History Podcasts

6 Famous Missing Treasures

6 Famous Missing Treasures

1. Ark of the Covenant

According to the Hebrew Bible, Moses had the ornate, gold-plated wooden chest known as the Ark of the Covenant built according to God’s own design. Its purpose was to guard sacred relics, including two stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments. The Israelites carried the Ark throughout their 40 years spent wandering in the wilderness, and later housed it in King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. In 607 B.C., the Babylonians besieged the Israelite capital, slaughtering more than a million people and driving the survivors into exile. When the Israelites returned, the Ark had disappeared, along with many other priceless treasures. It’s unknown whether the holy chest was hidden somewhere before the siege as protection, or destroyed by the Babylonian invaders. Whatever the case, archaeologists and treasure hunters have been searching for it for more than a century, with little success.

2. Montezuma’s Treasure

When Hernán Cortés arrived in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan in 1519, Emperor Montezuma II greeted him and his men with great ceremony. The Aztecs even offered Cortés gold and silver in the hopes that these white-skinned “gods” would leave Tenochtitlan in peace. Greedy for more, the Spaniards put Montezuma under house arrest instead, and with the help of local allies set about ransacking the city and terrorizing its inhabitants. After a brutal massacre during a religious festival, the Aztecs rose in rebellion, and Montezuma was killed in the confusion. Spanish forces fled Tenochtitlan under full attack, and were forced to dump all their looted riches in the waters of Lake Texcoco in their mad rush to escape. Though Cortés returned with a rebuilt army the next year and conquered the Aztecs for good, the so-called “Montezuma’s Treasure” would remain lost. According to the most popular theory, the riches still rest on the bottom of Lake Texcoco, though many have searched for it there without success. But as one legend—handed down by some Aztec descendants—has it, more than 2,000 men retrieved the treasures and marched them (with Montezuma’s exhumed corpse) north, perhaps all the way to southern Utah.

3. Blackbeard’s Treasure

History’s most famous pirate (real name: Edward Teach) is thought to have served as a British privateer during the War of Spanish Succession in the early 18th century before embarking on his brief but notorious career in piracy. From 1716 to 1718, Blackbeard and his 40-gun flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, prowled the West Indies and the Atlantic coast of North America, preying on ships heading back to Spain laden with gold, silver and other treasures from Mexico and South America. In late 1718, a British naval force led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard succeeded in killing Blackbeard after a hard-fought battle; Maynard had the infamous pirate decapitated and hung his head from the bowsprit of his ship. Before his death, Blackbeard claimed to have hidden his massive treasure, but he never told anyone its location. Treasure hunters have been searching for it ever since, seeking clues everywhere from Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay to the Caribbean and Cayman Islands.

4. Treasure of Lima

In 1820, as the forces of the revolutionary leader José de San Martín advanced on Lima, Peru, Spanish authorities hurried to save the riches they had amassed since their conquest of the Inca Empire in the 16th century. They entrusted the British sea captain William Thompson to hide the treasure aboard his ship, the Mary Dear, and sail around until it was safe to return to Lima. Instead, Thompson and his crew killed the Spanish viceroy’s guards and took off with the loot. When a Spanish ship captured the Mary Dear, the entire crew was executed except for Thompson and his first mate, who promised to reveal where they had buried the treasure. But when they reached Cocos Island, near present day Costa Rica, Thompson and his mate escaped into the jungle, and were never heard from again. Since then, more than 300 expeditions have tried—and failed—to find the Treasure of Lima. The lost haul, which reportedly included a life-size solid-gold image of the Virgin Mary encrusted in gems, is thought to be worth around $200 million today.

5. Mosby’s Treasure

In early March 1863, the Confederate ranger Colonel John Singleton Mosby and his band of guerrilla raiders surprised more than 40 Union troops at the Fairfax Courthouse and overcame them without firing a shot. From the lodgings of Union General Edwin Stoughton, Mosby reportedly took a burlap sack stuffed with more than $350,000 worth in gold, silver, jewelry, candlesticks and other family heirlooms, all of them taken from the homes of wealthy Virginia planters. While Mosby was transporting Stoughton and the other prisoners back to the Confederate line, his scouts warned him of a large detachment of Union soldiers nearby. In case of a battle, Mosby told his men to bury the sack of treasure between two large pine trees, which he marked with his knife. Mosby’s raiders avoided the clash and got back behind Confederate lines, but when he sent back seven of his men to retrieve the riches, they were caught and hanged as accused guerrillas. Mosby never returned to get the treasure, and never told anyone else its exact location—as far as we know, it remains buried in the woods of Fairfax County, Virginia, today.

