Oak Island: The Curse of a Never-Ending Series

The History Channel’s Oak Island started off well, but it’s slowly becoming one of those shows that just keeps dragging on, leaving its viewers wondering, will this ever end? Will they ever find the buried treasure?

For those of you who don’t know, The Curse of Oak Island follows Rick and Marty Lagina, two ambitious brothers from Michigan who dig deep to uncover the buried treasure allegedly stashed in a mysterious money pit on Oak Island.

Scenes from the show Oak Island
Source: History Channel

While the reality show features actual experts and fascinating theories, it’s becoming a bit of a drag. Mainly because the show’s name, “the CURSE of Oak Island,” is no longer relevant. The spooky curse claims that seven people will have to die before the island gives up its riches. But more than seven have already lost their lives.

Time to dig deep and find out what’s really going on with this never-ending treasure hunt.

Legend Has It…

Before taking his last breath, a dying sailor from the 18th century named Captain Kidd allegedly stated that there was $2 million worth of treasure buried on Oak Island. Years later, two young boys from Novia Scotia rowed to the island and found a mysterious indentation in the ground. They dug and dug and dug and came across oak platforms. After 30 feet, they grew frustrated and abandoned their pursuit.

Captain Kidd is seen with his men burying his treasure.
Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Even though they didn’t find anything, people began to speculate that the bizarre depression in the ground was an indication of buried goods. This alleged “money pit” drove people mad, and it led to numerous excavations throughout the 19th century (resulting in the death of a few workers).

So, basically, the history channel has come up with a show that’s been dragging us all along in the hopes of finding a money pit that is probably no longer there (or even worse – never existed).

What Is the Curse of Oak Island?

What’s the deal with the curse, and why do people believe there’s something spooky going on with the antique treasure? In theory, the so-called “curse” states that a total of seven people will need to die for the island to give up its treasure.

An aerial view of the “money pit” on Oak Island.
Source: Pinterest

Even though supernatural woo-woo like curses are a questionable topic, it can’t be denied that a few treasure hunters have already died in pursuit of the gems. So far, eight people have lost their lives. Doesn’t this mean that the island is supposed to give up its riches now? We sure hope so.

The Lagina Brothers Don’t Talk About Money

Whenever the Lagina brothers are interviewed, the burning question most journalists throw at them is, “where do you get all the money to pay for your treasure hunt?” Rick Lagina said he made it clear that it’s not something either of them wants to discuss.

Marty and Rick Lagina are giving an interview.
Source: History Channel

Their hunt is more about the pursuit of a dream. It’s more about shining light on hidden history and less about what’s in the money pit. In one interview, a journalist pushed Marty to the edge, and he finally admitted that he and Rick were the only two financing the digging on Oak Island.

Are the Lagina Brothers Afraid It’s All a Hoax?

Oak Island has earned a fishy reputation for robbing people of their riches in pursuit of hidden gems. Could the money pit story be a hoax to get people to pour their life’s earnings into expeditions there? When the Lagina brothers were asked about the speculations, they said it was definitely a thought that had crossed their minds.

Rick Lagina is uncovering an object from the pit.
Source: Tumblr

But while they have their worries, they’re not letting it get to them. Marty said that they’re convinced that there must be something to the story. Rick agreed and said they have nothing to do but believe that the treasure really exists. The current plan is to move forward with their quest.

Why Don’t the Lagina Brothers Just Dig Up the Whole Island?

As radical as it sounds, digging up the whole island may very well be the best option if the Lagina brothers want to solve the case once and for all. Rick admitted that they had considered doing that, but a few reasons held them back.

Marty and Rick Lagina are digging for treasure in the woods.
Source: Reddit

For one, it would be way too expensive. And two, when you consider the environmental implications of such an undertaking, there’s just too much damage involved. But some skeptics don’t buy the brothers’ explanation. They believe that finding the treasure would end the TV show and put a stop to their stream of income.

