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Fool’s Gold: why there’s no treasure in the Oak Island “Money Pit.” [Part IV] (UPDATED!)

Watch the video version of this article, here:

This article, originally published in August 2017, has been updated in November 2018. Scroll to the end for the update.

This is the fourth and final article in my series on the famous legend of buried treasure on Oak Island, in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, which has bewitched students of mysteries and would-be treasure hunters for at least 150 years. In Part I, I explained the nature of the legend and the first of the four main reasons why we know there isn’t treasure there (the flood tunnels have never been found). In Part II, I explained why there is no physical evidence of a treasure pit; in Part III, I showed you why the documentary historical evidence of the early treasure hunts is lacking. This final part contains what I personally believe to be the most persuasive argument as to why we can be reasonably certain that there’s no treasure buried on Oak Island.

Point Four: If the Treasure Ever Was There, It’s Illogical to Believe That it Still Is.

This is my favorite piece of the puzzle. There’s a very serious logical problem at the heart of the whole Oak Island legend, and it’s one nobody ever talks about. It alone virtually proves the treasure isn’t there.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that I’ve been wrong in the past three articles, and that the legend is substantially true—that there was a treasure pit, flood tunnels, box drains, etc. This would be a work of engineering of immense complexity, technical skill and expense to construct. (This reasoning is usually trotted out right before a statement like, “That means whatever was buried there must be really really valuable.”) But if somebody went to all this trouble to build a treasure trap preventing anyone else from getting it, the chances are virtually zero that they would have forgotten to come back for it.

Here is another view of Oak Island in the early 1930s. As you can see, yet another treasure recovery operation was in progress at the time.

Think about it. Why would someone, a pirate perhaps, want to bury treasure in the first place? You don’t bury treasure and leave it in the ground forever; you bury it until some temporary danger of discovery or confiscation passes, and then you come back and fetch it. Anyone who digs for treasure on Oak Island makes two assumptions: (1) that a treasure of immense value was buried there, and (2) that it’s still there, i.e., whoever buried it either forgot about it (not likely) or was somehow prevented from coming back at a later time to retrieve it. The evidence—or lack thereof—shows that assumption (1) is on pretty shaky ground to begin with. But assumption (2) is even worse than pure conjecture—it’s wishful thinking.

It’s illogical to have gone to the immense expense of creating such an elaborate trap to guard something that was worth abandoning. Thus, whoever built the treasure trap is virtually guaranteed to have sailed back to the island at some point and collected their treasure. If they didn’t care whether anyone knew there was once treasure buried there, they would have just left a raw open hole in the ground and forgotten about it. Obviously that wasn’t the case. That meant they wanted to conceal that treasure had been buried there, for whatever reason, and to do that they’d have filled in the hole but presumably left the flood tunnels open—or destroyed the mechanism that closed them—so anyone who came after them would never be able to prove with certainty what had once been there. I don’t believe there was ever a treasure pit of any kind on Oak Island, but if I’m wrong and there was, this has to be why no one has ever found it after 200 years of searching.

If you think about it, Oak Island is a pretty odd place to stash one of the world’s greatest treasures. No persuasive explanation for why the possessors of vast wealth that they needed to hide chose this spot has ever been offered.

The other piece of the logic puzzle, and something else that no one talks about, is the lack of evidence from the point of view of whoever supposedly buried the treasure. An operation of that magnitude would have taken a lot of people, substantial time and expense. There would be records of it: payrolls, engineers, supply requisitions, ship voyages, etc. Even true believers in the legend concede it couldn’t realistically be pirates or other rogue elements who would generally lack the technical and logistical sophistication to pull off the kind of operation they insist must have been there. But there’s no such evidence at all.

The theory presented in The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Mysteries is that the British buried pay chests for their army there about 1780 during the Revolutionary War, which is utter rubbish. The British paid colonial troops in paper money, not gold, and in any event British archives would be full of telltale clues that this sort of operation occurred (the British are great at keeping records and notoriously poor at suppressing them). Even decades later somebody would have come forward with a story to the effect of, “Yes, I was part of the original Oak Island operation, here’s what happened.” But there has been nothing to this effect at all. You can’t keep a secret on this order for so long. To believe otherwise gets into the realm of conspiracy theory, and don’t get me started on why those never make any sense.

At least one author has conjectured that the treasure works supposedly on Oak Island were built by the British, as a repository for pay for Revolutionary War armies. This theory makes no historical sense.

