Is there treasure on Oak Island?

Josh: Josh Clark

Chuck: Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant

Vo: Voiceover Speaker

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Vo: Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from


Josh: Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark. There's Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant and Jeri. So this is Stuff You Should Know.

Chuck: Howdy.

Josh: Is that your Nova Scotia accent?

Chuck: Uh, no.

Josh: No?

Chuck: Sir.

Josh: What was that?

Chuck: Oh, just a howdy.

Josh: Oh, okay.

Chuck: It did sound funny, though. That was my Hee Haw version. We've talked about Hee Haw. You loved that show, didn't you?

Josh: No, I never really watched it.

Chuck: Oh, I'm thinking of my other podcast cohost. [LAUGHS]

Josh: Yeah, really. No, I didn't watch Hee Haw much.

Chuck: Yeah, I did. I was from the South, though.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Toledo, y'all thought that was like yokel stuff.

Josh: No, I mean, like, it was on every once in a while. I just passed by.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: You know? What was it? Minnie Pearl? She had the hat with the price tag on, still?

Chuck: Yeah. That's all anyone ever remembers. [LAUGHS]

Josh: She started that. And then there's like some guy with a banjo, I think.

Chuck: Sure [LAUGHS]. I think that's one of the most oft requested shows.

Josh: Oak Island?

Chuck: Yeah. I didn't really know much about it, but seems like every other week someone saying Oak Island, guys.

Josh: Do Oak Island.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: We're going to do Oak Island. We want everybody to be quiet.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: So that's what we're doing. Did you know much about this ahead of time?

Chuck: No, not at all.

Josh: I did. It's one of those things you hear about and you hear a little more, and you don't really dig in.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: But, so the whole thing is just kind of this neat legend that's kind of out there.

Chuck: Yeah, I don't know how I missed it.

Josh: And then once you start digging in, you're like, yeah, I understand.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] You say that with a skeptical tone.

Josh: Well, I think this is one of those cases where-

Chuck There's no treasure? [LAUGHS]

Josh: I don't know. There's some weirdness. There's some things that make me say, "This is very odd," but I also understand the skeptical point of view.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: So, well, what I've just kind of demonstrated is a little bit of a middle-of-the-road approach to Oak Island, which is unusual. Most people approach Oak Island either as true believer treasure hunters or total skeptics. There's not a lot of middle of the road. It's a divisive island, as far as islands go. It's only like a 100-and-something acres. It's not a big island; it's off the coast of Nova Scotia-140 acres.

Chuck: Yeah, that's not big.

Josh: Yeah, but for as small as it is, you know, it's pretty divisive.

Chuck: Yeah, I don't see what the big deal about being skeptical about, I mean, buried treasure. I mean, who cares?

Josh: Oh, if you're a skeptic, you have to pooh-pooh everything. Absolutely anything that's even remotely frivolous has to be squashed.

Chuck: But this isn't even like supernatural or anything. I mean, I guess there's the curse thing.

Josh: Yeah, that's new, though.

Chuck: But that's just lore.

Josh: That's all TV. That's not even lore, from what I understand.

Chuck: Oh, really?

Josh: That's like new.

Chuck: It's like literally just a media-

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: -creation?

Josh: Yeah, strictly from the TV show.

Chuck: Okay.

Josh: But before that, I mean, people didn't really see it as a curse. There's just buried treasure on Oak Island.

Chuck: Yeah. And if it's the 1800s and you're digging for things, there's a good chance you might die.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: It's dangerous.

Josh: It is.

Chuck: Doesn't mean it's cursed. [LAUGHS]

Josh: I read this really great article written in 1965 by Mildred Restall.

Chuck: From The New York Times?

Josh: No, this was in Ottawa Magazine.

Chuck: Oh.

Josh: And it was written by her.

Chuck: Yeah, I read one. It might've been the same one.

