antoinette who, with the help of the French Navy, sent her maid to Nova Scotia to hide her wealth.

Of Sailors and Pirates

The speculations were endless, and some even brought in pirates and sailors. One theory suggested that Captain Kidd buried some of his treasure on Oak Island. Meanwhile, many believed that Captain Blackbeard himself admitted that he buried something “where none but Satan and myself can find it.” Yet another theory suggested that Spanish sailors had hidden their treasure on the island.

treasure coins
Source: popsci

While the rumors may be intriguing, there is yet no proof to support any of them. But the theory we’re about to share with you is by far the most gripping.

Freemasonry and the Sacred Treasure

One theory about the mysterious Oak Island treasure had to do with the Masonic markings that could be found all over the island. The story of the ‘Secret Vault’ in York Rite Freemasonry could be the missing link to solving the puzzle of the island’s buried treasure. The Francis Bacon theory, particularly, mentions that while leading the Rosicrucian project on Oak Island, Bacon hid several religious artifacts there.

Masonic markings
Source: daysgoneby

Adding to all that, Daniel Ronnstam and Peter Amundsen claimed that these artifacts could even be hidden among Shakespeare’s manuscripts, so now Shakespeare was also a part of the enigma.

The First Explorer of Oak Island

Back in 1975, the first discovery of Oak Island’s mystery was made. Daniel McGinnis, a young boy, was wandering around the island when he noticed a strange circular depression in the earth. Curiously, he stepped closer and saw a tree with its branches cut away.

Daniel McGinnis
Source: wide open country

Initially, he assumed that the branches were removed for some purpose – perhaps as a pulley – but remembering all the tales and myths of pirates and treasure chests he’d heard over the years, he mentioned his discovery to his friends and asked for their help in looking deeper into the strange situation.

Digging Deeper into the Mystery

Curiosity winning over, Daniel McGinnis asked for help from his friends John Smith and Anthony Vaughn, in uncovering whatever may be hidden beneath the tree. Giving it their all, the boys began digging, and two feet deep, hit flagstone.

Daniel McGinnis, John Smith and Anthony Vaughn
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They decided to remove the flagstone and keep going, making it about another 30 feet deeper and found layers upon layers of oak logs. Eventually realizing that they couldn’t go any further, they wondered if they’d have to wait a few years before they’d be able to come back and continue on the mission they’d set out on. However, this was just the start for them.

Water and Stone

Almost a decade later, the Onslow Company arrived on the scene and dug into the same place as the three boys had earlier in the past. Given their equipment, they were more capable of delving further, and after another 60 feet of digging, only came across more oak logs – however, this time with thick layers of coconut fiber and charcoal. Fascinated by what may lie beneath, they kept going until they came across the stone tablet.

Daniel McGinnis, John Smith and Anthony Vaughn
Source: daysgoneby

Delighted with their discovery, and imagining their hard work was finally starting to pay off, they set to work on pulling out the next layer of oak logs. Suddenly, water started flooding into the pit, with the only way to let it out being a tunnel that they would have to make specifically for this purpose.

Half a Century Later

Despite this, all their attempts at keeping the water out failed, and the continuous pour of water made their task impossible to carry out. Onslow quickly realized they would not be able to search any further than this. The pit was designed in a way such that it had a 500-foot waterway from Smith’s Cove, allowing water to freely enter from the sea and any attempt to empty it would result in a rapid refill given the ocean’s endless supply.

500-foot waterway
Source: popsci

This quandary had a large impact on the discovery of the highly sought-after treasure. Trying to find a way around solving this issue resulted in a delay of about 45 years, and yet, even such a seemingly endless list of hurdles did not deter explorers. In 1847, a new group decided to try their hand at it. But would they succeed?

A Golden Opportunity

Apparently unperturbed by the many challenges of the Oak Island treasure, a new team called The Truro Company came to the island. They discovered an efficient way of drilling samples of the pit without the water causing hiccups.

Men at work on the waterway
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And then, one day, luck was on their side: as they were drilling, they struck gold – literally! They had successfully drilled through two chests filled with coins. They took this as the first sign of the massive treasure that the stone had promised them. Rumor had it that three gold links from a chain were also found, but those had disappeared, and nobody had any idea about what had happened to them.

The Money Pit

The Truro Company understood that the “Money Pit,” as it was called, went much deeper. Therefore, they had to keep draining out the water repeatedly. During this process, they realized something odd: the level of water in the pit was moving with the tides.

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This led to the discovery that the entire beach was artificial; a deceptive surface built over the construction of drains and flow tunnels. The extent to which an effort was made surely meant that an immense treasure was hidden, right? They considered building a dam to stop the flow of water and dig the treasure out, but soon after discovered that someone had already tried that. All the hard work they had put into the mission was destroyed by a storm that created an unusually high tide and lacking the funds to start over, they were forced to give up.