6. Nazi Gold in Austria’s Lake Toplitz

During the final months of World War II, as Germany found itself on the brink of defeat, the Nazi regime sought to hide the valuable treasures it had spent the past six years looting from museums and doomed Jewish families all over Europe. Even today, rumors continue to circulate of a Nazi “ghost train” carrying up to 300 tons of gold and other riches through a secret network of tunnels in Poland. In Lake Toplitz, located in thick Alpine forest in Austria, Nazi officers are believed to have sunk billions of dollars worth of Reichsbank gold—none of which has been recovered so far. In 1959, divers retrieved containers filled with millions of dollars worth of fake currency from Allied nations, part of a Nazi plan to destroy their enemies’ economies through inflation. To date, at least seven people have drowned in the lake’s freezing waters looking for the lost Nazi gold.

The National Archives store some of history&rsquos most prized and rarest documents. Security is tight in the most important anthropological storehouses in the world, yet this hasn&rsquot stopped thieves from making off with some of its priceless pieces.

The patent papers that describe in detail Wilbur and Orville Wright&rsquos concept for a flying machine were lifted by an unknown crook without anyone noticing. Not until 2003 did anyone discover that it was missing, and since then, no one has been able to apprehend the culprit.

Thefts at the Archives have become so common that an armed task force has been assigned to track down the missing pieces. The photos taken by astronauts during the Moon landing have been recovered, as have the audio tapes from the Hindenburg crash. But until someone tries to auction off hand-drawn airplane sketches from the early 1900s, we may never know where the patent papers took off to.

There were numerous Spanish treasure ships christened San Miguel, and more than one of them sunk between the New World and Spain, but one in particular is enticing. San Miguel de Archangel &ndash Saint Michael the Archangel &ndash was part of the 1715 Spanish Treasure fleet which departed Havana just in time to encounter a hurricane off the Florida coast and be completely destroyed. The fleet was carrying gold, silver, emeralds, pearls, and other precious gems looted from the Aztecs by the Spaniards, intended to reinforce the coffers of the Spanish Empire. Instead, 300 years later, portions of the lost fortune still wash ashore on Florida&rsquos treasure coast.

Much of the Treasure Fleet has been discovered and salvaged, near Sebastian Inlet where the hurricane sent the ships to the bottom three centuries ago. The Spanish fleet was made up of several types of vessels, including the heavy galleons, all of which were lost and have been discovered, and a lesser number of carracks. A carrack was a lighter vessel, easier to handle in varying winds and rough seas, and also faster under sail than the galleons. Carracks were favored for carrying cargo, including the treasures of the Aztecs, with the galleons deemed more suitable for defense of the fleet (though they too carried treasure). San Miguel de Archangel was a carrack.

Because of the records kept by the Spanish at Havana the size and composition of the treasure fleet is known today. Ships came to Havana from Vera Cruz, Cartagena, and Porto Bello, loaded with the wealth pillaged from Mexico. A French merchantman, Le Griffon, joined to avail itself of the protection of the Spanish galleons against the pirates who roamed the Caribbean, hoping to steal the treasures that the Spanish had stolen from what they called New Spain. A total of eleven Spanish ships congregated in Havana&rsquos harbor, in addition to the French vessel. The threat of pirates led the Spanish to deliberately delay their departure until the edge of the storm season, believing that they could skirt the coast of Florida and shelter near Saint Augustine.

The fleet survived about a week after leaving Havana, over one thousand sailors died in the storms. The Spanish knew where most of the ships went down and managed to salvage at least half of the treasure which went down in the ships, using native divers and slaves. In the late twentieth century, modern salvagers have recovered more of the treasure, and from time to time portions of the wealth of New Spain still wash ashore along Florida&rsquos Treasure Coast, including gold chains, chalices, and occasionally ingots of gold and silver. All of the ships of the treasure fleet have been identified, their whereabouts known, but one.

The carrack San Miguel de Archangel is believed to have run before the storm, reaching latitudes further north than the rest of the fleet, before it too was lost to the sea. How much further north is impossible to guess, but it likely remained near shore, as the winds of the hurricane would have prevented it from reaching out to the open sea. Quite possibly the richest ship of the entire treasure fleet of 1715 is resting on the bottom off the coast of Florida, waiting to be discovered and relieved of its gold and silver plate, and the emeralds, diamonds, and pearls it carried when it departed Havana three centuries ago.

5 The Ghost Ship Mary Celeste

In 1872, the ship was spotted off the Azores in the Atlantic completely intact and undisturbed, aside from its missing crew. Not a single person, alive or dead or undead, could be found, despite everyone's personal belongings still sitting undisturbed where they had been left. Even little things like valuables and piano music were right where they should have been. It was as if its crew had simply evaporated.

The strange case of the disappearing crew of the merchant ship Mary Celeste is not only the most famous maritime mystery in history, it is the episode which served as midwife to the Bermuda Triangle hysteria.

