Oak Island Money Pit


Money PitOak Island is a 140-acre (57 ha) island in Lunenberg County on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada. The tree-covered island is one of about 360 small islands in Mahone Bay and rises to a maximum of 35 feet (11 m) above sea level. Oak Island is noted as the location of the so-called Money Pit, a site of numerous excavations to recover treasure believed by many to be buried there. The island is privately owned, and advance permission is required for any visitation. The story of the Oak Island treasure pit is fascinating and complex. It is a story of mystery, greed, controversy and very little humour. The Oak Island treasure has been sought by many individuals and corporations for over 200 years.

It has attracted all strata of explorer from: the three teenagers who first discovered the site; to Franklin D. Roosevelt, a former US President, whose company Old Gold Salvage group searched in 1909; to the swash-buckling actor Errol Flynn who wanted to search Oak Island in 1940, but was discouraged when he found the search rights belonged to a company owned by fellow actor John Wayne.

In 1795, 16-year-old Daniel McGinnis discovered a circular depression in a clearing on the southeastern end of the island with an adjacent tree which had a tackle block on one of its overhanging branches. McGinnis, with the help of friends John Smith (in early accounts, Samuel Ball) and Anthony Vaughan, excavated the depression and discovered a layer of flagstones a few feet below. On the pit walls there were visible markings from a pick. As they dug down they discovered layers of logs at about every ten feet (3 m). They abandoned the excavation at 30 feet (10 m).

According to one of the earliest written accounts, at 80 or 90 feet (27 m), they recovered a large stone bearing an inscription of symbols (symbols pictured above). Several researchers are said to have attempted to decipher the symbols. One translated them as saying: “forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried.” No photographs, drawings, or other images of the stone are known to have been produced prior to its claimed disappearance circa 1912.

Stone Inscription

Investors formed The Truro Company in 1849, which re-excavated the shaft back down to the 86-foot (26 m) level, where it flooded again. The next excavation attempt was made in 1861 by a new company called the Oak Island Association which resulted in the collapse of the bottom of the shaft into either a natural cavern or booby trap underneath. The first fatality during excavations occurred when the boiler of a pumping engine burst.

Further excavations were made in 1866, 1893, 1909, 1931, 1935, 1936, and 1959, none of which were successful. Another fatality occurred in 1887, when a worker fell to his death. (Six people have been killed in accidents during various excavations.)

What is Buried There?

Oakislandmoneypit-1There has been wide-ranging speculation as to who originally dug the pit and what it might contain. Man-made structures under Oak Island do in fact exist as discussed in many books. Whether these structures are the remains of prior excavation attempts or artifacts left behind by those who allegedly built the Money Pit are unknown.

Some believe the pit holds a pirate treasure hoard buried by Captain Kidd or possibly Edward Teach (Blackbeard), who claimed he buried his treasure “where none but Satan and myself can find it.” Others agree it was dug to hold treasure but believe this was done by someone other than pirates, such as Spanish sailors from a wrecked galleon or British troops during the American Revolution. John Godwin argued that, given the apparent size and complexity of the pit, it was likely dug by French army engineers hoping to hide the contents of the treasury of the Fortress of Louisbourg after it fell to the British during the French and Indian War.

Amd AntoinetteThere is a story that, like most others regarding the island, lacks adequate archival sources, or any quoted sources at all, which places the priceless jewels of Marie Antoinette (which are historically missing, save for some specimens in the collections of museums worldwide) on Oak Island. During the French Revolution, when the Palace of Versailles was stormed by revolutionaries in 1789, Marie Antoinette instructed her maid or a lady-in-waiting to take her prized possessions and flee. Supposedly, this maid fled to London with such royal items as Antoinette’s jewels and perhaps other treasures, such as important artwork or documents. The story then goes on to say that this woman fled further afield from London to Nova Scotia; through the royal connections she would have had during her service to the queen at Versailles, she managed to contract the French navy to help construct the famed ‘pit’ on the island.

Picture 1-129Still others have speculated that the Oak Island pit was dug to hold treasure much more exotic than gold or silver. In his 1953 book, The Oak Island Enigma: A History and Inquiry Into the Origin of the Money Pit, Penn Leary claimed that English philosopher Francis Bacon used the pit to hide documents proving him to be the author of William Shakespeare’s plays, a theory recently used in the Norwegian book Organisten (The Organ Player) by Erlend Loe and Petter Amundsen. It has been asserted that the pit might have been dug by exiled Knights Templar and that it is the last resting place of the Holy Grail. [Source]

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Text is derived from Wikipedia.


