Is a sunken fortune hidden in the bottom of Lake Michigan?

Are 5 chests of gold under Lake Michigan?

Sailors in the 20’s almost had the chests


It is only a speck of rocky land just east of Wisconsin, surrounded by the chilly waters of Lake Michigan. It is called Poverty Island, an apt name, especially when treacherous storms sweep in across the lake without warning. Furious winds and lightning-swift currents have spawned a graveyard of sunken ships and over the years, intriguing tales of lost treasure.

Did the salvage team really find the treasure?

One legend in particular has claimed that, just offshore of Poverty Island, there are five chests stuffed with gold bullion and coins, which would today be worth more than $400 million.  Richard Bennett, a professional diver and author, has spent more than 20 years and $100,000 of his own money searching for the sunken fortune:

“Any story that survives 100 years has to have some validity to it. If they survive 100 years, they probably have an 80, 85% chance of being true.”

But how could $400 million in gold end up on the bottom of Lake Michigan?  The treasure story reaches back to 1863, when the tide of the Civil War was turning in favor of the Union.  The beleaguered South, strapped for capital, put out a desperate call for relief to France.  According to the legend, the French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte III, secretly dispatched a shipment of gold across the Atlantic to Canada.  It was then spirited down the St. Lawrence River and into Lake Michigan.  But some believed that, while traveling inland to Chicago, the ship was attacked and sank.  Others believed it was shipwrecked in a storm.  In either event, the chests of gold never arrived.

Steve Harrington, a maritime historian, is convinced the treasure is still located off the coast of Poverty Island:

“I think that’s one of the most intriguing things about this legend is that it’s consistent in that the loss is always at Poverty Island. There are always five chests, and it’s always the same scenario.”

Records of 1863 shipwrecks are well preserved

However, historian Chuck Feltner disagrees. He has spent many years in the Great Lakes searching for shipwrecks.  Feltner believes that the legend of the treasure is a good story, but holds no truth:

“Records of shipwrecks on the great lakes in the year 1863 are extremely good. We’ve not been able to find any evidence that any of these vessels that were recorded to have been lost were sunk in the vicinity of Poverty Island or that they were French vessels, as the legend would have it to be.”

Despite the lack of a paper trail, the legend of the secret shipment has persisted.  In 1929, a group of sailors were said to have snagged the five chests with their anchor.  Up it came, just seconds away, a fortune in gold, when suddenly the chains broke.  The treasure plummeted back to its watery grave.

A few years later, a group of investors in Chicago raised $50,000 to try their luck at Poverty Island.  According to Richard Bennett, a young boy named Karly Jesson, whose father was the local lighthouse keeper, was said to have watched the salvage operation for three consecutive summers:

“One day, he was sitting on the rocks watching this operation, and there was a lot of rejoicing, revelry—obviously a real…  congratulatory party that was going on, on the ship.”

Will the underwater sled find the treasure?

According to the boy, a storm hit that night, and the salvage ship sank with all the men on board.  The heartless tides of Lake Michigan had once again reclaimed the Poverty Island treasure.

Today, Richard Bennett feels confident that he will succeed where others have failed.  Bennett has devised an ingenious underwater sled to comb the murky depths of Lake Michigan.

“The only way to really find this treasure is to have human beings on the sled visually looking at the bottom.  It’s cold. It’s deep. The area is very treacherous. But I’m a dreamer, and I’m a gambler. As long as I have those things working for me, I’ll probably continue to do it.”

Will Richard Bennett ever find the Poverty Island treasure?  Only time will tell.  Until that day, Lake Michigan will keep its grip on the five wooden treasure chests hidden far beneath its surface.

Photos by Richard T. Bennett

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season seven with Robert Stack and in season five with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis FarinaVarious seasons available now on Hulu.



  1. Avatar


    David Bagdon
    Thanks for the offer, however I have never taken any money for our search for the Poverty Island Treasure search and after 50 years of being involved I don’t think it’s in the future. If you have finances why not do your own search. Maybe because of Poverty’s inherit dangerous location this may not be for you. There are treasure stories around us
    find one that is plausible for you and do the research. That in itself is rewarding. I can’t believe how much I have learned about the US Civil War and all its components. Good luck and if you find a treasure invite me to the party.


  2. Avatar


    Jean Anne Arden, Me too.


