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Oak Island and The Money Pit

Updated on February 23, 2014
Oak Island, Nova Scotia
Oak Island, Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia | Source

The Treasure Hunt Begins

The year is 1795, Canada is busy keeping up with lumber demand after the British government inacts protective tariffs, increasing timber production for the Navy shortly after Napoleon cuts off the Baltic supply of large trees and hardwood. Meanwhile, on a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia famous for the large oak trees that inhabit it, Daniel McGinnis and his two friends have stumbled upon a large buried pit.

What drove them to discover this pit is the first mystery. One report claims the boys followed green glowing lights they witnessed in the night sky, which prompted them to row a boat out to the island to investigate. The second, and more widely accepted report, was they were exploring the southeastern end of the island when they noticed a tackle box hanging from a nearby tree. Their attention turned to the strange depression in the earth, and they decided to return with digging equipment.


The First and Second Digs

Daniel McGinnis, John Smith, and Anthony Vaughan officially embarked upon the first attempted excavation. As they dug to a depth of ten feet they came upon flagstone (flat stone used in walkways) and oaken boards that laid across the floor. There were noticeable pick marks on the walls of the pit. For every ten feet they dug, they would encounter another layer of oaken boards blocking the descent. At 30 feet, the boys gave up their quest. The site lay dormant and untouched for 8 years.

The next attempt in 1803 was the Onslow Company, with Daniel, John and Anthony hired on as help. The company sailed 300 miles from Truro, Nova Scotia to the site now coined "The Money Pit" in their search for the treasure that lay near the bottom. The Onslow excavation successfully made it to a depth of 90 feet, finding the wooden boards every 10 feet. The team also unearthed clay, charcoal, and most outrageously: a fibrous material made from coconut. The coconut fibre was commonly used as a packing material for fragile objects for trans-oceanic routes, but the nearest coconut tree from Canada was 1500 miles away. The next find was even more incredible; at a depth of 90 feet, a large flat stone tablet bearing symbols was recovered. When translated, the cipher stone read "forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried". The stone mysteriously disappeared and today its whereabouts are unknown. Shortly after reaching 90 feet, the hole flooded back to the 33 foot mark and the Onslow Company called off their hunt.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Famous Folks and Fatalaties

Over the course of 200 years, many corporations and private interests attempted to dig the money pit. Such celebrities as John Wayne, former president Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the swashbuckling actor Errol Flynn, have all at one time or another poured their own money into the "pit". Roosevelt was part of the 1909 Old Gold Salvage group and remained interested in the mystery his entire life.

To date, there have been six casualties on Oak Island, only adding to the intrigue that perhaps the island is cursed. The first fatal occurrence happened in 1861 when a boiler of a pumping engine exploded and took a man with it. The second fatality came in 1887 when an unlucky worker fell to his death. 73 years passed before another unfortunate accident would claim lives. This time, in 1960, four men working in a shaft near the beach were overtaken by fumes coming from the tunnel.

Captain Kidd in New York Harbor
Captain Kidd in New York Harbor
Ark of the Covenant
Ark of the Covenant

What Treasure is buried there?

There are many beliefs as to what is buried there, but two claims have gained popularity among the "Money Pit" community. The first has to do with Captain Kidd's buried treasure. The Pirate of scottish origin was known for his buried treasure troves around the New York area. Specifically, the $30,000 worth of silver bars and spanish dollars unearthed on Gardiners island. Other stories have made mention of his visits to the islands of japan where his plunder was reportedly buried in a lime cave, along with some of the islands untrustworthy locals...

The second legend dates back to the crusades, and would seem right at home in the writings of a Dan Brown novel. As the story goes the Knights Templar came across the Ark of the Covenant in the Middle East and, in an effort to hide it from those that would use it's power against them, smuggled it to Scotland where they turned it over to the Clan Sinclaire. The Scottish nobles were entrusted with keeping it safe from the English, and decided the Ark would be best hidden in Canada, where the Sinclaires held land. The Sinclaires were noted to have been deeply involved with the Freemasons society, which may help explain the eloborate construction...

Another belief offers that Marie Antoinette's Jewels left with her lady-in-waiting from France during the revolution of 1789. With the help of the French Navy, they were taken and hidden on Oak Island. This story lacks any real documentation and would place the timeframe very close to when Daniel McGinnis made the initial discovery.

Unfortunately, these tales fail to pinpoint exactly how the pit would have been engineered. The technology required to create such a pit, which seems to utilize hydraulics and complex booby traps, is a mystery even to today's scientists and treasure hunters. As of today, what lay at the bottom of the money pit remains a mystery.

Interest has been renewed recently about the Pit by brothers Marty and Rick Lagina. They will be airing a television show in early 2014 on the History Channel to try to discover what lies beneath.

Oak Island on Ancient Aliens

For those seeking more information on Oak Island might be interested in the 10 minute segment featured on the History Channel show Ancient Aliens featured on Season 1 of episode 4.

The Money Poll

What do you believe is buried at the bottom of the Money Pit?

See results


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    • bcgurr profile imageAUTHOR

      Brandon Gurr 

      7 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Each year additional information comes out on this. Ancient Aliens featured it and contributed considerable interest to the story.

    • CWanamaker profile image

      Christopher Wanamaker 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      I saw a discovery channel special on this years ago, and to this day I am still intrigued. I keep wondering "why doesn't some rich guy just go dig it up?"


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