My colleague and Beale researcher, Mr. Jerry Watt, believes that Beale left
a clue in his letters to Mr. Morriss that would permit the treasure to be recovered under certain conditions, even if
the key left with Beale's friend in St. Louis failed to be delivered. Mr. Watt points out that Beale
was a person with a persuasion, perhaps better described as an obsession for handling contingencies.
This can be illustrated by considering
several examples of safeguards taken by Beale:
- Three ciphers
were used when one would appear to have sufficed.
- Beale did not tell Robert
Morriss about the treasure while at his boarding house, or in his letter to Morriss of May 9, 1822. Morriss learned about
this only after opening the locked box.
- Beale signed his letters to Morriss
with only his initials, thus preventing others who might somehow read the letters to pass themselves off as an associate of
- Beale did not tell anyone where he called home (as far as we
- Beale did not leave a key to the locked box with Morriss. Mr. Morriss
had to break the lock to open the box.
- Beale left the "key"
to his ciphers with a friend in St. Louis, not with Morriss.
In light of this, it seems probable that Beale would have taken into account the possibility
that the key to his ciphers could be lost, and so would have left clues permitting the ciphers to be solved even without
the key. Perhaps the best indicator of this is the fact that B2 is keyed to the Declaration of Independence and
a gentleman by the name of Robert Morris (one "s") was one of the signers. Beale may have chosen the Declaration
just for this reason, figuring that if Morriss needed to work without the key, one of the first documents he might try would
be the Declaration of Independence, signed by someone with nearly the same name.
In his letter of May 9th, 1822, to Mr. Morriss, Beale says the following:
"With regard to the box left in your
charge, I have a few words to say, and, if you will permit me, give you some instructions concerning it. It contains papers
vitally affecting the fortunes of myself and many others engaged in business
with me, and in the event of my death, its loss might be irreparable. You will, therefore, see the necessity of guarding it
with vigilance and care to prevent so great a catastrophe. It also contains some letters addressed to yourself, and which
will be necessary to enlighten you concerning the business in which we are engaged. Should none of us return [I assume he
means return from the mine on what might be their final trip, perhaps in one or two years] you will please preserve carefully
the box for the period of ten years from the date of this letter, and you will open it, which can be done by removing the
two things. Beale has not yet mentioned the "key." But, he tells Morriss to open the box in 10 years. Indirectly, Beale may
be telling Morriss to open the box even if the key was not received. This would permit Morriss to read Beale's letters,
which at a minimum would give him details of Beale's enterprise. But, perhaps there was more to it. It could be a subtle indication that
Beale did in fact think about and make provision for the "final contingency."
Beale goes on to say:
"You will find,
in addition to the papers addressed to you, other papers which will be unintelligible without the aid of a key to assist you.
Such a key I have left in the hands of a friend in this place, sealed, addressed to yourself, and endorsed not to be delivered
until June, 1832. By means of this you will understand fully all you will be required to do."
The words "unintelligible
without the aid of a key" seem to indicate that the unintelligible papers cannot be read without the aid of a key.
But the words "such a key" seem to indicate that the key left with a friend in St. Louis is not necessarily the
only key that would allow the unintelligible papers to be read. This
possibility seems to be reinforced by the following instruction to Mr. Morriss:
"In the meantime, should death or sickness
happen to you, to which all are liable, please select from among your friends some one worthy, and to him hand this letter,
and to him delegate your authority."
instruction pertains to the 10 year period from June, 1822 to June 1832. Mr. Morriss was under no obligation to Beale
if during the ten year period from July 1822 to June 1832 Beale or some one with his authority failed to reclaim
the locked box or the key left with a friend in St. Louis was not received. Thus, Beale's instruction to Mr. Morriss
directing him to delegate authority to some other person in case of sickness or impending death pertained only to the
ten year period from July, 1822, to June 1832. But if sickness or impending death did cause Mr. Morriss to delegate authority
to some other person, one might ask: How could Beale be certain that the key would be delivered to such
a new person? I think the answer is simple: He couldn't. There is no way, at least no apparent way, for the
person holding the key in St. Louis to know that Mr. Morriss delegated authority to a different person and no way to know who
that person might be. Thus, if Mr. Morriss found it necessary to delegate his authority to another person, Beale's
plan was exposed to failure. This makes me think that maybe Beale did address this important issue. Here is one
possible way the issue could have been addressed.
Suppose, for sake of argument, that
the key left with a friend in St. Louis was a very simple key, perhaps consisting of say two or three sentences, and that
the balance of the key was already in Mr. Morriss hands, although Mr. Morriss was unaware of this and did not recognize
the said "balance of the key" for what it was. Beale may have also made one or more of these sentences in the
key sound prosaic, something to fool others but which might trigger something in Mr. Morris' mind. In addition, Beale could
have left a few simple clues in his letters to Mr. Morriss, which if properly interpreted could act as a suitable substitute
for the brief "key" left in St. Louis. Thus, even if one did not receive the key from St. Louis, there
was a chance that the mystery might still be unraveled and the treasure recovered and distributed to the designated heirs.
am reminded of a statement made by Col. George Fabyan (Hart Papers, Roanoke Public Library, 1952, p. 8) who
said, in reference to the Beale ciphers: "the psychology of it is about all we have to go on in picking out our
point of attack."
