Lost Treasure and the Beale Cipher

The story of the Beale Treasure is one of mystery.  It was first brought to the public’s attention in 1885 by way of a pamphlet published by James B. Ward.  The fifty cent booklet detailed circumstances in which an immense treasure was buried, and included coded messages left on how to find the secret stash of gold, silver, and other jewels.  If a person solved the codes, he would supposedly be led to all that was hidden.

The following full title of pamphlet certainly captured interest at the time; The Beale Papers, containing authentic statements regarding the treasure buried in 1819 and 1821, near Bufords, in Bedford County, Virginia, and which has never been recovered.  Today, since no confirmation of the treasure has ever surfaced (other than the Beale Papers), some people believe the buried treasure was just part of a tale.  Others, however, feel there is something real, yet to discover.   No one knows for sure.

The Beale Papers relate how a safe box, which contained three coded messages and two letters written by a gentleman named Thomas J. Beale, was left with another man named Robert Morriss in the spring of 1822.  The first letter in the box told of the discovery of gold, some 250 to 300 miles north of Santa Fe.  The gold was found by a group of men led by T.J. Beale.  In efforts to ensure this treasure stayed safe (while they continued on other adventures), this group of thirty men decided to transport the treasure back to Virginia (where they were familiar), and bury it.  Two trips were made to deposit the treasure; one in 1819 and the other in 1821.

The letter also explained the unintelligible notes placed within the safe box were codes.  When used with a key, that was later to be sent (but never was), these would reveal the exact location of the buried treasure, the contents, and names of Beale’s party.  The second letter in the box was a short note, stating again, that one of the coded papers included names of the men involved.

Included also within the Beale Papers pamphlet was a copy of a letter sent by Beale to Mr. Morriss in May, 1822. This letter was sent from St. Louis soon after leaving the box in Mr. Morriss’ care.  The letter gave further instructions concerning the opening of the box.  It informed Mr. Morriss to remove the lock, if after 10 years, Beale, or any of the men, did not return. It mentioned a key would need to be used in order to understand the full meaning of the papers kept in the box, and that this key would be sent in June of 1832 by someone instructed to do so in St. Louis.

Neither Beale, nor any other man, returned.  After waiting until 1845, longer than needed, Mr. Morriss is said to have opened the box and learned what it contained.  Unable to ever decode any of the papers, Morriss passed the responsibility on to the ‘author’ of the tale in the pamphlet.

It has been suggested J.B. Ward, instead of acting as agent for the story, is the actual author of the work. Inconsistencies noticed, and analysis of the various letters, involved in the story, seems to support this theory.  This is not fact, though.

No matter whom Mr. Morriss passed the box and letters on to, the pamphlet opens with the person giving up his quest for the buried treasure.  Even though he reveals in the papers how he ‘accidentally’ decoded one of the three coded messages that told of the vast worth of the treasure, and was excited by such, he says that he “is compelled, however unwillingly, to relinquish to others the elucidation of the Beale Papers…”.  His hopes were for someone else to solve the codes and find the fortune, so he could rejoice with them.  He had already spent over twenty years (the best years of his life) attempting to locate the buried treasure and could not spend any more time on the matter.

The one code in which the author cracked was accomplished by using the Declaration of Independence as a Key.  The three coded papers all consisted of sets of numerous numbers.  The second paper in the series, when taking the first letter of the matching numbered word in the Declaration, provided a letter for the following decipherment (without mistakes):

“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 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.”

The other two papers written with sets of numbers (giving the exact location and names), when applied to the Declaration in the same manner as the second, does not provide any coherent messages.

Numerous searchers, of course, have hunted for the treasure ‘four miles from Buford’s’ and have come up empty.  Many have also attempted to decipher the remaining two codes.

The mystery of the Beale Papers continues.  Was it all a hoax?  Is there a treasure yet to be found?

These questions may remain unanswered until the final two codes are able to be deciphered.  And this leaves one of the biggest questions; Do the sets of numbers actually reveal a message or, if it was a hoax, or they randomly picked and offer nothing?

Obviously, analysis has been done to determine if the numbers are ‘random’.  What they suggest is inconclusive.  And so, the possibility exists the codes (and the entire story) are actually hiding ‘something’ and this is what I will be investigating in my spare time.

