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Did the FBI Steal 9 Tons of Civil Struggle Gold?


The FBI was excited. That a lot appeared evident from the affidavit the company lodged on March 9, 2018, asking a court docket for permission to dig up a Pennsylvania hillside in the hunt for Civil Struggle gold.

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The affidavit associated a narrative from a doc titled “The Misplaced Gold Ingot Treasure,” which had been discovered within the archives on the Army Historical past Institute, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The story, in its barest bones, was this: In June 1863, a caravan of Union troopers transporting a cargo of gold by means of the mountains grew to become misplaced. Three males had been despatched to get assist and ultimately one returned with a rescue occasion, which positioned the group’s deserted wagons however no males, no gold. Groups from the Pinkerton detective company scoured the hills. In 1865, two and a half buried ingots had been discovered, and, later, the bones of three to 5 human skeletons. The remainder of the gold stays lacking.

The affidavit additionally laid out how this story had come to the FBI’s consideration. A treasure hunter named Dennis Parada had heard folklore alluding to the misplaced gold “since he was a toddler,” and had spent “over forty years” looking for it. Now he and a crew together with his son, Kem, believed that they had lastly positioned it, within the inaccessible recesses of a “turtle-shaped cave” close to the neighborhood of Dents Run. FBI brokers had visited the positioning twice and ordered geophysical surveys that had detected one thing underground—one thing “with a density of 19.5g/cm³ (the density of gold) and in step with a mass having a weight of roughly 8½ to 9 tons.”

In different phrases, the FBI believed it knew the place an unlimited hoard of gold was, and as quickly as they might get their fingers on a warrant, federal brokers had been coming to get it.

Dennis and Kem Parada had been related with the FBI a number of weeks earlier by a intermediary. Sooner or later in November 2017, Warren Getler, a former Wall Road Journal reporter, was searching TreasureNet.com, the place individuals taken with buried treasure collect to share theories and discoveries, and to topic themselves to at least one one other’s enthusiasm and scorn. That day one thing caught Getler’s eye: a submit by Parada, who recognized himself as the top of a small Pennsylvania-based treasure-hunting group known as Finders Keepers. Getler was satisfied that they wanted to speak.

Getler wasn’t taken with simply any treasure. His focus was on a Accomplice-aligned group known as the Knights of the Golden Circle, or KGC. The existence of the KGC is a longtime a part of Civil Struggle historical past, however the depth of affect Getler believes it had, and its continued secret operation, is just not. Getler believes that the KGC hid a whole bunch of caches of gold from the South as much as Canada, and {that a} important quantity stay undiscovered. He co-wrote a e book on this topic, revealed by Simon & Schuster: Insurgent Gold: One Man’s Quest to Crack the Code Behind the Secret Treasure of the Confederacy. Since then, he has continued to search for proof, and within the Dents Run story he thought he may spot clues and symbols that, to those that knew how one can learn them, had been telltale indicators of KGC involvement.

Dennis says that he was skeptical when Getler approached him. He’d by no means heard of the KGC. “We’re pondering this man was a nut job,” he informed me. “I don’t know what the hell he’s speaking about … I don’t imagine on this shit.” Nonetheless, the boys stored talking and shortly discovered frequent floor.

Dennis defined to Getler the deadlock that Finders Keepers had reached. The gold they believed that they had positioned was on state land, in order that they wanted the cooperation of Pennsylvania’s Division of Conservation and Pure Sources (DCNR) to behave additional. However DCNR and the Paradas had an extended, difficult historical past and had been presently at loggerheads.

Photo of two men wearing black logo shirts and jeans standing in woods, one with headphones and holding metal detector
Kem and Dennis Parada stand above the cave at Dents Run with a steel detector in Could. (Jingyu Lin for The Atlantic)

There was, nonetheless, a attainable means ahead. If the gold might be proven to have been federal property, because the narrative within the historic documentation appeared to recommend, then the FBI may step in and declare it for america authorities. To this point, Dennis had did not get the federal authorities . Getler supplied to deal with that.

In Kem’s telling, it occurred like magic. “Mr. Getler says, ‘Give me a day or two; I’ll have you ever within the FBI workplace,’ ” Kem recollects. “Certain sufficient, inside a day or two, he calls again: ‘I obtained you within the FBI workplace headquarters, a gathering.’ And we’re like, ‘Holy shit.’ ”

On Friday, January 26, 2018, the Paradas walked with Getler into america Legal professional’s Workplace in Philadelphia. They met with Assistant U.S. Legal professional Ok. T. Newton and two brokers from the FBI’s Artwork Crime crew, Jake Archer and Sarah Cardone. The next account of the assembly, and of their subsequent talks with the FBI, relies on the treasure hunters’ descriptions. (The FBI declined a number of requests to touch upon the main points of those interactions.)

The treasure hunters had a tough time studying the room. Their authorities hosts had been attentive, however didn’t essentially appear receptive. There was one second, nonetheless, that may later come to appear important. Archer, they are saying, declared that ought to gold be discovered, the federal government would in fact be taking it, slamming his hand down on the desk to emphasise his level. Dennis slammed down his hand, too, and declared that they might be preventing for a finder’s charge. At this, Dennis recollects, Archer responded, “Honest sufficient.”

Not lengthy after, Archer known as Dennis and made preparations to go to the positioning the next Wednesday. The FBI crew—Archer, Cardone, and 5 colleagues—arrived on Tuesday, and everybody had dinner collectively at a pub in DuBois. “It was jovial,” recollects Getler, who flew in from Washington, D.C. “We had been so excessive. I believed that we had been going to tug up this large KGC cache collectively.”