So how did everyone just vanish? Ghosts? Aliens? Sea monsters? Dimensional vortex? According to the History Channel, yes. After all, the case has proven a tough one to crack. All the ship's papers were missing, but the logbook was still safe and sound. Piracy is unlikely since there were no signs of a struggle and no booty missing. The main hatch was sealed, and there were no storms or time/space disruptions reported in the area.

Scientists now point to the one baffling clue that the ship left us with: Of its cargo of 1,701 barrels of alcohol, nine were empty. We know what you're thinking: The crew threw their captain overboard so that they could get drunk off raw alcohol and take the lifeboat out for a joyride, which went splendidly until they crashed it into a whale. Sounds like one hell of an interesting weekend, but the truth is actually a billion times more awesome.

The single greatest maritime mystery in history is now believed to have been the subject of one of the most incredible explosions in the history of alcohol. Dr. Andrea Sella, a professor of chemistry at University College London, created a replica of the Mary Celeste's hold back in 2006 just so he could find a MacGyverish way to blow it up without leaving a single sign of a fire. He simulated a leak of the ship's nine barrels of alcohol and found that once the vapor was ignited, say by a pipe or a spark, it created a "pressure-wave type of explosion. There was a spectacular wave of flame but, behind it, was relatively cool air. No soot was left behind and there was no burning or scorching."

That's right, the Mary Celeste was likely subject to a freaky ghost explosion powerful enough to blow open all the hatches, but ultimately leave everyone and everything on the boat completely unharmed. The crew, however, would have experienced a freakout akin to when the Nazis opened the Ark of the Covenant.

It appears the missing crew were so utterly horrified that they piled into the ship's lifeboat without any useful things like food or water, eventually sinking or dying of thirst and exposure. Yes, the Mary Celeste would have still looked perfectly fine as they sailed off into Death's open arms, but ask yourself: Would you have volunteered to go back onto that ship?

The World's Greatest Lost Treasures, Still Waiting To Be Found

These days, thanks largely to Google Earth, it seems not an inch of this planet is left unexplored or a single treasure left undiscovered. But that’s just not true. Some of the world’s most incredible riches, from pirate treasures to royal jewels, are still out there somewhere, lost, waiting to be found.

Some of them are legendary and a mere mention spurs the imagination: the Holy Grail, sought after for centuries by devout men hoping to find the cup that once held the blood of Christ. Or El Dorado, the mythical Incan city paved with gold and unimaginable treasure that drove waves of conquistadores mad with greed.

Today still, the art of treasure hunting survives, and few treasures are more appealing than shipwrecks. Probably the largest treasure among them is La Flor de la Mar — The Flower of the Sea — a Portuguese frigate that set sail from Malacca, Malaysia, in 1511 carrying the largest treasure ever assembled in Portugal’s naval history. The ship was caught in a violent storm in the Strait of Malacca and shipwrecked on the reefs of Sumatra, splitting in two and spilling its precious contents into the waves.

Spain’s 1715 Treasure Fleet is also a dream trophy. At the height of its empire, Spain assembled one of the richest treasure fleets ever seen: 11 ships, all filled to the gunwales with silver, gold, pearls and emeralds from the New World. The ships left Cuba just before hurricane season in the hope of deterring pirates. It worked, but a few days later a storm sank all 11 ships, sending thousands of sailors and tons of treasure to the bottom of the sea. Seven of the ships have been located, but only a small percentage of the bounty has been recovered.

Another, more macabre, form of treasure hunting is the quest to discover the resting places of history’s greatest figures. The graves of Egyptian queen Nefertiti and the Mongol Emperor Genghis Khan have never been found, though they are both believed to hold great riches. Another much-sought-after tomb is that of Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor. It’s actually been found — protected by the famed Terracotta Army — and is thought to contain priceless artifacts. But excavation is slow because the soil surrounding the burial area has a high concentration of toxic mercury that could poison the water supply if mishandled.

The Nefertiti bust is pictured during a press preview of the exhibition 'In The Light Of Amarna' at the Neues Museum in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, pool)

When we think about long-forgotten treasure we imagine one thing: jewels. Take King John’s Crown Jewels. This corrupt ruler of England truly loved ostentatious displays of wealth. But in 1216, his majestic crown jewels were lost when a flood washed away carts transporting them. John died several days later, and the jewels were never found.

When the Bolsheviks stormed the czar’s palace in 1918, eight priceless Fabergé eggs — made with precious stones, expensive metals and precise engineering — went missing from a collection of 50. While they have never been found, rumor has it that several of them made it to the U.K. and the U.S.

The Faberge egg "The Coronation Egg", 1897, is displayed at an exhibition in the museum Bellerive in Zurich, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 7, 2006. (AP Photo/Keystone, Alessandro Della Bella)

But many of the world’s most-sought-after treasures are much larger. This is the case of the legendary Amber Room, a room lined with panels of amber, gold and mirrors that was given to Peter the Great as a gift from Friedrich Wilhelm I in 1716.

