With the release of the Disney motion picture “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” the idea that America may be home to hidden treasure is capturing the imagination of audiences everywhere. Are there really national treasures linked to great American figures? Could the
Beale Papers, which until now have been a 19th century legend, indicate one such mystery? One
investigative author says yes.
The Beale Papers are three encrypted ciphertexts that have long been thought to point to a treasure in Virginia. The story goes, in 1820, Thomas Jefferson Beale left an innkeeper the encrypted documents telling where he had buried a treasure worth $30 million. Beale was never heard from again, and the mystery was left unanswered. Some have called the story a hoax, but author Kenneth Andrew Bauman provides evidence supporting a case for the mysterious Beale Papers
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Tags: Beale Papers, ciphertexts, Hidden Treasure, Kenneth Bauman, National Treasure, Treasure
It turns out that the monument sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, had an incredibly elaborate vision for the mountain that included much more than the four presidential heads we see today. He had wanted to carve the shape of the Louisiana Purchase into the mountain, and inside the shape, carve descriptions of the most significant events in American history. Logistically that plan wasn’t going to work out, so he created a new plan for a Hall of Records, with the goal of creating a repository for the story of our country for future civilizations. Documents in this repository would include our nation’s charter documents. Borglum had even started blasting and drilling out the cavity in the mountain for this chamber. Funding for the project was coming from the government, and they had asked that Borglum focus his efforts towards completing the faces before any more work was done on the Hall of Records. In 1941, Borglum died, and work on the project effectively came to a halt.
The idea of having a vault didn’t die though. Borglum’s original plan was revised a bit, but the intent remained, and in 1998, tablets with the story of our nation were sealed in a vault in the unfinished Hall of Records. Sixteen porcelain enamel panels containing the text from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, along with a biography of Borglum, and the story of the presidents, were sealed in a teakwood box, then placed in a titanium vault, and finally sealed shut under the weight of a 1,200 pound granite capstone inside the unfinished hall.
This is not a time capsule. These documents are to remain buried for thousands of years. Borglum literally had it in mind to send the message of our country to future civilizations. He said, “you might as well drop a letter into the world’s postal service without an address or signature, as to send that carved mountain into history without identification.”
Access to the Hall of Records is closed to the public. Because the Hall is located behind the heads, near the cliffs, public safety is a concern. Part of the story in the National Treasure movie apparently does take place in the Hall of Records, but what appears in the movie may only be aerial shots of the entrance. Set designers in Hollywood will recreate the rest. To get a glimpse of the entrance today, or to learn more about the Hall of Records, Rhonda had suggested this book which is available from the Mt Rushmore bookstore.