Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

I Am Not Making This Up: That Failboaty Third Olympics

Written By: Tracy - Aug• 08•16
The torch has barely been lit on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as of this writing. Already the news media is focused on the sewer-like conditions of the swimming venues, the possibility of everyone and their grandma getting the Zika Virus and the slum-like housing that the athletes are supposed to stay in (as opposed to the slum-like housing that everyone else in Rio must live in, if you believe any movie set in Rio).
 
 
 
 

Like the movie Rio.

 
It seems like the go-to story for modern Olympic coverage is about how awful conditions are, or how the venue falls apart once the Olympics are over. Compared to the glowing reports of LA, Lake Placid or that one place in Scandinavia when we were so focused on Tonia Harding.
 
But awful Olympic shenanigans (totally the name of my next cover band: Tracy and the Awful Olympic Shenanigans) aren’t reserved for the 21st century.  Way back in 1904, the Olympics were pretty wonky. 
 

The last time anyone ever thinks the World’s Fair and the Olympics are two great tastes that taste great together – for good reason.

 
First, St. Louis stole the Olympics
 
These days there is a pretty significant bid process for the Olympics.  Prospective cities have to show the International Olympic Committee (IOC) everything from their proposed venues, to how they’ll cope with the sewage from all those extra tourists (hint: not by dumping it in the swimming venues).
 
There was a bid process back at the turn of the 20th century too. But the Olympics was in it’s infancy in those days.  There has only been two other games at that point.  Athens (the inaugural games) and Paris (held in conjunction with the World’s Fair). 
 
To host the first Olympics of the new century, Chicago got the nod.  But at the same time, St. Louis was on deck for hosting the World’s Fair (the Meet Me In St. Louie World’s Fair, which was kind of a big deal).  
 
St. Louis threw a bit of a tantrum (like a kid at Christmas who thinks his brother got the bigger gift) and said “either let us host the Olympics, or we’ll throw our own competing sporting event.” 
 
At which point Chicago, the IOC and everyone else involved threw up their hands in defeat and let St. Louis have the whole ball of yarn. 
 
Then St. Louis Half-Assed It
 
Now keep in mind that there was precedent in holding the World’s Fair and Olympic Games together.  Paris had done so-and done a decent job at it.  But the organizers of the St. Louis fair never planned the Olympic Games to be anything other than a sideshow for the World’s Fair. 
 
That kind of attitude might explain why the Olympic Games lasted nearly 5 months. The fair’s organizers tried to stretch the events over the length of the fair by hosting one event per day.  Additionally, non-Olympic events were promoted as Olympic events. This happened so often that later on the IOC had to rule on which events were actually Olympic events, and which were not (the ones that were hosted by the local YMCA were not). 
 
And forget the opening ceremony with a parade of nations and torch lighting. The fair’s organizer didn’t even bother to invite anyone to open the games. He chose to do it himself. 
 
Then Other Nations Gave St. Louis An Epic Side-Eye
 
Let’s just say that St. Louis wasn’t the transportation capital of the world in 1904.  Plus there was a war going on between Russia and Japan. 
 
Getting to the central United States from anywhere other than the United States wasn’t easy, cheap, or quick. So a lot of potential athletes just didn’t go. 
 
On the bright side for the US, this left mainly US competitors. The medal count was never so one-sided in favor of any nation before or since. (Even the Russians didn’t score as many medals in the 1980 Moscow summer games that half the world boycotted because of the Cold War.)
 
Although, some of the winners that were put down as Americans were actually immigrants who hadn’t established citizenship.  As recently as 2012 Norway was trying to get the IOC to recognize that two gold-medalist wrestlers from the 1904 games were actually Norwegian. 
 
Some Events Were Problematic
 
We’re not talking tug-of-war (which was a thing). We’re talking the Anthropology Days (sadly, also a thing). 
 
One of the unfortunate parts of the World’s Fair back in the day was the human zoo. Basically the organizers would bring in “uncivilized tribes” of the world and have them pretend to live in fake villages so that fair goers could come out and stare at them (it’s even worse than I made it sound). 
 
For Anthropology Days, the fair’s organizers recruited people from the human zoos for two days of events, gave them little to no instruction on how to do the various sports, didn’t give them any time to practice and then acted smug and superior when the various competitors did poorly (because: colonialism. yay?). 
 
The less cringeworthy events also had some flexible interpretations of rules (cheating) on the part of the competitors.  One boxer entered the competition using the name of another boxer (a local favorite) hoping to curry favor with the judges. 
 
