When investigating the Beale Mystery an often overlooked component is the pamphlet created by George L. Hart, Sr. in 1952. Maybe it's overlooked because of the lame story about a psychic that takes up half of the pamphlet. But there is some interesting information contained in the Hart Papers. First, the Hart brothers claim to have identified the existance of Robert Morriss through their own research conducted at the turn of the 20th century. Secondly, they claim that James B. Ward wrote the Beale Papers, despite the Beale Papers clearly naming Ward as the "agent for the author". Thirdly, they printed a different set of cipher numbers than appeared in the Beale Papers.
Regardless of whether it is fact or fiction, the Hart Papers, definitely add another chapter to the mystery surounding the Beale Treasure.
As of the present date, January 1, 1952, the writer will make an effort to put in writing all that he knows or surmises about the above subject, study and work upon which he spent many hours, yes, a total of many months, extending over a period from 1898 to 1912, more or less in collaboration with his brother, the late Clayton I. Hart, of Roanoke, Virginia.
Along in the summer of 1897 my brother, then a stenographer in the office of the Auditor of the Norfolk & Western Railroad, Roanoke, Va. , was requested by the chief clerk to the Auditor, N. H. Hazelwood, then residing at Montvale, (formerly Buford) Bedford County, Virginia, to make several copies of eight sheets of notepaper, two sheets headed simply "No. 1", three sheets headed "No. 2", and three sheets headed "No. 3".
Curiosity impelled Clayton to ask Mr. Hazelwood what such Figures, most unusual in his experience in the office, could possibly mean. In the beginning of their conversation Mr. Hazelwood stated that they were connected with a treasure, said to have been buried some four score years before near the foot of the Peaks of Otter, which stood in all their majesty overlooking his residence; and that, so far as he knew, the said treasure had never been located. Clayton obtained permission to retain a copy of the three ciphers or cryptograms.
Clayton immediately began studying the meaningless figures, discussing with Mr. Hazelwood from time to time this or that possibility; however, neither getting anywhere near the beginning of a solution. In a few months Mr. Hazelwood's health began to fail, whereupon he expressed an intention to give no further attention to the mystery, passing it on to Clayton with the admonition: "Go ahead on your own. I wish you success. Even though I have never made any headway in the matter of deciphering the figures, I remain reasonably confident the treasure lies buried where originally placed." About that time Clayton learned that a man by the name of Ward had spent many years trying to find a key, or keys, to the ciphers; that he had found a key to one cipher, but had finally abandoned his efforts and published in pamphlet form all that he knew about the treasure.
Thereupon, Clayton journeyed to Lynchburg, Va. , 50 miles east of Roanoke, secured a copy of the printed pamphlet, and redoubled his efforts to find a solution. The preceding manuscript was prepared by James B. Ward, of Campbell County, Virginia, contiguous to Lynchburg, in the year 1884. It was printed in pamphlet form by the Virginian Job Print, Lynchburg, Va. However, Clayton was informed by Ward that all but a few copies had been destroyed by fire, which broke out in the printing plant before a plan of distribution and sale at 50 cents a copy had been made and carried out.
About the year 1903 Clayton visited Mr. Ward, who then was at an advanced age. He confirmed all that is contained in the pamphlet; and his son, then U. S. Mail transfer clerk at the union station, Lynchburg, added his own confirmation, but in somewhat sad and solemn tones. Both are long since deceased.
The writer, and his brother Clayton, from 1897 until 1907 put in practically every moment of their spare time in an effort to Find a key, or keys, for the two ciphers which are as yet meaningless. Residing then at Roanoke, Va. , fourteen miles west of Montvale, (formerly Buford) Bedford County, Virginia, frequent trips were made by one or other of us, both of us together sometimes, to the supposed general location of the alleged buried treasure. And, on visits to Lynchburg, whence we journeyed occasionally on Professional work, we secured confirmation as to the Washington Hotel and its proprietor, Mr. Morriss, during the period 1819 to 1862.