The subsequent morning, January 31, the ten of them hiked as much as a stage piece of floor about quarter-hour above Dents Run. This was the place. The FBI used a steel detector, which indicated a three-by-five-foot space of buried steel. The Paradas used their very own Floor Penetrating Locator machine to show what they’d beforehand discovered on the web site. “Received gold readings proper off the bat,” Kem recollects.

“All people’s yelling and screaming,” Dennis says, “as a result of it’s strong gold.” He informed the FBI that, in his estimate, there have to be two and a half tons just under them. A discover like that might be value $100 million, or much more.

Now the FBI brokers had been clearly . Over the next days, emails and texts flew forwards and backwards as the federal government crew solicited all the doubtless related historic documentation.

illustration of bar of gold
Erik Carter for The Atlantic

The FBI commissioned its personal extra subtle geophysical research. Archer known as Getler with the outcomes.

That is how Getler remembers that dialog: “I stated, ‘What was the amount? What was the scale?’ He stated, ‘Seven to 9 tons.’ I went, ‘You bought to be fucking kidding.’ My coronary heart’s going increase increase increase … I actually jumped out of my face.”

That is Dennis’s abstract: “Archer says, ‘Sure, we obtained the outcomes. Nicely,’ he says, ‘Denny, you’re incorrect at two and a half tons … It was over 9 tons of gold.’ ”

When issues begin going awry on this story—and they’re going to—you could begin to doubt each wrinkle of the treasure hunters’ account. You might be tempted to ask whether or not it bears any relation to the reality because it exists on the planet of dreary, not-all-that-glitters actuality.

When that occurs, bear in mind the affidavit. The FBI has declined to fill in its aspect of the story, however that doc isn’t some vaguely speculative memo. It’s 29 pages of apparently rigorous element, assertively laying out the entire “Misplaced Gold Ingot Treasure” narrative alongside the geophysical surveys and the broader historic and mineralogical analysis that the FBI did. What was written in these pages served its goal: A decide signed off on a warrant giving the FBI 14 days to grab “roughly a number of tons of gold belonging to, and stolen from, america Mint, and positioned on the Dents Run Website, in Elks County, Pennsylvania.”

A dig was scheduled to start on the morning of March 13. The treasure hunters had been informed that no press can be allowed. However they insist they had been informed that they might watch the dig because it progressed.

On the time, Getler’s father was on his deathbed, however Getler determined to return anyway. “I’ve been ready for 22 years to see a touchstone treasure of the Knights of the Golden Circle … come out of the bottom to show this community exists,” Getler informed me. “I truly stated to him, ‘Dad, I’m going as a result of I do know you’d need me to do that.’ ”

The night time earlier than, Getler stayed at Dennis’s home; within the morning the Paradas and Getler drove collectively to Dents Run. It was solely once they arrived that they obtained a way of the dimensions of the operation that they had triggered. Maybe their estimates had been slightly hyperbolic—“70 FBI brokers, navy and stuff”; “70-some autos”—however a Dents Run native, Cheryl Elder, who lives on the backside of the hill, additionally remembers numerous autos: “At first there was, like, 38. The subsequent day there was, like, 40-some.” She informed me, “It appeared like a metropolis up there … That they had outhouses; that they had an enormous tent. That they had guards, too. I imply, that they had them in bulletproof vests.”

When the treasure hunters arrived, Jake Archer got here to greet them at their automobile. He informed them that it was crowded up on the hill, and that they need to wait down right here for now. In order that they waited. And waited.

Six hours handed earlier than they had been escorted as much as the snow-covered dig web site, the place a backhoe was eradicating soil. The outlet was a number of toes deep, and nothing of be aware had but been found, when, an hour or two later, Archer stopped the proceedings. As Kem remembers it, he stated, “It’s 4 o’clock, we’ve been up right here all day, we’re chilly, and we’re hungry. We’re going to pack it up for the night time. All people go house … Come again up right here at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning. We’ll all come again up this hill collectively; we’ll begin digging proper right here the place we left off.”

When the treasure hunters returned the subsequent day, they anticipated to be taken straight up the mountain. That didn’t occur. There was “a water delay,” Archer informed them; the outlet had crammed up. This may take some time to kind out, he stated, and they need to keep within the automobile, hold heat.

In order that they did. As soon as extra, they waited. Because the hours handed, Dennis’s frustration grew. “I says, ‘Issues ain’t occurring proper … one thing’s occurring right here.’ ”

Lastly, after about six hours, they had been allowed up. Dennis’s creeping disquiet however, they nonetheless imagined they had been strolling towards a second of majestic triumph. On the excavation web site, the FBI crew parted to permit them by means of.

“There,” Archer informed them. “Look within the gap. What do you see?”

Dennis appeared down. The outlet was now significantly deeper and wider than the one that they had left the afternoon earlier than. Inside it? Dennis answered: “Nothing.”

As a parting indignity, the Paradas got an armful of copper rods that that they had pushed into the bottom years earlier to facilitate their geophysical readings, and that had been dug up in the course of the excavation. As if to say: Get out of right here, and take your trash with you.

Again at their automobile, they recall, Archer lectured them to not say a phrase about this to anyone. He informed the Paradas that they need to change the identify of their firm, as a result of it’d be embarrassing after this, and perhaps they need to all simply go on a vacation to Disney World.

The subsequent morning, Getler acquired the decision that his father had died.

photo of man sitting at large table with hands crossed and papers spread before him
Warren Getler at house in Washington, D.C. (Jingyu Lin for The Atlantic)

Information of what had—or hadn’t—occurred at Dents Run started to unfold. When an area TV-news crew, alerted to the hubbub, had turned up in the course of the dig, the FBI’s solely remark was that it was conducting “court-authorized law-enforcement exercise.” As media curiosity grew, the FBI issued a quick assertion, declaring that “nothing was discovered.”

