April 1, 2013 4:01 AM
On April 1, 1885 the following weather report appeared
on the front page of the Lynchburg Virginian, Volume LXXVII. (77) NO. 177.
John W. Sherman was the editor.
Local News. Indications for To-Day.
United States Signal Office, Washington, April 1. 6 o'clock P.M.
For Middle Atlantic States:
Fair warmer weather, preceded in Northern portion
by light local rains; Southwesterly winds
It was predicted to be a pleasant morning that Wednesday, April Fool's day in the Spring of 1885, when an eight line poem was printed upside down on the front page of the Lynchburg Virginian. The couplets were prefaced with a curious warning:
(The following lines were printed upside down)
If there's anything worries a woman,
It's something she ought not not to know; (not not?)
But you bet she'll find it out anyhow,
If she gets the least kind of a show.
Now, we'll wager ten cents to a farthing,
This poem she's already read--
We knew she would get at it somehow,
If she had to stand on her head.
A farthing was 1/4 of a cent, so the bet was 40 to 1 that the April 1 ditty would be read by the lady referenced above. Other newspapers had the wager as ten cents to a penny and a dollar to a cent, or 100 to 1. The little poem had no title or author but it was widely copied with minor changes to the words in newspapers across the country--one of them attributed it to the Harvard Lampoon.
The repetition of "not" in the second line was unique to the Lynchburg Virginian, and could have been a printer's error, possibly from setting the type in the block upside down. If the "mistake" was deliberate it may have been inserted as a pun, as in knot or naught, or naughty. Aught historically has represented zero, as has Naught, Nought, and Nil and the number zero "0" is Zero in French, Nihil in Latin, or KuKlos in Greek.
A companion piece with more casual couplets accompanied the upside down piece of work on the front page.
The second little poem depicted a noisy wife instead of a nosy wife. Evidently the editor or his minions had an axe to grind with some members of the fairer sex that
The second ditty read as follows:
Cheerier and cheerier grow the days,
And the storms are fewer and fewer.
Warmer and warmer grow the sun's glad rays,
And the skies grow bluer and bluer;
And the wife with only a shawl to her back
Has ceased her hullabaloo,
And cries no more for a sealskin sacque
And a fur-lined circular, too.
A circular was a mitten-like article of clothing used to cover both hands from the winter chill. Could it be said that it formed the shape of a zero? A seal-skin sacque would have been a ladies overcoat of seal's fur, and a very warm and expensive coat at that.
Rounding off the morning newspaper's presentations of April Foolery was a third article about an entirely different subject entitled:
The Pompey Stone.
The famous Pompey stone, now in the state museum at Albany, is the most noted of a very limited class of relics. It is a bowlder about fourteen inches long and twelve wide, bearing on its face an unmistakable figure and inscription. It was discovered at Watervale, in the township of Pompey,not far from Manlius, Onondaga county, about sixty-five years ago. (That would have been about 1820) Historians and scientists have speculated on its origin without positive results, and it still remains as perplexing an enigma as when first brought to notice.
The figure in the center of the stone represents a serpent twining about the trunk of a tree. At the left is plainly engraved Leo De -----VI 1520. On the right of the serpent is a capital L with several inferior marks, doubtless meant for small letters, beneath which are two peculiar characters that look very much like Indian totems. This stone is supposed to furnish the earliest known evidence of the presence of Europeans on the soil of New York state, and to have been designed for a grave monument for some unknown Spanish adventurer who, with his comprades had penetrated the wilderness in search of gold during the early part of the sixteenth century. --Rochester Post- Express.
A skeptic could speculate that Leo meant lion, and De-VI + L just might refer to the name of, well, perhaps those letters referred to the name of that sneaky old "lyon" serpent entwined around a tree trunk?
