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The Treasure Hunting Cipher of Thomas Jefferson Beale

Updated on February 5, 2014

by Christine B.

In 1818 Thomas Jefferson Beale was a successful prospector in Colorado. At the time men killed successful prospectors in order to steal their treasures. Thomas Beale decided that if he created a code (cipher) as to the location of where he buried his vast fortune, (worth approximately $63 million in 2011), he could protect it from lecherous robbers.

Beale allegedly created a set of three cipher-texts that would provide a clue to the location of his buried treasure, (consisting of gold, silver and jewels). Professional decoders and cipher specialists have attempted to solve the ciphers, to no avail. Only the second of the set of three has been deciphered and that one was due to a key hidden in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, much like the story line to the “National Treasure” movie with Nicolas Cage. The clue revealed the county and state where the treasure was buried.

In 1885 a pamphlet was written about the ciphers and the buried treasure. Bedford County, Virginia in the United States has been in constant upheaval ever since! Treasure hunters have dug thousands of holes all over the county searching for the treasure, but no one has found it as yet.

The other two ciphers that have not been decoded are thought to reveal the treasure’s content and who Beale left the treasure to. (This people are probably already dead, but their relatives might still be alive.) After creating the ciphers Beale gave them to a local innkeeper he trusted, Robert Morriss. Afterwards Beale disappeared and was never heard from again. Morriss then gave the information to a friend of his right before he passed away. This person, James Ward, was the author of the original pamphlet. It was a stroke of luck that he did, as the original documents were destroyed in a fire.

In 1982 Joe Nickell wrote his analysis of the Beale Ciphers and determined that they were an elaborate hoax. Although Nickell cast doubt on the validity of the ciphers and of the treasure that has not deterred many treasure hunters who believe that the treasure is indeed real.

Despite efforts from code specialists from all over the world, the two remaining ciphers have never been decoded and the treasure has never been unearthed. If the Beale Papers are a hoax, it is the greatest “hoax” of the century!

Another mystery has to be why Beale chose to bury the treasures instead of spending it! Why would the man go to all the trouble of mining for a treasure he never intended to take advantage of and/or spend?


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