The story behind this one spans nearly 200 years of baffling cryptographers. So put on your hilariously charming old-timey tall-brimmed thinking hats while we tell the tale.
The owner of Lynchburg, Virginia's Washington Hotel, Robert Morriss, vividly recalled the day he was visited by treasure hunter Thomas Jefferson Beale in January 1820. He describes him as "tall, dark, and swarthy," "extremely popular, especially with the ladies," and "the handsomest man" he had ever seen, which you may recognize as the way you'd describe the protagonist of a paperback novel with a shirtless painting of Fabio on the cover.
Beale left as mysteriously as he'd arrived, which surely must have broken the heart of the clearly smitten Morriss. Two years later, the musky, beautiful man returned, left behind a mysterious locked box, and disappeared again, this time for good. Twenty-three years later, assuming the gorgeous stranger was probably dead, Morriss opened the box and found a plain English letter and three encoded documents leading to a treasure now assumed to be worth around $65 million dollars.
Morriss himself puzzled out the cryptic document for the remainder of his life but ultimately failed to find answers. A friend, to whom Morriss had confided his story, published a pamphlet with the encoded documents in it, hoping to find someone that could solve the riddle. This same friend also managed to decode one of the documents, realizing the substitution cipher worked with the Declaration of Independence. The pamphlet in question was published in 1885, but to this day, the other two documents and the location of the treasure, remain as unsolved as a landfill full of Rubik's cubes.