  3. Avatar


    Rum Runner, You are correct about many people looking for the Treasure of Poverty Island. It is difficult to tell how many people actually dived near Poverty Island over the years. Or how many times they dived on each trip there. I for one started before we had any formal search devices, side scan, GPS that sort of equipment. Loran had just came out and was available to the public. When we started it was dead-reckoning each time we went out. Often, we likely went over the same spot or at least part of the same spot. Even with modern search equipment it took wreck hunters many years to find the Captain Lawrence and she was a schooner length ship. Now imagine a few boxes 2X2X3 feet or there about in 60 to 80 feet of water in a square mile area. That’s the challenge.


  4. Avatar


    Thanks for the good wishes. Without dreams life would be pretty boring. Many people dream about winning the lottery or being a great sports figure. As long as you don’t take advantage of someone either by money or reputation I don’t see how it can hurt. We just had a basketball celebrity here in Milwaukee return to his childhood part of the inner city and consul youngsters in following their dreams. He had dreams of becoming a basketball star on the very street he just visited. Dreamers are also doers, that’s also how inventions are born.


  5. Avatar


    I think you sent me an e-mail about your Poverty Island screenplay. The discipline it takes to write a screenplay is daunting at best. I wrote a screenplay about a scuba accident and it was the thing sleepless nights are made of. I wish you good luck in your endeavor.


  6. Avatar


    I doubt the Poverty Treasure has been found. One could hardly walk into a bank with hundreds of pounds of gold and cash it in. Even people with the means to dispose of some of the gold would find it hard the move any large amount. They must have a source where it could be integrated into a normal flow of gold supplies. Better to make it known and use the courts to reap a reward. Some is better than none, and you sleep well at night.


  7. Avatar


    You are correct, people did believe the earth was flat. However, there were those that didn’t believe it, and got off their behinds and proved it was curved. I often wonder if they thought it was round. Where would we be if we didn’t challenge the legends and the unknown?


  8. Avatar

    Regina Felangi

    The best part-
    “Any story that survives 100 years has to have some validity to it. If they survive 100 years, they probably have an 80, 85% chance of being true.”
    People believed the earth was flat for longer than that.
    And don’t even get me started on the whole God thing, singular or plural.
    People are dumb.
    Poor guy.


  9. Avatar


    Richard, are you still looking for the treasure? I almost came over to your house, to get your papers on the treasure. I grew up two blocks away from you, I think I may have been your paperboy in the late sixties. Or my brother Jim. If 85 th st went though, we wouldn’t t have had a back yard. You know the house big and very old on Lisbon Do you really think it s there? What about that guy from escanba, that looked for it, and then retired in Florida. That sounds a little like maybe he found it and just sort of slipped away. What say you, Mate.


  10. Avatar


    All, I am currently finishing a screenplay on the Poverty Island Gold. I have read the above comments and hope to provide you a feature movie someday.


  11. Avatar


    Dear Richard, I’ve also have read, years ago, in newspapers about the five sunken treasure chests linked together in bottom of Lake Michigan. I believe it is true. I really hope you find them. Then you and I can conclude that persevering faith in hoping dreams to come true exists, to the non-believers. Wish I could be there when you pull them out of the water!
    Never give up…and God go with you!


  12. Avatar

    Dennis White

    The leader of our scuba diving club dove many times looking for the gold with no luck. The original story from the 1980’s tells of a bartender from Washington Island that dove many times also looking for the five chests. Rumors were that the bartender found the gold. As he was pulling the chests up, one of the chests opened and the gold spilled to the bottom but he got four chests.When the person who wrote the story in the eighties tried to find the bartender on Washington Island to confirm the story he was long gone. The story ends with the bartender living in Hawaii and owning his own construction company.


  13. Avatar

    Rum Runner

    Hello Mr. Bennett
    As we know the story of Poverty Island treasure has been around a long time. However I believe it to be factual regardless of what the naysayers say. If your research has been exhaustive then you know that it does exist. The big questions is has anyone else found it and recovered it and kept there mouth shut. The advantage today is the sophisticated equipment available for such endeavor’s it’s available however not inexpensive. Even better than the equipment is luck Mel Fisher had this and it made him very successful where other’s failed. May he rest in peace. I have been fascinated by treasure hunting all my life whether on land or sea it’s addictive. I would love to be there when this particular treasure is found and recovered. Beat of luck be safe and careful.


  14. Avatar


    Rrrrrrrrrr/shiver me timbers/another treasure story/ I’m hopeing this ones true/all I can say is/PLEASE/PLEASE/BE CAREFUL/I’ve personally saved 5 children from drowning / including myself twice/true story/ MAY GOD BE WITH YOU /and PLEASE donate/some of the findings to /ST. JUDES CHILDRENS HOSPITAL /GOOD LUCK to all Treasure Hunters Everywhere


  15. Avatar

    Jean Anne Arden

    WOW I am speechless !