Josh: I wonder. It was within a very short time of her husband and son dying. I thought, "Wow, this lady is really composed." But then I read a little further and found out that Mildred Restall and her husband, Robert-who moved their family to Oak Island so Robert could hunt for the treasure in 1959, I think-started out-they met because they were both circus performers with nerves of steel who rode motorcycles in a huge globe sphere. Well, he-

Chuck: Yeah. Those are awesome.

Josh: -would go upside, and she would go side to side, and they would miss each other hundreds of times in an act. And, now, after that, I was like, oh, yeah, this lady, she's tough as nails.

Chuck: Yeah. You've never seen one of those acts?

Josh: Sure, I have.

Chuck: Okay.

Josh: I just didn't realize that that's what they did.

Chuck: Sure, gotcha. Yeah. And it seems kind of odd to have that. I thought that was a newer act.

Josh: No, it's totally '50s-screams '50s.

Josh: Oh, really?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: See, I thought it screamed '70s. [LAUGHS]

Josh: Oh, it does, too. Yeah, you're right.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: Yeah. Evel Knievel is why that screams that.

Chuck: All right. So let's dive in here, eh?

Josh: Well, yeah. The Restalls, when they moved in 1959, they were hardly the first people that moved to Oak Island and set up residence there-

Chuck: No.

Josh: -in order to find the treasure. But prior to 1795, Oak Island was just another island.

Chuck: Yeah, and it's still just another island. [LAUGHS]

Josh: Well, just because of all of the attention that's been paid to it, it's been changed forever.

Chuck: That's true.

Josh: Prior to 1795, though, it was just like, whatever, there's Oak Island, until a local kid from Nova Scotia named Robert McGinnis-Daniel McGinnis, sorry-decided to go explore.

Chuck: Yeah, and this, you won't find any two people that agree on these legend stories, even with Daniel McGinnis, because it's-you know, none of this stuff was really written down until much later.

Josh: It's 1795. Nothing was written down in 1795.

Josh: [LAUGHS]

Josh: Nothing was documented until like the 1900s.

Chuck: Well, sir. [LAUGHS]

Josh: When Star Trek came along.

Chuck: Certainly, things like this weren't documented, because he was just a boy. He was 16 years old. He was on a fishing expedition, and as the story goes-and we'll just use the most commonly agreed upon story here.

Josh: Okay.

Chuck: He was just kind of traipsing around the island and found a block from a pulley attached to a tree, an oak tree, and then a big sort of cleared-out area underneath it where it looked like someone had maybe been digging and reburying something.

Josh: Yeah, there's like a depression under this block, tackle block, from a pulley.

Chuck: Yeah. It was just cleared out, and he was like, "Huh, bet you anything there's a pirate's treasure down there."

Josh: Yeah. I mean, being a 1795 teenager, he was like there's-yeah, pirates are all over the place. And it's entirely possible. We're talking the 18th century. We're talking a time when piracy was still very much in the public imagination.

Chuck: Yeah. Buried treasure was a hot thing.

Josh: Yeah. I mean, there is such a thing. And at the very least, if no single pirate every buried his treasure, there's a lot of rumor about buried treasure of pirates.

Chuck: I think it makes total sense.

Josh: Sure.

Chuck: You know, you can't carry that stuff around all the time, because you'll get robbed and looted, so you bury that junk.

Josh: Bury it.

Chuck: Come back for it later.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Make a weird, funny-looking map that looks like a sweaty pillowcase and put a big X in the middle of it.

Josh: Sure. And then put that in a coffee can, and then bury that in your backyard.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] That's right.

Josh: You got to bury twice because it's so nice. That's the pirate theme.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Really? Can you say it like a pirate?

Josh: No.

Chuck: I knew you would do that. All right, so he starts digging. His interest is piqued. He gets a couple of friends, comes back the next day. Anthony Vaughan and John Smith. And-

Josh: Which is likely a pseudonym.

Chuck: You think? [LAUGHS]

Josh: Probably.

