Skeptics of the ‘Money Pit’ believe the details available to us today have been gradually attributed to the story over time to make it sound more convincing. For example, some believe that the obvious need for a rope and tackle system to place the treasure in the pit has transpired into fact over the years, however, precise details are in circulation, such as the description of equipment.
As later accounts developed, details of the log platforms became selective, only privileging information that would create a methodical, engineered version of the layers. The descriptions of such layers differ somewhat between accounts, contributing to the notion that specific details have been attributed to the myth to make it seem more plausible.
In 1911, Captain Henry L. Bowdoin, an engineer who had conducted borings on the island, came to the conclusion that the treasure was fictitious. He doubted the authenticity of various alleged findings such as the cipher stone and piece of gold chain, concluding the rest to natural phenomena.
Other sceptics have proposed that the legendary Money Pit was nothing more than a sinkhole caused by the ground settling over a void in the underlying rock. Given that the strata beneath Oak Island is basically limestone and anhydrite, often associated with the formation of solution caverns and salt domes, the surface may be characterized by sinkholes.
Interestingly, a sinkhole actually appeared on Oak Island in 1878. Sophia Sellers was ploughing the earth when it suddenly sank beneath her oxen. The area was thus named the ‘cave-in Pit,’ and located just over a hundred yards east of the Money Pit, directly above the flood tunnel.
In light of such evidence, it could be viable that the purported artificial structures on the island were merely natural sinkholes and cavities. In 1875 when a sewage-disposal system was being established on the mainland.
About 3,000 feet north of Oak Island heavy excavating machinery broke through a rock layer and discovered a 52-foot-deep cavern below. Could these caverns account for the flood traps that were supposedly placed to guard the fabled treasure?
If the Money Pit really was just a sinkhole caused by the possible slumping of material in a fault, it could permissible that this filling would be softer than the surrounding ground, and give the impression that it had been dug up before. This could account for what Daniel Mc Ginnis recognised as a site for buried treasure in 1795. It could also be possible that fallen trees could have sunk into the pit with its collapse, giving the appearance of platforms of logs.
A natural pit was in fact discovered in 1949 on the shore of Mahone Bay, five miles to the south of Oak Island, when workmen were digging a well. Just as with the ‘Money Pit’, reports of a stone platform and layers of logs invoked the excitement of another pit yet given the geographical behaviour of this area, such flights of fancy were soon dismissed.
Perhaps the ‘Money Pit’ began as mere exaggeration and speculation of a similar discovery, exploding into the myth we know today. The artefacts found lay testament to the possibility of treasure within the pit, yet some researchers believe such finds to be either hoaxes or plants by workers to continue the dig.
The above text was written with reference to Joe Nickell’s article ‘The Secrets of Oak Island’. It provides an abridged overview of his research and thoughts on the Oak Island Mystery. You can read his excellent article in depth, on the Skeptical Enquirer website.