What’s Really the End Goal?

The Lagina brothers have different motivations for the quest. Rick is driven by solving a 220-year mystery (regardless of the content they find). But Marty feels that finding the $2 million worth of treasure is the main goal.

Rick and Marty are uncovering objects during a dig.
Source: Imgur

Before their dad passed away, he told them that he strongly believed that the treasure exists. He motivated them to sail out and find it. He also gave them instructions on what to do once they found it: “Do good with it.” Let’s hope they do.

How Much Time Do They Spend on the Island?

When interviewed about their time spent on Oak Island, Rick answered that they try to visit as often as possible. 69-year-old Rick is the elder of the two and has a lot more time on his hands now that he’s retired. His little brother Marty, on the other hand, still has a business to run.

Marty and Rick Lagina are posing for a photo with a pickax and a metal detector.
Source: New York Times

The Laginas’ friends and families also join at times and help them out with the hunt. Their show first aired in 2014, and the latest season (Season Eight) aired in February 2021. The Lagina brothers have been going back and forth to this island for seven years!

Rick and Marty Have Some Skeptics in the Family

Marty’s son Alex, as well as nephews Peter and David, are really enthusiastic about the treasure hunt. But not everyone in the Lagina family shares the same views. Rick admitted that while they show up for it, “not all of them believe however.”

Marty and Alex Lagina are examining something very intently.
Source: IMDB

So, while most members of their families tend to join, not all are super enthusiastic about the quest. Rick didn’t share exactly who is a believer and who is a skeptic, but it’s nice that all of them pitch in regardless of their views.

They Fought Hard to Bring an Expert Archaeologist

To add some legitimacy to the show and quiet down the skeptics, the guys over at the History Channel worked hard to hire experts who could confirm and oversee the digs. They hired Laird Niven, one of Nova Scotia’s top archeologists, to watch over the treasure hunting team.

Laird Niven examining an artifact found on the island.
Source: Pinterest

Whenever something valuable is unearthed, he gives his expert opinion. The History Channel did well by bringing someone knowledgeable like Niven. He’s been the leading archeologist in a string of fascinating digs over the years, and his appearance on the show lent them credibility.

Niven’s Work on the Show Is Out of the Ordinary

For the most part, archeologists work in a slow and steady environment. The conditions they’re under require a mellow pace in order to avoid disturbing any potential relics or fossils with historical value. But on the island, things are very different. The heavy, industrial equipment moves the earth at a rapid pace.

Rick Lagina, Doug Crowell, and Laird Niven are standing next to a bulldozer.
Source: IMDB

While this form of work would traditionally be frowned upon among archeologists, Niven stressed that it’s fine, because in this case they’re dealing with land that has already been moved a lot before and has been “disturbed” by many previous treasure seekers.

The Team Doesn’t Need a License

Not every treasure seeker can row to the island and start digging. Typically, licenses are required. But the show’s crew has one license that covers all their digging. That way, they don’t need to apply for a new one every time.

Marty and Rick Lagina are examining an artifact found during a dig.
Source: Reddit

Archeologist Laird had to apply only once, and Gary is allowed to use his metal detector to search for buried items as long as there’s no digging involved (and if there is, Laird can help out). This special pass has allowed for smooth digging and less bureaucracy.

Matt’s Mysterious Death

When the show’s crew member Matt Chisolm died suddenly, the History Channel kept quiet about it. Chisolm is the 7th victim the island has taken and is a sad reminder of why the show is called “The Curse of Oak Island” in the first place.

A photo of a smiling Matt Chisolm out in nature.
Source: Twitter

Sources close to Matt shared that he was on his knees at the time of his death, apparently praying. One source added, “it looked like he was praying for his life.” Other crew members confessed that he died just a few hours after receiving a major tip about some ancient island map.

Could Matt Have Triggered the Curse?