The Pompey stone was eventually proven to be a hoax by W. M. Beauchamp in 1894 and in response to the publication of his investigations, two family friends, John and William Sweet claimed that it had been carved in a blacksmith's shop by Cyrus Avery and William Willard as a prank some 65 years earlier. Neither perpetrator was alive to protest the Sweets' version of events. 520
But back in Lynchburg, by that morning of April 1, 1885, probably 100 and perhaps as many as 1000 or more Beale Papers pamphlets had already been printed. The title page of the pamphlet had already been sent to Washington, DC where it had secured a copyright for its "agent" James Beverly Ward, a respected local resident. That page had an unusual mistake, the letters "Th" were obviously missing from "The" in its title, The Beale Papers. It also had a second minor glitch, the date 1885 on the bottom of the page was slightly off center to the right as if originally the typesetter had planned to place a month in front of the year. The missing letters and the misalignment were probably the result of a hasty set-up during the first printing. 20-8
It is reasonable to speculate that by April 1 that the plates were also typeset for the printing of the April 10 "for sale" announcement in the Lynchburg Virginian. The anticipation of huge sales and corresponding profits was undoubtedly intense. All was in place for the incredible treasure hunt to begin on Friday, the tenth of April, shortly after the morning papers were delivered to Lynchburg's finest citizens.
But, as Robert Burns noted in his 1786 poem, To a Mouse, "the best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley," or in modern nomenclature, the booklet bombed. Only a few of the Virginian's readers succumbed to the allure of the advertisement's alleged treasure and purchased the expensive pamphlet with the hopes that a few hours of "ciphering" would "speedily" unravel Thomas Beale's last letter and reveal the hidden vault that had protected tons of gold and silver since 1822.
Unfortunately for James Beverly Ward and the printer (who had probably printed the booklets at least partially on credit) very few of the expensive pamphlets sold quickly or even over the next several months. The price was lowered from 50 cents (5 times the price of the then popular dime novels) to 25 cents and eventually to10 cents. Local folks simply weren't "buying" the treasure story and fifteen months later there were still copies to be sold at the ten cent price. Without a budget to advertise to a wider audience, the pamphlets probably sat on a dusty shelf for months or even years until the balance of the little green booklets were probably burned to warm the print shop one winter, or sold as a box lot in some local auction. The burning scenario is more likely since so few of the original booklets have been discovered.
The readers who had spent their hard earned cash for the booklet on that Friday, April 10, 1885 apparently never cracked the ciphers and dug up the treasure. That fact has not deterred a few determined souls from studying the ciphers and digging holes in the farmlands near the former location of Buford's Tavern not too far from present day Montvale, Virginia.
The unnamed author of the Beale Papers warned all of its readers to careful not to catch the gold fever that could be inflamed by its pages. Although there have been numerous supects in the search for the anonymous author, no one has been positively identified as the writer of the booklet. Because he has been unnamed for so long, his pen name or nom de plume will hereafter be referred to as Mr. McCypher in the following pages.
The Sad Warnings of the Anonymous Author, Mr. McCypher
The following admonitions should be read carefully and seriously obeyed. Ignoring the anonymous author’s instructions will on occasion lead an unwary reader into a labyrinth of repetitious error which has as its only reward an interesting “experience.”
When the Beale Papers were originally printed in Lynchburg, Virginia sometime prior to April 10, 1885 the author of the pamphlet included several strenuous warnings. Selected words from those warnigns have occasionally been emphasized with bold print to highlight the nature of his reassembled warnings. (3873 letters, 847 words)
The mysterious Mr. McCypher terminated his obligations to Mr. Morris and his own love-hate affair with the ciphers by offering to sell the mystery to the public for 50 cents in the form of a 23 page pamphlet. This price was offered at a time when dime novels of 100 pages or more were selling for ten cents. The warnings below detailed the author's seemingly genuine concerns that others would succumb to the allures of the Beale mystery and that its charms would seduce numerous would-be cryptographers and treasure hunters into wasting years of valuable time and effort on fruitless searches for the key text. You will discover that unfortunately Mr. McCypher's worst fears were not unfounded.
The Saga of the Beale Treasure began with a meeting in 1862.
“...Inviting me to his room, with no one to interrupt us, he (Robert Morriss) gave me an outline of the matter, which soon enlisted my interest and created an intense longing to learn more.”