And Then There Was That Marathon
 
The St. Louis Olympics marathon has gone down as one of the most bizarre races in history. Due to poor planning the race was held on a brutally hot day.  The race planners had people in car and on horseback drive ahead of the runners to clear a path. As a result the racers choked on road dust the whole way. 
 
 
 
 

I kid you not.

There was at least one racer that almost didn’t make it to the start of the race in time, Cuban runner and postman Felix (Andarín)Carvajal.  Carvajal was legitimately a race competitor, but lost all his money in New Orleans en route to the race (as you do). He had to hitchhike to St. Louis and arrived with nothing but the clothes on his back. The race was delayed while someone cut away the legs of his wool pants to make running shorts.
 
During the marathon, Carvajal stopped to talk to spectators and to eat some green apples from an orchard. The apples gave him stomach cramps, so he lay down to nap (like the hare from that one story).  After his nap he got up and finished, taking fourth place. 
 
The person who crossed the finish line first was Frederick Lorz (which looks like Lolz, appropriately enough). Lorz dropped out of the race after nine miles due to exhaustion.  His manager gave him a lift in a car, but the car broke down after 11 miles. Lorz decided to run the rest of the way to the stadium. When he ran across the finish line, everyone there assumed he was the winner.  Lorz said: uh . . . Sure.  Why don’t we go with that? 
 
After the medal ceremony, someone in the know said: hey wait a minute, didn’t you get a ride in a car?
 
To which ole’ Fred said: uh . . . Lulz?
 
Despite Lorz claiming that the whole thing was an elaborate joke, the Amateur Athletic Union wasn’t laughing, and slapped Lorz with a lifetime ban.  They lifted it a year later when Lorz said he was really, really, really sorry. Lorz went on to win the Boston Marathon in 1905.  But all anyone remembers is that he maybe cheated at the Olympics. 
 

Don’t do drugs, kids.


The actual winner of the race was a British-born Cambridge brass worker named Thomas Hicks.  Hicks won the race (carried across the finish line by his trainers) while being so doped up on strychnine that it nearly killed him (illegal today, but back then strychnine was a common drug used to revive flagging athletes).
 
Two other runners, South African students Len Taunyane (competing as Len Tau) and Jan Mashiani (competing as Yamasani) had not planned to compete in the race, but were at the fair as part of the human zoo. They finished 12th and 9th respectively, though Jan/Len had been chased a mile off course by aggressive dogs. 
 
So next time you hear someone complain about The problems Olympic athletes face, it could always be worse.  At least they don’t have to compete in cut off shorts while being poisoned by their coaches and chased by aggressive dogs. 

Wander Over Yonder!

Written By: Tracy - Aug• 07•16

Wander Radio Productions, a variety show podcast has asked to re-air the I’m Not Making This Up Podcast as a segment on their show.  

Their podcast is a reboot of an older show, so hopefully it’ll have a bit of a ready-made audience.  The show is a variety radio show format, with short episodes weekly and a bigger episode once a month.  

My segment will appear on the once-monthly longer show. 

Their website is http://www.wanderradioproductions.com

I’m On Stitcher Now!

Written By: Tracy - Aug• 07•16

The I’m Not Making This Up Podcast is on Stitcher in addition to iTunes.  So if that’s your preferred means of Podcast delivery, you can get my podcast there.  And if you like it, leave a review.  That’s how I get love from the podcast overlords and find new listeners.

The link is here.

And as always, the podcast is on iTunes too.

 

I Am Not Making This Up: Ep. 3 That Time Someone Caught a Shark In Illinois

Written By: Tracy - Aug• 01•16

IllinoisShark1Herbert Cope and his fishing partner Dudge Collins knew they had a big catch in their fishing trap.  Maybe some kind of Muskie or Catfish.  But when they hauled it in, they never expected a 5 foot long shark.

They were after all, in Illinois.

 Research links:

Sharks In Illinois

The Strangest Shark Story Ever

I’ll be at Glichcon this weekend

Written By: Tracy - Jul• 26•16

So Glichcon is this weekend in Springdale, and I’ll be in attendance.

My scheduled panels are:

1:00 Saturday – story storm

2:00 Saturday – dos and fonts of panting and plotting

But Glichcon tends to have a very open paneling system in that I’m allowed to sit in on any other panel I want.  So I plan to sit in on several more panels on Friday and Saturday. 

