Tuesday, February 07, 2023

The Victorio Peak Treasure Part Seven


One of the main stumbling blocks for the tale had always been the lack of any kind of evidence for treasure in the region. If the Partnership, or anyone else for that matter, had been able to demonstrate that something was hidden, the Army would have been more receptive to additional searches of range property.

Some archaeological evidence was discovered in 1988 in the pictographs and petroglyphs that dotted the rocks around Victorio Peak. For the most part, these had been ignored, the assumption being that the markings were drawn by Indians who lived in the region. The January 28, 1993, issue of The Courier, reported on “The Mystery People.”

Gene Ballinger wrote that the markings were a type of writing known as Ogam and that the writers were Celtic origin, Ballinger claimed that the oral tradition of the Indian spoke of a group of "white” Indians. These white Indians lived in southern New Mexico about the time of Christ and died out some thousands of years later.

Gene Ballinger, editor of The Courier. Photo
copyright by Kevin Randle.

Ogam, according to one expert, Dr. Arnold Murray, Pastor of the Shepherds Chapel and director of the Shepherds Chapel Network, is an ancient form of writing which, until recently, couldn’t be read. According to a March 4, 1993, edition of The Courier, Dr. Barry Fell first discovered and isolated the Ogam alphabet while teaching at Harvard. The samples in southern New Mexico, according to these experts dated from 2500 B.C.E. to 250 B.C.E.

I will note here that according to the American Heritage Dictionary, Ogam is not as old as Ballinger reported. It dates from the 5th century to the 10th century and is of Celtic origin. That, of course, changes the dynamics somewhat but the question becomes, who was using Ogam in the desert southwest a thousand years ago. It might suggest some sort of contact between those indigenous people in the southwest and the Celtic people, but the connection is rather tenuous at best. And there is controversy around the findings of petroglyphs in other parts of the United States that date to about 8th century. It is just another of those conundrums that plague archaeological research and had little to do with the treasure and who put it there, if, in fact, there was any treasure. There is more to this aspect of the tale, and I’ll explore all that at a later date.

It is the belief of various experts that the caves of Victorio Peak were used as warehouses. Gold minded for the last two thousand years was stored there because there wasn’t a means of moving the bulk of the treasure from New Mexico. When the Celts died out, the Indians, including the Navajo, Apache, and Pueblo Indians, fought over and then stored more treasure in the caves.

The Courier containing the information about the Ogam Alphabet.

According to Ballinger’s articles, the last treasure was placed in the caves in 1886. Apache warriors raiding the stage lines had stolen strong boxes from Wells Fargo. That would explain the boxes seen by Doc Noss about fifty years later. And that would explain the amount of treasure in the cave. Various groups had been adding to it for over two thousand years.

Ballinger, listening to Murray and Fell, is of the opinion that they finds of Ogam around Victorio Peak are of immense archaeological significance. The Spanish sword and other artifacts found and held by Ova Noss Family Partnership establish the validity of the original claims. If that is brought forward, then they Army would be required to open the range for further exploration.

Another Assault on Victorio Peak

In early 1989, the partnership again approached the Department of the Army seeking permission to begin negotiations to return to Victorio Peak. In early 1989, the Partnership again approached the Department of the Army seeking permission to begin negotiations to return to Victorio Peak. Assistance from Norm Scott and his Expeditions Unlimited from Florida was enlisted, again.

This time, before any work was done, the vast body of government regulations were brought to bear. Before anyone was allowed back on the range and the peak, environmental impact statements, archaeological research statements, and various other documents were required. Only after those documents and reports were submitted and approved could the work begin.

It became clear from the reports that the 1962 Gaddis Mining Company expedition to Victorio Peak had been sponsored, at least in part, by the Noss family. They had been given their forty-eight hours and four men nearly thirty years earlier and had found nothing. That didn’t stop them from making claims that the government was preventing them from finding and recovering what they believed was their treasure.

The environmental impact statements and the archaeological assessments were completed and submitted, reviewed and approved. Then a rider to the 1990 Appropriations Bill provided the last push. It said, “The Secretary of the Army may, subject to such terms and conditions as the Secretary considers appropriate to protect the interests of the United States, issue a revocable license to the Ova Noss Family Partnership.”

The rider also made it clear that the Partnership would reimburse the Department of the Army for expenses. The rider provided a mechanism so that the reimbursement was directed to the missile range rather than the Department of the Army. In Fiscal Year 1990, the range collected $122,000 from the Partnership for range support.

The Partnership has been allowed on the range for a new search. As late as April 1995, they have found nothing to indicated that any treasure had ever been held in the caves of Victorio Peak. They did recover and old board from a tunnel that the believed had been left by Doc Noss.

Coming up -What is the Truth Part Eight

Monday, February 06, 2023

The Victorio Peak Treasure Part Six


F. Lee Bailey, the famous lawyer, entered the arena in 1973, contacting officials in Washington, D.C., asking for help. His clients, according to him, had possession of several gold bars. Baily made it clear that forty of his clients lived in the White Sands area and knew the exact location of the gold.