How could a room go missing? Well, in 1943 German soldiers dismantled the room after invading Russia, packed it into 27 crates and shipped it to Kaliningrad. World War II Allied bombing raids are said to have destroyed it, though some evidence suggests that it was actually shipped out of the city in the following months and hidden along with other Nazi treasures.

More Nazi valuables could lie on the bottom of Lake Toplitz in the Austrian Alps. During a hasty retreat, Nazi officers dumped a handful of mysterious iron crates into the lake. So far the treasure has eluded divers trying to reach it because of a dense layer of sunken logs halfway to the bottom of the lake.

Of course, many treasure hunts are based on rumor and hearsay. And as the years go by, and facts mix with legends, it becomes hard to tell truth from tale. Yet recent examples show there’s still hope for the aspiring Indiana Jones.

In June 2011, billions of dollars worth of gold and priceless jewels were discovered beneath the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in India. And this year, the discovery of a 19th-century shipwreck off the coast of South Carolina uncovered millions of dollars worth of gold coins and ingots.

Granted, searching for Nefertiti’s tomb might not be a reliable retirement plan, unless you don’t need the money anyway and are just in it for the fun.

A June 27, 2011 photograph of the 16th-century Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum, the capital of the southern state of Kerala, India. (AP Photo)

3 Emperor Tu Duc's Gold-Filled Secret Tomb (Vietnam)

Tu Duc was a Vietnamese emperor who spent his life buried in ass. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that he was totally infertile, the guy had 104 wives. Not lovers -- official wives. We're not even counting his army of concubines.

As for his death, he's (possibly) spending it buried in the second best thing after ass: lots and lots of gold. And no one's found it yet.

Tu Duc's tomb is big enough to get lost in, and apparently that's exactly what he did. Since he had no offspring to take care of his funeral arrangements, old Duc decided to tackle that himself and humbly commissioned a huge burial palace for his mortal remains. More importantly, some say that whatever gold he didn't spend building that place accompanied him to the grave.

Tourists still flock to see Tu Duc's tomb castle, but Vietnam travel guides insist that the place where they're taking their "look at me I'm so cultural" selfies is just an empty lump of granite: His real tomb, along with all his treasure, is hidden in a secret location somewhere in the area.

Of course, Tu Duc's wealth didn't just float off to the secret location: Someone had to carry that shit. At least one of those guys had to get drunk and spill the beans about the treasure, right? Nope, because Tu Duc was so protective of his money that, according to the legend, he ordered that all his 200 loyal servants be decapitated as soon as they finished burying him. Yes, just to prevent the theft of the money he was never going to use.

This whole thing could easily be some bullshit a travel agency made up to get you to visit Vietnam, especially since we can find no mention of the story before 2001, but if you're a treasure hunter, it still seems worth a shot. Just remember that there's always the possibility that he asked to be buried with all his wives in a massive undead orgy position, so really ask yourself how badly you want that gold.

Related: 5 Lies About the Vietnam War You Probably Believe

Henry Gordier was a Frenchman who joined the rush of prospectors to the California gold fields in the 1850s. Gordier was one of the lucky ones who staked a claim and managed to extract a sizable fortune in gold. The Frenchman had no intention of remaining in the mines all of his life and in 1857 he purchased a large plot of land in Honey Lake valley, intent on becoming a rancher. A herd of cattle was soon purchased to graze on his land and he built a ranch house, barns, and the necessities of a working ranch.

Gordier was highly regarded by most of his neighbors with the exception of three living in a nearby cabin situated on Lassen creek. Two of these men were suspected of various nefarious activities and a fourth soon joined them, claiming an interest in acquiring some of Gordier&rsquos herd. This man, William Thorrington, visited the area in the spring of 1858. A known gambler and card sharp, Thorrington did not approach Gordier about buying his cattle, instead the two men who had originally occupied the cabin, Asa Snow and John Mullen, approached him about a possible purchase.

Gordier declined to sell any of his stock, and in March, Asa Snow moved into Gordier&rsquos home, informing the other neighbors in the area that Henry had returned to France. Later that spring the citizens of the area grew suspicious of the activities of Snow, Mullen, and a third man hiding out with them, Bill Edwards. When Gordier&rsquos body was found stuffed in a bag and sunk into the Susan River, Snow was arrested and hanged after a quick trial. Eventually the accomplices, including Thorrington, were tracked down and hanged, except for Mullen, who vanished.

Locals were aware of the source of Gordier&rsquos wealth, and that he had brought a large amount of gold with him in the form of nuggets. It wasn&rsquot long after the events of 1858 that those neighbors were exploring the late Frenchman&rsquos property looking for the gold. For many years nothing was found, or at any rate nobody claimed to have found any gold, until 1877, when several nuggets of varying size turned up near where Gordier&rsquos long vanished cabin had once stood.

