THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Sunday, May 12, 1996 TAG: 9605090180 SECTION: CAROLINA COAST PAGE: 05 EDITION: FINAL TYPE: Cover Story SOURCE: BY JEFF HAMPTON LENGTH: Long : 165 lines
TURN ON the metal detector. Break out the shovel. Drop in at the library.
There are treasures in these parts, and with some research, sweat and a barrel of luck, you may be able dig them up.
Pirates, moonshiners, conquistadors and wealthy plantation families of old left untold riches buried beneath the sands and soils of northeastern North Carolina.
``There is as much treasure here as there is anywhere in the United States,'' says Forrest Pugh of Camden County, a part-time treasure hunter who is retired from the U.S. Postal Service.
From Corolla to Cape Hatteras, from the seashore to the reaches of the Albemarle Sound, legends run rampant of buried gold and long-lost loot.
Some treasure hunters like Pugh say that determined searchers can find these hidden valuables. But it's not just a matter of showing up at the end of a rainbow.
You'll need some tools and, more importantly, some knowledge of where to look.
``Research is the key,'' Pugh says. ``Most of your big finds are through a whole lot of research.''
If you get the bug to start looking, you may want to begin at a local library. And a word of advice before digging up the countryside: Be courteous. Get permission from the landowner and do not leave the yard, field or beach potted with holes.
Another important thing to remember is that much of the Outer Banks is off-limits to would-be treasure hunters: It's illegal to take anything from national parks such as the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
And if you want to find treasure, Pugh says, ``You have to think like the person that buried it.''
Pirates dug a horseshoe shape in the sand and buried their treasure between the open ends. Of course, you might have the same trouble the pirates did: When they returned months or years later, the sands had shifted so much they couldn't find the treasure again.
They hated it when that happened.
Though you may not find the horseshoe in the sand, there are plenty of tales to chew on as you soak up the Outer Banks sun. Remember, these are absolutely authentic accounts - sort of.
Near Stumpy Point in the ``Little Dismal Swamp,'' on the Dare County mainland, a legendary light hovers over a treasure buried by the infamous pirate Blackbeard. They call it Teach's Light. They say if you follow the light until it stops, you've found where the pirate buried his treasure.
You may have trouble claiming this treasure, though. Legend says the devil waits there to claim half of his partner's loot.
Pugh knows of a man who was digging a pond east of Cape Hatteras lighthouse when he uncovered an old chest. The chest slid into the water, and the man never found it again. Later, the pond was overtaken by the ocean. The chest may still be there.
Before the 1800s, the Outer Banks were covered with oak trees. A logger made big money here and buried much of his wealth in chests on Hatteras Island.
Unfortunately, though, Cape Hatteras National Seashore officials don't look kindly on treasure hunters. The story is that some people are trying to find the logger's loot under cover of darkness.
Pugh surmises that there is buried money around the Whalehead Club in Corolla. Most of the time, people buried loot in metal containers, which means it can still be found with a metal detector.
A Spanish galleon sank centuries ago near what used to be the Currituck Inlet, not far from the Corolla lighthouse. It went down with $1 million in gold. The inlet filled in, and the galleon has never been found.
Pugh says he's heard that gold coins are showing up north of Duck.
``I'm going to leave it at that,'' he adds.
In Currituck in 1857, a farmer found a cache of Spanish gold and silver, worth $6,000 at the time. He buried it again and never recovered it. Pugh says he has a lead on that one.
In 1934, a Barco farmer found an old copper still. Nearby, he uncovered English gold coins dating from the 1600s. The coins have never surfaced again.
There's a small community in Camden County on the Pasquotank River called Treasure Point. The story is that pirate treasure is buried there. One indication it might be true is that two branches of the Arnuse Creek meet to form a natural arrow of land that aims toward Treasure Point. Pirates often used natural markers like that.
More than a century ago, a Camden man sold some land for gold and buried it on his property. His property sat on what is now known as Sandhill Road. When the man went to the Camden courthouse to file the paperwork, he was shot to death over a dispute. Some people searched the area, but never found the gold.
There was once a moonshiner in Camden who supposedly went crazy. They sent him to an asylum. When he returned, neighbors saw him searching the woods near his house. He was looking for his savings he buried. Though he lived into his 70s, he never found it. The man's brother believed he buried about $20,000. Pugh pursued that one for a while.
There is a legend that a large house north of Elizabeth City was Blackbeard's headquarters. Most people don't believe it, because architects estimated the house was built in 1735, more than 15 years after Blackbeard's death.
However, there are supposedly ruins of another house, three miles up the Pasquotank River, that was actually the home of Blackbeard, and there is treasure there.
``I was told that somebody found some of that treasure,'' says Jasper Moore of Elizabeth City.
A treasure hunter from Richmond, guided by Moore, found a lead eagle on a chain on Guerrilla Island in Camden. It later sold for hundreds of dollars. The lead was not valuable, but its history was. A Confederate soldier made it while he and his unit camped.
The Confederate strategy was to attack Union troops nearby, then disappear into the swamp to return to the high ground of the island. Finally, the Union troops discovered their hideout, and the rebels scattered.
The eagle proves an axiom among treasure hunters, repeated by Pugh: ``Just because it doesn't glitter doesn't mean it's worthless.''
All sorts of things are worth money, from old bottles to old barbed wire, and a true treasure hunter has a sharp eye for what might have value.
There are seven ideal days each month to hunt treasure, says Preston Louis Cutrell, 78, of Elizabeth City: three days before the full moon, the day of the full moon and three days after the full moon.
It's got something to do with the magnetism of the moon and gravity and tides. All he knows is, it works.
Cutrell did much of his hunting with an antique instrument given him 60 years ago called a Spanish dip needle. Put simply, it's a pointer on a spring that is drawn to gold or silver. It's a form of dowsing.
In his day, Cutrell had success with the Spanish dip needle.
``I don't want to tell you everything,'' he says. ``But you can find a little here and there.''
Of course, the instrument itself is a treasure.
``People think you're crazy . . . when you start talking about that stuff,'' Pugh says of dowsing. But he acknowledged that he's seen it work for somebody who had done his research and knew about where the treasure was anyway.
Pugh often pairs up with Moore, who also sells metal detectors, to hunt treasure. The two have been searching together for nearly 20 years.
Moore has a large collection of Spanish coins he found in this region, especially around Edenton, where old churches and homes are abundant. Using his metal detector, he once found a diamond ring worth $900.
``Churches are great places to look,'' Pugh says. ``For one, you don't find any beer tabs.''
Another warning before you start looking yourself: It's addictive. There are numerous treasure hunting magazines and library books about the subject.
And though treasure hunters are usually friendly, don't expect them to share their best spots.
``If you've got something going,'' Pugh says, ``you're not going to tell just anybody about it.'' ILLUSTRATION: Staff photos by DREW C. WILSON
Preston L. Cutrell, 78, uses an antique Spanish dip needle - a
pointer on a spring that is drawn to gold or silver.
Research is important. ``Most of your big finds are through a whole
lot of research,'' says Forrest Pugh, a part-time treasure hunter.
``There is as much treasure here as there is anywhere in the United
States,'' says Forrest Pugh a part-time treasure hunter.
Treasure hunter Jasper Moore of Elizabeth City, who has found a
number of items, helped a treasure hunter from Richmond in finding a
lead eagle on a chain on Guerrilla Island in Camden. It later sold
for hundreds of dollars. The lead was not valuable, but its history
was. A Confederate soldier made it while he and his unit camped. The
eagle proves an axiom among treasure hunters: ``Just because it
doesn't glitter doesn't mean it's worthless.''