ByColton Hill, writer at

With so many legends of lost stashes out there, it’s easy to think that treasure could be found just about anywhere. Consult a treasure seeking forum for just a few moments and you’ll realize that even right now, sweet loot may be hiding somewhere just a short trip away.It’s impossible to know if a treasure legend is true until the riches are actually found, but below is a roundup of troves that actually seem worth hunting for.

1. The Forrest Fenn Treasure of the Rocky Mountains

After being diagnosed with cancer in 1988, millionaire art collector Forrest Fenn decided that before he died, he’d like to hide a treasure chest containing some of his most valuable possessions. Fenn ended up surviving the cancer, however, and in 2010 finally hid his treasure somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Although the clues keep adding up (Fenn has written two books leading would-be seekers to the hiding place), and the treasure is supposedly worth millions, to this day it has yet to be found.

The exact contents of the treasure are unknown, but a friend of Fenn’s who helped assemble the prize told Vice, “When you open the lid... it was all thrown in willy-nilly, just these huge heaps of massive gold coins, gold nuggets the size of hen eggs, jewels, gold bracelets, gold ornaments from South America, and everything glittering in the light.” That sounds pretty shiny!

Treasure hunters have gone to great lengths to discover the treasure. Some have resorted to stalking Fenn, while others have mistakenly dug up areas in Central Park and even the graves of Fenn’s parents and brother. If you’d like to join the hunt, a good place to start is Dal Neitzel’s blog about the treasure.

2. The Nazi gold in Lake Toplitz, Austria.

In the last few months of World War II, Nazis sunk containers and various other objects into Lake Toplitz for still not entirely known reasons. A few of these containers have been recovered, with millions of dollars worth of fake currency of Allied nations inside. Apparently, the Nazis wanted to destroy Allied economies with inflation in a plan called “Operation Bernhard.” Along with the containers, missiles, a printing press and even a box full of beer bottles have been found in the various expeditions over the last century, which have claimed multiple divers’ lives.

Unfortunately, Lake Toplitz has dangerous sunken logs that lie near the supposed location of the treasure, making visibility scarce and increasing the threat of drowning while trapped under one of these logs. Divers who have made it down claim to have seen a sunken plane, but what keeps interest so high in the lake is that many believe the Nazis sunk millions worth of gold, diamonds and other treasures, possibly even including art wonders such as the now-legendary Amber Room panels from the 18th century.

Perhaps this wouldn’t exactly be the best treasure to hunt for. As already mentioned, the search could get very dangerous but there’s also environmental concerns. In 2009, Austrian nature experts sought an almost century-long ban on diving for the buried treasures, though it’s unclear if people are still searching today.

3. The Golden Owl of France

In April 1993, someone going by the pseudonym “Max Valentin” supposedly hid a golden owl in the French countryside, promising to offer 1 million francs to whoever found it. Valentin gave 11 clues as to the owl’s whereabouts, but it still hasn’t been found. Over the years, a few especially crazy treasure hunters have emerged, busting up concrete and burning down a chapel in the pursuit of the golden owl.

Sadly, Valentin died in 2009 and it’s unclear whether the owl is still definitively hidden, but during an interview in 1997, Valentin responded to treasure hunters’ inquiries and assured those still looking that he had periodically checked on the whereabouts of the owl to make sure it was still there. Apparently, someone had in fact come close, as Valentin saw disturbed ground near the true sight, but as of now, that appears to be the closest anyone has come.

4. $63 Million Hidden In Bedford County – Virgina

Legend has it that in 1816, Thomas Beale and a few men he was traveling with came into a large sum of gold and silver while mining somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. With such a large fortune, estimated to be around $63 million in today’s money, all of the men wanted to make sure their next of kin would get the money should they perish.