Bailey was skeptical but was provided with one of the bars for analysis. He sent it to the Treasury for testing. It was sixty percent gold and forty percent copper. The problem is that fourteen-karat gold is about fifty-eight percent gold and forty-two percent copper. It was noted that the gold ingot was far from pure. No real conclusion was drawn from the tests, and no value was reported for the gold.

Bailey would eventually say that there were two groups involved; a small group who found the treasure and a larger group made up of businessmen who were financing various operations including the legal maneuvering involving ownership and permissions to enter the missile range.

It was also in 1973 that several people sneaked onto the missile range to dynamite a rock wall in a side canyon of Victorio Peak. They claimed that if you knew how to read the pictographs found on the rock wall, you could find the treasure. They wanted to destroy that information.

The San Andres Mountains, home of Victorio Peak. Photo 
copyright by Kevin Randle

Bailey and his group continued to make claims. The original story told, of 292 bars of gold, escalated into thousands of gold bars. At one point someone claimed that more than two hundred billion dollars were hidden in those caves. The more rational pointed out that Fort Knox held just over six billion dollars.

Others came forward, including Roscoe Parr, who claimed tht Noss had told him how to find the gold and how to divide it once it was recovered. There was nothing in writing from Noss but, according to Parr, Noss had asked him to make sure his wishes were carried out after his death.

Another group formed around Fiege. To complicate things, still another group formed around the second Mrs. Noss, Violet Noss Yancy. There was something called the Shriver Group and Expeditions Unlimited, which was a Florida-based treasure hunting group. And, of course, those involving Ova Noss.

Ova Noss tried to end it all by suing the Army for a billion dollars. In the documents filed with the court, she claimed that it would take no more than forty-eight hours to find the gold with four people to make the search. Once they had located the treasure, they would place the gold with the appropriate government agencies for safekeeping until ownership could be established.

The suit was dismissed.

A compromise among all the claimants was arranged by Norm Scott who used his Expeditions Unlimited to represent them all. The Army saw the wisdom in this and agreed to it. Operation Goldfinder was postponed twice but in March 1977, the search finally began.

And failed.

Just as the searches that had preceded, Operation Goldfinder failed to produce any evidence that gold, or anything else, was hidden on or in Victorio Peak. One group of claimants tried to salt the site with fake gold bars but were caught in the act and ordered out be Scott.

What was most valuable, from the Army’s position, was that those claiming something was hidden in the caves and tunnels of Victorio Peak had had their opportunity to search. They found nothing. The Army then shut down all operations, claimed that nothing was hidden, and that no additional searches would be allowed in the foreseeable future.

Scott held a final press conference after the failure to find anything to verify all the claims of treasure hidden there. Scott did not consider the search a failure. He pointed out that the objectives had been realized, with one exception.

That exception surrounded the claims of Doc Noss. Those accepting the Noss story pointed out that it wasn’t proven that the gold wasn’t there. This is arguing in circles because it was proven that “no treasure was found in the various locations where most of the claimants told us a cache of gold is hidden.” They were now claiming that the gold was hidden in an area that had not been searched.

Even with the negative results, without any physical evidence that the gold had ever been there, with only the testimony of a man who was a con artist and charlatan, there were still those who believed that a huge, multi-billion-dollar treasure was hidden in Victorio Peak.

Operation Goldfinder cost $87,000. Scott said that he had no plans for another search. Such a project would cost half a million dollars and would take a couple of months. At the conclusion of the press conference, the commanding officer of the White Sands Missile Range closed the range to any further searches for treasure.

But that wasn’t the end of it…

Ova Noss believed there was gold that belonged to her. For decades, others had believed as well, providing her with encouragement, legal advice and money. She was not going to let the dream die. In 1979, Ova Noss returned to Victorio Peak and posed for photographs. At that time, according to Jim Eckles in the Missile Ranger (the White Sands Missile Range newspaper), she said, “Like they say. There’s gold in them thar hills.” She died later that year without ever finding her treasure.

But, of course, the search didn’t die with her.

Her grandson, Terry Delonas, had accompanied Ova Noss to Victorio Peak. It was clear that he was going to continue the family tradition and the search. He formed the Ova Noss Family Partnership.

Coming up: Some Archaeological Evidence, Part Six

Sunday, February 05, 2023

The Victoria Peak Treasure Part Five


The next assault on Victorio Peak came in 1962, when the Gaddis Mining Company, working with the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe, begin operations. Since it seemed to be a state sponsored research trip, one designed to recover artifacts of archaeological significance, the Army was inclined to permit access to the range and the mountain. On June 20, 1963, a license was granted to the Gaddis Mining Company for a thirty-day exploration.

Using a variety of state of the art techniques, the team tried to map the interior of the peak, searching for large void areas that would indicate caverns. They also built roads to lead to the various important sites, including one to the top of the peak. They were unable to accomplish all this in the original thirty days and an extension was granted. They dug several small test holes in depth from 18 to 175 feet deep. They also dug their own tunnel into the side of the peak, trying to gain access to the caverns, but failed.

