Hidden in the unforgiving earth of West Texas were clues: archaic clues etched upon buried rocks, stacked as artifacts upon other clues, or carved into rock walls. These centuries-old clues, placed to lead Spaniards back to their cache, eventually formed an intricate web that has lured treasure seekers and captured them in its mystery. But the question still remains: Has the Spider Rock treasure ever been found?
Steve Wilson first began his research on the treasure in 1960. The story he unraveled is an incredible tale riddled with murder, mystery, and adventure. Wilson left no stone unturned in his quest for clues, weaving his story from numerous interviews with eyewitnesses, early newspaper accounts, letters, documents, extended reconnaissance of the actual sites, and finally the cryptic stone maps that had gradually been unearthed by the original seekers. The story involves several towns and counties in West Texas; including Rotan, Aspermont, Haskell, Fisher County, Stonewall County and one of the area's most prolific landmarks, the Double Mountains.
On dogged treasure hunter was Dave Arnold, who appeared in 1902 with an intriguing sheepskin map. After months of searching, he unearthed the stone map called the Spider Rock, with its tantalizing spider web-like design, Roman and Arabic numerals, and cryptic symbols. Nearby he found silver epaulets, a Spanish sword, silver crucifix and copper plates bearing strange tracery. In 1905 he moved his search to a wilderness sixty miles southeast, and once again unearthed a beautifully carved stone map imprisoned in the roots of a huge oak. Still later, moving sixty miles west-northwest, he uncovered yet another stone map, bearing the same concentric circles and symbols that appeared on the first tow. Dave Arnold's bizarre quest unfolded over a decade, until he disappeared without a trace in 1914. The search was renewed a decade later by one of the original seekers. Then, in the 1930's, more clues were found, including crude smelter pits, small silver crosses and statuettes and nuggets of gold.
The first two stone maps and many of the artifacts found near them were long believed destroyed in a 1909 fire at the Terrell Drug Store in Haskell, Texas. But the Terrell family had kept a secret for almost seventy years: that many of those ancient items survived. With them were map tracings, letters, and documents describing an extensive search. The third stone map turned up in Waco, where it had been used as a doorstop for more than half a century.
The Spaniards buried something fantastic in the West Texas hinterlands, where they were mining precious metals. They marked those sites by an ingenious method of carving coded symbols, directions, degrees, and distances into stone. To this day, the stone maps remain undeciphered, the ancient puzzle unsolved, and the treasure unfound-so far as we know.