Chuck: And so they start digging, reportedly go down about ten feet, and found a layer of-like a platform of oak logs.

Josh: Yeah, which is you're not supposed to find that when you dig into a hole under a pulley.

Chuck: No, you're not supposed to.

Josh: It's noteworthy. First, they found a stone that they took to be manmade, like two feet down, and then ten feet down, they found an oak platform.

Chuck: Yeah. And then, supposedly, every ten feet after that, they kept finding these platforms, and we'll just go ahead and call this the Money Pit. That's what everyone calls it. This main location is the Money Pit.

Josh: Because just the first oak platform alone says there's treasure buried here.

Chuck: That's right. So, basically, they got down as far as they could for three teenage boys with picks and shovels, and said, "We're not finding anything and we need help," basically.

Josh: Yeah. "We need to bring in some old-timey equipment."

Chuck: Yeah, bigger tools.

Josh: Get some old-timey funding, and maybe get some old-timey other people involved, and they did, but it took like nine years before they came back, I think.

Chuck: Yeah. And they filled it back in because they didn't just want to leave a big empty hole there; it's an obvious sign that there's a treasure there. So, like you said, nine hours later they did come back with investors.

Josh: Nine years later.

Chuck: What'd I say?

Josh: Hours.

Chuck: No, I said years.

Josh: I will bet you all the money on Oak Island that you said hours.

Chuck: Ooh. At any rate, it was nine years, and they came back, informed with some funding from the Onslow Company, and that'll be a common refrain here. And, apparently, I did some writing on modern treasure hunting, and it's all about the funding. You know? It's just like any business. These dudes have boats and equipment, but they're like, "If you want a piece of this action, we need some dough to go out there and find this stuff."

Josh: Right. It's like selling future contracts out of potential treasure.

Clark: Yeah. Exactly.

Josh: And it's not just treasure hunting that does that. Lots of archaeological expeditions are funded like that. If your local university is like, "We've got enough problems as it is, we can't fund your dig," you can go to private investors who, ultimately, it's still treasure hunting; it's just churched up.

Clark: Churched up. [LAUGHS]

Josh: And called archaeological digs.

Chuck: So they come back as the Onslow Company and dig down deeper this time, and they did find some interesting things, notably things that shouldn't be there, like coconut fiber and charcoal and putty. And coconut is obviously not native to Nova Scotia, so they're like, "Someone has put something down here."

Josh: Well, yeah. Also, at the time, coconut fiber was used as a packing material, though, so, clearly, somebody was using it as some sort of construction material. It wasn't accidentally dropped there.

Chuck: And buried.

Josh: It was put there. Yeah.

Chuck: That's right. So legend has it they dug down until they hit 90 feet, and then found a flat stone with a coded inscription that they could not make sense of. Since then, other people have supposedly translated it to read "40 feet below, two million pounds are buried." There's no stone today. There's no rubbing. There's no photograph.

Josh: No. It's called the famous cipher stone, and it was supposedly lost in like 1919, but, yeah, there's no-

Chuck: No evidence.

Josh: Yeah. And so anything you run across like in a book or on the web or something is conjecture. There's no document of this cipher stone. But they do think that something that accounts for the cipher stone did exist at some point, but no one knows for certain exactly what it said. And if you're wondering two million pounds of what, I assumed that they meant British currency.

Chuck: That is true. [LAUGHS] Yeah, that would be funny if that was just like two million pounds of pirate scat.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: Coconut husks.

Chuck: So they get down to about close to 100 feet, and then go home for the day and drink rum, I would imagine, and then come back, and it's full of water, and they tried to bail it out, but they were basically like, this is, you know, seven-well, I guess this point it was the 1800s, early 1800s, but we're still screwed.

Josh: Right. So Robert McGinnis-and what was the name of the company he came back with?

Chuck: Onslow Company.

Josh: The Onslow Company. What you just described is the process that people have followed and the troubles that people have run into ever since. And we'll talk about some of the following expeditions, because McGinnis's troubles didn't put anybody else off.

