Hypnotic search for gold

Caption from The Times:  Two subjects describe the gold vault like this.
Caption from The Times: Two subjects describe the gold vault like this.

This article was referred to us by an All Things Sabine reader, who said he recalled a hypnotist helping search for some buried treasure of John Murrell and his clan of bandits who roamed the today areas of Natchitoches, Sabine and Vernon parishes back in the 19th century.  Murrell was a notorious thief who it has been long believed that had buried or otherwise hidden much of his contraband in rural Natchitoches, Sabine and Vernon parishes.

The article was published in The Shreveport Times, entitled, “Hypnotic search for gold,” written by John Merrill, and dated March 18, 1956.  It follows:

Searching for buried treasure is fascinating in itself but when it is mixed with hypnotism, it’s almost more than one can stand.

Down at Natchitoches where the “treasure bug” has been biting folks for decades, the search is on again, but a new method is being used: hypnotic projection.

Several months ago a Natchitoches hypnotist, Vallery Clark, decided he would tie his hypnotism into the search for buried loot, which has long been reputed to be hidden beneath the earth in the “treasure area” near Grand Ecore.

Clark had been extremely interested in what he terms “projection” during the past few years, and he would use this as a means of “locating” the buried treasure. So with two subjects, who had been working with him in other experiments, he began what is probably one of the most fantastic treasure hunts ever conducted.

“I don’t pretend to know how this subconscious mental projection works,” states Clark, “but I do know that it does work and I feel certain that treasure or anything else can be found through its use.”

Briefly, here is the way this “projection” operates when geared to the treasure search: the subject is put into a trance, whereupon he is told to “go” to the treasure site. Then he is told to “go” beneath the ground in the general area, find the treasure cache, and describe what he sees.

When I first heard of Clark’s “search” for the treasure, I went to him for the story and this is how the strange tale unfolded:

“After deciding to try to find the treasure,” Clark recalled. “I knew my projection experiments would fit nicely into the plan. I got in touch with Bobby Cox (18-year-old Natchitoches high school student) who had been helping me with some other experiments and with ‘John Doe’ (this is not the real name of the other subject, atruck driver who asked that is real name not be used). Then we got down to work. First I put John into a trance and told him he was out near Grand Ecore standing over the treasure. Then I told him to go down beneath the ground and look around at about four or five feet.

“He said he couldn’t see anything. I told him to go to about eight feet. There he said he saw a stone vault and described it as looking similar to a ‘cistern’ about 6 feet across the top and about 6 to 8 feet high. He said there were railroad cross-ties across the top.

“I told him to remove a timber from the top and go in. He said he couldn’t because his hands slipped right through the timber. Then I told him to go down and remove a stone from the side. His hands slipped through the stones too. Then I simply told him he was inside. and asked him what he saw. He replied that he couldn’t see anything—that it was too dark.
• • •

“I told him he had a light and could see. and then he described what he saw: piles of what looked like bricks covered with a fungus-like growth, a box or chest and two leather bags—one black and white and one reddish brown and white.

“He said one contained gold coins. When I asked him what was in the chest, he replied ‘many things’ but would not say just what. He refused to go to the other end of the vault, saying something was there that might harm him: he felt ‘uneasy’.

“He broke out in a sweat and began shivering at this point so I brought him out of the trance.

“All this time Bobby (the other subject) had been outside. I brought him in and performed the same experiment with him. He told virtually the same story except that he insisted there were two chests in the vault.

“The next day John, Bobby and I went out to the place near Grand Ecore that had been found by the boys under hypnosis. Using an auger, we drilled down and hit timber at about eight feet and we hit it over an area of about 10 square feet. We have no doubts but that we found a cache containing a tremendous amount of treasure, and hope to get permission soon from the owner of the land allowing us to dig it up. We definitely want to do it legally. We don’t want to try to slip it out even if we thought we could.”
• • •

Here Hypnotist Clark stopped his story.  I asked him to tell me where the vault was located. He told me very specifically (not so specifically, however, that I would he able to find it) but said that it was not for publication since he didn’t want people out there digging all over the place.