However the Paradas and Getler weren’t glad. As they chewed over the main points, and as they realized extra about what had taken place that week, they got here to what felt like an inescapable conclusion: that, proper below their noses, the FBI had dug up and stolen away the buried gold of Dents Run.

The treasure hunters’ narrative of what they imagine occurred is a sprawling one, by which each snippet of dialog, each incidental second, reveals itself as proof of the FBI’s dastardly plan. However in essence, they grew to become satisfied that the FBI eliminated 9 tons of gold from Dents Run after they left on the primary day of the dig, in an excavation that secretly restarted that night and continued by means of the night time.

Via this prism, so most of the surrounding occasions began to make sense to them. That was why, once they arrived at Dents Run at 8:15 a.m. on the second day—quarter-hour delayed—Archer had appeared irritated. They couldn’t perceive this again then, however they now noticed how their late arrival threatened to throw off the choreographed actions of autos eradicating proof. (The treasure hunters have discovered a number of witnesses who imagine they noticed armored vehicles on this interval, both parked for hours in close by communities or touring in convoys alongside close by routes, and there have been additionally periodic closures of the principle route out and in of Dents Run. The FBI denies utilizing armored vehicles.)

That was additionally why, they are saying, Archer had a minimize on the again of his hand on that second day, and why there was filth and dirt on his knees, and why they logged him visiting a porta-potty 5 occasions—indicative of somebody who had been up ingesting espresso all night time. That was why they had been informed the water-in-the-hole story. (The treasure hunters be aware that once they had been lastly allowed to see the outlet, there was no signal of any water on the backside, nor was there any indication that water had been pumped out onto the encircling snow-covered space.) That was why Getler had heard Archer muttering, “I hate this case.” (As a result of Archer—who usually appeared like a great man—was uncomfortable with the deception he was obliged to stage-manage.) And, in fact, all of this was why that they had been permitted to see so little of the particular excavation.

The treasure hunters suggest this narrative, which has many offshoots, with a mix of nice conviction and Nicely, what else may this all have meant? beseeching. Components of what they argue may sound compelling. Others really feel like a stretch. As an illustration, Getler defined to me that he had been chatting with one other FBI agent who stiffly used the identical phrase as Archer had, about “a water delay.” To Getler, this can be a giveaway that the agent was hewing to a script. Doable, I suppose, however isn’t it extra doubtless that two brokers used the identical phrase not as a result of it was the accredited language of a canopy story, however as a result of it was the phrase that described how one thing was?

The humorous factor is, although, even a number of the treasure hunters’ most far-fetched thrives can’t be summarily dismissed. On a February 2020 episode of the TV sequence American Thriller, Dennis talked about one state of affairs that sounded fairly on the market. “If someone in america needs to make our gold disappear,” he proposed, they might have secretly shipped it to Russia, pretended it had been dug out of a Russian gold mine, and introduced it again into North America. 9 tons of gold disappeared from Dents Run, Dennis stated, “and inside 48 hours, an airplane in Russia dropped 9 tons of gold on the runway.” Absurd? In all probability. However the runway incident is an actual one. On March 15, 2018, two days after the dig started, a airplane in Siberia misplaced 3.4 tons of its nine-ton cargo of gold and silver when the cargo door unintentionally opened quickly after takeoff. There may be video on YouTube of the bars scattered throughout the runway. For a coincidence, it’s a outstanding one.

Most problematic has been the FBI’s reluctance to make clear something. Possibly the brokers don’t take into account themselves to be within the explaining enterprise. However within the area created by their silence, at a time when persons are primed to embrace any suggestion of presidency malfeasance, the treasure hunters’ model of occasions is the one which has been heard. The FBI’s choice to maintain them away from the excavation appears to have been a spectacular misjudgment. Did the brokers actually think about that these had been individuals who—with out seeing the proof, or lack of it, with their very own eyes—would simply settle for this consequence? If that’s the case, they’ve since realized in any other case. For 4 years now, in articles and documentaries and podcasts, the treasure hunters have berated and accused the FBI, and weaponized the company’s silence as an indication of guilt.

The treasure hunters have additionally bombarded the federal government with authorized motions and Freedom of Data Act requests. In August 2019, the FBI acknowledged to the Finders Keepers’ legal professional that it has roughly 2,378 pages and 17 CDs of video recordsdata “of probably responsive media.” However it asserted that producing such a big quantity of supplies requires a mean of 47 months. The Related Press and The Philadelphia Inquirer have additionally filed FOIA lawsuits—one outcome being the discharge in 2021 of the FBI affidavit making clear simply how comprehensively the company had as soon as argued for the presence of this gold.

The treasure hunters have continued to battle within the courts for expedited entry to the withheld materials. In Could, the FBI launched the primary 1,035 pages, which included some historic analysis, the info from the promising geophysical scan, and plenty of, many images from the excavation. The pictures of naked timber in opposition to the snowy hilltop are surprisingly suave; revelatory, they aren’t—although one sequence does present a puddle of water within the backside of the outlet. The stability of the paperwork is due over the next months, although the federal government has filed a sequence of perplexingly convoluted petitions to delay releasing any video proof till August, and thereafter solely at a charge of quarter-hour’ value a month.

Even the best skeptics, who see nothing suspicious within the FBI’s obvious intransigence, and who discover the treasure hunters’ different arguments unpersuasive, have to be puzzled by lingering questions. As an illustration: If nothing in any respect was there, below the bottom, what defined the FBI’s geophysical readings? (The Paradas have rescanned the dig space; they now detect nothing.) And what concerning the suggestion that the FBI labored on the web site by means of Tuesday night time? It might be only a handy concept, besides that there’s a witness: Cheryl Elder, once more.