Chuck: No.

Josh: Right after this.


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Josh: Okay. So, Chuck, something really weird happened to the McGinnis expedition, the second one.

Chuck: Yes.

Josh: When he grew up, became a man, came back with the Onslow Company, and dug down.

Chuck: Grow up, became a man.

Josh: They went to bed after drinking a bunch of rum, like you said, and then they woke up and the pit had filled with water, and it's basically been filled with water ever since.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Which is a problem. If you're a treasure hunter, you want dry conditions as much as possible, to get to the treasure; water is an impediment. And it became such an impediment that, ultimately, McGinnis and the Onslow Company just kind of gave up. I guess they ran out of funding, right?

Chuck: Yeah, which has also been a refrain over the years. You can only dig so long until the person eventually who's funding you says, "I'm going to pull the plug."

Josh: Right. But years later, a question was raised about that flooding. People started to wonder was that actually an engineered booby trap, and that's become a question among treasure hunters for centuries on.

Chuck: Yeah, of course, the skeptics will say, no, it is just seawater, because later they found out that it was actually salt water, and there are other similar underground water tunnels on the island. So they're like, "No, this is just going on on this island." And the believers will say, "No, it was a booby trap set by the pirates."

Josh: But the believers in this case have kind of strange evidence to back up their ideas. So in 1849, after the McGinnis expedition, the second one left many years after. The Truro Company, which is kind of tough to say, they showed up to the island to look for the Money Pit, and they started digging again, right?

Chuck: Yes.

Josh: And when they started digging, they ran into the same problem; the shaft that they dug filled with water. So they started to think, "Well, wait a minute. Maybe this is purposeful. At the very least, maybe there's some sort of sea caves, and if there's sea caves that are filling this thing up, potentially we could stop up the sea caves, and then we can avoid the water problem and keep digging." So they sent people from the expedition to look all over the shoreline of the island, and they found something really astounding that, from what I understand, still to this day is the one thing that confounds all skeptics when it comes to Oak Island. They found what can really only be described as a manmade drainage system that basically accepts the incoming tide and potentially funnels the tide to the Money Pit.

Chuck: Yeah. So they continued to dig and drill because they're encouraged by finding things they said were metal or maybe even gold on the augers.

Josh: Mm-hmm. And even more coconut husk.

Chuck: Yeah. So they were like, "There's something down there," but they-like you said, it kept flooding, and this is when they realized it was seawater, and they noticed, hey, it's actually filling up and falling back down along with the tides. So that's when they built a temporary cofferdam to kind of see what was going on, and that's when they found this five-finger drain, and which, yeah, there's really no explanation. That didn't just accidentally happen.

Josh: No. And what gives it away is it's 145 feet wide, and it's about the height of the difference between high tide and low tide, so it's clearly meant to funnel the tide into this drain. There's five drains. They're obviously finger drains. Finger drains are like French drains, basically, and they all connect into one larger drain, but the real dead giveaway was the appearance, again, of coconut fiber. Coconut fiber was used to keep the sand out of the stone drain, and a layer of coconut fiber on an island off of the coast of Nova Scotia suggests man's intervention.

Chuck: That's right. But what that means, who knows? Again, treasure seekers will say that they put this to keep you from finding that treasure ever.

Josh: Right. It was evidence in favor of the idea that the Money Pit is booby-trapped.

Chuck: Yeah. And I think skeptics will say that the-I think there was a theory that there was a lot of weird Freemason rituals going on, and maybe they buried some stuff there and not treasure, necessarily, but maybe they build this drain to keep people from digging into there.

Josh: Yeah. Modern treasure hunters are like, "Great, let me find whatever the Masons buried."

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: You know?

Chuck: Well, even if it's not gold ingots, it could be like the secrets of the Freemasons.

Josh: Or, yeah, the Ark of the Covenant.

