Beale Ciphers

So it’s time for a new research project, and this one should be a lot of fun. I’ll be researching the Beale Ciphers.

Never heard of it?

Well let me bring you up to speed.

Back in the 1820’s, a Virginian named Thomas Jefferson Beale took a group of men west to mine for gold. They dug their mines somewhere near present day Colorado and hit it big.

They carried all the gold back to Virginia, where Beale buried it in a vault. They made several more trips west and brought back even more gold and silver, so much in fact that they converted a good portion of it to precious gems so they could transport it easier.

The trips west were getting more and more dangerous thanks to the bad weather and unfriendly Indians, so as an insurance policy, he detailed the information about the treasure’s location, placed it in a strongbox, and gave it to a trusted local innkeeper named Robert Morriss.  This was in 1822.

Beale and his men went west to treasure hunt again, and never came back.

Morriss waited twenty years before he opened the strongbox. Among the items he found were three coded ciphers that described the location of the treasure (cipher 1), the contents of the underground vault (cipher 2), and the names of the men who owned a stake in the treasure (cipher 3).

Beale Cipher 1 (from the Wikipedia page)
Beale Cipher 2 (from the Wikipedia page)
Beale Cipher 3 (from the Wikipedia page)

Morriss was never able to solve the ciphers, so he gave them to an unnamed friend who managed to decode cipher 2, the contents of the vault.  The key to the cipher was the Declaration of Independence (DOI). Once he numbered all the words in the DOI, he was able to use them to decode the contents. It read:

I have deposited in the county of Bedford, about four miles from Buford’s, in an excavation or vault, six feet below the surface of the ground, the following articles, belonging jointly to the parties whose names are given in number three, herewith:

The first deposit consisted of ten hundred and fourteen pounds of gold, and thirty-eight hundred and twelve pounds of silver, deposited Nov. eighteen nineteen. The second was made Dec. eighteen twenty-one, and consisted of nineteen hundred and seven pounds of gold, and twelve hundred and eighty-eight of silver; also jewels, obtained in St. Louis in exchange to save transportation, and valued at thirteen thousand dollars.

The above is securely packed in iron pots, with iron covers. The vault is roughly lined with stone, and the vessels rest on solid stone, and are covered with others. Paper number one describes the exact locality of the vault, so that no difficulty will be had in finding it.

Beale Pamphlet (from the Wikipedia page)

This unnamed friend was never able to break the other two ciphers and instead, made all his research available in a pamphlet in 1885.

As of 2017, no one has decoded the other two ciphers, and no one has found the treasure.

So I’ll be researching this for the next few months to see where it leads me. Then I’ll get to render an opinion- either real or fake.

Depending how much work I end up putting into this, I may write a book. Plus I have family in Virginia, so I might have to make a research trip. We’ll see.


  1. Glass Half Full says:

    Good luck with your research! Looking forward to hearing about your conclusion. There’s a lot of “fake” and “alternative facts” in the news lately…is that what inspired you? 🙂

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think it is real. I hope you solve it. It would be awesome. I’ll read the book if you find the treasure.

  3. Ron Pesce says:

    I had a friend that has passed who brought this to me 23 years ago and after that I spent 16 years on it. I have solved a 2nd page of this numbered system and I believe that I know where the money went. Stop and think about it. Morriss is no young man, do you really think a fat guy in his 50’s or 60’s is going to dig up 2 tons of metal? And then send it to everyone? NOBODY is reading the letters correctly


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