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FBI says it didn't find lost Civil War gold, but treasure hunters aren't so sure

Jason Nark, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features

BENEZETTE TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Decades ago, when a tale of lost Civil War gold turned Dennis Parada from a furniture salesman into a treasure hunter, he pointed a 1969 Corvette toward a steep mining road and drove up into the wild.

"That's how gung-ho he was to find this treasure," Parada's son, Kem, said Monday morning on that densely forested mountainside.

On a frigid day this past March, after days of digging, the FBI seemed to dash the Paradas' lifelong dream, saying teams of investigators found nothing at the rural Dents Run site off Route 555 in Elk County, approximately 260 miles northwest of Philadelphia. The agency stands firm on that "nothing" today, even as the Paradas question what exactly happened up there during the dig.

"FBI investigators must follow the facts," spokesperson Carrie Adamowski said in a statement Tuesday. "The fact here, as previously stated, is that nothing was found in the excavation."

But the FBI also says the Dents Run case is an "ongoing investigation," which makes Bill Cluck, the Paradas' lawyer, scratch his head.

If the site was empty, "then that's it, it's over, right, if they found nothing?" Cluck said. "Or are they investigating something I'm not sure we're allowed to talk about."

The legend dates back to the summer of 1863, when a special Union detachment was tasked with transporting 26 gold bars, each weighing 50 pounds, from West Virginia to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. That detachment, as the story goes, was ambushed, the gold lost and supposedly buried.

Dennis Parada, 66, founder of the treasure-hunting business Finders Keepers, has long told reporters he's focused on that boulder-strewn hillside thanks to a map given to him by an old man at a furniture store where he worked.

All of the Paradas' detection equipment told them gold was down there, too.

"You name the treasure-hunting equipment, we had it, and it all pointed to gold, gold, gold," Kem Parada, 33, said at the site.

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