So what did happen? At its heart, Oak Island is a scam. Secret buried treasure was a common bit of folklore in the early 19th century, and there are documented ones in Nova Scotia before 1850. I think someone, possibly in the 1850s, heard a tall tale or some local folklore about a mysterious island in Mahone Bay. Perhaps a local came up with it and decided, for some easy cash, to hoodwink some investors into financing a “treasure hunt.” The legends of prior treasure hunts were necessary to reinforce the “it’s just out of reach” narrative, and the nonsense about the link of the gold chain or the “metal in pieces” story, both of which date from the supposed 1849 dig, were invented to lay it on a bit heavier. Someone may have planted fake clues on the island, or, discovering the remnants of the salt works, roped that into the story as “proof.” Only this scam kept paying off long after its initial conception.

Over the years new generations of scammers, probably unknown to the original ones, hijacked the legend and reappropriated it for a new treasure hunt to fleece new victims. Then by the 20th century the legend had a life of its own, sustaining itself without the involvement of scammers, by seducing innocent people who really do believe there’s treasure there to spend their lives and lots of money looking for it. The scam is not just a fun and harmless fantasy to entertain about buried treasure. Real people have died in the quest for this nonexistent booty. That answers the question, “What’s the harm in believing there’s treasure buried at Oak Island?” Ask that question to the families of the men who have died searching for it.

As this photo shows, Mahone Bay can be quite a beautiful place in its own right. Nevertheless, the treasure legend of Oak Island is being used by some operators as a tourist draw. That is the only real gold to be found in this story.

Incidentally, many people in the 19th century believed Oak Island was a scam from the word go. One of the earliest newspaper articles about the phenomena, dated 1861, is a debunking, labeling the whole thing “the Oak Island folly.” Scams rarely go unchallenged. If people were denouncing Oak Island as a scam more than 150 years ago—when, if it was genuine, the trail of documentary evidence would have been much fresher than it is now—this is a telltale sign that the whole thing is a chimera.

There is no treasure on Oak Island. There never has been. All of the money spent to find it over the past 200 years has been utterly wasted.

Update: 14 November 2018

These articles, originally published in August 2017 and augmented with video versions in summer 2018, have enjoyed a surge of popularity over the last few days. I suspect it’s because new episodes of the “History” Channel reality show The Curse of Oak Island has aired or is about to air. I have not seen the show and have no intention of doing so, as I utterly detest the “History” Channel, but there have been a large number of drive-by comments from apparent fans of the show basically arguing that I’m all wet because the whole thing is on TV, or the Lagina Brothers (the latest unfortunate dupes to fall for the Oak Island scam) have spent millions digging holes there, or I don’t believe in the power of hope, or something. (I’ve been very selective about which of these drive-by comments I will approve, and will continue to be so).

Let me say this about the “History” Channel show, which I again admit I have not seen. The Oak Island legend has existed at least since 1861 and probably more likely since the 1840s, the better part of two centuries before the subject caught the attention of “History” Channel producers and/or the Lagina brothers. I personally began researching the legend 27 years ago and have gone into archives and libraries to find primary sources on it, with an eye toward a reasoned historical analysis of what was going on. The television presentation is explicitly based on an assumption: that there must be treasure down there, and that you should watch the show so you can witness the Lagina brothers discover it. The facts, logic and historical evidence I’ve presented here indicate that assumption is untenable. Therefore, the show’s credibility as a source and its honesty in presenting historical analysis is seriously questionable from the get-go. (I analyzed a similar problem, outside the context of historical analysis, with regard to Netflix’s popular investigative series Making a Murderer, here).

If you are a fan of the show, and all you know about Oak Island comes from that source, I ask you to consider this possibility: if there was credible evidence that there was not treasure buried under Oak Island, do you trust the show and its creators to present that evidence to you honestly, or do you think they’d conceal or downplay it to avoid undermining the premise of the show? If you enjoy watching the show for its entertainment value, that’s great. (I like The Great British Bake-Off, myself). But take the time to question whether it really has an objective analysis of historical reality as one of its core values. If, like me, historical accuracy and logical interpretation of the past is of value to you, perhaps you are better off watching The Great British Bake-Off, which has a whole new season up on Netflix this week.

All images are, to my knowledge, in the public domain/Creative Commons 0 license (all others).

51 Comments

  1. Jeff Bloomfield

    You are aware that for the last three years or so a series on the “History Channel” has been following the “Oak Island” search, and has thrown out suggestions that it was connected to the Knights Templar and their missing treasure, or to a Welsh explorer in the middle ages, or to the missing Jewels of Queen Marie Antoinette (including the infamous Diamond Necklace….. The narration is marred by a constant repetition of what we just watched, and an avoidance of anything resembling sensible commentary. For example, at one point somebody found what looked like a “Roman Sword” in the waters near the island. But they later briefly said ((before quickly leaving the point) that it was a piece of a theatrical costume that must have fallen off a ship (of course, they never explained why it fell off the ship). It is one of the dumbest shows on that ill-named channel they have ever put on.