My brother Clayton and I, separately and jointly, turned to the Constitution, Shakespeare, the Declaration of Independence, and numerous other books and documents that we thought might have been in the library of the Washington Hotel at Lynchburg, during Beale's sojourn there. We numbered the words forward and backward, finally skipping the first word and beginning with the second, then starting with the third word, fourth and fifth words, then taking every fifth word, tenth word, etc. However, we found no solution.
In 1898 my brother Clayton became interested in mesmerism and hypnotism. He wondered if this might be the means of securing a lead. Finding an excellent subject, who gradually drifted into crystal reading, Clayton began questioning him about the alleged treasure. Thinking he was, by this means, securing a worthwhile lead, Clayton asked the writer to sit in on a seance. The result of sitting will be given in detail near the end of this story. Of course, the writer, then as now, placed no faith in what came forth so glibly from the mouth of the crystal reader. But, like a drowning man, we were catching at any straws that might float about.
So, when the subject, during his trance, claimed he could see not only the alleged buried treasure, but would be able to lead us to it, we determined to test him out.
One nice Spring evening in 1899, the writer and his brother departed from Roanoke about five o'clock p. m. in the family buggy, drawn by the faithful family horse, Old Nell. We carried what we believed to be the necessary equipment, (other than dynamite, with which I would have no part), that equipment including picks, shovels, lanterns, rope, an axe, etc. And with us, of course, was our confident crystal reader-that is, confident to the Nth degree when he was gazing into the crystal ball.
We drove by "The Great Lick", a mile to the east of our old homestead, which, it was claimed, in the colonial days attracted wild animals desiring salt; on east through the gap of the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the tavern location in the village known in 1819-22 as Buford, (now Montvale) said tavern supposed to have been visited by Beale and his associates while seeking a place to bury the alleged treasure, and the subsequent trip.
Darkness had settled over the land, as we had expected, and which the better suited our purpose. Few people were moving about, and the faint light of a receding moon afforded opportunity to see objects of any size, which was just what we wanted. Driving across the railroad track, in the direction of the Peaks of Otter, we stopped on reaching a clump of bushes and many trees, about a mile up Goose Creek. My brother and the subject alighted, the subject was hypnotized, and they started off along Goose Creek, I following in the buggy. The trail led toward a gap in the mountain that would, if followed take one over into Botetourt County. And it might not be amiss to pause here and explain, that in the town of Buchanan, just over the mountain, there lived a quite prominent family of the name of Beale, who owned a plantation bordering on the James River. But to resume our narrative: About four miles up Goose Creek the subject stopped, seemed to be taking his bearings, then climbed a rail fence, jumped across a spring branch, ascended a hill, walked over the top and down into a crater-like place, covered with old oak trees and many leaves. Halting by the side of a large oak the subject pointed to the ground at its base and exclaimed: "There's the treasure! Can't you see it?" Well, had we finally reached the promised land? We did not believe it possible, and yet there was a certain plausibility about the confidence of the subject, so we took stock of our situation and planned our work. Lighting another lantern, we placed one on each side of the spot pointed out to us, and while one brother assembled the tools, the other walked up to the top of the crater-like place, and then down around the spot, to judge how much of the light from our lanterns might be seen in the neighborhood. Satisfied of our safety from intrusion, we agreed that each brother would dig, or shovel, for 10 minutes, then to be relieved by the other brother. This was to be continued until we located the treasure, or were satisfied that it did not rest there. In the meantime the subject was relieved of his trance and he lay down in the leaves, apparently wondering what we were about, but otherwise showing no interest.
We diligently set to work digging. After some six hours or more, in the wee small hours of the following morning, we had succeeded in digging a hole approximately six feet in depth, and slightly larger than a grave. Our strength was about gone, we were filled with misgivings, and, then, when about 8 of the 10 minutes of my brother's turn had been used, his pick struck a rock that produced a hollow sound. He looked up at me, his eyes flashing the fire of hope, and in my own enthusiasm, said: "You're played out! Permit me to relieve you now!" But, no, he replied: "Let me finish my allotted time".
After awhile we succeeded in removing the rock, but the hoped-for pots of gold and silver were not underneath it. Now, were we let down? To relieve our chagrin the subject was again hypnotized and asked to reveal the whereabouts the treasure. Rising on the balls of his feet, as if in disgust, he pointed to the left about two feet, directly underneath the great oak tree, and exclaimed: "There it is! You got over too far! Can't you see it?"