Plus, Yard Dog press will be there with books Saturday.  So if you are going to be at Clichcon this weekend, see you there! 

What’s Cookin’?

Written By: Tracy - Jul• 25•16

 

So I haven’t blogged about the dinner and a movie date night.  Mainly because I haven’t done anything as spectacular as the Beef Wellington James Bond date.  But for the sake of completion, I’ll talk a bit about the last couple of dates. 

In May Hubby and I watched Casablanca (Here’s Dining With You, Kid). We tried Moroccan food, including chicken tagine that was surprisingly bland, couscous and an out-of-this-world lemon cake.  Seriously! Hubby and I polished off the cake within 2 days! I won’t bother linking the dinner.  But you can find the lemon cake here

Then, Little Man had his second birthday, and I made a pigeon cake to go along with his birthday party, which was themed after the book “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.” 


For June, Hubby and I watched Pirates of the Carribbean.  For our dinner, I made an old favorite: Bimini Bob’s Burgers. 

There’s a bit of backstory to this.  Last year Hubby and I and the progeny vacationed near Gulf Shores. For the most part, we cooked in our condo.  

Eating out is always a bit of a challenge for us.  If the food is only fair, you feel cheated because you know you can do better for less than what you spent on dining out. 

But we’d been out all day and cooking wouldn’t mean eating with any speed.  So we went to a restaraunt called Bimini Bob’s and had their specialty burger.  (Which is a beef patty seasoned with Carribbean Spice blend and topped with a pineapple and a slice of Swiss) and a side of sweet potato fries.

Not only was the food good, but it gave me a new food to try to make at home. 

Desert was so rich that Trump couldn’t afford it.  It was so rich, Scrooge McDuck swims around in it.  It was so rich, I couldn’t eat more than half a slice. 

I’m talking about a coconut Tres Leches cake. Now the recipe is cupcakes, but I made it as a bar cake, and it worked just fine. 


Yum! 

I Am Not Making This Up: 5 Women Who Were More Awesome Than You

Written By: Tracy - Jul• 18•16

Despite what Alannis said, irony is not like rain on your wedding day.  But irony just might be all those guys on the internet who claim that women ruin everything. Especially when “everything” happens to be things that were invented or shaped by the rest of us cooties-having women. (Google “women ruin” to get an idea of what exactly “everything” encompasses.)

So with this in mind, here are a couple of thumbnail biographies of awesome women who invented or shaped some very cool things.

1.Mary Shelly – Mary Shelly and her social circle, which included her husband Percy, Dr. Polderi (inventor of the tragic sexy vampire archetype) and Lord Byron (model for the tragic sexy vampire archetype) were vacationing near Lake Geneva during the “year without summer.”  To stave off boredom (which presumably came from being stuck inside due to the whole lack of summer) the group held a storytelling contest.  Mary’s story – Frankenstein– became the first science fiction story.  Making her the mother of all science fiction. And speaking of lord Byron …

Not Felicity Smoak.

2.Ada Lovelace – Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace (née Byron) was the only acknowledged daughter of Lord Byron(his other unacknowledged kids included a daughter with Mary Shelly’s sister, and possibly another daughter with his own sister.)   Ada’s mother was so afraid that little Ada would turn out like dear old daddy that mommy dearest made sure Ada studied math to squelch the “Byron demon.”  Ada later met and befriended Charles Babbage (famous inventor of the first computer) at a party. While collaborating with Babbage, she wrote the first computer program. And while we’re on the subject of computers …

3.Grace Hopper – Grace Brewster Murray Hopper already had a PH.D. In Mathematics when the United Stares Navy opened up to women for positions other than nursing or paper pushing in WWII.  Grace volunteered for the WAVES, and became a programmer for the MARK I computer.  When you write computer code, you can thank Grace Hopper – who influenced the development of computer programming into languages rather than 1 and 0 code to make programming easier.  When you debug your software, you can also thank Grace, who removed a moth from the inside of a Mark II. She tried to retire twice, but the Navy just kept calling her back into service.  By the time she finally retired at age 80, she’d been promoted to admiral and was the oldest active duty commissioned officer.  The people whom she was a hero to nicknamed her “Amazing Grace.”  And speaking of heroes …

Wayne, Bruice Wa . . .it! Wrong story.