  16. Avatar

    Capt Ralph

    I’ve heard this story many times. had a conversation with a salvage captain out of green bay many years ago who’s father hunted for this treasure. I’ve always wanted to pull my sidescan around there a bit as it has phenomenal definition. Since I began my latest job I’ve been interested in it more as we have tech available that can discriminate gold returns from other metals.


  17. Avatar

    Richard Bennett

    To answer Joe from the 8-30-16 comment: Your right Joe, that was the point, to be odd. By early 1864 the Union blockade was so strong only one in three blockade runners made it though. So coming in the back door was longer, but had higher odds of succeeding. We are only talking about adding weeks to delivery time. Support of that kind coming through the North was not probable. Covert projects rely on the uncommon.
    Richard Bennett


  18. Avatar


    Traveling up the seaway to the Great Lakes seems to me a very odd way to reach Richmond VA.


  19. Avatar

    Noah Lownds

    I live on the garden peninsula a few miles north of poverty island and have always been intrigued by the story. I’m a commercial fishermen and own many boats that could be very useful in the search. Contact me if your interested Mr Bennett.


  20. Avatar

    kenneth feistner

    i beleve the boxis of gold will never be found or brat up for the simpel fakt
    the souls of the sukin ship dont want the trezer found and lotid so the souls
    of that ship will never leat that trezer leave the merky deps of the water
    so i thak people shood stop triying and this is my apinyin


  21. Avatar

    johnathin rose

    i dont beleve this trezer reley egzist’s and i havint senn iny thing to shaing my mind


  22. Avatar

    Where is the $400 million at and Lake Michigan

    Please tell me you half of it


  23. Avatar

    Richard Bennett

    Like all adventures in treasure hunting there is a lack of funding. Because the odds are always against you. Above in this page talked about the sea stories he heard as a young man. They were true, now add the problem finding a few small chests in a mile square area. I remember when we were working on raising the Alvin Clark from Green Bay Wisc.someone took our buoy off. We had dived the Clark a hundred time and still lost it for a while. She was 26 feet wide and 105 feet long and stood 60 feet off the bottom. See the problem? Luck is as important as working capital. Fee will invest in luck. Only the daring apply.


  24. Avatar

    David Bagdon

    I’d love to join Mr Bennett and help with the salvage, I’m. sure some funds would help with equipment. and the expenses needed for this type of endeavor.l would welcome a discussion. with Mr Bennett.


  25. Avatar

    David Bagdon

    I’d love to join Mr Bennett and help , and fund his search.


  26. Avatar


    I have no problem that you are using the underwater shots, but I would like a ‘photo/video by Richard T. Bennett’ tag.


  27. Avatar


    That ‘s interesting. My grandfather spent half of his life after coming home from WWII with a friend in Benzonia, MI. looking for the lost gold of Poverty Island. Spending years building long running, fast boats he could “outrun the storm” in, once getting to the island from Traverse City area. Had some really wonderful stories coming back from trips where he stared into the “Gates of Hell” with “water walls” on both sides and lightning crashing all around. Even went so far as to buy a 2-man submarine in 1964 from a company in Fort Wayne called Nautilette, for the search. Hauling it by boat to the island was to dangerous, making the boat seem like towing a rock, so the lil’ craft never made it down to the bottom. They did manage to find chains diving on a ledge about 80′ down. Having a museum historian carbon-date it to the same era left them eager for the adventure. But alas, life’s priorities and age dissolves their dream. Best wishes to Mr. Bennett and crew. Never forget, mother Michigan can be an unforgiving, raging b*#ch, and they don’t call it Poverty Island for nothing… Safe journeys, Captain.


  28. Avatar

    Bill Purvis

    What about one of those small manned submarines?? How deep is it??


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In the event we determine the occurrence of a data security incident, we will notify you by email, US mail, telephone, or other means as permitted by law.

If you have questions, comments, or complaints concerning our privacy practices or if you wish to change, access, or remove your Personal Data, please contact us as indicated below.  We will attempt, where practical, to respond to your requests and to provide you with additional privacy related information.

Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. is the owner of this Website and retains all ownership rights to the information collected at this Website. Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. reserves the right to change, modify, add, or remove provisions of this Privacy Statement. Any changes to this Privacy Statement will be posted here, and we encourage you to check back from time to time. In addition, Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. will notify registered users of changes as they occur.

