Hidden Riches: A Tale of Treasure Hunters and Legendary Loots
Chad Somers was on all fours, digging earth with his bare hands. He had something in his sights and was determined to get it. What was it, you ask?
Within a few minutes, he had clawed out a hole about two feet deep. Let’s find out why Chad was digging.
Chad Somers, The Treasure Hunter
Chad Somers, a 44-year-old with straight brown hair, a creased face, and tattooed arms, had dropped out of school in the ninth grade. He left school partly because he had undiagnosed ADHD and could not follow the lessons.
The other reason was that he had so many chores –splitting wood, chopping hay – he would sleep through class. He avoided his violent stepfather, forcing him to live with his grandparents most of the time.
Happening Upon a Legendary Outlaw
In his late teens, he attended the rodeo and became fascinated with bull riding. From there, he earned a membership in the International Pro Rodeo Association, showing naysayers his strong determination.
His determination reached to a new height in the summer of 2018 at a yard sale he visited. There was a photograph of two men with mustaches, and Chad recognized them as Frank and Jesse James, famous outlaws.
Unearthing Mysteries: Digging Determination
As Chad was going about his excavating business, he knew how it would look if anybody had been there to see him. He imagined people laughing at him, saying he had lost his mind. And he was not wrong; anyone would think just that.
Chad was no stranger to the woods—he was a frequent hiker and usually went on walks. This particular day was no different.
The Treasure Site
It was a beautiful day in the summer of 2018, and Chad was alone in the quiet woods. He walked around for a while and then took a break to smoke cigarettes on a slender fence that was put up against a big old birch tree.
Chad had always noticed that tree. Its base was divided into three large limbs that looked like a wired “W.” Another noticeable thing about the tree was that it stood alone, far from other trees.
Legends and Lore
Chad relaxed at this tree spot. He later explained that he was not asleep but had some kind of dream, like a trance or a daydream. In that state, he saw Jesse James sitting beside him—the Jesse James of Old West lore, a notorious bank and train robber.
Jesse had been on Chad’s mind before that time, and there he was beside him, flicking ashes from a cigar.
An Apparition Appears
In Chad’s daydream, Jesse said, “This is where I’m going to bury the biggest treasure I ever had in my life.” Then he got up, walked away, and Chad was released from his trance. And just like that, Chad said, “This is where I’ll dig.”
And that was how the digging started. Chad was using his bare hands but was surprised at how easily the soil gave way.
Digging Deep for Buried Treasure
After about thirty minutes of digging a three-foot hole in the ground, Chad decided two things. The first was that he was onto something big that could define the trajectory of his life. The second was that it was time to use a shovel.
At that point, he never imagined what would later happen to him, a homeless, penniless, but determined man. He never thought he would be at the center of big drilling machines, underground scanners, and historians joining his cause.
Lost Fortunes: Creating Bonds
The place Chad was digging was on the Bowser family property. This incredible place covered over 300 acres in east central Ohio, housing a farm with hayfields, a home, a barn, and a bunkhouse.
When they were younger, Hope Bowser and her brothers had often invited Chad Sommers whenever they went camping on their family land.
The Land of Buried Treasures
As their inheritance, the land was divided between Hope and one of her brothers. They both inherited more than twenty acres. Hope and Chad eventually became a couple, and neither outgrew their attachment to their land, especially Chad.
He was greatly bonded to the place. “I’ve seen it flooded, I’ve seen it frozen, I’ve seen it angry, I’ve seen it calm,” Chad stated.
Unearthing a Storied History
Chad discovered that Jesse James was a high-ranking member of the Knights of the Golden Circle, a quasi-military secret society. Legend holds that its leaders gathered a fortune in gold and precious metals. Some historians say most of the loot remains hidden around the country.
A book was written about pursuing the KGC treasure, One Man’s Quest to Crack the Code Behind the Secret Treasure of the Confederacy by Warren Getler and Bob Brewer.