Thereupon I was completely let-down, and unwilling make any further attempt, certainly so far as that trip was concerned. Crestfallen, we wended our way back home. A week or two later my brother returned to the spot alone, I refusing to accompany him. He provided himself with dynamite, and upon his return home he informed me that he blasted out the old tree, and about everything near it-but, still no pots of gold, silver and jewels.
Was there anything more that we should and could do? After a short lapse of time my brother and I held a conference. We reviewed all that we had done, or attempted to do, and tried to map out a plan of future action, if any, we should take. We agreed that we had never heard that a person could transfer to the mind of a hypnotized subject, his own beliefs or knowledge, and get the subject to repeat them; yet we wondered if, after all, that was, in part at least, what had occurred. Certainly Clayton had never been anywhere near the spot to which the subject led us; nor had he any thought that Beale and his party had gone there while seeking a place to hide their treasure. So, why did the subject lead us to that spot? We could not then, nor do we now, find any satisfactory answer. Like many other questions that flash through one's mind, there seems no way to turn in the hope of getting the mystery cleared up.
Subsequent to my visit to the spot pointed out by the subject I gave less and less time to a study of the ciphers; and, about 1912, I ceased altogether. Clayton, on the other hand, made many visits to the spot, and continued his interest in the ciphers until his death September 6,1949.
In 1919 I moved to Washington, D. C. , and began the practice of my profession in that city, where, until 1946, I was extremely busy, night and day. So, after 1919, I only gave casual thought to the subject; now and then going back and reading over my old papers, and writing to some one, or talking with some one about it.
In the December,1924, number of THE AMERICAN I read an article about Colonel George Fabyan, of Riverbank Laboratories, Geneva, Ill. , and his success during World War I, and since, in reading code messages. I wrote to him, sending a copy of the three ciphers; and, after some correspondence back and forth, I forwarded to him a copy of such data as I had, but with special request that he not make any use of the manuscript, or ciphers, other than an attempt to decipher the ciphers. I made this request because my brother Clayton, then living, was trying to prepare something for Publication, which he never did.
Under date of February 3, 1925, Colonel Fabyan replied, and, among other things of no special interest to me, said:
"Now, in reference to the three ciphers: It seems improbable to us that a cipher of this character could be deciphered by a novice without the key, regardless of whether he put 20 years or 40 years on it. The cipher would be classified as a complex substitution cipher-variable-key system, or pseudo code; and even though one were told that the Declaration of Independence was the key, unless it was intimated as to how it was used as a key, we think that the novice would have been utterly baffled as to how to use it. The stumbling of a novice upon a method of this character lies rather beyond the range of possibility, and the conviction follows that they were in possession of the key of not only No. 2, but also of No. 1 and No. 3, with the result that the treasure referred to has long since been removed and converted."
"I repeat, that the problem has my interest, and I am writing in the vain hope that either you or Clayton I. Hart can give us further information, because the psychology of it is about all we have to go on in picking out our point of attack. In the meantime we will retain the pamphlet, and work on it as we can find time to do so."
But I never heard further from Colonel Fabyan, and assume that he was unable to do anything toward clearing up the mystery.
As I often said to my brother, and wrote to Colonel Fabyan, it is possible that the whole thing is without basis. I have wondered if Ward might have written his manuscript based upon some figures he found, or made up; and yet, we have the word of Ward, his son, and friends to the contrary. Inquiry among some aged neighbors of Ward showed the high respect they had for him, and brought forth the statement that Ward would never practice deception. Just as a little sidelight on the ramifications of this work, I will add the following: In 1917 my wife asked me to drive her down for a visit to her first cousin, Mr. Otey, near Montvale, formerly Buford. On arrival at Montvale we were directed to drive along Goose Creek, cross that stream at the first crossing and drive up the other side, when we would reach Mr. Otey's place. All of which we did. While sitting out on the porch enjoying a glass of lemonade, I remarked that some years before I had had occasion to drive up the old road, on the other side of the creek, in a buggy. Being asked the occasion for such a visit, I told him the story of our digging. He laughed, loud and long, telling me it cleared up a mystery that had worried the people along the creek for upwards of 20 years. He stated that after the first hole we dug was discovered, some of his neighbors watched all night for a few days, armed with shotguns; and that after what was described as "the great explosion", a watch was again set for a week or 10 days, without result.
