Five hidden treasures that remain undiscovered
Tattered maps that guide you to pirate gold and puzzles that reveal undiscovered hoards aren’t only the stuff of countless novels, films and myths. In fact, there are plenty of real treasures hiding around the globe, waiting to be found. You just have to know where to look.
So grab your hat, compass and trusty bullwhip – it’s time to start searching.
- The treasure of Forrest Fenn
- The Golden Owl
- The Beale ciphers
- The sunken treasure of the Silver Fleet
- The Oak Island Money Pit
The treasure of Forrest Fenn
Throughout his life, American art dealer and author Forrest Fenn has been searching for ancient and valuable artefacts. When, in 1988, he received news that he was suffering from terminal kidney cancer and had only a year to live, he decided to hide some of his riches, including gold coins, jade carvings and an emerald ring. Fortunately, Fenn’s cancer went into remission and stayed that way, meaning the treasure trove remained unhidden for over 20 years.
In 2010, the now 80-year-old Fenn finally began to bury the booty, valued at around £1.9m, at an undisclosed location in the US. Instead of a map, Fenn teased amateur explorers with a poem containing nine cryptic clues alluding to the treasure’s resting place. Four of them have been solved and searches are getting warmer, but no one has yet struck gold.
The Golden Owl
To accompany his novel, On the Trail of the Golden Owl, author Régis Hauser – under the pseudonym Max Valentin – buried a bronze owl statuette somewhere in France. The book contains eleven riddles that, when all are cracked, reveal where the statuette lies. Although many treasure hunters think they have come close, to date it remains undiscovered.
The ongoing quest for the owl is the longest in the history of the armchair treasure hunt literary genre. Whoever finds the statuette can exchange it for another, which is made of gold, silver and diamonds and is worth around £125,000. While Hauser died in 2009, his solicitor faithfully keeps the solution to the puzzle under lock and key.
The Beale ciphers
Legend has it that sometime in the 1820s, a man named Thomas J. Beale and 30 fellow adventurers discovered gold, silver and jewels worth just over £50m at a mine near Santa Fe, New Mexico, and then buried it at a secret location in Bedford County, Virginia, in the US. In three encrypted messages, or ciphers, Beale recorded the location of the treasure, its contents, and the names of the men and their descendants, locked them in a box that he passed to a friend, and then disappeared, never to be seen again.
So far only the second cipher detailing the contents of the treasure has been solved, using the American Declaration of Independence as the key. Although it is widely assumed that the story is a hoax, until the other two ciphers are decoded and the supposed location discovered, nobody will know for sure.
The sunken treasure of the Silver Fleet
On their way from Cuba to America in 1715, eleven ships from the Spanish Silver Fleet sank during a hurricane off the coast of Florida. The ships are said to have been transporting coins and precious stones worth over £800m. While modern fortune hunters have already discovered a small portion of the riches – coins worth several million pounds – the majority of the haul is still lost somewhere on the ocean floor.
The Oak Island Money Pit
A mystery that remains unsolved to this day is the so-called ‘Money Pit’ of Oak Island. On the island, off the east coast of Canada, a young woodcutter is said to have discovered a strange circular depression in 1795. As he dug there, he exposed various layers, including slate slabs and systematically laid logs. Over the centuries, many people and companies have been drawn to the island to dig deeper and deeper, encountering unusual materials, strange signs and secret dams that pumped water into the shaft.
It is still not clear whether the shaft, which provided inspiration for best-selling novel Riptide, amongst other works of fiction, was created by human hands or by nature - or whether there is actually any treasure in it.
The Money Pit is currently the subject of History Channel reality show The Curse of Oak Island that, like all who’ve come before, has failed to find anything of any real monetary value.