Have you heard stories of mysterious islands and buried treasures? Do you think they’re for real? If you are an avid fan of the hit fantasy series, Pirates of the Caribbean, you must be dreaming of pretty tough adventures just to score a trove and get filthy rich. In the real world, myths, tales and legends are passed down through generations, making them believe that a hidden treasure chest still exists.
In Nova Scotia, Canada lies the one of the most highly-sought after secrets of all time: Oak Island and its mythical treasure. Since the 19th century, many attempts have been made by explorers from different parts of the globe to locate the cryptic artifacts and treasure.
Despite the number of lives sacrificed on the island while braving the tumultuous journey of unearthing its bounty, many skilled and talented explorers are still inspired to risk it.
The Lagina brothers have never been bothered by the horrific rumors. In fact, their interest in the island’s hidden treasure just keeps getting deeper. Find out what keeps them obsessed with cracking this 220-year old mystery. Just how close are the Lagina brothers to cracking the case? Read on to discover the mystery for yourself.
Obsession at a Young Age
Little did an 11-year-old Rick Lagina realize that by merely flicking through a copy of Reader’s Digest in 1965, his life would completely change. The article that struck him was about the legend of a treasure being buried on an island in the wilds of Canada. He and his brother Marty got even more fascinated when their father showed them an article about Oak Island in The Wall Street Journal.
Between the two brothers, Rick was more captivated to further investigate the buried treasure, especially when he learned that many people had tried their luck and yet failed to find it. He may have been young at the time, but he knew he had a big mission calling his name.
Rick Lagina’s fascination with the Oak Island treasure is not a surprise, as the young boy was already a natural explorer. He had already engaged in a treasure hunt back in 1964, in his hometown of Kingsford.
In this exploration, he was thrilled to have seen a huge granite rock. As a young boy, his curiosity led him to check what was underneath, so he sought the assistance of his brother, Marty, and a crew of other kids their age in their neighborhood to move the rock. To his dismay, not a trace of any valuable item was found underneath the big rock except for a pile of dirt, but Rick knew there was something more out there in the world, just waiting for him to discover.
A Strange Revelation
In 1796, another young boy discovered a strange circular depression on the ground of Oak Island. Eight years later, the Onslow Company launched a team to search the area.
After locating the strange markings, the explorers dug deep until they hit something solid. They found a buried stone tablet with an odd inscription. Experts set to work, trying to decipher and understand the transcription, but it wasn’t until 1886 that it was finally translated. Read on to discover the shocking message engraved on the stone, and who was able to interpret its nerve-wracking message.
The Tablet’s Curse
After almost a century, the tablet’s transcription was finally understood thanks to a Halifax professor. It read, “forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried.” No one had a clue what “pounds” meant on the inscription. They couldn’t identify whether it was a treasure chest worth two million pounds or a decoy.
Adding more mystery to the island’s hidden treasure is the famous legend that said seven people must die before the Oak Island treasure is revealed. Six people have died already. Is this an indication that the island waits for one more life to be sacrificed before the treasure is discovered?
The Treasure's Origins
The Oak Island mystery is 220 years old and no one has cracked the case yet, so plenty of theories have surfaced. Some people, oddly, traced the origin of the treasure back to William Shakespeare. Many of those who doubt the bard was real, believe his literary works were actually written by Francis Bacon. So some treasure hunters hypothesized that Bacon may have built a pit to bury Shakespeare’s manuscripts and his earnings.
Another theory suggests that the hidden treasure of Oak Island belongs to Marie Antoinette, who was speculated to have sent her maid to Nova Scotia to hide her wealth on the island, with the help of the French Navy.
Of Sailors and Pirates
The list of theories goes on and on and some entries even involve the participation of pirates and sailors. Captain Kidd was theorized to have buried some of his treasure on Oak Island. Meanwhile, others believe that Captain Blackbeard admitted to stashing something there when he claimed to have hidden it “where none but Satan and myself can find it.”
There was also a theory that suggested Spanish sailors had hidden their treasure in a secret location of the island. While these ideas may be intriguing, there is no proof to support any of them. However, the theory we’re about to reveal to you is by far the most engaging. Are you ready? Check this out.
A Sacred Treasure
One of the most intriguing theories about the Oak Island treasure relates to the alleged Masonic markings that can be discovered all throughout the island. Pertaining to the “Secret Vault” in York Rite Freemasonry, this story could contain the lead needed to uncover the island’s buried treasure. Correlated with the Francis Bacon theory, the story goes that, as Bacon was leading a Rosicrucian project on Oak Island, he hid a number of religious artifacts there.