I have often wondered what became of the key, or keys, to the ciphers, left by Beale with some friend in St. Louis, when he was there in 1822, and visited the Planters Hotel.
When my brother Clayton secured a copy of the printed pamphlet containing Ward's story about the Beale papers, I think in the summer of 1898, he asked me to read same two or three times and then sit down and discuss the subject with him. This I did. We were at a loss to know how to begin any new or untried effort to unravel the mystery.
That Ward, by accident as he suggests succeeded in finding a key to cipher No. 2, outlining the number of pounds of gold and silver, along with jewels of a value of $13,000, claimed to have been buried, created a suspicion that the story might have been made up instead of founded on fact, with the idea of finding a more ready sale of the pamphlet. Beale's letter to Mr. Morriss, accompanying the ciphers, did not state which of the three ciphers described the place of concealment, but one would think that cipher No. 1 would be the starting point and have the most attention.
And why would Beale go to the trouble to prepare three ciphers, each based upon a different document?
If the story was not based upon fact but something prepared with the idea of making money from the sale of it, why was it allowed to remain in the printing plant until an accidental fire consumed practically all copies of it?
I suggested that my brother Clayton make a trip to Lynchburg and secure any information within reach, visiting Ward if he could locate him. He made several trips, and inquired all round the town, becoming convinced that it was more than probable the story was founded upon fact.
Thereupon Clayton redoubled his efforts to find a key, or keys, to Ciphers No. 1 and No. 3. He worked every night for upwards of two years without making any headway, but, like Ward, was unwilling to lay the subject aside.
Having studied hypnotism and mesmerism, which had become somewhat of a fad in Roanoke about that time, as a result of several demonstrations on the stage of the Academy of Music, Clayton began to try out his powers on numerous promising subjects. Finding one exceptionally good subject, in the person of an eighteen-year-old lad in the neighborhood of our old home, Magnolia, on the extreme northern line of the City of Roanoke, Va. , he, after a time, tried him out as a crystal reader or clairvoyant.
To Clayton's astonishment the boy, while in a state of trance, related a wonderful story, one which fitted in so well with what he had learned about the treasure that he determined to unravel the mystery, if possible, through that means. So he invited me to witness a seance and tell him what I thought of what I would see and hear. The subject was a quiet, unassuming, diffident boy. In his normal state he seemed quite effeminate, and never indulged in the use of profane language. Under the spell, however, he seemed transformed into a vigorous, determined man of the world, confident of himself, swearing blandly, and ready to meet all comers. The following is an account of that incident, written by me some ten years thereafter at the request of my brother, Clayton. I had no notes made at the time, so this account came purely from memory-and may be more or less inaccurate. However, the following depicts the occurrence as I remembered it, with Clayton acting as interrogator, I being merely a quiet listener and observer.
"Jewels, By Gosh! Diamonds! Rubies! Pearls! Emeralds! Whew! Ain't the old man rich?"
These and other similar exclamations came from the lips of medium as he gazed into the crystal ball. Oblivious of his surroundings, apparently in a trance, eyes bulging, features tense, a death-like grip on what was opaque to the bystander, but which, when revolved in the hands of the medium, like the earth on its axis, seemed an inspiration, the clairvoyant quickly turned back the pages of time to a century before, and claimed to read events then taking place. I stepped into the dimly lighted room, on the second floor of our old home, Magnolia, just after the medium had entered the state of trance, and while my brother, Clayton, was commanding:
"Time is moving backward quite fast, and will continue so moving until you reach November 1819. Go to Buford's Tavern, in a village of that name just to the east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and watch for the coming of several prairie schooners. Tell me as soon as they come in sight, and relate everything that those in charge do. Now, tell me everything they have with them, and everything they do. Keep close watch on them, and don't let them get out of your sight!"
Within about thirty seconds the medium straightened up, and, trembling as if from excitement, began to talk:
"Here they come! They're just passing through the gap in the mountain."