The anonymous author of Ward's pamphlet made the following remarks (Beale
Papers, p. 10):
"I commenced by reading over and over again the letters to Mr. Morriss,
endeavoring to impress each syllable they contained on my memory, and to extract from them, if possible some meaning or allusion
that might give, perhaps a faint or barely perceptible hint as a guide; no such clue, however, could I find, and where or
how to commence was a problem I found most difficult to solve."
In fact, many Beale researchers
have spent time looking for some clue in Beale's letters, hoping that the ciphers could be solved, even without
knowing or having the missing key left with a friend in St. Louis.
Thus, the "final contingency"
is this: In the event that Mr. Morriss did not receive the promised key, or in the event that Mr. Morriss found it necessary
to delegate his authority to another person and that person did not receive the promised key, Beale would provide a clue
or clues in his letters that might permit the treasure to be recovered and distributed to the named heirs. Such a clue
could not be obvious, as this might allow the treasure to be recovered by someone who misappropriated the locked box. A good
clue would have a double meaning. It would make sense in the context of Beale's letter, but if interpreted properly it would
have a different meaning. Such a clue should be recognizable with some thinking.
Morriss or the person with his delegated authority would have the locked iron box and hence would have access to Beale's
letters in the box. This goes without saying. However, in the letter of May 9, 1822, to Mr. Morriss, Beale explicitly
requests Mr. Morriss to keep the May 9 letter, and if necessary to give the letter to the person with delegated authority.
That itself might be a subtle indication that Beale's letter of May 9 contains a clue that would permit the treasure to be
recovered. After all, if the May 9 letter contained an important clue, Beale would not want the letter to be discarded,
lost or misplaced. Mr. Morriss says that he took care to preserve the May 9 letter.
I have no intention to identify Beale's clues with any certainty and solve the mystery here and now, I can point
out some things in Beale's letters that might be characterized as possible clues.
that Beale signed his letters of January 4, 1822, and May 9, 1822, using his initials "T.J.B." Beale's
name does not appear in any of letters written to Mr. Morriss, which may have been done purposely (as mentioned above) to
prevent someone who read the letters from leaning Beale's name and then passing themselves off as an associate of Beale's.
But the use of initials TJB could also have been a clue telling Morriss that the initial letters of words in the key
text (Declaration of Independence) should be used to decode cipher No. 2.
But, the clue could be more
important than merely indicating how the DOI was to be used to decode No. 2. It might indicate that Beale made use
of an acrostic cipher, perhaps hidden in one of his letters to Mr. Morriss. In our case, an acrostic cipher
would be one in which the initial letters in certain words in one or more or Beale's letters constitutes a
hidden message. One merely has to find the proper arrangement of the words and extract the appropriate first letters
of words. I suppose this is easier said than done. In any case, the reader may want to do some investigation of
Second, note that near the end of his letter of May 9, Beale says the following:
the result what it may, however, the game is worth the candle, and we will play it to the end."
this be a clue to a book or "play" in which the phrase "the game is worth the candle" occurs? I do know of a multi-volume set of books that may have been in Mr. Morriss' library, with a
connection to this possible clue. Volume four of the 1813 London edition
of The Plays of William Shakespeare  contains a footnote to one of the plays (Two Gentlemen of Verona) in
which the phrase "the game is not worth the candle" is printed (see page 312). The set contains 21 volumes,
and could be a set of books in Morriss' private library of books. A contemporary Lynchburg newspaper advertisement for this
work could not be located. But, a January 7, 1820, advertisement in the Lynchburg Press for Ward & Digges' (this
Ward was Giles Ward father of James B. Ward) bookstore includes the following short title: Shakespeare's Plays.
While it is possible that this could be an advertisement for the 1813 London edition, it is more apt to be an advertisement
for the 1819 London edition , entitled The Plays of Shakespeare, in nine volumes.
the end of Beale's letter of January 4, 1822, to Mr. Morriss, Beale says:
that you will not allow any false or idle punctilio to prevent your receiving and appropriating the portion assigned
I have always thought that Beale truly wanted Mr. Morriss to
have an equal share, that Morriss was not to allow some "point of honor" to interfere with him getting his fair
share Such was Beale's respect for Morriss. Yet, "punctilio" is an uncommon word, thus making me wonder if
it could be a possible clue.
The word punctilio has several different meanings
or interpretations. It is generally defined as a "fine point of etiquette" or a "point of honor" or a
"code of honor." It appears to be derived from the Italian puntiglio, the Spanish puntillo,
and the Latin punctum all for point. Hence it might be a clue to the word "point."
