PENFIELD, Pa. (AP) — In the heart of Pennsylvania elk country, Eric McCarthy and his client, Don Reichel, rose before sunrise to scour the forest floor for so-called “brown gold” — a rack of freshly fallen antlers worth taking home. Add back to Reichel’s collection.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
A team of FBI agents were also searching for gold on a hill. Metallic yellow type.
The FBI’s highly unusual discovery of buried treasure dating back to the Civil War more than five years ago has sparked controversy over what the agency discovered, and an ongoing legal battle over key records. There is so much intrigue that even a federal judge was forced to say in a ruling last week: “The FBI may have found the gold – or maybe not.”
Now, two witnesses have come forward with The Associated Press to share what they heard and saw in the woods that late winter morning, raising questions about the FBI’s timeline and adding plot twists to a saga that is full of legends, Blends elements of fact and science – and a heavy dose of government secrecy.
The FBI insists that a March 2018 dig at Dents Run, a remote wooded valley about 110 miles (177 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh, found nothing. But a treasure hunter who led FBI agents to the hill where an 1863 gold cache may be buried is challenging the government’s denial. He asks how could the dig come up empty, when the FBI’s own scans revealed that the mass of buried metal was likely worth millions of dollars’ worth of gold?
McCarthy, a 45-year-old elk guide, had never met treasure hunter Dennis Parada. But he watched from a distance as Parada took the FBI to court and told his story to the media. McCarthy recently decided to share his own story because he felt that Parada, who spent years searching for gold before contacting the FBI with his findings, had been treated unfairly.
“I felt like I needed to say what I saw, you know?” McCarthy explained. “I have no connection with anyone here. I just felt like they were treated unfairly.”
In an interview at a remote hunting camp about 25 miles (40 km) from Dent Run, McCarthy recalled hearing the unexpected rumble of heavy equipment as he climbed the mountain in near-darkness, a dusting of snow. Was falling on the ground. Recent storm.
Later that day, while taking a lunch break, McCarthy and Reichel saw a trio of armored trucks rumbling by. One of the vehicles went down, as if it was carrying a full load.
McCarthy now insists, “They took something from the Dent run.” “Something heavy.”
Contacted by phone, McCarthy’s 73-year-old shed hunting customer Reichel confirmed his description of hearing a rattling sound and seeing a loaded truck in the early morning hours of March 14, 2018. Watching a convoy of FBI vehicles including backhoes and jackhammers and armored trucks throughout the night.
Parada, co-founder of the treasure-hunting organization Finders Keepers, considers eyewitness accounts important because they can strengthen one of his main arguments – that the FBI secretly dug for gold overnight and destroyed it. Gave. An FBI warrant to excavate the site limited work from 6 am to 10 pm each day.
The agency vehemently denied that the excavations took place after hours, and said that FBI police had only conducted nighttime ATV patrols to secure the site.
“No gold or other items of evidence were found or collected. The FBI continues to categorically reject any claims or speculations to the contrary, said spokeswoman Cary Adamowski.
In fact, there is little historical evidence to confirm that an army unit lost a shipment of gold in the Pennsylvania woods, possibly after being ambushed by Confederate supporters. But the legend has inspired generations of treasure hunters, Parada among them.
Scientific testing revealed he was on to something.
The FBI said in a 2018 court document that its own geophysics consultant identified an underground metal mass weighing up to 9 tons with a density of gold at the site identified by Finders Keepers. A federal judge approved a search and seizure warrant, and the FBI set up camp at Dent Run, later describing it as a potential “cultural heritage site that contained United States government gold.” Parada hoped to earn a finder’s fee from the potential recovery.
On the second day of the FBI dig, McCarthy and Reichel woke up at 4 a.m. and between 5 and 5:30 a.m. were on a mountain that paralleled the narrow Dent Run valley.
By then, the FBI’s presence had become a topic of discussion in the backcountry, with speculation running rampant that agents were searching for gold. The FBI had escorted McCarthy to a different part of Dent Run the day before. But he was determined to help his client find the elk shed. Parting ways to increase their odds, McCarthy dropped off Reichel and then parked more than a mile away.
He said that as soon as he got out of his truck, he heard the sound of an engine running in the distance. As he climbed the hill, the noise grew louder and he heard the sound of metal on stone, or metal on metal – it sounded to him as if some heavy equipment was being lifted from the earth.
McCarthy said he reached the top of the ridge and started back down the other side. Then he noticed an FBI operation on the opposite slope, about 400 yards (meters) away. He saw lights running from a generator. A vertical digging machine. A small piece of equipment, perhaps a skid-steer or quad, that moves up and down a hill. A brownish-black spot on the ground surrounded by snow. People are sitting under a makeshift umbrella.
“It looked to me like they were digging,” he said.
Reichel, who was far from the dig site, said he heard the sound of machinery as he climbed the hill.
“I can hear some machines, or something, rattling, banging, roaring and things like that,” said Reichel, a retired manufacturing worker. He said he was too far away to be able to see anything.
The FBI timeline says the search team did not arrive at the dig site until 8 a.m. that morning, and an excavation operator also arrived later. It’s right after that time that McCarthy and Reichel say they noticed signs of activity.
The pair met again several hours later for lunch. Just then, he said, a convoy of unmarked black SUVs and armored trucks drove up Pennsylvania Route 555 toward Dent Run. McCarthy and Reichel said that one of the three armored trucks had lost weight – more tilted forward and backward than the other two.
“Eric and I both commented that one should be loaded.” Reichel said.
“It was pretty much full,” McCarthy said. He said he has driven overloaded dump trucks and “I know what it looks like.”
Not so, the FBI says. According to FBI spokesman Adamowski, while “appropriate vehicles and equipment” were brought to the dent run, armored trucks were not among them.
Warren Gettler, a consultant who has worked closely with Finders Keepers, argued that eyewitness accounts add up to one thing – a secret nighttime dig.
“And why would you dig at night,” he said, “unless you want to extract gold under cover of darkness?”
Gettler, co-author of “Rebel Gold,” a book that explores the possibility of buried deposits of Civil War-era gold and silver, joined Parada at Dent Run for the 2018 dig. But the FBI mostly confined them to their cars at the bottom of the hill, and showed them an empty crater when they were done.
The agency later denied Parada’s Freedom of Information Act request for records on the dig, prompting him to file a lawsuit. In 2022, a judge forced the FBI to release a trove of photos and documents.
But the agency has refused to change its operational plan for gold digging — which Parada and Gettler believe may have included information about overnight digging — and the government says That other records are exempt from disclosure. US District Judge Amit Mehta told the FBI on September 27 that it needed to come up with a better justification for keeping the disputed records secret.
While Parada is pursuing the FBI in court, it has not given up its search in the Dent Run area. They recently hired a New Jersey geophysics company that identified several underground anomalies near the original FBI dig site, one of which measures 25 feet (7.62 m) by 8 feet (2.44 m).
Finders Keepers’ own equipment detected metal objects at the same location, perhaps 15 feet below, possibly in a tunnel or cave, Parada said, playing a video that showed a detector emitting a loud sound as it swept across the ground. Has been shown to have happened.
Now he’s looking to partner with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which owns the land, for a new dig at Dents Run. Parada, his lawyers and top officials from the protection agency plan to meet later this month.
“This is a part of our history that is hidden,” Parada said, “and I think it’s time for it to be told.”