Tales of Ghostly Lost Treasure



Follingsby’s Pond, in the Adirondacks, was named for a recluse, who, in the early part of this century, occupied a lonely but strongly guarded cabin there. It was believed afterward that he was an English army officer, of noble birth, who had left his own country in disgust at having discovered an attachment between his wife and one of his fellow officers. He died in a fever, and while raving in a delirium spoke of a concealed chest. A trapper, who was his only attendant in his last moments, dug over the ground floor of the hut and found a box containing a jeweled sword, costly trinkets, and letters that bore out the presumption of Follingsby’s aristocratic origin. What became of these valuables after their exhumation is not known, and the existence of more has been suspected.

Coney Island, New York is declared to have been used by a band of pirates as the first national sandbank, and, as these rascals were caught and swung off with short shrift, they do say that the plunder is still to be had — by the man who finds it. But the hotel-keepers and three-card-monte men are not waiting for that discovery to grow rich.

In Shandaken Valley, in the Catskills of New York, it was affirmed that a party of British officers buried money somewhere, when they were beset by the farmers and hunters of that region, and never got it out of the earth again.

On Tea Island, Lake George, New York, the buried treasures of Lord Abercrombie have remained successfully hidden until this day.

The oldest house at Fort Neck, Long Island, New York was known for years as the haunted house, and the grave of its owner — Captain Jones — was called the pirate’s grave, for, in the last century, Jones was accused of piracy and smuggling, and there have been those who suspected worse. A hope of finding gold and silver about the premises has been yearly growing fainter. Just before the death of Jones, which occurred here in an orderly manner, a crow, so big that everybody believed it to be a demon, flew in at the window and hovered over the bed of the dying man until he had drawn his last breath, when, with a triumphant cry, it flew through the west end of the house. The hole that it broke through the masonry could never be stopped, for, no matter how often it was repaired, the stone and cement fell out again, and the wind came through with such a chill and such shrieks that the house had to be abandoned.

The owner of an estate on Lloyd’s Neck, Long Island, had more wealth than he thought it was safe or easy to transport when he found the colonies rising against Britain in 1775, and flight was imperative, for he was known by his neighbors to be a Tory. Massing his plate, coin, and other movables into three barrels, he ordered his three slaves to bury them in pits that they had dug beneath his house. Then, as they were shoveling back the earth, he shot them dead, all three, and buried them, one on each barrel. His motive for the crime may have been a fear that the slaves would aid the Americans in the approaching struggle, or that they might return and dig up the wealth or reveal the hiding-place to the enemies of the king. Then he made his escape to Nova Scotia, though he might as well have stayed at home, for the British possessed themselves of Long Island, and his house became a place of resort for red-coats and loyalists. It was after the turn of the century when a boat put in, one evening, at Cold Spring Bay, and the next morning the inhabitants found footprints leading to and from a spot where some children had discovered a knotted rope projecting from the soil. Something had been removed, for the mould of a large box was visible at the bottom of a pit. Acres of the neighborhood were then dug over by treasure hunters, who found a box of cob dollars and a number of casks. The contents of the latter, though rich and old, were not solid, and when diffused through the systems of several Long Islanders imparted to them a spirituous and patriotic glow — for in thus destroying the secreted stores of a royalist were they not asserting the triumph of democratic principles?