Nothing else has turned up since, though Gordier was known to have about $40,000 worth of gold with him on the property (a little over $1.1 million today). Other than the few nuggets which turned up in the dust in 1877, none of his fortune has been claimed to have been found. It is likely still buried on the property today, though knowledge of the exact location seems to have died with Gordier. It is one of many buried caches of considerable wealth in the west, waiting patiently to create a fortune for some lucky explorer.

6 Hidden Treasures That Are Still Waiting To Be Found (Maybe By You?)

If you've ever wanted to be a real-life Lara Croft or Indiana Jones, there are a few places you can start looking today.

With so many legends of lost riches 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 hens 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, this recent profile of Fenn by HuffPost blogger Margie Goldsmith, or just check out the Facebook page.

2. The Oak Island money pit

Off the shores of Nova Scotia is Oak Island, a place where unimaginable riches (or absolutely nothing) can supposedly be found at the bottom of a money pit that has eluded treasure seekers for centuries. Originally, the money pit was found in 1795 by a teenager named Daniel McGinnis who claimed he saw mysterious lights coming from the island, and upon investigating, found a small circular hole that seemed worth digging into. As this was the golden age of piracy, McGinnis and his friends thought there might be recently buried treasure in the pit. The boys made many trips to the site, and in their digging found pickaxe markings and wooden platforms that served as signs that this was in fact a manmade hole where treasure might be found.

In the end, however, they found nothing of value, but as the legend grew, more and more people decided to try their luck. Exciting signs of treasure kept being unearthed, such as the presence of coconut shells, which are not native to the region. Finally, at a depth of 90 feet, a mysterious stone was discovered with symbols that to this day have not been definitively decoded. This finding set off the insane pursuits of wealth at the pit for centuries to come.

Various treasure hunting companies have tried their luck, sinking millions of dollars and losing six human lives. Unfortunately, as the deeper holes were dug, the pit continued to fill up with water, requiring more and more powerful machines to drain it. And as company after company dug different holes to avoid the water, only to encounter financial troubles, the spot of the supposed original money pit has become lost. These people aren't completely crazy: Traces of gold have been found and other treasures have allegedly been discovered as well, though the finders have supposedly kept them hidden.

Theories of what's actually hidden in the pit range from the pretty standard "pirate's treasure," to the Holy Grail itself. Regardless, people can't seem to give up on the legend. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt even pursued the treasure, working at the site in his late-20s. To this day, people are searching for treasure at the money pit, and this year, The History Channel began airing a reality show about the treasure-seekers of Oak Island.

3. The Treasure of Lima

The Spanish accumulated a great deal of wealth after defeating the Incan empire in the 16th century. Much of that wealth was stored in Lima up until 1820, when a revolt forced the Spanish to try and save their treasure by moving it out of the city. British Captain William Thompson and his ship, the Mary Dear, were put in charge of taking the treasure out of the city and sailing around the area until the revolt died down. Stricken with temptation, however, Thompson and his crew killed the Spanish guards and allegedly buried the entire haul. The Mary Dear was later captured and the entire crew was executed, except for Thompson and his first mate, who agreed to show the Spanish where they'd buried the loot. They directed the Spanish to Cocos Island, near present day Costa Rica, but when they reached the shore the two spared pirates ran into the jungle, never to be seen again.

So many questions remain: Did Thompson and his first mate end up digging up the treasure and carrying on with their lives once the Spanish gave up looking for them? Is Cocos Island even where they buried the treasure, or just a place they knew they could hide? What was the makeup of this treasure haul? The last question can be at least partially answered. Spanish officials at the time estimated the treasure was worth somewhere between $12 and $60 million, and an "original inventory" included a "solid-gold, gem-encrusted, life-size image of the Virgin Mary," along with "113 gold religious statues. 200 chests of jewels 273 swords with jeweled hilts 1,000 diamonds solid gold crowns 150 chalices and hundreds of gold and silver bars."

Today the treasure is estimated to be valued somewhere around $200 million and its current whereabouts continue to remain hidden.

4. 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 (a practical joke) 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.

5. La chouette d'or, the golden owl hidden in 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.

6. Lake Guatavita and the original legend of "El Dorado"

Thousands of years ago, long before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in modern day Colombia to discover this legend for themselves, the leader of the Muisca tribe was said to cover himself in gold dust, float into Lake Guatavita, and toss gold and other treasures into the waters to honor the gods. While this legend may be ancient, it appears to be the real deal.

Located just a couple hours north of Colombia's capitol city of Bogotá, Lake Guatavita is believed to be the site of the El Dorado legend, with actual gold being recovered from the lake since the Spanish arrival in 1536. "El Dorado" means "golden one" in Spanish, but originally the legend may have gone by other names such as "El Hombre Dorado" (the golden man), "El Indio Dorado" (the golden native) and "El Rey Dorado" (the golden king).