Researchers, Daniel Ronnstam and Petter Amundsen, believed that the said artifacts could be hidden among Shakespeare’s manuscripts. So, Bacon and Shakespeare’s are now correlated. Hmm.
Blast From the Past
Going back to 1975, when the first intriguing discovery happened, a young boy named Daniel McGinnis was wandering around Oak Island, when he saw a strange circular depression in the earth. Curious as to what he saw, he moved closer and saw a tree with branches cut away.
He thought that the branches were intentionally removed so that the tree could serve a purpose: to act as a pulley. When he remembered all the pirate and treasure chest stories he’d heard over the years, the boy talked to his friends and asked for their help to investigate further.
Determined to know more details, Daniel McGinnis sought the help of his friends, John Smith and Anthony Vaughn, to uncover whatever might be hidden under the tree. With all their might and interest, the young boys started digging, and after reaching two feet down, they hit flagstone.
The youngsters decide to remove the flagstone and keep digging, making it about another 30 feet down, finding layers over layers of oak logs. Eventually, they realized they couldn’t go any further and thought to themselves that they’d have to wait years before they’d have the ability to pursue their mission. However, this was just the start of their great adventure...
Almost a decade later, the Onslow Company arrived and dug in the same part as the three boys had in the past. With their equipment, they were able to delve down further, and after reaching 60 feet, they saw more oak logs, this time with coconut fiber and charcoal in thick layers. Interested to find out what lay beneath, the team kept digging until they came across the stone tablet.
Thrilled with the discovery and imagining the rich fruits of their labor were about to be uncovered, they pulled out another layer of oak logs. All of a sudden, water started flooding into the pit. Could this be another decoy? The only way they could stop the flooding was to make a tunnel to let the water out.
A 45-Year Delay
Nothing they tried worked and the non-stop pouring of water made their mission impossible to carry out. The Onslow company realized that they could not push their search any further. The pit was designed with a 500-foot waterway that connects to Smith’s Cove. This means water can get in freely from the sea, and any time there’s an attempt to empty it, it quickly fills up again from the endless oceanic supply.
This conundrum had a massive impact on the discovery of the mysterious treasure. Figuring a way around it caused a 45-year delay in the exploration. However, even such seemingly insurmountable obstacles cannot deter explorers. In 1847, a new group tried their luck. The question is, will they succeed?
A New Group of Explorers
Unfazed by the challenges of the Oak Island treasure, a new team of explorers called The Truro Company, set foot on the island. They found an efficient way to drill samples of the pit without the water being an issue.
Then their lucky day came: as they were drilling, they hit the jackpot. Tada! They successfully drilled through two chests filled with coins. They thought this was the first sign of the massive hidden treasure that was promised by the stone. There was a claim that three gold links from a chain were also discovered, but these gold links went missing and no one had an inkling of what exactly happened.
A Deeper Pit
The Truro Company realized that the so-called “Money Pit” was deeper. As such, they had to keep draining the water over and over. However, as they repeated the process, they noticed something strange was happening: the level of the water in the pit was moving with the tides.
This realization led to the discovery that the entire beach was artificial; a complex construction with drains and flow tunnels beneath it. Surely this kind of effort would only be undertaken to protect a pretty hefty treasure, right? The Truro Company thought of creating a dam to obstruct the flow of water and dig out the treasure. However, they discovered that somebody had already attempted this when they came across an older dam. Then a storm created an unusually high tide which destroyed all their hard work. Lacking the funds to rebuild, they had to give up.
The First Loss
In 1861, the Oak Island Association tried their luck at cracking the case. They poured their hearts and time into reaching an 88-foot depth in the Money Pit. They made a new shaft to stop the water from entering as the original location had already been abandoned.
Unfortunately, the team had a devastating tragedy when the entire bottom part of the pit fell around 15 feet. When the pump burst, one of their members was killed. Rumors were rife then that ghost pirates were acting as guards of the hidden treasure. It gets stranger…
As the 18th century was about to come to an end, another team of explorers decided to risk their lives and pursue their treasure mission. As they were in the process of investigating the mysteries that covered the Money Pit and Oak Island, they discovered a sheepskin parchment with letters printed on it, which they couldn’t understand.
Just as they were getting close to their mission, Maynard Kaiser, one of the team’s explorers, met his tragic death. It was decided to lift him to the surface when his rope became loose. However, as he was being hoisted up, his rope untangled from the pulley and, tragically, Maynard fell to his death down the shaft.