"Watch them carefully! Don't let them get out of your sight! How many wagons or prairie schooners do you see?"
"I see five covered wagons."
"Are there any men riding horses, or mules, accompanying the wagons?"
"Yes; five men on horses."
"How many men are there altogether?"
"Let me see? (As if counting on his fingers) There's ten; five men driving the wagons and five men on horseback."
"Where are they riding in reference to the wagons? I mean, are they in front of the wagons, by the side of the wagons, or in the rear of the wagons?"
"A big, fine looking fellow is riding alone in front, two men are riding abreast just in his rear, followed by the five men driving the wagons, and two men are riding abreast at the rear of the wagons."
"Have the men any guns or pistols?"
"Sure! Each man riding horseback has a rifle slung across the front of his saddle, with two pistols in leather containers slung from his belt, one to his right hand, the other to his left hand."
"How about the men driving the wagons?"
"Each driver has a rifle and a couple of pistols on the seat beside him. Oh! They're fixed for game, and, I reckon, for Indians, too!"
"Watch them carefully and tell me if they stop anywhere?"
There was silence for a minute or two, when Clayton stepped up the time with a command.
"They've done stopped."
"At a place that has a board up over the door and on it marked `Tavern'. And, on a little building right by the side of it, I see another board which says `Buford Post Office'. And I see a few other houses scattered about."
"Watch them carefully and tell me everything they do."
"The big fellow, the one who was riding in front, and I guess he is the boss of the outfit, has done got off his horse, handed the reins to another fellow, and gone into the tavern."
"Watch them closely and tell me all that is done."
"The boss is talking to some man inside the tavern. I guess he's asking can he take care of his men and horses. Anyhow the tavern-keeper smiles and bows his head, pushing forward a much-worn book. The boss man is writing in it."
"What are they doing now?"
"They are driving around to the stable. The boss man has taken his saddlebags off his horse, turned the bridle reins over to an old gray-haired Negro, and has done gone into the tavern."
"Don't let him get out of your sight! Watch him closely, and tell me all that he does!"
"The boss man's done gone upstairs. It's nearly dark. A Negro slave is showing him to a room. But the big fellow wouldn't let the Negro carry his saddlebags. The Negro is looking at him as if he thinks it's mighty unusual doings for a gentleman. I guess in those days Negro slaves were expected to do everything for a guest except spit."
"Well, never mind about your wise cracks. Keep a close watch on the big fellow! Don't let him get out of your sight! What is he doing?"
"He's done raised the window and is motioning to one of his pals, who is out in the yard, to come up to his room. That fellow is not going up the steps, and is entering the room. The boss man is talking, motioning to his saddle bags, and is now going back down the steps, while the other man stays in the room. He's done gone in and sat down at the supper table."
"Time is passing a little faster now. Tell me what the boss man, as you term him, is doing."
"He's done gone back upstairs to his room. He's motioning the other fellow to go out of the room; I guess he's telling him to go downstairs and get his grub."
"Watch the boss man carefully, now, and tell me everything he does. Time is passing more slowly, remember!"
"The boss man is pulling down the shades. My! Those shades are on strings; they don't roll down like shades do nowadays, on springs. He's locking the door; and, by gosh! don't you know, he's stuffing some paper into the keyhole. No wonder, for the keyhole is almost as big as three fingers of a man's hand. The key must be mighty big. Yes, it is, for I see it there on the table."
"Well, go along and tell me what that man is doing."
"Now he's putting his old big pistol on the table, right by the side of the candle. He's laying his saddlebags across the bed, and is unstrapping both sides. I wonder if he is hunting for a bottle of rum?"
"Never mind about any bottle. Watch that man closely, and tell me everything he does?"
"My God! The old man is opening up a regular diamond mine! They glitter so they hurt my eyes. I didn't know there was so many fine jewels in all the world. It beats any jeweler's show case I ever saw."
"Tell me about what he has. What do you see?"
"Jewels, By Gosh! Diamonds! Rubies! Pearls! Emeralds! Whew! Ain't that big fellow some pumpkins?"
