Where is the treasure of Oak Island? Two brothers are close to solve the mystery
It is arguably one of the most curious mysteries of all time. The Oak Island treasure has been grabbing the attention of the explorers for 220 years. They are all sharing the same obsession: finding the island’s hidden treasure. This passion and curiosity has even costed the loss of lives, fortunes, families and sanity. According to the legend, seven deaths need to happen before the treasure will be found. As much scary this could be, Lagina brothers were still eager to move to the island on a mission to discover the secret buried underground for centuries. This is the story of the adventure on which two brothers embarked to crack this old mysterious case. Read on to find out what happened to them.
- Once upon a time…
The Lagina Brothers’ story starts with a magazine. In 1965 11-year-old Rick Lagina was reading a copy of “Reader’s Digest” when he came across an unusual article about an old unresolved mystery. According to this story Oak Island (Nova Scotia, Canada) hosts an old treasure that is being buried underground for more than 200 years. Over the past two centuries lots of explorers have tried to spot the location without success. Amazed by this story, Rich Lagina collected as much information as he could and started to cultivate a dream: to find the hidden treasure of Oak Island.
- The treasure hunt is on
That was not the first treasure hunt for Rich Lagina. The year before he had discovered a big granite rock in his home town of Kingsford, Michigan. Determined to find out what was hiding under the rock, he summoned 8 kids from the neighbourhood, including his brother Marty, to move the heavy obstacle. It turned out that there was nothing underneath, but the thrill of that adventure would inspire Rick for a long time. Since then he has become obsessed with treasures and mysterious stories. But what was so appealing and fascinating about the mystery of the Old Oak treasure?
- Ominous Discovery
All began with a boy called Daniel McGinnis, who at the end of the 18th century found a strange circular depression in the ground. A few years later, in 1804, the Onslow Company was formed to explore the island. They had to dig into layers of oak logs, charcoal and putty, before finally discovering a stone tablet on which a strange inscription was written. The inscription consisted in unknown symbols, that several explorers tried to decipher, without success. Only in 1866 a language professor from Halifas University managed to translate the writing which was a very ominous message.
- Oak Island Curse
According to the professor the inscription was reading: “Forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried”. No more details were provided by the stone: it didn’t say whether it was gold or coins. It was also hard to claim whether or not this was a real invitation for a treasure hunt. Some people though that the inscription related to the Oak Island curse which says that seven people need to die before the treasure will be found. Until today, six people have died. Shall we expect one more death to finally solve the mystery? It does seem fiction, but it is a true story.
- Personal Treasures
How did the treasure end up on Oak Island? There are several theories about it. One theory goes back to the French Revolution when Marie Antoinette instructed her maid to escape from Paris. She reached London first, then Nova Scotia where, with the help of the French Navy, she built a pit where Marie Antoinette’s jewellery were hidden. Another legend revolves around Francis Bacon and claims he is the actual author of Shakespeare’s plays. He buried the manuscripts exposing him as the author of the plays. But these are only 2 of the uncountable stories buried with the Oak Island treasure.
- Treasure Troves
A few stories have been told about pirates burying a treasure on Oak Island. The first one involves Captain Kidd whose crew, according to a theory, dug a big pit in the ground to hide several chests of treasure. A similar story has been told about pirate Blackbeard who claimed he had hidden a valuable treasure where “none but Satan and myself can find it”. Another story goes back to the American Revolution when some Spanish sailors dug a pit on the island to hide a treasure form British troops. However, among all the stories created around the island’s treasure one in particular seemed to grab the attention of the explorers.
- Religious Artifacts
Apparently, the stone discovered on Oak Island shows many Masonic markings relating to ancient initiation rites involving a hidden vault and sacred treasure. This would be paired with an allegory of the Secret Vault in York Rite Freemasonry. According to another theory, Francis Bacon led a secret spiritual movement on the island, where he buried secret religious manuscripts and artefacts. Researchers like Daniel Ronnstam and Petter Amundsen claim that some clues are hidden in Shakespeare’s plays. For two centuries different theories were created until one person took this stories seriously.
- The beginning
In summer 1795 a young boy called Daniel McGinnis was enjoying the warm day in Oak Island, Nova Scotia, when he decided to explore the surroundings. While walking, he looked down at the ground and spotted a strange circular depression. Next to it was a tree whose branches had been cut off, probably to use the tree as a pulley. Excited by his discovery, McGinnis summoned his young friends and began to investigate what looked like a buried pirate treasure.
