Video games and old movies give us the impression that the whole world is filled with treasure chests, tombs full of bling, and random pockets of riches here and there just waiting to be picked up, but that's ridiculous -- only some parts of the world are like that. That's right -- lost treasures do exist. And plenty of them.
However, if gold coins were as easy to get as Mario makes it look, someone would have done it already. That's why awesome finds like the following are still unclaimed after centuries ... or at least they were, before we posted this article.
#6. The Sunken Spanish Treasure Fleet (Florida, USA)
Florida gets a bad rep, what with all the heat, humidity, and overall Floridaness of the place. However, there's one advantage to living there besides scoring with hot widows: a certain stretch known as Treasure Coast, because treasures literally wash up on the coast from time to time. Just last September, a family found $300,000 worth of gold about 150 yards offshore.
"And they called us crazy after the first 12 years of random, fruitless searching!"
The best part is that there's way more where that came from ... although the 1,000 Spanish sailors who had to drown for that treasure to get there probably don't see it that way. In 1712, Spain had just finished its War of Succession, which meant they were kind of light on funds. Luckily, they had yet to loot all the riches from their colonies in the New World, so in 1715, they assembled 11 galleon- and galley-class ships containing pearls, emeralds, gold, and silver to transport wealth from Cuba to Spain. It was one of the biggest treasure fleets ever.
And then it wasn't.
Florida Maritime Heritage Trail
But you can still go visit it. It's wonderfully well-preserved.
The commanding officer had the stunningly stupid idea of waiting until hurricane season before setting sail for Spain, with the results you can see above. Seven days and thousands of dead sailors later, the fleet had been sunk. To this day, golden goblets and silver plates wash up on Treasure Coast beaches, most of which probably end up being deep fried by retirees with poor eyesight.
The most intriguing part, though, is that of the 11 treasure-filled ships, four haven't been located. One of them, the refreshing-sounding San Miguel, was lighter than the others, just in case they were hit by a storm, so it's suspected to have survived the carnage and ended up further north -- which is important, because some estimate that the San Miguel alone could have been carrying as much as $2 billion. So, it might be time to take an early retirement, head to Florida, and start hanging out by the beach, just in case a fully intact Spanish ship washes up in front of you.
#5. The Treasure Map in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Israel)
The Dead Sea Scrolls are considered the greatest historical discovery of the past century due to their tremendous value to religion, linguistics, and the important discipline of how to hide shit so well that no one will find it for 2,000 years. But, more to the point, the scrolls could also be of tremendous value to you, because one of them actually consists of instructions for how to get rich.
And it can be yours for the low price of ... nothing. Because this isn't a scam.
Six years after two random nobodies stumbled upon the first Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran, archaeologists found a strange oxidized copper scroll that was broken into two halves, almost like a treasure map waiting to be assembled. Or exactly like a treasure map waiting to be assembled, because it turned out that the scroll contained a list of 64 locations around Israel where gold and silver were hidden, with an estimated value of $1.2 billion. For instance:
"Item 3. In the funeral shrine, in the third row of stones: 100 gold ingots."
Well, shit, that's 100 more gold ingots that we've ever seen, let's go get that! There's just one problem: No one knows what freaking funeral shrine they're talking about, because the instructions just sort of assume that you'll be familiar with fourth century B.C. Israel. It can get pretty maddening:
"Item 5: In the ascent of the 'staircase of refuge,' to the left-hand side, three cubits up from the floor are 40 talents of silver."
"No, that's the 'staircase of kindness,' you fucking moron."
Did we say "one problem"? Because there are actually several: Most of it is in ancient Hebrew, a language we know mostly through religious texts, meaning that the Copper Scroll uses words linguists haven't seen before. Also, there are even older Hebrew words and some random Greek ones thrown in for some reason. As a result, some translations look like this:
"Item 32: In the cave that is next to ????? and belonging to the House of Hakkoz, dig six cubits. Within are six ingots of gold."
However, none of this explains why no one is taking a sledgehammer to every shrine, staircase, and house in Israel to see if ... be right back, gonna go get rich.
#4. Forrest Fenn's Million-Dollar Buried Treasure (Rocky Mountains, USA)
In 1988, art dealer/collector Forrest Fenn was diagnosed with kidney cancer and given about a year to live. Instead of starting a meth lab in his RV, Fenn chose a more altruistic path: He decided to give away the gems of his collection, by which we mean literal gems, plus gold nuggets, Chinese jade carvings, and pre-Columbian riches. All in all, he was alleviating himself of between $1 and $3 million.
Not a Pirates of the Caribbean prop. That's the actual thing.
But, since simply giving all that stuff to a children's hospital or something would have been too boring, Fenn threw everything in a chest and buried it somewhere in the mountains ... and whoever finds it gets to keep it. So, uh, hopefully no aspiring supervillains are reading this article.
By the time Fenn got around to burying the chest, 20 years had passed, and his doctor's prognosis had proven to be slightly off. Good for him -- now how do we find this thing? Easy! Just follow the instructions found in Fenn's memoirs, The Thrill of the Chase, which are in the form of a cryptic poem straight out of a Sierra game. It reads, in part:
Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.
On his website, Fenn continues to release more clues for the thousands of avid treasure hunters who follow him, such as "The treasure is not in an outhouse" (people surnamed Brown were getting pissed) or "The treasure is not in a graveyard" (dead people, too). His second book, Too Far to Walk, even included a pullout map that narrows it down to "the Rocky Mountains":
"It's a place with dirt, and air. Can't miss it."
The ambiguity of his clues mixed with a lack of successful searching has led some to wonder if the treasure really exists, or if it's just a scam to become a famous author (but not a rich one, since the book profits go to charity). The third option is that Fenn was just trying to give people the greatest treasure of all: the thrill of an adventure. Which is nice and all, but how are we supposed to buy cocaine with that?