The “Money Pit” Enigma
This article originally appeared in the Phantoms and Monsters newsletter. The blog can be found at http://naturalplane.blogspot.com/
Off and on for nearly 200 years men have been boring and tunneling for treasure on Oak Island, a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia. Whoever dug the aptly-named “Money Pit” was a brilliant engineer, who harnessed the sea in the form of booby traps to keep trespassers at bay.
The pit consists of a deep shaft, furnished with an ingenious arrangement of side tunnels that allow the sea to flood in whenever diggers venture into it’s depths. The only finds so far have been: three links of a chain that may have been gold or copper (accounts vary); a tiny scrap of parchment reading the two letters, V and I, written with a quill pen: and a cipher stone with odd samples that was found at 90 feet down the shaft (which has since mysteriously disappeared).
The story of Oak Island began in 1795, when 16-year-old Daniel McGinnis paddled over from the little Nova Scotian town of Chester to hunt game. In a clearing at one end of the island, an old ship’s block and tackle hung from a tree over the center of a 12 foot wide depression.
The island was rumored to have been haunted by pirates who had buried their treasure before they died. Nonetheless, Daniel and two other boys started digging. They found a 13-foot-wide circular shaft dug through clay, with thick oak platforms at 10, 20 and 30 feet. As the work progressed, it became difficult getting help from superstitious townsfolk, so the dig was abandoned in 1804. In the same year, a wealthy Nova Scotian named Simeon Lynds formed the first treasure company. He found the first and greatest obstacle to all further explorations of the pit – water.
The workers had broken through eight oak platforms, three of which were sealed with ship’s putty and coconut fibers when the cipher stone was found at 90 feet. When the hole had been dug 8 feet deeper, a crowbar hit something solid. Lynds was sure he had found the elusive treasure chest. The next day, to his dismay, the pit had filled with 60 feet of water overnight. Weeks of bailing with buckets and the use of crude pumps failed to lower the water’s level inside the pit.
Lynds’ miners sank a second shaft close and parallel to the original pit. At 100 feet they began burrowing toward the treasure when suddenly, the miners were scrambling for their lives. Water had burst into the shaft and filled it to the same level as the original shaft. The previously wealthy Lynds was now destitute having run through his fortune in search of the treasure.
In 1849, John Smith and Anthony Vaughn, who were in their seventies and had helped in the original dig in 1795, returned to Oak Island and tried again with the help of a syndicate from Truro, Nova Scotia.
The Truro shafts seemed to confirm the existence of two or more chests that might contain treasure in some form. Unfortunately, their work undermined the pit itself and caused the bottom to collapse into what was thought to be a vast cavern. The collapse may have resulted in the chest being carried down, possibly breaking apart and dispersing the contents.
The Truro syndicate later discovered why the pits had flooded to a level that rose and fell with the tides. A man-made tunnel, 111 feet down connected the sea to the cavern and pit. In 1893 the sea tunnel was dynamited and blocked…still the pit flooded uncontrollably.
Further excavations were made in 1909, 1931, 1935, 1936, 1942, 1959, 1965, 1969, and 1971, none of which were successful. In 1942 a second man-made tunnel to the sea was discovered and it was feared that there might be several more. During the 1990s, further exploration was stalled because of legal battles over the land rights. As of 2005, a portion of the island was for sale. In April of 2006 a Michigan group, said it will resume operations on Oak Island in the hope of discovering buried treasure and the mystery of Oak Island.
Recently, the two parties who fought for land rights in the 1990’s have agree to merged and search the Money Pit together.
THEORIES ON THE SUPPOSED TREASURE
There has been wide-ranging speculation amongst enthusiasts as to who originally dug the pit and what it might contain. One theory is that the island contains pirate treasure, a hoard buried by Captain Kidd or possibly Edward Teach (Blackbeard). Teach claimed he buried his treasure “where none but Satan and myself can find it.” Some also hold to the theory that Kidd conspired with Henry Every and Oak Island was used as a pseudo community bank between the two.