Chuck: Yeah. Isn't that right? They said that could be down there. Or the Holy Grail.

Josh: You want to talk about some of the legends of what's down there?

Chuck: Yeah, we might as well.

Josh: Okay. So the predominant one that Robert McGinnis initially thought of is that it was pirate treasure, because he was a teenager in the 1790s, right?

Chuck: Right.

Josh: Successive people have come to see the Money Pit, if it is sabotaged like it is in the construction that went into it, as something that would've had to have been carried out by a group more sophisticated, better-funded and better-organized than Captain Kidd's crew.

Chuck: Yeah, more sober, at the very least.

Josh: Yeah, exactly. So one of the rumors of what treasure is buried down there is that the Freemasons buried something or the Knights Templar buried something, because the Knights Templar, you know, they were like the militant arm of fundamental Christianity in the 10th century during pilgrimages, a.k.a. the Crusades to the Middle East, right?

Chuck: Yeah. So that means they got a lot of dough over the years; they accumulated great wealth. Had a big falling out with the Catholic Church, of course.

Josh: Yeah. Supposedly, they were found worshipping Baphomet, the goat-headed, breasted Satan.

Chuck: And that's sort of like the statue, right?

Josh: That's exactly like the statue?

Chuck: Oklahoma?

Josh: Yeah, the one that's being constructed by the Satanic Temple right now.

Chuck: Yeah, I put that on our Facebook page, and it was very divisive.

Josh: I can imagine.

Chuck: No surprise.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] I thought it was just a nice, cool-looking piece of art, personally.

Josh: I mean, man, it's pretty well done.

Chuck: Yeah, it looked nice. So, yeah, so the Knights Templar has all this dough. They have a falling out with the Catholic Church, for obvious reasons that you just pointed out, and then they buried their treasure, so, I guess, the Catholic Church wouldn't get their hands on it.

Josh: Right. But among that treasure, supposedly, is the Holy Grail, which is what the knights were looking for in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and the Ark of the Covenant, which is what Indiana Jones was looking for in Indiana Jones and-or, no, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: And so some people have said this is where the Knights Templar buried their treasure, this is where the Ark of the Covenant is. Then other people have said, "Whatever. The Knights Templar never made it to Nova Scotia. But the Freemasons obviously took over the secrets and protections of the Knights Templar. They're like the modern day Knight Templar Society, and they probably buried the Ark and/or the Holy Grail. Duh."

Chuck: Yeah. And apparently, a lot of Masons have been on these excavation teams over the years, which, of course, is evidence that they're looking for their old stuff.

Josh: Right. Or, I mean, it also is entirely possible that there is a rumor among Masons that this is true, whether it's true or not, that could have gotten some Masonic adventurers to go look. You know?

Chuck: Another theory that's been thrown out there is that Marie Antoinette, during the French Revolution, got all her jewelry together and gave it to a woman and said, "Flee," and she fled to Nova Scotia, and then the French Navy came along and constructed this elaborate system to bury her jewels.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: There's another little possible theory.

Josh: And, supposedly, evidence that backs that up is that the woman who was given the jewels, who was entrusted with the jewels, was spotted in Nova Scotia sometime after that.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: What was she doing there?

Chuck: Burying jewels.

Josh: Another unusual Nova Scotia link is that of Francis Bacon.

Chuck: Yeah. I like this one.

Josh: So remember Francis Bacon from the scientific method, he was the guy that really first put that down in written form-brilliant man, possibly Shakespeare. It's one of the theories is that he was the real Shakespeare, and the idea is that he hid his manuscripts in the Money Pit on Oak Island. And that seems kind of farfetched, but, apparently, Francis Bacon owned land in Nova Scotia.

Chuck: Yeah. And he was a preserver of things in mercury, and, supposedly, they found flasks of mercury on the island. I don't buy that one, because I've always believed that Shakespeare was Shakespeare and not Francis Bacon, or his sister, or any other various crackpot theories about who really wrote that stuff.