Beale's key left with a friend in St. Louis directed Mr. Morriss to secure volume four of his 21 volume, 1813 edition
of The Plays of William Shakespeare, which Beale knew was in Mr. Morriss' private library of books, locate
the play "Two Gentlemen of Verona," and finally locate the letters in the text under which small "points"
(dots or pin pricks) have been made, which taken together would convey a message telling Mr. Morriss how to decode
the three ciphers. This might allow Mr. Morriss decode Beale's ciphers, although without Mr. Morriss' personal copy
of the book any other person would be out of luck. Thus, if the word "punctilio" is a clue, it would most likely
have a different intended interpretation.
This may all be quite a stretch of the imagination,
yet as a last resort Beale may have been forced to adopt such a tactic, or some similar tactic. If he did, we may
assume that it failed, as by all accounts Mr. Morriss never recovered the treasure. But, if Beale did employ such a tactic,
then it may yet be possible for some clever investigator to solve the mystery without resorting to cryptanalysis or high-speed
 The Plays of William Shakespeare.
In 21 volumes. Volume the fourth. Containing Tempest. Two Gentlemen of Verona, Midsummer Night's Dream. London, Printed for
J. Nichols and Son; &c. 1813, pp. 306-312.
 The Plays of Shakespeare,
Carefully Revised from the Best Editions. In 9 volumes. London: printed for W. Alason, 1819.
made October 4, 2013
The following comments were received from Mr. Kenneth D. Houck (a Virginia resident),
who says the following:
"Let me first thank you for putting together such an interesting Beale Treasure Story website.
I have enjoyed it heartily. In May of this year a new entry was added (Beale's Final Contingency) and it immediately attracted
my...attention...especially the portion on possible hidden clues with double meanings being secreted within the story. I cannot
know what prompted Mr. Watt to think of such an idea. But one thing I know for certain, he is not wrong in this avenue of
thinking. As a hobby, I gave twenty serious and successful years to the subject of Beale." Mr. Houck continues
saying that he would be pleased to share his findings with Mr. Watt.
Posting made February 13, 2016
The following comments were received from Mr. Travis Lee Barker, January 9, 2016,
in two separate email messages.
"Hello, I recently just heard about the Beale papers and became interested in the subject which then led met
to your website. After reading the papers myself, and then doing some research online I might have found an important clue/question
that nobody seems to be asking. Has anybody figured out how the writer of the pamphlet figured out that The Declaration of
Independence was the key to one of the pages in the first place? If the answer is no, then I figured it out last night
which might lead to figuring out the other two papers. If the answer is yes, then I'm just beating a dead horse. Just a thought."
"Hello, I figured out how the writer of the
Beale Papers pamphlet knew to use the Declaration of Independence as a key for one of the papers. In the last letter that
Beale wrote to Morriss he first addressed him as Robt. Morris Esq. Morris with only one "s" not two. He doesn't
make that mistake in any other letter. Everyone seems to miss that clue. Robert Morris with one "S" was one of the
signers of the Declaration of Independence. He also signed the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution [of the U.S.]
He's considered a founding father. This might hold the clue to solving the other two papers as well. Just a thought."
Mr. Barker's "Morriss" connection may be an important clue that
could lead to the eventual decoding of the two remaining Beale ciphers (No. 1 and No. 3). Others have pointed out that Thomas
Lynch, Jr was also a Signer and this, likewise, may be a clue as Beale's letters to Morris were datelined Lynchburg. Further,
IF Beale's initials, TJB, stood for Thomas Jefferson Beale, this would also point to the DOI as the key. There may
be other clues pointing to the DOI as the key document but they are, as of now, too ephemeral to publish. Yet, Mr. Barker
has made an interesting point which seems to be at least partially confirmed by other clues pointing to the DOI.
This is, of course, exciting speculation. Beale wouldn't leave a clue to cipher No. 2 without also leaving a clue
or clues to ciphers No. 1 and No. 3. My "gut" feeling is that Beale would not complicate
an already complicated matter by leaving three separate clues to his three ciphers, but rather just one clue, which would
act as a clue to all three ciphers. If I am right, then one or more of the documents (Articles of Confederation, Declaration
of Independence, and U.S. Constitution) would have been used in some way to construct the key or keys to Beale's three ciphers. For
example, it appears that ciphers No. 1 and No. 3 were encoded using the same cipher method and key. Hence, the key to ciphers
No. 1 and No. 3 might be based on a slightly different method of using the Declaration of Independence, or based on one
of the other major documents signed by Robt. Morris (one "S"), namely the Articles of Confederation or the U.S.
Constitution. It also means that the methed of cipher for No. 1 and No. 3 cannot be complicated or complex, otherwise the
clue wouldn't be a clue at all. Saying this another way, if Mr. Morriss were able to recognize the clue to Robt. Morris' three
signed documents (Articles of Confederation, Declaration of Independence, and U.S. Constitution), then it better not be too
difficult to deduce or discover the method Beale used to construct the key or keys needed to decode the ciphers. Otherwise,
Mr. Morriss wouldn't have been able to make effective use of the clue.