- An Astonishing Find
The young boy came back to the mysterious place with his friends John Smith and Anthony Vaughn, both very curious to see whit their eyes what Daniel had told them. After digging two feet under the surface of the depression, they found a layer of flagstone covering the area. They went on digging until they found, about 30 feet underground, several layers of oak logs covering the pit, which would be called from then on the Oak Island Money Pit. They stopped at this point and only 8 years later, they returned to the same place, this time with the Onslow Company. The result of this search surprised everyone.
- The Oak Island Money Pit
Starting from the point that the boys had reached 8 years earlier, the explorer kept on digging. All they could find was several layers of oak logs at circa 10 feet intervals, along with layers of charcoal, putty and coconut fier. They had to reach a depth of 90 feet to find something interesting: a stone tablet with some mysterious symbols and writing. When they took out a layer of logs, a stream of water began to flood into the pit. They tried to pump out the water, without success. So they started digging a new pit, 100-foot deep, parallel to the original one which they tried to reach via a tunnel. But this pit got filled up as well. This is when the explorers started thinking that the whole thing was a stupid joke. For sure, this was the beginning of the curse of the Oak Island.
- Booby Trap
The delay caused by the water was about 15 years. Whoever had dug the Oak Island Money Pit, made sure that its discovery would be slowed down by the water. Without knowing, the explorers had freed a 500-foot waterway, which was designed most probably by the Oak Island Money pit architects to lead to Smith’s Cove. Even if the water was pumped out, the pit would be quickly refilled by the sea. This was a trap made by designers to keep curious people away form the Oak Island Treasure. Another search took place in 1847 with a team called The Truro Company. The digging caused another flood of water and the team decided to go for a different plan: drilling core samples of the pit. This plan turned out to be successful and some interesting clues were found by the team during their search.
- First Hints of Treasure
They kept drilling, until they came across two chests filled with coins. When the chests were brought up, they were found to contain also three gold links, appearing to be the remains of a chain. The chains were found neither in the chest or the pit. As the ground deep inside the Oak Island pit appeared to be loose, the explorers came back in 1850 to dig a parallel pit and tunnel over the original hole. Water came in again and all the pumping was completely useless. However, as it happens quite often, when everything seems lost, something unexpected happens to cheer y you up.
- An artificial beach
While the explorers were busy pumping the water out of the Oak Island Money pit, one of them spotted something at low tide at Smith’s Cove: there was water coming out of the beach. This was probably part of the drain system designed and constructed by the designers years before. It was a real filtering system consisting of several channels organized in the shape of a hand. The first thought of the explorers was to block off the water and build a dam just off the beach at Smith’s Cove, in order to reach the treasure and take it out. What seemed like a good idea turned out to be very bad: the project was destroyed by a storm. However, while building the dam, the explorers discovered a previous one. This led to plan B: to dig a pit that would reach the water channel so that the water could be plugged. This turned out to be a second failure, which made the Truro company quit the whole project. After this, several attempts were made to find out the treasure, but none of them succeeded and things started to become more and more peculiar.
- First Death
In 1861 there was another attempt to dig out the Oak Island treasure, made by a new team called the Oak Island Association. They did not succeed in their plan and the bottom of the Oak Island Money Pit fell out. This attempt also costed a human life. In order to drain the water, the explorers were using water pumps. During their work, the boiler that was powering one of the pumps burst and killed one of the explorers. After 3 years of exhausting work, in 1864 the team run out of funds and the company was forced to give up. With the death of the worker, rumours started to spread that the treasure was guarded by the ghosts of pirates, who were ready to take other lives if the digging continued. It turned out that these were not just rumours…
- Sheepskin Parchment
At the beginning of the 20th century, Oak Island welcomed a new group of explorers, attracted by the rumours regarding the old hidden treasure. The team managed to find out something new: a cement vault that was seen through the gap between the thick layers of putty. They really seemed to be close to finally discover the secret of Oak Island. The explorers drilled into the vault until they found a piece of parchment made from sheepskin, on which was an inscription reading the letters “vi”, “ui” or “wi”. What those letters stand for is a mystery that has not be solved so far. A few days after the discovery, the curse of Oak Island stroke again. What happened made the team run away and abandon the treasure hunt.
