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TOPIC: Legend of the Taulabe Cave Treasure

Legend of the Taulabe Cave Treasure 5 years 7 months ago #14557

  • wreckdiver
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In my travels over the world I have heard many legends of lost or hidden treasure, and in typical fashion I scratch down the details of the story in a small notebook that I always carry with me, and with the intention of researching the story when I have the opportunity at a later date. If the story appears to be legitimate, then obviously it becomes necessary to follow up with a good old fashion treasure hunt.

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In the last few weeks here in Honduras I began hearing a re-occurring story from locals about a treasure buried in a cave. I know, many of my fellow treasure hunting friends are saying too themselves; how often I have heard that old story. However, this story is a good one to use as an illustration of the amount of research time and effort goes into verifying many of these supposed legends.

This story gained my attention just a little bit when I started hearing very similar stories from multiple sources that are geographically separated by considerable distance. The timeline of this legend is also relatively recent, so retrieval of documented evidence is not a big issue for the most part.

As is the case with most treasure stories, the story changes over time, and with each version, the story often gets embellished and twisted in facts and details. This story is no different. However, since specific dates and incidents are a common in the telling of this legend, this makes the legend a little more credible at the start.

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Last week several members of my team and I traveled up into the mountains to the Taulabe Caves to get the lay of the land and investigate this treasure legend a little further.

So here is the basic story recreated from my notes; in 1972 a former member of the US Military by the name of William Hanneman robbed a bank in the US of three hundred million dollars, and hijacked a private plane. He landed in La Ceiba Honduras, joined up with an old friend who suggested that he hide out in the recently discovered Taulabe caves. He hid out in the caves for several weeks, hid the treasure deep inside the cave. Later the friend turned William in for the $25,000 reward, and William went to prison, and the money was never recovered.

From the information gathered, it was not all that difficult to prove the legitimacy of most of this story. However, the actual events surrounding this story are much more intriguing than the legend itself. Usually it has been my experience that it’s the other way around.

Now for the facts; On May 5th 1972, an armed man, listed on the passenger manifest as George Ames and who was later identified as 49 year old Frederick William Hahneman, Hijacked an Eastern Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 727 departing from Allentown Pennsylvania bound for Miami with 48 passengers and crew aboard. The Hijacker forced the airliner to land at Dulles International Airport to pick up 2 cartons of cigarettes, parachutes, food, fuel, Bush knives, Jump Suits, Crash Helmets and $303,000 in Cash to be supplied by Eastern Airlines. Once his demands were met, the hijacker released all the passengers but kept the crew hostage.

Due to a mechanical malfunction the hijacker and his hostages were forced to switch planes in New Orleans. He then forced the crew to take off and fly him to Honduras, and in the early morning of May 6th the aircraft entered the northwestern territory of Honduras where the hijacker forced the pilot to slow down the aircraft and lower the aft boarding ramp. Hahneman parachuted successfully from the aircraft with a briefcase of cash and equipment and landed safely in the Honduran jungle about 20 miles from the Honduran Caribbean coastline.

Hahneman was able to visit his aging Honduran mother (Delia Pastore Ordones), and several friends while evading a massive manhunt by the FBI and the Honduran Police. Hahneman told his mother that he was dying of cancer and that he hid to loot in a communist Bank in the Far East.

Eastern Airlines placed a $25,000 reward on his head, and placed poster sized pictures of his face all over this impoverished nation. Hahneman’s close friend, an engineer by the name of Jose Gomez Rovelo hid him for a time. However, with such a large reward on his head Jose convinced him that he should turn himself in.

At 1 A.M., on the 2nd of June 1972, they both walked into the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa and Hahneman surrendered.
On Sept. 11, 1972, Hahneman, who had waived his right to jury trial, pleaded guilty to a charge of air piracy. As he was leaving the federal building under guard, a Washington reporter asked him:

"What did you do with the money?"

"None of your bloody business," Hahneman replied.

The court sentenced Hahneman to life in prison, and he was sent to the federal prison in Atlanta.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Frederick William Hahneman was paroled from Atlanta on March 13, 1984, to a halfway house in the District of Columbia. On August 17, 1984, he was discharged. There is no other record of him until his death on December 17, 1991 in Costa Masa, California.

On May 8, 1973, the FBI held a press conference to announce that they had found the $303,000 ransom. However, they would not provide any details. If this is the case, then this treasure legend is a BUST.

During this time in our nation’s history, for those of us old enough to remember back that far, Skyjackings were a common occurrence in the US. For example, The Watertown Daily Times reported on July 18, 1972 about this case that in the Airlines had paid out $17,712,000 in ransom money during 18 Hijackings. All but $503,000 had been recovered. Still outstanding was the $200,000 that D.B. Cooper disappeared with over Oregon just 6 months before Hahneman daring caper worth $303,000.

The FBI was desperately seeking ways to stop this disturbing trend of air piracy by basically letting the criminal element know that crime does not pay. The only way to resolve this question will be through The Freedom of Information Act.

As a side note, it should be noted that the Government argued for and eventually elected not to set up a Federal Air Marshall Program, stating that it would be too dangerous to the flying public.

So there are the facts as I know them thus far and there is still much research to do before we decide if this is still a legitimate treasure legend or not.

Let’s shift gears for a while and operate on the premise that the FBI was just blowing smoke in an effort to stem the tide of all these skyjackings, and that the $303,000 is still out there, possibly buried in this system of caves.

As I stated earlier, we visited these caves last week, so here is what we know about them:

On highway CA-5 about 25km north of Siguatepeque and 20km south of the Lago de Yojoa is the entrance to the Cuevas de Taulabé, a network of 25 underground caves that were first discovered by modern man back in 1969 during construction of the highway between San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa.

To date, much of the cave remains unexplored and un-mapped, at this time cave explorers have penetrated 12km deep without yet finding the end of this massive cave system.

In 1980, the local municipality took control of the cave to prevent destruction of the natural beauty of the cave by vandals, and in 2003 began development of the first 700 meters of the cave with walkways, railings and lights.

Generally, the public can only travel the first 700 meters. However, you can purchase a guide to take you further into the cave, but this will require you to bring some protective gear (Helmet and gloves), water proof flashlights and cameras), (Non-slip water booties), and some heavy duty pants. You will also be entering an underground river that is believed to extend all the way over to Copan near the border with Guatemala.

For our first visit to the caves we only took the $5.00 tour, and like most caves I’ve entered this one is a beauty, but be prepared, the deeper you go the more hot and humid and slippery it becomes, and to the point of being difficult to breath easily. Oh, and don’t mind the bats!

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“Treasure – If it’s out there, we’re going to find it!” (Tommy Vawter)
Last Edit: 5 years 7 months ago by wreckdiver.
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Legend of the Taulabe Cave Treasure 5 years 6 months ago #14600

  • Kanacki
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Hello Wreckdiver thanks for the interesting story. I always have a soft spot for caves add a treasure legend to what could be better?

Kanacki
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