Exploring the Oak Island Mystery.
When I decided some years ago to spend time in Nova Scotia rewriting a film script that a Toronto production company had expressed interest in, I knew nothing about the Oak Island mystery. However, due to several synchronistic connections, a déjà vu experience, an insightful dream and a wonderful visionary experience, I spent over two years researching it, then writing a book and a television documentary about the longest, costliest and most challenging treasure hunt in history.
My journey to Nova Scotia began soon after I had finished a play in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia about the life of the remarkable Elizabethan visionary Sir Francis Bacon. In a lunchtime conversation prior to leaving I happened to mention my travel plans. The play’s producer, who had also introduced me to the Edgar Cayce material several years before, casually suggested that while in Nova Scotia I should check out the story about a treasure hunt on an island somewhere off Canada’s east coast. He added that an earlier discovery had led to speculation that the treasure might contain the missing original manuscripts of the Shakespearian plays. I gave the matter little thought while finishing my lunch overlooking the wide expanse of Chesapeake Bay, not far from where the members of the Virginia Company, in which Bacon was involved, had first come ashore in 1607.
On arriving in Halifax I decided to find a rental somewhere by the ocean. I phoned a contact I had made at a Cayce conference in upstate New York some months earlier in the hope she might be able to help. A chatty, retired school councillor from Nova Scotia, Hazel had introduced herself to me during a morning break. On telling her I hoped to visit someday she gave me her number and insisted I phone her if I ever made the trip. On answering my call she told me she lived by the ocean about an hour’s drive south of the city and that I was welcome to stay while arranging to rent an empty summer cottage nearby, whose owner she knew. Appreciating my good fortune, I enjoyed the scenic drive down the coast.
As I crested a hill after exiting the highway near Chester and got a view of beautiful Mahone Bay with its myriad islands I had a déjà vu experience. So definite was it that I stopped the car and stood by the roadside wondering if I was merely being reminded of a view I had seen elsewhere or revisiting a place I had known in a previous life.
Hazel proved true to her word and within two days I had moved into a well equipped shoreline cottage. No sooner had I settled into my writing schedule when she invited me for a morning coffee to meet the few other year-round neighbours who lived nearby.
On hearing that I was writing a film script, one of the neighbours asked if it would be about their famous Oak Island. I had no idea at the time what she was referring to. Hazel then drew aside the kitchen window curtain and, pointing to a nearby island, began telling me about the treasure hunt that had been taking place on the island for over two hundred years. Suddenly I recalled what had been mentioned to me back in Virginia. My curiosity aroused, more by the apparent coincidence of finding myself living so close to the island and my recent déjà vu experience, than any immediate interest in the treasure hunt, I mentioned that I could refer to it since my film script was set in Nova Scotia. That prompted another neighbour, a retired Harvard librarian, to loan me several magazine and newspaper articles and two books about Oak Island.
That evening I scanned through the various articles. Intrigued by what I was reading I picked up one of the books. Apart from chronicling the colourful history of the treasure hunt since the discovery of a deep, man-made vertical shaft on the island in 1795 and evidence suggesting buried treasure, it revealed the reason why the treasure had eluded a litany of treasure hunters down through the years. An ingeniously devised and concealed water trap system, unintentionally triggered in the early days of the treasure hunt, had caused seawater to fill the shaft through a system of flood tunnels that ran deep underground from two shoreline locations. It remains a problem to this day, in spite of the best efforts of experienced drillers, excavators and mining engineers and the outlay of millions of dollars. The book also outlined various theories about the nature of the treasure, which ranged from Spanish gold to objects from King Solomon’s temple and even the missing Shakespeare manuscripts. There was speculation about who might have gone to so much trouble to hide and protect the treasure, whatever it was, and to what end. Radio-carbon dating of items found had indicated that work had been carried out on the island between the late sixteenth to early seventeenth centuries. A statement by Mendel Peterson, former curator of Historic Archaeology at the Smithsonian impressed me. Peterson, who had been associated with other treasure hunts in his professional position, was quoted as saying “Oak Island is one of the most fascinating archaeological sites in the New World during after the arrival of Europeans. It could possibly have great historical significance.” It was late that night before I put down the book thinking that if only ten percent of what I had just read was true, this was a remarkable story, one that I felt more people should know about.