Strike One of Disaster

In 1861, the Oak Island Association decided to try their hand at solving the case. They put in all their dedication and effort and managed to reach a depth of 88 feet in the Money Pit. They made a new shaft to prevent the water from entering since the original location had already been abandoned.

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Unfortunately, tragedy befell them when the bottom of the pit fell about 15 feet. A pump burst and killed a team member. Rumors started spreading about ghost pirates standing guard over the treasure. And the mystery gets stranger.

Disaster: Strike Two

At the end of the 18th century, another team of explorers decided to pursue the mystery of the hidden treasure. Hungry for bounty, they managed to uncover a sheepskin parchment with indecipherable letters printed on it.

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But just as their excitement was growing, Maynard Kaiser, one of the explorers, met a tragic end. As the other explorers were hoisting him up to the surface, his rope untangled from the pulley and Maynard fell down the shaft and died. Was this part of the curse that hovered above the Money Pit and Oak Island?

The Involvement of a President

The mystery of Oak Island was such that even the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt became involved in its treasure hunt. Fascinated by his family’s tales of sailing, he closely followed the island’s mystery until his death in 1945.

Old Savage Group
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Roosevelt was a member of the Old Savage Group. Despite many failed attempts by explorers to uncover the treasure, Roosevelt continued to monitor the developments happening at Oak Island. He even planned a secret trip in 1939 while he was in Halifax, but the plan didn’t follow through due to weather and certain international affairs.

A Businessman on a Treasure Hunt

In 1928, Gilbert Hedden decided to try his luck at the Money Pit after reading an article about it. He was a New York-based businessman who operated a steel fabricating firm and was particularly interested in the engineering hurdles that the previous explorers had encountered.

the Money Pit
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Fuelled by the prospect of treasure, and with his engineering skills by his side, he arrived on the island with his business partner, Fred Blair. Would luck be on their side, or were they just to be another pair of failed treasure hunters?

More Interesting Discoveries

As Gilbert and Fred drilled through the shafts, they were not disappointed. The island graciously offered them a strange new revelation: a stone with markings on it, similar to the stone tablet that had been found in 1804. Digging deeper, they found some old timber at Smith’s Cove which seemed to be what the Money Pit had originally been built of.

Stone markings
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Hedden and Blair were certain that the timber was original because it was connected with wooden pins instead of the modern metal pins. Explorers were now curious to find out what other discoveries lay ahead of them.

A Strange Trickery

In 1938, another bounty seeker, Erwin Hamilton, arrived on the island. He began his drilling operation in 1939 and soon after, came across something intriguing. Approximately 190 feet down the shaft, he found some peculiar rocks and gravel. And after investigation, it turned out that they were foreign to the shaft and had been placed there intentionally. But who could have placed them there, and why?

Stone markings
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Determined to reach the bottom of the mystery, Hamilton kept drilling and made his next discovery: an odd layer of limestone scattered with oak splinters. This led him to believe that a layer of wood may exist beneath the limestone layer. But he had reached an impasse, and someone else was now going to have to take over the quest.

Robert Restall’s Death

After Hamilton, many men attempted to unlock the mystery of Oak Island, but all their efforts resulted in failure. Perhaps the island was not yet ready to give up its secrets.

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The next notable person in this historical excavation was Robert Restall. He arrived on the island in 1959 and found a stone with “1704” engraved on it. To allow himself the freedom to pursue the mission, Robert brought his family over to Oak Island. But tragedy awaited him – he inhaled carbon monoxide from an engine which rendered him unconscious, and he fell down the Money Pit and died.

The Island’s Haul of Lives

When Robert Restall Jr. witnessed his father’s fall, he rushed to save him. But he, too, fell victim to the toxic fumes and met the same fate as his father. Two workers, Karl Graeser and Cyril Hiltz, saw the two men fall and hurried to the pit to rescue them, but they inhaled the poisonous gas as well and plummeted down the Money Pit.

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It seemed like the island was working its way up to the rumored seven lives that needed to be sacrificed before the treasure would be unveiled. Four tragedies in one day – could there be some truth in the myths?

Three Odd Discoveries are Made

That same year, Robert Dunfield arrived at Oak Island with an army of cranes, bulldozers and heavy machinery to dig further into the pit. He drilled down approximately 140 feet and reached the same thick limestone layer that had been discovered prior.

