The Beale Ciphers

A secret hoard of $20 million in gold and silver lies buried somewhere near Roanoke, Va. That’s according to a coded message left by adventurer Thomas Jefferson Beale in the 1820s:

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 “3,” herewith:

The first deposit consisted of one thousand and fourteen pounds of gold, and three thousand eight hundred and twelve pounds of silver, deposited November, 1819. The second was made December, 1821, and consisted of nineteen hundred and seven pounds of gold, and twelve hundred and eighty-eight pounds of silver; also jewels, obtained in St. Louis in exchange for silver to save transportation, and valued at US$13,000.

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 “1” describes the exact locality of the vault, so that no difficulty will be had in finding it.

Unfortunately, no one has been able to decipher paper “1” or “3”, and a hundred years’ digging has turned up nothing. Is it a hoax? Who knows?

San Francisco Earthquake Photo, 1906

San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. Photographer George Lawrence mounted a camera on a kite and flew it 2,000 feet over the ruins.

Of the city’s 400,000 residents, the quake killed 3,000 and left 225,000 homeless. For a time, Bank of America founder Amadeo Giannini met customers at a plank set across two barrels.

“An Orthographic Lament”

If an S and an I and an O and a U
With an X at the end spell Su;
And an E and a Y and an E spell I,
Pray what is a speller to do?

Then, if also an S and an I and a G
And an HED spell side,
There’s nothing much left for a speller to do
But to go and commit siouxeyesighed.

— Charles Follen Adams