She informed me that she began listening to noises—“beep-beep and, like, hammering”—at about 10 or 11 that night time. After some time, she went outdoors to see what was occurring. “And that mountain was lit—that they had numerous lights up there. You possibly can see the entire sky lit up.”

The noise, it carried on and on, “the hammer and the backhoe,” she stated. It was so loud that she couldn’t sleep. Ultimately, she telephoned her husband. He was away—he works in pure gasoline and was on an in a single day job down by Smithburg, pigging pipelines.

“She known as me center of the rattling night time,” he informed me, recounting their dialog: “ ‘I can’t sleep.’ ‘What do you imply, you possibly can’t sleep?’ ‘There’s all types of racket up there … Lights all over the place.’ It was lit up just like the Fourth of July up there.”

On the finish of October 2021, I visited the Paradas in Clearfield, Pennsylvania—about an hour from Dents Run. The Finders Keepers workplace is on the bottom flooring of the home the place Dennis lives together with his aged mom.

That is additionally the middle of what is perhaps known as his property empire. He earns his residing from the 18 rental residences he owns, 11 of them in a big constructing across the again of his home. He informed me the constructing value him “475”; I waited a second for this sentence to be accomplished earlier than realizing that it already had been. (I dug up the data to substantiate it: In 1982, Dennis bought the property for $475.) Lease is now $300 a month—“the most affordable on the town.” However recently he’s gotten bored with leases, he informed me. After 40 years, he’d wish to get out of the owner enterprise, if he can simply “get some cash from the FBI.”

However I don’t actually imagine that the principal motivation behind Dennis’s treasure searching is a mercenary one. He likes the tales he finds out on the planet, and he likes the tales he finds in his head, spinning grand tales of the previous that he sees revealed by no matter traces present themselves to him within the current day; whether or not it’s a blessing or a curse, Dennis has an virtually supernatural capacity to weave collectively an intricate narrative from a number of slender and typically tentative details. “I’m residing the dream of slightly child wishing to be on a treasure hunt with a pirate ship once they develop up, or one thing like that,” he informed me. “I’ve been having enjoyable.”

Definitely, if this undertaking is a mercenary one, to this point it hasn’t been a hit. Sitting of their workplace, Dennis and Kem informed me {that a} 10 p.c finder’s charge from what they imagine was at Dents Run would work out “on the low finish” to about $60 million. “I’m not backing down,” Dennis stated. “If they provide me cash, I already informed my legal professional, something beneath 20 million—dangle up on them and inform them to kiss your ass. We’re going to court docket.”

However after I requested how a lot cash Finders Keepers had earned through the years from finder’s charges, they laughed.

“Nothing,” Kem stated. He gestured round him: “Have you ever seen the home?”

“I’m nonetheless cleansing commodes out again as a janitor, okay?” Dennis stated.

In truth, the one cash in movement has flowed in the wrong way. Through the years, Dennis reckons he has spent about $60,000 on the Dents Run search, and many extra on a location in Nova Scotia the place Finders Keepers imagine they’ve detected a community of historical tunnels. At Dents Run, the cash has principally gone towards geophysical scans, gear, authorized charges, and employed labor.

Lastly, for Dennis, this can be a battle about precept, and honor, and who will get the final phrase. “I need to get my credibility again,” he informed me. “I’ve numerous associates who snicker at me. They go, ‘Oh, Denny, did you discover any gold this week? How are you and the FBI doing?’ Laughing at my again.” Now he says he’ll do no matter it takes to get the reality out. “I’m going to seek out out what the hell the FBI did and I’m going to reveal it to the world.”

On my third day on the town, we drove to Dents Run. Kem couldn’t make it—his daughter had a fever—however Dennis and I had been joined by two different members of Finders Keepers, Dwayne Kelly and Brian Shull.

We parked on the backside of the hill and hiked as much as a flat part. Dennis pointed on the floor beneath his toes with the department he had been utilizing as a strolling stick.

“Loads of reminiscences right here, buddy,” he stated. “Loads of reminiscences right here.”

Dennis had first been informed that treasure lay on this space by a stranger within the Seventies—I’ll come again to that—however after a number of sorties got here up chilly, he deserted the seek for 30 years. Every now and then, he’d speak concerning the gold. Kem, who cherished the story as a bedtime story, was all the time saying they need to go search for it, however Dennis would demur. There have been rattlesnakes and copperheads; there is perhaps deserted mine shafts. However in 2004, Dennis informed the story to certainly one of his tenants, Scott Farrell, and Farrell persuaded him to take one other look. It was Farrell who discovered the cave.

The skinny strip of the cave’s mouth is inconceivable to see with out clambering down subsequent to it. The roof of the doorway is simply excessive sufficient for an individual to crawl by means of on their stomach. We peered inside, and Kelly caught a salamander. Dennis says there’s a great deal of these within the cave, and cave crickets, too: “They’re large and so they’re comical. They’ve obtained large black eyeballs, and so they run like little teams of dangerous guys.”

Again in 2004, when Dennis and Farrell, joined by Kem, started to discover the cave, it was a sluggish and troublesome course of. Except for the cramped surroundings, and the moist and the mud, and the cave crickets, there have been spiders and crayfish and porcupines. However they recognized what they thought had been clear indicators of human occupation: charcoal burn marks on the ceiling, presumably from torches. About 15 toes in, they discovered what gave the impression to be a man-made wall, which they managed to take away. For 5 years they’d go up there perhaps twice every week, pushing farther and farther again. After they had rocks to take away, they’d load them right into a turkey-roasting pan, which they’d pull out of the cave by a rope.

“I beloved each minute of it,” Dennis informed me. “I didn’t care if I obtained something again out. I simply wished to see one thing occur.”

