Is the Treasure of the Beale Papers Real?

Beale_Papers coverTales of hidden treasure can grow over the years to where it is hard to weed fact out from fiction.  Like a snowball rolling down a hill, the longer the story rolls on, the bigger it becomes.  Not all of the information attached is helpful to a searcher, and some can be misleading or incorrect.  Anyone who is serious about discovering a lost treasure from a story needs to decide for himself what is what.  This isn’t always easy, and it is best sometimes to just start from the beginning.

In the case of The Beale Papers, one of the first questions to answer is, ‘where does the story of treasure originate from?’  The fact here is that in 1885 a pamphlet entitled ‘The Beale Papers containing authentic statements regarding treasure buried in 1819 and 1822, near Bufords, in Bedford County, Virginia, and which never has been recovered”  was published by a James. B. Ward.  The 50 cent pamphlet included all that was supposedly known about the treasure at the time.  It is the only source for the story, and it is how the public became aware of it.  (copy here)

The pamphlet’s tale cannot be proven to be true or considered entirely false.  Investigations have been made into the characters to see if there are records to verify that those people mentioned in the story really existed.  The answer to this is mostly ‘yes’.  The main character, Thomas J. Beale, however, cannot be confirmed.  But because consensus records of the time are missing, it can’t be stated for certain that he didn’t exist.  The mystery remains plausible, then.

Other things, like the history or the locations of the story, are examined as well.  Again, the story’s account stays within a realm of possibility.  The pamphlet was written towards the end of the 19th century and speaks of events that happened near the beginning and throughout that century.  A few mistakes (and there are some), could be rationalized by the passing of time or story.

There have also been studies into the words and sentence structure used within The Beale Papers.  This seems to be one of the best arguments against saying, ‘the story, as it is literally told, is true’, and seems to indicate something else might be going on.

Within the pamphlet, copies of supposed letters written by Thomas J. Beale, are provided to the reader.  According to Joe Nickell’s research into the Beale Papers (source/Jstor), the pamphlet’s author who gives an overall account and introduction to the treasure, and the author of the letters, are remarkably similar.  They have the same mannerisms, show an equal high level of vocabulary, and apply a comparable frequency to certain words.  It has been suggested, then, that this ‘evidence’ leans to Ward being the author of the whole work.

From here, one may question, who is James B. Ward? And if he did write it, why?  Not much has surfaced or is known about Ward.  In the book, Gold in the Blue Ridge by Innis, it was noted, through interviews of persons who knew Ward, that he was a fully respected gentleman; but his lifestyle seemed to follow the steady economic decline of the person described in the pamphlet.  An assumption, by Innis and others, based partly on this information, was Ward was then the person trying to desperately decode the ciphers for the location of the treasure at the expense of his family’s condition, and, therefore, the story is basically true as it is told.

However, another fact is known about James B. Ward which brings other things to question.  It was discovered that he was also involved in Freemasonry.  Nothing is so curious about this fact on its own, but it does possibly shed some light on a few terms used in The Beale Papers;  And, if Ward was the sole author of the Papers, a potential purpose for the story.

In the only deciphered message of the three Beale Ciphers, the treasure is said to be ‘in an excavation or a vault, six feet below the surface of the ground’.  Many researchers of the Beale Treasure have commented the similarity of this wording to Freemasonry’s belief of the secret vault.  The search for this vault or sacred casket is equivalent to the search for Divine Truth or Lost Word.

I am intrigued by the fact that The Beale Papers involve 3 coded messages, and that this could represent the 3 degrees of Freemasonry; Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason.  Degree signifying step.  Only after becoming a Master Mason does one find the Truth or Secret Vault.  Is this the circumstance of the Beale Ciphers too?  Only after completing ‘3 steps’ is the Secret Vault able to be found?

In The Beale Papers, the second of the three coded messages was discovered and given within the tale.  This deciphered message mentions the ‘third code’ is a list of names of the people the treasure belongs, states the contents of the treasure, and tells of how the ‘first code’ directs a person to the precise location of the vault.

I always found it strange as to why ‘the deciphered code’ told us what was in the third and first numbered codes.  What if someone solved the other codes before it?  Or couldn’t they?  The discovered message seems to suppose this circumstance.  Must they have solved the second one first, and then somehow used it to further go along, like the three steps in Freemasonry.  Is there a significance to the given code being the ‘middle/balanced’ one?

It seems possible to me that the pamphlet is an invitation to a quest; much like the quest for the Lost Word of Freemasonry.  With this thought in mind, could the steps needed to take in Freemasonry somehow ‘key’ us into the steps needed to take to solve the two yet to be deciphered messages?  This is where my look into the Papers lead me at the moment.

For me, the treasure cannot be decided to be real, or false, until the codes have been deciphered.  I realize, however, since proof of authenticity lacks, it is possible the remaining codes are a hoax and it all is just a ‘story’.  But I will follow the advice of the author of the pamphlet and will only “devote only such time as can be spared from your legitimate business to the task, and, if you can spare no time, let the matter alone.”


Best of luck in all that you seek


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2 Responses

  1. astree says:

    Hi Jenny,

    I believe you reformatted your home page ? – it is now easier to find these recent posts ( I thought I might be missing the new ones ).

    Thank-you for the summary and fresh look at The Beale Papers. It is a mystery that I have wondered about for decades. I now live near Washington, D.C. which would be close enough to make a trip to Bedford County. However, due to the uncertainty re: the authenticity, it is one of those puzzles that I will not invest much time into ( rather, to spend the time available on Maranatha, The Thrill of the Chase, and Fandango).

    I was unaware of the Freemasonry angle related to the Beale story. Is it possible that there is a Freemason secret hidden in the Beale papers? Or, that a despondent author subconsciously drew upon a pattern that he was familiar with, to fabricate the tail. Or, that the whole story is true?

    True or not, any scenario is fascinating to me, and thank-you for the material.


    • sixer/jenny says:

      All your scenario’s are possible, Astree….it’s a mystery and I love it. One of the reason’s which draws me to the Beale Papers most is the Freemasonry angle, and similarities to the Maranatha Puzzle. While I am researching one, I am learning for both. Codes are left to be deciphered in both. I am not necessarily looking for directions to ‘hidden hoards of gold’ in the literal sense.

      I suppose I like the time relationship too….The Beale Papers were written in 1885, and this is about the same time as the RLC mystery began……from the recent article by Duncan (in heretic magazine 5) it would seem he believes Sauniere passed on/sold a secret (possible ritual) of Freemasonry. Since the puzzle promoted the ‘opening of a ‘sacred casket’, and the solving of The Beale Papers leads one to a ‘secret vault- six feet under’, I just have to wonder if they don’t contain similar messages.

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