Secret Puzzle That Leads To $43 Million Dollar Treasure – Can You Solve It?


On a winter’s day in January of 1820, three
fine gentlemen, one of whom was named Thomas Jefferson Beale, sought shelter from the cold
at the popular Washington Hotel in Lynchburg, Virginia. Though his traveling companions left around
a week later, Thomas stayed at the hotel for the rest of the winter, becoming casual friends
with the innkeeper Robert Moriss and hopefully getting a discount on the presidential suite
for having the name Thomas Jefferson. Two year later in January 1822, Thomas returned
to the hotel for the winter and again stayed several weeks. This time before he left to go west, he asked
Robert to keep a locked iron box of important papers for him. Later that spring, Robert received a letter
from Thomas stating that the box contained important papers regarding a fortune belonging
to him and some friends. Robert wasn’t to open the box unless Thomas
or his friends didn’t return to retrieve the box within 10 years. If no one came to retrieve the box, in June
of 1832 Robert would be sent a letter which would contain a cipher key for the documents
in the box. Thomas did not return to the hotel; Robert
never saw him again. The letter with the decoding key never arrived. Robert forgot about the box for 23 years until
1845. When he finally opened it, it contained a
letter for him, some old receipts and three coded documents consisting of a series of
numbers. The letter explained that in 1817 Thomas had
been the leader of an expedition of 30 gentlemen to the Southwest to hunt buffalo and grizzly
bears. Near what is now the Colorado/New Mexico border
they stumbled upon gold and silver deposits. Agreeing to keep it a secret, the expedition
spent close to two years quietly mining the precious metals. For safekeeping, they transported their treasure
to Virginia by wagon. Two shipments of riches were then buried in
a vault near Buford’s tavern, in the county of Bedford, between 1819 and 1821. The three coded papers, which were each encrypted
using a different text explained where the treasure was, what the treasure was, and the
names of the explorers and their relatives who would be entitled to shares of the treasure. Thomas was tasked with finding a worthy person
to entrust the papers with incase of emergency, which is how he came to ask Robert to look
after the box. Unfortunately, Robert couldn’t make heads
or tails of the encrypted documents. For the next 17 years, Robert attempted to
decipher them to no avail. When he was dying he gave the mysterious documents
and box to an unnamed friend. The friend spent 20 years also attempting
to decode the mysterious papers. Using the US Declaration of Independence as
a modified cipher key he was able to successfully decipher the second paper which gave a description
of the buried treasure. The cipher works in this fashion: Each number
corresponds to a word in the Declaration of Independence. For example, the first number in the sequence
is 115 – the 115th word of the Declaration is ‘instituted’, which begins with the
letter ‘I’. So the first number, 115, represents the letter
I and so on. Excitingly, the second document detailed a
plethora of riches, to quote it…“The first deposit consisted of ten hundred and fourteen
pounds of gold, and thirty-eight hundred and twelve pounds of silver, deposited Nov. eighteen
nineteen. The second was made Dec. eighteen twenty-one,
and consisted of nineteen hundred and seven pounds of gold, and twelve hundred and eighty-eight
of silver; also jewels, obtained in St. Louis in exchange for silver to save transportation,
and valued at thirteen thousand dollars.” The document also claimed that the treasure
was buried in a vault 6 feet below ground within 4 miles of Buford’s tavern. From the description, the treasure weighs
close to 3 tons and in today’s money is worth upwards of $43 million. In 1885, the unnamed friend handed off all
the documents off to another friend, James B. Ward, who published a pamphlet called “The
Beale Papers.” The pamphlet contained the story of the box,
Thomas’ letters, the decoded second document and the two yet to be deciphered documents. The pamphlet was sold for $.50 or just under
$14 in today’s money. The pamphlet created a small frenzy and would
have sold well, but there was a supply issue. The majority of copies of the Beale Papers
pamphlet burned in a warehouse fire. There was little money for reprinting and
James died a pauper. The fact that originals of the pamphlet were
hard to get and it was easier to come by second generation and handmade copies of the coded
documents added to the allure of the legend. Over the years, people have spent countless
hours using a wide variety of significant texts to try to break the two remaining encoded
documents, from the Bible to the Magna Carta to Shakespearean plays and everything in between. Others have focused on delving into the background
of those mentioned in the pamphlet, hoping that obscure details of their lives will provide
some heretofore unknown clue. Fortune hunters from near and far have gone
digging both legally and illegally around Bedford. Many people have been arrested for trespassing,
fined, sacrificed their lives and gone broke trying to find the Beale treasure. Famously, in 1898 the Hart brothers Clayton
and George hired a medium to help them find the treasure. The medium claimed to see Thomas and the treasure
during a trance. However when put to the test, the vision was
phony. The Harts spent hours digging the spot pointed
out to them by the medium, but found nothing. They even came back a few days later with
dynamite, but still found nothing. Interestingly, this failure actually didn’t
make the Hart brothers give up their search for the riches, they persevered for well over
ten years. Finally Clayton gave up hunting for the treasure
in 1912. However, it wasn’t until 1952 that George
abandoned hope. Cryptology pioneers Herbert O’ Yardley,
who founded the US Cipher Bureau at the end of World War I and Colonel William Friedman,
