Explore Oak Island Display  Chester Train Station, 20 Smith Road,
© Chester Municipal Heritage Society 2013
Articles and stories about the island and its treasure
Something to Chew On   By: Danny Hennigar    Over a period of over forty years my interest in Oak Island has garnered me hundreds of conversations and memories from many people some closely connected with the treasure hunt and the island’s amazing history and from those who have only had but a brush with it’s enigmatic past.   One of the most frequently reoccurring story types I hear are ghost stories and those who’s family would take credit for prolonging a particular treasure hunt by the “accidental” discovery of bits of gold or links of chain or some other device salted in the pit. One such gentleman approached me one time after I delivered a well received Oak Island presentation at a local historical society meeting.  The conversation began, “you know, my granddad worked on Oak Island back in the 1930s during the great depression.”   “Yessir, he worked for a crazy American and when he wasn’t looking, the men used to put little bits of gold down the hole so when it was discovered, it would egg on the treasure hunters and give the men enough work to get them through tough times.”  So often over the years I heard this story, I had to wonder, where the heck did depression era men get so much gold they could throw down a hole in hopes treasure hunters would find it and prolong a treasure hunt for a few more weeks worth of employment? I even had one middle aged man try and tell me his 80 year old grandfather told him was working in the Money Pit when they drilled into three boxes of treasure finding gold flecks on the drill bit, a story chronicled in Oak Island books and is from the mid 1880s. When a bit of simple math was employed, it was quickly determined his “grandfather  could not have to have been “the guy,” he was too young at the time, if he was born at all.  Lots  of confusion remains and very suspicious stories, all worth examining though.  Some time ago I interviewed a man who actually spent the summer of 1942 on Oak Island working the “deck” or the platform where the excavated debris and men exited the Heddon shaft on Oak Island. I asked him if he or his buddies ever told stories to the treasure hunters, he said no, but did tell me they took great delight in filling the heads of tourists with amazing stories or “yarns” as men of the last generation called them.  I always take the time to patiently listen to these tales as every story has some provenance to it and I am always keen to learn something new about Oak Island history. Being a retired law enforcement officer with over 30 years experience, I have heard a lot of stories about a lot of things and I always look at the means, motive, opportunity for an alleged “crime,” these stories are no different.  One story I heard from a treasure hunter’s son however, gave me cause to sit up and take intense notice. This man and I had a great relationship and exchanged many Emails, letters and even worked together on fund raising schemes to put much needed operating funds in the hands of the Oak Island Tourism Society who wanted to create a major tourism attraction at Oak Island. He was the keeper of all of his dad’s photos, records, maps, diaries and drawings and shared much of it with me for use in Society displays and for my own personal information and interest. All of this material was promised to me and the Society upon his death but unfortunately, he did pass away rather suddenly and sadly, the materials he had ended up in the hands of a foreign owner, I suspect for cash, something he, like all of us needed from time to time. Years before he died, he showed me a photo of an item he was sure had been found on Oak Island in Smith’s Cove under the sandy beach by his dad after scraping away at the overburden with his bulldozer.  Up to that day, no one but he, his late father and I knew about it.  Strangely, a year or so before he died I received a confusing and disjointed Email from him informing, almost in a panic, that the item was not found on Oak Island, was not a precious artifact and he had in fact sold it for a pittance, it was gone. To this day I remain suspicious.  I can keep a secret and know how to be confidential, I learned that from my varied career that spanned three decades, from the life lessons learned at my father’s knee and from dealing in the secret world of treasure hunters, a very secretive and often abstract bunch who often ask for secrets to be held, trust me, I have many more.  I also know when a  confidentiality can be lifted with good conscience. My friend asked for confidentiality mainly due to his personal relationship with then current treasure hunters, his father’s unfairly tarnished name and the general whirlwind the reveal may cause, but he is gone, the treasure hunters partnership has disappeared and it is time to let it be known. Besides, I bet you are reading this with great anticipation so what he had was a Spanish signal cannon, also known as a thunder mug.  If the item was in fact found on (or under) Oak Island, it fits in well with suggestion a treasure was hidden under the island by the Spanish, one of Oak Island’s best jointed theories.  How I wish he were still alive for many reasons, but he isn’t so if wishes were horses, beggars would fly as they say. We’ll never know for sure but it sure adds a new thing to think about in the ever increasing arsenal of Oak Island stories.