We allow third-party companies to serve ads and/or collect certain anonymous information when you visit our web site. These companies may use non-personally identifiable information (e.g., click stream information, browser type, time and date, subject of advertisements clicked or scrolled over) during your visits to this and other Web sites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services likely to be of greater interest to you. These companies typically use a cookie or third party web beacon to collect this information. To learn more about this behavioral advertising practice or to opt-out of this type of advertising, you can visit Your use of the site constitutes your agreement to accept cookies, beacons and third-party advertising. Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. assumes no responsibility for third-party ads.

ARTICLE 1. Personalization
1.1 We may use the contact information you give us to better tailor your Website experience to your interests, and to send you information about Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. and its services as well as promotional material on behalf of some of our partners. We may use other information that you provide to us to show you content in which you may be interested and to display the content according to your preferences. We will also share this information within Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. in order to enhance your experience on this and other Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. Websites.
1.2 In addition, we may share this information with advertisers or other third parties that are not part of the Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. family on an aggregate or other basis that does not disclose your identity or contact information.

ARTICLE 2. Online Surveys/Contests
2.1 From time to time, we may conduct online surveys and contests. These may ask you for contact information (like name or email address) and demographic information (like zip code or age).
2.2 We may use this contact information from our surveys and contests to provide you with information about our company and promotional material on behalf of some of our partners, and to contact you when necessary.

ARTICLE 3. Shopping/Commercial Services
3.1 This Website may offer shopping services, which may be offered by us or by a firm that operates a store under contract with us. If our Website offers shopping or other commercial services, you will use a customer order form to request information, products, and services. The order form will ask you to give us contact information (like name or email address), financial information (like account or credit card numbers), and demographic information (like zip code or age).

3.2 We will use the financial information that you provide to bill you for products and services. By giving our Website your credit card and related personal information, you are authorizing our store to give that information to the merchant and credit card company in order to confirm and fulfill your order.

3.3 We will use contact information from the order form to fulfill your orders. We may also use contact data to get in touch with you when necessary. We will not otherwise use or distribute your financial information without your prior approval.

ARTICLE 4. Public forums
4.1 This Website may make available chat rooms, blogs, forums, message boards, and news groups. Please remember that any information that you disclose in these areas becomes public information and you should exercise caution when deciding to disclose your personal information. Information disclosed by you or by others enters the public domain and may be freely used by any other persons or entities using the site.

ARTICLE 5. Information Sharing With Third Parties
5.1 From time to time we may enter into a special relationship with another company that is not owned by Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. to provide additional features at this Website. These special relationships may include “powered by” partners, business partners, sponsors, and co-branded sites (referred to here as “co-branded pages”). These might include, for example, pages that share our name and that of another entity. You should look for a specific privacy statement on any such co-branded page. Any personal information that you provide when signing up at one of those co-branded pages may be shared with our third party partner. You should also check our partner’s website for information regarding its privacy policies.

5.2 Also, the nature of some features of our Website may require that we share personal information about you with persons or companies outside of Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. For example, this may occur at a feature that enables you, via our Website, to ask questions of persons or entities that are not part of Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. By responding to those features of the site, whether by email or direct entry of information on our Website, you are consenting to our transferring that information to such persons or entities.

5.3 With respect to specific registration modules, like contests, we may disclose personal information collected, and we may post a conspicuous statement on the registration module to the effect that we will be disclosing the information collected with third parties.

5.4 Finally, we may share any of the information collected from you with these other non- Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc companies in an aggregate basis. The aggregated information is not linked to any information that can identify you.

ARTICLE 6. IP Address and Log Files
6.1 We may use your IP address to administer our Website, to help diagnose problems with our server, to analyze trends, to track users’ webpage movements, to help identify you and your shopping cart, and to gather broad demographic information for aggregate use.

ARTICLE 7. Cookies
7.1 This Website may use a standard technology called a “cookie” to collect information about how you use the Website. Cookies reside on your computer and help our Website to recognize your computer’s browser as a previous visitor. This information allows us to customize delivery of information. For example, our Website may use cookies to save and remember registration information or preferences that you may have set while browsing the Website, to keep track of your shopping cart, to ensure you don’t see the same ad content repeatedly, to deliver content specific to your interests, and to save your password so you do not have to re-enter it each time you visit our site. We use cookies only to gather information as indicated in this policy.

7.2 In addition, on occasion our site may also set a “session cookie” which helps us administer the Website. The session cookie expires when you close your browser and does not retain any information about you after it expires.