That feeling has been aroused many times in the hearts of numerous subsequent individuals, and almost all of them would ultimately agree with the author as he tells the rest of his story.
The meeting resulted in the following despairing warnings:
Until the writer lost all hope of ultimate success, he toiled faithfully at his work; unlike any other pursuit with practical and natural results, a charm attended it, independent of the ultimate benefit he expected, and the possibility of success lent an interest and excitement to the work not to be resisted. It would be difficult to portray the delight he experienced when accident revealed to him the explanation of the paper marked "TWO." Unmeaning, as this had hitherto been, it was now fully explained, and no difficulty was apprehended in mastering the others; but this accident, affording so much pleasure at the time, was a most unfortunate one for him, as it induced him to neglect family, friends, and all legitimate pursuits for what has proved, so far, the veriest illusion. He is therefore, compelled, however unwillingly, to relinquish to others the elucidation of the Beale papers, not doubting that of the many who will give the subject attention, some one, through fortune or accident, will speedily solve their mystery and secure the prize which has eluded him.”
“It can be readily imagined that this course was not determined upon all at once; regardless of the entreaties of his family and the persistent advice of his friend, who were formerly as sanguine as himself, he stubbornly continued his investigations, until absolute want stared him in the face and forced him to yield to their persuasions. Having now lost all hope of benefit from this source himself, he is not unwilling that others may receive it, and only hopes that the prize may fall to some poor, but honest man, who will use his discovery not solely for the promotion of his own enjoyment, but for the welfare of others.“
“It is now more than twenty years since these papers came into my hands, and, with the exception of one of them, they are still as incomprehensible as ever. Much time was devoted to this one, and those who engage in the matter will be saved what has been consumed upon it by myself. Before giving the papers to the public, I would say a word to those who may take an interest in them and give them a little advice, acquired by bitter experience. It is to devote only such time as can be spared from your legitimate business to the task, and if you can spare no time, let the matter alone.”
“Should you disregard my advice, do not hold me responsible that the poverty you have courted is more easily found than the accomplishment of your wishes, and I would avoid the sight of another reduced to my condition. Nor is it necessary to devote the time that I did to this matter, as accident alone, without the promised key, will ever develop the mystery. If revealed by accident, a few hours devoted to the subject may accomplish results which were denied to years of patient toil.”
“Again, never, as I have done, sacrifice your own and your family's interests to what may prove an illusion; but, as I have already said, when your day's work is done, and you are comfortably seated by your good fire, a short time devoted to the subject can injure no one, and may bring its reward. By pursuing this policy, your interests will not suffer, your family will be cared for, and your thoughts will not be absorbed to the exclusion of other important affairs.”
“Now, as I have already said, I am forced by circumstances to devote my time to other pursuits, and to abandon hopes which were destined never to be realized. In consequence of the time lost in the above investigation, I have been reduced from comparative affluence to absolute penury, entailing suffering upon those it was my duty to protect, and this, too, in spite of their remonstrances. My eyes were at last opened to their conditions, and I resolved to sever at once, and forever, all connection with the affair, and retrieve, if possible, my errors.”
“To do this, as the best means of placing temptation beyond my reach, I determined to make public the whole matter, and shift from my shoulders my responsibility to Mr. Morriss.. I anticipate for these papers a large circulation, and, to avoid the multitude of letters with which I should be assailed from all sections of the Union, propounding all sorts of questions, and requiring answers which, if attended to, would absorb my entire time, and only change the character of my work, I have decided upon withdrawing my name from the publication, after assuring all interested that I have given all that I know of the matter, and that I cannot add one word to the statements herein contained.”
“With this final admonition, I submit to my readers the papers upon which this narrative is founded. Should any of my readers be more fortunate than myself in discovering its place of concealment, I shall not only rejoice with them, but feel that I have at least accomplished something in contributing to the happiness of others.”
The above words seem to express a sincere wish that others would be careful to avoid the pain and disappointments that the author and his family experienced because of the time wasted in a treasure quest. The dangers of finding an obsession instead of a solution to the Beale mystery were accurately and seriously described by Mr. McCypher.