I woke up the next morning vividly recalling an exciting dream in which a young girl, dressed in white, took me by the hand and together we floated over Oak Island in bright daylight. Looking down, she pointed to a location on the island and told me it was where her father, who she added had been in charge of the workers, had hidden some of the treasure. The place she pointed to had easily recognisable features and I was both thrilled and thankful for having been given this information. I immediately wrote down the details of the dream and curious to know if such a location existed on the island, I began searching through the various articles and the books to see if there was an overhead shot of the island. In a photo that accompanied one of the magazine articles I could see the location shown to me in the dream. This led me to conclude that, apart from having some personal significance, the dream was also providing insight about the island’s treasure.
Although still preoccupied with my film script, the dream and what I read in the second book loaned to me had me ready to drop everything and visit the island. Written by Reginald Harris, the lawyer and associate of the principals involved in the search from the early to mid-nineteen hundreds, he hinted that there was a Masonic connection to the mystery. Harris was in a position to know, not only because he had been involved with the treasure hunt for many years, but also because he was a high ranking Mason and past Grand Sovereign of the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia and a leading figure in the revived Rosicrucian movement in Canada. The possibility that there was such a connection to the origin and nature of the mystery intrigued me, especially since I knew that Sir Francis Bacon and some of his contemporaries, who had helped promote colonies in Virginia, New England, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, had been part of the secret Rosicrucian and Masonic movements in Elizabethan England at a time of great political and religious turmoil.
My interest in visiting the island and speaking with Dan Blankenship, one of the partners and field manager for the Oak Island Exploration Company, who lived on the island increased when I read an article in which his wife revealed she once had a premonition that Dan would discover something sacred on the island. In support of his wife’s psychic claim Dan then mentioned Edgar Cayce as having proved the validity of such experiences. Encouraged by this unexpected association with the Cayce material, which I anticipated would make for a good conversation opener, I drove to the island.
Preoccupied with the prospect of visiting the site shown to me in the dream and possible outcomes of my meeting with Blankenship, I almost failed to notice the chain strung across the entrance to the short causeway that linked the mainland to the island. A sign said that the island was off limits to visitors. Undeterred, I proceeded to walk across the causeway. A large black dog appeared, barking aggressively. While trying to placate the dog a woman came out of the only house and told me bluntly to leave, which I did. On returning to my cottage I phoned Dan Blankenship to see if I could arrange a visit. His wife answered and told me that Dan was not available to speak to anyone. It took several more calls over the next few days before I finally got Dan on the phone. Although somewhat receptive, he told me he could not allow me on the island without the permission of his business partner in Montreal and promised to get back to me in a week, which he never did.
I eventually got to visit the island, the first of many over the next two years, alongside a BBC television crew that had arrived at the nearby hotel to do a documentary about the mystery. Some political strings had been pulled to permit the crew access to the island. On hearing from the hotel manager of my interest, the director contacted me and suggested I come along as part of the crew and for an interview. This providential development allowed me to see the various sites explored and discoveries made during the drawn out treasure hunt. I also got to hear first-hand Dan’s account of the accumulated evidence that
clearly indicated that a major secret operation, involving many men working above and below ground for an extended period of time, had taken place on the island hundreds of years earlier. Rock markers, including an equilateral triangle pointing to the original shaft, hieroglyphic writing in a stone slab found deep in the original shaft, markings of an esoteric spiritual nature etched into large boulders, suggested that a group acquainted with such knowledge had been active on the island. As a result of our conversation on that first visit, Dan allowed me to revisit the island many times on my own. Whether it was due to mentioning my knowledge of the Cayce material or not, I never knew.
Having worked in Canadian broadcasting I was surprised that I had not heard of the Oak Island mystery. Assuming that many others had also not heard about it, I decided to write an article for a Canadian magazine. No sooner had I started to gather some notes when I learned that a large megalithic cross had been found on the island, on property owned by Fred Nolan a Nova Scotia surveyor, who was carrying out his own treasure hunt. The cross, made up of six large, cone-shaped boulders and verified as having been placed in position, added a significant sacred aspect to the mystery of who may have hidden what on the island. Nolan was at first reticent to let me visit the site, but when I later told him that the location shown to me in my dream was on his property he changed his mind. Sometime later I saw that apart from clearing the general area of brush and rocks he had not done any excavating. When I asked him why he told me he was not convinced anything was buried there.
As part of my research, I visited the Provincial Archives and the Special Collections section at Dalhousie University’s library in Halifax. In the archives I found meeting notes and correspondence related to the treasure hunt dating from the early nineteen hundreds, some written on Masonic letterhead. At Dalhousie I discovered a large collection of Baconiana that included a copy of his utopian fable New Atlantis and material on secret codes, which Bacon was an expert in the use of. The more I delved into the history of the treasure hunt the more I saw that many high ranking Masons, prominent business and political figures of their day, including a young President Rossevelt, had been either involved in trying to find whatever had been buried on Oak Island. Some had even invested and lost large sums in the process. No sooner had I decided to follow this line of research when, against all odds, I was given access to the library at the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia in Halifax.