So Beale wrote three ciphers. One described the exact location of the treasure, the second described the contents of the treasure, and the third was a list of the men’s names and their next of kin. Beale then entrusted Robert Morriss, a Lynchburg, Virginia innkeeper, with the safekeeping of a box containing the ciphers.Morriss was supposed to wait 10 years before opening it. At this point, if Beale did not return for the box, a key to the cipher was supposed to be mailed to Morriss. But it never arrived. For years, Morriss and a friend tried to decode the three ciphers, but they could only manage the second cipher (the one describing the contents of the treasure).

5. Lost Dutchman Gold Mine – Arizona

There was a gold mine that was ‘discovered’ in the 1840s in the appropriately named Superstition Mountains of central Arizona. A family worked the mine and shipped the gold back to Mexico until a group of Apaches slaughtered them. Only one or two survivors were left, and they escaped into Mexico. The area where the attack occurred is still known as the Massacre Grounds.

The legend grew, and many people claimed to have maps or know the mine’s location, but tragedy befell each of them before they could lay claim to the gold. In the 1870s, a German immigrant named Jacob “The Dutchman” Waltz was said to have rediscovered the mine with the help of a descendant of the original family. He was also rumored to have stored caches throughout the Superstitions. With his health failing, the Dutchman is said to have described the mine’s location to Julia Thomas, a Phoenix-area neighbor who took care of him in 1891. She was unable to locate the mine herself with the information he provided, and though many have tried, no one has been able to verify its existence or locate the missing gold since.

6. The Tomb of Quin Shi Huang – China

Quin Shi Huang was the the first Emperor of a unified China in the third century BCE. He ended a long period of war between Chinese states and brought his countrymen together to work towards a modern, illustrious Chinese Empire. As the most revered leader in all Chinese history, Quin Shi Huang was entombed in a vast underground city, surrounded by thousands of life-sized terracotta soldiers that were undiscovered until 1974.

The excavation is only a fraction complete, however, due largely to legends that the massive underground tomb is surrounded by poisonous rivers of mercury. Archaeologists are attempting to open up more of the entombed clay city, but they need to move slowly and carefully to avoid poisoning the myriad of underground streams in the area. This means that untold treasures and the body of Quin Shi Guang himself have yet to be discovered

7. The Copper Scrolls – 64 unknown places

A pair of copper scrolls was found in 1952 within the depths of the same system of Jordanian caves in which the original Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1946.

These scrolls turned out to be two separate pieces of one large scroll written in a unique derivation of Hebrew. Unlike the other Dead Sea Scrolls, this one details the locations of 64 separate treasures of gold and silver. Due to unspecific instructions, treasure hunters are not sure where to seek out this hidden wealth of gold and silver.

8. Mosby’s Treasure – Virginia

Confederate Commander Colonel John Singleton Mosby was an amazing fighter during the Civil War. He and his men were known as Mosby’s Raiders for their lightning-quick raids of Union camps and their ability to elude the Union Army by blending in with the local townspeople. After one of his many raids, which took place about 75 kilometers (46 mi) south of the Confederate line at Culpeper, Virginia, Mosby took Union General Edwin Stoughton prisoner, as well as a burlap sack containing $350,000 worth of gold, silver, and family heirlooms.

The problem was, Mosby had also captured 42 other men during the raid and had to take them back through Union territory and across the Confederate line. Following a route that parallels today’s US 211, Mosby’s Raiders traveled south until they ran into a large contingency of Union soldiers. Unwilling to part with his treasure, Mosby instructed his men to bury the treasure between two large pine trees in case of a battle. Mosby marked the trees with his knife, and the Raiders headed back along their route and across the Confederate line without any trouble from the Union. Unfortunately for Mosby, when he sent back seven of his most trusted men, they were all caught and hanged. Mosby never returned for the treasure.

9. Leon Trabuco’s Gold

Back in the early 1930s, a Mexican millionaire named Leon Trabuco arranged several secret and mysterious flights into the desert of New Mexico. At the time the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression, and with the value of the dollar about to plunge, he expected the price of gold to explode.