President Roosevelt's Involvement
Did you know that even the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) got himself involved in the mysteries of Oak Island? Stirred by his family’s sailing stories, he continued following the island’s treasure mystery until his death, in 1945.
Roosevelt was a member of The Old Savage Group. Even though the crew of explorers didn’t make much progress on their hunt for the island’s treasure, he continued to monitor the Oak Island attempts and developments. In 1939, he planned to secretly visit the island while he was in Halifax, but it didn’t materialize due to weather and certain international issues.
A Businessman's Attempt
In 1928, a New York businessman, Gilbert Hedden, got captivated by the strangeness of the mystery following the island after reading an article about it. As an operator of a steel fabricating firm, he was curious about the engineering issues that the previous explorers encountered.
Determined to apply his engineering skills and, of course, try his luck in finding the controversial treasure, in no time, he arrived on the island with his business partner, Fred Blair. They drilled some of the shafts and discovered something more intriguing than had ever been found before. Could this pair be the key to solving the mystery?
Gilbert Hedden and Fred Blair’s decision to take on Oak Island did not disappoint them, as they became the first witnesses to the island’s newest revelations. What the pair discovered was a stone with markings almost the same as the 1804 stone found in the Money Pit had. Later on, they found some old timber at Smith’s Cove that appeared to be the material used when the pit was initially built.
Hedden and Blair were confident that the pieces of timber they discovered were original because they were connected with wooden pins instead of modern metal pins. What other discoveries did the island hold for our explorers?
An Odd Layer
Another treasure hunting hopeful was Erwin Hamilton who arrived on the island in 1938. When he started drilling in 1939, he came across two interesting discoveries. About 190 feet down the Money Pit, he found some intriguing rocks and gravel. Upon checking them, Hamilton realized that they were foreign and that they had been placed there intentionally.
His next discovery was an odd layer of natural limestone that contained some oak splinters. As such, he believed that a layer of wood existed underneath the limestone layer. Hamilton was thrilled with his findings but reached an impasse. Who then could make further progress on the treasure hunt?
Many skilled men attempted to unlock the Oak Island mystery and, while many found promising clues, all of their attempts seemed to end in failure. The next important person in this historical event was Robert Restall, who, like the past explorers, was hopeful when he started his mission.
Restall arrived on the island in 1959 and discovered a stone with “1704” engraved on it. However, a horrific tragedy aborted his mission and his life. Having just transferred his family onto Oak Island to allow him the freedom to pursue his expedition, Restall inhaled carbon monoxide from an engine which left him to fall, unconscious, down the Money pit.
When Robert Restall Jr. witnessed his father’s fall, he rushed to the pit and tried to rescue him. But he inhaled the same toxic fumes that caused his father to plummet down the pit and so Restall Jr. fell to the same tragic fate.
Two workers in the area, Karl Graeser and Cyril Hiltz, hurriedly went to the pit and tried to climb down to rescue the Restall men. However, they also inhaled the carbon monoxide and met their deaths down the pit. This was the island’s biggest haul: four tragedies, four deaths in one day. The Money Pit, it seems, was working its way up to that number prescribed in the myths: seven deaths before the treasure would be revealed.
The same year the Restall men and their workers fell to their deaths, Robert Dunfield arrived on the island, bringing with him an army of cranes, bulldozers and heavy machinery to dig the pit further. He tunneled approximately 140 feet down, reaching the thick limestone layer that was previously discovered.
Another man by the name of Daniel C. Blankenship also went to the Money Pit to dig in 1965. His efforts paid off when he found a hand-wrought nail, a washer and a stone-shaped heart 60 feet down. While these odd discoveries didn’t make a whole lot of sense in isolation, they formed part of a puzzle that was slowly coming together. One that would surely be answered in the future if only enough clues could be found.
The Triton Alliance
In the late 1960s, a group called the Triton Alliance was created to continue the quest for the elusive treasure. The team used heavy machinery in the hope of making significant findings and, most importantly, unearthing the treasure.
Aside from recovering some artifacts) like a 300-year old pair of wrought-iron scissors), the team’s extensive search did not reveal much of anything useful. However, the crew of hardened explorers refused to back down from their tough mission. In 1976, they sunk a Borehole 10-X steel tube into the ground. Its purpose was to lower a camera into the pit and, for their efforts, the hardworking explorers were rewarded with some pretty amazing things.
With the help of the Borehole 10-X, the camera was lowered down into the cavity. What the Triton Alliance saw, shocked them. The images from the camera revealed an array of objects and tools suspended in the water. Leather shoes were discovered along with, to their horror, a severed human hand.