Money Pit
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In 1965, Daniel C. Blankenship also tried his hand at the Money Pit. It seemed that luck was on his side when he found a hand-wrought nail, a washer, and a heart-shaped stone 60 feet down. Apparently, these odd discoveries didn’t make a lot of sense in isolation, but they did form part of the larger picture – one that was slowly coming together.

Through the Camera’s Lens

In the late 1960s, a group was created by the name of Triton Alliance to pursue the quest for the elusive treasure. The team used heavy machinery in the hopes of finally unearthing the treasure. But their extensive search did not reveal anything of value except a 300-year-old pair of wrought-iron scissors. However, the crew was undeterred and refused to back down from the mission.

Money Pit
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In 1976, they sunk a Borehole 10-X steel tube into the ground and with it, lowered a camera down into the cavity. What the Triton Alliance saw shocked and excited them.

The Severed Hand

The camera revealed an array of items suspended in the water. They saw tools, leather shoes, and – to their horror – a severed human hand.

Shoe found in pit
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They also discovered three chests that looked the ones used to bury treasure in. But while they were thrilled at their discoveries, they couldn’t help be unnerved by the human hand. Was it a drowned explorer or the ghostly remains of a pirate guarding his treasure?

The Disappearing Artifacts

After viewing the images from the camera, the Triton Alliance sent divers in to bring up the artifacts and the human remains. But things took a turn when none of the items seen on camera could be found. The current in the pit was so strong that it was constantly churning the sand and dirt, making visibility a nightmare. The divers eventually gave up – and it was a good thing that they did.

Money Pit
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Just minutes after they were safely out of the shaft, it fell apart. They tried to dig again to try to recover some of the items they had seen on camera but eventually ran out of financial assistance. Disheartened, the crew had no choice but to abandon their mission.

Oak Island Becomes Popular

Almost a decade later, as wild rumors spread, Oak Island started to attract the attention of the public. The mysterious island was featured in an episode of the 1979 television show, “In Search Of…” and amassed a huge fan base, both locally and internationally.

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As word of the intriguing discoveries and numerous failed attempts spread, Oak Island gathered significant public recognition. People all over the world were now curious about the mystery of Oak Island and the unknown guardian of its treasure.

The Rise of an Ownership Conflict

With the promise of “two million pounds” waiting to be discovered, it is not surprising that the mystery fueled conflicts. In 1983, the Triton Alliance battled with one of its members, Fred Nolan, over ownership rights of certain parts of the island. The company sued Nolan over seven of the island’s lots.

Fred Nolan and another man
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The Triton Alliance sued Nolan for damages to its tourist business. His company appealed in 1989 but lost again. As legal battles took the forefront, the island fell silent for over a decade, until the Lagina brothers made their appearance in 2005.

The Lagina Brothers Enter the Scene

The Triton Alliance’s treasure hunt was featured in a 1965 Reader’s Digest – the article which had caught Rick Lagina’s interest when he was a boy of eleven.

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The brothers learned that a fraction of Oak Island was up for sale for around $7 million. In 2005, they invested a fifty percent stake in a company called Oak island Tours Inc. in an attempt to enter the island. This act was proof that their boyhood fascinations of finding hidden treasure were still alive decades later.

Starting Over and Going Beyond

What set the Lagina brothers apart from all the previous explorers was that they integrated modern technology in their expedition which the earlier explorers didn’t have access to. Rick and Marty Lagina were determined to investigate the island further than anyone else had before them. Employing their state-of-the-art technology, they were able to explore the Money Pit deeper as well as other uncharted parts of the island.

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Flooding of the pit was no longer a hindrance as the brothers now had the technology to counter their problems with efficient solutions. Their efforts revealed to them secrets and allies that were far from their expectations. But who and what were they?

The Curse of Oak Island

As word of the Lagina brothers’ efforts spread, the History Channel commissioned a television show called The Curse of Oak Island. The show not only catered to a large audience, but it also helped the brothers raise funds to keep their mission operational with the necessary resources.

Construction workers
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The television show gave the treasure hunt more meaning and credibility, with people worldwide now hooked to their television screens for answers. Would the increased popularity and mounting pressure motivate Rick and Marty enough to uncover the treasure?

Ready, Set, and Out to Get

Although the desire to explore Oak Island had surfaced at a young age, the Lagina brothers waited until they were almost fifty years old to chase their dreams. And now, they came equipped with modern technology and the wisdom of decades on their side.

Marty Lagina
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Marty Lagina had extensive experience with gas wells and digging. He had worked on various gas wells and had spent time with several engineering experts. He tapped into his network of reliable and expert connections and enlisted them to act as professional consultants on the project. This move proved to be crucial to the mission.

