Why work fingers to the bone when one could use them to snatch the booty from the skeletal remains of far-gone pirates? The wild and acrimonious adventures of the mateys are long gone, but their fortunes of gold, jewels, and assorted monies remain untouched by today’s hands…for now.
Why do the dirty work when pirates of yore have done it for us? Now, all we have to do is find their spoils of sinned living. Pirates of old dashed notions of the rat race into the sea, opting for a life of salty seas and illegal hijinx. Pirate exploits tend to (sometimes) go awry;
These seven pirates did not make it out alive, but the fate of their untouched riches relies on your future pursuits, the kind that can make you rich, if you dare.
1) The Great’s Amber Room
Peter the Great, one of the most legendary land pirates of the seventeenth century, was quite the dandy when it came to interior decor. This big-pimpin, land-lovin conqueror didn’t just swab decks, he decked the halls of castles with jewels and gold. Why covet items within a room when you can have the entire room? An area of 11-square feet awaits those recovering this wonder of Baroque art, Peter the Great’s Amber Room.
In 1716, Catherine the Great ordered the (entire) room (It’s a great woman’s prerogative) transferred from St. Petersburg to an abode just outside the city. When Hitler, 20th-century land pirate waged war upon the city in 1941…
What’s with Gestapo soldiers and eyepatches anyway? History links Col. Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise’s inspiration in motion picture, Valkyrie), a man who attempted to take Hitler’s life and proud eyepatch wearer, and pirates together with eyepatches…
German troops seized the Greats’ life-sized jewel box, packing 27 crates to the brim with items, in today’s standards, equaling $142 million.
To date, only small portions of onyx and jasper have been recovered. Where’s the rest of the 27 crates? The trail to the treasure room’s exact whereabouts runs dry for historians around 1945. Some believe the crates, later placed in a Baltic castle, sank with it to the bottom of the sea, awaiting newborn life.
2) Kidd’s Gold Toys
Oh the irony…of William Kidd, a Scottish pirate hunter turned pirate upon the seventeenth-century seas! After confessing to his contradictory ways, Kidd was executed in 1701, paying an early visit to the grave. However, Kidd’s five-finger-discounted pieces are unaccounted for; most riches from his exploits are nowhere to be found; hopefuls suspect Kidd used eastern ports to stash amassed cash.
One of the hottest places current-day treasure hunters rove is Clarke’s Island, near the Connecticut River. New York-area urban legends tell of three friends, finding the elusive treasure trove with the aid of a full moon above. One of the friends committed a treasure-hunter faux paux, yelling, “You’ve hit it!” a bit too early, propelling irony and the coveted chest back down toward the deep.
Kidd lived during the Golden Age of piracy, a time when a dishonest person could take an honest-person’s wages, waging piracy and bending laws of legality and hygiene. Ironically, in the late 1600s, a period of peace embraced lands surrounding the Caribbean. Out-of-work naval sailors turned to what they knew best, but this time they were sailing the seas of blackmarket employment. Perhaps the life of a pirate could offer better health benefits than most legit career choices at the time.
3) Thompson Pulls One Over in Peru
Imagine it’s the 1820s and your land is near revolt. You’d want to get your monies and financial future away from the instability. The Peruvian viceroy gave the seemingly responsible, Captain William Thompson, a polite jingle, asking if he would serve as good host to the 11 ships full of gold and jewels, taking the load from Peru to Mexico.
To no surprise secret pirate’s surprise, Thompson acquiesced to the request, unveiling his devotion to piracy once the ships at sea, killing guards on board then sailing with booty in tow to the Indian Ocean. But every good turn of the screw deserves another; Thompson’s ship was soon captured, with all involved fitted with a tight noose around the neck…all but Thompson and his first mate.
The two pirates made a deal with their capturers to share the coordinates of the pirate hideout spot, toward the Cocos Islands. You’d think the capturers would keep a close watch on pirates, but perpetrating a story fit for a Keystone Cops scene, the two rogues got away, dipping into the jungle, never seen again. The treasure, one warranting over 300 finding expeditions to date, remains to be seen since the 1800s, some hunters circling back toward Peru, believing Thompson unloaded the treasure a short distance from Peru’s main coast.
What plunders could one enjoy, thanks to Thompson? Some believe the spoils to consist of 113 statues, 200 jewel chests, 273 jeweled-swords, 1000 diamonds, 150 chalices, and a hundreds of gold and silver coins (thrown in for good measure), totaling an estimated $160 million.
4) Gasparilla’s Retirement Fund
Jose Gaspar was no lazy pirate, raiding hundreds of boats on the west coast of Florida in the late 18th century and early 19th. Who says we can’t aspire to anything if we work hard enough? Gasparilla worked hard enough to rob himself a nice retirement pension, one equaling about $30 million by today’s standards.
But, like today’s investors, Gaspar diversified his assets, dividing the treasure up into 13 chests buried throughout the Charlotte Harbor. In 1821, Gasparilla and crew hung up their eyepatches, setting sail for Charlotte harbor to secure their retirement spoils.
En route, Gasparilla and crew spotted a British ship. Having years of swindling experience under their belts, the pirates decided to attack one last time. But this ship was American, disguising itself to bait Gasparilla and crew (who they had been trailing due to their pirate trespasses).
Staying true to swashbuckling ways, Gasparilla and crew stood their wooden-legged ground but were soon pummeled by oncoming cannon fire. Gasparilla, not to be taken into the next life by none other than his own will, draped himself in iron anchor, yelling, “Gasparilla dies by his own hands!,” plummeting to his own-devised demise.
