Thomas Beale Treasure...The Beale Ciphers, by E.E. Remington
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Las Vegas to the Grand CanyonI told this story briefly, but I include the full article here for those that are interested.

Jeffrey A. Hill
1661 W. Republic #20
Salina, Kansas 67401

May 29, 1989

The Beale Papers

In the Spring of 1885, James B. Ward [7], acting as the agent for an anonymous author, began selling copies of a pamphlet entitled, THE BEALE PAPERS, which purported to tell the true story of a fortune in gold, silver, and jewels buried in the Virginia hills. The only clues as to the location of that treasure were three letters from a Mr. Thomas J. Beale to a Mr. Robert Morriss, together with three messages in cipher that were reprinted in the pamphlet. The letters from Beale tell the story of a party of thirty men who went West on a hunting trip in 1817. As luck would have it, while tracking a herd of buffalo in northern New Mexico, they discovered a rich vein of gold. Abandoning the buffalo hunt for a more lucrative occupation, they began to accumulate a sizable hoard of gold and silver. In 1819, the accumulated store of treasure was transported to Virginia, where it was buried for safe keeping about four miles from Buford's Tavern (modern day Montvale). A second shipment followed in 1821. According to the Ward pamphlet, the entire party of thirty men disappeared without a trace before a third shipment could be made.

That would have been the end of the story except that before returning to New Mexico in 1822, Beale had decided to entrust Robert Morriss, a Lynchburg innkeeper of high moral repute, with a strongbox containing two letters and three ciphers. A third letter was mailed to Morriss from St. Louis, instructing him to wait ten years before opening the box and then, if Beale had not returned before then to claim it, to read the papers inside. At that time (in 1832), a fourth letter was supposed to reach Morriss from someone in St. Louis who had been entrusted with the key to the ciphers. Morriss would then have been able to decipher the messages and learn the location of the treasure vault, its contents, and the names of the Beale party's next of kin to whom he was to deliver the treasure (after deducting an amount specified by Beale as a fee for these services). Unfortunately, the letter bearing the key never arrived and Morriss was unable to comply with Beale's final request.

In 1862, one year before his death, Morriss passed the contents of the strongbox to the unknown person who was later to become the author of the Beale pamphlet. This person made the discovery that the Declaration of Independence is the key to Cipher #2, which describes the contents of the
treasure vault. But after twenty years of effort, Cipher #1, which gives the location of the treasure, and Cipher #3, which names the Beale Party's next of kin, remained unbroken. The author explains that he has been forced to abandon his own attempt to break the ciphers, and is offering the pamphlet to the public for a small fee, in order to recover some of the personal wealth that he has lost by devoting twenty years of his life to the Beale mystery.

The Beale Cipher Table

As the Beale Papers author explains, Cipher #2 is a "book" cipher for which the Declaration of Independence is the key document. Beale, whoever he was, numbered the words of the DOI and used these numbers as his cipher elements. Whenever he needed an "A", for example, he found a word in the  DOI beginning with "A" and used the corresponding word number as a substitute for the letter. However, if the words of the standard version of the Declaration of Independence are numbered and the first letters of these words are substituted for the corresponding numbers in Cipher #2 one quickly discovers that Beale did not use the standard version of the DOI as his cipher key. The Beale version appears to have been a DOI that had been shortened to conform to some unknown editor's available space. Thus there are gaps of 10 or 11, and even 68, words where Beale's numbering fails to conform to the numbering of the standard DOI. It is a fairly simple matter to locate all the elements of Cipher #2 in the DOI and then to make educated guesses as to how Beale's version of the DOI differed from the standard version. In doing so, one should be alert for typographical errors in the cipher itself. The four procedures which follow summarize the generally agreed upon adjustments needed to get error-free clear text for Cipher #2:

Step One: Replace comma missing between elements [10] and [8].

Position 571, [108] ---> Position 571, [10] and Position 572, [8]

Step Two: Correct seven other typographical errors in Cipher #2.

(Position Numbers reflect renumbering after comma is inserted in  Step One).

