Cluechaser: The Best Interactive Puzzle Contest on the Web

Ultimate Puzzle #2 – Oak Island Mystery

Oak Island mapDo you enjoy hearing the legends of old that tell tales about fearsome pirates and their seafaring adventures? Do the stories of buried treasure make your heart beat faster? Ever wish you could find such a treasure? That one day you stumble upon an old wooden chest hidden deep within some dark cave filled with gold and jewels? Are you saddened by the thought that anything of value left by pirates has already been found? What if I told you that may not be true? What if I told you that there might be at least one more cache of loot waiting to be discovered? Would you want to know about it? I thought so. Well sit right back and let me tell you a tale. A fascinating tale of mystery, frustration, greed, danger, and yes, even death.
Tell me, have you ever heard of Oak Island?

The Legend

Oak Island
The story goes something like this. Oak Island is located off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada. One day in 1795 a teenager named Daniel McGinnis made his way to the island to explore it. He happened upon an oak tree (one of many on the island) which caught his eye because hanging from one outstretched limb was an old pulley. The type used to raise and lower heavy items. It was situated directly over a large circular depression in the ground. Realizing what this might be he returned the next day with two friends, Anthony Vaughan and John Smith. They began digging with picks and shovels. It was clear by the marks on the side of the hole that it had been dug my men and then refilled. . At the 2 foot mark they hit a layer of flagstones. They removed them and continued digging. At the 10 foot level they hit wood. Visions of pirate treasure danced in their heads. There were many stories circulating during that time of treasure belonging to the infamous pirate Captain Kidd being buried on some island. The wood turned out to be oak logs. Removing the logs revealed a two foot gap and then more dirt. As they continued digging they found another layer of logs at 20 feet and again at 30 feet. At this point they realized they needed more help and more equipment so they left the island with the idea of returning to finish what they started.
It would be 9 years before they returned. This time they were accompanied by Simeon Lynds, a businessman. He provided the labor force and financial backing to continue the dig. They found the site as they had left it. They began digging. At 40 feet they found a layer of charcoal. At 50 feet they found a layer of putty. At 60 feet, a layer of coconut fiber. At the 90 foot mark they discovered a stone tablet inscribed with symbols. These symbols were later translated to say “40 feet below, two million pounds lie buried.”
Inscribed Stone

A few feet below the tablet the tunnel began to flood. Unable to bail the water from the tunnel faster than it filled the group gave up.
In 1849 the Truro company formed and dug the tunnel back down to 86 feet where it again flooded. At that point they sank a drill into the pit. The”pod auger” passed through a spruce platform at 98 feet, a 12-inch head space, 4 inches of oak, 22 inches of what was described as “metal in pieces”, 8 inches of oak, another 22 inches of metal, 4 inches of oak, another spruce layer, and finally into clay for 7 feet without striking anything else. It was believed that the auger passed through two 4 inch thick chests stacked on top of each other and filled with gold metal of some kind. Some of the stories mention a foreman named John Pitblado, who carefully examined an object that was caught up in the bit and then put it in his pocket. He soon disappeared and never returned to the island but apparently tried to purchase it, without success. No one knows what he had found.
Because the water in the pit couldn’t be removed fast enough an attempt was made to dig a second hole parallel the first and then tunnel over. It failed when that hole also filled with water.
Pit Diagram

Later they would discover a drain system had been dug into the island and that the island itself contained an artificial beach. The drain consisted of 5 channels spread out like fingers and dug into the clay under the beach. They were lined with rocks, grass and coconut fiber. This in effect created a filtering system that kept the drains clear of debris all through the years. The 5 channels eventually converged together and provided the water that filled the pit 500 feet away at a depth of 95 to 100 feet. A clever booby trap. All attempts to block the channels failed.

There are many more details but in the interest of time I will just cover the highlights. Over the next 150+ years many more attempts were made by several companies to dig down to the treasure. So far all have failed. The treasure remains at the bottom of the aptly named Money Pit waiting to be discovered.

For more details on the history of the Oak Island you can check out the website


There are many theories as to what lies at the bottom of the pit and there are numerous websites dedicated to proving each theory. Some of the more popular ones are:
Captain Kidd’s treasure – By far the most popular theory but as more information is gathered, this is quickly becoming less likely.

Combined booty of several pirates – An interesting theory presented by a fellow named Samuel Goodman. He believes there are seven maps that when put together reveal the exact location of the treasure. He says he’s linked the five maps he knows of together but does not have the final two.

The lost treasure of the Knights Templar – recent findings on the island point to symbols and such used by Freemasons including a giant cross.