Those spared began the legend of $1 million’s worth of gold, resting at the bottom of the sea along with Gasparilla, unfound to the day. Over a century later, Florida still hosts the Gasparilla Festival, the pirate’s above-water legacy.
5) Killorain’s God-Given Gifts
A maxim states , “God helps those who help themselves.” In 1859, four gentlemen helped themselves to the Pisco Church’s treasures, killing those who thought they were transferring the pious cargo to Australia from Peru.
Killorain, an Irish pirate, and others, had alternate plans for the church’s precious gems and jewels. After killing the other men, spinning a story of a sunken ship, and having their story accepted, the four men planned to retrieve their treasure.
However, a storm of irony struck the lives of the four men, three killed while prospecting in Palmer’s Gold Field. Killorain, engaged in a deadly struggle with another, was sentenced to twenty years in prison before getting to his treasured goods. Killorain, a feeble and aging man upon exit from jail, visited the personality of Charles Howe one evening.
Years later, in 1912, Charles Howe was summonsed to the hospital room of a dying Killorain, who on his deathbed confessed his impious sins to Howe, giving him a map to the treasure’s whereabouts. Charles speculative but curious, set out, finding all the dying man told him to be true.
Howe took some of the treasure with him and buried the rest for a return trip in 1932, traveling to the famous gold fields of Australia, but soon after, never seen or heard from again. Some believe the map to the treasure rests with the unfound remains of Howe.
Just what size of God-given treasure did Howe inherit from the pirate? It’s estimated the take from the church consisted of 14 gold ingots, 7 gold candlesticks, 38 diamond necklaces, a gang of jeweled rings, 1 chest of rubies, and 1 chest of Spanish doubloons, coming to a grand total of $410 million.
6) ‘The Buzzard’s’ Booty
Pirate of the Indian Ocean, Olivier Lavasseur, was nicknamed the Buzzard due to his alacrity in attacking his enemies, additionally donning a scar across his right eye, limiting his view but further solidifying his modeling career as a pirate. From 1721, the Buzzard raided ships, forcing his pirate charm upon one particular Portuguese vessel stocked full of gold.
The Buzzard was eventually captured and hanged, but legend tells of his necklace, which contained a 12-lined cryptogram; the pirate exclaiming to an onlooking execution crowd, “Find my treasure, he who may understand it!” No one knows what happened to the hanged pirate’s necklace, yet the treasure, speculated to be worth $100-million UK pounds, is still unfound, believed to lie in the vicinity of the Seychelles’ group of southern islands.
One invested treasure hunter searched to no avail, finding her leveraged cryptogram harder to decipher than previously thought. The code incorporates the Clavicles of Solomon, two letters, a will, and masonic symbolism, a challenge to any Sunday-edition NY Times crossword puzzler.
Another hunter, inferring a connection between the trials of Hercules and finding the pirate’s treasure, began digging in 1970 until his death in ‘77, only finding guns and coins, ultimately unable to decipher the remaining legs of the pirate’s maze of coded mystery.
Speaking of codes, it’s understood many pirate ships did exact on-ship codes of ethic display, limiting on-ship fighting, pension (according to severity of wounds), and exclusion of ladies and children.
7) Lafitte’s Privateer Enterprises
Jean Lafitte was known to operate out of New Orleans and later out of Texas as a privateer; but, he’s notoriously known as a career pirate. One won’t find much information related to his demise (Some believe he died peacefully while assuming a businessman alias in Illinois.) Not much is known about his later life, but historians know he did accrue a small fortune of pirate booty.
Lafitte established himself as a privateer (a legalized pirate) while in league with pirates, illegally dealing goods from his blacksmith shop. At the time, Lafitte sailed against Spain, taking riches while sharing wealth from his legitimate position as privateer, but legend marks him as a stingy man, one who did not like to share all the take, often selling items on the black market for added wealth.
Lafitte became a seasoned privateer and black marketeer, eventually turning full-blown pirate from his fortress in Maison Rouge, directing followers of over 1,000 to plunder ships along the Gulf of Mexico and throughout the Caribbean. All Mark Zuckerberg did was start Facebook.
In 1820, the U.S. Navy had enough of Lafitte’s liberal, pirating ways, dispatching a team to capture him. Lafitte tossed his pirate hat and career into the sea and sailed away never to be seen again. But, who cares about him, right? What about his treasure?
Historians believe Lafitte buried his treasure due to anxiety and paranoia (He was well known, a likely target for arrest or piracy). His fortune, one without a definitive fiscal estimate, (some believe) is worth well over $2 million (That amount of Spanish gold alone was pirated from one excursion in 1816.) Pecan Island, an awkward Louisiana land formation, as well as Galvez Town, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, are possible resting places of the buried treasure, but the hunt for Lafitte’s gold and his legend continue.
Do you have what it takes to stake your claim to the resting undersea and in-hiding riches history’s pirates?
Some people have high aspirations of unearthing treasures of yore and a lavish life in the future; others settle for a nice minivan, office cubicle, and a metal detector. Actually, 90% of detector wielding enthusiasts first began searching for treasure.
Further studies reflect a learning curve to coin hunting; 20% of hunters are considered professional by people equally lonely and with large amounts of idle time. 30% of coin hunters are women; there must be a lot of pacifying girlfriends and wives in the treasure-hunting world…
Joe McGowan is a budgeting and finance expert. Joe writes about personal finance and budgeting on a number of other money saving sites, and is passionate about responsible lending and helping people save money.
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