Unless you’re Indiana Jones or a stunt person, you could probably use more adventure in your life. Thankfully, the world has enough eccentric rich people and lost treasures to give you the opportunity to join real-life scavenger hunts.
We’ve already covered some of the most famous treasure hunts in the world, including the Fenn Treasure and La Chouette d’Or. Read on for more amazing real-life adventures, thanks to everything from a Dead Sea Scroll to Levi’s jeans.
1. The Copper Scroll of the Dead Sea
One of the Dead Sea Scrolls is not like the others. The so-called Copper Scroll, or scroll 3Q15, is less interested in scripture or history than in money. Found in 1952, it reads like an inventory and apparently lists the locations of 64 hidden troves of silver and gold. Each entry in the scroll includes three parts: a general location, a specific location, and the sort of treasure involved.
Assuming it’s not a hoax—a common theme among many real-life scavenger hunts and hidden treasures—feel free to go search for the goods. You’ll have no trouble locating the treasure with such helpful entries as the scroll’s very first: “In the ruin that is in the valley of Acor, under the steps, with the entrance at the East, a distance of 40 cubits: a strongbox of silver and its vessels with a weight of seventeen talents.” Good luck!
2. The Many Mysteries of Oak Island
Tiny Oak Island, a 140-acre speck of land of the coast of Nova Scotia, is home to a slew of hidden treasures. The most famous involves the “Money Pit,” an enigmatic treasure trove first explored in 1795. In the early 1800s, an excavation purportedly revealed a flagstone with an inscription promising buried riches: “Forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried.” Numerous excavations have followed in the centuries since, each ending in failure, flooding, frustration, and occasionally fatalities.
As if a death pit filled with gold weren’t enough, Oak Island’s various other treasure troves include a bolder formation called Nolan’s Cross, a beach called Smith’s Cove, and a triangular swamp. Guess the concept of a savings account reached Oak Island a little late, huh?
3. The $43 Million Man
In the 1820s, one Thomas Jefferson Beale is supposed to have buried a heaping helping of treasure somewhere in Bedford County, Virginia. He handed three coded sets of the clues to a local innkeeper and disappeared. He promised to return in person to retrieve the goods or, failing that, to send the innkeeper a key to the cipher in 10 years’ time. Neither man nor key ever materialized, and the mystery of the Beale Ciphers remained.
Before that innkeeper died, he handed the ciphers over to a friend. The friend cracked one cipher—it only took him 20 years, and required a copy of the Declaration of Independence to decode—and published its contents, along with the story behind the ciphers, in an 1885 pamphlet. The decoded cipher speaks of some 8,000 pounds of gold and silver, plus some jewels, hidden “in an excavation or vault, six feet below the surface of the ground.” The other ciphers have never been solved, and naturally many believe that neither the treasure nor Beale himself ever existed.
4. The Sunken Treasure of the San Miguel
Everyone knows you don’t take a Caribbean cruise during hurricane season—everyone, that is, except the 18th-century Spanish navy. Those buncha dummies thought it was a great idea to muster what was then the richest treasure fleet ever assembled and to sail it out of Cuba in 1715 on the cusp of hurricane season.
Surprise! A week into the trip, a storm hit off the coast of Florida. All 11 ships sank, killing thousands of sailors, and no amount of travel insurance could cover the loss of enough gold, silver, and jewels to be worth $2 billion today. A portion of the treasure and some seven ships have been recovered, but the richest of them all, the San Miguel, remains lost at sea.
5. That Time Levi’s Told America to Go Forth
Sometimes a real-life scavenger hunt is a mysterious adventure in an exotic locale. Other times it’s a publicity stunt with a pointlessly complicated back story that nevertheless results in an adventure. The Levi’s “Go Forth” campaign was the latter.
In 2009, Levi’s buried $100,000 “somewhere in America” and presented a scavenger hunt put together by the fictional Grayson Ozias IV. (G.O. Fourth, get it?!) Wax cylinders had been hidden in 13 locations around the country, and players had to complete challenges like solving a puzzle in a county jail and finding a man in a hat in New York and giving him the proper code phrase. After six weeks, one Laura Hall dug up the prize 27 paces from a rock in Zion National Park. Seems like a lot of trouble on Levi’s part to try and sell some jeans.
Interested in an Adventure of Your Own? We can’t promise you piles of sunken treasure or hidden jewels, but we can pretty much guarantee a fun time for all on a Watson Adventures scavenger hunt. Find a public scavenger hunt in seven cities or learn about arranging a private scavenger hunt.