    • Yes, I’ve heard of this show. Never seen it–I avoid “History” Channel assiduously since they got into that ridiculous “ancient aliens” crap. I’ve heard the Oak Island show was abysmal even for them, and it doesn’t surprise me how poor quality and circular its reasoning is.

      • Jody sanna

        I must disagree at least on one point of your article. Oak Island is a magical and mysterious place. In most treasure hunting stories poor people hunt for treasure and become wealthy. While on Oak Island it is the exact opposite wealthy people hunt for treasure and become poor. Thus is the magic of Oak Island. Ok time to get real. I am always amazed at the human capacity to totally suspend logic and reality. There is and never was anything out of the ordinary on that island. Everything they have found could be found by anyone with a toy metal detector on any shoreline in the world. Just because people where there hundreds of years ago doesn’t mean anything. Humans have been hurrying their garbage since we became bipedal and that is all anyone has ever found on Oak Island, garbage.

      • Simon Mam Read

        Yes, it’s a sad situation these days indeed.

    • Bob

      Been watching oak island past few years, so lame to me. Made for TV big time. I try to be positive, so hard for me to believe. The whole show seems so man made too me. Hopefully am wrong

    • Zak

      Total agreement here.
      Show is a boring, repetitive pile of poop.

  2. Devon

    Thank you for this! I began watching the show on HC a couple of years ago and I was under the impression that the “booby traps” “inscribed stones” and “flood tunnels” were documented facts. It wasn’t until recently when I saw them go in search of the stone that I realized there is no proof it even existed! Not even a bloody picture! Then I read your blog and a couple other stories and it became very obvious this whole thing is a scam. It’s crazy that so many people would spend so much money on something that literally has zero provable data. Thanks again, you did a great job.

  3. A naysayer?
    About Oak Island?
    Could it be that Sean Munger has hit upon the truth?
    That there is nothing of value at Oak Island?

    Or… is it possible that there is a treasure?
    A treasure that is so fantastic and valuable that the Knights Templar, Rosicrucians, British aristocracy, Aztecs and pirates all got together and hid it?

    No – you are right – there is no treasure – just some coconut fibers, shards of pottery, old wood and a few coins. What a waste of time and several million dollars.

    Great series of articles! (and a great web site.)

    • Devon

      Hahaha don’t forget Shakespeare and Francis Bacon, they also have some items buried in one of them sinkholes that cost 1mil each to look in

    • Tim

      Hey look! Here’s a cross we found just under the surface! Could this be from ancient Phoenicia?

  4. Jason Meeks

    Agreed. Very good article. No proof and lots of wasted money and time looking. Do these people not have family and if so they must be real happy seeing them waste money and spend time digging up nothing. The tv show is a joke. There is no treasure on this island people!

  5. allan

    your right, there is no treasure on oak island.my family has a legend about a pirate ship stopping at one of there islands one evening and leaving the next morning riding high in the water,and its not oak island, as far as i know no one has got it.good luck finding it

  6. Rob Lichtendahl

    2 teens digging with a spade and a few hobbyist going down 70 metres? April fools day is not far away:)

  7. Bingo B.

    The Curse of Oak Island – pure poppycock! Bait for the gullible. The real treasure has to be in the revenue generated by the History Channel and it’s advertisers. Would be interesting to see a balance sheet on this “endeavor”, i.e. how much $ spent vs. how many $$ generated for all involved. A business enterprise, yup. A valid treasure hunt, nope. (Is it possible?)

  8. moviefanatic

    @Sean Munger
    Yes, There is treasure on Oak Island and here is the proof of that…
    http://www.history.com/shows/the-curse-of-oak-island/about

    • No. That show is utter nonsense and contains no “proof” at all. I briefly addressed this unfortunate series in the first of my four articles on this topic. It’s another reason why the History Channel’s standards have fallen so low, to the point where they’re not doing history anymore, but conspiracy theories and sensationalism.

      • Susan

        Excellent articles on the Oak Island myth. Watching the show lately I have come to suspect the metal detector expert of “salting” the holes. They are all so earnest in their beliefs, but it is sad to see millions of dollars as well as four lives lost on this futile search. Thank you for posting your articles.

    • Tim

      That show is pure “entertainment*, and nothing more. They make so many incredible leaps of logic. A cross! Could this be from the Knights Templar? A circle inside another circle? Must mean something! Surely can’t just be one of the most basic of all human constructs.

  9. PH

    What I’d like to know is when are the brothers going to give up this farce? Every year they pour more and more cash into this thing and pieces of pottery and old crosses do not a treasure make. I believe the younger brother is going to have to make that decision soon. His brother would continue until the family business is bankrupt. Each episode gets more and more desperate.