Hidden documents belonging to Francis Bacon – You may already be familiar with the idea that William Shakespeare didn’t have the education and ability to write the works that are attributed to him. Some suggest that they were actually written by Bacon and the proof for this lies at the bottom of the Money Pit.

Other theories that have less information to support them include
Inca Treasure
French crown jewels

As the dig continues with no treasure found and no end in sight many are beginning to think that nothing lies at the bottom of the pit. The website
is probably the most detailed of the sites I found that insists it is all a clever hoax. The strongest argument for this is the lack of historical records prior to 1860 that can support the details of the story. It also explains how the Oak Island treasure story contains elements that are shared by many made up tales of the time (discovered by kids, treasure “just out of reach”, etc).

What do I think?

I remember when I was 6 or 7 years old I watched a documentary on TV that suggested Noah’s Ark had been found on Mount Ararat.
Noah's Ark
They mentioned that pieces of petrified wood of the same kind the Bible says the ark was made of had been found. In addition to that a jet fighter pilot passing over the mountain had taken pictures of the ark. Then mysteriously the pictures disappeared. To make matters worse the mountain was smack dab in the middle of two hostile countries and if anyone climbed the mountain to investigate it would spark a war. I recall being excited about this and frustrated that there was no concrete proof of the ark’s existence. I distinctly remember that I was munching on fig Newton cookies while watching this program.

Fig Newtons

I thought about that documentary from time to time over the years and wondered if any progress had ever been made. Then about a decade later I mentioned the program to a friend of mine during a conversation we were having. The very next day I’m flipping channels and what do I see? The same documentary playing again. I couldn’t believe it! So what did I do? I went to the cupboard, grabbed the fig Newtons’, plopped down in a chair and watched it again. Noah’s Ark and fig Newtons. Nostalgia swept over me. To this day I can’t think of one without thinking of the other.

After several minutes I realized that the program was exactly the same as it was the first time I saw it. All this time had passed and nothing had changed. No progress had been made; no new revelations had been discovered. It was then that I realized that it was likely a hoax.

That’s kind of how I feel about the Oak Island mystery. When I first heard about it I was excited and captivated by the fact that there could be hidden treasure at the bottom of the pit. As time goes on and I read more about it, the similarities to the Noah’s Ark documentary begin to show. The missing stone tablet. The mysterious item plucked from the auger bit and pocketed, never to be seen again. The lack of historical records prior to 1860. Items discovered that may belong to the original pit creators or perhaps just things left behind during the intervening years. Sure I want there to be something there. No one likes to have the wool pulled over their eyes. However, in the case of the Oak Island Money Pit only time, and a whole lot more money, will tell.

  • Reminds me of my impressions of the Beale ciphers. I also saw part of that documentary and remember wondering how wood was supposed to last thousands of years and why Noah wouldn’t have torn it apart to build houses for his family.

  • Glad you enjoyed my site about the OI story. It is indeed a hoax as the evidence suggests. Another researcher in Canada is slowly turning up new primary material (original news reports, land transfers, etc.) showing that the original story is extremely suspicious. And yet investors continue throwing good money after bad.

    Stay sceptical! — Richard Joltes

  • this is very mind boggleing but at the smane time very inriching.of all the stories and mysteries that have ever puzzled me this would be most.

  • I saw on you tube recently that you can now visit that Noah’s Arc location, and they have done some kinda ground imaging which shows the frame of the ship and it Matches the dimensions of Noahs Arc. There is more more info, but just search for the video, you’ll see.

    • I’ve seen that documentary, Ruben. I remain skeptical. But thanks for the info.

  • Strange thing. The markings on the tablet resemble many Phoenician and ancient Sumarian markings. (check out their alphabets in Wikipedia) The Phoenicians were known to be extraordinary seafarers. Some have suggested that they found the Americas before the Vikings. I don’t know if that’s true but wouldn’t it be wild if the oak island tablet was really that ancient?

  • The markings do somewhat resemble ancient Phoenician alphabets, but they aren’t close enough. For ex. in Phoenician alphabet there were no dots, as we see multiple times on the stone inscriptions for the island, and I have not found a Phoenician text using an inverted triangle symbol. Many of the runic alphabets overlap with regular triangles (delta) or a circle with a dot in the middle, and many of the runic alphabets could have had multiple variations depending on geography. The closest I’ve found is an African alphabet which would have been prevalent on the Canary Islands. But it could also just be a made up code by an individual, and the original translation is correct (although I don’t necessarily believe the triangle with 2 lines through it crossed out, but perhaps a character). And the whole thing could just be a hoax, but that’s not really as fun 🙂

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.