An E-Sylum reader we'll call "Chauncey Wolcott" writes:
A Springfield, Illinois woman found a "treasure note" about buried gold coins attached to an old rocking chair, and commenced digging in the yard with heavy excavation equipment. It was all a practical joke some 30 years in the making.
The story tells the whole, well, story.
An Illinois woman who set out on a treasure hunt for buried gold coins after finding a cryptic note in an antique rocking chair may have been the victim of a prolific prankster who died more than 30 years ago.
With help of a donated backhoe, Patty Henken recently tore up a vacant lot in Springfield, Ill., where a typewritten note signed by "Chauncey Wolcott" — found in an old chair she bought at auction last November — suggested she would find a chest containing more than $250 in U.S. gold coins.
The dig turned up nothing but bricks and old bottles. Henken planned to return Tuesday with the donated services of a man with ground-penetrating radar meant to detect any buried items, but the treasure note's promise may already be debunked.
An Iowa woman who read news accounts of the hunt said she knows Wolcott's true identity: John "Jay" Slaven, a notorious practical joker and coin collector who often used a typewriter in his pranks.
Slaven used the pen name "Chauncey Wolcott" and lived for decades at the location where the dig took place, until his 1976 death.
To read the complete article, see:
Ill. treasure hunt halted as possible prank
No coins or treasure chest was found, but the coins may have turned up elsewhere.
The caller apologized, but he has been out of town and hadn't seen the paper since last week or he would have told us sooner. He has the gold coins that are supposedly buried in a lead chest at 1028 N. Fifth Street.
My caller, who did not want to be identified, inherited the coins in 1987. They are secure in a bank in Springfield. He produced a letter from a Florida bank to verify what he said. The bank inventoried the coins, and they correspond exactly to the number and denomination of the coins a note said were buried in a lead chest at 1028 N. Fifth Street.
He has eight $20 gold pieces, six $10, five $5, three $2 1/2 and two $1 gold pieces.
So ends the tale of the no-longer mysterious note and the buried lead chest that wasn't there.
The man who has them is a Springfieldian who was related to Jay and his wife, Frances.
The Slavens had lost both of their children to leukemia at ages 7 and 12. The amateur psychologist in me says Jay's jokes were part of his reaction to such tragedy.
After Jay died in 1976, Frances inherited everything. When Frances died, her estate went to other family members. The coins (valued at $9,000 22 years ago, when gold was cheap) went to my caller.
He and his brother remembered Friday that Jay feuded with his neighbor two houses away at 1026 N. Fifth St. They think perhaps this note about buried treasure was a way to disrupt his neighbor's life. He just didn't know it would take 30 years to find the note and start digging.
Both men remember the chair, a distinctive double rocker, in which Patty Henken found the note. And they have been getting quite a kick out of Jay's final practical joke.
To read the complete article, see:
Bakke: Gold coin treasure found above ground
Wayne Homren, Editor
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