He says that they recurrently reported to the state authority, the Division of Conservation and Pure Sources, what they had been doing: “photos, drawing data, all of the readings.” When it grew to become clear that the cave was unstable, and that the three males had been prone to being buried in a collapse, it was truly a DCNR engineer, they are saying, who urged a brand new strategy: drilling from above. In order that’s what they did, till someday, pulling up a three-quarter-inch drill bit, they noticed on its tip a shiny golden smear. If there was too little to pattern or save, it hardly mattered, Dennis felt: “We had hit gold.”

However DCNR didn’t all the time agree with them about what they had been discovering—artifacts that they felt positive had been from the Civil Struggle period had been examined by DCNR and pronounced “searching camp particles,” with “no cultural or historic significance.” In April 2012, DCNR forbade Finders Keepers from conducting additional “treasure searching exercise” on the web site. This wasn’t the primary time that they had been informed one thing comparable—a DCNR doc from again in June 2005 states, “Mr. Parada was banned from all additional excavation” and had been “knowledgeable that elimination of any attainable historic materials from State Forest lands might represent against the law,” although Dennis implies that this case was smoothed over. As for the 2012 order, Dennis noticed loopholes. “We stored going again,” he informed me.

Sometimes, in our conversations, his frustration with the federal government bubbled over. “Simply because I don’t have a Ph.D., they deal with us like amateurs. I’ve 40 years of expertise within the woods,” he stated. “We’re on the bottom. We get proper down into the filth. These bookworms who sit again and name themselves archaeologists and stuff—I get actually pissed off at this shit.”

I requested him what these individuals assume they’ve that he doesn’t.

“Intelligence,” he scoffed. “They assume they know greater than us.”

After leaving Dents Run, I discovered myself puzzling over the gold’s origin story, so I went looking for written accounts. I discovered two that had circulated broadly in treasure-hunting circles: Sandra Gardner’s “26 Lacking Pennsylvania Gold Ingots,” from the July 1974 difficulty of Treasure journal, and Francis X. Sculley’s “Pennsylvania’s Misplaced Gold Ingots,” from the August 1974 difficulty of True Treasure journal. I additionally tracked down a extra obscure instance in a 1973 difficulty of The Elk Horn, an area historical past journal revealed by the Elk County Historic Society: Mary Morgan Dixon’s “Thar’s Gold in Them Thar Hills?”

All three accounts seem to attract instantly from the “Misplaced Gold Ingot Treasure” doc referred to within the FBI affidavit. Whereas Gardner and Dixon hew carefully to this supply—at occasions Dixon merely reprints entire paragraphs—Sculley’s article is extra impressionistic, weaving in further particulars. However I believe this means much less that he had additional sources, and extra that he was a professional nimbly riffing on a theme.

What of “The Misplaced Gold Ingot Treasure” itself? It’s typewritten, its pages numbered 98 to 109, apparently taken from a bigger work, and its writer is unknown. If the signpost in its first sentence (“That is the centennial anniversary of the Civil Struggle …”) will be trusted, it dates from 1965. In its descriptions of the Union troopers’ mission—how, on their means towards Pittsburgh to rendezvous with a steamboat known as the River Queen, the troopers and two wagons secretly loaded with 26 ingots of gold disappeared someplace in these mountains—the doc is an impressively, and puzzlingly, wealthy account. How, 102 years after the occasions described, did such information spring forth?

The doc mentions two firsthand testimonies: a written account of the journey that its chief, Castleton, gave to a person named Conners—conveniently, the group’s solely survivor—and an inquest assertion given by Conners. It additionally alludes to a sequence of investigations within the years that adopted.

However no one has turned up these paperwork or any earlier reference to them, or any earlier accounts of the misplaced gold itself. I’ve appeared and appeared, however I’ve unearthed no particular reference to the story within the 100 years earlier than “The Misplaced Gold Ingot Treasure.” Seek for mentions of Dents Run earlier than the Nineteen Sixties, and also you’ll discover loads about mining and fishing, a specific amount about botany, and the unverified story of the time, in 1882, when an area resident named Fred Murray is meant to have seen, passing overhead, a flock of buzzardlike birds with wingspans of greater than 16 toes. However about gold in them thar hills, nothing.

What concerning the native folklore, the tales of misplaced gold which were the speak of Dents Run for so long as anybody can bear in mind? Cheryl Elder informed me, “I used to sit down on the bar and so they’d speak concerning the gold … the old-timers.” Garrett Osche, who lives in a Dents Run home that his mother and father purchased again in 1942, remembers studying concerning the gold within the Pittsburgh Submit-Gazette when he was 18.

The factor is, these old-timers’ reminiscences aren’t so very previous. Osche was 18 in 1967. Elder is a few decade youthful. Nothing of their accounts undermines the likelihood that the legend of Dents Run emerged, totally shaped, in 1965.

Moreover, the provenance of “The Misplaced Gold Ingot Treasure” is murkier than the FBI affidavit suggests. It did technically come “from the archives of the Military Heritage and Training Middle on the Army Historical past Institute in Carlisle, Pa.” Dennis obtained a photocopy of the doc in 2008 from that institute’s retired historical-reference chief, John Slonaker. However that means a credibility it might not have.

“What I can inform you may be very little,” Slonaker informed me after I known as him. “Not that I don’t bear in mind, however that I by no means did know very a lot. We might often get queries from treasure hunters, searching for official paperwork, and we by no means discovered any within the war-department data. However through the years, as these queries mounted, I started to maintain a file of the data that folks would ship me. They’d say, ‘Right here’s some proof I discovered—what are you able to do so as to add to that? Or to corroborate?’ And so I’d simply hold that proof that they despatched in a file marked Misplaced Treasure, or one thing like that.”