The main treasure hunt, on the part of the island where the original vertical shaft had been discovered in 1795, had come to a standstill due to a contentious court action between the Oak Island Exploration Company and Nolan and later disagreements between Blankenship and his Montreal partner. Reminded of Cayce’s advice to individuals searching for treasure in Monroe County, Florida in which he urged them to be of one mind and purpose and added “Then seek to make thine own heart right within thee, for he that would do good, must first make self right…..”(1274-11), I arranged a meeting between Blankenship and Nolan in the hope that they could be persuaded to put aside their differences and work together for the common cause of solving the Oak Island mystery. However within minutes of the meeting taking place, Dan cancelled under instructions from his business partner.
With the possibility that the treasure might contain something of a profoundly sacred or philosophical and historically important nature, I undertook a personal quest to get an answer to the mystery that had beguiled and frustrated so many for so long. In conjunction with my research on the ground I began a daily meditation practise for the purpose of gaining some higher-mind insight and direction concerning what was by now my major preoccupation. I needed to know if there was a spiritual aspect to the mystery, as I was not interested in spending time, energy and money on the trail of pirate’s booty. I even felt motivated to do an occasional daily fast as part of this quest. The result exceeded my expectations.
I experienced a vision in which I saw a pulsating wall of luminous green light emanating from the ground on the island. It was like a vibrant, fluid energy coming from deep within the island, rising upwards. Shafts of bright sunlight shone down through openings in a stand of large trees. There was a musical hum in the air as I watched, totally entranced by the phenomena before me. Than a voice said ‘The Christ has been here before and will come again.’ Immediately the entire vision vanished. The experience was quite awe-inspiring and for a while afterwards I remained in a somewhat exalted state.
From the perspectives of the Cayce material and Jungian psychology I realised the vision, with its symbol of ascending energy and reference to the Christ, could be signifying a raising of consciousness and confirming I was on the right path in my quest for insight into the Oak Island mystery. At the same time I could not dismiss the possibility that it also had a bearing on the nature and origin of the treasure.
As if to confirm this, on checking the 3812 series of Cayce readings given to those searching for treasure in Culpepper County, Virginia, I was amazed to read that under certain circumstances various coloured light could be seen emanating from the ground where treasure lay buried. One of the treasure hunters had even heard a voice, which Cayce identified as his superconscious,
telling him not only about the treasure but also about his approach to finding it.
Encouraged by my experience and knowing that various psychics had been previously consulted about Oak Island, one had even focused on a location close to that shown to me in my initial dream but then mentioned that the time was not right for the treasure to be found, I arranged to have Nova Scotia’s prominent parapsychologist Terry Murphy visit the island. While I joined Dan in an on-site television interview promoting the Oak Island Mystery conference at the local hotel, Terry wandered off on her own. Back at the hotel she told me that she had ‘seen’ a procession of men from an earlier era, in cross emblazoned cloaks, carrying a large box-shaped object draped in blue cloth onto the island.
By now I realized I had enough material for a book, one that I believed could shed some new light on the mystery. While working on the book and wondering who might publish it I had a reassuring dream. I was shown an office building close to a series of what seemed like concrete towers. Weeks later as I approached the harbour side office of Formac Publishing in Halifax with my book proposal, the first thing I noticed was the row of tall concrete grain elevators nearby. Formac readily expressed interest and Oak Island Secrets was published within a year. As a result of the publicity an international television documentary and numerous speaking engagements followed.
Before leaving Nova Scotia I had yet another powerful visionary experience that left me in no doubt that, regardless of what remains to be discovered on Oak Island, I had been shown a ‘hidden treasure.’
The treasure hunt resumed with yet another partnership. With sufficient financial backing heavy machinery and high tech equipment have been exhaustively used almost throughout the entire island, producing more questions than answers. The much hyped and dramatised activities have been broadcast on the History channel’s popular ‘reality tv’ series The Curse of Oak Island. However I am doubtful that this latest search will result in either finding treasure or solving the question of who created the underground workings on the island or for what purpose.
An Ontario psychic Robyn Marie Butt, whom I trust, did a reading for me about a year ago and her information tended to confirm much of what I had concluded about the mystery. I have been back to Oak Island, have met and continue to keep in touch with one of the present partners, occasionally suggesting an alternative approach and even sharing some Cayce pointers.
Mark W. Finnan