Case File: Beale's Treasure
Location: Bedford County, Virginia
Description: The Beale's treasure is $21 million of gold and silver stuffed in iron pots, believed to be hidden somewhere in Bedford County, Virginia.
History: In the early 1800s, miner Thomas Beale and a team of thirty other miners dug up gold and silver in New Mexico. They brought the treasure to Virginia, where Beale buried it in 1821. He left written instructions to the location of his fortune, in the form of three hidden codes or ciphers. He then went back to New Mexico and disappeared.
In 1869, a wealthy Virginian solved one of the ciphers, using the Declaration of Independence as the key. He numbered the first letter of every word in the Declaration of Independence. Then, for each number in the cipher, he substituted the corresponding letters. Decoded, the message read:
I have deposited in the county of Bedford in an excavation or vault six feet below the surface of the ground five thousand one hundred pounds of silver and two thousand nine hundred and twenty one pounds of gold securely packed in iron pots with iron covers... the vault is roughly lined with stone...
Beale described the treasure in detail. For over 100 years, his other two ciphers have remained unsolved. One lists his associated and heirs. The other pinpoints the exact location of the treasure. Whoever decodes it may find his fortune, stored in a secret vault roughly the size of two Rolls Royce's. Recently, some treasure hunters have claimed that they have broken the ciphers.
However, some people believe that Beale and his treasure may not even exist. Many Bedford County residents have recalled people coming to look for the treasure. Each time, the treasure hunters leave empty-handed. As a result, the residents do not believe that the treasure exists.
Background: Thomas Jefferson Beale is believed to have lived in Colorado in 1818, where he claimed to have found the treasure. He is believed to have lived in Virginia in 1821, where he buried the alleged treasure. There are census records for two Thomas Beales in 1820, but it is not known if they are actually him as the census lists are incomplete.
Investigations: For over 100 years, treasure hunters have been searching for Beale's treasure. Two brothers, Eddie and Joe Toney, and their father-in-law Earl Boggs have spent nine years searching for the treasure. They say that they have broken the cipher, which tells of five geographical points where 167 years ago Beale left the clues which one-by-one will lead to his fortune. The Toney brothers are currently looking for the fifth and final point, which is the clue that will lead them to the vault. They claim that they have found things at the other points which were left by Beale. They are certain that they will find the treasure at the fifth point.
The Toney brothers believe that a 19th century carriage rod that they found is the fifth clue in their search. They think that it was purposefully buried by Beale, pointing in the direction of his secret vault.
Meanwhile, miles away in a completely different section of Bedford County, Wilbur Swift of Garden Grove, California is also searching. He also believes that he has broken the cipher. He has spent the last year and $20,000 trying to find the treasure. Swift is a computer programmer and used his computer skills to try and break the cipher. He claims that he was able to break it in about eight months. The cipher told him about a specific type of rock with a face and head on it.
Swift located the rock and figured that the treasure was underneath it. He hired a local contractor, Ken Dooley, to help him excavate under the rock. Dooley stated that he has helped over twenty people dig for the treasure. However, no one has ever found it. Many residents suspect that the treasure may be a hoax.
Computer pioneer Dr. Carl Hammer has spent thirty years studying Beale's numbers to determine if there truly is a coded message. As part of his investigation, he attempted to recreate the conditions under which Beale wrote the cipher in his computer lab. After analyzing the numbers in the ciphers, he discovered that there were distinguishable patterns. He is certain that they are not random numbers. As a result, he does not believe that the ciphers are a hoax.
Extra Notes: This case first aired as part of the May 18, 1988 special #7 episode.
Results: Unresolved. A website claims that Beale's cyphers have been solved and a photograph is shown of the alleged opening to the treasure site, but it is not known whether anyone has located any actual treasure.
- Beale's Treasure on Wikipedia
- The Beale Treasure Ciphers - Simon Singh
- Treasure Hunters Still Lured to Bedford County
- Beale Treasure Still Defies Detection
- Do ciphers hide 1817 treasure?
- Treasure Hunter's Case May Be a First
- Treasure Hunt on in Bedford
- Maryland Man Searches 11 Years for Treasure
- The Thomas Beale Cipher: A Modern Take on an Old Mystery
- The Lost Treasure of the Beale Ciphers
- The Quest to Break America’s Most Mysterious Code—And Find $60 Million in Buried Treasure