I can’t help but draw a parallel to what has been done on Oak Island. Companies formed to search for a treasure that no one seems to have seen, except, of course Doc Noss. They had drilled test holes searching for a large void that would indicate a large, underground cavern where the treasure is hidden. And in all the digging and searching an excavating, nothing of value has been found.

The Gaddis Mining Company is reported to have spent a quarter of a million dollars in their attempts to find the treasure. Another seven thousand was requested by authorities at the missile range for reimbursement of Army funds spent in support of the activities.

As with the Fiege expedition, nothing was found that would suggest that any gold was hidden there and nothing of interest was learned in the sixty days of the Gaddis Mining Company operation. No one seemed to have worried that there was nothing detected to suggest a large stash of metal inside the mountain. If nothing else, it would seem that something would have been detected if there was as much gold and other metals hidden in Victorio Peak.

Victorio Peak looking toward the east. Photo copyright by Kevin Randle.

It was during this same period that the Department of the Army asked Ova Noss to sign a consent document allowing the Army to search. What it said was that she waived all rights to sue the Army or the government for “alleged unlawful taking and withholding of her personal property.”

Ova Noss’ attorney, Phil Koury, thought this was a bad idea for her, but she had already signed the document when he learned of it. Koury asked, “Why would the Army insist on such a waiver? It was an indirect admission that there had been unauthorized intrusion into the Noss Cavern by military personnel; so it was deemed necessary to eliminate Ova’s right to resort to litigation to recapture the gold bars.”

There is, of course, and alternative explanation that makes as much, if not more, sense. No actual proof had ever been presented that gold was stored in Victorio Peak. Only Doc Noss had ever claimed to have seen the real treasure. Only Noss had ever brought out any of the gold bars. True, Fiege had claimed to have seen the gold, but the bars were covered in dust, and he admitted that he felt sick at the time.

It would seem that the Army was attempting to guard against the real possibility that once a cavern was opened, that meaning any cavern, nothing would be found in it. Then Ova Noss would believe that the Army or the government had beaten her to the cave and “stolen” the treasure that she believed belonged to her. It would make no difference if there had ever been gold there or not. It would make no difference if the story was a myth or not. Ova Noss would file suit and the Army would be nearly defenseless to protect itself from those claims.

Ova Noss, however, was making some money on the treasure story. Various investment groups, convinced that there was a treasure hidden somewhere in Victorio Peak, would buy a portion of her rights to the treasure. They would then begin to try to force the military to allow them on the missile range to search for the gold.

In 1973, for example, a syndicate from Salt Lake City offered $150,000 for an interest in her rights. They would pay $25,000 immediately and $5,000 a month. They wanted fifty-one percent of her interest but were negotiated down to forty-nine percent.

This time there was a hint of real treasure. One of the men, identified as John Walton, according to Koury, said that he had seen twenty-two gold bars himself and it was estimated they were worth about six million dollars. This was, of course, before the price of gold exploded and in today’s mark, they would be worth many times the six million, if they existed.

Ova Noss received the $25,000 but there were never any monthly payments. Koury eventually notified Walton’s attorney that the failure to make the required payments nullified the contract. The attorney could shed no light on why the payments had not been made.

Saturday, February 04, 2023

Chinese Spy Balloon - Their Version of Project Mogul


I have been asked to provide some commentary on the Chinese Spy Balloon. George Noory mentioned just prior to my weekly segment on Coast-to-Coast AM, and I called it the Chinese Project Mogul.

My first thought was to accept the idea that this was an errant weather balloon because there are more technologically advanced methods of spying such as satellites and high-flying aircraft that skirt the edges of outer space. Why send a balloon if you have that capability? Besides, aren’t balloons driven by the winds. Then we learn that this balloon has some steering capabilities, so the claim that it was blown off course seems to be something of a, well, lie.

Now we learn that this isn’t the first time that this has happened but apparently is the first time that the media, both professional and social, learned about it. This time we all know about it. And we learn that there is another balloon sailing above South America, which suggests that the Chinese are either inept in their balloon technology or they are being less than candid about it.

Since the balloon is over US airspace, I want to know the real reason that it hasn’t been shot down. I want to know the real the reason that if they, meaning that our military and our government leaders, believe there is a spy mission aspect to it, why hasn’t it been destroyed. We’re told that there is a worry about injuries to those on the ground. When was the last time that you heard that pieces of a balloon, falling from the sky, had injured anyone? How many true weather balloons are launched in this country daily and how many have dropped on people?

Without filling this with a lot of comments from government officials and military officers, I will note simply, that many seem to share my desire to see the thing shot out of the sky. I would have initiated that the moment it crossed into US airspace over Alaska. If it is an errant weather balloon, then no one in China would care. If it was some sort of spy craft, then that evidence could be presented to the UN with a warning that all other such objects will be shot down.