Visions of Conviction
During his dig, Chad remembered something he learned about the gold mine when he was a kid. A woman had told him to keep his eyes open for the treasure Jesse James had buried in the 1800s right across the road from Bowser’s property—a treasure no one had found.
Chad was skeptical but curious. He and Hope had just been evicted from their trailer home, and he needed something to put his mind to. The whole idea seemed slightly far-fetched, but the vision gave him conviction.
Hunting for a Secret Stash of Gold
Chad returned to the woods with his shovel, and within a day or so, the hole was more than six feet deep. He brought in an extension ladder and a generator for light to continue the excavation. At 10 feet, when he was too deep to toss out dirt, he fetched a five-gallon bucket that he tied to a root at the tree’s base with a rope.
When the bucket was full, he climbed out, hauled it up, and dumped it. A process he was ready to repeat until his desired depth was reached. After a month, he maxed out the 25-foot extension ladder.
Finding Clues to a Secret Hoard
During his slow excavation he kept finding intriguing clues. He found artifacts, including an old harmonica reed, a tobacco leaf, and a cigar butt, suggesting that someone had been there perhaps decades ago.
He got a hand-drawn map online that showed the location of a large underground depository. Chad observed that the words were written in codes he thought he had figured out.
Riding the Trails of History
Chad found out that the landscape on the map formed a J shape. Some of the map’s symbols even aligned with what he had seen on the trees, including a turtle, a wolf, and the letters “JJ.”
Chad had another tool that he used like a bible, a copy of Rebel Gold, another book written by Warren Getler and Bob Brewer. As he searched the woods using this tool, he found symbols on the trees. These markings included hearts, turkey tracks, and turtles, and were identical to the ones described by the author.
Pausing the Dig at an Inopportune Moment
He was 30 feet down in the hole when his shovel hit metal. Chad had struck a smooth, hard, bluish-gray surface. It appeared to be the top of a vault, but he couldn’t open it.
However, he could not find a solution at that time because he and Hope were hired to remodel homes in Columbus, an hour away. They were short on money, so they had to go. Because of this, Chad barely saw the hole for a year and he had no idea when he would make it back.
Gold Rush: Calling in Expert Assistance
Warren Getler, a journalist, geophysics enthusiast, and a KGC history student who co-authored Rebel Gold, eventually came to the site. Chad had told him about it after returning from the job that took him away. Getler had investigated many sites that were connected to the Confederate organization.
The FBI always followed Getler, and the federal court always allowed the FBI to dig based on his research. However, Somer’s site was different. It was private property, but they hoped a private professional crew would dig it up if tests confirmed something.
An Intense Search for the Fabled Treasure
Getler summoned his friend, Brad Richards, a history teacher who knew much about James Jesse. The three of them, along with Richards’s son, Bradley, walked around the woods. They observed marks on trees and other hints they all agreed could have been left by Jesse James.
Bradley scanned the top of the W tree with a two-box metal detector, capable of searching for large metallic objects 20 feet underground. The device was connected to another device that could depict a target’s rough size and shape.
Gold or Metal
The result showed a rectangular image that appeared to be 10-12 feet below the surface. Richards estimated the object to be about eight feet wide and three feet deep, a stash that could weigh seven to nine tons.
“There’s no guarantee it’s gold, but it’s showing metal,” Richards pointed out. “And it’s showing it in the place where the ‘Jesse map’ is showing it,” Getler added. They also speculated that the soft ground and clearing below the tree suggested that there may have been prior excavation.
Finally Unearthing Underground Wealth
To probe further, Chad attached a camera to a device and tried to manipulate it. Images showed what appeared to be artificial walls and a glimpse of something bright, yellow, and reflective. After many delays, they got to a chamber containing items like an old bullet, a bone fragment, and a photo in which six gold bars could be seen.
At the moment, Chad and his team need to find out more, but they require support. Although they signed on with Mark Wahlberg’s company to pitch a TV series, they won’t get enough cash until a heavyweight like Netflix agrees to fund them.