Sunday, May 16, 2004

The Beale Codes
The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography"It was in the month of January, 1820, while keeping the Washington Hotel, that I first saw and became acquainted with Beale. In company with two others, he came to my house seeking entertainment for himself and friends. Being assured of a comfortable provision for themselves and their horses, Beale stated his intention of remaining for the winter, should nothing occur to alter his plans, but that the gentlemen accompanying him would leave in a few days for Richmond, near which place they resided, and that they were anxious to reach their homes, from which they had long been absent. They all appeared to be gentlemen, well born, and well educated, with refined and courteous manners and with a free and independent air, which rendered then peculiarly attractive. After remaining a week or ten days, the two left, after expressions of satisfaction with their visit. Beale, who remained, soon became a favored and popular guest; his social disposition and friendly demeanor rendered him extremely popular with every one, particularly the ladies, and a pleasant and friendly intercourse was quickly established between them.

"In person, he was about six feet in height, with jet black eyes and hair of the same color, worn longer than was the style at that time. His form was symmetrical, and gave evidence of unusual strength and activity; but his distinguishing feature was a dark and swarthy complexion, as if much exposure to the sun and weather had thoroughly tanned and discolored him; this, however, did not detract from his appearance, and I thought him the handsomest man I had ever seen. Altogether, he was a model of manly beauty, favored by the ladies and envied by men. To the first he was reverentially tender and polite; to the latter, affable and courteous, when they kept within bounds, but, if they were supercilious or presuming, the lion was aroused, and woe to the man who offended him. Instances of this character occurred more than once while he was my guest, and always resulted in his demanding and receiving an apology. His character soon became universally known, and he was no longer troubled by impertinence.

"Such a man was Thomas J. Beale, as he appeared in 1820, and in his subsequent visit to my house. He registered simply from Virginia, but I am of the impression he was from some western portion of the State. Curiously enough, he never adverted to his family or to his antecedents, nor did I question him concerning them, as I would have done had I dreamed of the interest that in the future would attach to his name.

"He remained with me until about the latter end of the following March, when he left, with the same friends who first accompanied him to my house, and who had returned some days before.

"After this I heard nothing from him until January, 1822, when he once more made his appearance, the same genial and popular gentleman as before, but, if possible, darker and swarthier than ever. His welcome was a genuine one, as all were delighted to see him.

"In the spring, at about the same time, he again left, but before doing so, handed me this box, as he said, contained papers of value and importance; and which he desired to leave in my charge until called for hereafter. Of course, I did not decline to receive them, but little imagined their importance until his letter from St. Louis was received. This letter I carefully preserved, and it will be given with these papers. The box was of iron, carefully locked, and of such weight as to render it a safe depository for articles of value. I placed it in a safe and secure place, where it could not be disturbed until such time as it should be demanded by its owner. The letter alluded to above was the last communication I ever received from Beale, and I never saw him again. I can only suppose that he was killed by Indians, afar from his home, though nothing was heard of his death. His companions, too, must all have shared his fate, as no one has ever demanded the box or claimed his effects. The box was left in my hands in the Spring of 1822, and by authority of his letter, I should have examined its contents in 1832, ten years thereafter, having heard nothing from Beale in the meantime; but it was not until 1845, some twenty-three years after it came into my possession, that I decided upon opening it. During that year I had the lock broken, and with the exception of the two letters addressed to myself, and some old receipts, found only some unintelligible papers, covered with figures, and totally incomprehensible to me...

"According to his letter, these papers convey all the information necessary to find the treasure he has concealed, and upon you devolves the responsibility of recovering it. Should you succeed you will be amply compensated for your work, and others near and dear to me will likewise be benefitted. The end is worth all your exertions, and I have every hope that success will reward your efforts."
Lynchburg, Va., January 5th, 1822.

Dear Mr. Morriss. - You will find in one of the papers, written in cipher, the names of all my associates, who are each entitled to an equal part of our treasure, and opposite to the names of each one will be found the names and residences of the relatives and others, to whom they devise their respective portions. From this you will be enabled to carry out the wishes of all by distributing the portion of each to the parties designated. This will not be difficult, as their residences are given, and they can easily be found.

The two letters given above were all the box contained that were intelligible; the others, consisted of papers closely covered with figures, which were, of course, unmeaning until they could be deciphered. To do this was the task to which I now devoted myself, and with but partial success...

To enable my readers to understand the paper "No. 2," the only one I was ever able to decipher, I herewith give the Declaration of Independence, with the words numbered consecutively, by the assistance of which that paper's hidden meaning was made plain:

...By comparing the foregoing numbers with the corresponding numbers of the initial letters of the consecutive words in the Declaration of Independence, the translation will be found to be as follows:

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 "3," herewith:

The first deposit consisted of one thousand and fourteen pounds of gold, and three thousand eight hundred and twelve pounds of silver, deposited November, 1819. The second was made December, 1821, and consisted of nineteen hundred and seven pounds of gold, and twelve hundred and eighty-eight pounds of silver; also jewels, obtained in St. Louis in exchange for silver to save transportation, and valued at $13,000.

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 "1" describes the exact locality of the vault so that no difficulty will be had in finding it.

The following is the paper which, according to Beale's statement, describes the exact locality of the vault, and is marked "1." It is to this that I have devoted most of my time, but, unfortunately, without success...

The Beale Codes

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