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The Secrets of Oak Island

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Author Topic: The Secrets of Oak Island  (Read 186 times)
Christiana Hanaman
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« on: June 02, 2012, 12:36:52 am »

Secrets Revealed
Assuming the “shaft” is a natural phenomenon, there still remains the other major piece of the Oak Island puzzle: How do we explain the presence of such cryptic elements as the cipher stone allegedly discovered in the pit in 1803, a large equilateral triangle (made of beach stones and measuring ten feet on each side) found in 1897, or a megalithic cross which Fred Nolan discovered on the south shore in 1981? (See figure 1; Finnan 1997, 36, 68-69, 79-82.)

By the early 1980s I had become aware of parallels between Oak Island's Money Pit and the arcana of the Freemasons. Theirs is not, they insist, a “secret society” but a “society with secrets." Carried to North America in the eighteenth century, Masonry has been defined as “a peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols” (Masonic Bible 1964, 26). One of the essential elements of any true Masonic group is “a legend or allegory relating to the building of King Solomon's Temple" ("Freemasonry” 1978). And an allegory of the Secret Vault, based on Solomon's fabled depository of certain great secrets, is elaborated in the seventh or Royal Arch degree. Among the ruins of the temple, three sojourners discover the subterranean chamber wherein are found three trying-squares and a chest, identified as the Ark of the Covenant (Masonic 1964, 12, 37, 63; Lester 1977, 150; Duncan 1972).

No doubt many readers have encountered Secret Vault symbolism-which pertains to lost secrets, buried treasure, and the grave (Macoy 1908, 445; Revised 1975, 64 n.22)-without recognizing it as such. For example, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a Freemason, not only employed Masonic allusions in several of his Sherlock Holmes stories (Bunson 1994, 84) but penned three that evoke Masonry's hidden vault itself. For instance, Holmes uncovers dark secrets in “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place.” Beneath an old chapel on the Shoscombe property, accessed by stumbling through “loose masonry” (an obvious pun) and proceeding down a steep stairway, Holmes finds himself in a crypt with an “arched . . . roof" (evoking the Royal Arch degree of Masonry). Accompanied by his client-a “Mr. Mason"!-Holmes finds the key to a series of strange mysteries. Similarly allusive Holmes stories are “The Red-Headed League” (featuring a client who sports a Masonic breastpin), and the suggestively titled “The Musgrave Ritual.”

In addition to the Sherlockian Secret Vault allegories there are several examples of the genre that many people have taken at face value, believing them true accounts. One, for example, is the tale of Swift's Lost Silver Mine of eastern Kentucky. In his alleged journal, one “Jonathan Swift” explored the region prior to Daniel Boone, marking a tree with “the symbols of a compasses, trowel and square"-Masonic emblems-and discovering and mining silver (which geologists doubt exists in the region). Leaving to seek backers, Swift says he stored the treasure in a cave and “walled it up with masonry form.” Later he became blind and unable to find his fabled treasure (although still capable of writing in his journal!). This evokes Masonic ritual wherein a candidate must enter the lodge in complete blindness (i.e. blindfolded) to begin his quest for enlightenment (Nickell 1980).

Another such lost-treasure story is found in the purported Beale Papers which tell a tale of adventure, unsolved ciphers, and fabulous treasure. This was “deposited” in a stone-lined “vault" (using language from the Select Masters' degree) in Virginia. The papers were published by a Freemason (Nickell 1982b).

Then there is the “restless coffins” enigma of the Chase Vault of Barbados. According to proliferating but historically dubious accounts, each time the vault was opened, between 1812 and 1820, the coffins were discovered in a state of confusion. After they were reordered the vault was closed by “masons.” Yet the coffins would again be found in disarray. At least two of the men involved were high-ranking Freemasons. In 1943 another restless-coffins case occurred on the island, this time specifically involving a party of Freemasons and the vault being that of the founder of Freemasonry in Barbados! (Nickell 1982a)

It now appears that another such tale is the legend of Oak Island, where again we find unmistakable evidence of Masonic involvement. There are, of course, the parallels between the Money Pit story and the Masonic Secret Vault allegory. The “strange markings” reportedly carved on the oak adjacent to the Pit suggest Masons' Marks, inscribed signs by which Masons are distinguished (Waite 1970, xx; Hunter 1996, 58). The three alleged discoverers of the Pit would seem to represent the Three Worthy Sojourners (with Daniel McInnis representing the Principal Sojourner), who discover the Secret Vault in the Royal Arch degree (Duncan 1972, 261). In that ritual the candidate is lowered on a rope through a succession of trap doors, not unlike the workmen who were on occasion hauled up and down the (allegedly platform-intersected) Oak Island shaft. The tools used by the latter-notably spades, pickaxes, and crowbar (O'Connor 1988, 2; Harris 1958, 15)-represent the three Working Tools of the Royal Arch Mason (Duncan 1972, 241). Indeed, when in 1803 workers probed the bottom of the Pit with a crowbar and struck what they thought was a treasure chest, their actions recall the Royal Arch degree in which the Secret Vault is located by a sounding blow from a crowbar (Duncan 1972, 263). The parallels go on and on. For example, the soft stone, charcoal, and clay found in the Pit (Crooker 1978, 24, 49) are consistent with the Chalk, Charcoal and Clay cited in the Masonic degree of Entered Apprentice as symbolizing the virtues of “freedom, fervency and zeal” (Lester 1977, 60; Hunter 1996, 37).

Then there are the artifacts. Of course many of these-like the old branding iron found in the swamp (Crooker 1993, 175, 176)-are probably nothing more than relics of the early settlers. Some are actually suspicious, like the links of gold chain found in the Pit in 1849. One account holds that they were planted by workers to inspire continued operations (O'Connor 1988, 177-178).

Other artifacts are more suggestive, like the cipher stone (again see figure 1) which disappeared about 1919. Its text has allegedly been preserved, albeit in various forms and decipherments (Rosenbaum 1973, 83). For instance zoologist-turned-epigrapher Barry Fell thought the inscription was ancient Coptic, its message urging people to remember God lest they perish (Finnan 1997, 148-149). In fact, the text as we have it has been correctly deciphered (and redeciphered by several investigators, me included). Written in what is known as a simple-substitution cipher, it reads, “Forty Feet Below Two Million Pounds Are Buried" (Crooker 1993, 23). Most Oak Island researchers consider the text a hoax (O'Connor 1988, 14), but as Crooker (1993, 24) observes, an inscribed stone did exist, “having been mentioned in all the early accounts of the Onslow company's expedition.” Significantly, a cipher message (with key), found in the Secret Vault, is a central aspect of Freemasonry's Royal Arch degree (Duncan 1972, 248-249).
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