It was certainly a fantastic story, to say the least, and since I was a skeptic, I wanted further information. So we found people who would swear to such amazing things as Clark’s success through hypnosis at seeing a certain picture and story that would be on the front page of The Shreveport Times the following morning, the visualization of what was going on in a certain restaurant at a certain time although the experimentation was being carried on several blocks away. I told Clark I would like to see one of the boys (Doe or Cox) who had seen the vault while under hypnosis. We could not find Doe, but found young Cox at home. He corroborated the whole story I had heard. Cox agreed to undergo the experiment again, right there in his living room with his father and mother and myself looking on. Clark put him in a trance and here is what happened:
• • •
Clark: I’m going to project you out to where the treasure is buried. You’ve been there before. You know where it is. Look around under the ground at about eight feet. Is our vault still there?

Bobby: I can’t get down.

Clark: What seems to be stopping you? Try again. Go on down . . . down . . . Are you down there now?

Bobby: (nods)

Clark: Tell us what you see.

Bobby: Box.. .

Clark: What’s in the box?

Bobby: I don’t know . . . it’s locked.

Clark: You have X-ray eyes. Look through the top. What’s in it?

Bobby: All kinds of stuff.

Clark: Well. describe it.

Bobby: I can’t . . . too much . . . too many things. .

Clark: Tell us what else you see down there.

Bobby: Bags . . just like they were before.

Clark: What else?

Bobby: Bricks.

Clark asked Bobby what else he saw, and Bobby insisted he saw another box in the vault too, which was just like the other one. He also described little cones of dirt on the floor of the vault. When asked to go to the other end of the vault, he broke out in sweat and frowned and shivered. He just shook his head. Then Clark brought him out of the trance, to my relief and I’m sure to his mother’s relief, for she had been watching him intently and nervously.
• • •

Before bringing Bobby out of the trance, Clark told him that he would remember exactly what he had seen. When Bobby was “back with us,” he said he had a very hard time getting down under the ground, describing the sensation as “like somebody was pulling me back although I wanted to go down there.”

I asked Bobby to draw me a rough sketch of the vault, which he did. The sketch contained the objects he had “seen.”

What was at the other end of the vault that had so obviously frightened Bobby? He didn’t know. but described it like this: “It felt like when you are fixing to walk into a dark alley and you get that kind of weak feeling . . . you can’t really describe this feeling of fear.”

• • •

So there it was. I had heard the fantastic story twice and had heard it again from Bobby Cox while he was in a trance. I had sat some five feet away and watched this respected Young man in his community “go under” and describe this strange vault.  I still don’t know what to think about it.  However, I have a promise from Hynotist Clark that when they get ready to dig up the vault that I will be notified.

I’m not from Missouri, but I’ve got to see it before I believe it.



Before there was “Glee,” there was Donald Glattly and the NSU College Singers

From The Shreveport Times, April 1954, written by John Merrill and entitled, “Sing from the heart.”

Photos by Guillet Studios in Natchitoches, Louisiana, from The Shreveport Times, 1954
Photos by Guillet Studios in Natchitoches, Louisiana, from The Shreveport Times, 1954

“The inside of you has got to sing.”

That is what Donald Glattly, nof Northwestern State College at Natchitoches has to say. Glattly is one of the South’s most colorful and talented teachers and conductors of choral music.

Glattly believes that singers must enjoy their singing and the conductor has the power to create or destroy this enjoyment. As for Glattly, he creates enjoyment. Bearing this out is a group of songsters called The College Singers, a Glattly-directed choral group that bubbles over with enthusiasm for their music.

As a conductor. GIattly literally puts “everything” into leading his chorus, which has the distinction of being the official musical voice of Louisiana Elks. He says that a conductor must be able to express the spirit of the song through his motions. And he does just that.

He uses his whole body in intricate maneuvers as he extracts harmonious notes from his singers. His techniques are often unorthodox, sometimes startling, but he gets results. The songs “get across” and every singer likes to sing under the dynamic director.