And the subject shaded his eyes with his hands, as though the brilliance of the precious stones was dazzling him; and, all the while he was turning his head to right and to left, as if either to see more or to shake away the sight he was beholding.
"Keep close watch on the big fellow and tell me everything he does", Clayton admonished.
"Now, he's wrapping up the jewels in something that looks like Fine skins, and putting them back into his saddlebags. He's putting the saddlebags under the pillow, between featherbed and pillows, and has thrown the bolster off onto a chair. He's undressing, but he ain't taking off all of his clothes. Now he's reading the Bible, which was lying on the table."
"Time is passing more quickly now. Tell me what the boss man, as you call him, does before he snuffs the candle?"
"He's done replaced the Bible on the table. He's snuffing out the candle. The room is now dark."
"Go out to the stable and tell me what is being done by his companions out there?" Clayton suggested.
"The horses are in stalls, munching hay. The five prairie schooners are parked in a row, between the horse stable and the cow stable. There's a man sitting in each wagon, the men being, in each case, in the front of one wagon and in the rear of the adjoining wagon. Each man has two pistols in his belt, with a rifle at his side. Now, that's damn funny; why don't they go in the tavern and go to bed?"
"If you'll keep your shirt on maybe we will find out. Where are the other four men?"
"Oh! they've done gone to bed in the tavern."
"Look through the prairie schooners carefully and tell me what you find? What do you expect me to find? You ain't got nothing to do with them damned, all-fired wagons!"
"Never mind about that. You don't have to look after the welfare of those men; they're well able to protect themselves. You just go ahead and look in each wagon, one after the other, and tell me what you find."
"In the first one there is some hay, corn and straw, and-"
Thereupon the medium slowed down, and, with mouth open wide but tongue stilled, turned his head one way and then another, while his eyes, opened wider than usual, were glued to the crystal.
"Tell me what you see?" commanded Clayton
"Two iron pots! They are covered with a blanket, and are buried under straw."
"What do you see in the pots?"
"Great God! Just look at the gold! And silver, too! Geeminy cracked corn, I don't wonder they have so many shooting irons ready for instant use."
"Look in the next wagon and tell me what you see there."
"Oh there's just some skins of wild animals, some jerked meat, a blanket or two, and some hay and straw."
"Look more carefully. Are you sure there is nothing else in that wagon?"
"Well, I should s-a-y not! There's two more pots in that gol-darned wagon."
"Tell me what is in them."
"Silver! Good Lord, I didn't know there was so much silver in one place anywhere in the world. They are filled with silver. And the fellow watching that prairie schooner has just kicked them, I guess to make sure they're still there."
"Isn't there any gold in either of those pots?"
"No. God damn it to hell, do you think they'd mix gold and silver. And I just want to warn you that boss man ain't going to let anybody come near. So you keep away."
"Never mind about that. I just want you to tell me everything you find in those wagons. Now, go on to the third prairie schooner and look that over carefully."
"Well, I see some more corn and hay-and, I believe, there are some oats. Yes, that's right. And there are some animal skins. I guess that fellow hasn't got a blanket. And he was nodding, too, and his pal in the next wagon told him to wake up and keep his eyes wide open."
Isn't there anything else in that wagon?
"I don't see anything else."
"Look more carefully, from one end of the wagon to the other."
"Well! well! well! if that don't beat the old scratch! Sure! there's another old iron pot in that wagon, but it was so well covered up that I thought there was just coon skin coats."
"What is in that pot?"
"My goodness alive! Ain't there no end to this thing? Why it contains silver, nothing but silver. I wonder what they're going to do with all this gold and silver!"
"Go on to the fourth prairie schooner and tell me what you find in it?"
"That old fellow is fast asleep, leaning against the top. He better wake up before the boss man in the tavern catches up with him, for I'11 be he'd skin him alive."
"Never mind, for the moment, the boss man in the tavern. Do you find anything unusual in that wagon?"
"No. Just some hay, and corn, and straw, and skins. Also some camping utensils. And, I believe there's a tent or two in there."
"All right. Now go on to the last wagon. What, if anything of interest, do you find there?"
"Just the same kinds of things. More corn and hay and oats. And I see some Indian trinkets, some Indian bows and arrows. That's all."
