Harold Tom Wilkins (1891-1960) was an English writer from the last century whose body of work mostly reads likes the cranky ramblings of an eccentric. His literary output found its niche in the pulp trade. Prior to World War 2, the subject he dealt with in the main, pirate treasure hunting, was the most popular interest of the time. This was reflected in the number of books he published with titles such as ‘Pirate Treasure’ or ‘Treasure Hunting’ or the numerous articles he wrote with imaginative titles like ‘Maps Spur New Hunt for Kidd Treasure’ for magazines like ‘Modern Mechanics’. His other interest was technology. One book he wrote was, ‘Marvels of Modern Mechanics’ and he had a keen interest in the development of television and wireless communication, even corresponding with John Logie Baird, the father of TV. Briefly after the Second World War his bent was for books examining how ancient civilisations in
Anyone researching the history of 'lost treasure stories' are forced to use Wilkins’ books on the subject due to their encyclopedic nature. These books reveal the considerable amount of time he spent poring over documents and manuscripts in the
His main books on lost treasure were published over a period of nearly two decades:
1929 Hunting Hidden Treasures
1934 Modern Buried Treasure Hunters
1937 Pirate Treasure
1937 Captain Kidd and his
1939 Treasure Hunting
1940 Panorama of Treasure Hunting
1948 A Modern Treasure Hunter
A prerequisite to be able to even commence to follow the clues and hints Wilkins placed in his books is to have a large amount of prior knowledge of the subject already. Only then can you begin to realise what he is alluding to. Once a sufficient level of background knowledge in the subject has been attained, to read his books is like a having a private conversation with him. An understanding can be had about what Wilkins is really speaking about even if he does not directly express it. The background knowledge already obtained via this website is sufficient to begin to find his clues. The clues he left for the riddle were cumulative, you had to have them all. And they could stretch across the world to where he left them. Still, you can find them if you do the work and do not just blindly accept or follow what was written by previous commentators or 'experts' of these fabricated maps.
The background to this all is that sometime in the 1920s Wilkins discovered Lord George Anson's file languishing in the British Museum.
The file, after it had been copied and passed around after Lord George Anson's death, had eventually ended up in the
He decided to carry on the fine tradition of making up a hoax/riddle story about the lost treasure of the Temple but this time put the real details from Lord George Anson's file within it. Wilkins, through his extensive research, knew already that all the 'lost treasure island' stories had their basis in the history of this lost cache.
The whole thing for him was a comment about the blindness of treasure hunters around the world who did not realise they were all following the same story. He made the whole thing doubly damning by putting the real details and actual map right in front of them to find yet they still didn't see it. He even gave instructions in his book 'Panorama of Treasure Hunting' about how to produce fake maps.
a. Obtain a blank page torn out of a late 18th or early 19th century book (this provides paper of the correct age if tested).
b. Use a blunt pencil or a dirty brush to execute the work.
c. Don’t use a modern outline of the island being drawn.
d. Make sure the lettering style is correct for the period.
e. For Cocos
Even with those hints being given by Wilkins no one seemed to pick up that the 'Captain Kidd's Treasure Charts' were just the size of book pages.
Wilkins also made a comment about a fake map he examined, the details of which are a clue even though he made it sound as if it is all just an invention by the map’s maker.
Occultum Lapadem (or Lapatem).’
Wilkins translated this as:
The phrase Wilkins was alluding to comes to us from Alchemy via the acronym ‘VITRIOL’.
Along with this alchemic reference Wilkins describes a direction appearing on the map, “IX plus I” or “IV plus I” and then suggests this was a joke designed to “pass far above the sucker’s head”. Wilkins knew exactly what Lord George Anson's file really said as he was fluent in Latin. One of his trademark clues though was to leave Latin phrases badly translated and let the 'sucker' try to follow what was some insensible phrase. 'Blue Apples' anyone?
