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The Oak Island Money Pit

For over 200 years men have dug a hole in the ground, convinced a great treasure lies just out of their reach. But the Oak Island Money Pit has created more paupers than princes. Is this abyss nothing more than a hole in its owner’s pockets?

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The place: A small island on the shore of Nova Scotia

The time: 1795

The clue: A shallow depression with a tackle block hanging over a nearby tree.

Young Donald McGinnis, was convinced he had found the hidden resting place of some pirate’s treasure when he stumbled over a shallow hole during a day’s exploring. After all there were tales of ghostly lights being seen on the island years before and pirates were known to have prowled the ocean around this neck of land.

He quickly got 2 friends, John Smith and Anthony Vaughan to help and the teenagers dug like demons possessed. They first hit stones a few feet below and then a layer of oak logs. Finally, at a depth of 25 feet, they called it quits because of the difficulty involved. They realized they needed pros to help and covered the pit to hide it from others.

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Finally in 1803 they secured the money needed to continue and the dig continued. The crew found more signs of something below, hitting another platform of logs, then a layer of charcoal and then finally a layer of putty. A strange stone with curious inscriptions was dug out and tossed aside. Then more layers of fibers were dug through, including one made of coconuts! The crew continued downward, convinced gold and gems awaited them just a few feet beneath their feet.

At 93 feet water began to creep into the pit and soon the men were removing 1 bucket of water for every 2 buckets of dirt. With the light fading, one man drove a metal bar thru the water, deep into the dirt below and heard it impact on a hard object! The treasure was there.

Elated the men stopped work for the night and tried to sleep, eager to begin work again the next morning. But when they approached the pit at first light their smiles disappeared like the promise of the treasure they had been searching for.

Overnight the pit had filled with over 60 feet of water!

The men bailed to no effect. Finally in desperation they begin to dig a new tunnel to the side of the old one, digging down to a depth of 110 feet and then tunneling sideways in an effort to get under the treasure. When they got to a few feet of the original the wall burst in an explosion of water and the men raced to the surface, just escaping a watery grave.

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Depressed and out of funds they called off the dig and went back to their original lives of farming. But the allure of the mystery continued to draw men to it. The curious stone was examined and reexamined for clues and some said it spoke of how to deflood the pit. It’s mystery was never solved and the stone was later lost.

In 1849 another crew tried their luck. They drilled past the 95 foot level with a small bore head, pulling up small pieces of wood and gold linked chain. When one of their workers noticed the water was salt and rose with the tide they explored a nearby beach and reported an intricate built drainage system that forced the seawater into the money pit. They attempted to dam up the water passage but were unsuccessful. Out of funds the group gave up.

From 1861 to 1864 a third company of men tested the pit. The group’s partially plugged the drainage system and then dug a side tunnel down to a level of 120 feet and once again tried to connect it to the treasure. As the side tunnel grew closer the side of the money pit began to tilt and fall into itself and the men watched in disbelief as more than 10,000 feet of wood cribbing used as support dropped into the water and disappeared. It appeared that they had literally caused the bottom to drop out of the pit and into a chasm below it! Out of money and luck, the group gave up, another victim of the money pit.

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Click here to see a diagram of the money pit.

Many others tried their hand at the money pit including a young Franklin D Roosevelt and Hollywood actor Erroll Flynn but none had any luck. By the mid 30’s the island was littered with debris and holes dug by past treasure seekers. Even the original location of the money pit had been lost.

In 1965 one treasure seeker decided to end the mystery once and for all. He built a causeway to the island and then transported a 70 ton digging crane to the site! He excavated a large area down to an area of 140 feet but found nothing. His curiosity satisfied, he gave up. Other treasure hunters complained that the method lacked finesse and proved nothing but that the crane was digging in the wrong spot.


In the early 70’s yet another group dug a tunnel down to the level of 235 feet and lowered cameras. They claimed to see images of human remains, wooden chests and tools but the pictures were too fuzzy to be certain. The tunnel collapsed before another look could be taken.

Work continued in the 80s and 90s along with a few lawsuits between competing treasure seekers. The island was fenced off along competing property lines, with one owner refusing to allow another to cross his land to get to the other side. A scientific study in the mid 90s confirmed nothing and said the flood tunnels were a natural occurring effect. This report did nothing to stop the interest of treasure hunters in the island.

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The latest? In April of 2006 a group of new investors bought a partial stake in the island for millions of dollars. They plan to continue the dream of finding the treasure that so far has eluded men for 200 years.

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