Others agree the pit was dug to hold treasure but believe this was done by Spanish sailors from a wrecked galleon or British troops during the American Revolution. Another argument is that given the size and complexity of the pit, it was likely dug by French army engineers hoping to hide the contents of the treasury of the Fortress of Louisbourg after it fell to the British during the Seven Years’ War.
Lacking archival evidence some speculate the the priceless jewels of Marie Antoinette (which are historically missing) are buried on Oak Island. During the French Revolution, when the Palace of Versailles was stormed by revolutionaries in 1789, Marie Antoinette instructed her lady-in-waiting to take her prized possessions and flee. Supposedly, the royal items made it to London along with important artwork or documents, secreted away either on her person or as her luggage, It is even believed she was assisted by the remaining loyal officers of the French navy during the uprising. The story then goes that this woman fled further afield from London to Nova Scotia through royal connections she would have had during her service to the queen at Versailles and managed to contract the French navy to help construct the famed ‘pit’ on the island. Whether such a complex engineering effort could have been completed is questionable and no official date of its construction exists. However, other theories do suggest the structure is French and naval in style.
There are other theories that state the Oak Island pit was dug to hold treasure much more exotic than gold or silver.
The Knights Templar have been linked to the mystery of Oak Island by many, primarily because historical records suggest that they had both motive and means to deposit treasure in the Money Pit. Compelling of all is their connection with the Holy Land, prompting speculation of untold wealth and artifacts in the form of the Holy Grail or possibly, the Ark of the Covenant.
When Europe called for the Crusades, the Templar found themselves at the center of religious fervor. It was not long before sons of wealthy families were pledging their fortunes and property to the order just for the privilege of joining the band.
The Templar began to emerged as the worlds first bank whereby Kings would deposit their gold in Paris only to be able to withdraw it again in Jerusalem. The result of which was the immense growth of Templar, in both wealth and number.
When Jerusalem and the Holy Lands were eventually lost to Islam, the Templar experienced a swift backlash whereby the King Philip of France began to plot against the organization in hope of reaching their immense wealth.
On Friday the 13th of October 1307, the King found an ally in Pope Clement V and ordered that the Templar leaders be arrested. It is speculated that King Philip’s motive was that he owed the Templar a massive amount of money due to loans he acquired during many lean years in France.
Once the day of the arrests arrived, the Paris Templar arranged that its treasures be loaded on a wagon train headed toward the port city of La Rochelle. From there, it was deposited aboard the Templar ships, setting sail to an unknown destination. According to Andrew Sinclair, author of “The Sword and the Grail”, the Templar were said to flee with the treasure to Scotland.
It was in Scotland that they founded the St. Clair family, later to be known as Sinclair. The Sinclair’s built Rosslyn Chapel, an often cited link between the Temple and Freemasonry. This chapel becomes temporarily the resting place of the legendary Holy Grail before its final journey to Nova Scotia.
The Sinclair’s became the Grand Masters of the order and desired a new land in which to establish an utopian Templar government. Using both their money and military strength coupled with their sailing abilities, they sailed westwards towards Nova Scotia, island hopping along the way always staying within 200 miles of shore.
The arrival of the Knights Templar in this region is supported by a narrative and map attributed to Vopell and Vavassatore. It depicts the landmass of Nova Scotia or New Scotland with the figure of a crowned knight. Further evidence exists of visitors in New England, in the form of the Tower in Newport, Rhode Island and, the Westford Knight, a carving of the figure of an armoured, European knight holding a cruciform sword, a common Templar emblem on graves.
Once the unsuccessful colony of the Temple died out, instead of sailing back east, the American Templar decided to hide the bounty. They built a complex ‘Money Pit’ on Oak Island by engineering flood traps to prevent anyone reaching the treasure. The spot is marked using the form of a stone cross, symbolism typical of the Templar.
Critics argue that there is no treasure and that the apparent pit is a natural phenomenon, likely a sinkhole and natural caverns. Regardless of it’s hidden secrets or storied past, after over 200 years of drilling, digging and pumping the surrounding area of Oak Island has become so confused that the exact location of the original Money Pit is no longer recognized.