a prominent figure in American code breaking during the first half of the 20th century,
were fascinated by the Beale Papers. Colonel William actually incorporated the
ciphers into the training program while head of the U.S. Army’s Signals Intelligence Service. In 1983, Marilyn Parsons was caught using
a backhoe to dig up the cemetery beside Mountain View Baptist Church in Montvale. She claimed to have decoded the Beale Papers
and she said she thought the grave markers were ‘an illusion to mark where the gold was.’ She ended up spending two months in jail and
paying a $500 fine for trespassing. Luckily for her, a judge dismissed the grave-tampering
charge. In the late 1980’s, a large dig at the top
of Porter’s Mountain was undertaken with the land owner’s permission for a 50/50 split
on any treasure found. Nothing Beale related was discovered, but
the treasure hunters found Civil War artifacts. The value of these artifacts paid for their
time and equipment rental, so the expedition broke even. Today there are several online forums dedicated
to solving the encrypted papers. Historians and cryptographers have written
books on the subject. In recent years, several TV documentaries
and reality shows have discussed theories and hunted for the treasure. As of yet, no one is known to have succeeded
in deciphering documents one and three or finding the treasure. Of course there a lot of dissenters who consider
the whole thing to be a big hoax. Many people were very interested in the pamphlet
and it was just a poor trick of fate that the majority of the pamphlets were destroyed,
otherwise James likely would have sold them all and made a fortune. It’s pretty convenient that the one decoded
document details the huge, amazing treasure. Many people have pointed out holes and inconsistencies
in Thomas’ story. Would it be possible for a large group of
men to mine precious metals for months on end, traveling to the nearest town for supplies,
yet no one seemed to catch wind of the fact that they had found gold? Would it be possible into town and purchase
50 pounds of flour and 30 pickaxes without anyone being curious? Then the expedition somehow twice managed
to transport several wagon loads of treasure across the central US without anyone noticing? Granted there were less people then, but there
were also Native Americans, trappers, hunters, explorers, and other miners roaming the territory. Even when the expedition reached quote unquote
more civilized areas, it’s unlikely that a large group could ride into various towns
for the night with several covered wagons and no one discover their secret. Why haul the treasure all the way to central
Virginia? There had to be safer and easier to travel
hiding places in Kansas, Missouri, etc. Linguists and investigators have analyzed
the writing style of the pamphlet and Thomas’ letters. Many claim that James and Thomas Beale were
the same person because of the similar writing styles. It’s also been noticed that some of the
words used in Thomas’ letters are anachronistic. For example Thomas’ letter written in 1822
mentions ‘stampeding’ buffalo. ‘Stampede’ is a Spanish word and didn’t
come into widespread use by English speakers until the 1840’s. Delving into historical records, a Robert
Moriss did indeed run the Washington Hotel, but he didn’t start that job until 1823. The 1820 US census records two Thomas Beales,
one in Louisiana and a Thomas K. Beale in Virginia. However, records are spotty and the population
schedules are missing for three states and one territory. Also, before 1850, the US census recorded
the names of only the heads of households; so if Thomas was living in someone else’s
household, he may not have been counted. Several times since the late 1960’s supercomputers
have been used to analyze the ciphers. Analysis has found that the ciphers were poorly
encoded and the two undeciphered documents did not show the patterns expected of randomly
chosen numbers, therefore it probably contains an intelligible text. Cryptographers agree with the assessment saying
that the documents have statistical characteristics which suggest that they are not actually encryptions
of English plain text so either another language is encoded or the text is gibberish. Furthermore, the third cipher appears to be
too short to list the names of thirty individuals and their next of kin. One interesting theory is that popular mystery
and horror writer Edgar Allan Poe wrote the Beale Papers. He was known to have an interest in cryptography
and also used a cryptogram as a plot device in one of his stories. However Poe died in 1849, 36 years before
the Beale Papers were published. Linguistic study has determined that Poe’s
prose is very grammatically different from the author’s of the Beale Papers. Other theories abound: Though not much else
is known about him, records show that James was a Master Mason–some people believe the
pamphlet is a fictional Freemason allegory written by him. Other fortune hunters claimed to have cracked
the code, but the treasure is buried on well guarded private property and they cannot get
permission to dig. There are some who believe that the treasure
was actually found by fortune hunters a long time ago, possibly in the late 1880’s, not
long after the pamphlet was published. Or in the 20th century the US government or
a cabal of wealthy men secretly cracked the code, found the treasure and removed it. It’s also possible that Thomas may have
became paranoid, circumvented Robert and moved the treasure himself. However, many people still believe that an
astounding fortune in gold and jewels awaits them if they could just figure out the code. What do you think? Is there really an amazing treasure or was
the Beale papers an elaborate hoax? Tell us your theories in the comments! Then go watch “How Did A Whole Village Disappear? The Lost Colony of Roanoke Mystery”! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t
forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!

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