Among the most popular stories in cryptology are those about a hidden treasure, the location of which is described in an encrypted text. Here are three more stories of this kind.
There are several stories about encrypted messages that allegedly describe the hiding place of a treasure. In the first part of this article, I covered three stories of this kind. The chances that one of these treasures really exists and can be found are as good as zero. Today, I am going to present three more crypto treasure stories. One of these treasures probably does exist – it might be found one day by a clever mystery solver.
The Fenn Treasure
The Fenn Treasure is reportedly worth over a million dollars. It was supposedly hidden by art dealer and author Forrest Fenn (born 1931) somewhere in the Rocky Mountains in 2010. When asked why he created the treasure hunt, Fenn said he “just wanted to give people some hope.” The location of the treasure can allegedly be derived from the following poem:
- As I have gone alone in there
- And with my treasures bold,
- I can keep my secret where,
- And hint of riches new and old.
- Begin it where warm waters halt
- And take it in the canyon down,
- Not far, but too far to walk.
- Put in below the home of Brown.
- From there it’s no place for the meek,
- The end is ever drawing nigh;
- There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
- Just heavy loads and water high.
- If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
- Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
- But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
- Just take the chest and go in peace.
- So why is it that I must go
- And leave my trove for all to seek?
- The answers I already know,
- I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.
- So hear me all and listen good,
- Your effort will be worth the cold.
- If you are brave and in the wood
- I give you title to the gold.
Of course, this poem is not a cryptogram in the narrow sense, as it was not created with an encryption method. Instead, it can be regarded as a puzzle.
There is, of course, no proof that the Fenn Treasure really exists and that it can be found by “decrypting” the poem. In addition, it is far from clear, whether the treasure (if it exists) is as valuable as Fenn says. However, there is at least a realistic chance that one day it will be found – something that cannot be said about the other crypto treasures I am aware of.
Several people have claimed to have found the treasure, but no one has ever provided any evidence supporting their claim. Three people are known to have died while searching for the treasure. As a consequence New Mexico police have tried to pressure Fenn into ending the hunt, but to no avail.
Is the story true? Yes.
Does the treasure exist? There’s a good chance that it does.
Can the cryptogram be broken? There’s a good chance that it can.
The Peralta Stones
The Peralta Stones are a set of engraved stones displayed at the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa, AZ. Some people believe the engravings indicate the location of a gold mine or a hidden treasure. Wikipedia gives the following description:
The stones consist of “two red sandstone tablets and a heart-shaped rock made of red quartzite. Each block is approximately 8.25” (~ 21 cm) by 14” (~35.6 cm) and 2” thick, weighing about 25 lbs. Each red stone block is carved with lines and one long line. When the two blocks are placed side by side and the stone heart is inserted the long line has 18 dots pecked into it. This style of map is known as a Post Road Map and it is a style used in Mexico and Spain during the Mexican–American War. Inscribed on the stones is the date 1847, and one stone contains a relief of a heart, which the heart-shaped stone fits perfectly. The heart shape fits neatly in the second stone. The back of the stone that the heart-shaped stone fits into has the outline of a cross carved on the back. The back of the other stone has the word DON carved into it.
The two red sandstone map pieces are displayed with a third white sandstone of similar size and weight as the red ones. The history of the white stone was cited by an author using the moniker ‘Azmula’. Azmula cites the history in the Superstition Mountain Journal, issue 27 of 2009. He attributes the original citation to M. Kraig Roberts. Mr. Roberts’s article is titled “History of the Chain Of Possession Of The Stone Maps”. The Journal article is a history of the white stone. The white sandstone has a side showing a Priest who is assembling the Peralta Stones to form the map. The reverse side is known as the Horse Map. The Priests Stone contains Spanish text that states that to find the gold you must find the heart. The lower half of the number 8 in the red sandstone map has a small heart carved in the circle.
Some people interprete the lines and the symbols on the Peralta Stones as a map. Allegedly, this map indicates the location of the so-called Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. The numbers on the stones are believed by some to be a formula for the map scale.
Some other hypotheses say that the stones don’t lead to a gold mine but to a treasure or a buried vault containing valuable art objects.
Others think the symbols encode a message. Some even claim to have deciphered the message. For instance, the following cleartext was proposed: “Be ready boy, are on a map on Arizona county scale, scale map.” Many other theories exist, but neither a gold mine nor a treasure has ever been found.
There is serious doubt that the Peralta Stones are genuine and that the gold mine (or the treasure or the art vault) really exists. As a skeptic I am generally doubtful about stories like these. For a critical treatise of the Peralta Stones check here.
Is the story true? I doubt it.
Does the treasure exist? I doubt it.
Can the cryptogram be broken? I doubt it.
The Oak Island treasure
Oak Island (Nova Scotia) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada. In the late 18th century, an expedition allegedly discovered a man-made pit in the ground of the island. This came as a surprise, as Oak Island was located far from civilisation. Over the centuries, numerous theories have been developed about the Oak Island pit, some of which say that a treasure is or was hidden there.
Because of the many excavations that took place in and around the presumed pit location, the original structure is not visible any more. Some even believe that there never was a pit on Oak Island. If so, the 18th century expedition that allegedly discovered the pit lied (perhaps, they did not want to admit that they had not found anything interesting on the island) or they misinterpreted a natural as artificial.
According to one of the many Oak island legends, the following stone was found in the pit (the picture is taken from Edward Rowe Snow’s True Tales of Buried Treasure):
The ciphertext is easy to decrypt. Here’s the cleartext: FORTY FEET BELOW TWO MILLION POUNDS ARE BURIED. It goes without saying that nobody has ever found these two million pounds in the pit or anywhere else on Oak Island.
Is the story true? No, it’s a hoax.
Does the treasure exist? No.
Can the cryptogram be broken: It is already broken, but the cleartext doesn’t lead to a treasure.
Further reading: Alster bottle post mystery: Fourth bottle post has been found