32 Responses to “Oak Island Money Pit”

  1. 1 Jenova4

    Wouldn’t that be a hoot? The Holy Grail was in Canada all along.

  2. 2 Hailtree

    The last expedition was 50 years ago??? I guess with modern machinery someone can get to the bottom of this pit and finally solve the mystery!

    • 3 Kathleen

      Surely that could happen. I wonder when (or if) they’ll start another expedition. Makes you want to find out what’s really hidden down there, if anything at all.

      • apparently the current owners are treasure hunters – so they may find something. But the pit is so dangerous that there is still no new information.

  3. 5 Luka

    I’ve been a long time reader of Listverse, and I’m absolutely loving the new site. I look forward to the next article 🙂

  4. 6 Zenayda

    This is so insane. Pity it’s so dangerous – it’d be so fun to go on a real life treasure hunt 🙂

  5. 7 Gaara

    Congratulations on your new site JFrater. As much as I love Listverse, the list format doesn’t exactly allow for detailed explanations. So I think this will be a much better opportunity for your writings.

    Ah! Finally something I knew nothing about. Anyhoo, I don’t see how it’s “dangerous” with all the technology we have at our disposal now. Compared to 12 kilometer, this shouldn’t be much of a challenge.

  6. It’s exciting to think of treasure, but I have to wonder… how did the makers of the pit plan to get the treasure OUT again (presuming it was not their intention to keep the treasure hidden forever).

  7. 9 EuripidesTheYounger

    1. Imagine the amount of time, money and expertise it would have taken to create this “hole” in the first place at the time it was purported toi have been dug.
    2. Consider the kind of storage available at the time the pit was first excavated. In other words, imagine the effect hundreds of years of water, salt and mud have on wooden barrels or metal boxes from that time period.
    3. Recall the engineering feats that have been constructed over this period of time.
    It’s just a hole with very little left of value at the bottom, assuming there was anything left at the bottom at all.
    If this sort of thing interests you, either read all you can ablout The Beale Ciphers or just watch National Treasure I & II until it all makes sense. 😉

  8. 10 Looser

    why did you get this from wikipedia? surely better sources exist? I’m willing to wait for longer periods of time if it means a better article!!!! Not saying that this wasn’t excellent but surely longer and from a better source would be best???

  9. 11 imcrystalclear

    This is something I’ve never heard of, but I agree with some of the other commentors, it would be so fun to go on a treasure hunt. I wonder if it would be as dangerous today?

  10. 12 Iakhovas

    Maybe it was designed as one giant prank to frustrate future generations….

  11. 13 Firefly

    I wonder if anyone’s tried using GPR or magnetic resistivity or some other form of non-intrusive excavation?

  12. Screw it, call the Goonies, they got this. ❤

  13. 15 totalstranger

    I’ve been obsessed with Oak Island ever since I saw a thing about it on In Search Of in the early 80’s. I used to dig pits and play Oak Island with Star Wars and G.I. Joes.

    they need to just lower a submersable with lights into the damn pit if the bottom gave out at 90 feet. if its a cavern then they should see something.

    • 16 Allergy

      In Search Of… wasn’t that narrated by Leonard Nemoy? I believe that’s the same show you were talking about, and I remember watching that every morning before school! lol I loved that show.

  14. 17 chongsmoke

    I actually read about this in depth a few years ago. There is a far more detailed source for information on this than Wikipedia but unfortunately I have forgotten it 😦
    Just wanted to say congrats on the new site. I’ve been a Listverse regular for a long time so I’m sure this site will keep me interested too. Also, In search Of…. is awesome.

  15. 18 empresszien

    cool. 🙂

  16. 19 grubthrower

    To anyone interested in the Money Pit story, I suggest checking out the excellent novel Riptide by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

    They used a fictional island off the coast of Maine, but pretty much all of the history of the Money Pit is included. Red Ned Ockham is their choice for the originating pirate, and for the mysterious super-artifact they chose St. Michael’s sword.

    The writing is crisp, the story engaging, the plot and pace exceptional… but great characterization is what ultimately makes this one of my favorite mainstream novels.

    • 20 guyintshirt

      Preston and Child books are extremely good, i recommend all of you to go to b&n and get a copy… also is it owned by John Wayne… I’ll put this on my list of things to do before i die 🙂

  17. 21 BuzzDJT

    Also like to say congratulations on the new site, love the format, this is the kind of thing I read on Wiki all the time, and its great to have a more reliable forum.