"All right. Let everything be natural with you for a time. You are at ease. I think you need a rest. We will have some eats before we resume our travel along the old trail."
Thereupon Clayton and I, and the subject, repaired to the other end of the room, and ate what Clayton had prepared for our use before beginning the sťance. The boy being at ease, resumed his usual demeanor, rather diffident and retiring, with little to say even when asked a question. When interrogated about what had transpired during the sťance he seemed to recall nothing.
The repast being disposed of, Clayton again hypnotized the subject; handed to him the crystal ball, and the sťance was resumed.
"Now, time is passing very fast until you get back to November 1819, and reach Buford's Tavern, fourteen miles east of here, to the east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Tell me what you find being done about Buford's Tavern?"
After a few moments hesitation, the subject said:
"Why, there is the boss man, out there on a horse. And, you bet, he has them saddlebags strapped securely onto the rear of his saddle. One of his pals is leaving the first wagon and coming up to him. He's getting on a horse, too."
"Well, watch them carefully and tell me where they go and what they do."
"There they go, out to the right, over towards the mountain, but to the south."
"How many men are in this party?"
"Only two; the boss man, as he seems to me to be, and one of his pals."
"Well, watch them carefully, now, and tell me where they go and what they do?"
"They're riding along on an old rutty road more like a trail than a real road. Now they're leaving the road and following a path up into the edge of the mountain."
"Watch them, and tell me everything they do."
"They're back at the tavern. The Negro slave has taken the boss man's horse, also the other man's horse. The boss man and his pal have gone into the tavern, and up to the boss man's room. The boss man is shaking his head."
"Very well, time is fast passing along. Tell me when their next move is made."
"Roosters are crowing. I see the first streaks of dawn resting on the Peaks of Otter. The boss man is lighting his candle. He's now slipping on his trousers, and putting on his boots. He's putting his belt around his waist, and adjusting his pistols. Now he's grabbing up his saddlebags, and is going down the steps of the tavern."
"Watch him carefully. Tell me all that he does."
"Bless my soul, do you know, that Negro slave was out currying and saddling and bridling the boss man's horse. There he is, leading the horse around to the front of the tavern. The boss man is adjusting his saddlebags, and the Negro slave is having trouble to hold the horse, who seems to be prancing to be off. Now the boss man is astride his horse, and is starting off north, to the left of the Peaks of Otter."
"Watch him carefully, and tell me all that he does."
"Well, ain't I doing it? They've gotten off their horses. They're going into a cave. They've candles with them. They've lighted their candles and are examining the cave. They've found some potatoes and other vegetables, and the men shake their heads, as if surprised and disappointed. They're snuffing their candles at the edge of the cave. They're getting on their horses again and are starting back toward the tavern."
"What time is it if you can judge by the sun?"
"Looks like midday. The sun is right overhead. The boss man is looking up at it."
"Well, tell me what they do next, especially when they get back to the tavern. Time is hurrying along."
"There he goes, the horse in a fox trot, along the trail which borders Goose Creek and leading to a gap in the Blue Ridge not far from the Twin Peaks. It is on the trail which runs from Bedford County across the mountain to Botetourt County. There's occasionally a house, with a little cleared land around it, but for the most part the hills are covered with forest trees. Now the boss man is leaving the trail, is riding off into the woods, but is shaking his head, as if he doesn't like what he sees; and goes back to the trail again."
"Keep close watch on the boss man, as you term him tell me all that he does."
"He's again leaving the trail, crossing a little branch and going through the woods, up a little hill. Well, isn't that a strange place-a small hill, with a cup-like formation or indentation in it, all covered with giant trees. The boss man is looking around carefully. He's hitched his horse to the limb of a tree, and now is examining the place, as if he's hunting for something. He must like what he has found, for he is smiling. He's knocking the bark off a spot on a big oak tree with the butt of one of his pistols, and now he's cutting the spot more deeply with his hunting knife. He's on his horse again, and is returning toward the tavern."
"Watch him carefully, and tell me anything unusual that he may do. Time is passing faster, and tell me when the boss man reaches the tavern."