And, I have to wonder if some of the UAP sightings by our military on maneuvers weren’t seeing these “weather” balloons. Maybe that is one of the reasons that we have both a rather poorly written and less than informative unclassified version of the UAP report while Congress gets a classified version. This could be an issue of national security… but now all that is out in the open.

What it boils down to is that a foreign power has deployed (either intentionally or accidently) a device over the United States. It is allowed to drift (steer?) over some of our military facilities without any real response by our government. We won’t shoot it down because people on the ground might be injured (I’m sorry, but seems like the dumbest excuse ever), and this isn’t the first time that this has happened.

And I wonder what the Chinese response would be in similar circumstances. Would they dither around, worried about injuring people on the ground, or would they take aggressive action against this violation of their airspace? And if we shot the thing out of the sky, would we now have to admit that we’ve allowed them to spy on us using balloons in the past?

The important point here is that there is a Chinese balloon drifting over the United States and we know it’s there. We believe it has a spy capability, but we take no action against it. We worry about falling debris injuring people on the ground, but you have to wonder about that… I mean, there are great parts of this country where there are virtually no one to be injured. Why hasn’t action been taken? So that this won’t blow up into an international incident? That ship has already sailed, or should I say, that balloon has already been launched.

And not back to my regularly scheduled postings…

PS: The AP story mentioned Roswell, Project Mogul, and the excuse that Mogul was to detect Soviet missile launches. Other than the fact that Mogul was not responsible for the debris located by Mack Brazel, that Mogul was designed to detect Soviet experiments with atomic weapons, and that Flight No. 4 had been cancelled, that little bit of information about Mogul seemed to be almost accurate and totally irrelevant.

Friday, February 03, 2023

The Victorio Peak Treasure Part Four


Jim Eckles, writing in the White Sands Missile Range newspaper, reported an interesting confirmation to one point in the rather long and convoluted story. An old-timer, living in El Paso, told him that Noss would buy copper bars in Orogrande, New Mexico and take them to El Paso to have them gold plated.

The San Andres Mountains and Victorio Peak on the White Sands
Missile Range. Photo copyright by Kevin Randle

Although Ova Noss had visited the Denver Mint to learn if Milton “Doc” Noss had made any deposits at the Mint between November 1937 and March 1949. Remember, Noss had claimed he had taken some of the gold to the Mint worth, according to him $90,000 but the Mint had confiscated it. There were no records that there were any deposits of gold made to the Mint in that time frame by Noss. Other records showed that Ova Noss had written the Mint in 1939, explaining they had a map showing the location of gold bars but said nothing about knowing the exact location. She was told to notify the Mint immediately if they found anything.

That one aspect of the tale seemed to break down, but there was another aspect that bears directly on the suggestion of “faked” gold bars. Charles Ussher of Santa Monica, California submitted a gold bar to the U.S. Treasury for analysis. Ussher said that he had bought the bar from a man named Grogan for two hundred dollars. The analysis showed there was about ninety-seven cents worth of gold in the bar. Grogan, it turned out, was Doc Noss, according to a Secret Service investigation.

Other stories tend to corroborate some of this. Noss, as he tried to sell the gold, often arrived at the meetings with gold painted bricks. He said it was because he didn’t trust those who were buying the gold. He wanted to see the money before he produced the real gold. In all his dealing with these individuals, he never produced a solid gold brick, though he did show people small amounts of gold and gold bars that could have been gold plated.

Michael Webster, in an article published on May 17, 2021, reported that “an old timer from El Paso calls me periodically to talk about Victorio Peak. He claims he knew Noss and that Noss used to buy copper bars in Orogrande and have the electroplated with gold in El Paso. When asked why he doesn’t tell the story to the press, he says he doesn’t think they would care. It would spoil the story.”

Webster also wrote that another old timer who ranched near Victorio Peak said Noss used to salt the sand at the springs around the base of the peak, meaning, of course, adding gold to the sand. When investors showed up, Noss would be panning flakes of gold out of that sand.

Even with all the confusion, the Denver Mint was interested in solving the mystery once and for all. The Secretary of the Army asked General Shinkle, then commanding the White Sands Missile Range, for his position. The general responded that he would deny entry to the base unless he received permission from the Army to allow a search. He didn’t want to set a precedent that would haunt them in the future.

On August 5, 1961, Fiege and his group were allowed to enter the range and work at Victorio Peak. For five days Fiege and his partners tried to enter the tunnel that he had sealed in 1958 but failed to do so. General Shinkle eventually had enough of it and told them to cease operations.

On September 20, General Shinkle notified the Secret Service he would allow Fiege back on the missile range. He would be restricted to the tunnel he found and not allowed to begin any new excavations.

Work continued periodically for the next five weeks under the surveillance of Captain Swanner; an officer stationed at the missile range. In late October, according to the records at the missile range, two men were caught trespassing. Swanner ordered them from the area, but not before they had demanded a piece of the action.