4.Emma Orczy – while super hero comics started with Superman, heroes like Batman drew on established fictional characters like The Scarlett Pimpernel, a swashbuckling vigilante who wore a mask to protect his secret identity and acted like a foppish coward to throw suspicion off of himself.  His creator, Baroness Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála “Emmuska” Orczy de Orci, possibly drew from her own childhood in creating Pimpernel.  Orczy lost her childhood home and had to flee Hungary during an uprising.  Possibly she envisioned The Scarlet Pimpernel as the type of hero who might have defended her family during her childhood. Orczy also created the first fictional female detective in an earlier story. And speaking of entertainment …

5.Hedy Lamar – actress Hedy Lamar is better known as an exotic temptress in movies such as Sampson and Delilah, but the Austrian-born actress was also a prolific inventor.  Some of Lamar’s inventions include a tablet similar to Alka-Seltzer, an improved traffic light and technology that today’s Wifi networks still use.  So next time you pair your phone with your Bluetooth, thank Hedy Lamar.

I Am Not Making This Up: The RMS Queen Mary. Yet Another “The Most Haunted Place On Earth.”

Written By: Tracy - Jul• 11•16

This is the last of my series of rescued Firefox News articles. As I’m posting these more than a month ago, this is past self Hoping future me will have gotten off my can and written something else for next week. 

— Tracy 

The RMS Queen Mary

She’s a war hero and a celebrity. She’s been the subject of books and the star of both TV and movies. Some people say that she’s a haunted lady. 

She’s also a boat. 

The Queen Mary, which is now a floating hotel in Long Beach, California, is considered the most haunted structure in America. But how did she get that way?
In 1930, The Cunard shipping company began construction on the RMS Queen Mary as part of a ship building race with Germany’s Norddeutsche Loyd line. However, construction was halted due to the Great Depression.
 

Cunard applied for a loan from the British government to finish the ship. They were granted one that would not only finance building the Queen Mary, but also her sister ship the RMS Queen Elizabeth. The condition for the loan was that Cunard would merge with the White Star Line, the company famous for building the RMS Titanic. Once the two companies merged, they completed work on the ship, and it was launched in 1934.

In 1936 the Queen Mary beat out a rival ship, the Normandie, to hold the record for speed in Transatlantic crossing. It briefly lost the record back to Normandie in 1937, but reclaimed it and held it from 1938 to 1952.

In the pre-World War II era, when air travel had yet to establish dominance, speedy travel by large, elegant steam ships was the most practical way to cross from Europe to the Americas. Passengers who could afford to travel in luxury would pay for the comforts that the finest ships could offer. In this distinction, The Queen Mary did not disappoint. First Class passengers could enjoy an indoor swimming pool, salon, ship’s library, children’s nursery, first class dining.

The ship’s grandeur attracted noted passengers, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Winston Churchill, Greta Garbo and Clark Gable.

All of this changed during World War II. During this time, Allied commanders pressed the ship into service as a troop transport ship. The ship’s speed would allow her to outrace German submarines. She was given a coat of grey paint to better camouflage her. This, along with her elusiveness during wartime, caused her to earn the nickname The Grey Ghost.

In addition to the paint, she was refitted inside to carry significantly more troops. The pools were drained and standee bunks were installed. Troops slept in shifts.

Her use as a troop transport was so integral to the Allied war effort, that Hitler offered a $250,000 reward and Germany’s highest military honor to any captain who could sink the vessel.

During this time, two notable incidents occurred. On October 2, 1942, the ship accidentally sank one of its escort cruisers, the HMS Curacoa.

While traveling, the ships traveled in zig zag patterns for safety. The Curacoa passed in front of the Queen Mary and was struck mid-ship. The Queen Mary cut the Curacoa in two. Due to orders, the transport ship couldn’t even stop to lend assistance. Other ships in the convoy were able to rescue survivors, but the accident resulted in 338 casualties.
The Queen Mary’s bow was crumpled from the incident..

The second incident occurred in December of the same year. The ship was transporting 16,082 American GI’s from New York to Great Britian when it was struck broadside by a rogue wave. The ship tilted dangerously, and nearly capsized. The incident inspired the book and movie The Poseidon Adventure. The ship also served as the backdrop for the movie.

After World War II, the ship was briefly used to transport European war brides and their children to their GI husbands in North America. Then it was refitted, and once again became a Transatlantic passenger vessel. It served the Cunard line from 1947 to 1967, when Cunard sold her to the city of Long Beach to finance the construction of the Queen Elizabeth 2.

Once the city of Long Beach began to convert the ship into a hotel and floating museum, reports began to circulate of ghostly inhabitants.