Josh: I like Francis Bacon is Shakespeare.

Chuck: You do?

Josh: Mm-hmm.

Chuck: Yeah?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Just the thought of it, or do you think the evidence is telltale?

Josh: I don't know about the evidence. I don't know enough about it, but I like the thought of it. He seems like a pretty cool dude.

Chuck: So some of the other treasure hunters started flocking there in the mid to late 1800s because that was just a big time for treasure hunting.

Josh: Yeah. Well, the California gold rush was going on in 1849, which is why the 49ers are called that.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: And I think there's kind of a treasure fever going through the land.

Chuck: That's a good way to say it.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: So the El Dorado Company in 1866 went out there, and there were various methods over the years to try and block off the flow of water. They tried digging shafts and tunnels. They tried to divert it. They tried to intercept it. And, basically, all that ended up doing was causing a nightmare for future expeditions, to the point where people had a hard time even finding the original Money Pit to begin with.

Josh: Right. A lot of the landmarks, I'd guess you'd call them, were just utterly destroyed. Supposedly, in that article I read from Mrs. Restall, she said that there weren't anymore oaks on Oak Island any longer.

Chuck: No more oak trees?

Josh: Yeah. Which because of excavations just tore them all down.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: So it'd be very tough to find your way around if whatever directions were written at a time when there were plenty of oak trees and they used oak trees as guides.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Yeah, like go to this oak tree and turn left.

Josh: Exactly.

Chuck: Yeah, yeah.

Josh: Yeah. So yeah, the excavations definitely changed the face of that island tremendously.

Chuck: One thing we do have that is tangible as far as-I don't know if you call it evidence or not because it really doesn't say much, but Frederick Blair in the 1890s came with the Oak Island Treasure Company and actually found something that still exists. It's a little bitty tiny piece of parchment paper, and it looks like cursive letters "VI" are on it, but, I mean, it's small, and it really leads to nothing other than something manmade is there.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Yeah. VI. You know, I don't think anyone's had any conjecture about what that means.

Josh: Six?

Chuck: Maybe. Six billion pounds buried 600 feet down.

Josh: [LAUGHS] Right.

Chuck: Who knows?

Josh: And then the 20th century has seen-or saw, since we're in the 21st century now-successive waves, pretty constant waves of people coming, looking for the Oak Island Treasure. One of them was a young Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who also is a Mason.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: He came along as an investor, and, apparently, always pined to go back to Oak Island to search for the treasure, like it got in his blood.

Chuck: All right. So after this message break, we are going to look at a few more of the things that have been discovered there over the years and what this all means.


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Josh: So, Chuck, I was saying the 20th century saw wave after wave of treasure hunter come, dig, and then leave penniless.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: One of those people, though, that-and we also talked about how Oak Island has been utterly changed. Probably nobody changed the topography and geography of Oak Island more than a guy named Robert Dunfield, who was an engineer, I believe-or, no, a geologist. And in 1965, he built a bridge, a highway.

Chuck: Yeah, a causeway?

Josh: Yeah, from the mainland to Oak Island, and right after he did that, right after it was completed, he started moving heavy equipment in and just started digging like crazy.

Chuck: Yeah. He got down 100 feet-sorry, 140 feet down, 100 feet wide, and kept everything a secret until 2003. They didn't find a lot. They found some porcelain dishware from the 1600s.

Josh: But just, you know, what was that doing there?

Chuck: Good find, for sure.

Josh: The early 1600s, even.

Chuck: But he, of course, didn't find a lot, either, ultimately, in the way of riches, because he kept having problems despite his machinery, with collapsing caves, heavy rains, more tidewater. And, but he did say there was a cavern under some limestone. He did confirm one of these underwater cavern rumors.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Supposedly.