The men told Ova Noss that the Army was working on Victorio Peak. Noss accused the Army of trying to steal her treasure and, in December 1961, Shinkle shut down the operation and excluded all who were not engaged in actual missile research from the range.

It should be noted that Jim Eckles, in his reports on the story, made the fine distinction between what has been reported and the facts that had been spread. The Army was not engaged in retrieval operations. They allowed a group onto the range who had made a claim. Given the laws of the land, Fiege’s claim was as valid as that of Ova Noss.

The continued search coming up in Part Five

Thursday, February 02, 2023

UAP Analysis, The Enigma Lab and Sightings

I think that I’ve made it very clear that I’m critical of the latest in government investigations into UFOs, I mean UAPs. I have noted that any time they wish to change and challenge our perceptions, they change the nomenclature of the phenomenon, as if to erase the past history. We all knew that UFO didn’t mean alien spacecraft exclusively but any unidentified object. Now we’ve weakened the term UAP to Unidentified Anomalous Phenomenon that could mean anything from an alien spacecraft to an encounter with a ghost…

We are still locked out of the real UAP study because it is classified but this is the same excuse they have been using since 1947. Although the Condon Committee at the University of Colorado announced in 1969 that there were no national security issues, here we are being told that some of the information is being withheld because of national security. I suppose that if the UAP is of foreign manufacture rather than alien, and that UAP is observing our military on maneuvers or overflying military facilities that are engaged in classified work, then national security is an issue. It doesn’t help us resolve the question; it just obscures the problem.

Here is some proof of that. A company, Enigma Labs, is wanting to use machine learning to search for patterns in UFO sightings. Okay. However, they are in business with the DoD. Again, okay. 

Here’s the problem. They want the public to ignore the National UFO Reporting Center and MUFON, and report sightings directly to them. Which, again, is okay. The problem is that they do not make their database publicly available. Or, in other words, they are attempting to syphon off the UFO sightings from other organizations and then provide no data on them. Something like the classified reports being collected by the DoD with no avenue to share the data with the civilian population.

I did look up Enigma Labs and read their mission statement. It said:

To advance progress on UAP using cutting-edge technology and social intelligence. Only through thoughtful, open-mined study of unidentified phenomena can we get answers. We are focused on building and keep our team low profile for privacy.

It sounds good, or looks good, and is almost meaningless. It provides nothing of value in attempting to understand who they are, other than the claim to be open-mined and that they want to keep a low profile. I am bothered by their continued reference in other parts of their website to UAP. They have adopted the current lingo, but I’m not all that sure they actually understand the subtleties of the whole UFO phenomena. That leads us to another part of their explanations which said:

There are individuals who have dedicated their lives to researching UAP. We are indebted to them and stand on their shoulders. Yet UAP remains a mystery. That is why Enigma adopted a fresh approach taking advantage of modern tools, business models and skillsets. In order to attract the brightest minds and build for the long term, we formed as a private company. We take the mission seriously and embrace the complexity. We are a team of full-time professionals from many backgrounds – data science, machine learning, aerospace, citizen science, consumer product design, particle physics, sailing, visual arts, finance, journalism, military service and public policy, to name a few. We are grateful to everyone who has supported us so far.

Without a little more data, I’m not sure what expertise they bring to the table. They mention military service, and while there are certain military specialties that would be beneficial, there are many that are not. An infantry soldier has no special skills that would help in identifying UFOs. Journalism would be helpful, unless the journalist spent his or her career attending local political meetings or covering feature stories.

I will note, apropos of nothing really, that there are job offerings at the website which pay in the low six figures, up to a quarter of a million annually. Since I have no engineering background, though I do have experience in security and intelligence, I’m really not qualified. The real point is that they are offering these high paying jobs which suggests a rather substantial financial position. You can access their website here:


The last thing to say, I suppose, is that I’m reminded of the To The Stars Academy from a couple of years ago. They too, seemed to have some astonishing financial support and they too were going to take UFO research, back when we could talk about UFOs rather than UAPs, in a new direction. That soon fizzled out.

The problem here might be the alleged connection to the official investigations, and the call for sightings to be reported to them. It could have an adverse effect on overall UFO research and could stymie communication among the various players in the field today.

This could be much ado about nothing because we don’t have an overload of information. I just think that this doesn’t bode well for overall UFO research. Sure, we need to wait and see, but in the meantime, access to sighting data might suffer.

Even with all this there are still interesting UFO sightings that are not being collected by the DoD and stored in vaults hidden from public view. What has been called the first UFO photo of 2023, and they, not I, used the term UFO, was taken in Venezuela on January 7.

The picture was taken by Ricardo Monzon, in the San Antonio de Los Altos area. Journalist Hector Esclanate, said that he thought it might be a reflection of the street light but said the object had light and shaded areas and was a different shape than the street light. He also suggested that the orientation of the UFO didn’t match up. Here’s the link to the photograph:


In keeping with the international flavor, the witness in Didcot, Oxfordshire, England, reported five lights in a low cloud on December 21 of last year. The witness thought the lights, which were moving in a random circle might be a laser display, or maybe drones. The lights were in sight for about two minutes, were bright but not blinding. The five balls of light flew over the car and the radio began to act up and was filled with white noise, which, of course, is suggestive of something other than a laser or a drone.