- Plummeting To Death
One of the explorers, whose name was Maynard Kaiser, was returning to the surface after working in one of the many pits that the team dug near the Oak Island Money Pit. His workmates were lifting him up to the surface, when his rope came loose and unrivalled form the pulley. Kaiser plummeted into the shaft and became the second victim of the curse of Oak Island. Despite this, or probably because of this, this place never stopped attracting curious people and explorers, ready to invest money, time and even their own lives to find the hidden treasure. Another tragic event was just around the corner.
- Presidential Diggers
Here is another group coming to Oak Island, to get hold of the mysterious treasure. It was 1909 and the new team of explorers was called The Old Salvage Group. The only thing they were able to discover was a cofferdam from a previous search, dated to 1850. Among the explorers there was a young man called Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who years later, in 1933, would become the president of the United States. The expedition went off for a yard, but Roosevelt was so fascinated by the place that he kept asking for updates about the searches in Oak Island for the rest of his life. The following group was able to make a new find which turned out to be an important clue.
- The New Wave
In 1928 the strange mystery revolving around Oak Island ended up on a New York newspaper. A businessman called Gilbert Hedden read that story and was fascinated by the engineering problems the explorers were having on the island. As a runner of a steel fabricating firm, he was immediately conquering by the possibility of finding the hidden treasure. He decided to reach the island along with Fred Blair to launch a new investigation and embarking on the adventure. They drilled and drilled, hoping to reach the treasure, but what they found out instead appeared to be even more interesting.
- Another Stone Fragment
Another fragment of stone came out of the Oak Island Money Pit. Also on this stone an inscription was written, very similar to the one discovered in 1804. Along with the stone a few old timbers were found in Smith’s Cove. As they were joined with wooden pins rather than metal ones, the explorers imply they were original and dated back to the period when the pit was first built. They could not know at that time that the timbers were just a small part of a much bigger construction.
- The Mystery Deepens
The following chapter in the endless story of the Oak Island treasure took place in 1938. After one year of exploratory drilling, Erwin Hamilton made two discoveries. Down the Money Pit, at a depth of 190 feet, he found rocks and gravel. He thought that they were foreign stuff, buried there by someone on purpose. While he was clearing the shaft 176 feet down, he made another discovery. He came across a layer of natural limestone which brought up some oak splinters. That was a clue that there was wood underneath. The mystery seemed endless, even though every new discovery put some light on the treasure hunt.
- Another tragedy.
165 years after the mystery of Oak Island began, another explorer visited the ominous place. In 1959 Robert Restall arrived on the island with his 18-year-old son and they were both eager to find the treasure. While he was trying to stop the drain system on Smith’s Cove, Restall made an interesting discovery: a rock with the number “1704” engraved on it. Was it just a joke made by previous explorers or a real hint about the location of the treasure? Restall was convinced that the rock dated to the time of the original construction of the Oak Island Money Pit. In order to continue his exploration, Restall moved his whole family to the island and convinced them to live a simple life there as farmers. In August 1965 his dream was crushed: while looking down a shaft he was working on, he got killed by the carbon monoxide emanating from a gasoline engine. Breathing this poison made him unconscious and he drowned in the watery bottom of the pit. The curse of Oak Island stroke again, and this was not the last time unfortunately.
- The Kiss of Death
After Restall fell down unconscious into the pit, his son Robert Jr rushed down to rescue him and fell victim of the same fumes that had killed his father. The same dynamic repeated for two workers who witnessed that tragedy, Karl Graeser and Cyril Hiltz. They went down to the bottom of the pit and found the same death as the Restall’s. The number of victims of the Oak Island mystery went up to six. This did not stop more explorers to come to the island and try and crack the mystery of this well hidden treasure. According to the legend one more person has to perish before the mystery will be solved.
- Heavy Machinery
The next attempt was made by Robert Dunfiled who arrived on the island with bulldozers and cranes. His team dug down the Oak Island Money Pit at a depth of 140 feet, where was the layer of limestone which seemed to cover a large space underneath, according to a previous dig performed in 1955. Another explorer who went by the name of Daniel C. Blakership began his search in 1965 and was able to uncover a hand-wrought nail and a washer at 60 feet. Below the drains at Smith’s Cove he also found a pair of wrought-iron scissors that dated back 300 years and were most probably made in Mexico. During the exploration he also found a heart-shaped stone. With technology becoming more and more present in daily life, even the explorations on Oak Island too made a big improvement.