Position Ward New Adjustment

-------- ---- --- ----------

1 223 84 85 +1

2 500 117 116 -1

3 531 53 54 +1

4 591 188 138 correct 3 mistaken for 8

5 667 440 40 eliminate duplicate 4

6 702 84 85 +1

7 723 96 95 -1

Step Three: Create Beale Cipher Table (BCT) to correct counting errors made by Beale or to adjust for differences between Beale's version of the DOI and the Standard DOI.

Corresponding Conversion Rule

Group BCT Elements DOI Elements (N = Position Number)

----- ------------ ------------- ---------------------

1 1 - 154 1 - 154 BCT[N] = DOI[N]

2 155 - 157 Indeterminate

3 158 - 241 157 - 240 BCT[N] = DOI[N - 1]

4 242 - 245 Indeterminate

5 246 - 466 246 - 466 BCT[N] = DOI[N]

6 467 - 484 Indeterminate

7 485 - 505 495 - 515 BCT[N] = DOI[N + 10]

8 506 - 510 Indeterminate

9 511 - 620 520 - 629 BCT[N] = DOI[N + 9]

10 621 - 642 Indeterminate

11 643 - 666 653 - 676 BCT[N] = DOI[N + 10]

12 667 - 806 Indeterminate

13 807 - 811 818 - 822 BCT[N] = DOI[N + 11]

14 812 - 1004 Indeterminate

15 1005 1073 BCT[N] = DOI[N + 68]

16 1006 - 1322 Indeterminate

Step Four: Use the elements of BCT to decipher Beale Cipher #2.

There are no words that begin with "x" or "y" in the DOI, so Beale found it necessary to substitute DOI[822], "fundamentally", for "y"  and either DOI[994], "sexes", or DOI[1073], "extend", for "x". DOI[994] has long been the preferred choice of Beale analysts, but this involves an adjustment of minus 11 which means either that Beale miscounted by 11 words or someone inserted 11 extra words into the DOI. DOI[1073], however, involves an adjustment of plus 68, which is consistent with our theory that Beale's version of the DOI had several passages deleted from it so that it would fit into a space too small for the standard DOI. In other words,
somewhere between DOI[823] and DOI[1073] there were 57 words deleted giving a cumulative total of 68 and placing DOI[1073] at position 1005 in the edited document.

History of the Beale Ciphers

The most complete account of the Beale Ciphers which has yet appeared is THE BEALE TREASURE: A HISTORY OF A MYSTERY, by Peter Viemeister [6]. Viemeister reports that there was indeed a Thomas Beale living near Buford's Tavern between 1800 and 1820. In fact, there were two Thomas Beales, a father and an illegitimate son. The father appears to have fought a duel with a certain James B. Risque in 1806 or 1807 and, having wounded Risque, been forced to depart hastily for New Orleans, where he died in 1820. His son followed him to New Orleans in 1818 and later died there in 1823.

As Viemeister points out, the name Beale was fairly common so it is perhaps not very surprising that two Thomas Beales should be found living within twenty miles of the alleged treasure site in the early 1800's. The dates 1819 to 1822 given in the Beale pamphlet agree closely enough with
the dates 1818 to 1823 associated with the younger Beale, so that one possibility is that the Beale described in the pamphlet was actually the younger Beale masquerading as a western adventurer on trips between New Orleans and Lynchburg from 1818 until his death in 1823. This is merely speculation, however. What makes these Beales especially interesting is the fact that the James B. Risque wounded in the duel was the grandfather of James B. Ward in whose name the Beale pamphlet is copyrighted. Furthermore, Ward himself was known to have operated a sawmill on Goose Creek near Buford's Tavern in the same general area where the treasure is said to be buried. St. Louis, which figures in the Beale story as the jumping off point for the Beale expedition and as the location where the cipher key was left in the possession of one of Beale's friends, is also linked to Ward because he worked there as an army paymaster in the early 1840's. Thus Ward himself had personal knowledge of the persons and places named in the pamphlet and might have based the entire story on fragments of his own personal and family history. Viemeister names several individuals with whom Ward could have collaborated in producing the pamphlet, thus making it technically true that Ward was acting as agent for the person who actually wrote the story. The interested reader is referred to Viemeister's book where he will find these facts and theories discussed in greater detail. The book also contains a good, clear reprint of the Beale pamphlet, which alone is worth the price of the book.

