These Golden Age Hollywood Stars Spent Time Searching For The Treasure Of Oak Island

In the fall of 1795, teenager Daniel McGinnis stumbled across a mystery on Oak Island, located just off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada. His tantalizing discovery would come to obsess many people, including famous Hollywood actors and even a U.S. president, over a stretch of more than 200 years. It would lead to lost fortunes, deaths, and fruitless searches, according to Nuvo Magazine.

McGinnis, with the help of two friends, unearthed flagstones about two feet down from a sunken area he'd noticed while scouting out farmland. They continued digging and discovered oak beams and tool marks about every 10 feet, indicating that someone had constructed a pit, per Endeavour Magazine. They gave up after making it 30 feet down. A later excavation discovered a stone with strange, undecipherable markings on it 90 feet down and just before the shaft flooded. Rumors circulated for years that Captain Kidd's treasure or Marie Antoinette's jewels were buried on the island, per Endeavour. It was enough to inspire a young Franklin D. Roosevelt, before he became president, to finance an expedition and even get his hands dirty digging for treasure on the island, per The Daily Beast. It also piqued the interest of two Hollywood legends looking to try their luck at uncovering the secret of Oak Island.

A swashbuckling star looking for treasure

In 1939, Hollywood heartthrob Errol Flynn, known for his portrayals of swashbuckling heroes, began looking into funding a treasure-hunting expedition on Oak Island. Flynn had a history of these kinds of activities. Before he became an actor, he'd been a gold miner in Papua New Guinea, per Britannica. After he'd made it in Hollywood, he continued his treasure hunting.

Flynn had previously financed an Alaskan prospector, lending him a plane and staking him $10,000 (more than $200,000 today), according to the Times. The expedition turned out to be a bust and Flynn lost his money. A second venture worked out slightly better. While sailing the Caribbean, he located a sunken cannon off the coast of Cuba and paid $2,000 (more than $40,000 today) for its recovery, hoping it was stuffed with treasure (which was apparently something pirates did). Ultimately, the "treasure" only turned out to be semi-precious stones worth about 10% of what he'd invested in its recovery.

The Duke goes digging 

Errol Flynn soon discovered that Oak Island would not work out, either. He'd hoped to take over the search but discovered the rights to dig on the island belonged to someone else who was apparently unwilling to sell, according to "Secret Treasure of Oak Island: The Amazing True Story of a Centuries-Old Treasure Hunt."

30 years later, John Wayne, the Hollywood legend nicknamed "The Duke" and known for portraying alpha male cowboys and soldiers, also looked into the Oak Island mystery. The Statesman Mining Company of Aspen, Colorado, of which Wayne was part owner, leased a piece of equipment that both dug and drilled, to the Triton Alliance treasure search company in 1970, according to "Oak Island Gold." There were also discussions about Wayne narrating a film about Oak Island, but neither the mining equipment nor the voiceover bore fruit. Over the years, people lost millions of dollars and 14 have lost their lives, all without finding the treasure, per Endeavour Magazine and The Daily Beast.