"He's done got back to the tavern. The Negro slave's out ready to serve the boss man. The boss man throws him the bridle rein, grabs his saddlebags, and walks into the dining room. Yes, and he's laid his saddlebags carefully under his chair and set his foot on the leather connecting the two bags. He ain't taking no chances with losing them jewels, and I don't blame him."
"Well, time is passing a little faster. Skip over the more unimportant details, and tell me what is done by the boss man and his associates."
"It's the next morning. The wagon train is starting off just like it arrived at the tavern, except that the rifles are in the wagons and the horsemen only have their pistols in their belts. They're waving, apparently a good bye, to the tavern keeper."
"Which way are they going?
"The same way the boss man went on his trip on horseback the morning before. He's talking to the two men in front, and pointing to the Peaks of Otter."
"Time is speeding along. Tell me where they go."
"They are following the same route the boss man went yesterday morning. There, they're having a little trouble fording the branch. Now they're going along the creek, and have stopped where the boss man went up the little hill. I don't believe the teams can get up the hill. No, they can't. The boss man's pointing and talking. They're carrying the pots up the hill. My! but those pots must be heavy. Now they're carrying picks and shovels up the hill."
"Where are they placing the pots?"
"Close by the foot of the giant oak that the boss man chipped bark off of when he was there before. Now they're digging, taking turns at the job."
"Time is passing faster. Tell me what is finally done with the pots."
"You're mighty impatient! Why don't you let me take my time to see and tell you about the whole job?"
"We don't care about all the details. We just want to know what was finally done with the pots."
"Well, they've dug a hole about as deep as a man is tall. It's about the size of a grave, except it's wider and rounder. They've hunted up a lot of flat stones and paved the bottom of the hole, and set the pots on the stones, and then covered the pots with more stones. They're filling the hole with the earth taken from it, carefully smoothing over the top, and spreading leaves over the fresh earth."
"Tell me everything they do."
"All of the men have gone back to the wagons, except the boss man. He's cutting a larger place in the side of the tree, a marker I reckon. Well, what a fool! The boss man pulled something like flour out of his pocket and threw it on the freshly cut place. Now the boss man is making some marks on a paper, looks like a sort of diagram. He's done and is joining the other fellows, who had moved down the trail. Now they're on their way back down the creek, the way they came."
"Time is passing faster. Tell me when they stop anywhere."
"They've reached the tavern, and the boss man is talking to the tavern keeper. He seems to be welcomed. The horses are being unhitched."
"Time is passing faster now. Tell me what they do when they make their next move."
"Well, it is next morning, after breakfast. Seven of the men, with the five wagons and two of the saddle horses, are starting off east, along the well traveled road. The boss man and two of his pals, are remaining."
"Time is passing faster now. Watch the three men and tell me if they go anywhere near the buried treasure, or when they take their departure in any direction."
"The boss man and his two pals seem to be sticking around the neighborhood, riding around during the day, and occasionally entering into conversation with the villagers after supper."
"Time is hurrying along. Jump over everything until the boss man, as you term him, or one of his associates, makes a move to leave the tavern."
"It's now the end of about three weeks. The boss man is bidding the tavern keeper good bye. They are on their horses and are heading east."
"Well, that is enough for the present. You may be at rest. We may resume our travels some time later."
Thereupon the subject seemed let down. He resumed his former normal demeanor, diffident and uninterested in anything about him. He was thanked for his visit, and left Magnolia, going in the direction of his home.
My brother, Clayton, and I discussed the sťance, not believing anything that had transpired, and, still, wondering if there could be the possibility of some truth in what the subject had blurted forth.
Now, in conclusion:
Not being present at a later sťance, when Clayton attempted to get from the subject what had happened to Beale and his 29 associates, I can only state, in a few words, what Clayton told me about it: That, when gazing into the same crystal ball, he asked the subject to follow the party of 10 west, after their second trip to the States, and have them join the 20 left behind to continue searching for gold and silver, and keep with the entire party until, either they returned to their homes or were no more the subject, in a most realistic but shocked manner, detailed their being set upon by Indians, as they were preparing to leave their operations, when all were killed and scalped.
And thus endeth a weird and almost unbelievable story.