Mine Games Treasure Hunter Seeks Silver in the Forest as Experts Scoff

By Jim Salter Of The Associatted Press | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 5, 1996 | Go to article overview

Mine Games Treasure Hunter Seeks Silver in the Forest as Experts Scoff


Jim Salter Of The Associatted Press, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Gerald Taylor is talking, but the words are lost in a din of leaves crunching as he fights through heavy brush in a remote area of southern Missouri's Mark Twain National Forest.

One of the sticker bushes finally gets him, slashing an inch-long gash on his right hand. He walks on, unbothered by the oozing blood, continuing to mouth words that can't be heard.

Suddenly, silence. Taylor steps into a clearing on a steep slope, kicks away a few fallen branches, and smiles.

"Here it is," he says.

Perhaps six feet below the ground is an abandoned silver mine, a mine where South American Jesuits in colonial times hid tons of silver bars, jewels, coins and other treasures.

At least that's what Taylor believes.

"I'm 101 percent sure," he said, estimating the bounty's value to be at least $200 million, perhaps 10 times that.

The U.S. Forest Service believes the only thing under the ground at Taylor's site is more dirt and rocks. That's why since 1988, they've repeatedly refused his request to dig for treasures there.

"It would be nice to think somebody could find buried treasures, but there's nothing in the record to support him," said Jody Eberly, a wildlife biologist for the Forest Service.

Taylor, 45, of Hazelwood, hasn't held a job since the early 1980s. His single-minded pursuit is to get to a treasure that experts agree doesn't exist.

"I've got my life devoted to this thing. This is the one that everybody dreams of," said Taylor, a retired autoworker who collects payments for a disability he wouldn't reveal.

There are plenty of dreamers around the country. Treasure hunting has become a multi-million dollar hobby. Magazines, newsletters, clubs and countless equipment dealers are devoted to people who seek buried treasure, sunken ships filled with riches, or gold in them thar hills.

Marci Stumpf, managing editor of Gold and Treasure Hunter magazine, estimated that 350,000 people around the United States hunt for hidden treasure in one form or another.

Most may run a metal detector over the beach, or spend a day on vacation panning for gold. Only a handful of people, like Taylor, devote their lives to it, Stumpf said. …

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