Famous Buried Treasures In The United States That Have Never Been Found

Maps, ciphers, millions of dollars worth of gems - who doesn't love a treasure hunt?

When we think of buried treasure, though, many of us might think of what's resting on the floor of the Pacific or Atlantic. Even so, there's good news for American, landlocked treasure hunters - there are many legends of great treasures that exist within our borders.

From Spanish conquistadors to victors of the Gold Rush, lost treasure is spread throughout the country. Which of these treasures do you think is worth hunting for?


  • The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine Allegedly Holds Cursed Gold

    A supposed “curse” can contain varying levels of truth. A curse may be mostly composed of ghost stories from long ago or have more tangible, trackable records, and the latter is true for the curse of the Lost Dutchman's Mine.

    First off, the Lost Dutchman's Mine is located in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona. The local Apache Native Americans gave mountains their name, as they believed the mountains were home to their Thunder God.

    Despite the Apache's warnings, Spanish conquistadors quickly began searching the mountains' grounds for gold in the mid 1500s. This was soon followed by the mysterious deaths of many members of their group - many of whom were later found beheaded or otherwise mutilated.

    While the Spanish conquistadors eventually gave up their search, in the 1700s, a Jesuit priest took up the treasure hunt. This angered the Apaches, who began attacking anyone who came near the sacred mountains.

    In the mid 1700s, the Peralta family received a land grant that included the Superstition Mountains. They were careful to only make a few trips to the mountains in fear of the Apaches, but they were successful in finding ore and gold. Much of this was lost, however, in an Apache ambush that killed most of the Peralta party. The area is still known as the “Massacre Grounds," with pieces of fallen gold still being found centuries later.

    However, the 20th century is when this supposed “curse” claimed a great many lives. At least 10 people in separate incidents died on - or shortly after being on - the Superstition Mountains.

  • The Beale Treasure’s Location Is Revealed In A Three-Page Cipher
    Photo: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Beale Treasure’s Location Is Revealed In A Three-Page Cipher

    Is there anything more mystifying than a treasure map? How about a treasure cipher? Yes, to find the Beale Treasure of central Virginia, you'll need to solve the 130-year-old, three-page cipher of Thomas J. Beale.

    Beale found great amounts of gold and silver in the Rocky Mountains and brought his treasure back to a cave in Virginia. Before leaving to head back west, Beale entrusted a box of incredibly important documents to an innkeeper named Robert Morriss. In this box was a letter detailing that Morriss had found gold, as well as three pages of seemingly random numbers. If the three riddles within these numbers are solved, they will disclose the location of Beale's treasure.

    Beale presumably died before he could return for his box, and Morriss eventually shared the cipher with a friend. The documents became public shortly after.

    While the second riddle, which details the treasure's contents, has been solved, no one has been able to solve the other two parts of the cipher.

    Some question whether or not this was all an elaborate hoax by Beale, or if not, if his treasure (now worth $90 million) is still out there, waiting to be found.

  • The Cahuenga Pass Treasure Is Rumored To Be Cursed
    Photo: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Cahuenga Pass Treasure Is Rumored To Be Cursed

    Back in the 1860s, California was not all sunshine and stars. There was a battle waged for power between the French, Mexicans, and American settlers.

    The president of Mexico, Benito Juarez, wanted to strengthen his claim, so he sent four agents to buy weapons - $200,000 worth of weapons (over $7 million in today's money); however, along the way, one of the agents mysteriously died. Then, as the remaining three approached San Francisco to make their purchase, they found it overrun by the French. To be cautious, they buried the bags of gems and gold and left, planning to return shortly.

    A local shepherd had been watching the men, however, and he dug up the treasure himself. Here begins the curse of the riches: The shepherd meant to take the jewels to Los Angeles, but just before arriving in the city, he dreamt about the horrors that would follow if he did.

    So, instead, the shepherd buried the treasure next to an ash tree. He went on to Los Angeles, only to get very sick and die shortly after. He did, though, tell his friend the location of the buried treasure before his death.

    The treasure's four original carriers eventually returned to collect it, only to find it gone. This resulted in a shoot-out, which only one member of the group survived.