Multiple treasure hunts have taken place at the lake since the Spaniards' first attempt to drain the water using gourds in 1545, which only lowered the water level slightly, but did help recover quite a bit of gold. Since then, multiple draining attempts have taken place (with one attempt killing hundreds of workmen), the most recent attempt taking place in 1911. In this try, a company succeeded in draining the entire lake, but the mud at the bottom hardened over, supposedly trapping the treasure under an impenetrable crust. Nowadays, even swimming in the lake is banned by the Colombian government, but apparently there aren't too many people making treasure hunting trips to the area anyway. As of 2002, a report stated that "A lonely ranger with a shotgun [was] the only guardian of the mystery of El Dorado."

If you'd like to see a bit of the El Dorado legend for yourself, you can visit the Gold Museum in Bogotá, which features a few of the treasures found in the lake along with the "The Muisca Raft", which was made sometime between 1500 and 1200 BC and depicts the golden king preparing to offer tribute to the gods.

Superstition Mountains

In Arizona's Lost Dutchman State Park, you'll find camping, hiking, horseback riding, and stargazing, but all of that seems a lot less exciting when you consider that one of the biggest stockpiles of treasure is hidden in the park's Superstition Mountains (seriously, what an appropriate name). The legend of the Lost Dutchman's Mine is one of the most infamous and widely disputed in America-- but the story of a gold mine, loaded with riches, hidden in the desert just won't seem to die out.

There isn't even solid evidence of the mine's actual existance, but that doesn't stop thousands of tourists from flocking to the mountains in Arizona each year, hoping to find the mythical mine and strike it rich. The story varies wildly-- sometimes there's two German immigrants (hence the name "Dutchman"), sometimes one, usually named Jacob Waltz. There's even a version where US Army veterans stumble across the treasure. Sometimes the mine is found randomly, other times the location is revealed by Apaches. Sometimes the treasure is a vein of pure gold, or the abandoned mine of the Peralta family, or a cache of goods stolen from Mexican miners. The only thing that seems to remain consistent is the location-- somewhere in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona.

With so many conflicting stories, the Lost Dutchman's Mine would have simply been forgotten, a legend lost to time, if it hadn't been for an expedition led by a man named Adolph Ruth, an amateur explorer and treasure hunter, in the early 1930's. He set off into the mountains in search of the mine, and half a year later, his remains were discovered, alongside a note, apparently written by him, claiming that he had found the treasure. The map he had that led him to the mine was missing, and there were two bullet holes in his skull, which looked like they were fired at point blank from a high-powered rifle, leading many to believe that he had been murdered. He's not the only one who has lost his life in search of the gold-- since then, about half a dozen or so others have died looking for the mine.

I don't suggest setting off in search for the mine without doing some very thorough preparation. Once you've brushed up on your orienteering and wilderness survival skills, head to the Superstition Mountain Museum to check out their exhibit on the Lost Dutchman's Mine and get a really extensive history on the various legends of the treasure. They also have the Peralta Stones, which they claim are engraved with cryptic clues that point toward the location of the mine.

Where’s the gold? Here are 5 California lost treasures

Lost treasure has been the focus of countless books, myths, and movies for as long as we’ve been telling stories. History is full of tales about stashes of treasure left behind by pirates, scoundrels, and thieves, and lucky for us, some of that fortune is still up for grabs. Here are five undiscovered treasures, along with a few other stories of lost treasure in California.

1.) It was 1851 when Joaquín Murieta, (known as the real-life Zorro) and his gang raided several camps in the mountains east of Chico, California. It was the heyday of the gold rush, and the “Argonauts” or forty-niners had been pouring into both the Mother Lode (ie, the Sierras east of Sacramento) as well as the northern mines. Joaquín Murieta and his gang were often known to hide their stolen loot in the area of their robberies. On one occasion Murieta and his right-hand man, Manuel Garcia, known as “Three-Fingered Jack,” robbed a stagecoach along the Feather River. The strongbox was said to have contained some 250 pounds of gold nuggets worth $140,000 at the time. Allegedly, the pair buried the strongbox on the banks of the Feather River, in a canyon a few miles south of Paradise, (present Butte County). According to Wells Fargo officials, the stolen gold has never been recovered.

Other caches of Joaquín Murieta, or one of them, anyway, is said to lie in the Eastern high desert region of the northern mines. Murieta is believed to have another stash that he had to bury somewhere between Burney and Hatcher Pass, close to Highway 299. That treasure has never been found. Another treasure that remains lost is Murieta’s treasure of $200,000 in 1860s dollars, which is believed to be between Susanville and Freedonyer Pass. This is close to what is known today as Highway 36.

2.) Richard Barter, also known as “Rattlesnake Dick” and Dick Woods, was born in Quebec, Canada, the son of a British officer around 1833. Though little is known of his early history, he was said to have been a reckless sort of boy.