The Triton Alliance members were more thrilled when they saw three chests that looked a whole lot like the ones people like to bury treasure in. It was a truly overwhelming day for the team. While they were excited about the chests, it was hard not to be distracted by the human remains. Was it a drowned explorer or perhaps a ghost pirate safeguarding the buried treasure?
The End of the Search
After seeing shocking images from below the shaft, the Triton Alliance sent divers to recover the objects and dead body and other significant things, but they were in for yet another surprise: none of the items they’d seen on the camera could be found. The current in the pit was so strong that it caused sand and dirt to be constantly churning, making visibility a nightmare. The divers were basically blind in their mission to find the items. They eventually gave up… and not a moment too soon.
Just minutes after they were safely out, the shaft fell apart. The group had no choice but to abandon their excavation. Not wanting to give up as they were keen to recover the intriguing items they had seen in the camera images, the group tried to dig up the shaft again, but eventually ran out of financial support.
Oak Island's Popularity
A decade after the Triton Alliance officially ended their quest for the buried treasure, Oak Island was starting to catch the interest of the general public. The mysterious island was featured in an episode of the 1979 TV show, In Search Of… The episode earned the island’s mystery a huge fan base, both locally and internationally.
With the intriguing stories and shocking discoveries about the many attempts to crack the case, Oak Island was receiving public recognition. In fact, people of all walks of life, and from different parts of the world, were curious about the elusive treasure and the legends that surround it.
An Ownership Conflict
With a rumored amount of 2 million pounds buried on the island, it is not surprising that conflicts would arise. In 1983, the Triton Alliance and one of their members, Fred Nolan, battled over rights on certain parts of the island. The company sued Nolan over ownership on seven of the island’s lots.
Nolan was sued for damages that greatly affected Triton Alliance’s tourist business. His company appealed in 1989 but lost for the second time. As the legal battles took over, Oak Island fell silent for over a decade (1990 through 2005). Until the Lagina brothers finally made their meaningful appearance...
The Lagina Brothers
The treasure hunt journey of Triton Alliance in Oak Island was featured in a 1965 Reader’s Digest article, the same article that caught Rick Lagina’s interest when he was just 11 years old.
Together with his brother, Marty, they saw an opportunity to enter Oak Island when they learned that a fraction of it was up for sale at around $7 million. In 2005, the Lagina brothers invested a fifty percent stake in the company called Oak Island Tours Inc., proof that their determination to find the treasure they dreamed of as kids still lived on in their 50-years-old forms. These bright-eyed gentlemen did not waste time as they immediately got to work on the abandoned island.
As a fresh start for their Oak Island journey, the Lagina brothers integrated the modern technology earlier explorers hadn’t had access to. Rick and Marty were more than determined to get to work and investigate the island further.With the help of state-of-the-art technology, the Lagina brothers were able to search not just the fabled Money Pit, but also other unexplored parts of the island.
The flooding of the pit was no longer an obstacle as the lads had the technological means to create efficient solutions. To their surprise, their efforts revealed to them secrets and allies that were far from their expectations. What or who could these be? Keep reading as the story gets even more interesting than you could imagine.
The Curse of Oak Island
When the History Channel learned about the hard work of the Lagina brothers in the Oak Island mystery, the company commissioned a TV show called, The Curse of Oak Island. Aside from catering to a bigger audience, the show also helped the siblings raise funds to keep their quest equipped with the necessary resources.
The Curse of Oak also gave the treasure search more meaning and credibility. With its increased popularity worldwide, a lot of people were waiting for answers. Could Rick and Marty unlock the door to reality and complete the controversial treasure puzzle of the island?
Skilled and Prepared
Though they developed their burning desire to explore the Oak Island mystery at a young age, the Lagina brothers waited for a long time (until they were around 50 years old) to pursue their treasure hunt. And with age and wisdom on their side, they came prepared.
Marty had extensive experience with gas wells and digging, and he shared his knowledge and skills with his brother, Rick. Marty had worked at a number of different gas wells and so had spent time with a variety of engineering experts. He was able to make use of these reliable, expert connections, enlisting them to serve as professional counsels. Their advice was crucial, especially during the Lagina’s most intense journey on the island.
Their First Find
One of the brothers’ first projects for their show, The Curse of Oak Island, was to dig up a swamp so that they could search further than any explorer who had gone before them. It turned out the swamp revealed their first treasure: a Spanish copper coin dated to the 17th century. This provided evidence that people from this era had visited the island before.