The mysterious circumstances of Matt’s untimely death led people to believe that his passing surely had something to do with the island’s curse. The alleged map Matt set out to look for was believed to be of a Masonic origin. If he had found it, it would have been a really interesting discovery.

An old map of Oak Island.
Source: Reddit

Matt’s tip was that the map was hidden in secret, stuck between the bricks in the shrine of an old building. Now, in truth, we really don’t know how much of this is legit. But, hey, the guys over at the network have never truly spoken up about his death. And their silence has left a lot of room for rumors.

Why Aren’t They Talking?

When Matt passed away in 2017, there was no mention of the tragic event on the show. None of the producers made an effort to pay their respects or memorialize him. Even weirder is that none of the show’s crew members gave his family details about the cause of death.

A promotional photo of the cast of “The Curse of Oak Island” standing with their gear on the waterfront.
Source: History Channel

Why is everyone keeping their silence? Fans have speculated that it has to do with the ancient map. Matt heard that the map was supposed to have “unusual symbols and markings on it.” And just a few hours after receiving that description, he was found dead.

Again, take this information with a grain of salt. It appeared on History Heretic’s podcast episode, and because it’s hard to know which source is actually reliable, we’re not sure how much of this is true.

Could It Have Been Drugs?

After news of Matt’s death broke publicly, talk about parties on the set began to spread, and people started to think his death might have something to do with drugs and not some cursed map. We have no way to confirm whether this is an insult to Matt’s memory or an actual possibility.

Matt Chisolm is posing for a photo.
Source: Variety

If Matt really did die with drugs in his system, it would probably show up in the results of a toxicology screening. In any case, whether he was praying for the spirits to leave him alone, or whether he was high as a kite and praying for some other reason, his death remains spooky.

Marty Is a Self-Made Millionaire With Two Degrees

Marty Lagina made a fortune out of extracting natural gas in Michigan. But that’s not the end of it. After completing his engineering degree, the self-made millionaire went ahead and got a law degree as well (all while working at an oil company).

Marty is operating heavy machinery.
Source: Pinterest

Despite studying hard to get his degree, Marty never actually practiced law. “From childhood, I intended to go to law school. People always said I should be a lawyer because I loved to talk with people,” he explained. His knowledge in the field has definitely helped him through the years. “You can’t make a move in business without legal knowledge,” he stated in an interview.

Marty Hasn’t Always Been Liked

While Marty is clearly blessed with his multi-million dollar energy company, getting to that point was far from easy. In an interview with Randall Sullivan, author of The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the World’s Longest Treasure Hunt, Marty confessed to being the target of many hostile comments just because he happened to be successful in the oil and gas industry.

Marty Lagina is standing in front of wind turbines.
Source: Twitter

“It’s made me hated my whole life,” he revealed. “People think we’re the worst, the exploiters, the polluters.” Even after making the significant leap to wind energy, Marty remains under attack. “People still hate us,” he told Randall. “People think we’re killing birds. We’re giving the people who live nearby headaches.”

The Brothers Prepared for Oak Island as Kids

The Lagina brothers’ interest in the Oak Island Mystery goes all the way back to their childhood. They had their mind set on solving the case ever since Rick read an article in a 1965 edition of Reader’s Digest. The paper discussed Captain Kidd and Marie Antoinette’s lost jewels and even Shakespeare’s manuscripts.

Rick and Marty as teenagers sitting on their front porch while petting their dog.
Source: New York Times

Rick became completely hooked on the story, and Marty admitted he “just sort of absorbed his enthusiasm by osmosis.” As kids, Rick and Marty used to dig around forests near their house and imagine they were solving a 200-year-old mystery.

Their Friendship With Dan Was Awkward at First

In 2019, the show suffered a serious blow after Rick and Marty’s partner, Dan Blankenship, passed away. He was on the island long before the brothers showed up and served as their mentor. Despite working together towards a mutual goal, their friendship didn’t start out too well.