Josh: Yeah. Which accounts for, potentially, a natural formation, if you're a skeptic. If you're a believer, then it just confirms the booby trap thing.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: He finally left after basically-he was the guy who demolished the most landmarks, but shortly after he left, a pair of guys who formed what's called the Triton Alliance, David Tobias and Dan Blankenship, they started working, and they actually brought along some high-tech stuff for 1970, which was like an underwater camera, video camera.

Chuck: Yeah. It's probably the size of a, you know, small car.

Josh: Right, that they lowered down there and they-well, they drilled the hole, and they called it Bore Hole 10X, and they-it filled with water, of course, as all holes on Oak Island do, but they lowered this underwater camera down there, and they swore to God that they saw evidence of human remains and treasure chests.

Chuck: It's what they said.

Josh: Whether you're convinced or not, Tobias and Blankenship were convinced enough that-no, Blankenship still lives on Oak Island.

Chuck: Yeah, he became sort of the main guy that remains today as the main guy.

Josh: Right. And this is 1970 when they showed up. He's still on that island, and he supposedly-

Chuck: Yeah. I think he's in his 80s.

Josh: Oh, yeah?

Chuck: Yeah, he's old.

Josh: No, but it was the 1970s when they showed up, and he still lives there.

Chuck: No, that's what I'm saying, he is age-wise-

Josh: In his 80s.

Chuck: -in his 80s.

Josh: I got you.

Chuck: Yeah, he's an old fella.

Josh: We hammered that out. He's apparently an ornery fella, too, because there was another guy named Fred Nolan, who is a famous Oak Island explorer who-well, they ran afoul of one another. Apparently, Blankenship had a rifle, obviously, in his hand during the argument, and the cops had to come out and take the rifle away.

Chuck: Really?

Josh: Yeah. And, supposedly, now, nobody is allowed on Oak Island, although I guess you can if you're filming a TV show, except for Dan Blankenship, who's the only resident.

Chuck: Well, he's part of the TV show.

Josh: Okay.

Chuck: So he was like, "Come on." Yeah, what is that? History Channel, I think.

Josh: I don't know.

Chuck: Yeah. There's a couple of-the people that he's working with today, Rick and Marty Lagina, I think are brothers from Michigan, and they are the subject of the TV show, which I'll have to check out at some point.

Josh: Sure. But that's supposedly where the curse came from, is that show.

Chuck: Oh, right? Really?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Oh, did not know that. So it's been a presence since last year?

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Frederick Nolan also is the one who in 1981 discovered five large cone-shaped boulders that you when you look at it above looks like a cross, and it is forever known as Nolan's Cross.

Josh: What does it mean? Who knows.

Chuck: Maybe the boulders were just sort of in the shape of a cross by accident.

Josh: But, well, Fred Nolan bought five plots of land, bought them. So he was a resident there, an inhabitant there, too. I'm not sure what happened to old Fred Nolan, though.

Chuck: Yeah, I'm not sure. That's a good point. He may have been lost to the curse of Oak Island.

Josh: So we keep using present tense. It's entirely true-as anyone with History Channel knows-there's still people who are looking actively for the treasure of Oak Island, right?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: They believe that if you put all the evidence together, Nolan's Cross, coconut fibers, the finger drains, the evidence from Blankenship and Tobias, their video stuff, if you put all this together, there is evidence that there is treasure down there. Somebody just needs to dig deep enough in the right place, and then, bam, they're going to find it. Right?

Chuck: Yeah. I mean, man, they've dug so deep, though, and so wide. How much deeper could they have gone back in the pirate days? You know?

Josh: I don't know.

Chuck: It just seems very unlikely to me that there's any treasure there.

Josh: Well, then you would be in the skeptics camp, and you would definitely not be alone.

Chuck: Yeah, but skeptic thinking there may have been something buried or some weird thing going on there, but I don't know about treasure.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Who knows, though? Skeptics will also say these are natural sinkholes instead of traps, like we said earlier. They will also say things like, "You know, there's all kind of underground caverns around here. There's nothing special." I don't know what they say about finding things like porcelain plates.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: I didn't see anything like that. But, you know, when the stone is lost, this inscripted stone, when there's no evidence, really, to point to, except this tiny piece of parchment paper, I don't know-it's pretty flimsy.