The Beale Papers contain a message to those who want to explore the Beale Mystery (or any mystery/treasure).  It is as follows:

“Again, never as I have done, sacrifice your own and your family’s interests to what may prove an illusion; but, as I have already said, when your day’s work is done, and you are comfortably seated by your good fire, a short time devoted to the subject can injure no one, and may bring its reward.”

The above, to realize no fantasy for riches is worth sacrificing true treasures for, may be the real reward of the Beale Papers.


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42 Responses

  1. Hi! Jenny
    Here is the short version of my story. I feel that i may have decoded the Beale ciphers. (sheet 1 and 3)
    After of coarse 30 yrs of working on these script sheets off and on.
    If interested, i will give you my deciphering information and let you decide if i’ m a crack pot or not. If interested, it would then also confirm that my deciphering may be correct after all.
    Of coarse your question might be, if i have deciphered these sheets, why don’t i just go and dig it up. Because I’m 69yr’s old and mainly living on s.s. and from here in the state of Washington, it would be a very expensive trip for me to make. (I maybe poor, and old, but my brain still works)
    If my deciphering is correct, the location of Beale vault is in the George Washington, Jefferson national forest. It is also underwater via a dirt dam place in the 50’s. I did try to get a claim on this spot, but my emails that i sent to the forest services went out, but with no reply’s.
    Thank-you for your time. Sonny


    • Jenny says:

      Hi Sonny,

      First, thanks for visiting the site. No matter your decipherment, I have only respect for those who challenge themselves to think out of the ordinary; The Beale Ciphers, and entire story, certainly are fascinating. I would love to hear your thoughts about the treasure……


    • Jack Burn says:

      I believe those forests are both more than 4 miles from Bufords, but I could be mistaken.
      I live in Virginia, and I am a diver. I would be happy to take my metal detector to the bottom of the impoundment and give let you know if I get a detect. Doubt anything could be recovered, since it is reportedly burried 6ft down!
      If you are interested, you can reach me at cagametime@gmail.com

  2. Hello Jenny…

    Great web site. “Mysterious Writings” will be home to many good treasure investigators I’m sure.

    The Beale Papers mystery is my great interest. My research indicates that there are two separate methods of hiding in the mystery story. One method is a capsule of information that is strictly confidential for now (I’m sorry to have to say), however, the other method I can speak of and I own the copyright to the information. What I will reveal in this post is addressed in my e-book “National (Beale) Treasure….At Red Knee,” 2007, RoseDog Books. I will send you a gratis copy when you write my e-mail address.

    In “B1” cryptogram…the cryptic author intends to place a short message in the first 16 numerals. A short phrase is embedded which leads to an Edgar Allan Poe tale: The Gold Bug. Instead of using the first letter of the word in the DOI, use the last letter of the word in the DOI. The letter string of the first 16 numerals finally lines up as such:

    E E N K D E R E U D N E F E R E

    My book will finally fully explain the process. This implicates Poe. “The Gold Bug” first sentence names the “tarantula”…perhaps a Red Knee variety? Research suggests that Poe did not die in 1849. In fact, it is suspected, Poe lived on and went to France where he continued writing in association with Jules Verne. Poe was fond of hiding things in reverse. Have you seen the movie the Raven?

    There are no less than 5 locations of suspected hidden wealth and validation of their content has been thwarted by their status of national historical sites.

    What in the world seems to be holding my findings down?

    I’ll look for your private e-mail Jenny.

    Mr. Bauman

  3. Jenny

    This note is for Jack Burn, I want to thank him for taking the time in the future to see if he can detect any gold or silver, at this location.


  4. Amped says:

    Whoa, whoa WHOA! I believe to have discovered information leading to the discovery of the precious metals in question. Do you care to discuss? Im interested if you are even close. TTYL — Vigil

  5. Seeker says:

    I have only recently read The Beale’s Papers. I find in very interesting that the “friend” tells a reader all this information on Beale, his party, Mr. Morriss , time they spent together, their plans etc. But the friend has never explained his own research of some 20 years.
    If i spent this amount of time on a subject, solve 1/3 of it, ( even thou he did tell the readers it was the DOI). I would at least explain how i came to the conclusion of why or how he discovered it, what methods he use that worked or didn’t work. 20 years or work and no hints or information of his own personal work. So i ask myself why? this information would still keep the “friend” anonymous from the readers.
    just a personal observation. Any thought?


    • Jenny Kile says:

      Seeker, I agree the story does make a person ask lots of questions. It does include, however, how he thought the list of numbers represented a letter and the following, “but as the numbers so greatly exceeded the letter of the alphabet, i wondered if it were possible that some document had been used, and the words numbered.’

      It would seem this was his main focus..maybe his only method?…and with providing the DOI as one key, felt it should be ours?

  6. Seeker says:

    Thanks for the response. I do need to read the book again. Should the DOI be his only or most valuable method, Then it would seem ( to me ) he would have gotten, at least, some conclusion of the other two pages.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m very intrigued with the story. Still parts just jump out at me that i have a hard time with.
    Beale and his party of hand pick, intelligent , mountain men who where heavily armed, I say that only for the fact they where out hunting large game, and if attack by Indians not one got away? Your absolutely correct, many question. That’s why i think I like the Mystery so much.
    Thanks again for a interesting site. I probably would have never heard of haft the books mentioned on the site otherwise.
    I really need to solve one of them so i can finance my Thrill of the Chase search. I’m hooked

  7. Kevin says:

    i believe that it makes sense that if Beale used the Declaration of Independence to write one cipher then he would use another important document of the era to write the other 2 ciphers as well… I think I have came across the documents that he might have used and im checking them right now… ive been working on this since I heard about it 17 years ago… I will figure this out.

  8. Hi!
    Dear Sonny
    Can you send an email to my email adress with your dechiper method, or how you decrypt the #1 and #3?
    And if anybody know something interesting please send it to my email.
    My email addres is: roland98@freemail.hu I’m really interested about this.
    Thank you for everything!
    My regards

  9. Steve says:

    I first came across the story about the Beale Treasure in OMNI magazine years ago and spent a considerable amount of time researching the story.

    IF the story is true, the book “One hundred tons of gold” January 1, 1978 by David Leon Chandler may hold a clue to what happened to the Beale Party.

    While there are many who claim to have deciphered the mysterious unbroken cyphers, I believe the whole thing was either invented to increase interest in the DOI or that we are not being given the actual numbers used in an original document.

    As for forward, backward, and in between coding, I long ago used computer algorithms to search for a meaningful text and came up empty.

    That being said, I believe any glory associated with the tail will come in either proving it a hoax or in actually discovering the coding method used.

  10. steve says:

    I have been working on the Beale cypher off & on since it first appeared in OMNI magazine (Jan 1982) many years ago. Over the years I have read about many treasures and one book in particular might shed some light on what happened to Thomas Jefferson Beale and 29 other adventurers in his party.

    In David Leon Chandler’s book “100 Tons of Gold” on pages 14-15 we are told “Doc Ness” found a cave containing gold, sliver, jewels, and 27 skeletons with their hands tied behind them.

    Okay we have 30 guys who left Virginia looking for adventure. As the story told to the Inn Keeper in Virginia goes, the adventurers find huge deposits of gold and silver in the territory that would
    become Colorado, but since nobody had GPS who knows were they found the treasure?

    I just think it’s interesting that everything supposedly buried in Virginia was also found in the cave in New Mexico.

  11. Iron Will says:

    Jenny…. as soon as I get Forrest’s treasure chest in Spring 2015, and get the “logistics” all sorted out, I’m coming after Thomas J Beale. I’m very acquainted with it, being from Virginia, and look forward to solving his “riddle”. After all, it only took me a month to locate FF’s treasure.


    • The Wolf says:

      ha ha Will, you sound a little like me when I started, only it only took me 3 days to come up with that conclusion. What I have learned is that Mr. Fenn set this up in a way that ALL beginners will find a very clever solution and convince themselves that they have, beyond a doubt, the correct solution. However, by design you will have to fail about three times before you piece together what you have learned through failure to finally understand his method of hinting. I can guarantee that your solution no matter how clever, is incorrect. I will explain that to you and others in my book when the time is right, but I will tell you that the desire to believe in your solution is so strong, it will blind your critical thinking beyond your personal control because no one is capable of admitting they are wrong until they experience failure and even then only very few can get past that.

      Good luck and just remember your first failure will be a valuable learning experience. Those that swallow their pride and humbly learn, will eventually come out ahead. Just think about this; there is at least six months until you can search, will you look at other solutions or dwell on your current model. That is a lot of time – how will you use it?
      The Wolf

      • locolob says:

        LOL!! Wolfie, you forgot to add the requisite, “IN YOUR OPINION” to that!! That’s OK, I needed a good giggle> 🙂

        Good Luck to ya Iron Will….and you too, The Wolf

        • The Wolf says:

          ha ha – Loco your statement normally holds as a general rule of thumb, however if someone can guarantee they Will find it, I reserve the right to guarantee they won’t.
          As you know I have a called out a few over confident folks before and you remember I put up $5000 with my last guarantee – which was proven correct.

          Someday you will understand why. Take care!
          The Wolf

      • Iron Will says:

        Damn! I can’t hide from you guys even on Another treasure title! 😛

        Wolf….I have had failure. When I learned of FF 1 month ago, I drummed up about 15 solutions in 1 week. One in particular..in the first 2 weeks was my bread winner. (ironwilly@gmail.com) email me if you want to know. But as I said that was 2 weeks ago. Within those weeks I read his book 2 more times and sat at work (sometimes its a boring job) staring at the poem trying to find a secret keyhole. And then one day I saw something in the book, that I decided to scrutinize. Then Bam! EVERYTHING fell into place. I’ve learned in 45 years on this earth, that you never make guarantees… but I can tell you that I decree that your guarantee won’t work on me. My mother trained me on scavenger hunts, exactly like the type Forrest wrote, most of my early years. Some of the credit goes to her. As for my current “christmas” find…. it will have to wait until March or so when Tax returns come in so I can travel out west to get it.

        • E* says:

          Iron Will, The Wolf, and locolobo:

          Sometimes I ALSO like to think quietly,…first thing in the morning,…without being bothered or interrupted,…so that I ALSO can come up with great ideas. But I don’t have a Kingdom to do that,…like Forrest does.

          Here’s an idea:

          How about if the finder uses the money generated from the sale of the items inside the Bronze Chest to fund searches for finding the solutions to OTHER long lost treasures,… like the Beale Treasure? Who but the seasoned searchers,…who are participating in “The Thrill of the Chase”,…would be best to do that? Dal and Crayton Fenn could be in charge of finding all lost ships at sea. What do you think?

        • sixer says:

          Best of luck on both hunts Iron Will…..thanks for visiting the site. (And same to others)

          My draw to the Beale Ciphers is that I believe the ‘codes’ are decipherable if the right method/document is found, and that they hold ‘valuable information’; maybe not to an actual physical treasure but one similar to the Mason’s Lost Word.

          I also like the possibility the lands of the area hold something of worth considering as well. The Beale is something I continue to come back to and ponder. I love it….but then I love all mysteries and treasure hunts! 🙂 I just wish for more time to invest in them……

  12. Iron Will says:

    I’m pretty sure it would take hell of a lot more than the purported 1-3 million dollars in the chest to fund Dal and Crayton in finding lost ship treasures. I’ve watched documentaries on that stuff and they say its an expensive undertaking to go out there searching.

  13. astree says:

    I am beginning some preliminary scoping research into the Beale treasure, to access viability. I see that several have already posted that they believe they may have a good lead on cracking some of the cipher (if it is real, that’s part of my initial research).

    Here is a website that provides text for the papers 1 and 3 decipher, as well the author(s) claim to have already located the (emptied) vault. I’m guessing some here have already been through some of these claims, and interested to hear some of the experiences (‘war stories’) others have.



    (begin quote)

    The Locality Cipher

    Nineteen is the distance south, Left onto
    second point. Two’s on first part of main
    rock south in east wall, Ground on souths
    six feet deep. Open front side of point
    straight down the point in front upper part.
    Remove rocks, Then with them remove dirt
    five feet down and round. On Now, Open point
    two’s wall straight in, Now open south side,
    Now On down under point.

    (end quote)

  14. astree says:

    Sorry, need to proofread before posting

    * to access viability

    should be

    *to assess viability

    (not sure which one looks better, now that it’s been retyped, lol)


  15. robert says:

    I actually know the name of the book to decode this treasure. I am looking for a honest partner. this is for real.

  16. J says:

    If you want to know what the cypher is to start with its mathmaticl. And it begins with a cubic kilometer.

  17. james elmore says:

    mabe the clue to solving the beale riddle is in the do good letters of ben franklin ha ha ha

  18. james elmore says:

    Maybe the clue to solving the Thomas J. Beale riddle is in the do good letters of Ben Franklin ha ha ha

  19. DanS says:

    I’ve been trying the ciphers for a couple of months. So far I’ve tried a variety of contemporary works from the era as a ciphertext, including the following, but found nothing with my methods.

    – US Constitution
    – Bill of Rights
    – Bible books Genesis, Exodus and Revelation

    I’ve tried a lot of ideas with the Declaration of Independence, trying a variety of methods but still nothing. I’ve found a variety of two, three, and four letter words mixed in with the garbage, sometimes even 5 or 6 letter words, but it’s still monkey-on-typewriter kind of stuff; the odds are good any interpretation would have results like that. And even being off by one word with the decryption means the difference between a cracked cipher and garbage; cipher #2 shows there will almost certainly be errors.

  20. Where’s the fist Declaration of Independence ever? …. The original.. ??? Still lost like this treasure? That’s what you gotta have… The very first one! Is what it seems like to me to crack the codes… Its gotta be a tad different that the one we read..

  21. Candice H says:

    Maybe they used the Bill of Right for one of the other pages.

  22. http://www.thebealekey.org

    One to watch.

    Looking for conversants…


  23. Sam Peppiatt says:

    Hi Jenny!! I don’t know if you remember me; my name is Sam Peppiatt, I have a very specific site for the location of the Beale Treasure. I’m hoping you might still be interested in it. Please let me know if you are. Sam

  24. paul hunter says:

    Just to see if i can help,the numbers in the box at the top of the page has 15 groups of 4 numbers,in the whole box? i would start there.Hope that helps you all.

  25. Salmela Tapio says:

    The treasure is buried at: Hagerstown 11159 Hopewell road MD21740 USA The coordinates are about the treasure 1. 39.617661 – 77.790129 (r=20m)
    2. 39.618287- 77.7899715(r=20m)
    The area is also a three man tomb 1 near the hiding place.

  26. Emily says:

    I am not sure if there is any treasure to be found, but the part about the jewels seems to allude to slaves. IF there is any treasure, it is buried beneath a grave of more than one slave which Mr. Beale cared about.
    I have no doubt that there is a mass grave at whatever location that the code reveals but finding any gold or silver there is questionable.

  1. June 25, 2013

    […] Bug in 1843.  It’s been known to have inspired many other treasure stories, possibly even the Beale Papers, since then.  Poe’s tale of buried treasure even encouraged the making of a board game.  Alfred […]

  2. July 9, 2013

    […] The Beale Papers The Beale Papers, if true, would lead a person to gold, silver, and jewels hidden in Virginia in the early 1800’s. This treasure would now be valued at over […]

  3. May 9, 2014

    […] the case of The Beale Papers, one of the first questions to answer is, ‘where does the story of treasure originate from?’  […]

  4. February 21, 2015

    […] to discern the location of the chest. Of course not.  It, along with others, like Maranatha, Beale, Fandango, Kryptos, etc., are constantly passing through my mind and I’m not sure I will ever be […]

  5. March 14, 2015

    […] of the story’s secreted stash, was published by James B. Ward in Lynchburg, Virginia.  Today, the story cannot be fully dismissed as a hoax or proven to be totally genuine.  It would seem the only way to […]

  6. May 19, 2015

    […] The story of the lost treasure of Beale was revealed to the public in 1885 by way of a small pamphlet.  This booklet described events leading up to the burying of gold, silver, and jewels around the 1820’s, and included circumstances for why it remained undiscovered at the time of the story’s printing. (more details on this here: Lost Treasure and the Beale Ciphers) […]

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