In March 1856 seven men proceeding with a mule train over Trinity Mountain en-route from Yreka to Shasta were held up by a gang of five masked bandits and robbed of $25,000 in gold. The gang buried the gold in several places on the mountainside, and then fled.

They were rounded up a few days later. The notorious “Rattlesnake Dick Barter,” the Pirate of the Placers, engineered the crime, though Barter, nabbed while stealing mules to be used to carry off the loot, was unable to take part. About $15,000 of the gold was recovered in a ravine 12 miles from Mountain House, on the headwaters of Clear Creek. The melting of the snow and the coming of spring changed the look of the terrain. Attempts to find the rest of the loot failed, and $10,000 (now several times in value by today’s gold price) still lies somewhere on the mountain.

The final heist occurred when Rattlesnake Dick hooked up with the Skinner boys. He decided to avoid his old haunts of the Mother Lode and concentrated on the rich spoils of the northern diggings. The robbery was flawless, but the Wells Fargo organized posse was hot on their tails. The gang split up. George Skinner was suppose to meet Rattlesnake Dick and the rest of the bandits at Folsom, however, the gold was too heavy to bring down the mountain pass and George decided to bury half of the loot in the mountains.

No one has been able to find the remaining $40,000 worth of gold bullion buried on Trinity Mountain even Rattlesnake Dick couldn’t find where George had buried the treasure.

3.) On May 1892 one of the most famous gold heists made the new town of Redding famous throughout the state. The Ruggles Brothers held up the stage to Weaverville, just west of Redding, in what is known today as Middle Creek road, and made off with the strong box loaded with gold. As soon as the stage headed around the turn the younger brother Charles jumped out of the Manzanita chaparral with his shotgun aimed, ordering a halt. The driver complied, but unbeknownst to the Ruggles, the stage had an armed escort, Buck Montgomery of the Hayfork Montgomery clan.

In an effort to save himself and his brother, John told the authorities that the stage guard, Montgomery, was in cahoots with them. He also revealed where he had hidden the gold, telling authorities that he had hidden it in Middle Creek. Attached to the strong box was a floating device that came within a foot of the top of the water that would help him in finding the stash later.

The two boys were lynched in Redding July 24, 1892. The mob took the two from jail, led them to a tree on the northwest corner (Redding Blacksmith shop at the time) where Shasta Street met the railroad tracks, the ‘backyard’ of the current Paul Stowers Garage business. Even on the improvised gallows, John Ruggles refused to divulge where he stashed the loot.

Authorities went back and scoured the area, and even found the express bag pouch (with letters intact) in the Lower Springs area, but the $5,000 in gold coins still remains undiscovered, though over a century of seekers have tried.

The place to begin is along the unpaved section of Middle Creek Road between Iron Mountain Road and the Shasta Transfer Station in Old Shasta.

4.) Located in the barren, sun scorched desert of southern California is an enigmatic and somewhat unearthly sight a lake sprawled out amidst the parched, baked earth, ringed by wind blasted ghost towns and with beaches of crushed fish bones rather than sand. This is the Salton Sea, a shallow, saline lake that lies along the San Andreas Fault.

Of all the legends about lost and found, and lost again treasures in the Southwest, there is none more mystifying than the enduring tale of a large sailing vessel which lies, full of riches, somewhere in the restless sands of California’s Salton Sea basin, toward the northern end of the Sorora Desert.

Emigrants have reported such a ship, prospectors and other travelers who claim that she lies with her bow buried deep and her richly carved stem raised high above the sands.

In the 16th century, the Salton Basin was flooded very much like it is now, with a huge lake lying exactly where the current Salton Sea is found. This lake was called Lake Cahuilla. It was an enormous body of water that was the size of the state of Delaware and connected to the Sea of Cortez, which in modern days is known as the Gulf of California. It is here that the story of a lost Spanish Galleon loaded with pearls and gold coins comes in.

The story goes that the galleon ran aground on a sandbar or landslide, after which the crew were forced to abandon it and escape overland through the desert, leaving the ship and its cargo of gold and pearls behind. Over time, the lake disappeared and it is said the ship sank beneath the sands.

Is there an ancient sailing craft lying half-concealed in the sands of the Colorado Desert?

5.)In the early 1900s train robber and gunrunner, (and I would add escape artist to his titles) Roy Gardner, began his career of thievery in Arizona and California. On April 16, 1920 the curly-headed young man stole $78,000 in cash and securities from a mail truck in San Diego, California. Though it was a smooth job, the outlaw was arrested just three days later. Soon his name would become as well known to the lawmen of California as Jesse James.

On May 19, 1921, Gardner boarded the mail car of a Southern Pacific train, tied up the clerk and fled the train in Roseville, California, with $187,000 in cash and securities.

Two days later Gardner was arrested again while playing a game of cards in a Roseville, California pool-hall. Attempting to reduce his long sentence, he offered to lead the lawmen to the money. However, he must have changed his mind when, after leading the officers on a wild goose chase of the surrounding hills, he announced, “I guess I’ve forgotten where I buried that money.”