Background information necessary to understand and follow the Captain Kidd's Treasure Charts hoax/riddle
Wilkins had an extensive contact base he could draw upon to facilitate the hoax. The major players who assisted him are; Richard E. Latcham, Patrick Nolan, Herman Westhaver and R.A.Skelton.
Richard E. Latcham (1869-1943) was an expatriate Englishman and mining engineer who is relatively unknown outside of Chile. He rose to being the Director of the National Museum of Natural History and was awarded the Chilean Order of Merit. Recognised as the eminent expert of native South American anthropology his book, “El Tesoro de Los Piratas de Guayacan”, (The Treasure of the Pirates of Guayacan) is regarded as an academic hiccup. A reference to Latcham appears in Wilkins' ‘Modern Buried Treasure Hunters’ published in 1934. Wilkins tells of Latcham’s investigation into treasure documents found buried in a pot near the coast of
Written in Spanish, Latcham's book is the strange story of how in 1930 he was sent by the Director General of Libraries, Archives and Museums to investigate a treasure hunt occurring in an area known as Bahia Herradura (Horseshoe Bay) at Guayacan. In the the northwest sector of the bay was the Playa Blanca (White Beach) where an expedition had arrived following a map. This hunt was unsuccessful but when the expedition left they gave the map to their local supply hand, 'Castro'. Castro followed the map to uncover some artifacts, among them a copper plate and ancient manuscripts written in ancient Hebrew. These manuscripts (when translated) spoke of a multinational confederation of pirates who had used the bay as their base. Somewhere there they had established an underground fortress, a 'subterraneo', where they had strategically stockpiled supplies, arms, munitions and treasure. One of the treasure items was the 'Rose of France', "a miraculous rose, held in great esteem by all pirates and guarded carefully in the the treasure chamber." These pirates had even recorded when Henry Drake, son of Sir Francis Drake, had sailed into their bay one day. The book is filled with bizarre and outlandish images of the Hebrew documents and their accompanying translations. Do you recognise some of the Spanish directional codewords and bits of Webb's report appearing already?
Wilkins himself was also pretty forward about it all. In 1937 he published his book 'Captain Kidd and his
Included in Wilkins' book were two maps he drew known as the 'Mar del' maps, an incomplete rendering of the Spanish phrase for South Sea, 'Mar del Zur'. Note the compass pointing in different directions. For the purpose of the exercise in solving Wilkins' riddle these maps will be referred to as W1 and W2 respectively. It was the bearings on the W2 map that caused the problem for Wilkins when Gilbert Hedden found they matched the stone datum markers on Oak Island.
|Wilkins W1 map||Wilkins W2 map|
In the chapter “The Skeleton Island of Captain Kidd” Wilkins pretends he had tried to identify the island shown on the maps by going through more than “800 Dutch, English and French charts”.
The islands somehow became lost inasmuch as they were unable to be located by passing ships at the recorded position but;
“Then in 1803, the capricious mystery spirits again coyly lifted the veil. In that year a Spanish naval captain, bound from
Wilkins is giving a recognitive clue to the Trinity for apart from specifying that the place to look is three islands (not the single island shown on the Kidd maps) he is referring to the
"The treasure is at this moment, stored in a strong room, in the shape of a subterranean cavity, 18 feet long, the same width, 8 feet deep – from the floor to the roof, which is of heavy oak beams. The sides are strongly walled, and the top of the cave is four feet below the surface of the ground.”
The maps found by Westhaver were said to display an island with three stone cairns set in a triangle. Wilkins provided two maps with this book known as 'Plum Island' and 'Moose Island'. Both are laden with Masonic symbolism. So you didn't miss the importance of the detail that the map of the island depicts three stone cairns he incorporated part of E.F.Knight's map Trinidade Island. E.F.Knight also had a map of the 'treasure island' showing three stone cairns.