The Hart Brothers

George and Clayton Hart are the first persons known to have actively searched for the treasure. Between 1897 and 1912 they spend most of their spare time either looking for the documents which served as the keys for the ciphers or digging holes in the ground at promising treasure sites.
They are primarily important for the written account of their search which George Hart [3] prepared for the Roanoke Public Library in 1952. For many years this manuscript provided treasure hunters with the only known copy of the Beale Pamphlet which was available to the public. In 1979, when a copy of the pamphlet was finally located among the personal papers of
William F. Friedman, it was discovered that Hart's version of the ciphers was not identical to the pamphlet version. As pointed out earlier, one must reconstruct Beale's cipher table by locating the elements of Cipher #2 in the standard version of the Declaration of Independence. In doing
this, it seems natural to create the adjusted version of the DOI which has been referred to above as the Beale Cipher Table. However, the Hart brothers preferred to adjust the actual cipher elements so that the standard DOI could be used as the cipher table. This caused several problems. For one thing, treasure hunters who owned copies of the actual pamphlet, and thus knew that the Hart version differed from the Ward version, were encouraged to withhold the pamphlet from public scrutiny because it might contain valuable information which could not be found in the Hart version, thus giving them an edge in the search for the treasure. Also, since the Harts were primarily just interested in getting the clear text of Cipher #2, they often adjusted "enciphering errors" with the first convenient substitute that occurred to them rather than give serious thought as to how these "errors" came about. Unfortunately, this preference for adjusting the cipher elements themselves rather than reconstructing Beale's version of the DOI had serious consequences for later researchers who had only the Hart version of the ciphers to work with. Conclusions were reached based on the Hart versions that could not be supported by a study of the Ward versions. Even today, when reprints of the Ward pamphlet are readily available, researchers who have not made a thorough study of the Beale Ciphers continue to reach faulty conclusions based on a study of the Hart versions.

The Gillogly Strings

James J.Gillogly [1], curious as to what would happen if the DOI was used as the key text for Cipher #1, discovered several strings having a distinct alphabetical sequence. The most important of these are listed in Figure 1. Since the string beginning at position 188, in particular, could hardly have occurred by chance, Gillogly concluded that the DOI is in fact the "key" for Cipher #1 and that the alphabetical strings are the only "message" that it contains. If this is true, then the entire treasure story is indeed a hoax. Others, however, have speculated that the Gillogy
Strings are themselves keys of some kind to be used in deciphering what remains of Cipher #1.



                39                               A A B A D A A A B B C D E F F I F

                84                               A B B B C C C C D D E

               111                              A C B C D D E

               188                              A B C D E F G H I I J K L M M N O H P P

                  FIGURE 1. THE GILLOGLY STRINGS.

Are the Beale Ciphers a Hoax?

A few years before Gillogly's article appeared, Dr. Carl Hammer [2], in one of the first computer studies that focused on the Beale Ciphers, had concluded that the ciphers themselves did not appear to be merely collections of random numbers. In other words, there were cyclic patterns in Ciphers #1 and #3 which suggested that they had been enciphered in more or less the same way as Cipher #2 and other ciphers used for comparison, which were known to contain messages. If the two ciphers in question had simply been thrown together by picking numbers at random, there would have been no cyclic component in the "runs" of  elements. However, the evidence that these ciphers contain messages is by no means conclusive. Supporting the hoax theory is Louis Kruh [4], [5] who cites the results of statistical comparison with the other sections of the Ward pamphlet to suggest rather strongly that the entire pamphlet was written by the same person, presumably James B. Ward. The weight of the evidence has, therefore, shifted in favor of the hoax theory in recent years. There is no guarantee that Ciphers #1 and #3 actually contain messages, or that any messages they might contain would reveal the location of a treasure.

