Critical Enquiry


The attached chapters present current research into the infamous Oak Island, Nova Scotia Money Pit legend, which has intrigued treasure seekers and others for many years. A great deal of original work was conducted in libraries and archives throughtout the eastern United States, Canada, and England in order to produce this site, which offers a very different viewpoint than most works on the subject. Other writers have made the mistake of largely accepting the original tale as true without researching its early development; had they done so, it is unlikely the legend would have persisted as long as it has.

The primary objective of this work is the dissection of the legend in order to analyze each part on its own merits. It grew out of an effort in the late 1990s to review the available material and remove bogus elements added by later writers, thus exposing the core story. It had been noted the earliest available news articles (circa 1860) were very different from the tale found in modern books, most of which are poorly researched and rely solely on one another as supporting material. The progression of the legend emerged as sources from the late 19th and early 20th centuries were uncovered, showing that each generation added, altered, and removed details as it saw fit. Thus it was decided to find the earliest available material while simultaneously analyzing the historical context in which the events of 1795 (plus 1849 and 1860) occurred.

The results were startling; no documents earlier than 1849 could be found. A review of the historical context and frequency of treasure tales in New England showed a marked propensity toward belief in the presence of buried gold in every locale. This, in conjunction with certain elements found in the Money Pit tale itself, indicate the story known to us today most likely started not in 1795 or even 1804, but in the 1840s. It likely began as a scam that used the massive California gold strike of 1849 as its basis, or perhaps as a mining operation gone wrong. It is also possible an early episode of treasure-digging near Chester N.S. in the late 18th century became the foundation for the story after it was altered and enhanced by others in the 1840s. Once published as newspaper articles in the 1860s the tale took root over the next half century, finally evolving into a legend that fed off its own history and artifacts. Each generation added its own twist to the tale while certain central themes remained intact.

This is a work in progress, and material from the earliest phases of the legend's development is still being sought. It is possible some of the conclusions offered in these chapters will be rendered invalid or updated if data are uncovered from the period between 1795 and 1850. This seems unlikely given the currently available information, which suggests the Oak Island tale is simply the outgrowth of known instances of treasure manias during the latter 18th and early 19th centuries. Those who believe strongly in the legend undoubtedly will object to the results of this research; this is to be expected given the emotional and pecuniary investment made by many who find the legend compelling and, on occasion, of nearly religious significance. I am quite willing to accept critiques and evaluate additional data, as long as such discussions are based on the evidence...not on subjective opinions unsupported by fact.

Next on the agenda are chapters on the geology, archaeology, and physical evidence allegedly found on the island.

This material would not have been possible without the help of many others, including Kel Hancock (a descendent of the one and only Dan McGinnis), Dennis King, John Bartam, Allison Jornlin, the late and lamented Paul Wroclawski, and last but certainly not least my wife, Kristin, who has suffered for many years through efforts to codify and present this material.

--Richard Joltes, Aug 2006