History, literature and film is filled with stories of incredible lost treasures - tales of X marking the spot or ancient hidden tombs laden with gold and rubies.
However, although many of these are merely legends devised to titillate audiences, there are also some real world lost treasures which are now worth an astronomical fortune... if you can find them.
Here are six such hidden treasures.
The Treasure of the Knights Templar
In 1119 AD, a European knightly order was established by Pope Innocent II to protect pilgrims on their journey to the Holy Land in the Middle East. Over time this organization, which became known as the Knights Templar, began to offer a service in which they would safe-keep the wealth of nobles which had to leave their homes to either visit, or fight in, the Holy Land. Essentially, they invented banking.
This, combined with charitable donations, meant the Knights Templar - formerly an order of poor monks - amassed a great wealth. However, by 1291 the Knights Templar had been forced out of the Holy Land in the Crusades and returned to Europe. Now weakened, they were beset upon by rulers and nobles who owed them money. Eventually this led to King Phillip VI of France issuing an order to arrest the leaders for various bogus crimes.
Fearing a liquidation of their order, the remaining Knights moved their treasure around and it is believed they eventually shipped it out of mainland Europe. Rumors have it, it was moved to Scotland and then possibly onto Nova Scotia, Canada. No one is sure, but it is expected the haul could be worth many billions.
The Ransom of D.B. Cooper
The story of a hijacker known as D.B. Cooper quickly grabbed the attention of the public after it occurred in 1971. On the 24th November of that year, a man caught a Boeing 727 flight to Seattle, Washington before grabbing the attention of a steward and telling her he had a bomb. He then calmly and politely demanded that the plane land in Seattle, where it would be refueled and $200,000 ($1,160,000 when adjusted for inflation) and four parachutes would be brought on board.
The crew did as he asked and landed in Seattle where the rest of the passengers were taken off, and the money and parachutes placed aboard. The man then gave the pilots specific information on direction and cruising altitudes before shutting the entire crew in the cockpit. About 20 minutes later, the aircraft issued a warning stating the aft staircase had been opened while in flight. Upon landing in Reno several hours later, they found D.B. Cooper had disappeared.
It is believed he parachuted out the aircraft somewhere over southwestern Washington state. The man was never found, although an instruction placard for lowering the aft stairs of a 727 and three packets of the ransom money were uncovered in 1978 and 1980 respectively. Considering D.B. Cooper jumped out of the aircraft during a rainstorm, it is commonly assumed he died while escaping. With that in mind, many treasure hunters have headed into the area in an attempt to find his ransom money.
King John's Crown Jewels
This one is a personal one for me, considering it basically happened right at my front door. Back in 1216, King John was traveling across the Fen (an area of Norfolk, England which was famed for its dangerous and confusing terrain) after quelling a rebellion in nearby Lincoln.
He decided to stop over at King's Lynn (then called Bishop's Lynn) to resupply and rest up before returning to his base at Newark Castle. His entourage took a longer, safer route through the marshland by heading for Wisbech (that's my hometown!) before continuing to Newark. However, he sent his troops and baggage train on a short trip across the Wash, a large bay that at low tide provides a convenient shortcut from Norfolk to the port of Boston, Lincolnshire.
Unfortunately, his baggage train moved too slowly and misjudged the tide, meaning his troops and treasure caravans - which included his crown jewels, a golden wand with a dove, the sword of Tristram and other valuables - were swept away into the mud flats of the Wash. King John was reportedly furious, although that didn't last too long. He had contracted dysentery in King's Lynn (I can confirm, it is still a dump) and died a few days later.
As kids of the local area, we were all told this story and to this day you can often find me boring my friends with the tale after I've had too much to drink. I distinctly remember one educational geography school trip in which we were lured to the Wash under the promise of finding King John's treasure. We never did, and neither have the scores of treasure seekers who still roam the area.
However, there is one story which claims a local 14th century Norfolk Baron, Robert Tiptoft, became extremely rich overnight, suggesting he in fact found the haul.
The Lost City of Paititi
Losing a bag of cash or some crown jewels is one thing, but how about an entire city?
Now, everyone has heard of the lost golden city of El Dorado - but in reality, a historical confusion resulted in the real city being given this incorrect moniker. The real city of gold is in fact apparently called Paititi, and legend states it sits somewhere in the vast Brazilian rainforest.
In 1572, Spanish conquistadors were continuing their war against the native Incan tribes. Firearms and disease had a done a great job of pushing back the formerly powerful empire, and now on the brink of defeat, it is believed the Incans hoarded all of their gold into one last stronghold.
That stronghold is believed to be Paititi, but despite expeditions to find it, the city and the gold has never been located. Of course, some discounted Paititi as nothing but legend, but in 2009 satellite imagery did reveal vast, previously undiscovered settlements in Brazil, suggesting Paititi could really exist.
The Spanish Treasure Fleet
While were talking about Spain's plundering of South America, let's take a look at one of the most valuable lost treasures in history.
So, once Spain had stolen all the Incan gold, they of course needed to transport it back to the homeland - especially after the nation has been effectively bankrupted following the War of Succession. So, in 1715, Phillip V created one of the biggest treasure fleets ever seen in an attempt to move a mass to wealth from America into Europe. The plan was for the fleet, which consisted of 12 ships, to leave Cuba, cross the Atlantic and arrive in Spain.
However, this was a dangerous journey. The swollen gold ships attracted pirates and privateers like - well, like ships rammed full of gold. If pirates didn't get you, you also had to contend with storms and hurricanes. Given these dangers, the fleet decided to take their chances with the storms and headed off just before hurricane season in an attempt to keep the pirates at bay. It was a huge mistake, and after seven days at sea, the fleet was decimated in a storm. One ship, The San Miguel, had broken off from the fleet before the storm, but was also lost in an unknown location.
Spain managed to uncover half of their lost wealth, but to this day much of it still sits at the bottom of the sea. Some of the stricken ships have been found - and a small percentage of their wealth uncovered - but much, including the haul aboard the San Miguel have not. To this day, gold is occasionally washed ashore in Florida.
Lost National Treasures
These next treasures are valuable not because of their material worth, but because of their historical significance.
It seems theft has been a major issue at the National Archives, so much so an armed task force has been set up to counter it. Some stolen historical treasures such as audio recordings of the Hindenburg disaster have been recovered, but others remain lost.
For example, at some point, a very important set of maps showing the plan to drop atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945 went missing. These strategic operational maps, which were compiled by the Army Air Corps, had been kept at the National Archives, but they appear to have been misplaced (or taken) at some undisclosed point.
Also missing is the original 1903 patent papers for Orville and Wilbur Wright's "Flying Machine." Indeed, the detailed images of the Wright brothers vehicle were only discovered to be missing when an employee wanted to retrieve them for the Flying Machine's centennial in 2003.
To this day, no one has any lead on where they may have gone. They should probably check behind the drawers. I'm always losing stuff down there.