The First Finding and More Theories

One of the first tasks for the project was to dig up a swamp that would enable them to explore further than anyone before. The swamp expelled their first treasure: a Spanish copper coin dated back to the 17th century. This proved that people from that era had visited the island before – probably in search of the legendary treasure.

Spanish coin
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Many new speculations rose from this new discovery with some suggesting that the treasure belonged to King Solomon. But no one knew for certain what exactly the Money Pit was guarding, and theories continued to fly.

Discovering More

The Curse of Oak Island enjoyed two successful seasons, but it wasn’t until the third season that the most thrilling discovery so far was made. The Lagina brothers recruited the help of experts with sonar readings and the Borehole 10-X and came across what was believed to be the greatest finding yet of Oak Island.

nails in a man’s hand
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The first season of the show had revealed bone findings and a Spanish coin. The third season unearthed a Roman sword and a Portuguese carving. Things took an even more interesting turn when it was discovered that the Aztecs had explored the island in the past.

Life is a Treasure Hunt

Rick Lagina’s interest in the mystery of Oak Island was as fresh as it had been when he was just a boy. In his mind, the exploration of Oak Island was the fulfillment of a childhood dream.

Rick Lagina
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“There’s a story to be written up here,” said Rick. “Treasure, perhaps, but it’s a truly wonderful story from a long time ago. Every day it feels like we’re turning a page of a really good book. To me, life’s a treasure hunt. We’re all on one in our own different way, and we happen to be on a real one right now.”

The French Map and African Origins

During the third installment of the show, things got even more exciting when the Lagina brothers found a map of Oak Island dating back to 1647. The map was illustrated in French and contained some valuable facts about the pit. It indicated that an anchor, a valve, and a hatch were in place to help explorers on their quest.

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The map also hinted at the treasure allegedly originating from Africa. These clues gave the Lagina brothers leverage which the previous explorers had not had. With this new information, could they now finally solve the mystery?

The Titanic Connection

Interestingly, The Oak Island mystery even has a connection to the historical tragedy of Titanic. It was speculated that Vincent Astor donated an incredible amount of money to the excavation of Oak island. The wealthy businessman had inherited his fortune from his father, John Jacob Astor IV, who died in the Titanic tragedy.

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Astor was convinced that a monumental treasure really existed on the island, which led him to donate a massive sum to the quest. He even hoped that they might recover the Ark of the Covenant.

A French Treasure?

One of the more plausible theories about Oak Island is of its French connection. It suggests that Marie Antoinette had ordered her servant to take all the French crown jewels she possessed out of the country, and this servant had traveled all the way to Nova Scotia to hide the precious jewels.

Marie Antoinette
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It is also rumored that Oak Island is the location where French soldiers had hidden the loot they had accumulated during the raid of the Louisbourg Fort which had been seized by the British in the Seven Years’ War.

Barry Fell

One of the many experienced and intelligent explorers of the Oak Island mystery was a man by the name of Barry Fell – a rather morbidly appropriate and terrifying name, given the fates that befell many of the explorers before him. Fell was a Harvard zoologist and an archaeologist who claimed that the carvings that had been discovered on Oak Island could be sourced back to the Coptic Christians of North Africa, who may have visited the site, some time in history.

Coptic Christians
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Fell claimed that there was a lot of contact between the Native Americans and the people of ancient times, and to prove his point, he used a stone with intricate carvings on it as evidence. Did this mean Africa had something to do with the hidden treasure? Was there any nation at all which wasn’t in some way related to Oak Island at some point in the past?

The Mystery that was Saving Lives

The History Channel’s ‘The Curse of Oak Island’ made a big difference in the lives of at least one of its followers, having been more than just pure entertainment. A long-following fan was delighted when, in the most peculiar circumstances, his house was saved by the show.

The Curse of Oak Island
Source: popsci

A native from Texas, he had ordered an Aqua Dam like the one used on the show to save his property from the threat of the flood that followed Hurricane Harvey. He was quick to recall the excavators he had seen on the show and how they had been used to keep water from entering the shafts. Most likely, he had been the only local Oak Island fan because he was the only house on the block that did not go under in the heavy flooding.

Nothing More than Tar

One lady who believes she has Oak Island all figured out is Joy Steele for whom the island holds no mystery. She believes that there are more pits than the famous Money Pit to be found there. According to her, these pits were nothing but giant storage vessels for tar that the British army dug to aid the construction and maintenance of their ships.

The Curse of Oak Island
Source: daysgoneby

Joy pointed out many other ship-building sites in North Carolina that looked similar to the Oak Island setup and were famous tar storage pits, adding reliability to her claim. So that’s why North Carolinians are called Tar Heels. After all those dreams of ancient treasure and the relentless explorations, could the answer be nothing more than tar? Guess we’ll find out with time.