The Northwestern State music teacher believes that the ideal chorus member is one with less formal vocal training. which, as he puts it “often limits his musical expression to the learned techniques of the soloist.”

A bunch of mediocre voices can sound good if they are meaningful and if the music “comes from deep inside” of the singer, says Glattly. “What we need in choral work is raw emotion. Practiced emotion is no good.”

Glattly has a definite philosophy concerning choral directing and has good reasons for his sometimes unorthodox actions in front of his singers. He says that in one sense the chorus al-ways sings for its conductor and that the group is oblivious to the opinion of the audience for the moment. According to Glattly, the group is guided by the desire to satisfy the intentions of the conductor.

“Singers can always detect sham on the part of the conductor.” declares Glattly. “The conductor’s motions must be varied and must be meaningful and real. No formal technique in conducting exists that has any validity except the natural means of expression which the conductor would use to express the same thoughts in other media.”

For Glattly, the object of choral singing is “to create through new types of music new thoughts.” He says the singers should get “some sort of emotional release through singing different kinds of music.”

The colorful conductor believes foremost in the self expression of the singer.

Glattly’s choral experience includes seven years as soloist with the Chicago a cappella choir under the direction of Noble Caine. He was assistant conductor for three years with the Sympony Choir conducted by Dr. Walter Ashenbrener in Chicago.

He received the degrees of Bachelor of Music and Master of Music from Northwestern Uni-versity and is working on his doctorate at Columbia. He is a native of Hot Springs. S.D., in the midst of the beautiful Black Hills country. Coming to Natchitoches and Northwestern State in 1945, he has since been in charge of choral activities at the college. When not getting harmonies from his singers, he ran generally be found indulging in one of his two hobbies—farming and chess playing.

His well-known singing group, The College Singers, first received state-wide recognition in appearing before the sessions of the Louisiana Education Assn. convention in 1947. This was one year after Glattly had created the organization. The Singers made such a hit at the LEA meet that it was invited to New Orleans in 1948 to be used as a demonstration chorus before parish teachers and supervisors.

Since that time the group has appeared before varied audiences throughout Louisiana and has extended its tours to neighboring states and has even given a week’s performance in Chicago in 1951 and in St. Louis in 1953.

The versatile singers have provided music for the Louisiana Elks convention for the past six years, and in competition with the top-ranking amateur organizations of its kind, have been chosen as the official chorus for the National Elks convention for the past three years. This year, they again won this honor and there is a possibility they will be able to sing at the convention in Los Angeles the first week in July.

No preference is shown music majors at the college each year when students throng into the choral room seeking a place in the distinctive singing group. Glattly selects his songsters cam-pus-wide and the only qualifications are a “feel” for music, an enthusiasm for singing, and av-erage ability.

Glattly knows that many of his mannerisms in directing the Singers are strange. He knows that his techniques are often criticized by those in and out of the musical world. But he also knows that he gets good results with his methods. He knows that he has gone a long, long way in instilling a deep love for music and a desire to sing within the hundreds of students that have passed his way during his nine years at the college.

He knows also—and he has no doubts—that as he stands before his singers and looks into their eyes and hears their vigor finding words, that they are singing as God made folks to sing. They’re “singing on the inside.”


In 1950s Natchitoches Parish: “They hunted for buried treasure”

I found this treasure of an article published in The Shreveport Times, in January 1956, and detailing hunts for long lost treasure in Natchitoches Parish.  The article was written by John Merrill, which sounds neatly similar to the bandit whose hidden gold treasure hunters sought… John Murrell.


“Thar’s gold in them thar hills!”

Words of like nature have been brazenly stated and stealthily whispered around Natchitoches since the tawdry days of the Reconstruction era.

The “gold” folks have been seeking consists of buried outlaw loot and pots of Civil War gold hidden beneath the ground.

“Them thar hills” is a large area of rolling pine land southwest of the Red River at Grand Ecore and five or six miles northeast of Natchitoches.