The RMS Queen Mary Today

In the past 60 years, the ship has had at least 49 reported deaths on board. Official statistics vary, but the Queen Mary is said to be haunted by at least 130 known spirits. These include the ghosts of passengers, crew, and soldiers.

Some of the more famous haunted areas include the first and second class swimming pools, where sightings of ghostly women in 1930’s era bathing costumes, splashes, and wet footprints have been reported.

In the second class poolroom in particular, the ghost of a child named Jackie, who is said to have drowned during a transatlantic crossing, has been spotted.

The changing rooms off the first class swimming pool is another haunted area. There seems to be a vortex of negative energy, or so several psychics have claimed. .

Other children have been spotted in the third class playroom, where it is said that if you listen closely, you can hear the sounds of disembodied crying.

One particularly haunted area is the ship’s engine room. There, Door Number 13 is the site of an unlucky accident, where a crewman was crushed to death during a routine drill. Since then, many have reported seeing the ghost of a workman in coveralls walk toward Door 13, and then vanish.

Additionally, the cargo hold is said to be haunted in the vicinity of the area that was damaged when the ship struck the Curacoa.

The ship’s officials have capitalized on the ship’s notorious haunting by offering ghost tours of every stripe. While some are straightforward, others offer dramatizations of the hauntings to make the tours seem more eerie to patrons. In addition, a haunted maze is hosted on the ship. During Halloween, the attraction is greatly expanded.

 

I Am Not Making This Up: Ep. 2 The Curse of the Little Bastard

Written By: Tracy - Jul• 04•16

Cover_art.jpgMy short story, The Hobos, The Devil and James Dean’s Car is featured over at the pulp magazine Crimson Streets. You can read it here.

In honor of the publication, I’m podcasting an abridged version of the article that inspired the story.  If you’d like to read the longer article, you can do so here.

Or if you only have 5 minutes to spare, you can listen now.

 

I Am Not Making This Up: One Eyed Willie Couldn’t Have Hid It Better! the Oak Island Money Pit.

Written By: Tracy - Jun• 27•16

This is the next of my series of rescued Firefox News articles.

— Tracy

 

Not these teens.


Imagine going for a walk and finding a mystery that would endure for over two centuries. According to legend, this is what happened to teenager Daniel McGinnis in 1795. What would follow would be a 200 year long odyssey for buried treasure that would make The Goonies look sophisticated.
 
 
 

Along the way, the Money Pit would earn its name as investors (including Franklin Roosevelt) sank dollar after dollar into the deepening hole that constituted the search that would claim six lives. 

But long before all that, there was only Oak Island, fear of unexplained spook lights and the whispers of pirate gold.

Oak Island is a 140 acre island off the coast of Nova Scotia in Mahone Bay. The island itself is one of hundreds that lace the bay. And while in the eighteenth century most of them were sparsely vegetated with seagrass, oats and wildflowers, Oak Island was different. The island was studded with live oaks, trees more common to the humid delta regions of the Southern United States than to the colder climate of Nova Scotia. 

At the time of Daniel McGinnis’ walk, it was taken for granted that the island had been favored by Captain William Kidd because of its well protected bay and the natural harbor on the ocean side, which allowed his ship to come and go completely undetected from the mainland. 

It was said that Kidd and his crew had chosen Oak Island becasue of its distinctive vegetation. And since it was further north than his usual haunts, Kidd was relatively safe from pursuit there. Legend held that in 1720, large bonfires were spotted on Oak Island. Several fishermen who rowed over to investigate vanished without a trace. For decades afterward, locals stayed away from Oak Island, fearing the spook lights that had caused the fishermen to vanish. 

All this was on Daniel McGinnis’s mind on the April day when he rowed out to Oak Island in search of pirate souvenirs. His hope was to find a knife or maybe a gold coin or two. Something he could sell for a little pocket change. He soon found evidence that the island had been inhabited, although not recently. His findings pushed him to look inland. Before long, Daniel found an old oak tree with a block and tackle hanging by a piece of rotting rope from the lowest branch. The pulley system hung over a circular depression that was filled with loose soil, as if something had been buried there. 

McGinnis returned the next day with two friends: John Smith and Anthony Vaughn. The three boys explored the island. On the southern shore they found a boulder with an iron ring embedded into it that would have been the perfect place to anchor a ship. As they further explored, they found an overgrown road that ran the length of the island and led to the clearing with the strange depression. 

Once there, they further explored the tree. It looked as if something heavy had been hoisted from the tree into the depression. The wood where the pulley hung was deeply scarred. 