The Beale Cypher Association

The Beale Cypher Association was formed by a small group of treasure hunters in 1968. It was their hope that, by combining talents and sharing information, the ciphers, which had resisted individual efforts to solve them for at least eighty years, would yield at last to a group effort.
Twenty { now 30 }years later, this hope remains unfulfilled. Although the BCA has grown from the original eleven members to about one hundred members, the nature of the quest has an inhibiting effect on mutual cooperation. If there really is a Beale treasure vault, then revealing too much of what one knows about the ciphers can lead someone else to find it first. In the early days, the BCA required members to sign a paper agreeing to share the treasure with the other members, if it was found as a result of shared information. However, not many people were willing to sign such an
agreement and it had to be abandoned in order that the BCA itself could

Since 1979 the BCA has issued a quarterly newsletter to publish such information as the members are willing to share. Much of what has been published has been historical material that has shed light on the leading characters in the story, such as Robert Morriss, James Ward, and the Hart brothers. Since 1986 there has also been much published speculation that the Beale ciphers are not the simple book ciphers that they have long been thought to be. The Reverend Stephen Cowart, in a painstaking search of all three ciphers, found numerous correlations between elements and their positions in the ciphers that have led many to believe that the enciphering is based on a much more complex system than simply numbering the words in a key document. Others believe, however, that the correlations are simply due to chance and that it is extremely unlikely that anything more complex than a book cipher was available to Thomas Beale in 1822, or to James Ward in 1885.

The BCA has enjoyed several important successes over the years. In 1975, one of its members, by contacting the Library of Congress, was able to obtain copies of the copyright papers filed by James Ward in 1885. Prior to this, the Hart manuscript contained the only solid evidence that there had ever been a Ward pamphlet, and many were skeptical that it had ever existed. However, the existence of the copyright papers spurred interest in the pamphlet itself and in 1979 a copy was finally located among the personal papers of William F. Friedman at the George C. Marshall Research Foundation, in Lexington, Virginia.

As a service to researchers, the BCA maintains a library of all known articles written about the Beale treasure, including materials published by the BCA itself. Anyone seeking detailed information about the Beale ciphers will find the BCA Research Library to be a valuable source of material.

Those interested in joining the BCA can write to the following address for membership information:

The Beale Cypher Association
P.O. Box 236
Warrington, PA 18976


1. Gillogly, James J., "The Beale Cipher: A Dissenting Opinion",
    Cryptologia, 1980, Volume 4, Number 2, pp. 116-119.

2. Hammer, Dr. Carl, "Signature Simulation and Certain Cryptographic
    Codes", Communications of the ACM, January 1971, Volume 14,
    Number 1, pp. 3-14.

3. Hart, George L., Sr., The Beale Papers, 67 page manuscript prepared
    for the Roanoke Public Library, Roanoke, Virginia, January 1952.

4. Kruh, Louis, "A Basic Probe of the Beale Cipher as a Bamboozlement",
    Cryptologia, 1982, Volume 6, Number 4.

5. Kruh, Louis, "The Beale Cipher as a Bamboozlement - Part II",
    Cryptologia, 1988, Volume 12, Number 4.

6. Viemeister, Peter, The Beale Treasure, A History of a Mystery, published
     by: Hamilton's, P.O. Box 932, Bedford, Virginia 24523, 1987.

7. Ward, James B., The Beale Papers, Virginia Book and Job Print, 1885,
    reprinted by the Beale Cypher Association, 1979.
8.  Innis,    Gold in the Blue Ridge

TEXT for part 1

               The Locality of the Vault.


TEXT for part 2

                (no title exists for this part)


CLEAR for part 2, made human readable.

I have deposited in the county of Bedford about four miles from Bufords 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 [t]housand dollars.  The above
is securely packed i[n] [i]ron pots with iron cov[e]rs.  Th[e] vault is roughly lined with stone and the vessels rest on solid stone and are covered [w]ith others.  Paper number one describes th[e]
exact locality of the va[u]lt so that no difficulty will be had in finding it.
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