That, he stated, is the place any doc he despatched Dennis got here from.

“I can’t inform you the supply of any of these paperwork aside from that patrons, individuals directing the inquiries to us through the years, would typically ship us materials. We simply collected it. It doesn’t come from the Military’s archive.”

illustration of two Union soldiers from the back, one standing with sword drawn and pointed to ground, in front of crossed yellow "Caution" tape
Erik Carter for The Atlantic

Warren Getler has his personal thought concerning the origins of “The Misplaced Gold Ingot Treasure.” He has by no means believed that it’s a literal historic doc. He thinks it’s a “waybill”—a symbolic story crafted by the Knights of the Golden Circle, one which intertwines details with references to KGC motifs like copperheads (northerners sympathetic to the South) and tree markings. The names of troopers within the story (Castleton and O’Rourke) supposedly signify models inside the KGC (“castles” and “rooks”). All of those are clues that can direct these within the know to the hidden gold, banked to finance the KGC’s agenda—which was, a minimum of initially, the creation of an alliance of slave-owning territories that would come with areas in Mexico and elsewhere.

However absolutely the central thriller stays: Whether or not the doc is an actual historic narrative or a coded waybill, how and why did this story floor within the Nineteen Sixties, and the place had the data on which it was primarily based been hidden for the earlier 100 years?

When attempting to evaluate what to imagine, some individuals might need to consider the story of how Dennis Parada got here to be looking for gold at Dents Run to start with.

It was 1974. Parada was 22. He bought furnishings at a division retailer, W. T. Grant, the place the large impress-the-customers stunt was to shoot an arrow into a settee to show how sturdy the material was. Typically administration would maintain extra formal occasions to entice customers. On this specific day, there was an illustration by a person billed as Professor Michael G. Malley—an professional in “extrasensory notion.”

This was, Dennis insists, of minimal curiosity to him: “What a bunch of bullshit.” Throughout a break, although, Malley sat down with Dennis and a few of his co-workers. Any individual occurred to have a duplicate of the 1974 Treasure journal with the Sandra Gardner story. (A mistake within the FBI affidavit: Dennis had not heard the lost-gold story “since he was a toddler”—this present day was the primary he realized of it.)

Somebody requested Malley if he may do treasure hunts, and urged he have a look at Gardner’s article. Malley appeared to speed-read it, entered a sort of trance, and began speaking in voices that weren’t his personal. “ No less than three completely different voices,” Dennis recollects. “It was the troopers speaking about their expertise, one thing like that. They’re hungry. Misplaced. I don’t know. It’s about 10, quarter-hour I’m listening to all this … pondering, Bullshit, bullshit.”

Then Malley requested for an atlas that was sitting on the desk, and for a pen. With the atlas open to the overall space described in Gardner’s article, Malley appeared upward, eyes to the ceiling, as he introduced the pen down onto the web page.

“The pen hit,” Dennis says, “and he appeared proper at me. And he goes, ‘Denny’—I don’t understand how he knew my identify. He goes, ‘Denny, I would like you to go to this spot’ … And it was Dents Run.”

Malley instructed him to assemble 5 filth samples. He was to scoop the filth up with a picket spoon and hold every pattern in a plastic container—“no steel objects allowed.” Malley would inform him which one had been collected from the realm closest to the gold.

In order that’s what Dennis did. He and a colleague went as much as Dents Run, taking 5 soil samples at numerous factors up and down the mountain. To mess issues up a bit, he additionally took three samples from his stepfather’s yard, then drove in his white ’69 Corvette to fulfill Malley. Malley immediately put aside the three that weren’t from Dents Run, then chosen pattern No. 5.

Malley stated to search for a cave inside 500 toes of the place this soil had been taken. And that’s how Dennis Parada got here to imagine that there was gold at Dents Run.

When Dennis lastly discovered the collapse 2004, he determined to trace Malley down, to share the information. (Dennis informed me that when he cold-called after 30 years and stated his identify, Malley instantly replied: “I do know—the man with the white Corvette.”) They haven’t met in individual since 1974, however they’ve stayed in contact: Dennis nonetheless periodically solicits Malley’s insights about Dents Run and different websites. “This man, every part is 100% appropriate,” he says. Consequently, he has promised Malley 25 p.c of any proceeds from these searches.

Naturally, I inform Dennis and Kem that I want to speak with Malley. They appear doubtful. Malley has by no means spoken to anybody about this, they inform me. I hold asking anyway; Dennis retains prevaricating. However on the night after we returned from Dents Run, I attempted once more, and for some purpose, Dennis appeared to really feel otherwise. He allowed that perhaps we may simply name Malley now and ask.

When Malley answered—he was on speakerphone—Dennis first up to date him on the progress his legal professional was making with their FOIA filings.

“It’s going to be thrilling, Dennis,” Malley stated.

Then Dennis launched me. Malley informed me he’d be glad to speak, and defined that he had simply come again from the personal-care house the place his spouse had just lately moved. “At the moment was a good day,” he stated. “Two days in the past was miraculous, however I suppose I’ve no proper to anticipate miraculous every single day. She’s clearly going downhill quick.”

At first, after I requested Malley about that go to to W. T. Grant 47 years in the past, he appeared slightly hazy. “That is fairly some time in the past, my good friend,” he stated. “I’m 81.”

However then he started to speak concerning the otherworldly moments when, from time to time, he can be in the midst of a efficiency and “one thing takes place that’s not merely present enterprise.”

What, I requested, would he say to individuals who assume that this doesn’t make any sense, that you could’t predict details about issues like this?

“Consider me, I’m about as skeptical about this as skeptical may get,” he stated. “And but, it’s taking place.” He stated that he discovered Dennis’s religion in him “scary.” In truth, he’d tried to speak Dennis out of pursuing the gold through the years. However his spouse’s care prices greater than $5,000 a month—if the gold is actual, he may actually use his minimize of the cash.