An old photo of Dan Blankenship looking through a telescope.
Source: Reddit

They met in the early ‘90s, after Rick got in touch with Blankenship and asked him for guidance. The brothers traveled 1,400 miles to Nova Scotia to meet him in person, but when they arrived, he acted as if he had little interest in helping them. “We basically got the bum’s rush off the island,” Rick recalled.

Marty Is Also Into Wine Growing

So, apart from being a lawyer, business owner, treasure hunter, and television star, Marty is also a winemaker. And not even as a small, insignificant hobby. Marty is the proud owner of Mary Vineyards, named after his grandmother. How does he manage to do all of this?!

Marty and Alex Lagina are standing in their vineyard.
Source: Reddit

His Italian nonna used to have a wine cellar beneath the house, with barrels full of high-quality homemade wine. “I think my passion to make wine originated there, in the magic of that cellar,” he mentioned in an interview.

The Sir Francis Drake Theory

In Season Five, we got to hear historian Paul Speed’s theory that the island’s underground workings were an order of 16th century English privateer Sir Francis Drake. Speed believed that Sir Francis decided to bury silver that he snatched outside the town of Nombre De Dios in Panama.

A portrait of Sir Francis Drake.
Photo by Photo12/UIG/Getty Image

“There was something very serious going on here at that time for the English,” Speed said. In addition, he suggested that Sir Francis himself is buried somewhere on the island: “When you hit metal, you might have hit his coffin.”

The Cathar Theory

In Episode Six of Season Two, the guys explored the chance that the Cathars (a Christian sect active from the early Middle Ages) might have had access to many great treasures including the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant. It’s thought that, for safekeeping, the Cathar monks gave some of their treasures to a different medieval Christian sect, the Knights Templar.

The temple of the Holy Grail filled with worshipers and the Templar Knights
Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images

The theory suggests that when the Templars broke up, their treasures were secretly removed from Europe to none other than… drum roll… Oak Island! So, apart from holding Captain Kidd’s treasure, Oak island is allegedly hiding the holy grail.

The Marie Antoinette and Franklin Roosevelt Theory

What does a decapitated queen from the French Revolution have to do with America’s 32nd President? And what do the two of them have to do with Oak Island? According to Season Four, Episode 11, Roosevelt believed that Queen Marie Antoinette’s lost crown is buried somewhere on Oak Island.

Full-length portrait of Queen Marie Antoinette / Hands holding a jeweled crown of Marie Antoinette.
Photo by Leemage, Corbis, Getty Images / Source: CNN

The theory suggests that the Queen’s gems were given to one of her maids, who was lucky enough to escape France and sail all the way to North America. That’s pretty much where the theory ends. How or why it ended up specifically on Oak Island remains unknown.

The Shakespeare Theory

Season One started us off with one of the most interesting theories of all. According to Freemason Petter Amundsen, Shakespeare wrote a map that leads to Nova Scotia. The map was coded, and Amundsen suggested that Shakespeare’s random capitalization and misspelled words were a code that might lead to the treasure.

An old book of Shakespeare.
Source: History Channel

If only someone could crack the code, they would discover piles of gold, silver, and sparkling jewels. Not just that, but some of Shakespeare’s earliest manuscripts are said to be hidden there. We don’t know about you, but we’d love to discover some of his hidden poems!

The South Shore Theory

According to Episode 13, Season Six, another hidden treasure on the island belongs to 16th century philosopher Sir Francis Bacon. This theory suggests that Bacon buried “something incredible” and put all sorts of booby traps above it.

A portrait of Francis Bacon standing.
Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images

Matt and Ricky spoke with author Randall Sullivan, who suggested that some of Bacon’s philosophical writings reference the seas and pits and shafts – all the booby traps that were found in the money pit.

