We all dream of stumbling onto a map or riddle that will lead us on an adventure to find a treasure of glittering gold and jewels, but most of those tales only exist in bedtime stories and movies. Yet that is exactly what happened to Milton “Doc” Noss, a traveling doctor who discovered an extensive cave network laden with gold and historical artifacts — or so he claimed. The reports of the massive treasure would consume his marriage and eventually his life, and mysteries around the treasure persist to this day (via Legends of America).
Noss claimed that he noticed a strange rock while taking shelter in a cave within Victorio Peak, in New Mexico in 1937. The cave was covering a small tunnel, originally thought to be an abandoned mineshaft. Noss traveled down, passing caverns with Native American designs until he reached a room with hoards of gold, jewels, pouches, documents … and 27 skeletons. Doc returned with a gold bar, presented it to his wife, Babe, and the couple soon dedicated their lives to exploring Victorio Peak, living in a tent at the base of the mountain in search of treasure.
Evidence shows there might be some truth to the claims
If the treasure was real, Noss had poor timing. Congress had just passed an act outlawing the private ownership of gold, meaning he had no buyers for his supposed stash (via Unsolved). Theories spread over how 16,000 gold bars came to be stashed away in a random cave in New Mexico. Where they the plunder of Spanish conquistadores who had conquered the Aztecs? The secret stash of a gold mine owner? The fortune of a Mexican emperor? The horde of an Apache chief? Did they even exist at all?
Doc Noss was extremely paranoid and buried everything he took out of the caves, not even trusting his wife, Babe. In 1939, he hired a mining engineer to try to open a wider passage into Victorio Peak, but the attempt was disastrous and there was a massive cave-in. His main source of income cut off, and his marriage to Babe already deteriorated, Noss was desperate to sell his remaining gold bars on the black market. A deal with a man named Charlie Ryan went south, and Noss was gunned down. A legal battle and highly publicized search through Victorio Peak ensued but no treasure turned up, leading many to wonder if Noss had made the whole thing up. However, according to a group of researchers who published their findings from a seismic study in the 1990s, there definitely is a sizable cavern underneath Victorio Peak, meaning there may be some truth to the treasure.
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