If you missed part one of this story, feel free to click here to catch up: Treasure trove found and lost
Ova Noss and Leonard Fiege were far from the only people who experienced heartache as a result of their hunt for the Victorio Peak treasure. Harvey Snow was a prospector who spent time in the mountains around Victorio Peak seeking his own fortune. The military did not take this intrusion kindly and began to try and scare Snow by telling him that they had all five of his children being tracked. Snow continued his treasure quest regardless and his daughter ended up shot dead under questionable circumstances.
Lynn Porter was a businessman who was friends with a man who worked at White Sands Missile Range named Clarence McDonald. One night in September of 1968, the two men and at least one other person ventured to the Peak to search out the gold. They successfully located a fissure and the two smaller men made their way into the mountain. They returned a while later with a 2 x 7 inch gold bar, claiming many more awaited them inside. With gold being illegal to possess at the time, the men decided to seek an official claim to the treasure in with hopes of being able to legally remove it. The gold bar was given to one of Porter’s friends who was an Army major. The major was transferred away over the next two to three days to the Pentagon- along with his family. The gold disappeared with him. Porter was then warned that any future visits to the mountains would result in a severe punishment.
Chester Stout was a retired Army major who spoke out about his knowledge of the military clearing gold from the Peak by the truckload. He was threatened with death and had to move from New Mexico for his own good.
Sam Scott was an airline pilot who was looking into the Victorio Peak gold when his home was firebombed, killing his wife and daughter. He was then told to not speak about the Peak for at least five years.
E.M. Guthrie was the husband of Doc Noss’ stepdaughter, Letha. He met with some friends in 1972 and appeared to be in a crazed state. He talked of having to run for his life. He flew to Central America to hide, but eventually ended up in California, where he was beaten to death with a baseball bat and had his corpse burnt.
Bill Shriver was an international dealer in precious metals. He was reportedly helping compile information on the cover-up by the government of their removal of gold from the Peak. Shriver ended up beaten to death in California as well- a victim of head and kidney trauma.
Attorney Darrell Holmes was working with a man named Ed Atkins who was trying to lay claim to the gold. Holmes ended up dying under mysterious circumstances. Holmes had files containing evidence of the Army’s gold snatching as well as a recording of President Lyndon Johnson talking about moving gold bars to his ranch. All of this evidence disappeared when Holmes died. Atkins would die two years later of a “heart attack” which his family believes was a cover for a much worse fate.
LBJ’s name comes up constantly when those who believe the government took the treasure explain who was behind the agenda. His predecessor, John Kennedy, had actually been in contact with Ova Noss in the early 60’s over her concerns that the military was moving in on her treasure claim. JFK and the Noss family were scheduled to meet but that was forcibly canceled by JFK being assassinated.
One retired Army officer claimed that men from LBJ’s secret service detail came to White Sands Missile Range early in LBJ’s presidency. They were part of a group that excavated the Peak and pulled out almost 19,000 gold bars (that number was provided by one of the engineers on the dig, a man who happened to be a long time friend of LBJ’s.) Later researchers were able to uncover orders from LBJ to his crew on how he wanted the gold removed from Victorio Peak and taken to his ranch in Texas for storage. Another report states some of the gold was shipped to Canada. LBJ reportedly came to the Peak personally in the late 60’s, with Texas Governor John Connally in tow. They led a group of men who pillaged more gold out of the peak. A decade later during “Operation Goldfinder”, it was reported that Lady Bird Johnson was requesting daily updates on how the treasure hunt was unfolding – a claim she denied.
Possible further proof that LBJ was involved in the gold theft came long after his death when in 1989 a Texas man (and purported friend of LBJ) named Billy Carr went to a gold investor named Jim McKee and told him he was trying to unload six-million ounces of gold that came from Victorio Peak. He claimed the gold was being stored in underground bunkers at Johnson’s ranch. The Noss family heir, Terry Delonas, was contacted and an attempt at a deal was made. Carr was willing to sell the family the gold for well under market value. The Johnsons could not sell the gold on the open market because the Noss family had the legal provenance to it. A deal for $70,000 was struck but no gold was delivered and the Noss family had their money returned. Negotiations continued for just under a decade before finally breaking off. It is not known to this day whether or not Carr was legit or a con artist.
Richard Nixon would pillage the Peak under his presidency as well, with a massive haul being taken over the Thanksgiving weekend of 1973. FBI paperwork even indicates that an attorney in Washington went to the Bureau to report that Victorio Peak had been breached again and dynamite had been used on the Peak. Sources that have spoken anonymously over the years have indicated that Nixon’s gold haul was around 25 million troy ounces in all. The gold was then smelted into 50-pound bars to remove any marks of origin. From there it was shipped to Switzerland and sold to a buyer from the middle east. The money was then sent to a bank near the White House. Some claim that the total value of LBJ and Nixon’s thefts from the Peak eclipsed a modern day value of 31 billion dollars, although others have guessed as low as 1.2 billion.