Malley not performs, and I requested whether or not he missed it.

photo of man wearing collared shirt under red sweater and jeans standing with his hand on his hip in a doorway
Mike Malley at house in Portage, Pennsylvania (Jingyu Lin for The Atlantic)

“Sure. The little boy in me by no means grew up. So I miss being onstage. However no, I don’t miss what I did with Dennis in any respect—that tore me up inside after I did it. However I shouldn’t say ‘after I did it.’ When it occurred. It was extra taking place than a doing. It wasn’t one thing [where] I stated, ‘Oh, you recognize, I’ll do that at the moment.’ It simply occurs, interval. Simply occurs. I didn’t have an evidence for it then. I don’t have an evidence for it now.”

I requested if he remembered the primary time it had occurred.

“Sure!” he exclaimed, with what appeared like an odd sort of glee. “It was in Bakersfield, California.” He stated he’d finished a sequence of exhibits at a restaurant there, however when it was time to receives a commission, the proprietor informed him, “Mike, I’ll solely provide the test should you inform me one thing personally about myself that no one else is aware of.” Malley stared at him—“he had a gray-cast look on his face”—and stated, “Sir, you’re going to die in two weeks.” The person laughed it off and handed him his cash. However six months later, when he glided by the restaurant once more, he was informed that the proprietor was lifeless: “Overwhelmed, pistol-whipped to demise two weeks after you left.”

Malley stated he was so shaken up that he couldn’t eat for every week or extra. “Nothing. I drank some liquid water. However that was it. I imply, that tore me up so dangerous, I can’t put it into phrases.”

Pondering again over this dialog, I used to be struck by how completely pitched Mike Malley’s Aw shucks, I’m as skeptical as you’re slant was for a pair of ears like mine. It started to nag at me: Had I been expertly performed by an 81-year-old psychic?

I wished to know extra about who he was—the person in the beginning of all of it—and over the subsequent few days, I attempted to unearth what I may. Not a lot got here readily handy, past a number of newspaper interviews and commercials for performances, principally from the Seventies. In these he’s often known as both “Michael G. Malley” or “Prof. Michael G. Malley,” although within the earliest, from the late Nineteen Sixties, he’s “The Rev. Michael G. Malley,” a “Catholic priest of the Byzantine Ceremony.”

From newer occasions, I stumbled upon references to Malley’s different profession—promoting life insurance coverage—and two letters he revealed in an area newspaper, one recommending using shampoo on grease stains, the opposite arguing fiercely in favor of Invoice Clinton’s impeachment. I may discover no different traces. Till, within the unlikeliest of locations, I did.

Keith and the Lady is a long-running podcast made by two comedians in Queens. They recorded their first episode in March 2005 and since then have finished about 3,500 extra, one thing they declare is a document. Although episodes usually revolve round banter and present occasions, their mission—“Keith and his ex-girlfriend speak shit”—is broad sufficient to permit all types of weirdness. Common listeners are properly conscious of 1 recurrent theme: the failings of Keith’s father. The portrait painted of this man is of a pompous blowhard and bully, a self-deluded manipulator, a lifelong fraud who has all the time talked large and achieved little. “He’s simply so stuffed with lies and rubbish,” Keith will say. Or: “My dad is a psychopath, with none exaggeration.” In a sequence of exhibits devoted solely to this topic—“Daddy Points”—Keith’s youthful brother Ken joins in, hour after brutal hour.

As you likely can have guessed, their father is Mike Malley.

Dennis Parada’s Mike Malley, the so-called psychic, virtually by no means seems in Keith’s accounts of his father’s many schemes and forestalled careers. And after I known as Keith, he appeared shocked to listen to of the context by which I had spoken together with his father. He had no reminiscence of his dad even hinting at something to do with treasure searching. “I bear in mind as a child, I needed to dig little holes as punishment,” he stated, a bit wryly. “I’m wondering if I used to be burying gold.”

Typically, he stated, his dad would allude to psychic capabilities. I requested whether or not his father really believed these powers had been actual.

“I wouldn’t be shocked if he did,” Keith informed me. “He does imagine, for instance, that God talks to him and he hears God’s literal voice … Loads of these tales with my dad, who is aware of? So I suppose I’ll by no means know—the tip. That’s how I dwell.”

I discovered myself being surprisingly cautious after I spoke with Keith Malley. As an illustration, I didn’t clarify simply how concerned his father nonetheless was with Finders Keepers, or how he’d been promised a share of any rewards. It’s not that I discovered Keith’s account unconvincing. However I used to be uncomfortable on the thought that I is perhaps feeding Keith info that would by some means be used in opposition to his father, as if that may be taking sides in a scenario the place I had no standing to take action. (For the document, when requested for remark, Mike Malley described his son’s accusations as “vicious lies.”)

illustration of 3 gold bars appearing in crystal ball with hands hovering over it
Erik Carter for The Atlantic

There’s one different factor I didn’t point out to Keith, partly, I suppose, as a result of I didn’t know what, if something, I’d have meant by telling it—only one extra loop inside a loop that would signify as a lot or as little as you need it to. However within the spring of 1974, inside a number of weeks of the day when Mike Malley first set Dennis Parada chasing hopes up a Pennsylvania mountain, Malley appeared in his native newspaper for a unique purpose. It was just some phrases—“Mr. and Mrs. Michael Malley, Somerset RD 4, boy”—marking the arrival of the son they might identify Keith.