Trabuco and a few business partners were said to have secretly bought up around sixteen tons of gold, and were waiting for the prices to soar before they sold it. Rather than taking advantage of the situation and selling their gold, Trabuco and his partners held onto their bounty a little too long. The US implemented the ‘Gold Act’ which made private ownership of gold illegal. Because of this, Trabuco and his partners were stuck. Within a few months of this, 3 of Trabuco’s partners were found dead and Leon shortly followed under mysterious circumstances. The knowledge of the location of the gold died with them.

10. Treasure of the Knights Templar

The Knights Templar was a religious order of warrior monks formed in 1114 A.D. to lead the Crusades and reconquer the Holy Land. Over the course of doing so, they gathered immense riches and became very powerful. Two centuries after their formation, the Pope accused them of heresy and ordered the arrest of all Knights Templar. Those that managed to escape gathered their riches and disappeared into history.

Legend has it that they escaped to Scotland where sympathizers helped them hide their treasures under a chapel. When the new world was discovered, the descendants fled to Nova Scotia in Canada. Marks on old maps as well as graves in eastern Canada and New England show symbols from the Knights Templar, lending credence to this legend. But what happened to the treasure? A mysterious pit in Canada, on Oak Island, was discovered in 1795. Right under the surface were several flag stones. Under those, every ten feet, were logs, as well as charcoal, coconut fiber and putty. According to one written account, a stone was discovered with strange symbols, and another told of a tunnel 100 feet down. However, the mysterious “Oak Island Pit” now floods up to the 30 foot level any time an excavation is attempted. No one knows what lies at the bottom.

11. The Flor Do Mar

The Flor do Mar (Flower of the Sea) was a Portuguese carrack (the largest sailing ship built in its day) that was returning home from the conquest of Malacca. She was already known to be dangerously unseaworthy, but since she was so massive, she was the pride of the Portuguese fleet.

King Alfonso had tasked her with bringing home the vast fortune taken from the King of Siam as tribute. She was caught in a storm in the straight of Malacca and wrecked on shoals, sinking to rest on the seabed deep under water. No one knows exactly where the Flor do Mar lies, and there is some controversy over which country controls the area and salvage rights where she is said to have been lost. Whoever finds this treasure, though, will be the proud owner of over sixty tons of gold and diamonds the size of a man’s fist.

12. The Lost Treasure of the Alamo

You know the story of the Alamo. Its one of the most memorable battles in American history. Jim Bowie and Davey Crockett were two of 188 men who fought of the powerful Mexican army of Santa Ana and died doing so. One thing that I bet you don’t know is the legend of the gigantic San Saba Treasure, supposedly buried somewhere on the grounds of the Alamo.

The treasure is said to contain millions of dollars of gold, silver and religious artifacts that were initially supposed to be used to build an army and pay for the upcoming war. Not a single trace of the massive fortune has ever been found.

13. Lost Fabergé Eggs – Russia

When the Imperial Romanov family was violently ousted from power by Russian Bolsheviks in 1917, the treasures of the Czar’s family were confiscated. Among these were 52 elaborately-crafted and jeweled clockwork eggs, created by the House of Fabergé.

The craftsmanship that went into these luxurious eggs is considered some of the finest the world has ever seen. Although all of the eggs were meant to be taken to the Kremlin, 8 of them mysteriously went missing upon transport.

14. Victorio Peak Treasure – New Mexico

In November 1937, a deer hunter known as Doc Noss went searching for fresh water near the Hembrillo Basin in New Mexico and discovered a hidden entrance to a tunnel. An old ladder led into a maze of tunnels around a large cavern containing an old chest inscribed with the words “Sealed Silver” in Old English. After obtaining legal ownership over the land, Doc removed around 200 gold bars from the mine. Since is was illegal at that time to own gold not in the form of jewelry, Doc hid the gold bars in various locations.