The Final Treasure Hunt
By the time “Operation Goldfinder” went down in 1977, Ova Noss was 81-years old. This meant that if her family was going to continue to pursue further action against the government that the next generation of the family would have to lead the cause. Terry Delonas, Babe’s grandson, would prove to be that leader. Delonas participated in “Operation Goldfinder” and became head of the Ova Noss Family Partnership (ONFP) which was formed to raise money for legal fees and hopefully someday mining operations.
It took a full 12 years after Goldfinder for the ONFP to make any significant headway. It was in 1989 that the partnership went to the Department of the Army asking for a meeting over being allowed back on Victorio Peak. After going through the bureaucracy, permission was finally granted under the condition that the White Sands Base be paid for providing support for the group and that the mining could not interfere with the Army’s regular business. With that the Victorio Peak Project was formed.
Starting in January of 1990, the first step was to survey environmental and engineering aspects of Victorio Peak. White Sands received a check for over $50,000 from the ONFP for this. The money covered security and road work for around the Peak. Ground sonar was used by the ONFP in an attempt to locate the large caverns that Doc Noss reported and other geologists confirmed during tests run in the 60’s and 70’s. The group assumed that regaining access to the treasure caves would cost them between 1-2 million dollars by the time the project could be claimed to be a success.
The mining effort began in July of 1992. Metal detectors were used around the Peak’s base in hopes to locate some of Doc Noss’ secret gold stashes. Some artifacts from Indian battles were found, but no gold. Witnesses who claimed to have seen the treasure locations in the past were brought in to attempt to help whittle down suitable locations. The mining constituted drilling bore holes in order to attempt to configure possible underground cavern locations. Those spots with good leads would then be excavated as best as possible.
A major effort was made to break into an apparent massive underground cave, but after much effort and only 50 feet from where they believed the “treasure room” was located, the group encountered unstable rock and had to seek a different passageway. Finally in 1996 the crew broke into a room that was 60 feet high and six feet wide. The unstable room suffered a collapse and several miners were showered with rocks and human bones. The ONFP was never able to explore things further after that day as the Army decided that evening to revoke the group’s mining privileges due to overdue charges the ONFP owed to White Sands. No mining has occurred since.
You can look at the ending in two different ways: A> The Army knew the family was about to discover evidence of Doc Noss’ treasure having been stolen and needed to stop them. Or B> The ONFP was out of funds and in order to lure investors in, an elaborate story had to be created to spark a new cash flow.
The Army then poured a little salt on the wound by suing the ONFP for $700,000 in unpaid fees. The family counter-sued and claimed the Army overcharged them by over $600,000 for access to the Peak. A separate lawsuit was filed in an effort to allow the family entry to the Peak under far less financial restrictions. As of this writing, no one has ever returned to Victorio Peak associated with the Noss Family.
By now having read about all the lawsuits, chicanery and deaths surrounding this story might have you lathered up in outrage. However some evidence suggests the whole treasure never existed or was at least far less vast than what Noss claimed:
The origin of how Doc Noss found the treasure cave has several versions. The official family story I told last time had Doc stumble upon it while deer hunting. One of the farmers who grazed sheep at the foot of Victorio Peak told people he showed Noss the cave -which was empty at that time- several years before Noss “found” it. Another story has it that Doc was told the cave’s location by an inmate while spending some time in jail.
The book “100 Tons of Gold” takes the story a step further as it claims that Noss was a professional con man, having faked being a foot doctor as well as an astrologer before coming up with the Victorio Peak scheme. They go on to state that Noss actually stole the treasure from a cache in a nearby mountain range and then transplanted it into Victorio Peak in order to claim it for himself . He then dynamited the shaft partially shut before “finding” it later with Babe in tow. Once he took the gold out he conveniently had it “accidentally” sealed shut with another explosion. This allowed him to bilk investors out of funds as he promised untold riches lying below.
One of the men who bought a gold brick from Doc Noss in the late 30’s had it assayed and found it contained 1/200th of the value of gold Doc had claimed when selling it. Some investigators feel Doc created “fake” gold bars to use to lure in investors. One man came forward and claimed that Noss electroplated copper bars with gold in El Paso. Another Victorio Peak area resident made the claim that Noss “salted” a nearby spring with gold flakes and would pan gold for prospective investors to help woo them into giving him money to get back into his “treasure room”. Some feel Doc simply ran out of funds after being cheated on deals, so he began to use the fake bars to raise capital.
After Doc’s death, his wife may have taken over as the family shyster as Ova Noss was the central person in a fraud investigation after she was accused of selling rights to the Victorio Peak mining contract for cash despite having no legal claim to it.
Whether or not you feel Doc Noss really did stumble upon a fortune, the saga of the Victorio Peak treasure makes for a great story and it’s one that may even have a conclusive ending someday.