The lights passed over the car, about a hundred feet in the air. Apparently, they turned, and passed overhead twice more. They eventually disappeared. Not an exciting sighting except for the possible EM Effect on the radio. 

The Victorio Peak Treasure Part Three


With the death of Doc Noss, Ova Noss became the force behind the attempts to recover the treasure. Others who believed the tale and who believed they had some sort of a claim to it or part of it also came forward. One of those was Noss’ second wife but Ova dismissed that claim, saying that her divorce from Noss was not valid which made the marriage to Violet Noss invalid. But Violet Noss was inquiring about the legality of the permits held by Ova Noss and was attempting to have them switched to her. This was something of a minor distraction.

The real problem was the U.S. Government and the U.S. Army were now standing in the way. Not long after Doc Noss was killed, the Army entered into a lease agreement with Roy Henderson for the land where Victorio Peak is located. In other words, much of the disputed land didn’t belong to the Noss family but to someone else.

A search of the records in 1950 showed no existing mining claims. On November 14, 1951, Public Land Order No. 703 was issued, which withdrew all the White Sands Proving Ground (later White Sands Missile Range) from prospecting, entry, location, and purchase under the mining laws and reserved them for the military.

The White Sands Missile Range with the San Andres Mountains in the background
Photo copyright by Kevin Randle

New Mexico state officials claimed that they leased the surface of the land to the military. The underground wealth, in whatever form it took, belonged to the state, or to the holders of the various types of licenses. If there was a treasure on the land, it didn’t belong to the Army. In fact, a good case could be made that it belonged to the Noss family, if there was anything there.

Ova Noss contacted the two New Mexico senators and enlisted their aid. In December 1952, Senator Dennis Chavez wrote to Brigadier General G. G. Eddy, about the White Sands Proving Ground. Ova Noss also succeeded in convincing Senator Clinton P. Anderson to write to Eddy as well. The general, however, ruled that no further operations would be allowed on the Proving Ground because the paperwork was being prepared to transfer all mineral rights to the government.

The dispute was settled in a federal court that worked out a compromise of sorts. The Army had the right to use the surface of the land, and no one would be allowed on the Proving Ground without Army consent. But like so much else in similar circumstances, that didn’t resolve the matter. Ova Noss refused to leave Victorio Peak. All she wanted, according to various documents, was to recover what her late husband had discovered inside the mountain.

It all came to a temporary end during the summer of 1955, when federal marshals escorted her from Victorio Peak. But that didn’t mean she was going to give up the fight. For the rest of her life, she would engage in activities that would enable her to return to the peak so that she could continue in her effort to recover the treasure she believed belonged to the family.

Within months, a group led by Gordon Bjornson petitioned the Land Office, suggesting they had the financial backing to find the treasure. General Eddy, the White Sands commander, agreed to let them on site for two inspections. Then, however, the group couldn’t decide whether to dig out the shaft at the top of the peak that had been found by Doc Noss or search for another entrance rumored to be hidden at the base of the mountain.

Bjornson did write to the Land Office expressing his faith in the story told by both Doc and Ova Noss. He even mentioned that Noss removed eighty-six bars of gold, a statue of pure gold and relics of Spanish origin. Of course, none of that has been found.

Bjornson obtained permission from the state to begin his operation. But the White Sands commanding general issued a denial of permission. The general said that he was afraid of allowing Bjornson onto the range would set a precedence that would allow others to petition for entrance and make the similar claims. That would hinder the Army’s mission, which was missile testing and not treasure hunting.

Captain Leonard V. Fiege Finds a Treasure

All that legal maneuvering in the civilian world didn’t stop military personnel from exploring portions of the range. Victorio Peak, which is now on land controlled by the Army, was a popular attraction. In 1958, four men, two on active duty with the Air Force at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, which it in close proximity of White Sands, found what they believed was an entrance into the caverns that Noss had located about twenty years earlier. Captain Leonard V. Fiege, in an affidavit signed later, claimed that he had entered the cavern. He said that it was dark and dusty and hard to breathe. Fiege said he sat down on a pile of rocks to catch his breath and noticed that they weren’t rocks. According to him, they were bars of smelted gold about the size of normal house bricks.

In the flashlight beam, he saw other stacks of similar bricks. Some of them were visible out in the open while others were lost in the dimness of the cave and all the dust hanging in the air.

Fiege returned to the opening to find his friends. He was sick and dirty, but once he told them what he had found, they were all interested in returning for the gold. Two of the men were too big to slip through the opening into the main part of the cave but Fiege and Tom Berclett continued on until they came to the stacks of gold. The other two, identified only by their last names, Prather and Wessel, remained outside.