Josh: Well, none of the excavations started to be documented until the 19th century, so all McGinnis's early work is all based on hearsay and conjecture. It's all up for debate whether he was a teenager. Was the tackle block for the pulley, was that added to the story later on? If so, then, all of a sudden, that depression under the tree branch just becomes a depression under a tree branch. You know, the pulley was the thing. It's-excuse my physics joke, but the fulcrum of this whole thing.

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: You know?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: So if you start to look at it on its face, all this legend, you realize that most of it is just legend and that the only real physical evidence is that scrap of parchment paper that no one even knows whether that was planted or not.

Chuck: Well, yeah, that's one of the things skeptics often say, is that anything you found there could've been planted just to get money to fund the digs.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Like, "Look, we found this parchment and this porcelain plate, and there's some gold dust on our auger."

Josh: Did we mention the coconut fiber?

Chuck: [LAUGHS] The coconut fiber again.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Just send us another, I don't know, 10 mil, and we'll keep digging.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: So there you have it, Oak Island.

Josh: Again, though, those finger drains are just weird.

Chuck: Yeah, that's weird, for sure.

Josh: It's cool. Who did what there?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Basically, they just need to strip-mine the entire island all the way down. There you go.

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: I don't know why anyone hasn't thought of that yet.

Chuck: Yeah, just completely strip it of all its natural beauty until it's nothing left.

Josh: Sure.

Chuck: And just shrug your shoulders afterward, say, "There's nothing here."

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Yeah. Go man. [LAUGHS]

Josh: If you want to know more about Oak Island, apparently you can watch a weekly television show on it. You can also type "Oak Island" into the search bar of How Stuff Works. And since I said search bar, it's time for listener mail.

Chuck: I'm going to call this poison ivy follow-up from J.B. "Guys, I have an interesting story about how you can get poison ivy from more than just touching it. When I was eight or so, we lived in California, had a big fireplace. One day we decided to get our own firewood from outside and got a couple of big logs. My sister-we were both about seven at the time. She and I used the fire to roast marshmallows and make smores. Great night, right? An hour or so later, one of my sisters came into my parent's room saying she couldn't breathe. Her face had swollen to twice its normal size, and her eyes were shut. Her throat was barely able to pass air through it. An emergency room trip and a shot or two of steroids later, she was okay, but it took a while to find out what happened. Apparently, the poison ivy had been removed from the logs we got, but the sap was still on the wood, and when we burned them, the sap was present in the smoke, and my sister was highly allergic, inhaled it, got it in her throat and lungs, and it blew up her face like a red balloon."

Josh: Man.

Chuck: "Best side note of this: we had passport photos the next day because we were moving to Germany, so her passport pic was a giant, red, swollen balloon face."

Josh: That's awesome.

Chuck: That is J.B. in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Josh: Way to go, J.B. That was a good story. You get the blue ribbon for it.

Chuck: And I guess she had that passport photo for a full decade.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Unless she just had it retaken.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Would you live with that passport photo?

Josh: No, no.

Chuck: I totally would; I think it'd be funny, except for the whole, you know, this doesn't look like you thing.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: That'd be a drag.

Josh: It would be a huge drag. TSA likes to hassle.

Chuck: Yeah. But I'm well known in my family for making funny faces any time I have a photo ID of any kind taken.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: Just for fun. I've always done it.

Josh: That is so fun.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Emily likes it.

Josh: You got anything else?

Chuck: Nope.

Josh: Okay. Well, thanks again for the awesome story, JB. If you have a great story, you can tweet to us @SYSKPodcast, you can post it on our Facebook page at, you can put it in an email and send it to, and in the meantime, while you're waiting around, thinking of what to say, go hang out at our home on the web,


Vo: For more on this and thousands of other topics, visit


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