  10. DDK

    The show is the biggest farce on television next to “Hunting Hitler”. It takes a false narrative and runs with it for the sake of entertainment value. Rewriting or retelling history while twisting truth is at its simplest form diabolical. The show is an absolute mess. The bottom line is this area has been extensively excavated to a depth of nearly twenty stories. Nothing has been found. There is nothing there.

  11. jay28w

    Have seen each and every episode. Not a believer in the story, but intrigued in some of the possibilities. I do believe that it’s feasible for Knights Templar to have visited and some of the other well knowns, and some have left their marks.
    But like you laid out very well, I too believe the majority of the mystery over the years to be gross fabrications ‘designed’ to entertain and raise money; just look what Marty Lagina is up to next! As long as HC can find sponsors…

    The former slave — I seem to believe he found wealth or he could not have bought so many plots. Thoughts?

  12. roger

    A lot of people say this show is a waste of time and there is nothing of substance in the ground on Oak Island, but very few critics ever mention the fact that at some time in the past an engineering work of huge proportions (and expense) took place there. Was it a salt mine? Some kind of dry docking facility? A military base? If treasure was buried there and never recovered it was probably because the people who buried it were not able to return simply due to their deaths elsewhere and with them went the secret. There may be something left in the deep ground for the brothers to uncover if their money and enthusiasm does not run out first. Truth is of course, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack on a dark night.

    • Utter nonsense. There is not a single shred of evidence of “an engineering work of huge proportions (and expense).” No such evidence has ever been found. Zero. Nothing. Nada. Bupkus. The cognitive dissonance from believers in this bizarre 19th century scam is impossible to reconcile with the historical record of Oak Island, which shows a lot of money (and lives) wasted by gullible people, and nothing at all in the way of verifiable evidence that there ever was anything there. It’s nonsense, complete nonsense from start to finish.

  13. Matt

    I had never heard anything about Oak Island until I came across the show on HULU where you can stream the first couple of seasons. I started watching and thought it was intriguing. I thought that there at least had to have been something there at some time due to the every 10 feet thing. After pushing through the first couple of seasons (most of it is boring and nothing significant is ever found), I started looking into the whole thing and discovered that none of the early “facts”, that the show uses to drive the whole expedition, are actually facts. I came across your blog series on the whole thing and was enlightened even more. I do not believe there is anything there and these men have wasted their time and money chasing after nothing. The older brother on the show seems like he will never give up even if it means bankrupting his older brother. Great articles!

  14. Jim

    Maybe they moved all the “treasure ” to the Superstition mountains. AKA Lost Dutchman Mine.
    enjoyed your article.

  15. Joe

    Sean, thank you for a very interesting and overdue account of this nonsense. I only came across the remarkable Oak Island fairytale because a free-to-air channel in the UK has started showing the History Channel series.

    But I’m not sure that describing the ‘mystery’ as an historical scam is necessarily right. If there is evidence of people in the past directly profiting from inventing, embellishing or propagating the story then, sure, it’s been a scam. As far as I can see, though, over the centuries there seems only to have been a willingness to believe in outlandish and romantic fiction.

    I am much more interested in what drives a belief in or tolerance of myth and magic (including conspiracy theories) than what any of the subjects is supposedly about, what they claim to reveal in other words. It’s people’s *attitudes* to these stories that tell us something useful, in my view.

    Oak Island strikes me as particularly interesting from that perspective because, as you say, the story sidesteps the supernatural and grounds itself in human endeavour, albeit of a ludicrously improbable sort. Neither does it seek to create villains of any person or group. On that basis I feel rather kindly towards those who’ve pursued this legend. They were, I think, simply trying to show that if the incentive is strong enough people are capable of extraordinary things – both the (mythical) hiders of the treasure and its (inevitably disappointed) seekers. The bunkum of what the treasure supposedly is or may be just supplies the MacGuffin, as film types would call it.

  16. My elementary school had a speed reading class for sixth-graders and I remember one of the pieces we had to read concerned hidden treasure on Oak Island. If there truly was a treasure, it would certainly have been found by now. It even seemed somewhat shady to me back then (mid-1960’s)

  17. Glenn

    Remarkable too is the thought that a hundred foot deep reinforced and booby trapped hole was dug to securely hide treasure and then a teenage boy comes along and notices something as obvious as evidence of a block and tackle leaving scars on an oak tree situated above the place where that tackle would be used!? Oh, did I mention that the hundred foot hole would produce a pile of some tailings and a dump site?

  18. There is no treasure there for all the reasons you mention plus this. To dig a 200 foot hole today required massive heavy equipment. Last year they built a new BRIDGE to support the weight of the equipment. 200 years ago that hole could not be dug on an island.

    But there is money there. hISTORY has made a fortune. The brothers PAY FOR the dig. The brothers OWN THE ISLAND and pay for the paper work with Canada to conduct the digs—and for the archeologist who visit and look confused. Very confused. And coerced!