    The shepherd's friend then went to find the treasure with his stepson, only to die from a heart attack as he started digging beneath the ash tree. The curse scared off the stepson for years, but he eventually chose to forego his doubts and planned to dig up the treasure. The day before leaving, he was killed in a shoot-out with his brother-in-law.

    Allegedly, only one bag of the treasure was ever found. The man who discovered it supposedly sewed the gems and jewels into his clothing so they wouldn't be stolen on his boat ride overseas. Unfortunately, the extra weight dragged him down when the ship wrecked, leading to his drowning.

  • The San Miguel Treasure Is Said To Be Worth At Least $2 Billion
    Photo: Dominic Serres / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The San Miguel Treasure Is Said To Be Worth At Least $2 Billion

    Billions of dollars of jewels, gold, and gems were loaded on a ship, only to be lost to the depths of the ocean after a destructive hurricane - a story that seems like the stuff of movies.

    This is actually the story of the San Miguel - the lead of a Spanish fleet of 11 ships. Their orders were to deliver 14 million pesos' worth of treasure from Cuba back to their homeland of Spain.

    The San Miguel - the fastest ship - was loaded up with more treasure than the others, as it had the best chance of surviving the trip. Because of this, it left a day before the other 10.

    Little did the fleet know that a massive hurricane was about to rain down on their voyage. The storm hit the 10 remaining ships hard, and they all capsized relatively close to one another. The Spanish tried to recover what they could, but roughly half of the ships' cargo was lost to the sea.

    The mystery of where the San Miguel ended up persists to this day. Neither the ship nor its crew were ever seen again, so it very likely also wrecked when it encountered the storm. Treasure hunters believe its hull likely sank close to Amelia Island off the Florida coast, as many small artifacts have been found near the island's coast.

    However, the majority of the $2 billion treasure has never been found, making it the Holy Grail for many American treasure hunters.

  • Conquistadors Supposedly Left Treasure Behind In The Old Spanish Treasure Cave

    When you hear “The Old Spanish Treasure Cave,” you might think of a tropical, mysterious location from a long-ago shipwreck.

    This cave, however, is actually very close to home for many people - it's located along the Missouri-Arkansas border.

    According to legend, roughly 400 years ago, Spanish conquistadors were moving north in the dead of winter. Along the way, they raided many Native American villages, accumulating a great amount of treasure. Then, in the middle of a brutal winter storm, the conquistadors took refuge in a large cave.

    Little did they know they were not alone. The Native Americans saw their campfire smoke coming out of a natural chimney at the top of the cave. The Native Americans attacked, leaving only one Spanish survivor.

    The survivor sealed all but one entrance and drew two maps - one on parchment, and one etched into a limestone rock. While the rock bearing the map was recovered, the treasure has yet to be found.

  • John S. Mosby’s Treasure Is Supposedly Made Up Of Gold, Silver, And Jewelry
    Photo: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    John S. Mosby’s Treasure Is Supposedly Made Up Of Gold, Silver, And Jewelry

    John S. Mosby may not be one of the most popular names associated with the American Civil War, but he's involved with one of the most fascinating treasure-related legends from that period.

    Mosby was a Confederate battalion commander known in Virginia for his guerrilla military tactics. In his biggest victory of the war, he and 29 of his men infiltrated the area surrounding the Fairfax County Courthouse in the middle of the night. The raid caught the Union officers completely off-guard, as they were 10 miles safe behind Union lines.

    Mosby took full advantage of this opportunity, capturing a general, 30 other Union soldiers, and nearly 60 horses (which were incredibly valuable during the war). Mosby also treated himself to many of the Union men's valuables, gathering quite a treasure for himself.

    As Mosby's men led their prisoners back into Confederate territory, however, they were tipped off about nearby Union troops. To protect his goods, Mosby fled and buried his treasure between two trees, marking the spot with an X.

    After the war, Mosby surprisingly switched sides. He chose to support Lincoln and even went on to serve on President Grant's administration.

    Mosby apparently never retrieved the treasure he pillaged; though he reportedly sent Confederate soldiers to dig it up, they were caught and killed by Union soldiers. To this day, the treasure has not been found.