While attempting to widen the opening with explosives, the shaft collapsed on itself making it impossible to reach the treasures. While trying to raise the funds to further excavate the site Doc was murdered. The deed was passed on to his heirs, but right as the family was close to reaching the site, the US Army relinquished the peak.

15. Montezuma’s Treasure – Utah

Montezuma was a legendary leader of the Aztecs, and is believed by many historians to have been in possession of an almost unfathomable fortune. His treasures, however, were taken after he was killed during a battle with the Spanish led by Cortez. Millions of dollars worth of jewels and gold were removed from Montezuma’s treasure room by his own people in order to keep it away from Cortez.

So why do people think the massive treasure of an Aztec leader wound up in Utah? It turns out in 1914, a prospector found an etching on the side of a cliff that matched a marking on an old treasure map that was said to lead to Montezuma’s treasure. The prospector, a man named Freddy Crystal, tracked down a descendent of Montezuma to interpret the map, and it was determined the topography did in fact match the town that was near. Crystal actually convinced the townspeople to help him secretly search for the gold with the promise of sharing any findings, and eventually they did manage to find a system of caves and tunnels running through the mountain. It was laced with booby traps, but no gold was ever found, leading to the common belief that if the treasure had ever been there to begin with, had been moved by the Aztecs or discovered by some absurdly fortunate spelunker.

16. Treasure At Little Bighorn – Montana

According to multiple experts, there was a man by the name of Captain Grant Marsh who was in charge of the ‘Far West’, a steamboat making its way up the Bighorn River to resupply General George Custer in his fight against the Indians.

When Captain Marsh heard of General Custer’s defeat and found out he would have to take injured men away from the battlefield, the only thing he could do to keep the ship from sinking under the weight of so many injured men was to bury the $375,000 worth of gold bars on the shores of the Bighorn River. Some say that Marsh had collected the gold bars from worried gold miners who didn’t want to be attacked by the Sioux.

17. $200 Million Off The Coast – Key West

In 1622, the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha was heading back to Spain when it was caught in a hurricane off the coast of Key West. Many ships perished in the hurricane, all of which were carrying an enormous cargo of gold, silver, and gems that have been valued to around $700 million today.But most of the loot has already been found.

In 1985, treasure hunter Mel Fisher found $500 million of the buried treasure less than 160 kilometers (100 mi) off the coast of Key West. Experts believe there is still plenty of treasure to find. The original captain’s manifest states there are still about 17 tons of silver bars, 128,000 coins of different values, 27 kilos of emeralds, and 35 boxes of gold.

18. Dutch Schultz’s Stash – New York

Dutch Schultz was an infamous crime boss in New York’s underworld, and amassed an empire valued at $20 million a year while he was in his prime. Dutch was consistently hounded for tax evasion, and was eventually caught and indicted by a Grand Jury. Before things got too hot, Dutch managed to pack his fortune into metal boxes and hid it away in the Catskill Mountains, with the intention of getting it when he was released.

Knowing that mob bosses tended to lose their empires when they went away, Dutch kept the location secret so that he could quietly recover his treasure and start a new life. He was eventually acquitted of his charges and set free, but was gunned down soon after. On his deathbed, Schultz incoherently rambled about his treasures location, but it has yet to be found.

19. The Gold at the Bottom of Lake Guatavita

Lake Guatavita was a holy site for the native people of Colombia a few centuries ago. Every year, the chief of the ruling tribe would cover himself in gold dust, get on a boat, and throw gold and gems into the lake as a sacrifice to his god, presumably because no one else could find anything better to do with their national budget.

Evidently disheartened by the low annual percentage yield earned by storing their money in a body of water, the natives had ended this practice long before the Spanish invaders arrived. But when the disease-carrying Europeans heard about the legend of the golden man (El Dorado in Spanish), they busted a 16th century nut all over Central America. After years of searching for the source of the legend, the conquistadors finally arrived at Lake Guatavita and learned its history.

The problem was, all the gold that had been thrown overboard over the years was now sitting beneath a shitload of water, and submarines were still a good 300 years from being perfected. So the Spanish graciously admitted defeat and moved forward with their conquering, a phrase which here means "they decided to drain the fucking lake." The first attempt occurred in 1545 when Hernan Perez de Quesada put a chain of slave laborers to work for three months, emptying out the water a bucket at a time.

They managed to lower the water level by 10-feet and recover 40-pounds of gold. Forty years later, a rich Spanish merchant decided to pull out the big guns and cut a fucking hole in the high cliff surrounding the lake, draining it 66-feet and drowning hundreds of people living in a nearby village in the process.

Finally, in 1911, an American company managed to drain the entire lake, because if there's one thing America is good at, it is the total destruction of a natural resource. Sadly, the mud on the bottom of the lake proceeded to immediately harden, trapping any gold that might be left under its thick, impenetrable crust.

It's full of water again these days, the gold presumably still glittering away in the mud. But before you go heading off to Colombia with your rowboat, some rope and a bucket, know that no one has ever been able to find the bulk of treasure and the Colombian government has disallowed any more draining attempts.

20. King John’s Treasure

King John ‘the Bad’ was particularly fond of collecting (stealing) jewellery and gold plate for himself and coinage for his guards, soldiers and court followers. In 1216 King John travelled to Bishops Lynn in Norfolk where he arrived on the 9th October. The area is aptly named The Wash as it was once a huge expanses of marshes and dangerous mud flats. At Bishop’s Lynn King John fell ill with dysentery and decided to return to Newark Castle via Wisbech. He took the slower and safer route around The Wash. However, his soldiers and carts full of his personal possessions, including the crown jewels he had inherited from his grandmother the Empress of Germany, took the shorter route through the marshes.

Trapped by the tide they were drowned – possibly close to Sutton Bridge. The treasure carts were lost and never recovered. King John died a few days later on the 18th October 1216. What really happened is probably much more complex.

21. The Missing Kruger Millions

During the Second Anglo-Boer War the South African descendants of the Dutch settlers, the Boers, realised that their capital, Pretoria, would soon be captured by British troops so they swiftly commandeered as much gold as they could from government reserves, banks and the mines. They also minted many thousands of new gold coins. Much of this gold is believed to have travelled with the Boer President, Paul Kruger, as he journeyed eastwards through Middleburg, Machadadorp and Waterfal Boven towards Mozambique to escape the advancing British. He departed, by ship, for France on the 19th of October 1900. The gold remained behind, hidden somewhere in the bushveld of the North Eastern Transvaal. It has never been officially found although it is a popular ‘scam’ for con men to try and sell the whereabouts of the gold to gullible tourists. Claims that the treasure (or part of it) was discovered in 2001 close to Ermelo are generally considered somewhat dubious.

22. The San Miguel & The Lost 1715 Treasure Fleet

By 1712 AD Spain was desperately in need of funds due to the War of Succession that had seen Phillip V take the throne. To solve this problem the Spanish assembled one of the richest treasure fleets. Come 1715 it consisted of five ships of the Nueva España (Mexico) fleet and six ships of the Tierra Firme (Main Land) fleet. Significant amounts of silver (plate), gold, pearls, jewels (emeralds) and other precious items were loaded at Vera Cruz, Cartagena, Nombre de Dios and Portobello. A further ship, a French merchantman, the Griffon, also joined the convoy. As a further defence against pirates and privateers the fleet waited until just before the hurricane season before setting off from Havana. This was a mistake and a storm destroyed the fleet just seven days after leaving Cuba. Thousands of sailors died. Over the next four years the Spanish salvaged about half of the treasure although pirates hampered their efforts. Items of treasure still occasionally wash up on nearby shores. Largely due to the efforts of Kip Wagner, a marine treasure hunter, seven of the ships have been located but only a small percentage of the treasure has been recovered. The San Miguel, a Nao class vessel, has yet to be found and is believed to have separated from the fleet the day before the storm struck. Carracks are lighter than Galleons and were often used to carry treasure as they stood a greater chance of outrunning storms and privateers. The objective, after all, was to get the treasure home. This could mean that the San Miguel is actually one of the richest treasure ships yet to be found.

