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Mystery of the Money Pit

Oak Island money pit seen from the air

Lost Treasure

Mystery of the Money Pit

Mystery of the Money Pit

The mysterious money pit has guarded its secret contents tenaciously despite two centuries of determined efforts to unearth it.

The Discovery

One spring day in 1795 Daniel McGinnis, then a teenager, was wandering around Oak Island, Nova Scotia when he came across a curious circular depression in the ground.

Standing over this depression was a tree whose branches had been cut in a way which looked like it had been used as a pulley. Having heard tales of pirates hiding their treasure in the area McGinnis hurried home to tell his friends. Over the next several days McGinnis and two other boys worked furiously on the hole. What they found astonished them.

diagram of the money pit
Click Image to Enlarge

Two feet below the surface they came across a layer of flagstones covering the pit. At ten feet they found a platform of oak logs wedged into the shaft’s walls. Ripping it out they excavated another ten feet. There they found another platform, then another one ten feet lower. Frustrated by the barriers, the boys eventually returned to their farm chores.

Eight years later, in 1803, the three boys returned to Oak Island to continue the hunt. They were adults now and had the financial backing of a syndicate of Nova Scotia businessmen who called themselves The Onslow Company.

The excavation picked up where it had left off eight years before and more oak platforms were discovered – every ten feet. Besides the boards, at 40 feet a layer of charcoal was found, at 50 feet a layer of putty, and at 60 feet a layer of coconut fiber.

At 90 feet one of the most puzzling clues was found – a stone tablet inscribed with mysterious writing:

inscription found in the money pit on Oak Island

It turned out to be a simple substitution cipher where each symbol inscribed on the stone corresponded to a letter in the alphabet. When decoded the cipher read:


As nightfall descended the digging had to be stopped due to poor visibility – the treasure would have to wait one more day.

The group returned to Oak Island the next day eager to recover treasure only to find the shaft completely flooded with seawater. No matter how hard they tried, all attempts to pump out the water failed.

Booby Trap!
Many believe that the flooding was part of an elaborate booby trap built to protect the Money Pit’s secret. Later excavations discovered an intricate rock-lined tunnel system that directed seawater from the ocean into the shaft. The water had been held back by a barrier that was tripped during the excavation.

Unwilling to give up on the treasure, the group dug a separate shaft next to the original in order to allow the flood water to drain out.

But the plan turned out to be a disaster – the walls of the new shaft collapsed leaving the original shaft flooded once again. The diggers were lucky to escape with their lives.

The pit was abandoned for 45 years.


Over the next 200 years the Money Pit’s secrets obsessed scores of people – an endless procession of individuals and corporations descended upon the island to take up the hunt.

The lure of the unknown attracted all types of adventurers – some of the more noteworthy were: soon to be US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, explorer Richard Byrd, and actor Errol Flynn who wanted to search Oak Island in 1940, but was discouraged when he found the search rights already belonged to a company owned by fellow actor John Wayne.

Above: President Franklin D. Roosevelt (aged 27) and friends on Oak Island searching for the treasure in 1910. Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records AdministrationFranklin D. Roosevelt and friends
working the Money Pit in 1910.

Despite the millions of dollars invested, and the increasingly sophisticated tools at searchers disposal, the contents of the Oak Island Money Pit have remained out of reach.

One indian legend has it that the search will end only after all the island’s oaks are dead, and seven treasure hunters have lost their lives in the search. By 1990, six diggers had died and only three oaks remained on the island.

Recent Discoveries

Around 1967, Daniel C. Blankenship and David Tobias formed The Triton Alliance, Ltd. and purchased most of the island. In 1971, Triton workers excavated a 235-foot shaft supported by a steel caisson. According to Blankenship and Tobias, cameras lowered down the shaft into a cave below recorded the presence of some chests, human remains, wooden cribbing and tools; however, the images were unclear, and none of these claims have been officially confirmed. Work was eventually halted due to lack of funds and the collapse of the partnership.

Exploration was stalled in the 90s due to legal battles between the Triton partners, but recently Dan Blankenship and his new partners, the Michigan Group have worked things out and further exploration of the Money Pit will continue this year (2008).

What Treasure Lies at the Bottom of the Money Pit?

heart shaped stone found at oak island in the money pitThe pit has yielded few clues to what it may hold. Three links of chain, iron scissors of Spanish manufacture, a carved-bone boson’s whistle, and a scrap of parchment are among the few artifacts to be raised.

Coconut fiber has also been found, although the nearest coconut trees are 1,500 miles away – coconut fiber was used to pack cargo on seventeenth and eighteenth-century ships.

One of the most tantalizing discoveries was a heart-shaped stone similar to those found among pirate treasure-troves in Haiti.

There are many theories as to what the Money Pit may hold but my three favorites are:

portrait of three Knights templar

Theory #1 – The Treasure of the Knights Templar

The tale of the Knights Templar’s Lost Treasure is well known among treasure hunting buffs. In the early hours of October 13th, 1307, King Philip IV of France ordered all the Knights Templar arrested on trumped up charge of heresy – and their fabled treasure confiscated in the name of the crown. But when the King’s men arrived at the Templar’s Paris Headquarters the treasure had vanished as had almost the entire Templar naval fleet.