Some explanation is needed about these maps. Plum Island (left) displays the Masonic symbols 'Pyramid' & 'Beehive'. The skull (upper left) is a representation of Cocos Island. On old maps Cocos Island was depicted in a somewhat crude way that resembled a skull. 'Ye olde Well' is partly a leftover from the original Spanish codeword for a 'water source' (aguada) but can be found also on old maps of Juan Fernandez Island as it marked a source of freshwater in Villagra Bay. Moose Island (right) replicates the Masonic symbolism again but includes an anchor symbol drawn on land (instead of in the water to mark an anchorage). This symbol is Masonic but can be more esoteric in meaning. The emblem usually is depicted with an
‘The depository of the secret and sacred papers or jewels of the
R.A Skelton was the Superintendent of the Map Room at the British Museum during the time when the fake maps were 'discovered'. He authenticated the charts as being genuine. Did no one seem to realise he was in on the hoax also?
Cecil Prodgers, Etonian Old Boy, mining engineer and old school adventurer traveled extensively in South America and wrote of his travels in two books, 'Adventures in Bolivia' and 'Adventures in Peru'. In 'Adventures in Peru' (1925) Prodgers put in a direct clue to the lost Masonic treasure that many thought was on Juan Fernandez Island due to the shape outlined by the shepherdess on the monument map.
Harold T Wilkins made clue a like reference to the Prodgers story by repeating it and a masonically symbolic phrase in 'Modern Buried Treasure Hunters' (1934) and 'Pirate Treasure' (1937). Included also was a map of Juan Fernandez Island. Wilkins' notation reads, "A Spanish Grandee hid treasure in a cache in the back of this bay in 1716. It awaits to be found by a modern buried treasure hunter". Wilkins' map also includes the 'water hole' detail found on old seafaring maps of Juan Fernandez Island.
Many of the clues to the overall riddle are found within the works of Wilkins associated with the phrase 'Modern Buried Treasure Hunter'.
Note the masonic symbolism given by literal description of the mason's tools in Prodger's version; "an axe, a cutlass and a crowbar'. Prodgers uses the same technique to give the symbolism as Robert Louis Stevenson did in 'Treasure Island'; the character Ben Gunn was given a 'musket, spade and pickaxe'.
Prodgers version of the story is very close to that still echoed by the natives of Polynesia for their Muruoa Atoll story about the appearance of Ubilla's ship (given earlier).
The Mechanics of the Hoax
Contemporary to the time that Wilkins was publishing his books on treasure, Guy and Hubert Palmer were wealthy bachelors in Eastbourne, England. The Palmers enjoyed their retirement by seeking out relics for their private museum of nautical and piratical history. Hubert Palmer was described at the time as being an authority on piracy and took a fancy to collecting anything associated with that well known pirate, Captain William Kidd. He was also described as being quite discerning, submitting items he intended to acquire to a thorough examination first to assure their authenticity.
The various descriptions given of Hubert Palmer does not tally with reality as a series of events that occurred over the next decade regarding Hubert and a few treasure maps indicate him to be rather gullible.
In furniture or relics that were fed to him were planted a series of maps. These were concealed in some way as it was known Hubert would rigorously inspect and test each relic he acquired looking for just such hidden things. Shown below, with the year they were 'discovered' by Hubert, are the series of maps known as 'Captain Kidd's Treasure Charts'.
They are shown here to comment on and demonstrate how obvious it is, even to a layperson, that some form of hoax was being conducted because;
a. The laws of probability must have been suspended for all these maps to serendipitously be in the furniture and chattels that ended up with Hubert.
b. They were all drawn on old paper the size of book pages.
c. The first four are obvious depictions of Juan Fernandez Island with the 'compass' pointing to Cumberland Bay.
d. The style of the one from 1934 was copied from the 1897 book 'Captain Kid's Millions'.
e. The style of the one from 1942 was a copy of the 'parchment' from the 1888 book 'Captain Kidd's Gold'.
