Beale Ciphers: A Lost Treasure?

Between 1819 and 1821, Thomas Beale buried a whopping 2,921 pounds of gold and 5,100 pounds of silver in Virginia. It’s still there, waiting for someone to dig up. But there’s a catch. In order to find it, one must first decipher one of the most mysterious codes in history…the Beale Ciphers.

The Treasure Trove of Thomas Beale

In 1817, a man named Thomas Beale led thirty Virginians on a western hunting trip. They left St. Louis in May and arrived at Santa Fe in December. After several months of little activity, a few members of the group embarked on an excursion. Several weeks later, they sent word that they had discovered gold in a ravine, 250 to 300 miles north of Santa Fe. Immediately, Beale set forth to examine the site and found a large cache of gold and silver.

The group worked the ravine for 18 months, gathering a large quantity of gold and silver in the process. Afterward, they decided to transport the treasure to a cave “near Buford’s tavern in the county of Bedford.” After a long journey, part of Beale’s group arrived in Bedford. Unfortunately, the cave in question was being used by others. So, Beale’s group dug a vault in the Blue Ridge Mountains and buried the treasure. Beale later returned to the ravine, gathered more treasure, and proceeded to deposit it in the vault.

The Beale Ciphers?

The treasure was to be split into thirty shares, one for each member of the group. However, the group faced a problem. They didn’t want anyone to know about the treasure. At the same time, members were still actively hunting and prospecting at the ravine. As such, they were worried about Indian attacks and outlaws. If they were killed in a raid, no one would ever know about the treasure or who had rightful claim to it.

So, Beale created the Beale Ciphers. The Beale Ciphers were three codes which would enable one to locate the treasure and distribute it to the rightful heirs in the event that the group didn’t survive. The first Beale Cipher revealed the location of the vault. The second Beale Cipher described the contents of the vault. And the third Beale Cipher provided names and residences of the group members as well as their heirs. In a letter, Beale stated that the Beale Ciphers would “be unintelligible without the key…”

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The full story of the Beale Ciphers is long and complicated. So, it’ll take me a few days to go through it. Tomorrow, we’ll look into what Beale did with those ciphers and how they became public knowledge. Stay tuned…the best is yet to come!

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