I may inform you issues that may make you doubt the Paradas extra. May it shift your view if I described how the Finders Keepers males have turn out to be eager proponents of dowsing, by which handheld steel rods are believed to rotate in response to buried objects, and that they speak freely of vortexes and ley traces? Or if I detailed a few of Dennis’s innovations, together with, in his basement, an engine that “makes power” by using the way in which magnets reverse polarity as an iron bar strikes forwards and backwards between them? (After I identified that if this had been really creating power, it will be a a lot larger deal than discovering tens of millions of {dollars} in gold—it may clear up local weather change and rewrite the legal guidelines of physics—Parada brushed this off as if it had been by some means irrelevant.)

Likewise, I may broaden upon Warren Getler’s beliefs concerning the Knights of the Golden Circle—for example, that Jesse James was a key KGC money-gatherer and strategist who tended to its gold caches lengthy after his faked demise, and that John Wilkes Sales space was KGC-financed. Getler means that the FBI absconded with the Dents Run treasure as a result of it is aware of that there’s “tens of billions” of {dollars}’  value of hidden gold on the market, and considers the caches a matter of nationwide safety.

On the opposite aspect of the ledger, what of the FBI? Why, if all of that is gossamer fantasy, can’t the company simply set the document straight?

Early in my reporting, I emailed Jake Archer asking whether or not he may assist me perceive what had occurred. He by no means replied instantly, however lower than two hours later, I used to be contacted by the FBI’s public-affairs workplace in Philadelphia.

Within the discussions that adopted, the FBI implied that it would have interaction. At one juncture, there was a suggestion that key individuals is perhaps prepared to fulfill and focus on the entire operation, although it wasn’t clear how a lot can be on the document, and the thought was quickly withdrawn. I used to be then informed that the FBI may reply written questions, so I despatched an inventory. I requested what had or hadn’t been discovered on the web site, whether or not something had been eliminated, whether or not something had been examined or analyzed, what steps had been taken to grasp any discrepancies between the geophysical surveys and no matter had or hadn’t been discovered, and what conclusions had been drawn. I requested if the FBI had any response to the treasure hunters’ theories, and their accusation that the company had deceived each them and the general public.

Six weeks later, the FBI responded, partially: “No work happened on the web site after hours; the one nighttime exercise was performed by FBI Police personnel who secured the positioning across the clock at some stage in the excavation … Nothing was discovered within the excavation … The one gadgets the FBI faraway from the positioning had been the gear and provides introduced in for the dig. No gold or different gadgets of proof had been positioned or collected.”

The assertion concluded: “Whereas info had urged a possible cultural heritage web site at Dents Run, that risk was not borne out by the excavation. The FBI continues to unequivocally reject any claims or hypothesis on the contrary.”

A spokesperson later added that the “excavated filth was visually inspected and scanned with steel detectors,” and clarified a number of incidental particulars. However past this, the FBI would say nothing extra, which baffled me. On the very least, why wouldn’t it have tried to sq. the geophysical outcomes with what was truly below the bottom, if just for future circumstances?

However then I started to wonder if my assumption that the FBI had performed some thorough submit hoc evaluation, and was declining to share the outcomes, is perhaps incorrect. Possibly it doesn’t work like that. Possibly the fact is one thing flatter and extra detached—that the brokers do a job and don’t look again, as a result of there are extra necessary issues to consider. That each one the remainder—this Finders Keepers hullabaloo and questions like mine—is only a nuisance. An embarrassing nuisance.

Might it’s so simple as this: The FBI staged a big and expensive operation that left it feeling silly? Archer and his colleagues, in spite of everything, wouldn’t have been the primary individuals in historical past to get slightly overexcited and forward of themselves on the considered some gold. Possibly they’re doing all they can’t to attract any extra consideration to this. (Although, as already famous, if that is their technique—not going too properly.) The treasure hunters received’t see it this fashion, however it’s not troublesome to recast a few of what they describe—Archer saying he hates this case, for instance—as what somebody may say if it’s dawning on him that he obtained carried away, because the phrases of a person aggravated each with himself and with those that fed his wrongheaded optimism.

Selecting my means by means of this unusual story’s tendrils, I discovered myself pondering loads about treasure and treasure hunts. I couldn’t shake the disconcerting feeling that there could also be much more treasure searching on the market than precise treasure, maybe to a vastly disproportionate diploma. This neighborhood looks like a bunch feeding hungrily by itself collective perception, making a sort of round logic: If that’s the case many individuals are chasing a lot, so assiduously, and discovering what seem to be so many promising leads, then a minimum of a great quantity of what they’re looking for have to be on the market, proper? And but. If there actually had been so many grand treasure hoards, wouldn’t extra of them have been found by now, each by probability, as we churn up the land beneath us, and by use of all the trendy applied sciences that those that buried the treasure may by no means have imagined?

I do know somebody like Warren Getler may rebut this by saying that some giant hauls have been discovered, however that the federal government has lined them up—learn the tales about Victorio Peak, in New Mexico, if you wish to discover this type of pondering. I’d so wish to imagine, however I simply can’t fairly get there.

Nonetheless, the dream of treasure depends on risk, and within the case of Dents Run, risk stays. Loads of individuals—perhaps with a gleam of their eye and a spring of their step—will glimpse sufficient on this story that simply doesn’t make sense to make them suspect that the gold was actual. We might not have seen it but. However we are going to. And if a few of us are drawn to a unique conclusion—say, {that a} psychic speaking to a furnishings salesman triggered a wild goose chase that, 44 years later, led dozens of FBI brokers to dig up a snow-covered Pennsylvania mountainside the place nothing ever was—then that’s, doubly, our loss.


This text seems within the July/August 2022 print version with the headline “A Mad Hunt for Civil Struggle Treasure.” Whenever you purchase a e book utilizing a hyperlink on this web page, we obtain a fee. Thanks for supporting The Atlantic.

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