Treasure-seekers (and the woods are full of ’em) have been digging for years in this area where old Camp Salubrity stood back in the 1840s, 50s and 60s. Solitary figures with picks and shovels, groups of intent diggers with definite convictions that millions of dollars in hidden treasure await them, and even large-scale “digs” with machinery: All these have marked the treasure-seeking days of old Camp Salubrity.

And these days are far from over.

Photo by Guillet Studio, Natchitoches. Treasure hunting expedition.
Photo by Guillet Studio, Natchitoches. Treasure hunting expedition.

People still dig in the old cave where the famed Natchez Trace-San Antonio Trail outlaw John A. Murrell is said to have hidden out. Holes in a deep ravine —dug only this month—show that the treasure-fever has not subsided.

The “treasure area” lies in thick woods where only an occasional timberman or hunter passes; but even they keep to the dirt and sandy roads and seldom wander into the steep gullies and thickets where once the “bushwackers” hid to rest and count their money.


Back before the Mexican War, Ulysses S. Grant (then a lieutenant), wrote of the area in 1844: “I found my regiment camping out in small linen tents on the top of a high sandy ridge and in the midst of a pine forest. The great elevation of our situation and the fact that one of the best springs of water in the state puts out here are the only recom-mendations the place has.”

(The young lieutenant’s regiment had been stationed here at Camp Salubrity to prevent overcrowding at Fort Jesup, 20 miles to the southwest.)

Stories and legends that abound in the area have it that after the Civil War the cunning Murrell, who could preach as well as he could waylay travelers, came to the area often and dug the cave to shelter his gang while they were “holed up.”

Not only Murrell and his bushwackers frequented the hideaway, say the stories, but also other well-known outlaws—including Frank and Jesse James. Reputedly, Murrell and his gang buried most of their loot in the area and never had a chance to return for it.


Hopeful diggers have come to the area after having been given or sold “secret” maps, old waybills. or letters written during the Reconstruction period by persons “in the know” about the disposition of the outlaws’ treasure. Some of the treasure-seekers claim they can “read” the old carvings in the bark of trees of the vicinity.

Especially during the past 30 years has the area received a thorough going over by diggers, although there is no real evidence that any money has been found.  There are individuals in Natchitoches Parish, however, who claim that a “pot” of gold was found some years ago, and several “small caches” of money have been unearthed.

Milo Burke, a colorful character in his sixties who lives with his wife in a small house in the woods not far from Camp Salubrity’s old site, has led many treasure hunters through the maze of ravines and thickets during the past three decades.

As to whether he has ever seen anyone find treasure, Burke gives a toothless grin and says: “I wouldn’t say that I have and I wouldn’t say that I haven’t. I guess I’ve seen hundreds of folks hunting for gold like crazy around here. I know just about every foot of this country, and I guide ’em, but I don’t try to tell ’em much. Folks don’t believe me nohow—so I generally don’t say nothing.”

Burke. who spends most of his time hunting (he’s on relief) in the surrounding woods, does admit that he believes gold is buried in the area. He is certain. he says, that there is another cave somewhere around. Asked why he believes this, he smiles.  “I got my reasons but keep ’em to myself.”

The old fellow obviously loves these hills and woods and is generally ready to guide a visitor through the area. He will show Murrell’s cave, the torn-up watch house of stone, the graves of Yankee soldiers who died here of disease during the Civil War, and numerous holes scattered all about where money-seekers have dug.

Then he takes you down into the deepest ravine where ice-cold water trickles from the side of a hill and points out the biggest hole of them all.

Straight down for 75 feet.
Straight down for 75 feet.

“This one was dug in 1950.” he says. “Boy, was that some diggin’. Went straight down 75 feet. Had to dig for weeks. About four of ’em diggin’ Folks came from all over to watch. You’d be surprised if you knew some of them big shots, bankers and all from Shreveport and other places that came to take a look.”