Encouraged, the boys began to excavate the depression, reasoning that they would find a pirate’s treasure and be home by nightfall

The first try.

However, they quickly found that their plans were not meant to be. Two feet down they came across a layer of flagstones that covered the Pit. They pried these up, and continued the excavation. 

At ten feet down they came to a layer of oak logs that spanned the Pit. The logs were rotten, and had been caulked with ship’s putty. Subsequent carbon dating would place the logs to 1575, the era of Spanish Conquest. 

 

The boys pried these up and continued to dig. At both twenty and thirty feet down they found more layers of logs. By now, they had spent several days excavating the shaft. At this point, the boys were unable to continue. They went home with the intention of someday returning to continue their excavation. 

 

I bet this is what they were hoping for.

It took them nearly eight years, but the boys, now men decided to let a wealthy friend in on their story. The friend, Simeon Lynds, formed a company for the purpose of digging up the treasure. He called it the Onslow company, found a few investors and raised the capitol for another excavation. In 1803 workman once again began to dig down the shaft. 

The second try.

At the thirty five foot mark, workmen uncovered a layer of coconut fiber, presumably transported from the west Indies, some two thousand miles away. 

The workmen again uncovered a platform of logs every ten feet until they reached the ninety foot mark. Each level was sealed with something different. Some layers with coconut fiber, some with ships putty, some with coal. 

At ninety feet, they broke through a layer of brick-hard putty and encountered an inscribed stone. The inscriptions were in a type of hieroglyphics that no one had ever seen, on a stone unlike anything that existed in Nova Scotia. 

Unsure what it meant, John Smith took the stone home and built it into his fireplace. He was careful to face it outward so that the inscription could be seen – on the off chance that someone might decipher it someday. 

At ninety eight feet, the workmen heard the sound of a large, hollow vault. Encouraged that they were near the end, the workmen decided to knock off for the night. It was late on a Saturday, and since no one would work on the Sabbath, it would be Monday before anyone returned to the excavation. 

But the treasure was not meant to be. On Monday the workmen returned to the shaft – only to discover that the Pit had filled with water back up to the level of 30 feet. Workmen tried to bail the shaft – first with buckets and then with a pump. But the water level remained the same. In defeat, they halted the excavation. 

Two years later, in 1805, McGinnis, Smith and Lynds tried again. They dug a Pit running parallel, but ten feet deeper. The hope was that if the Money Pit had struck a natural spring, thaen they would bypass it and dig up underneath the treasure to retrieve it. 

Unfortunately, the workmen made a fatal error and dug the second shaft too close to the first one. When the group tried to tunnel over to the first shaft, the pressure of the water collapsed the wall between the two. Three men were drowned and the new shaft filled with water to the same level as the Money Pit. By now the treasure seemed further away than ever. In disgust, the group gave up.

The booby (trap) prize.

As it turned out, the Onslow Company had triggered a sophisticated booby trap laid out by the Pit’s original designers. As they excavated the shaft, they inadvertently unplugged a 500 foot waterway that had been dug from the Pit to nearby Smith’s cove by the shaft’s designers. Part of the reason that the pumps would not pump the water out was that as quickly as the water was removed, it was refilled by the sea. 

Eventually excavators would discover a very complex system of channels created by the Pit’s designers to keep diggers away from the secret of the shaft. But none of this was known to the treasure hunters in 1805. 

The third try. 

A half-century later, a new group of treasure hunters made a try at the Money Pit. Calling themselves the Truro company, the group was formed by Dr. David Lynds, a relative of Simeon Lynds, and Anthony Vaughn, the youngest of the original three teens who had started the search for the Money Pit. By now, McGinnis had died and Smith chose not to be part of the new venture. 

By now both shafts had collapsed, and the company had to start again. They dug a new shaft in the spot where the original shaft had been. At a depth of eighty six feet, things appeared dry, and the group was convinced that they had avoided their predecessors’ misfortunes. 

As had happened before, on Sunday the group stopped working to attend church. By two o’clock that afternoon, when workmen returned to the shaft, they found it filled with water to a depth of thirty feet. Once again, attempts to bail out the Pit proved futile. 

However they were undaunted. Since they were unable to dig their way to the treasure, they decided that they would drill down and find out if there was actually something there. 

The results of the core sample were as follows: At 98 feet the drill went through a spruce platform. The it encountered four inches of oak and then 22 inches of “metal in pieces.” Next 8 inches of oak, another 22 inches of metal, four inches of oak and another later of spruce. 

