Summer is just around the corner, and with it comes barbeques, beach clubs, sunbathing, hiking, and water sports. But for another segment of the Jersey Shore population summer means hunting for buried treasure. Most everyone has heard the tales of Captain Kidd and Blackbeard the Pirate burying their loot from Cliffwood Beach to Cape May and everywhere in between. But New Jersey can lay claim to dozens of treasure legends.

On April 8, 1948. Captain William Cottrell and his son, Lloyd, were walking home along the beach after a long day at work on their lobster boat. They were talking about their day, as they did every day on the walk home. As they walked along the beach at the foot of Cedar Street, something caught William’s eye. It was a glint in the sand.

He stopped and picked it up and his eyes nearly popped from his head. It was a half-dollar-sized gold coin. He and Lloyd began examining the sand where William found the coin. Unbelievably, there were more right around where he found the first one. Soon, they came back with other family members and friends and began scouring the beach.

(One of the coins was dated 1751 and had a portrait on one side and a shield on the obverse with the engraving: “JOSEPHUS I.D.G., PORT ET Alg. REX”. It is said to have weighed approximately half an ounce. The coin is a Portuguese 1/2 Peca. A similar coin from 1752 recently sold for $3,035.82.)

This chance discovery ushered in the Highlands Gold Rush of 1948. In July of 2022, a man, working on his home, in Wildwood, found two bundles buried in his yard, unearthed by his excavations. Unwrapping one bundle, he discovered a cache of $10 and $20 bills dated 1934. No one knows who buried them.
There are plenty of undiscovered treasures all over the state. So, grab your metal detector and shovel. Here are some examples:

Bacon Was A Bad Egg

“Bloody” John Bacon was an infamously cruel Tory raider and head of the Pine Robbers, a loyalist guerilla gang, during the Revolutionary War.

“Bloody” John Bacon

He was notorious for luring patriot commerce ships onto shoals and reefs along the New Jersey Coast and then steal their cargo. He was a killer. In 1783, he got word that Patriot militiamen captured a British ship, he and his cutthroat band attacked and killed the 20 militiamen as they slept on the beach at Long Beach Island. Bacon and his men made off with the loot from the British ship. They say that John Bacon buried the treasure near what is now the Barnegat Lighthouse because the Patriots were in hot pursuit. He was confronted by Captain John Stewart of the armed forces of the New Republic and killed resisting arrest. No one has ever found the treasure.

Furman Dubel

Dubel, it is claimed, buried approximately $200,000.00 in his home and amongst many businesses, that he owned in Burlington, NJ.

County records show that there was a man named Furman Dubel that lived in Burlington, had no close relatives, and was, apparently wealthy. Dubel died in 1905, never revealing the location of his stash.

Cudjoe & Captain Kidd

There is a legend of an elderly man that lived in a rough-hewn cabin on the Hillside of what is now Lower Scenic Drive in Highlands, NJ. He was a recluse and rumors say that he was a former member of Captain Kidd’s crew. Legend says thatCudjoe was put ashore on the beach north of Highlands with several barrels loaded with gold coins, part of Kidd’s treasure.

The plan was that at certain times each day, Cudjoe would watch Sandy Hook Bay for a ship and the signal that would let him know that the Captain needed to reclaim the treasure to keep the noose from his neck. Cudjoe waited for decades. He was murdered by two local clammers, who were later found dead on the beach below Cudjoe’s cabin. The treasure was never found.

THE Pine Baron’s Bandit

Jacob Fagan and his friend Lewis Fenton, along with a gang of cutthroats, were infamous outlaws and Jacob was considered one of the most feared bandits in the mid-Atlantic region in the 1770s. They terrorized the settlements of the Pine Barrens leaving burnt homes and death wherever they went. It is estimated that Fagan stole tens of thousands of dollars during his career. The gang had a series of elaborate hideouts in hand-hewn tunnels around Farmingdale, NJ.

The outlaw life does not boast of longevity. The Fagan gang was apprehended, eventually. But not soon enough, the carnage was horrid. Most of the gang either fought to the death or remained mute, accepting their appointment with the gallows.

Jacob Fagan danced at the end of a hangman’s noose for his crimes as much as for his ruthless cruelty. Lewis Fenton, however, tried to negotiate. He told his captors about the hideouts and that the gang stashed all of their stolen money and merchandise in those tunnels. He offered to take them to the cache, but only if they would allow him to go free.

But there had been too much death, too much destruction. Law enforcement officials turned down his offer of treasure. Lewis panicked and attempted an escape. The guards shot him to death as he ran away. The treasure and its location died with Fenton.

Money Lake

Captain Kidd was in trouble. He was wanted for piracy and murder. He knew there was a pretty high probability that he would be hanged. But he claimed to be innocent of the charges and was determined to clear his name. But to hedge his bet, he would stash barrels of money along his journey back to Boston.

The treasure was meant to bribe his way out of a noose and was worth 400,000 British pounds in 1701. (approximately $20 million dollars in 2023 US currency.) Soon after Captain William Kidds arrest, gold, and other treasure worth about 20,000 pounds (more than $1 million in today’s value) were dug up on Gardiners Island off the coast of Long Island, NY. That leaves about $19 million hidden away, waiting for Kidd’s return.

Speculation has run wild. People’s yards have been surreptitiously dug up from Boston to Cape May, by strangers in search of Captain Kidd’s treasure. If you live on Sandy Hook and Raritan bays this is not an unusual occurrence.

Off the coast of Cliffwood Beach was a small island. Over the years, 17th-century Spanish coins were discovered on the island. Because of that, it was called “Money Island”. Many believe that this is where Captain Kidd buried a portion of his treasure. Unfortunately, Money Island disappeared to erosion and sea level changes ages ago.

However, occasionally, 17 th -century Spanish coins turn up in the little pond, just inland of where Money Island was situated. They call the pond Treasure Lake.

Notes on Treasure Hunting

In the controversial Journal of Jean Lafitte, an autobiography written some fifty years after his alleged death, Lafitte talks about seeing articles in newspapers about people scouring Barataria Bay and the bayous of Louisiana searching for his treasures. He says he feels bad for them and goes on to say that he did, indeed, bury his treasure. Not in the ground, but in banks just like everyone else. Who buries money?

Take it from someone that has worked sunken Spanish galleon sites, and wandered into jungles in search of treasures, they do exist. They are elusive and “X” never marks the spot. The only pirate that we know buried treasure for sure, was Captain Kidd in an effort to save his own neck.

So, here are some treasure-hunting tips for the intrepid adventurer:

1. Do your own research. Use the work of others as a jumping-off point. But research locations and history on your own. Why? Well, if the others used that same research that you found on Google and did not find the treasure…neither will you.
2. Look into local ordinances for where you intend to search. Do they allow metal detectors? Do you need a permit? No sense in finding treasure only to have to use it all to get out of jail.
3. DO NOT metal detect at Sandy Hook. First, it is illegal and secondly, there are all sorts of unexploded shells and bombs, from when Sandy Hook was a military proving ground, all over the place. Don’t blow yourself up.
4. Be courteous and respectful, ask permission to dig on private property, and if you find human remains, call the police.
5. There is a site called that will inspire your inner Indiana Jones.

Good luck and good hunting.

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