The Dual Cipher Theory

In Season Two of the show, Rick and Marty met with a cryptographer named Daniel Ronnstam, who claimed that a stone found at a depth of 90 feet holds new clues to the treasure. According to Reverend A.T. Kempton, the stone was allegedly carved with the inscription “FORTY FEET BELOW TWO MILLION POUNDS ARE BURIED.”

The stone with the carved inscription found on Oak Island.
Source: History Channel

But Ronnstam believes that the code is actually two codes in one, with both the English and a Spanish version that reads, “AT 80FT GUIDE CORN LONG NARROW SEA INLET DRAIN.” He believes the sentence is an instruction about how to overcome the traps that flood the pit.

The Money Pit Is Just a Decoy Theory

In Episode 11 of Season Three, Rick and Marty had a discussion with Mike and Sean Herold, two engineers who strongly believe that, based on the research of a distant relative who visited the islands years ago, the money pit was just a “decoy” meant to lead treasure hunters astray.

The crew posing for a photo in the money pit during a dig.
Source: Pinterest

The money pit was made up to distract hunters away from the actual site of the booty. Mike and Sean told the Lagina brothers that based on the placement of stones, the real site is right near the money pit. But, sadly, because those stones were destroyed by previous expeditions, the brothers had to approximate where to look and ended up empty handed.

The Star Map Theory

In the seventh episode of Season Six, astrophysicist Dr. Travis Taylor spoke with the team. He told them he had good reason to believe that different symbols used by the Freemasons, as well as a map of the constellation Taurus, reveal that the hidden treasure is on the western side of Oak island.

Dr. Travis Taylor is explaining his ideas to the team on Oak Island.
Source: History Channel

A short expedition to some of the locations Dr. Taylor suggested resulted in poor findings. Nothing too conclusive or big. Using constellations in the sky and overlaying them onto a map seems a bit sketchy, but it was still an interesting episode filled with neat ideas.

The Nolan Theory

Fred Nolan explored the island for several decades, beginning in the ‘50s. He believed that all the carvings and other human-made markings he encountered formed a symmetrical cross which he suggested had probably originated with the Knights Templar.

A young Fred Nolan on Oak Island.
Source: Tumblr

The Knights Templar were Christian monks who became extremely wealthy after working as bankers for powerful medieval kings across Europe. In Season Three, Mr. Nolan permitted the team to explore areas he thought might hold hints to the hidden gems.

The Sunken Ship Theory

Could it be that a pirate ship was purposely sunk and then buried on Oak Island? This theory was explored in Season Three of the show, when Fred Nolan showed Rick evidence of a ship in a swamp on the island. Nolan also believed that the swamp was artificial.

Nolan is explaining his theory to Rick while looking over a map.
Source: History Channel

Nolan explained that the swamp was created to hide a ship buried down deep. The team then went to the location with a professional diver and discovered a plank of wood which they assumed was part of a ship.

The Little Mash Theory

In Season Four of the show, we met treasure hunter and owner of Little Mash Island, Gary Clayton. His tiny piece of land is located a few hundred yards north of Oak Island, which he thinks was made by 18th century naval commander Lord George Anson.

Marty and Rick are listening to an explanation from another man.
Source: History Channel

Clayton told Rick and Marty he believes there’s a tunnel between his island and Oak Island and that the treasure is buried somewhere underwater. He believes several hundred tons of gold are scattered in chambers underneath his island (although he has little proof to back it up).

The Portuguese Templar Theory

Episode Four of Season Three featured yet another theory that ties the buried treasure with wealthy Christian monks. The team met with historian Terry Deveau, who informed them about a large carved boulder known as “the Overton Stone.”

A finger pointing at a carving of a cross made in the stone.
Source: Reddit

Deveau believes that the stone carvings could be 500 years old and were made by a group of knights who traveled to the region from Portugal and (possibly) buried their treasure on Oak Island. According to Deveau, the cross on the stone looks like that of the Portuguese Knights of Christ and not like the symbols related to the Knights Templar from England and Scotland.

