Close this search box.

Lost and Found: America’s 5 Most Famous Treasures

Have you ever found a treasure?

Who doesn’t like a good treasure hunt, complete with puzzles, enigmas, and the chance to find a priceless treasure worth millions of dollars? Maybe it’s because of all the pirate movies we saw as kids, or maybe it’s just because we think it would be cool to locate a treasure, but whatever the reason, many of us would enjoy participating in a traditional treasure hunt. Or at least for the sake of amusement.

When we think of buried wealth, the majority of us probably picture the treasures lying dormant on the ocean floor; but that’s not always the case. Even better, there’s good news for American landlocked treasure seekers: there are numerous stories of huge riches that lie within our borders.

From Spanish conquistadors to winners of the Gold Rush, lost riches are strewn across the land. Our land. So what do you think about going on a trip and maybe coming home with a fortune? Well, the story starts here. Which of these riches do you think is worth seeking?

treasure map
Photo by Carlos Amarillo from

1. The Cipher for the Beale Treasure is only 3 pages long

Is there anything that evokes greater mystery than a treasure map? So, how about a secret message involving a fortune? Yes, you need to break down Thomas J. Beale’s 130-year-old, a three-page cipher in order to locate his hidden treasure in central Virginia.

Beale was a Scottish man who used to work as a naturalist, general merchant, and opium explorer during the 19th century. In conformity with studies from 2018, it’s believed that the jewel we’re talking about is actually worth more than $43 million.

He amassed a fortune in precious metals in the Rocky Mountains and stored it all in a cave in the state of Virginia. Innkeeper Robert Morriss was trusted with a box of Beale’s most precious possessions before he left on his journey back to the west.

When the box was opened, there was a letter claiming that he had discovered gold, and there were also 3 pages of apparently random numbers. Even though they appeared strange at first, those pages were actually riddles containing the luck’s secret location.

That’s true: Beale’s hidden wealth might be found if the 3 puzzles contained within these digits are deciphered. Morriss gave the cipher to a friend of his after Beale apparently passed away before he could get his box back. The records were released to the public soon after that.

There are 3 components to the cipher, but only the 2nd one—which describes the prize itself—has been cracked. Many people tried to crack the code and find the mysterious treasure, but none of them succeeded.

Upset and angry, people started to spread rumors that the whole thing might’ve been fake to make people think and find answers to hard-to-read puzzles. But what if it’s true? That means that there are millions of dollars somewhere in Virginia.

2. A minimum of $2 billion has been placed on the value of the San Miguel Treasure

Imagine a scenario straight out of Hollywood: a ship was laden with billions of dollars worth of diamonds, gold, and stones, only to have them all swept away by a devastating storm.

Sounds too much like the plot from a science-fiction movie, right? Well, some people believe it’s true, and we would like to think that they’re right. At least just for the fun of it.

The San Miguel, the flagship of 11 Spanish ships, is the focus of this narrative. The crew was required to transport 14 million pesos worth of loot from Cuba to their home country, Spain.

Because of its superior speed, the San Miguel was entrusted with more precious cargo than the other ships, and it left the port a day earlier than the others. However, they weren’t lucky, and when a huge storm emerged, the whole ship was hit, and nobody that was on board was ever seen again.

The final destination of San Miguel remains a mystery to this day. Because many minor items have been unearthed around the shore of Amelia Island, treasure hunters believe that the fortune is somewhere sunk off the coast of Florida.

3. Legend has it that cursed gold may be found in the Lost Dutchman’s Mine

A supposed “curse” might or might not have any real-world basis. It’s possible that the legend of the cursed Lost Dutchman’s Mine is only a collection of scary anecdotes from the past, but there’s also a chance that it might be backed up by actual historical documents.

But let’s start from the beginning. The Superstition Mountains in Arizona are home to the Lost Dutchman’s Mine. The local Apache people gave the surrounding mountain ranges their names in honor of the Thunder God, whom they believed to be the guardian of the mountains.

Spanish conquistadors ignored the warnings of the Apache and started exploring the mountains for gold in the mid-1500s. Many others in their circle began dying of unexplained causes shortly after. The legend says that lots of people were discovered dismembered or decapitated.