The Truro company concluded that the oak/metal/oak sample was from two treasure casks filled with coins. When they brought the core sample up, there were three links from what looked to be a fine gold watch chain in the sample.

This was all the proof the Truro company needed to continue their search. The following spring they attempted to sink a parallel shaft into the earth just as the Onslow company had. Predictably, this shaft also flooded. At this point, the workmen noticed that the water filling the shaft was sea water, which rose and fell with the tides. In a belated moment in which all persons involved were probably smacking their foreheads into the palms of their hands, most everyone realized that the shafts of the Money Pit always flooded to a depth of thirty feet: Sea level. 

Around the same time, the workmen also noticed that at low tide, there was water flowing out of the beach. Which led to a shocking discovery: The beach was artificial. 

The shocking discovery.

 

If a pirate did hide something here, his ghost is probably going HAHAHAHA!

What the Truro company discovered was a diabolically clever plan worthy of One-Eyed Willie.

 

Whomever had created the Money Pit had also devised a way to forever safeguard the treasure. A drainage system, consisting of five channels that spread like the fingers of a hand from the Money Pit to the sea. Each channel was filled with a filtering system of coconut fiber, rocks and eel grass to keep silt and salt out while still allowing water to flow into the Pit.

 

Armed with this information, the Truro company reasoned that the answer was simple: block off the sea, pump out the Pit and dig down to the treasure.

To do this, the company planned to build a dam around the beach at Smith’s cove.

Amazingly, when workers began construction, they found the remains of an older dam. One that possibly had been built to hold out the sea water while the channels were being built in the island.

Construction on the dam was nearly complete when a storm knocked it down.

Plan B was to block off the channels. However the company failed to find them after sinking numerous shafts inland. Discouraged and disheartened, the company gave up.

The bottom drops out. 

The next attempt to retrieve the treasure was made by the Oak Island association in 1861. First they cleared the Money Pit down to a depth of 88 feet. Then they sank a second shaft to the east of the Pit in the hopes of intercepting the channel that filled the Pit with sea water. The new shaft was dug to a depth of 120 feet without encountering the channel and then abandoned. A third shaft was dug to the west of the Money Pit down to a depth of 188 feet. Then they attempted to dig over to the Money Pit. 

Again, water began to flow in – both to the west Pit, and the Money Pit. Attempts at bailing out the water seemed to be working – when suddenly water rushed into the shafts and the bottom of the Money Pit dropped by fifteen feet. The Oak Island Association was left scratching their heads and wondering why. 

One theory put forth was that there was a chamber below the Money Pit. Years of drilling, floods, excavation and more floods weakened the chamber leading to it’s eventual collapse. Another theory was that the Money Pit collapsed into the western shaft – scattering the goodies at the bottom of the Pit into both shafts. 

Over the next few years, various groups tried unsuccessfully to excavate the Money Pit. One man was killed when a steam pump exploded from the strain of pumping water from the shaft. By this point, approximately 37 holes had been dug into the area surrounding the Money Pit. Since few – if any – records were kept by the various treasure hunters excavating the Pit, many treasure hunters were left combing over previously hunted ground. 

In 1866 the place where the channel met the Money Pit shaft was discovered – but by then it was too late to plug the hole. So many boreholes and shafts had been dug around the Pit that the water would divert into the honeycombed area and seep into the Pit through a dozen different directions. At one point dynamite had been used in an attempt to close the channel. 

A second find in 1866 further fueled the spirit of discovery. A language professor in Halifax translated the inscription stone that sat in John Smith’s fireplace. According to him, the inscription read: Forty feet below, two million pounds are buried. 

What lies beneath. 

In 1893, Frederick Blair formed a new search party, the Oak Island Treasure Company. The group was able to dig down to 111 feet – where they briefly found the mouth of the channel — temporarily blocked with Rocks. The water eventually worked its way through the rocks, but not before Blair’s company was able to take another core sample. 

At 126 feet, wood was struck and then iron. This was probably part of the material that fell during the crash of the Pit. On previous drillings, the wood was encountered at 122 feet and the iron was missed completely, Which may have indicated that the material was lying in a haphazard way due to the previous collapse 

At 130 and then again at 160 feet, more layers of the putty were found similar to those discovered by McGinnis, Smith and Vaughn. 

