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.” 

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