Thursday, May 24, 2012

Montezuma’s gold – the missing Aztec treasure hoard.

Montezuma’s gold is believed to be a lost hoard of gold that the Aztecs buried in the 1500s in order to stop it falling into the Spanish conquistadors hands. It is fabled to be the biggest missing hoard in the world.

Hernan Cortez had arrived in Tenochtitlan in what is now Mexico, on November 8, 1519 and quickly set to killing everyone and destroying the city. The story is that the Aztecs hid their gold, Emperor Montezuma was taken prisoner by Cortez and killed and presumably, the location of the gold died with him.

However, in 1914, a man named Freddie Crystal arrived in Kanab a small town in Utah, with a map, he said he had found in a Spanish monastery and which he believed to be a treasure map to Montezuma’s gold.

The map featured distinctive geographic points, mountains, a cliff with stairs, a canyon, petroglyphs in the shape of ducks, mysterious Aztec symbols and more. Freddie Crystal and his entourage spent eight years searching the local area for the location with no luck at all despite digging exploratory mine shafts and holes all over the area. Most local people were sceptical.

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When Crystal and his entourage entered Johnson’s Canyon a small canyon located north of Kanab by White Mountain, the clues of the original treasure map began to make sense. They found the duck symbols and the cliff with stairs and the geographic clues all began to add up.

The treasure hunters set to work immediately but after two days hit a huge man made wall built from blue limestone. Once word of this got out in Kanab, the townspeople changed their attitude.

Kanab was gripped with treasure fever and the townspeople flocked to the site, setting up a camp at White Mountain. Crystal agreed to cut them all in for a percentage of the treasure when they found it, in return for work. After days of back breaking labour, they managed to break through the wall and entered a 160ft long tunnel, which led into a huge chamber under the mountain. It was empty.

Undeterred the treasure hunters discovered other blocked up tunnels and dug these out. They found a skeleton in another chamber and small artefacts but if there had ever been treasure, it was gone.

After two years and no treasure, the people of Kanab lost heart again and went back to their every day lives and Freddie Crystal just seemed to disappear without trace. Nobody knows what happened to him.

However, the story did not end there. A local Kanab man named Brandt Child, who had been involved with the treasure hunt as a young boy, had always believed in the idea of Crystal’s story and never gave up searching for the treasure.

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In 1989 he was exploring Three Lakes Canyon area, about 10 miles away from White Mountain when he recognised what he thought was an Aztec sign carved into a sandstone cliff.

He decided to buy up all the land in the area including three lakes, one of which locals believed was haunted and bottomless but which turned out to be 35 ft deep.

Child had researched the Aztec's and believed that the treasure was likely buried in water. When interviewed in 1998 he explained that the Aztec's would dig a tunnel to a treasure hoard and then flood the entrance by damming a stream and creating a lake, drowning everyone involved in the work.

He estimated that there might be as much as 45,000 pounds of gold and approximately the remains of 8000 Aztec soldiers.

Brandt Child contracted a team of divers and began investigations. Apparently, weird and spooky things started happening. The dives were plagued with bad luck and inexplicable equipment failure and all the divers reported a choking sensation,  a strong sense of dread and of eerie figures surrounding them.

None of the divers were ever prepared to dive the lake again and each one reported the same terrifying experiences.

In another twist it turned out that the lake was the home of a very rare and protected species snail called the Oxyloma haydeni kanabensis - or the Kanab ambersnail.

Brandt Child was prevented from the disturbing the environment and the US Fish and Wildlife Service fenced off the lake.

Brandt Child was killed in mysterious circumstances in 2001 when his car hit a horse, which reputedly appeared from nowhere and some people believe there is a curse on the site and the treasure. Locals firmly believe that the area is haunted and that the horse that killed Brandt was some sort of ghostly apparition.

It is possible that Montezuma’s treasure is still down there somewhere and protected by the ghosts of the 8000 drowned Aztec warriors,  the US Fish and Wildlife Service and 10,000 endangered thumbnail sized snails.

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