- Triton Alliance
In the 1970s several explorers joined forces to finally get hold of the Oak Island treasure. Robert Dunfield welcomed Blankenship, as well as David Tobias and Fred Nolan, to form a partnership called the “Triton Alliance”. The digging and drilling restarted and the big team excavated a 235-foot shaft which was called the Borehole 10-x, made up of caisson and bedrock. While they were planning to build a new cofferdam, they discovered the remains of what seemed to be the original cofferdam of the Oak Island Money Pit. They went down the shaft with cameras, below the limestone and what they found out was unbelievable.
- Lights, Camera, Action!
While digging down the Borehole 10-X, the explorers found artificial cavities. The cameras went down to catch some images of what was laying down there. Blakenship and Tobias said that the cameras were able to find treasure chests, wooden cribbing, tools and remains of a human body. However, the video shot by the camera was not clear enough to confirm what the explorers were saying. Among the findings the Triton Alliance made, there were several logs with marks of Roman numeral carvings disposed in equal intervals with wooden pins and nails. The wood was date back 250 years. More discoveries were about to happen thanks to the new technologies and the stubbornness of the explorers.
- Island Trinkets
New discoveries were made on the Western part of the island including wrought-iron nails, metal straps, two wooden structures and a pair of leather shoes. All these items were found nine feet below the ground. The explorers were certain that this findings were all part of a bigger picture and they were all related to each other. They truly started to believe that they were very close to solve the Oak Island mystery.
- Diving Down the Shaft
In order to better explore the pit, divers were sent down the Borehole 10-X but they could not find anything. The current of the water was quite strong and this created poor visibility: it was impossible to see anything. During the exploration the shaft collapsed and the work had to be suspended. The explorers restarted the digging and drilling, but due to the lack of funds they had to give up. The Triton Alliance came to an end even though their exploration became popular throughout the United States, as it was covered by the Reader’s Digest. One of the articles published on this magazine grabbed the attention of the Lagina brothers.
- TV Shows and Law Suits
Not only the papers covered the Oak Island’s mystery. At the end of the 1970’s the explorations of the Triton Alliance inspired the writers of the TV show “In Search Of…”. One episode was reserved to tell the story of this endless treasure hunt and this was broadcast on 18 January 1979. Thanks to this TV show the mystery of Oak Island reached a big audience. In the meantime troubles were not over for the Triton Alliance which sued member Fred Nolan over the ownership rights on seven lots. During the trial his ownership was confirmed but Nolan had to pay damages for interfering with Triton’s tourist business. The explorers appealed but the sentence was confirmed and the amount owned by Nolan was reduced. Explorations on the islands seemed to be over, until Lagina brothers read the article on the magazine and started to plan new ways to solve this mystery.
- Lagina Brothers Reach the Island
A part of the island was up for sale in 2005. The estimated value of it was 7 million dollars. A local group called “The Oak Island Tourism Society” pushed the Government of Canada to buy the land. However, the opportunity was taken by a group of American businessmen working on the drilling industry. The Lagina brothers were still dreaming about the treasure hunt, so at the age of 50 years old they bought 50% stake of Oak Island Tours Inc. They were finally able to arrive on the island and start their exploration which will lead to new incredible discoveries.
- Searching in the 21st Century
Rick and Marty Lagina’s work started where the Triton Alliance’s exploration had finished. They went to the Borehole 10-X to find out that it contained more secrets than it was thought before. Technology had made a big improvement in the meantime and this made the whole exploration more exciting. It was also easier to deal with the water down the pit, which had been the main issue for all the explorers that had been trying to solve the island mystery. However, there was much more than technology that would help the Lagina brothers in their searches.
- The Curse of Oak Island
The adventure of the Lagina brothers on the Oak Island ended up on an American TV show. The History Channel broadcast an episode called “The curse of Oak Island”, which told the story of the brothers exploration. This gave them fame and some funds to carry on their searches and also offered more credibility to the case. Everybody was now 100% sure that something was hidden on that island, waiting to be found. The question now was: will the Lagina brothers be able to accomplish the mission?
- Work Experience
From the very first moment of their adventure on the island, the Lagina brothers knew that they could not make it without the help of expert people. Marty knows how to dig deep wells and has many friend in the industry that can help him out with this task: they have the knowledge and the tools to succeed. In 1982 Marty had established a company called Terra Energy, which soon became the biggest operator of gas wells in Michigan. He sold the business in 1995 and built a new company, the Heritage Winds Energy, a renewable energy provider. So when he set foot on the island he already had the expertise to do well in the treasure hunting.