After many escapes from other prisons he was later moved to Alcatraz to complete his sentence. Gardner made several futile appeals for clemency, but was not released until 1939. He ended his own life in a small hotel room in San Francisco, explaining that men who served more than five years in prison were doomed and that he was old and tired.

Thus ended a criminal career and somewhere, an estimated $250,000 of his loot still remains hidden. Gardner had neither the time nor the opportunity to spend his ill-gotten wealth, nor partners to share it with.

Legend has it that he hid $16,000 in gold coins in the cone of an extinct volcano near Flagstaff, Arizona before he was captured during a train robbery in 1921. But, where is the rest? California?

This pot of gold coins was found by a couple in California while walking their dog.

Not all lost treasures of California are related to the Gold Rush. During the wild and wooly days of Prohibition, a German whiskey smuggler named Carl Hause was doing a brisk business. Hause’s operations were located on Point Reyes Peninsula, at the edge of Drake’s Inlet just south of Inverness. The whiskey smuggler was said to have buried approximately $500,000 in gold-backed currency somewhere between…

Inverness and the old Heims Ranch. However, the liquor entrepreneur would not live to retrieve his ill-gotten gains as he was found shot to death in his car. The currency has never been found.

In 1862, the sheriff of Trinity County was not only responsible for upholding the law, but was also tasked with collecting taxes. On one occasion as he was traveling through the area, his saddlebag was filled with about $1,000 in gold coins and $50 gold slugs. As the sheriff and his horse were cautiously crossing a stream, the horse stumbled and the saddlebag filled with gold was dropped and washed down the creek. Though the lawman made an immediate search of the area, he was unable to find the bag. Soon, the county offered a reward of $250 for the recovery of the saddlebag, but despite diligent search efforts, including damming up the creek, it was never found. In those early days of California, assayers and private mines often minted gold slugs. Today, in addition to their gold value, they have also become major collectible items, and if the treasure were to be found today, some estimate it could be worth as much as a million dollars. The creek was located near Weaverville, California.

Pioneer Peter Lassen, became a very wealthy landowner and rancher in the 1820s and amassed thousands of acres along the south bank of Deer Creek. He is known to have buried his gold coins and dust in iron pots on his property near his home, at the confluence of Deer Creek and the Sacramento River at Vina, or along the Lassen Trail, which follows Deer Creek. Indians killed Lassen at the age of 30 and his treasure hoard was never found.

A stagecoach carrying 2 boxes of $50 gold slugs worth $128,000 was held up at Weed in 1859. A posse from Mt. Shasta came upon the scene less than a 1/2 hour later and took off after the outlaws. They came upon 2 pack animals on the western slopes of Mt. Shasta with empty saddlebags. Three miles beyond this point, they overtook the bandits and all were killed. It was reasoned that the gold, too heavy for a fast getaway, was buried and part of the posse searched the area for a week, but failed to locate the treasure.

The Eskridge outlaw gang buried the loot taken from two successful stage robberies near the Upper Bear Creek Crossing in 1881. The treasure has been estimated between $50,000 and $120,000 and has never been recovered.

John Ellison Trueblood came to California in 1852. He settled on a farm on the outskirts of Red Bluff. He buried his money, 100 to 200 rare octagonal $50 gold slugs, in an iron pot somewhere on his farm. He was killed in an argument over the Southern Pacific RR coming on his land and the secret of his hidden gold died with him. This cache is worth between $500,000 and $1 million today.

The Langley family operated a paying gold mine at (GT) Cherokee in the 1860’s in the Cherokee Hills. In their workings they found a sizeable quantity of raw diamonds and had accumulated quite a large amount of gold dust and nuggets. The Langley’s hid 2 saddlebags filled with their raw gold and diamonds about 1/2 hour’s horseback ride up the creek above their camp for safekeeping. Bandits attacked the family and the brother who hid the treasure was killed. Not knowing exactly where the cache was made, the family never recovered the treasure. The remains of a washout dam mark the location of the old Langley campsite today.


Whether these tales of lost mines are fact or fiction, their legends are still alive for hopeful prospectors of California.

6. Bessie A. White

A 1975 photo of what is believed to be the hull of the Bessie White in the Fire Island Wilderness. NPS Photo

Hurricane Sandy wasn’t all destruction, as the storm exhumed the likely remains of this 90-year-old shipwreck on Fire Island. In February 1922, this schooner was headed to Newport News, VA from St. Johns, Newfoundland with 900 tons of coal when it became lost in heavy fog just west of Smith’s Point. The ship ran aground but the crew and the ship’s cat escaped in two lifeboats, with only one injury. Crews later salvaged what they could of the beached ship before it was buried by a sand dune over time. A 2006 nor’easter exposed the tips of the wreck before Sandy blew away the rest of the dune.