The Havana Theory

Season Four introduced us to Gary Drayton, a metal detection expert. Drayton scouted Lot 24, one of the lots previously owned by Samuel Ball, a man who used to be a slave but then became a cabbage farmer and then mysteriously turned into one of the richest men in the area. So, what did Drayton find?

Rick Lagina is making adjustments to his metal detector with the help of another two men.
Source: Twitter

The metal detection expert found British coins from the 18th century, a button, a metal tag with a name, and a lead ingot. The team then concluded that the items might suggest that there used to be a British encampment on the island and that the British naval officers wanted all the treasure to be buried on Oak Island.

The Aztec Gold Theory

Historian John O’Brien met with the guys in Season Three of the show and raised the fascinating possibility that some of the treasures buried in Oak Island belonged to Mesoamericans. O’Brien argued that they traveled all the way up north and buried some of their treasure around the island.

A chest filled with Aztec Gold coins.
Source: Pinterest

The Aztecs allegedly wanted to keep it safe and far away from the Spanish, so they stashed their gold and silver deep down underneath. If the treasure really arrived at Oak Island from South America, it would explain the large amount of coconut fibres found in the money pit and the beaches.

The Christopher Columbus Theory

In Season Three, Episode Nine, the team met with researcher Jeff Irving, who suggested that the treasure buried on Oak Island might be the biblical Ark of the Covenant, the stone tablets on which the holy Ten Commandments were written. Okay, now what does this have to do with Columbus?

Engraving depicting Christopher Columbus in the Palace of the King and Queen of Spain.
Photo by: Photo 12/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

According to Irving, Columbus was connected to the Christian Templars who smuggled the Ark out of Jerusalem. Columbus might have had something to do with the operation and may have helped them spirit it away to Oak Island.

The Knights Baronet Theory

Episode 20 of Season Six introduced us to another Knights Templar theory. This time with a Scottish twist. Scottish author and historian James McQuiston told the team that he believes that a sect called the Knights Baronet were among the people who stashed treasures on the island.

James McQuiston standing next to Rick Lagina.
Source: Facebook

McQuiston also showed the guys a copy of a page from an old book describing all the treasure he believes was deposited over a period of 400 years. Marty and Gary then explored a recently found well near the money pit. They found a decorated piece of lead and a Canadian dollar coin.

The Enochian Chamber Theory

Episode Six of Season Six brought up “The Legend of Enoch,” a tale that dates back to the Old Testament. Enoch was the great-grandfather of Noah (the man who built the Ark), and legend has it that he built an underground chamber to stash all the world’s knowledge and many treasures from being swept away by the Great Flood.

Two men are standing at the bottom of the deep dugout ‘money pit’.
Source: Pinterest

The team met with author Alan Butler, who explained that the Knights Templar may have followed in Enoch’s lead and crafted the money pit to hold valuable treasure. The team then concluded that they have to look more closely for potential clues of an Enochian Chamber.

The Zena Halpern Theory

Zena Halpern is one of the many authors and researchers who has lent a hand to the Laginas brothers. She appeared on Season Four to discuss a book she had written about the voyages done by 12th century Templars to the island.

Rick holding up a lead cross found on Oak Island.
Source: Reddit

Incredibly, in the show’s fifth season, Rick discovered a lead cross with a loop at the top, similar to those used by the Templars. This was the first physical evidence that the Templars were once present on the island.

The Rochefoucauld Theory

According to the Rochefoucauld theory, a French naval captain named Jean-Baptiste Louis Frédéric de La Rochefoucauld, whose family was connected to the Knights Templar was allegedly shipped off with the French Armada to Nova Scotia in the 18th century.

The crew on Oak Island is sitting around the table discussing the artifacts they have found.
Source: History Channel

In Season Five, historian Doug Crowell met with the team and told them he had found evidence in a library that Rochefoucauld was carrying treasure. Interestingly, Zena Halpern’s map also mentions Rochefoucauld.