For the past century, the quest to break these codes has attracted the military, computer scientists, and conspiracy theorists. All have failed. Which raises the question: Are the ciphers and the treasure even real?
The medium gazed into the crystal ball and looked deeply into the past. The year wasand the room in which he sat was dimly lit. But inside the mysterious orb, the year wasand the scene was about to become blindingly bright. The medium claimed he could see into the upper bedroom of Paschal Buford's tavern, an old watering hole below the Blue Ridge Mountains near modern Montvale, Virginia. The room was dark. Shades blanketed the windows and a wad of paper was plugged into the door's keyhole.
Inside, a lone frontiersman named Thomas J. Beale eyed a pair of saddlebags resting on the bed. Inside the crystal ball, Beale stared at the gems, smiled, and gingerly tucked the saddlebags under a pillow. The light receded. Back inClayton Hart watched the medium with jittery anticipation.
The two were trying to gather potentially life-changing information: Seventy-nine years earlier, Thomas Beale had reportedly buried millions of dollars of riches in the foothills near Montvale. Five covered wagons followed him, some hauling iron pots of gold and silver.
After resting at Buford's, Beale and his men buried that gold, silver, and jewels deep in the Virginia woods, approximately four miles from the tavern. Months later, under the cover of nightfall, Clayton and George steered a buggy full of shovels, ropes, and lanterns into Montvale.
ing them—reluctantly—was their trusty medium.
Clayton hypnotized the mystic, who led the brothers up Goose Creek, over a fence, and across a burbling stream to a slumped depression in the earth. Guided by lanterns and moonbeams, the Hart brothers dug. Hours passed. The hole deepened and the sky reddened.
As daybreak loomed, tendrils of morning fog began to roll between the ridges. Clayton Hart thrust his pick into the red, iron-rich dirt and heard a hollow thud. The brothers exchanged glances. Clayton dug frantically.
When a large rock emerged, the brothers excitedly flipped it over. Nothing was below it.
The medium who had refused to help all night, opting instead to lounge on a bed of dead leaves was re-hypnotized and told to explain himself. You got over too far!
One week later, Clayton returned to that same spot with dynamite. The sky rained dirt, pebbles, and the splintered remains of that old oak tree—but no gold. These events, described in a pamphlet written by George in [ PDF ], convinced the Hart brothers that mesmerism was not the path to fortune.
If they wanted to discover Thomas J. Beale buried nearly years ago. He lugged the riches home to Virginia and buried them, reportedly concealing the details—the location, contents, and heirs of the treasure—in three separate ciphers.
So far, only one of those codes, Cipher No. The codes are basic substitution ciphers.
Take the cipher [87 ]. As long as a key is available, a substitution cipher is a safe, simple way to encrypt a message. The trouble with Thomas J. For the past two centuries, attempts to solve the Beale codes have been a guessing game.
Until that happens, the other two ciphers will remain an unintelligible jumble of s. But unlike most riddles, solving them could make you a millionaire. They come with metal detectors and magnetometers, Geiger counters and dowsing rods, backhoes and pickaxes, psychic mediums on speed dial and sticks of dynamite stuffed into their back pockets. For these treasure hunters, a survey of the past 70 years of newspaper headlines shows a bleak pattern:. Beale treasure hunters are overwhelmingly male, though locals still chatter about one Pennsylvania woman, Marilyn Parsons, who cashed a disability check in and rented a backhoe to test her theory that the treasure was buried in an unmarked plot of a church graveyard.
When she unearthed a coffin handle and human bones, she was arrested and advised to never step foot in Virginia again. Like the Hart brothers, many treasure hunters trespass under starlight. InThe Washington Post reported that local landowners regularly fired warning shots at strangers tip-toeing on their property.
They were caught and forced to re-fill the pits. Even those considerate enough to ask for permission are treated with hesitation, says Danny Johnson, a local farmer and winery owner.
Need nsa fun 19th wytheville area they go broke and leave! Then the landowner has to go and put their land back. The guy who cracked the second Beale cipher is among them. You could get possessed by it. Like drugs or gambling, it can lead a vulnerable person to stake everything on a dream. Families have crumbled, bank s have evaporated, and jobs have disappeared.
In the early '80s, one treasure hunter bankrupted himself after blasting rocks for six months. He abandoned town still owing the local motel money. An editor at the American Cryptograph Association spent so much time focused on the ciphers that he was fired. If I would have devoted all the hours spent pursuing this treasure legend to the study of medicine, I would easily have become an accomplished neurosurgeon. Beale himself—might all be a big, fat hoax. In AprilThomas J. Beale and a party of about 30 men reportedly left Virginia and moseyed west with the goal of hunting buffalo, grizzlies, and other critters frolicking in the wild frontier.
There, in a ravine, they discovered gold and silver. Over the following year, they mined thousands of pounds of precious metal. The bonanza kept Beale looking over his shoulder. A mule train plodded east to St. Louis, where Beale exchanged some ore for jewels. When he arrived in Virginia, he buried the haul not in a cave as intended, but in a grave-sized plot about four miles from Buford's tavern.
Beale would repeat that trip once more before returning west for good in As need nsa fun 19th wytheville area story goes, before leaving, Beale handed Morriss a iron lockbox and advised him to open the box if he failed to return. But Beale never sent a key. And after 10 years, he failed to return. Morriss would spend nearly two decades attempting to unravel the codes.
Ina year before his death, he handed the materials to an anonymous acquaintance who lucked onto the Declaration of Independence as a key. Inthat unknown man enlisted the help of James B. Ward to publish a pamphlet telling Beale's story. To start, the story of Beale's trip west overflows with damning anachronisms.
Furthermore, there are no records documenting a party of Beale's size—one that almost certainly would have been arrested for trespassing on foreign soil—going west. There are also problems with the ciphers.