    My personal theory (I have a background of geology and am a construction engineer by trade) is that rather than digging the hole themselves they merely found a deep sink hole or cave system entrance and backfilled it, This would leave more scope for engineering the place to be easily accessible, plus as its on an island, there are probably other entrances below the waterline. I’ld say they mapped these and knew an easy (or easier at least) way into the pit, like a priest’s bolthole in old temples.

    Mapping techniques around that time were incredibly detailed especially inside the armed forces of the european countries, just look at a british O.S. map from the 1800’s to early 20th century the detail is amazingly defined and accurate.

  18. 22 grawdey

    Hey jfrater,

    I love both this and listverse – kudos.

    As a suggestion for a future article; have you ever heard of “Robert the doll”. Well worth a wikipedia, youtube and maybe a visit…

    • I hadn’t until now – very interesting. Thanks for mentioning it 🙂

  19. 24 theanswer

    the true treasure is no longer on the island. where is you might wonder? your guess might be as good as mine. perhaps area 51, perhaps fort knox, perhaps at a norad bunker deep in colorado. notice the guidestone disappeared not to long after franklin roosevelts involvement with the project. it has been revealed to me through a undisclosed informant that mr roosevelt shortly after becoming president secretly ordered the sight excavated by the army core of engineers on an appropiate scale which was covered up by the 1930’s tractor excavations that failed to uncover any treasure despite having far superior equipment then those who originally hid the tresure their in the first place,the knights templar. notice that the united states went from the great depression to the greatest super power in the world over roosevelts watch. what did roosevelt find there, the ark of the covenant? the rod of god? the holy grail? vast amounts of gold and silver? the lost scrolls of egypt, isreal, and rome? what roosevelt uncovered was the same items that the knights templar recovered buried beneath the dome of the rock and the foundation stone in the jews hidden vaults of the temple mount in the holy lands of isreal. ive probably already said to much. i just didnt want the secret to be lost with me

  20. 25 chingpower

    reminds me of the National Treasure movie. 😀

  21. 26 Kid

    they be not finding me loot

  22. 27 Michael

    Interesting read

  23. 28 Jesse D

    Nobody will excavate further because most modern research states it is not a pit for money but part of a network of flood pipes used to create a dry dock for ship repair. The ship sails in to the bay, someone closes the gate and pulls the plug on the tube connected to the cavern at the bottom of the pit, the water drains into the cavern emptying the dock allowing the ship to be repaired. The tube is then plugged and the gated opened to allow the bay to flood. The supposed “money pit” is just the point the cavern was accessed to connect the dry dock system. Why or why built it is still up for debate, but you’d think they have to have a fairly large and important ship to warrant building it or perhaps during one of the wars it could be used for naval repairs to many ships.

  24. TO the above comment ..
    crap mate .. who would go to all that trouble to build / make a plug…
    you could go to the hardware shop and get one.

  25. 30 joevet

    ancient aliens the HBO series had a take on what might be down there.the manna machine which was nuclear powered and produced a protein rich substance that fed the Israelite s during their 40 year journey through the desert.it was a humanitarian effort by ancient aliens to keep 200,000+alive .it was the safest place to store and hide nuclear technology from us humans at least until the 1940’s

  26. 31 Captain Carrot

    Why don’t they just dig off to the side of it, and then try to come in from the side or go deep enough to come from the bottom up? Or expand the hole so that they’re digging a huge hole around the original one to have more room for different approaches? Dunno, just a thought…

    • 32 Leemart

      What this article doesn’t mention is that as the excavations proceeded, at various levels seals were broken to tunnels from the bay which flooded the whole pit. These were obviously designed to booby trap any excavations. The end of one tunnel that was located was packed with coconut husks for filtration, as were various levels within the pit. This indicates that whomever the builders were had obtained materials from the southern hemisphere, probably the Caribbean, which fits more with the pirate legends. One drilling exercise supposedly produced some gold bits I believe from about the 90 foot level. Platforms at every ten feet produced wood, coconut fiber and putty. They have now drilled more than 200 feet down. My uncle took my mother and I to Oak Island for a picnic in 1946, and I learned of the mysterious circumstances of the island, and I sure hoped that by now the mystery would have been solved. As of July 2010, excavation has once more begun. Here’s a website about the pit.


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