9 historical figures connected to the Oak Island mystery
The tenth season of The Curse of Oak Island premiers on Sky HISTORY on Wednesday, 4 January. Since it began in 2014, it’s showcased a veritable Madam Tussauds (more on her later) of famous historical figures who might be involved in the legend of the island’s fabled treasure.
And in case you’ve stumbled onto this page without any idea of what the angle is, here’s a quick synopsis.
Oak Island lies on the southern shore of the Atlantic coast in Nova Scotia, Canada, and many believe that here are untold riches buried beneath the surface. While these treasures remain elusive, a succession of fascinating artefacts have been located, incentivizing the Lagina brothers and their fellow treasure hunters and adding even more layers of intrigue to the mystery.
But there is something else at play here as well. A curse, inspired by a legend that claims seven men will need to die searching for the treasure before it’s found. Six have officially lost their lives so far.
Along the way, some of the most famous people in history have been associated with Oak Island. Let’s check out nine of them, in chronological order, and discover why they have connections to this most infamous of islands.
1. Sir Francis Drake
Known for circumnavigating the world between 1577 to 1580 in a single expedition, this famous Elizabethan was also a controversial figure. While there is no record of Sir Francis Drake ever having stepped foot on Oak Island, there are rumours that he has a connection.
Some believe he stopped by and hid a fortune of his own treasure to prevent it from falling back into the hands of the Spanish, the very people who had branded him a pirate and nicknamed him ‘El Draque’ (the Dragon).
2. William Shakespeare
A bit of an odd one, because it relies on a theory that there are hidden messages scattered throughout William Shakespeare’s work. These alleged cyphers allude to the possibility of a map that leads to treasure or even a lost manuscript, in the Nova Scotia region.
However, it’s worth noting that the code may just be spelling anomalies. Dr. Samuel Johnson didn’t invent the formal English dictionary until some 140 years after Shakespeare penned his last sonnet.
3. Sir Francis Bacon
Somewhat negating the former theory, or possibly sidling alongside side it, was the belief that Sir Francis Bacon wrote some of Shakespeare’s plays with Ben Johnson. Bacon’s opinion that scientific knowledge must come from the observation of nature - leading to experiments with mercury - rather than the doctrines of the church made him both friends and enemies.
The theory that other manuscripts by Bacon may be hidden on Oak Island gained some momentum when a bunch of empty, possibly Elizabethan, flasks containing traces of mercury were discovered on the island in 1937.
4. Captain Kidd
The whole Oak Island mystery pretty much began with Captain Kidd, a former Scottish Sea Captain turned notorious pirate, who buried some of his treasure on Gardiner's Island, located to the east of New York. Before he was hanged (twice, the rope snapped on the first go) in 1701, the Gardiner haul was successfully recovered, but Kidd insisted there was even more buried treasure to be discovered.
In 1865, Professor James Liechti deciphered the symbols on a mysterious stone. Discovered by amateur architects in 1795 some 90 feet under the earth, the stone purportedly read, ‘Forty feet below two million pounds are buried’.
Edward Teach, an English pirate better known as Blackbeard, boasted of buried treasure hidden ‘where none but Satan and myself can find it’. While he never made any mention of Oak Island himself, the quote is rumoured to be connected to the mysterious Money Pit.
Blackbeard was finally killed by a Royal Navy Lieutenant (later promoted to Officer) Robert Maynard in North Carolina before having his head stuck on the bowsprit of Maynard’s ship, H.M.S. Pearl.
6. Marie Antoinette
If the Blackbeard connection to Oak Island is spurious, Marie Antoinette’s association is even vaguer. The claim that Antionette’s chambermaid buried her former mistress’ jewels on the island after Marie and her husband, Louis XVI, failed to escape from the French Revolution’s guillotine is without provenance.
Speaking of the guillotine, a certain Madame Tussaud cast Marie Antoinette’s head in wax, shortly after it had been detached from the rest of the body.
7. Franklin Roosevelt
Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd Jr., Antarctic Explorer and friend of Franklin Roosevelt, inspired the 32nd president of the USA to invest in the search for treasure on Oak Island.
Rumours of wealth hidden on the island were already floating around the family thanks, in part, to Roosevelt’s grandfather, Warren Delano Jr., a merchant seaman who had made a fortune smuggling opium.
8. Errol Flynn
As famous for his personal life as his dashing good looks and swashbuckling escapades, the quintessential Robin Hood had a fascination for treasure hunting. He once lost the equivalent of $200,000 financing an expedition to find treasure in Alaska. He successfully located what he believed to be a sunken pirate cannon in the Caribbean and paid the equivalent of $40,000 to have it salvaged in the hope it was stuffed full of treasure. It wasn’t.
Flynn also attempted to buy into a Canadian syndicate hunting for what they believed was Captain Kidd’s buried treasure on Oak Island. Unfortunately for the notorious actor, the syndicate didn’t want to sell, and Flynn died broke aged 50.
9. John Wayne
Actor John Wayne, real name Marion Robert Morrison, was renowned for his tough-guy image in predominantly war and western movies during Hollywood’s Golden Age. But he was also part owner of the Statesman Mining Company.
In 1970, they leased a piece of drilling and digging equipment to the Triton Alliance Company to help look for the buried treasure on Oak Island. Even with the assistance of Wayne’s equipment, the company in question didn’t find anything of significance.