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Buried Treasure Part II


Sadly, without the “key,” Morriss was unable to break the encryption. Realizing that he might die before learning the whereabouts of the secret treasure, Morriss, at the age of 84, solicited the help of a man by the name of James Ward.

Immediately, Ward knew the “key” was not a simple alphabetic cypher, as there were far more numbers than letters in the alphabet. Finally, he was able to decode one of the pages using a “book cypher,” where each number represents the position of a given letter in a particular book. The “book” in question was the Declaration of Independence. For example, the number 117 happened to be the first letter of the 117th word in the Declaration of Independence. After Ward had determined that, everything else fell into place. Ward cracked the code to the treasure’s contents.

Beale Paper #2 reads:

I have deposited in the county of Bedford, about four miles from Buford's, in an excavation or vault, six feet below the surface of the ground, the following articles, belonging jointly to the parties whose names are given in number three, herewith:

The first deposit consisted of ten hundred and fourteen pounds of gold, and thirty-eight hundred and twelve pounds of silver, deposited Nov. eighteen nineteen. The second was made Dec. eighteen twenty-one, and consisted of nineteen hundred and seven pounds of gold, and twelve hundred and eighty-eight of silver; also jewels, obtained in St. Louis in exchange to save transportation, and valued at thirteen thousand dollars.

The above is securely packed in iron pots, with iron covers. The vault is roughly lined with stone, and the vessels rest on solid stone, and are covered with others. Paper number one describes the exact locality of the vault, so that no difficulty will be had in finding it.


Ward became crazed with the notion of locating all this wealth, and spent a lifetime trying to decrypt the two pages that gave the exact burial site and the list of persons Beale wanted the treasure to go to. In desperation, after forty-three years of failed searches, he published the encrypted three pages so they would become public and so he would never again be plagued by the compulsion to find the treasure.

Many others became entranced by the possibility of the great treasure, including the Hart brothers. George Hart spent his life in the quest until 1912, with his brother Clayton continuing the madness until 1952. Many others have joined the obsession, but to this day the two vital pages have yet to be decrypted.


Several TV programs have explored this story, as have other individuals. Some have said this was all a hoax, but searches of public records show that Thomas Beale was a real person, and that he was a customer at the St. Louis Post Office in the time frame of the mailing of the letter to Morriss. A popular Cheyenne tale also tells the story of a gold and silver find by white men that was buried in the Eastern Mountains of the US. Another theory claims that Edgar Allen Poe, who was fascinated by encrypted messages (as in The Gold Bug), was the author of this fabrication.

The location of the buried treasure remains a mystery to this day, as does the question of a hoax.

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