While in the cave, Fiege and Berclett talked about what they should do. Neither was familiar with the laws governing the discovery of treasure on a military reservation, nor were they aware that the White Sands command did not hold the mineral rights to anything found on the range. In any case, neither Fiege nor Berclett carried any gold from the cave. Or, at least, Fiege later claimed that they had not removed anything. This seems to be a little strange. No one who claimed to have seen the gold bars ever brought out one or two of them… or rather Noss did removed some of the gold bars, but he buried them elsewhere and no one actually saw them.

Fiege said that they did their best to seal off the passage that led to the gold chamber. Fiege told several people that he had caved in the roof and walls to make it look as if the tunnel came to a dead end.

Unlike some of the others, Fiege did show a certain intelligence. He went to the JAG Office and at Holloman and conferred with Colonel Sigmund I. Gasiewicz, who, in turn, called the Land Office in Santa Fe. Gasiewicz told Oscar Jordan, a land office attorney, that an officer at Holloman, an air force facility had found a gold bar on the White Sands Missile Range which was an Army post. Jordan suggested that the gold be sent to the Department of the Treasury or to the Secret Service office in Albuquerque. It was Jordan’s belief that the gold had been taken to the JAG office, which would have established a solid claim about the treasure.

Both Gasiewicz and Fiege denied this. Instead, they decided to form a corporation to protect Fiege and what he had found. They would contact the various government agencies to make sure that they violated no federal or state laws or violated any military regulations. They would then make a formal application to enter White Sands for a search and retrieval of the gold.

It took them three years to work their way through the maze of red tape in both the state governments and Washington, D.C. In May 1961, Fiege and his group began to seriously petition for permission to enter the missile range to search for and claim the treasure. Fiege met with Major General John Shinkle, then the commanding officer at the missile range. Fiege explained that they merely wanted the opportunity to recover a few bars of gold. Shinkle denied the request.

Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. Fiege and his group visited the director of the Mint to ask for his permission to recover the gold. The director wrote to the Secretary of the Army asking that permission be granted, not because he believed there was gold to be found or that there was any treasure hidden on the range at all, but because the Mint had been bothered by so many requests for additional information. The Secret Service said that there was a real possibility that nongold bars had been place in the cave by Doc Noss in some kind of scam or con game.

Next up, Questions about the Reliability of the Information Part Four

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

The Victorio Peak Treasure - Part Two

With the destruction of the original passage into the treasure vault, the gold was now just beyond Doc Noss’ reach. Oh, he knew it was there because he had seen it many times and according to him, he had carried dozens of the gold bars out to be hidden elsewhere. There are conflicting accounts, but it seems that no one else ever really saw the gold in the cave with the possible except of a couple of military men two decades later. He did show metal bars to others and in a deposition that was an outgrowth of later legal proceedings, Ova Noss would say she had seen a large number of the bars. She had not seen the gold in the cave which is a somewhat fine distinction.

About ten years after Noss claimed he found the gold, Noss said that he had traveled to Denver where there was a government mint. He thought he could sell some of the treasure but because he was vague about where he had obtained the gold, the officials in Denver confiscated it. They gave him a receipt saying that they had $90,000 in gold they had taken from him. Noss would tell family that he had the receipt in strong box, but after he died, no one could find the receipt. Ova Noss even made her way to the Denver mint but there was no record that Noss had ever been there or that the mint had confiscated any gold from him.

Some suggest this is just another example of the government covering up that they had “stolen” the gold from Noss in the 1940s. It was Noss who told the story, and it was Noss who claimed to have a receipt to prove the tale. Neither he nor his family were ever able to produce the receipt, according to Phil Koury, Ova Noss’ attorney. Koury would become a player in the tale sometime later.

Gene Ballinger, who took an interest in the story because of the proximity of Victorio Peak to where he lived, later wrote in The Courier (the Hatch, New Mexico, newspaper) that the receipt was in the possession of the Ova Noss Family Partnership, but again, they have failed to produce it. That receipt would have been valuable in proving to the Army, which now controls Victorio Peak, that the treasure really did exist. Such proof would have erased the poor relations between the Army and the Noss family and the arguments over control of the gold.

The Courier office in Hatch, NM. Photo copyright by Kevin Randle

It is interesting that the receipt story is similar to the tale of a stone tablet allegedly found deep in the excavations of the Money Pit at Oak Island. There are tales about the tablet, a translation of the strange symbols that were on it, but no photographs of the actual tablet and no real evidence that it ever existed.  Here there are claims of a receipt but there is no evidence that it existed.

There is another parallel to the Oak Island story. The Laginas, who had leading the search for treasure on Oak Island, have produced several bits and pieces that suggest a possible treasure, none of which are particularly valuable. These items hint that there is something. Noss, in a similar fashion, did produce a few artifacts hint at the treasure. These included a sword of French manufacture that dates to sometime between 1798 and 1803, two iron cross stirrups of Spanish design and thought to be unique to Lancers de Vera Cruz. It does make you wonder how he managed to retrieve these items rather than some of the gold and silver artifacts reported to be hidden in the cave.