When the Spanish conquistadors abandoned their mission, a Jesuit priest picked up the quest in the 1700s. The Apaches saw this as an insult and started assaulting everyone who dared to approach their holy highlands.

The Superstition Mountains were part of a property grant given to the Peralta family in the mid-1700s. Due to their dread of the Apaches, they only made a few journeys into the mountains, but they were able to successfully mine for metal and gold. However, the majority of the Peralta group was slain in an Apache ambush, so most of the material was lost.

Even after hundreds of years, people will refer to this spot as the “Massacre Grounds” because of the abundance of gold that can be discovered there (if you’re lucky enough to escape all those traps and mysteries).

Speaking of that, many people lost their lives in the 20th century due to this so-called “curse.” At least 10 individuals have died in various events while on or near the Superstition Mountains. This leads me to the question: does anyone still want the treasure?

Photo by Anutr Yossundara from

4. The cursed treasure at Cahuenga Pass

The Golden State was not always a paradise, especially in the 1860s. The French, the Mexicans, and the American colonists all fought for control of the region, and things were complicated, brutal, and extremely violent.

Benito Juarez, the president of Mexico, had the desire to bolster his claim, so he sent 4 operatives to purchase guns, spending $200,000 (nearly $7 million in modern currency). Tragically, one of the men inexplicably died en route, and we have no idea who killed him.

The remaining trio arrived in San Francisco to complete their purchase but found the city occupied by the French. As a safety measure, they buried the valuable stones and money and promised to return soon.

While the soldiers were distracted, a local shepherd who had been watching them for a while dug out the treasure himself, and he wanted to run away with it.

But bad things started to happen. At this point, the ill effects of wealth begin to show. The shepherd’s original plan was to take the gems to Los Angeles. However, just before he got there, he had a bad dream about what would happen if he did that.

Rather than risk losing it, the shepherd hid the gold behind an ash tree. After arriving in Los Angeles, he quickly became very ill and passed away. But before he died, he did tell a friend exactly where the hidden treasures were.

The 4 Mexican individuals who first carried the treasure back to its original location discovered that it had been stolen. Tired and angry, they took part in a gunfight, but only one of them survived.

The shepherd’s buddy and his stepson went in search of the hidden wealth, but the curse was too powerful for them, and he collapsed and died of a heart attack while they were digging.

A few weeks after that tragic incident, the stepson was frightened away by the curse, but he then decided to overcome his fears and move on with his plan to uncover the riches and change his life forever. But things didn’t go well for him: he was shot dead by his brother-in-law the day before he was supposed to leave.

Only one treasure bag, so the story goes, was ever detected. Legend has it that the man who made the discovery stitched the precious stones inside his clothing to protect them from being stolen on the way back home. But the treasure ended his life because the moment the ship sank, his added weight pulled him under and he drowned.

5. Deserted treasure in New Mexico

Texas began to see a population boom in the 1700s as rumors of a rich silver mine spread across the region. Everybody wanted to find and have that huge fortune, but nobody succeeded.

Some have hypothesized that the strategic placement of a Spanish mission near the San Saba River was no accident and that there was something planned behind the whole thing.

However, in 1758, the mission was assaulted and destroyed by 2,000 Camanche Native Americans, proving the location was very hazardous for any would-be miners. So the treasure was well-kept.

But it was in the middle of the 1800s when the Bowie expedition went out to discover the mission’s ruins and, with any luck, the silver mine. Unfortunately, they ran across the Tahuacanos, and a bloody and deadly struggle between the 2 parties began.

Numerous lives had to be lost on both sides, so that they could finally stop the battle. The treasure became known as “Bowie’s Silver” after the famous battle that was held to claim it. Treasure hunters think that this legend is indeed true, and they still dream about it.

… Would you like to go on a treasure hunt? What would you do with the money if you were to find a huge fortune? Tell us in the comments below!

…We like knowing all sorts of things about other cultures, especially things that come from ancient times. If you’re like us and want to learn interesting facts about ancient people, we recommend this article: Ancient Egypt: 10 Insane Facts You Probably Didn’t Know!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts