Beale Papers

In 1885, James B. Ward brought the Beale Papers to light.After twenty years of puzzling over a difficult problem with limited success, he knew that he had little or no chance of solving the whole thing. He decided to throw the problem open to the public and see if anyone else could be successful. The Beale Papers written in 1822 by a Thomas Jefferson Beale to a Mr Morriss, which in turn claimed to contain three encoded texts (now known as B1, B2, and B3) describing the location and beneficiaries of a huge treasure haul hidden in Bedford County, Virginia during 1819 and 1821. The pamphlet included a decoding of B2 (using a slightly miscounted Declaration of Independence as a codebook), but nothing for B1 and B3.

Beale Papers, are a set of three ciphertexts, one of which allegedly states the location of a buried treasure of gold, silver and jewels estimated to be worth over USD$63 million as of September 2011. Comprising three ciphertexts, the first (as yet unsolved) text describes the location, the second (solved) ciphertext the content of the treasure, and the third (unsolved) lists the names of the treasure's owners and their next of kin.

Ward wrote that according to letters written from Thomas J. Beale to Robert Morriss, Beale had led a party of thirty men west in 1817 on a buffalo hunt in northern New Mexico. While out west they discovered a rich vein of gold and gave up hunting in favor of mining. The men decided to move their horde by wagon back to Virginia. They brought it back in two shipments and buried the gold in iron pots in a secret vault roughly lined with stone some six feet beneath the ground.

The treasure consisted of 2,921 pounds of gold and 5,100 pounds of silver, as well as jewels obtained in St. Louis to save transportation. In 1982 one journalist investigating the Beale story estimated the modern value of the treasure to be 30 million dollars.

According to Ward's writings, the group entrusted their secret to Robert Morriss of Lynchburg while they traveled back to west to get a third shipment. Morriss was given a strongbox with instructions not to open it for ten years. If the men failed to return by then, Morriss was to open the box. Inside the box were instructions and a series of cryptograms. Morriss would have been given keys he would need to decode them. He was to use the secret information in the cryptograms to uncover the treasure and disperse the money among the men's surviving relatives.

There has been considerable debate over whether the remaining two ciphertexts are real or hoaxes. An early researcher, Carl Hammer of Sperry UNIVAC, used supercomputers of the late 1960s to analyze the ciphers and found that while the ciphers were poorly encoded, the two undeciphered ones did not show the patterns one would expect of randomly chosen numbers and probably encoded an intelligible text. Other questions remain about the authenticity of the pamphlet's account.


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