Ships of the 1715 Spanish (Plate) Treasure Fleet that have never been found:

Nueva Espana Fleet – General Juan de Ubilla – The Maria Galante – Frigatilla / Frigate

Tierra Firma Fleet – General Antonio de Echeverz – Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion – NAO Class (Carrack) – The (El Senor) San Miguel -NAO Class (Fast Carrack) – El Ciervo (La Franecsa ) Galera Class (Galley)

23.The Oak Island Money Pit

Oak Island is approximately 140 acres in size and located just off the southeast coast of Nova Scotia. It is one of many small islands in the area and is now linked to the mainland via a narrow causeway.

The story has been embellished and distorted over the years but here are the basic facts. In 1795 Daniel McGinnis (16) and a friend noticed a circular depression as if a pit had been dug and then filled in again. Believing something of value may have been buried there they dug to a depth of 9.1 metres. Initially they discovered a layer of flagstones followed by traces of pickaxes on the rocks. Some stories say they found platforms of logs approximately every 3 metres. They failed to find anything of value but the story spread and was quickly linked to the missing treasure of Captain Kidd and even the notorious Blackbeard – Edward Thatch (Teach).

Over the following centuries the pit has been excavated many times and prospectors have even included an American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. It has not been an easy task and the pit is claimed to be ‘booby trapped” and has regularly flooded. The most tantalising clue found so far was a code inscription on a flat stone which, when translated, apparently stated: “Forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried.”

The deepest excavations reached 72 metres and over the years at least six people have died trying to find whatever is buried on Oak Island.

Various theories pertaining to the contents of the Oak Island Money Pit include:

– Captain Kidd’s Treasure – Blackbeard’s Treasure – The Fortress of Louisbourg Treasury – The Missing Jewels of Marie Antoinette – Spanish Gold from a Shipwreck – The Treasure of the Knights Templar – Treasure of the Freemasons – A Storage Pit for Walrus Ivory – Documents of Sir Francis Bacon

24. Treasure In The Mojave Desert

It may sound crazy that an oceangoing ship sunk 160 kilometers (100 mi) inland of the Pacific Ocean—in the Mojave Dessert no less—but if it is true, there are millions of dollars’ worth of pearls in the Salton Sea.

Experts believe a large tide from the Gulf of California collided with runoff from the Colorado River. Enough water runoff developed that the ship (presumed to be Spanish) was carried into the Salton Sea. The ship would have been forgotten forever if it weren’t for the abundance of pearls on board.

Surprisingly, there is a twist to the story. In 1870, the Los Angeles Star produced a story about a man named Charley Clusker who went out in search of the ship and actually found the treasure. But since the date the story ran, no other mention of Clusker or the ship he “found” has been dug up, leading many people to believe the ship and its pearls are still out there.

25. Treasure Of Jean LaFitte

Jean LaFitte, along with his brother Pierre, were French pirates who made their living attacking merchant ships in the Gulf of Mexico and then selling the goods at one of their many ports or through a warehouse they owned. Apparently, the two brothers were so good at smuggling and pirating that they amassed enough wealth that they had to resort to burying some it.

After LaFitte died sometime between 1823 and 1830, legend of his treasures began circulating around Louisiana. Claims have been made that there are large caches of treasure buried somewhere in Lake Borgne, right off the coast of New Orleans, and another about five kilometers (three miles) east of the Old Spanish Trail near the Sabine River in a gum tree grove.

The list of hidden treasure can go on and on but unfortunately, a list of 25 is the highest I'll go for this article. Hope this information helps someone find the hidden treasure one day!


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