Fact check: No evidence viral post shows buried treasure in Arizona
The claim: An Arizona explorer with a metal detector just found a box full of treasure
A story about a recent discovery of buried treasure is piquing curiosity online, but the images are not what posters claim they are.
“Just found in Arizona by someone metal detecting. That’s what dreams are made of for us relic hunters,” reads an April 24 Facebook post with two images.
The top image shows an open box with guns, cigars, gold and cash splayed out along a rock surface. The other image shows the box partially concealed under a ledge.
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USA TODAY reached out to several posters for comment.
Several accounts recognize the image as a hoax
Seth Monk was one of a few Facebook users to correct himself after posting the false claim on April 24. His updated post informed users that the one of the images was sourced from author S.E. Swapp’s website. He credited this discovery to comments left by other Facebook users on his post.
“I can’t tell if it’s a staged photo for the book or an actual photo of what was found,” Monk wrote to USA TODAY. “This is Facebook, I’m sure it’s been circulating around for a while causing similar confusion.”
Monk said he first saw the image and claim when another Facebook user shared it to the California/Nevada Gold Mining private Facebook group. Monk shared images of the original post with USA TODAY that revealed the first poster later flagged his post as a hoax.
Grains of gold are separated into a pan. (Photo: Tyler Duncan)
Image has been on an author’s website since 2018
The first image in the post appears on Swapp’s website about his 2016 book “Clevenger Gold: The True Story of Murder and Unfound Treasure.” The book follows the story of an Arizona family that died while traveling in the 1800s and left behind hidden treasure that remains unfound.
Swapp told USA TODAY in an email that his team took the photo themselves. He said his father recently posted the images to social media “and is enjoying the commentary for the time being.”
Swapp refused to say whether the photo showed a real treasure find.
“We shared the photo on different platforms recently for the amusement of my book readers, treasure hunters, and general ‘cool stuff enthusiasts,'” he said in a statement. “If people think it’s fake, that’s fine, if they think it’s real, that’s fine.”
Metadata from the image file posted on the website shows it dates back to at least 2018.
Archived webpages of Swapp’s site show the image was added to the site between Aug. 5, 2018 and Nov. 4, 2018.
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USA TODAY could find not find any recent news reports about a recent treasure discovery in Arizona.
Our rating: False
Viral posts that claim to show a recent Arizona treasure find are rated FALSE because they are not supported by our research. The image the posts claim shows the buried treasure appears on a promotional website for a book about unfound, buried treasure. There is no evidence to support claims of a recent treasure find in Arizona.
Our fact-check sources:
- USA TODAY, April 26, message with Seth Monk, Facebook user
- Facebook Group, accessed April 26, “California/Nevada Gold Mining”
- USA TODAY, April 26, email with S.E. Swapp, author
- VIEW AND REMOVE EXIF ONLINE, accessed April 26, Exif data
- Wayback Machine, Aug 5, 2018, seswapp.com
- Wayback Machine, Nov. 4, 2018, seswapp.com
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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.
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