    The show is often the number 1 basic cable show. I watch it because it is a fun show like a soap opera for guys. BUT the main proof there is no treasure is that no women waste there time digging on Oak Island. No women are on that show!!!!

    • Phil Walters

      wsabo

      I have to disagree with your comment that ‘200 years ago that hole could not have been dug on an island”

      The Cornish Miners from Cornwall UK have been digging shafts and mining for well over 2500 years. Women did not go into the mines, but they as well as children assisted in the mining of copper and tin.

      Do a little research and you will be amazed at how deep they went down and how far under the seabed they mined.

  19. I have watched 2 or 3 episodes. All I can say is, you’re right on all of this. The show is like a master class in how to stretch out a scam.

  20. Larry Rouse

    How dare you quash my fantasies and wishful thinking with your research and common sense! I reject your reality and substitute my own.

  21. Doug Boyne

    Read many articles and associated comments over the last few years and initially yes I admit I believed it but the year by year dragging on and on and apparent going round in circles and a seemingly non coordinated work plan. Sure I still watch it but only because it is TV entertainment for the masses in the same genre as Friends The big Bang Theory and their ilk.

  22. johnedwardsen6642

    Everyone is entitled to an opinion, which is a good thing in my opinion. I notice talk about “facts” and takes on this TV series. It is a series people. It’s not a documentary of factual findings or ducumented recorded events, let’s face it, in the name of entertainment programs, there have been a lot worse broadcast upon us. So moving on, let’s talk facts. So far in (approximately 200 years) we’ve definitely filled the big bowl to the top with legend, speculation, what if’s and maybes. I get it! Here’s the problem, you don’t know, I don’t know, and they don’t know whoever “they” may be, because none of us have surrounded this island with a storm proof steel barrier and removed every last grain of soil, and we most likely never will. That’s the point, it’s called an imagination, “what if”? No one from the history channel has put a gun to our heads to tune in that I’m aware of. Impossible? Really??? What about pyramids, the myans, the Romans just to name a few. Come on, our ancestors accomplished some pretty amazing things with a lot less then we have today. So in closing ask you selves these questions. What was the documented history of this island prior to 1790? Is it possible that any of the early treasure hunters found treasures they didn’t tell us about? And last but not least, what would anyone say if someone discovered something of mass significance on that island tomorrow or in the future? Then what would you have to say? The point is this simply. Don’t say it isn’t possible, because in the end, you don’t know, no one does for a fact. That is the truth.

    • No. Your argument assumes that because we can’t know with 100% certainty what happened in the past, that means we can’t draw reasoned conclusions from what we do know–essentially, that because we don’t know everything, we can’t know anything. This isn’t how history works at all. Nothing has ever been found on this island that even remotely indicates that there was once treasure there, and the documentary history of the island prior to 1790 is completely consistent with that lack of evidence. The difference between what the Mayans, Romans and Egyptians accomplished, and what supposedly happened on Oak Island, is that there’s actual evidence for what the Mayans, Romans and Egyptians did, and exactly none for the existence of treasure infrastructure on Oak Island. Appealing to the epistemological uncertainty–“no one knows for a fact”–is like saying that because of that, any conceivable conclusion, however fanciful, is as equally likely as the conclusion that nothing happened there. This is usually the upshot of arguments like this one that stress epistemological uncertainty in an attempt to keep the door open for wild theories that remain unsupported by evidence. Only one hypothesis about Oak Island is supported by the facts: the hypothesis that no treasure was ever buried there.

  23. I remember the Readers Digest article from the 1960’s. it stirred the imagination. Off and on over the years my mind has wandered back to the mystery. I have also come to the conclusion there is unlikely a treasure trove of riches hidden on the island. if there ever was one, it was likely retrieved or found long ago. Still, i wonder. Why Oak Island? At the time the treasure was allegedly buried, Oak Island was about as isolated a place as there was in the civilized world. When burying treasure accessibility to eventually reclaiming it would have been a key consideration, would it not?

    So, what if something was buried on Oak Island but with the intent that it was never to be recovered? This would mean the treasure is not si much valuable as it is powerful. What, in the history of mankind could be so powerful to cause anyone to want to bury it away from people and so securely as to make it nearly impossible to recover? Is there even anything existing today that mankind would take such care in hiding away?

    What do we do with radioactive waste?

    This is where the Bible, Da Vinci, the Knights Templars, pyramids and the Ark of the Covenant come in. The historical footprint of the Bible is being proven through modern archeology with ore authority all the time. Note, not the existence of God, per se, but the existence of the the places and people described on the Bible. The Ark of the Covenant is described in the Bible and other religious documents as having remarkable powers, including the ability to kill those who are exposed to its contents.

