Beale Treasure: Real…or a Giant Hoax?

Between 1819 and 1821, Thomas Beale buried a giant treasure in Virginia. The Beale Treasure has never been found. The key to its location lies in one of the most mysterious codes in history…the Beale Ciphers. But is the Beale Treasure even real? Or is it a giant hoax?

The Mysterious Beale Treasure?

Last Friday, I posted the first story in a short series about the mysterious Beale Treasure. Yesterday, I posted the second installment. To recap, Thomas Beale and thirty other people excavated a massive treasure between 1819 and 1821. They reburied it in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Then Beale created three ciphers now known as 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.” ~ David Meyer, Beale Ciphers: A Lost Treasure?

Only one of the ciphers – the second one – has ever been decoded. It revealed the exact contents of the treasure.

“I have deposited in the county of Bedford, about four miles from Buford’s, in an excavation or vault, six feet below the surface of the ground, the following articles, belonging jointly to the parties whose names are given in number three, herewith: 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 above is securely packed in iron pots, with iron covers. The vault is roughly lined with stone, and the vessels rest on solid stone, and are covered with others. Paper number one describes the exact locality of the vault, so that no difficulty will be had in finding it.” ~ Thomas Jefferson Beale, Decoded Version of Beale Cipher #2

Is the Beale Treasure Real…or a Giant Hoax?

The remaining ciphers constitute two of the most famous unsolved codes in history. Many people find this suspicious. After all, high-speed computers and advances in code-breaking have enabled easy decryption of once unsolvable codes. That being said, numerous cryptographers have studied the remaining ciphers and concluded that the sequences of numbers appear non-random.

The story behind the Beale Treasure is problematic. Why would Beale and his companions dig up a giant treasure only to hide it somewhere else? Why didn’t they split it up and go on spending sprees instead? Why would they haul it out to Virginia if they intended to stay out west? And why would they entrust the secret to a man they barely knew – and thus further divide the Beale Treasure – rather than to one (or all) of the heirs?

Other problems abound. The second cipher – a description of the Beale Treasure – seems entirely unnecessary. And the third cipher – which provides the names and addresses of the heirs – seems entirely too short. It’s 618 characters long. Assuming it’s encoded like Beale Cipher #2 (one number is equivalent to one letter), each heir gets about twenty characters. That doesn’t leave much room for a full-blown address. For example, “Thomas Beale, Lynchburg,” runs twenty characters by itself. On the other hand, it is possible some of the heirs shared an address.

Also, some of the words used in Beale’s letters don’t seem to make sense. According to Joe Nickell, the words, “stampeding,” “improvised,” and “appliances” did not appear in print until decades after Beale’s letters were supposedly written. This would seem to indicate the letters were written at a later date or someone edited them along the way. There is also some evidence to suggest that the person who wrote Beale Cipher #2 also wrote the pamphlet that revealed the story to the public (The Beale Papers, Containing Authentic Statements Regarding the Treasure Buried in 1819 and 1821, Near Bufords, in Bedford County, Virginia, and which has Never Been Recovered).

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The Beale Treasure suffer from the same problem as so many other legendary lost treasures…lack of falsifiability. There is simply no way to disprove the story. And there is no way to prove it either. Undoubtedly, Beale researchers will continue to study the codes, searching for a breakthrough. It may come someday. Or it may not.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at some possible ways to approach the Beale Ciphers from a treasure hunting perspective. See you then!

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