It could be that these people from centuries ago were also searching for the island’s treasure. There’s not enough evidence to tell for sure. As such, various theories and speculations were made out of the significant pieces of evidence found. One such theory suggests that the hidden treasure belonged to King Solomon.
The Curse of Oak Island enjoyed a successful first two seasons, but it was during their third season that the Lagina brothers made their most thrilling discoveries. With the help of experts who assisted them with sonar readings and in draining the Borehole 10-X, Rick and Marty eventually discovered the island’s greatest bounty so far.
The show’s first season revealed their findings of bones and a Spanish coin, and on the third installment, they found a Roman sword and a Portuguese carving. Things got more interesting when they discovered proof that the Aztecs had explored the island in the past. Isn’t that cool?
Life’s a Treasure Hunt
In his fifties, Rick Lagina had the same sparkling interest in the island as he did when he was only 11 years old. He considered their Oak Island treasure journey to be an important continuation of a cherished childhood dream.
“There’s a story to be written up here. 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,” Rick said. Reflecting on their treasure hunt, he also added that “to me, life’s a treasure hunt. We’re all on one in our own different way, and we happen to be on a real one right now.”
The French Map
During the third installment of the show, things got even more exciting. The Lagina brothers were gifted a French map dated 1647. The map of Oak Island was illustrated in French and had some valuable facts contained within its contours. The map indicated that an anchor, a valve, and a hatch, were in place to help explorers on their quest to the island’s treasure.
The map also dropped hints that the alleged treasure may have come from Africa. These symbols and clues were very helpful for the Lagina brothers, giving them vital clues the past explorers had lacked. With new leads, could Rick and Marty finally solve the mystery?
A Bit of the Titanic
Believe it or not, the Oak Island mystery even has a connection to the historical Titanic tragedy. There was speculation that Vincent Astor contributed an incredible amount of money to the excavation of Oak Island. It was his strong conviction that led him to donate a massive amount of money as he was said to have believed that a monumental treasure really exists on the island.
Astor even hoped that they might recover the Ark of the Covenant. The wealthy businessman had inherited his fortune from his famous father, John Jacob Astor IV, who died during the Titanic tragedy. Was Oak Island mentioned in the Titanic story?
A French Treasure?
One of the theories regarding Oak Island considered to be more on the credible side is that of its French connection. The theory suggests that Marie Antoinette instructed her servant to export the French crown jewels that she possess out of the country. The servant supposedly traveled all the way to Nova Scotia to hide the queen’s precious jewels.
It was also said that Oak Island was the very location where French soldiers hid loot they’d raided from the Louisbourg Fort which was seized by the British in the Seven Years’ War.
One of the many skilled and smart explorers of the Oak Island mystery was a man named Barry Fell (a terrifying name, considering the fates that befell many of the explorers who tempted the island). Fell was a Harvard zoologist by trade and an archaeologist who claimed that the carvings discovered on Oak Island originated from the Coptic Christians of North Africa who may have visited the site during ancient times.
Fell argued that there was a lot of contact between the Native Americans and the people of the old world. To prove his point, he used a stone with intricate carvings on it as an illustration. Does this mean that Africa played a significant role in the hidden treasure? Was there any nation that didn’t have a stake in Oak Island at some point in history?
More than just pure entertainment, the History Channel’s, The Curse of Oak Island, made a big difference in the life of at least one of its followers. A longtime fan was thrilled when his house was, in the strangest of circumstances, saved by the show.
The Texas native ordered an Aqua Dam (just like the one used on the show) to save his property from the harsh challenges of the flood that came in the wake of hurricane Harvey. The man was quick to recall the excavators that he saw on The Curse of Oak Island and how they were used to keep the water from entering the shafts. He must’ve been the only Oak Island fan in the area because his house was the only one on the block to not go under in the heavy floods.
A Bunch of Tar
One lady who thinks she’s got Oak Island all wrapped up is Joy Steele. The island holds no mystery for Joy who claims that there are, in fact, more pits than the famous Money Pit to be found there. These pits, she claimed, were nothing but giant storage vessels for tar that were dug by the British Army to aid in the construction and maintenance of their ships.
To add legitimacy to her theory, Joy highlighted various shipbuilding sites in North Carolina that look similar to the oak Island setup and were famous tar storage pits. No wonder North Carolinians are called Tar Heels! After all the grueling explorations and dreams of ancient treasure, could it be that the answer is nothing more than tar? We’ll know in time.