    Da Vinci’s role in all this? Personal involvement is speculation but unnecessary to prove the point being made. Da Vinci’s drawings, thoughts, theories are still pertinent today. In fact, they are still being used to drive technology forward in today’s world. The point being, the knowledge to have buried something so securely as to thwart every effort to date to recover it existed.

    It is often said, had man been capable man would have flown during Da Vinci’s lifetime. The knowledge was there. We used Da Vinci’s findings to eventually propel man into flight. What does that have to do with Oak Island? The pyramids. Originally thought to be isikated to Egypt it is now known pyramids were built the world over. If the knowledge and ability existed across the earth to build pyramids, is it really so far fetched to think the knowledge to bury something 200 feet under ground and booby trap access to it existed as well?

    The key to finding what, if anything, is below Oak Island is knowing what to look for then approach solving the mystery by attempting to reverse engineer they way taken to conceal whatever was hidden. Only then can sense be made of pits, flood tunnels and whatnot. Until it is determined WHAT to look for any search is left to happenstance. The prevailing belief that great treasure of immeasurable value is buried on the island is actually the biggest obstacle to discovering what might actually be buried there. If there is anything at all buried there I am of the opinion it is not a treasure of gold, silver and jewels, but something of power and so potentially game changing that it had to be secured from mankind.

    Conspiracy? How could such a secret be kept through the ages? The Templars became a secret society when their survivors were forced underground by the Pope / King of France / the church. Their very lives depended on keeping secrets. It’s what they did. If you believe their order still exist, it’s what they continue to do.

    Anyway, if you are still reading, thanks. While I do not believe a treasue in the traditional sense is buried on Oak Island I, for one am not quite ready to close the door on the mystery of Oak Island.

    • Your argument, though eloquent, still suffers from the same logical defects as do the claims of those who believe in a traditional treasure. On what evidence, provable in the real world, do you rely to assume that anything, whether treasure or not, was ever buried there? We know that there’s no physical evidence–no flood tunnels, no infrastructure, nothing. We also know there’s no documentary evidence–no records, no witnesses, again, nothing. Once we conclude there’s no evidence to think that anything was ever there, aren’t we done? I mean, aside from the pure delight of getting to play in the big sandbox of pure conjecture about the Knights Templar or Leonardo Da Vinci, you really want real people to spend real time and real money looking for something for which there is no evidence to indicate that it ever existed at any time? Explain to me how this makes any rational sense.

  24. Great debunking of this ridiculous show that ranks up there with Ancient Aliens and other shows about Templar Treasures and such–possibly that show about Finding Atlantis too–“Oh! There’s a trident! It must be from Atlantis” (despite the fact that the Inuit have used them to catch fish for…who knows how long?). And now the boobs are claiming that Atlanteans are a different, hybrid species of aliens, with a different blood type! We could see that coming. Instead of the History Channel, what should they call it instead? “History for Chumps”? “Men Running around the World Trying to look Macho by crawling into caves and holes”?

    • Thanks. Actually my articles are not aimed at refuting the History Channel show per se, which I consider a waste of time even to watch, much less to address any claims it makes. The legend of Oak Island existed long before the show. Most of the commenters here have chosen to make it about the show (and they seem to believe in the legend mainly because the show convinced them that they should), but I really have very little interest in it. As my update states, I’d much rather watch The Great British Bake-Off!

  25. Richard Bond

    Mr. Munger, I am interested in your observations. I have tried to get through the videos and digest your entire position, and perhaps you covered it- If I missed it I apologize. I was wondering, why, if nothing exists at all, are there buried anomolies in the under 50′ range? One would not expect to find wood that far deep, unless they are stirred up remains from previous expeditions that are being stirred up with hope that the wood pre-dates the modern salvage attempts.

    I am interested in hearing your thoughts. Again if you covered it, refresh where I missed it!

    • Richard, there are a couple of points to make in response to your question. The first concerns the geologic structure of the island, which is rife with sinkholes. The excavation report written by John Brown, a mining engineer, in 1867 for one of the treasure syndicates (see its text, here) refers to numerous instances where sinkholes have opened up on Oak Island, big enough to swallow trees almost to the top of their branches. As this happens over centuries, wood, branches and other items would indeed be subsumed far underground.

      So, also, would the remains of previous treasure digs. Brown says (see at that link): “Should the ground have caved in (as I suppose) it would be broken up and very easy to remove. At a depth of 90 feet it may have become sufficiently consolidated to resist for a time the rising of the water, or until the diggers should have removed enough weight to allow the pressure of water to burst through and rise to tide level. The water having once raised through the clay, at every baling, the whole of the chips, wood and chain, or anything else left by previous workers would naturally sink and get mixed up, penetrating the soft clay until hard bottom was reached. The above has been exactly verified by the borings, scarcely an augur could be brought up without containing some particles of wood, but after passing the layer of gravel and getting into the settled ground, not a trace of any foreign substance could be discovered.”