Noss spent years attempting to gather capital to reopen the treasure cave. He showed treasure in various forms various people. In an affidavit held at the Land Office in Santa Fe, New Mexico, B. D. Lampros claimed that he visited Noss and was given a chunk of gold ore that assayed to over $5,000 in gold per ton which is extremely rich. Note, however, that it was not gold ore worth five grand, but a sample that suggested a rich vein of ore existed and when mined would produce the five thousand for each ton of material processed.

There were other affidavits about gold that suggested witnesses had seen in Noss’ possession. Some saw a bar or two, while others were shown ore. Noss apparently carried a great deal of treasure from the cave but had never been able to successfully sell any of it to finance his recovery operations. Remember too, that not all the treasure was gold, but also artifacts that could have been turned into cash without violating the laws in force at the time as mentioned earlier.

Sometime after his discovery, during the Second World War, Noss deserted Ova. Although the documentation is somehow hazy, meaning there is a question about the authenticity of it, Noss was granted a divorce from Ova in Pulaski County, Arkansas. Two years later he married Violet Lena Boles. All of this would, quite naturally, complicate the ownership of the treasure rights.

During this time, Ova Noss kept the various land applications and mining claims in force, signing and renewing them as necessary. Ova, sometimes with the help of her sons, tried to clean out the shaft that had been ruined in 1939 by Montgomery, the alleged explosives expert. They were unable to find a way back into the treasure chamber.

At the same time, apparently with no permits and therefore no legal rights, Noss was searching Victorio Peak for another entrance into the cave. He believed there had to be one simply because the entrance he had originally discovered would have made it nearly impossible to carry gold and other treasure into and therefore out of the cave. At least that seemed to be his thinking on the situation.

Charles Ryan and the Death of Doc Noss

In 1948, Noss met Charles Ryan, a Texas man involved in drilling operations and oil exploration in the Permian Basin in West Texas. Noss told Ryan about the treasure, and they worked out a deal to recover it. Ryan would buy some of the gold from Noss for $25,000 and Noss would allegedly use the money to open a new path to the gold vault. Ryan was to fly to New Mexico where the bars were hidden so they could make the exchange. Noss would produce the gold and Ryan would produce the money.

When it came time for the exchange, Noss demanded to see the money first, but Ryan said he wouldn’t show the money until Noss showed him the gold. According to the story, they drove into Hatch, to a house rented by Ryan. Several witnesses saw Noss run from the house, followed by Ryan, who had held a gun in his hand. Ryan fired one shot, apparently a warning shot and ordered Noss away from his pickup truck. Noss didn’t obey the order and Ryan, fearing Noss was going for his gun fired again. This time he aimed at Noss who was struck in the head. Noss collapsed at the front of the truck, dead.

Ryan ordered one of the witnesses to call the sheriff. When the deputies arrived, they arrested Ryan. Ryan told the sheriff it had been self-defense. Noss had threatened him, and Ryan knew that Noss had a pistol in his pickup.

During the trial, evidence was presented suggesting that Noss was a violent man. Noss had bragged that he had killed before. Because of those stories, Ryan said that he was convinced that Noss was going for his gun. Ryan fired a warning, but Noss had ignored it.

The interesting part of the trial wasn’t about the actual shooting but about Noss’ background. Ryan had financed Noss, buying him the pickup and then traveling to New Mexico to obtain the licenses and permits that Ova Noss had kept in force. Ryan had bailed Noss out of jail and paid off several bad checks that Noss had written. Altogether, Ryan had spent about five thousand dollars to help out Noss. Ryan also learned that Noss had swindled others over the years.

Ryan, called to the witness stand, told of a plan Noss had devised. He wanted to form a corporation to sell stock in a venture to recover the treasure. Ryan believed they could raise, rather quickly, about fifty thousand dollars. That would give then the money to operate but Noss suggested that he and Ryan split the money fifty-fifty rather than invest it in a recovery operation. Ryan said it was at that point he realized that Noss was crooked.

Just prior to the shooting in Hatch, Noss told Ryan that he had a chance to make nearly a quarter of a million dollars selling gold bars to a man in Arizona. To make that work, Noss needed some seed money, but Ryan refused to give it to him. Why Noss couldn’t have taken the gold bars to Arizona which meant he would need no extra money was never explained. It was after that argument, in Ryan’s rented house, that Noss ran for the truck, screaming that he would get the money from Ryan, or he would kill him. Ryan, fearing for his life and having been told tales of Noss’ violent nature, shot and killed Noss. Apparently, the jury believed him, and Ryan was acquitted.

The treasure was rarely mentioned in the trial, though it did provide clues about Noss. As mentioned, Noss had claimed to be a doctor, but he had no formal training. Searches of the records of the hospital where Noss said he had been on the staff, failed to verify the tale. Noss had written bad checks. And, he had been in and out of jail on several rather minor charges. His history was not sterling, which is not to say that the tale of the treasure is untrue. It does, however, create some doubt.

Coming up next “Ova Noss vs the U.S. Government.”