- The Dreamer
If Marty was the businessman, Rich was the dreamer: he had had this mission in his mind since he was a child. He was a worker for the U.S. Postal Service and pushed to buy into the island’s tour group and brought his brother with him for the ride. Marty followed his brother, even though he had not clue about the whole thing. However, he trusted Rick’s instinct: ““Rick is the believer and he’s not going quit until it’s resolved.”
- Their First Find
When the digging started the explorers made a muddy swamp with sonar technology and found a 17th century cooper coin with other man-made objects. The coin had been made in Spain, which was a sign that someone had already visited the island even before the search for the Oak Island Money Pit started. During their search on the island, the Lagina brothers were approached by many people: one of them claimed that in the place treasures from King Solomon’s Temple might be buried. Another person came to the them explaining that he was sure that the mystery of that treasure was related to Francis Bacon. Many secrets and theories started to come up and it was hard for the Lagina brothers to decided which one to believe.
- Lagina Brother Loot
More experts were summoned on the island in order to interpret some sonar reading. This happened in the third season of “The curse of Oak Island”. The Lagina Brothers also needed the help of some technicians to drain the shaft that Daniel Blakership dug next to the Oak Island Money Pit, which was called the Borehole 10.X. This part of the adventure brought new discoveries. Small bones had already been found during season 1, but now they discovered a stone with Portuguese writings, information that Aztecs might have visited the island, a Roman sword and several items which made them imagine other theories about the origins of the treasure. Some relatives of the previous explorers of the island brought the Lagina brothers a gold cross, that was believed to come from the treasure.
- More Clues
At the beginning of season 4 a new map was found written in French and dating back to 1347. This map was showing the location of a hatch, valve and anchor, which made the explorers wonder whether the treasure hidden in the island had been transported from Africa. The picture got more and more complicated after new items were discovered which did not seem to connect with previous theories: scrap metal, several hex nuts, a washer and a button. Even though the mystery was getting deeper and deeper, the Lagina Brothers were not willing to give up at all.
- “Life’s a Treasure Hunt”
Rick Lagina explained what made him keep going in his search for the hidden treasure: “There’s a story to be written up here – he said- 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. I still believe”. It seemed like the mission was much more than a simple search of gold, it started to begin the meaning of the whole life. “To me, life’s a treasure hunt- Rick Lagina explained – We’re all on one in our own different way, and we happen to be on a real one right now. But really, life is about reaching your goals and that’s what we always try and do”.
- The Importance of Listening
What made the Lagina Brothers more successful in the search of the hidden treasure was the ability to listen. This is the opinion of historian and tour guide Charles Barkhouse, who claimed: “If anyone is going to solve this centuries-old mystery, it’s going to be the Laginas. While they have the same drive, dedication and, perhaps, stubbornness as their treasure-hunting predecessors, they also have something that other searchers didn’t have: a willingness to listen”. The Lagina Brothers also had the capacity of involve experts and technicians, when it was necessary. “The Laginas – explained Barkhouse- regularly bring people to the island – engineering professionals, technology experts, historians – to help them” he stated.
- A Powerful Obsession
Charles Barkhouse did believe that there was a special curse on the Oak Island, which truly had a strong hold on people. With regards to this curse he claimed: “Putting one’s life at risk to find something that may or may not be buried is extreme. The mystery … is that powerful”. The mystery has enchained many people and has become an obsession. David Blakenship moved to the Oak Island 50 years ago to help out with the search and he still lives there. When asked what is about the island that grabs people’s attention, Barkhouse replies: “No one knows what’s buried here, who buried it or even where it’s buried. That’s what excites people, the possibilities.”
- A Wild Goose Chase
It is the excitement and thrill that has been keeping the Lagina Brothers on the island and it is sure that they will not give up until the end of their days. Charles Barkhouse truly believes so. “It’s the simple belief that there’s something here” he said. For the Lagina Brothers it is more than a belief, it is almost a certainty. They are still on the island because they want to be the ones who crack the mystery. It is more an obsession than a goal. We can only wait and see what the next chapter will be in this endless adventure of the Oak Island. Hopefully, the prophecy was wrong and no more lives will be taken to solve the mystery.