      That explains exactly how wood and other detritus gets well below 50 feet down, on an island where there are lots of sinkholes and where dozens of 100-foot shafts have been dug all over the place for 150 years.

  26. zederith

    I would love for this place to be real.For one of these fantastic stories that you would never think could happen to be a truth lost to time.I can’t imagine the excitement to be in a position to possibly discover the proof!Yet,I would think anyone involved would have to approach all accounts with healthy scepticism.And before you spend a million dollars preferably.I wonder if at some point the current crew,like some in the past,have become so far invested that they just ‘can’t’ admit defeat,either mentally or financially.They just put the blinders on & push forward to keep the illusion going,for them,their families,& to the outside world because selling this land & this project won’t be as crushing if Oak Island still has a mystery right?And everyone has to see at least the possibility someone realized that burying some ancient wood from their trip to Italy or tossing some old coins or jewelry in the woods or a hole could help them avoid embarrassment & financial ruin in the end.Sadly,that desperate act could also be the hook that snags another.Really any of the many owners of any part of the island would benefit from ‘cool’ old stuff popping up & has access any night they want.One of these guys on the show owns a tourism company for Oak island I think.There is a hotel,the TV show,books,etc….So much to lose.Maybe they hope if they dig just a bit deeper or find a more gargantuan crane maybe they’ll find something unrelated like an undiscovered dinosaur skeleton or oil just to get something from it all.Doesn’t any current treasure there hunter realize that a few centuries of people walking around on an island like this in a waterway,even before the stories & rush for treasure would leave a lot of random trinkets,junk,lost valuables,even an occasional death probably scattering a bunch.Not just people,crows or ravens are famous for finding and even stealing small shiny objects for there nests or just drop them randomly.fish swallow things & are caught /cleaned thrown in hole or woods.Here comes our metal detector to find that buried 200 years later and boom,THERE IT IS,some PROOF!Reason to stay,a season 2,investors.A broken bone button w/part of a rune?,Vikings were here!They buried the treasure at Oak Island.You want a reference ?:Episode 7,S1 of History channels ‘Vikings’-Fixing Ragnars favorite shirt”.Was it on Oak Island?Ancient astronaut theorists say “Yes”…(to any question appearantly).As for money Pit or other mapped holes not in use.All kinds of things would be thrown down any convienant big,deep, hole,that’s accessible .They are digging into named & mapped trash bins at this point I think.Need to toss a body no one wanted to be found,there you go,human bones.Wood peices,broken whatever & animal remains from food especially and it wouldn’t matter if that hole or holes started out naturally like a sinkhole or cave or was part of a mine or well,they would all end up trash holes after awhile,that’s just the way of man.From many different travelers,workers,and especially sailors travelling through many places bringing all kinds of these little pieces of “treasure”.I mean,I would immediatly think some lonely item actually resembling treasure dug up to be lost by the previous treasure hunters carried from some other more successful venture.Or even thrown in a hole in frustration or jest just to mess with the next guy.Most of there finds to keep their hope alive have been just old coins, semi-precious,cut glass,or damaged jewelry usually missing the stones.All from wildly different origins & time periods.It’s like the hunters just being there perpetuated the cycle round & round.

    • Thanks for this. Among the many comments I receive on this subject (I don’t approve most of them), yours is one of the few that exhibits any kind of critical thinking. The vast majority I get are “there’s treasure there because, TV show.” Anywhere else in the world except Oak Island, and people would laugh at the idea that finding an old button on the ground or a buried plank means you’re on the verge of discovering the Ark of the Covenant or the lost plays of Shakespeare. But given how angry the truth about Oak Island makes people, it’s clear that the belief in buried treasure is deeply held and jealously defended against any rational attack.

  27. Lonnie Maxwell

    “Forty feet below, 2 million pounds are buried” Well seems pretty much like this has been exhausted.
    It amazes me how three teenagers in the 1700’s were able to successfully dig 30+ feet deep to begin with.
    My real question, is there some sort of booming tourism for Oak Island? A reason to continue a legend?

    • Actually, yes. The money pit story has increasingly been driving tourism to Oak Island especially in the last 20 years or so. It’s kind of an amazing feat, a tourist industry built on bringing people out to a remote place where nothing happened, to see something that isn’t there! Once the History Channel got involved, now suddenly there’s also TV ad revenue at stake. It boggles the mind.

      I don’t believe three teenagers really dug 30+ foot deep; they probably could have done so if they were motivated, but the three said to have done it were not teenagers and there is no evidence that the 1795 dig actually ever took place.

