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Genius kids find buried gold loot

2007.07.22 — Business | Satire | by Derek Jensen

Treasure hunt

Jacob and Alexandra open the boxes. [source | full gallery]

On Saturday, the brother-sister team of Jacob Bennitt (12) and Alexandra Lohse (10) of Bremen, Indiana, proved that youth and brains can beat a mystery that stumped police detectives and private investigators for more than 12 years. They discovered the secret of the missing rare coins and jewelry hidden by eccentric real estate developer Edgar Barndagle in 1994.

Barndagle, a silent partner in the defunct Donnybrook real estate development where the treasure was found, buried the booty after a falling out with his partners. He died soon after, being crushed by the engine block of his Ford Edsel.

Mysterious document unearthed

Shortly after a reportedly delicious bratwurst and barbecue pork lunch, casual conversation about Scooby Doo mysteries turned to the subject of the local Barndagle mystery. After finding an article on Barndagle from the South Bend Tribune, the kids discovered that the wealthy eccentric was known to use codes and even invisible ink in his financial records. When Uncle Todd Hundt mentioned that he had some documents related to the property, the clever kids rushed to examine them. Finding a deed rider document signed by Barndagle, they quickly noted the mysterious symbols and faint markings at the bottom of the page. Underlined words scattered in the document text read: "make... the... writing... visible."

The child geniuses then followed clues from the news article and heated the document on a stove top to bring out the invisible writing (authorities speculate it was written in lemon juice). It read:




Treasure hunt

Jacob and Alexandra with the "keystone" and mystery document. [source]

Keystone yields secrets

Family members followed the kids to the old stone meeting place on what was once the Donnybrook community lot, where Jacob quickly stumbled on a stone with the impression of an old skeleton key.

Alex used a hammer to break it open and also stomped on it. Inside was a packet that contained two small keys and a paper that seemed to be the code key to the mysterious symbols on the deed rider document.

Jacob quickly compared the two and decoded the secret message:





Digging up the new flower bed

Alex rushed to the arbor in the wooded area near the old bridge. Jacob followed and paced off 18 paces along the south path and then 10 paces to the west. Here they found that Aunt Amy Hundt had recently planted some flowers, but they got her permission to dig there anyway (she even brought a shovel).

Alex and then Jacob dug up the area, and Cousin Rachel also helped—even tho she was suffering from highly contagious tuberculosis.

Gallery on Fotki

The patience and cleverness of Jacob and Alex was rewarded when the shovel struck a box covered in a plastic bag. Removing it from the hole, they found it was an old wooden box marked "DUPONT HIGH EXPLOSIVES." They pried off the lid to find a metal strong box inside. All stood amazed when the strong box yielded hundreds of gold and silver coins, jewelry and—in separate boxes—rare foreign coins and banknotes and two flasks of gold flakes.

A field analysis found that many of the coins are actually foil-wrapped gum and chocolate, but the rest of the treasure is clearly genuine foreign currency worth an estimated of $2 million. Jacob made plans to buy an iPod with his share of the treasure. Alexandra's plans for her share were undisclosed.

The fact that the treasure was discovered on the very day of Jacob and Alex's (and Cousin Chelsea's) combined birthday party made the celebration all the merrier, in spite of the fact that the now-super-rich Jacob had to go to a baseball game right away.

Negotiations with Uncle Todd and Aunt Amy for a partial share of the treasure resulted in a payment of an undisclosed number of gum and chocolate coins. However, the deal may not be as sweet as they'd hoped. Rachel's boyfriend Travis was heard to remark, "This gum has lost its flavor already."

Even smaller sleuths

Remarkably, the lucky events of the day didn't stop with Jacob and Alex's discovery. Connor Hundt and Keely Kovach, 4-year-old cousins of the genius mystery-solvers, also found treasure on the Hundt property. Each of them found a very old treasure map with mysterious riddles and followed them to find special rocks where X marked the spot. They broke them open with a hammer to discover several extremely valuable silver coins. Their plans for their treasure are to invest in no-load stock market index funds and Spider-Man toys.

Connor's riddle

In the rocks by the flagpole,
look for the light
that a pirate steers by
every night

(a rock with a star on it was found near the flagpole)

Keely's riddle

In the rocks by the waterfall,
look for the note
that was sung by a girl
with a golden throat

(a rock with a music note on it was found near the waterfall)


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