It seems though that none of this was obvious enough for the many Kidd experts who have argued themselves silly since the 1930s about which island it was that Captain Kidd had drawn on these maps.
Many Kidd map experts rely on the imprimatur of R.A. Skelton, Superintendent of the Map Room at the British Museum, who pronounced them genuine. Neither the
It is obvious that the images shown are not photos of the maps themselves but are some form of reproduction. The explanation as to why there are no photographs does strike at credulity, yet many have accepted it. Skelton simply said that the maps were so badly discoloured with age that they were not suitable for “direct photographic reproduction”. Reproductive copies were made instead by the “accurate tracing of a photographic enlargement”. This was an acceptable method of examination in the years when image processing on a computer was not even dreamed about by science fiction writers, but at least a photo of the image would accompany the reproduction to show the accuracy of the reproductive process. Here, the reproductions have now become the maps.
For the 1934 map the notes Skelton supplied with the reproductive images suggested that,
“(3) The writing in the bottom right-hand margins is partially illegible. The following are conjectural readings, supported by certain extrinsic evidence:
(a) Bottom margin: ‘four….centre of triangle on to Rocks 20 feet’
(b) Right hand margin: ‘….E….Stakes…
Skelton was later to distance himself from his authentication of the maps. Fooling Hubert was one thing but when word got out about them then it was his reputation on the line.
Why it was all was never solved before was that the Kidd chart experts just never recognised the clue in the form of an outlandish visual joke put on the 1934 map so they never progressed to the next part of the riddle. The 'island' shown on the different maps was obviously Juan Fernandez Island. The 1934 map even said 'turtles' meaning you turned it 'turtle' (upside down). If you did you would have had a laugh at the now obvious turtle displayed using the technique of trompe le oeil.
But that is just another clue in itself, for the next clue must still be tracked down and that is the chart that was used to create the ‘turtle’ map. It is this early 20th century 25 cent map of Juan Fernandez.
Hubert Palmer however was not part of this obvious hoax. He believed in the charts like so many others. He spent the rest of his years researching the identity of the island on the charts in the hope an expedition to the China Seas could be mounted to retrieve the treasure of Captain Kidd. Hubert died in 1949 aged 85, his dream unfulfilled. His estate was bequeathed to Mrs. Dick, his nurse and companion for eleven years. All his nautical collection was slowly sold off to meet the expenses of maintaining the estate. Mrs. Dick became the repository of Hubert’s research and knowledge, which despite being comprehensive didn't amount to anything useful in regards to finding the treasure the charts led to. Many offers put to her from enterprises wanting to mount expeditions to find Kidd's island didn't amount to anything much either.
Mrs. Dick died in 1965, the maps having been sold to a North American/Canadian syndicate in 1957. They have not been seen since.
Anyone that still believes in the authenticity of the Kidd maps needs to look at the postcard that Wilkins illustrated for an acquaintance. On one side was the advice,
The notations read;
Left side and top corner: ‘This is one of four charts identical in shape but not in detail or topography’.
Top: ‘Confidential, The Pamela Hardy Chart (of Cap Kidd), yellow parchment’.
Centre: ‘WOODS, LAGOON, SMALL HILLS,
Bottom: ‘Legend at base (but not as on my chart)’.
Many of the Kidd experts who have previously published books or articles attempting to identify the island they thought that Kidd had drawn on the maps will now try to claim they knew or suspected that the maps were not genuine at all.
All you have to do though is look at their previous works and if they didn't identify that the maps were part of a riddle that led you to Juan Fernandez Island then you know they were duped by the hoax also.
There is only one location and that is the one Wilkins intended you to find by solving the riddle. But it's not Juan Fernandez Island either. Knowing the maps were showing Juan Fernandez was only a stage in the riddle's solution.
Wilkins was referring to a location given in Lord Anson's file, Webb's report and on Ubilla's map and it's another location entirely.
He even gave it right in front of everyone's nose. Yet like the turtle on the map no one saw it.