  28. Harold Dresden

    I first learned about the Oak Island mystery from a Reader’s Digest article that I read back in the 1960’s. It was a cool story, and I kept that article for many years. Turns out that it was that same article which originally got the Lagina brothers hooked on the search for Oak Island treasure. I suppose that shared past is part of the reason I started watching the series, which I discovered when it was in its 4th season. Of course, once my interest in Oak Island was reawakened, one of the first things I did was to go to the internet and do some additional research. I pretty quickly found several skeptical, well researched takes on the mystery. I fully agree that it quite likely started off as a legend that was used as the basis for several treasure hunting scams, and then eventually took on a life of it’s own.

    Despite knowing this, and despite the fact that the show is highly repetitive, and only presents a very selective and highly biased presentation of the ‘evidence’ (1), I continue to watch the show. It is a little hard to say why. Perhaps something about the (apparently) naive enthusiasm of the searchers is what draws me in. Perhaps it is the suspense connected with wondering how long it will take for these guys finally realize that it was all a wild goose chase, an expensive run down an historical rabbit hole. Perhaps it is just that I can temporarily suspend my understanding of reality and enjoy the thrill off the hunt, even if it is mostly fiction with a reality TV flavor?

    Part of my fascination, I suppose, is why do these guys (the Lagina’s) continuing to pour so much money into this quest? Marty Lagina seems like a pretty sharp business guy. It is pretty hard for me to believe that he doesn’t understand that there is a high probability that the various intriguing stories about the money pit were part of various treasure hunting investment scams from an earlier era. I can’t imagine that he has any real expectation that recovery of treasure will recoup the money he has put in. I seems more likely that they continue because the Oak Island treasure hunt has become a money making venture in its own right, generating revenue from tours, as well as lucrative payments to the brothers from the History Channel. The details of the financial arrangements are probably pretty interesting.

    At some point, it is inevitable that they will have to wrap up the search with little to show for it. Either the ratings fall off, or the brother’s decide to pull the plug. It will be interesting to see how the show handles that outcome.
    ——

    (1). It is telling that they say so little about Robet Dunfield’s massive excavation of the money pit in the 1960’s, or that it is likely that they are now drilling mostly through ground that was refilled after the Dunfield’s digging. Likewise, why no mention of Dunfield’s conclusion that the water intrusion comes from natural channels in the limestone that sits on top of bedrock. And why no mention of the possibility that that structures in Smith’s Cove are from a salt works that don’t appear in the historical record because the owners were trying to keep the facilities a secret to avoid taxes on the salt that they were producing.

    • Yes, the Reader’s Digest article is more responsible than any other single piece for reviving interest in the legend in the post-WWII era. It’s clear that a lot of people have an emotional attraction to the idea of buried treasure. Given the angry responses I receive on a daily basis (most of which I don’t approve), which are motivated entirely by emotion and not reasoned appreciation of the facts, it’s clear that a lot of people gain significant comfort from believing there might be treasure there, and they tend to be irritated by factual and logical arguments to the contrary.

      I think the Lagina brothers are less motivated by a blind belief in treasure on Oak Island than they are by advertising revenue from the History Channel. That’s the real treasure. If you think about it, the show’s producers have every bit as much to lose from them actually finding treasure as they do from being honest about the facts that it’s not there: everybody would stop watching. I’m quite certain the show, which I’m astonished has lasted this long already, will end pretty quickly on a note of, “Well, the treasure is still there, but it’s buried REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY deep and we’ll have to leave it to some future treasure hunter to succeed where we failed!” An admission of defeat can only acknowledge that they didn’t try hard enough, not that there’s no treasure to begin with. I don’t watch the show but I’ll be able to tell the exact moment the show goes off the air: the blog stats for this series of articles will instantly decline!

      BTW, Dunfield in the 1960s was not the first treasure hunter whose search was comprehensive and which could not have failed to find treasure if there was any–and also who concluded, after his search had failed, that there was nothing there and water intrusion was natural. The exact same thing happened on the 1909 expedition, the one that Franklin D. Roosevelt was involved in. H.L. Bowdoin, the engineer on that dig, came to exactly the same conclusion. He wrote about it in Collier’s magazine in August 1911. That source has been digitized, here: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015016754973 I guarantee you will hear no mention of this on the idiotic History Channel show.

  29. Wolf Muench

    The long and short of it everyone is making money off this the sad part they are wrecking the landscape hope they return it to its former beauty

  30. dashingdexter

    Great articles!! Moviefanatic…gave you a link to the history channel blurb…it must be true!!! this is the last paragraph …..”Will Rick, Marty and their partners unearth a vast, hidden treasure? Or like the many who have come before them, will they only find more obstacles–or worse—proof that a deadly curse really does protect Oak Island’s secrets?” Looks like the snuck in the supernatural slant you mentioned!!! I wish you’d some of the angry comments you get!!

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