7.3 Finally, we may also use an ad network provider to help present advertisements on this and other Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. websites. This ad network provider, like other advertising service vendors, uses cookies, web beacons, or similar technologies on the hard drive of your computer to serve you advertisements tailored to interests you have shown by browsing on this and other sites you have visited, and to determine whether you have seen a particular advertisement before and to avoid sending you duplicate advertisements. In doing so, the provider collects non-personal data such as your browser type, your operating system, web pages visited, time of visits, content viewed, ads viewed, and other clickstream data. The use of cookies, web beacons, or similar technologies by these ad network providers is subject to their own privacy policies, not ours, and Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. assumes no responsibility for the collection or use of such information.

ARTICLE 8. Banner Advertising
8.1 We have contracted with an ad-service to place banner advertising on our Website. All of the data provided and generated by the ad-server software remains in our possession. This feature of our Website may, on occasion, set “cookies” on your computer. Any information collected or stored by the ad-service or the cookies is treated in the same manner as other information described in this statement.

ARTICLE 9. Children’s Personal Information
9.1 Consistent with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act:

9.1.1 This site does NOT collect, use, or disclose personal information (including online contact information) of children under the age of thirteen (13).

9.1.2 In the event that a child under the age of 13 attempts to register on our site, we will NOT accept the registration and will delete information received from the child.

9.1.3 In the event that a child posts personal information in a public forum such as a chat room, we will attempt to delete that information once we become aware of it.

ARTICLE 10. Security of Your Personal Information
10.1 Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. employs reasonable security measures consistent with standard industry practice, for information collected through this Website. We believe that we have adequate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of the information we collect on our Website. We also use internal protections to limit access to users’ personal information to only those employees who need the information to perform a specific job.

ARTICLE 11. Sale or Merger
11.1 If this Website is sold to, or merges with, another company not owned by Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc., you should expect that some or all of the information collected from this Website may be transferred to the buyer/surviving company. If so, CMP will seek to obligate the acquiring company to use any personal information transferred by this Website in a manner consistent with this statement, but cannot guarantee that it will be able to impose that requirement or that the acquiring company will comply.

ARTICLE 12. Legal Process
12.1 You should be aware that Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. may be required to disclose your personal information to the government or third parties under certain circumstances, such as in court or regulatory proceedings.

ARTICLE 13.  Contacting the Website

13.1        If you have any questions about this Privacy Statement, the practices of this Website, or your dealings with this Website, please contact us at:

ARTICLE 14.  general information

14.1        Choice of Law:  This Agreement and the Additional Terms shall be governed by, construed and enforced in accordance with the laws of the State of California , as it is applied to agreements entered into and to be performed entirely within such state, without regard to conflict of law principles.

14.2        Choice of Forum:  You agree that any cause of action you or Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. brings to enforce this Agreement and/or the Additional Terms, or in connection with any matters related to this Website and/or the Privacy Statement, shall be submitted to arbitration in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, United States of America in accordance with the commercial rules and regulations of the American Arbitration Association then in effect (as amended herein), provided that said arbitration shall be heard before a single arbitrator, who shall be a retired judge, selected pursuant to such rules and regulations, and shall be conducted on an expedited basis and in confidence. The arbitrator’s decision shall be controlled by the terms and conditions of this agreement and any other agreements I may enter into with you, and shall be final and binding, and shall provide for each party to bear its own costs of arbitration and attorneys’ fees.  Each party expressly waives any right to a jury.  Judgment upon the award of the arbitrator may be entered or enforced in any court of competent jurisdiction. 

14.4        If any provision of this Agreement, or the application thereof to any person or circumstances, is held invalid or for any reason unenforceable then such provision shall be deemed superseded by a valid, enforceable provision that matches, as closely as possible, the original provision, and the other provisions of this Agreement shall remain in full force and effect.  The failure of either party to insist upon strict performance of any provision of this Agreement shall not be construed as a waiver of any provision or right.  Unless expressly provided otherwise, this Agreement is the entire agreement between you and Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. with respect to the use of this Website and shall not be modified except in writing, signed by an authorized representative of Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc.

ARTICLE 15.  European Union and Other Foreign Nations

15.1        This Website is governed by and operated in accordance with the laws of United States of America and is intended for enjoyment of residents of the United States.  Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. makes no representation that this Website is governed by or operated in accordance with the laws of other nations.  By using this Website and submitting any personal information, visitors from outside of the United States acknowledge this Website is subject to U.S. law, consent to the transfer of personal data to the U.S., and waive any claims that may arise under their own national laws.