The clay bluffs at Pottery Beach, Brooklyn, New York were pierced with artificial caves where lawless men found shelter in the unsettled first years of the republic. A wreck lay rotting here for many years, and it was said to be the skeleton of a ship that these fellows had beached by false beacons. She had costly freight aboard, and on the morning after she went ashore crew and freight had vanished. It was believed that much of the plunder was buried in the clay near the water’s edge. In the early colonial days, Grand Island, in Niagara River, was the home of a Frenchman, Clairieux, an exile or refugee who was attended by a negro servant. During one summer a sloop visited the island frequently, laden on each trip with chests that never were taken away in the sight of men, and that are now supposed to be buried near the site of the Frenchman’s cabin. The report had it that these boxes were filled with money, but if well or ill procured none could say, unless it was the Frenchman, and he had no remarks to offer on the subject. In the fall, after these visits of the sloop, Clairieux disappeared, and when some hunters landed on the island they found that his cabin had been burned and that a large skeleton, evidently that of the black man, was chained to the earth in the center of the place where the house had stood. The slave had been killed, it was surmised, that his spirit might watch the hoard and drive away intruders; but the Frenchman met his fate elsewhere, and his secret, like that of many another miser, perished with him. In 1888, when a northeast gale had blown back the water of the river, a farmer living on the island discovered, just under the surface, a stone foundation built in a circular form, as if it had once supported a tower. In the mud within this circle, he found a number of French gold and silver coins, one of them minted in 1537. Close by, other coins of later date were found, and a systematic examination of the whole channel has been proposed, as it was also said that two French frigates, scuttled to keep them out of the hands of the English, lie bedded in sand below the island, one of them with a naval paymaster’s chest on board.

Oneida Lake, New York

Oneida Lake, New York

On the shore of Oneida Lake, New York is an Indian’s grave, where a ball of light is wont to swing and dance. A farmer named Belknap dreamed several times of a buried treasure at this point, and he was told, in his vision, that if he would dig there at midnight he could make it his own. He made the attempt, and his pick struck a crock that gave a chink, as of gold. He should, at that moment, have turned around three times, as his dream directed, but he was so excited that he forgot to. A flash of lightning rent the air and stretched him senseless on the grass. When he recovered the crock was gone, the hole filled in, and ever since then, the light has hovered about the place. Some say that this is but the will-o’-the-wisp: the soul of a bad fellow who is doomed to wander in desolate regions because, after dying, Peter would not allow him to enter heaven, and the devil would not let him go into the other place, lest he should make the little devils unmanageable; but he is allowed to carry a light in his wanderings.

In Indian Gap, near Wernersville, Pennsylvania, the Doane band of Tories and terrorists hid a chest of gold, the proceeds of many robberies. It is guarded by witches, and, although it has been seen, no one has been able to lay hands on it. The seekers are always blinded by blue flame and frightened away by roaring noises. The Dutch farmers of the vicinity are going to dig for it, all the same, for it is said that the watch of evil spirits will be given over at midnight, but they do not know of what date. They will be on hand at the spot revealed to them through the vision of a “hex layer” (a vision that cost them 50  cents), until the night arrives when there are no blue flames.

In the southern part of Chester County, Pennsylvania, is money, too, but just where nobody knows. A lonely, crabbed man, who died there in a poor hut after the American Revolution, owned that he had served the British as a spy, but said that he had spent none of the gold that he had taken from them. He was either too sorry for his deeds, or too mean to do so. He had put it in a crock and buried it, and, on his death-bed, where he made his statement, he asked that it might be exhumed and spent for some good purpose. He was about to tell where it was when the death-rattle choked his words.

The Isle of the Yellow Sands, in Lake Superior, was supposed by Indians to be made of the dust of gold, but it was protected by vultures that beat back those who approached, or tore them to pieces if they insisted on landing. An Indian girl who stole away from her camp to procure a quantity of this treasure was pursued by her lover, who, frightened at the risk she was about to run from the vultures, stopped her flight by staving in the side of her canoe, so that she was compelled to take refuge in his, and he rowed home with her before the birds had come to the attack.

Treasure Hunter T-Shirt

Treasure Hunter T-Shirt

Old Francois Fontenoy, an Indian trader, buried a brass kettle full of gold at Presque Isle, near Detroit, Michigan that is still in the earth.

On the banks of the Cumberland River, in Tennessee, is a height where a searcher for gold was seized by invisible defenders and hurled to the bottom of the cliff, receiving mortal injuries.

The Spaniards were said to have entombed $300,000 in gold near Natchez, Mississippi. A man to whom the secret had descended offered to reveal it, but, as he was a prisoner, his offer was laughed at. Afterward, an empty vault was found where he said it would be. Somebody had accidentally opened it and had removed the treasure.

