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. Report had it that these boxes were filled with money, but if well or ill procured none could say, unless it were 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 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.
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.
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 1840’s. 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.