How many of you used to love stories about buried treasure when you were kids? Well, those stories got started for a reason: There is lost treasure all over the place. Entire fortunes lost, the only people who knew their locations long dead.
Seriously, you could go out and find some of this stuff today, and be rolling in gold coins by the end of the week. The problem is finding it...
#5. The Gold at the Bottom of Lake Guatavita
Lake Guatavita was a holy site for the native people of Colombia a few centuries ago. Every year, the chief of the ruling tribe would cover himself in gold dust, get on a boat, and throw gold and gems into the lake as a sacrifice to his god, presumably because no one else could find anything better to do with their national budget.
"What do you mean 'put it in a bank,' Terry? Banks get robbed. Lakes never do."
Evidently disheartened by the low annual percentage yield earned by storing their money in a body of water, the natives had ended this practice long before the Spanish invaders arrived. But when the disease-carrying Europeans heard about the legend of the golden man (El Dorado in Spanish), they busted a 16th century nut all over Central America. After years of searching for the source of the legend, the conquistadors finally arrived at Lake Guatavita and learned its history.
Its sexy, sexy history.
The problem was, all the gold that had been thrown overboard over the years was now sitting beneath a shitload of water, and submarines were still a good 300 years from being perfected. So the Spanish graciously admitted defeat and moved forward with their conquering, a phrase which here means "they decided to drain the fucking lake." The first attempt occurred in 1545 when Hernan Perez de Quesada put a chain of slave laborers to work for three months, emptying out the water a bucket at a time.
"While you're at it, try to fill this with gold and/or blood."
They managed to lower the water level by 10-feet and recover 40-pounds of gold. Forty years later, a rich Spanish merchant decided to pull out the big guns and cut a fucking hole in the high cliff surrounding the lake, draining it 66-feet and drowning hundreds of people living in a nearby village in the process.
"Did you guys hear the news? I'm totally rich!"
Finally, in 1911, an American company managed to drain the entire lake, because if there's one thing America is good at, it is the total destruction of a natural resource. Sadly, the mud on the bottom of the lake proceeded to immediately harden, trapping any gold that might be left under its thick, impenetrable crust.
"Awesome! So how do I get it?"
It's full of water again these days, the gold presumably still glittering away in the mud. But before you go heading off to Colombia with your rowboat, some rope and a bucket, know that no one has ever been able to find the bulk of treasure and the Colombian government has disallowed any more draining attempts.
Question: Would, say, dumping several million pounds of Jell-O powder into the lake, thus solidifying it and allowing us to eat our way down to the gold constitute "draining"? If you're an attorney, let us know in the comments.
#4. Captain Kidd's Treasure
Depending on what version you read, Captain Kidd was either a law abiding privateer or a stabtastically murderous pirate. Either way, he was arrested, tried for murder and piracy, and sentenced to hang.
But not before meeting Abbot and Costello.
In an attempt to delay his execution, Kidd claimed to have a huge stash of buried treasure, some of which was immediately found per his directions (Ted Bundy would later try a similar tactic to avoid execution, only replacing "stash of buried treasure" with "stash of buried women"). This essentially proved he was telling the truth, but the authorities hung him anyway, dipped his body in tar and dangled his corpse above the Thames River. It's still there today!
OK, not really. It was only up there for... two years. Anyway, today, people are still searching for the rest of Kidd's fabled loot.
"Awesome! So how do I get it?"
Well, first it would help to have a treasure map--the booty could be scattered pretty much any damned where. For instance, in 2007, a 300-year-old merchant ship that had apparently been commandeered by the Kidd back in the day was discovered right off the coast of the Dominican Republic. It was hidden under a mere 10-feet of crystal clear water, still loaded down with gold and silver and other valuables.
Pictured: Other valuables.
But you also should learn from the mistakes of previous attempts. For instance, back in the early 1980s, an out of work actor named Richard Knight, claiming to have a map of Kidd's verified by the British Museum, set off with an unemployed photographer named Cork Graham on a daring adventure.
Clearly ancient parchment and not a Chick-Fil-A napkin.
And by that we meant they went to Thailand and rented a speedboat. After bumbling around for a week in what we expect was a hilarious buddy-comedy type way, they accidentally landed in Vietnam. Authorities arrested the men for being in the country illegally and tried to ransom them off for $10,000 each. Unsurprisingly, no one wanted to pony up 10-Gs for a couple of jobless retards, so they wound up spending 44 weeks in Vietnamese jail. We blame the map.
Still, you should totally get your boat and head out there. Vietnamese jails aren't that bad, right? They've surely fixed them up since Rambo.
#3. Montezuma's Gold
When the Spanish conquistadors led by Hernan Cortes arrived in Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire, they were greeted as returning gods because they were pale and had beards. If only it was that easy to impress people these days.
This guy would be king.
Despite their impeccable references, the Spanish turned out to not actually be gods at all. They installed themselves in the palace, forced their religion on the natives, led a brutal slaughter of 700 noblemen in the streets of Tenochtitlan and melted down all their golden statues to be transported back to Spain. Then they killed Montezuma, the king of the Aztec Empire, at which point the Aztec people decided they'd had entirely enough of these strange new douchebags, beards be damned.
The Spanish realized pretty quickly they needed to fight their way out of the city, so they could only pause to grab whatever they absolutely needed to survive, which roughly translated to "all the fucking gold we can possibly carry."
"My only regret is that there are so few pockets on our armor."
Gold weighs a shitload, and these soldiers who were already weighed down by armor took as much as 50-pounds of it each as they tried to flee. Did we mention Tenochtitlan was an island in the middle of a swamp? And that all bridges to get out had been removed?
In one night over half of Cortes's men were killed, mostly due to drowning in the swamp under the weight of all the bullshit they were carrying. It is a night known in Spanish as "Noche Triste," which in English means "just leave the fucking gold behind, you dick brained asstards."
"Just leave it!"
"Awesome! So how do I get it?"
These days, trained archeologists do find some of that gold from time to time, but all the real authorities know that the rest of the stolen Aztec treasure wound up in southern Utah. That's where the gold is actually buried, according to Freddy Crystal, a "miner and amateur treasure hunter" who believed that an old map he found proved the Aztec priests removed most of their gold--before Cortes arrived--and took it to Utah for reasons best described as "making the opposite of sense,"
Notice the lack of Utah on this map.
Freddy managed to round up hundreds of volunteers in the 1920s and worked for three years, digging into the side of a mountain in the desert heat. While several artifacts and other relics were recovered, Freddy didn't find one goddamn piece of gold, not even the chocolate kind 70-year-old ladies pass out on Halloween.