Caverns have frequently been used as hiding-places for things of more or less value — generally less. Saltpetre Cave, in Georgia, for instance, was a factory and magazine for saltpeter, gunpowder, and other military stores during the Civil War. The Northern soldiers wrecked the potash works and broke away tons of rock, so as to make it dangerous to return. Human bones have been found here, too, but they are thought to be those of soldiers that entered the cave in pursuit of an Indian chief who had defied the State in the 1840s. He escaped through a hole in the roof, doubled on his pursuers, fired a pile of dead leaves and wood at the mouth, and suffocated the white men with the smoke.

Spaniards worked the mines in the Ozark Hills of Missouri in the late 17th century. One of the mines containing lead and silver, 18 miles southwest of Galena, was worked by seven men, who could not agree as to a division of the yield. One by one they were killed in quarrels until but a single man was left, and he, in turn, was set upon by the resurrected victims and choked to death by their cold fingers.

In 1873 a Vermonter named Johnson went there and said he would find what it was the Spaniards had been hiding, in spite of the devil and his imps. He did work there for one day and was then found dead at the mouth of the old shaft with marks of bony fingers on his throat.

The seven cities of Cibola, that Coronado and other Spanish adventurers sought in the vast deserts of the Southwest, were pueblos. A treacherous guide who had hoped to take Coronado into the waterless plain and lose him, but who first lost his own head, had told him a tale of the Quivira, a tribe that had much gold. So far from having gold these Indians did not know the stuff, but the myth that they had hoarded quantities of it survived and caused the waste of lives and money. Towns in New Mexico that have lain in ruins since 1670, when the Apache butchered their people — towns that were well built and were lorded by solid old churches and monasteries erected by the Spanish missionaries — these towns have often been dug over, and the ruinous state of Abo, Curari, and Tabira is due, in part, to their foolish tunneling and blasting.

Spanish Galleon

Spanish Galleon

A Spanish ship, one day in 1841, put in for water off the spot where Columbia City, Oregon, now stands. She had a rough crew on board, and it had been necessary for her officers to watch the men closely from the time the latter discovered that she was carrying a costly cargo. Hardly had the anchor chains run out before the sailors fell upon the captain, killed him, seized all of value that they could gather, and took it to the shore. What happened after is not clear, but it is probable that in a quarrel, arising over the demands of each man to have most of the plunder, several of the claimants were slain. Indians were troublesome, likewise, so that it was thought best to put most of the goods into the ground, and this was done on the tract known as Hez Copier’s farm. Hardly was the task completed before the Indians appeared in large numbers and set up their tepees, showing that they meant to remain. The mutineers rowed back to the ship, and, after vainly waiting for several days for a chance to go on shore again, they sailed away. Two years of wandering, fighting, and carousal ensued before the remnant of the crew returned to Oregon. The Indians were gone, and an earnest search was made for the money — but in vain. It was as if the ground had never been disturbed. The man who had supervised its burial was present until the mutineers went back to their boats when it was discovered that he was mysteriously missing.

More than 40 years after these events a meeting of Spiritualists was held in Columbia City, and a “medium” announced that she had received a revelation of the exact spot where the goods had been concealed. A company went to the place, and, after a search of several days, found, under a foot of soil, a quantity of broken stone. While throwing out these fragments one of the party fell dead. The spirit of the defrauded and murdered captain had claimed him, the medium explained. So great was the fright caused by this accident that the search was again abandoned until March, 1890, when another party resumed the digging, and after taking out the remainder of the stone they came on a number of human skeletons. During the examination of these relics — possibly the bones of mutineers who had been killed in the fight onshore — a man fell into a fit of raving madness, and again the search was abandoned, for it is now said that an immutable curse rests on the treasure.


Charles M. Skinner, 1896. Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated February 2020.

About the Author:  Charles M. Skinner (1852-1907) authored the complete nine-volume set of Myths and Legends of Our Own Land in 1896. This tale is excerpted from these excellent works, which are now in the public domain.

Also See:

Folklore & Superstition

Ghosts, Legends, Myths, & Mysteries

Ghost Stories

Treasure Tales