The Templars were now wanted men in most of Europe, so, the theory goes that desiring to establish a new Templar government outside the reach of French persecution, the Templars sailed westward towards Nova Scotia where they established a colony.

The presence of the Knights Templar in Novia Scotia a century before Columbus discovered America may sound far-fetched, but it is supported by a Zeno narrative and map that depicts the landmass of Nova Scotia (New Scotland) with the figure of a crowned knight drawn upon it (one of the Templar’s Symbols).

At some point, the theory goes, the Templars decided to abandon their colony and head back to Europe, but with the order weakened and fearing their treasure might fall into the wrong hands, they decided to hide it. They constructed the money pit to protect their treasure until such a time they could return for it.

Which they obviously never did.

To this day none of the Templar treasure has been found. Their treasure is rumored to contain artifacts of spiritual significance retrieved by the order during the Crusades, including the genealogies of David and Jesus and documents that trace these bloodlines into the royal bloodlines of Merovingian France.

captain William Kidd

Theory #2 – Captain Kidd’s Treasure

Legends abound about the numerous secret caches of treasure buried by Kidd throughout his illustrious career as a Pirate. One legend told of a dying sailor in the New England Colonies who confessed to being a part of Kidd’s notorious crew.

The old sailor stated that Captain Kidd had buried a hoard of treasure to be found on an island “east of Boston”, but he never named an exact location for the hidden booty. Could it have been Oak Island?

Skeptics claim that Kidd spent little time near Nova Scotia, suggesting that he could not have devoted enough time to constructing the money pit.

Theory #3 – Inca or Maya Treasure

Incan Treasure

During the conquest of the Americas by the Europeans in the mid 1500s much of the wealth of the Incas and Mayas disappeared. There are two persistent legends about where much of this treasure went – if you want to know more check out these two articles:

Montezuma’s Gold

Inca Gold: The Treasure of the Llanganatis

Some researchers believe it’s possible that a group of Incas or Mayas, possibly with the help of sympathetic Europeans, stole away with the wealth and buried it on Oak Island out of the reach of the conquerors.


For more information about the Money Pit visit – this is the most comprehensive site I’ve found on the subject and a great place to start your research.



  1. Tommy

    August 15, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Really?! No one has commented here? I’ve been obsessed with this for a while. I wonder what’s down there. I know Rosevelt lead a huge excavation of the site. So fascinating. If I get rich, I’m getting all my friends to go figure this out.

  2. Dimper

    September 9, 2012 at 3:39 am

    In the first place, who could have dug that deep to bury treasure and why so deep? Does he have any intention to recover and use it while alive?

  3. derek bates

    January 1, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    If any one is setting out on a quest ill be more than greatful if you need a hand I LOVE IT….

  4. Abner Donaldson

    January 11, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    eriously this is a wonderful tale of mystery, and adventure and frustration to say the least. I love it. My only wish is that I could be the one to help make it happen

  5. Barry

    January 12, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Looking at the insrciptions from the tablet, I immediately noticed that the symbols look familar. So I think a question to ask is this. Out of the three theories which group used codes like that in the past, the templars, pirates, or mayan/aztecs?
    I am thinking that this may help verify who built the shaft in the first place.

  6. therussion

    March 14, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    i agree with tommy that oak island deserves more attention
    but i dont think it will ever be found

  7. alan hayden

    July 12, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    why not drill into the water shafts from above and filling the shaft with concrete. then pump out the water in the shaft. if it still fills with water ,use large concrete culverts on the outer edge of the digging a water well ,one on top of the other?

  8. chris

    December 26, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    Trying to conclude and with my conclusion, they use the pit as desalination plant.. Because the water of the sea is saulty they needed to construct a man made desalination plant.. So they can get water for consumptions.

  9. C.Currie

    November 21, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    going with what barry said about the stone, the stone was lost in the early 1900s the stone was lost an there was no rub of it . so where did the images we see in pictures come from? also one researcher as you should know quoted it saying,”forty feet below, two million pounds lay buried.” another by the name keith blake ranville did his on research an pretty much what can understand of his translation is instructions on ether how to find the right spot or how the traps work.

  10. MM

    December 9, 2015 at 1:21 am

    The symbols look like directions … the kind you leave when you are making sure you don’t get lost in the woods and don’t walk in circles.
    Down, cross a stream/gorge(?), watch for the hole/don’t go into the cave(?), go up, look. Go down, walk 2 something, up, etc.
    We can map the Mariana Trench (03/26/2012 – Deepsea Challenger – 10,902 ft).
    Robert Ballard found and sent submersibles over the the RMS Titanic in 1985 (started looking in 1977) and found it at 10,560 ft.
    Are you trying to tell me in 2015 we can’t figure out what is at the bottom of a 1,000 ft shaft that is 27″ wide at the most narrow portion?
    How about a balloon type structure dropped into the “well” by weights and then inflated? Something like what the Mars Rover used to land, but clear? Chambers can be added by adding more balloon structures, cutting and adding air to inflate them. Something like an airlock.
    Just a thought.

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