In the gap between these layers, a cement vault was discovered. The vault itself is 7 feet high with 7 inch thick walls. Inside the vault, the drill first struck wood, then a void several inches high and an unknown substance. Next a layer of soft metal was reached, then almost three feet of metal pieces, then more soft metal. 

When the drill was brought back up, a piece of velum was stuck to the auger. The fragment had a set of letters written on it in India Ink. The letters spell out either “vi,” “ui” or “wi.”

A second tunnel. 

Blair became more convinced than ever that treasure was within his grasp. The Oak Island Treasure Company began sinking more shafts around the Money Pit. However all of them were unsuccessful due to flooding. Suspicious that there might be a second flood tunnel, the workmen dropped red dye into the Pit. Then watched the beach to see where it would come out. To their amazement, the dye came out on both sides of the island. There was indeed a second tunnel. 

By the turn of the century, the Pit had yet to yield up its treasure. The original site was a quagmire, and the oak tree that had once pointed the way was long gone. Five men had lost their lives in pursuit of the treasure. But this did nothing to stop the interest in Oak Island and the Money Pit. 

A link to Kidd? Maybe. 

In 1936 a retired wealthy businessman named Gilbert Heddon was the next to make a serious attempt at the treasure. Heddon thought that if the second tunnel was blocked off, the quagmire would eventually dry out and the island would be safe to excavate again. 

Heddon researched pirate lore to try and find the floodgate. During this attempt, he stumbled over a pirate map that he believed to belong to Captain Kidd. The map, he believed, pointed to the Money Pit as the location of a cache of Kidd’s gold. But ultimately, the map turned out to be a fake. 

 

Tragedy strikes. Again.

In 1959, Robert Restall , a former circus performer, moved to Oak Island with his wife, Mildred and their two sons, Bobby and Rich. This was to prove a fatal choice on their part. In 1965 Restall was working in a twenty seven foot shaft, when he passed out from inhaling carbon monoxide that had collected there. 

Seeing his father fall, Bobby rushed to his aid. He too, succumbed to the gas. Two other workman also failed to realize what was happening and met their untimely demise in the shaft. 

Soon after the Restall tragedy, Bob Dunfield brought in heavy machinery to deal with the island. He first tried heavy bulldozers and cranes to block the inflow of water from the north channel. Then he attempted to do the same with the south. Although he failed to find the southern channel, he did discover an additional channel. One that seemingly went nowhere. 

Dunfield theorized that the island contained a large, natural underground cavern. 

After 1970, the rights to search the Money Pit have were held by Daniel Blankenship and Triton Alliance. Following up on Dunfield’s theory that there was a natural cavern under the island, Triton made several boreholes in search for the underground cavern.

In one attempt, now known as borehole 10X, a probable underground cavern was found. An underwater camera was lowered into the hole. The camera photographed what may be chests filled with treasure, as well as human remains. 

An attempt was made to send divers into the underground cavern, but poor visibility and strong current made the attempt impossible. Since that time the hole had closed up and the Triton partnership has collapsed.

Despite this, Blankenship and the group who now owned the other half of the interests to Oak Island Tours received the proper legal documents to once again search for the treasure. New excavations have begun in 2008. 

The theories. 

Skeptics who doubt the existence of the treasure have pointed out that all of the information listed above is merely the popular legend. In the way of facts, much of it is unverifiable due to a lack of physical evidence, contemporary accounts or primary sources. 

Many elements of the story, they point out, are drawn from romanticized stories of pirate gold: from the cypher stone, to the tantalizing but inconclusive clues. Further, new elements seem to be added to the story any time there is a renewed interest in buried treasure. Many of them designed to draw in investors. 

In 1995, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute undertook a two week survey of the island. Their findings indicated that the drainage system that exists on the island is natural, not man made. They viewed the footage taken in borehole 10X and found it to be inconclusive. 

Despite this, there is no end to the belief in the buried treasure, or the theories as to what might be hidden at the bottom of the money pit. 

Theories have ranged from the pirate hordes of Captain Kidd and Blackbeard to the missing crown jewels of France, to the Holy Grail, to the treasure of Rome brought to these shores by the Visgoths, to the secret treasures of the Knights Templar and the Freemasons. Only slightly more credible is the theory that the treasure is the missing back pay for British soldiers, hidden from American Revolutionaries in Nova Scotia.

Today, the island hosts tourism events, even as Oak Island Tours continue searching for the treasure. However, it’s doubtful that any gold found would ever equal the vast amount of money and resources that have been thrown into the Money Pit.