What Burke was pointing to was a hole about six feet in diameter and now filled with water. It was here in the spring and summer of 1950 that a group, led by a man who claimed a “building” containing from 9 to 30 million dollars was located about 75 feet beneath this spot, undertook the mammoth “dig.”

He had his information from old waybills dating hack to 1853 and from his Bible.  More he would not tell for fear someone would “get smart.”

It took the group several months but they dug 75 feel down through cement-hard soil and did hit a solid substance, which the group’s leader said was the top of the “building.” Needing heavy machinery to tunnel to a ‘door” supposedly at one side of whatever had been hit, he tried in vain to get the financial backers. Bankers and contractors did look at the hole and listen to the story, but nobody put up the money.

After weeks of digging and pumping water from the hole, the group gave up the venture. However, it was quite obvious at the time that they were still convinced the treasure was there.


There have been no more large-scale diggings since 1950, but numerous persons hoping to find something of value in this scenic area still pock with holes the hill-sides and ravines.

If outlaw Murrell and others did hide their loot near old Camp Salubrity, they hid it well. Treasure hunters, however, are a persistent lot and the digging is likely to continue for at least another 100 years.






Singer Jim Croce, who died in plane crash in Natchitoches, “gave something to remember”

From The Shreveport Times, Natchitoches News Bureau, Sept. 22, 1973
From The Shreveport Times, Natchitoches News Bureau, Sept. 22, 1973

On Sept. 21, 1973, singer Jim Croce who had an outstanding diction, along with an entourage of five people, were killed after their chartered twin-engine Beechcraft plane crashed near the Natchitoches Municipal Airport.

Croce, who was just 30, had just one hour and 10 minutes earlier finished a concert at Northwestern State University and was headed out to perform next in Dallas.

According to Natkchitoches officials, the plane never gained much altitude.  One wing reported scraped the edge of a pecan tree near the then-new Hwy. 1 bypass.  The plane erolled over and burst apart upon impact with hte ground before coming to rest about 200 yards from the end of hte runway.  All passengers were killed instantly.

Croce’s body was found in the copilot’s seat.

Croce had been scheduled to stay overnight in Natchitoches and fly to Dallas the following day, but last minute changes in plans caused him to leave after the concert instead of the following day.

I came across the following article, from UPI (United Press International) News Services on Sept. 22, 1973.

NATCHITOCHES, La. —Jim Croce sat in a folding chair, relaxed and comfortable in his faded blue work shirt and jeans. softly strumming his guitar.

“I’ve flown about 700,000 or 800,000 miles just this past year.  I’m starting to feel it now, too.  You know, jet lag.”

Then he gave his last concert before 2,000 laughing and cheering students at Northwestern University’s Prather Coliseum.   An hour later, alter closing with “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” he was dead in the wreckage of an airplane

Rough-hewn, mustachioed, cigar-smoking, weather-beaten Jim Croce gave the students something to remember: music that was honest, sincere, old fashioned, but not slick and spoiled by success.

“I’m just going to keep on doing what I’m doing now,” was what he said in that last interview before going on one more time

He said he liked performing before college kids in the South, because, “East and West Coast audiences tend to have a ‘show me’ attitude.  He was in the middle of a fiv-week tour of one-night concerts in the Southwest.

“Operator,” one of his early hits, and his current big single, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” were the show stoppers.  When Croce finished with “Leroy Brown,” he just walked off the stage, leaving many students wondering if that was the end of the concert.  It was.

In his 35 minute performance, his new releases, “I Have Name’ and “I Fell in Love with a Roller Derby Queen,” were pleasers, too.  He mode the audience laugh when he told them he wrote “Derby Queen” after meeting a fat lady in a bar.

Croce died with his five-man troupe at Natchitoches Airport in the crash of the twin-engine airplane that was taking them to Austin College in Sherman, Texas.

Croce sang with his guitar in a spotlight standing at a microphone at center stage.  A few feet away, Comedian George Stevens proceeded Croce’s appearance, which began at 9 p.m. And ended at 9:35 p.m.

“In an industry filled with freak acts, Croce was a welcome and much needed change,” one student said.


Through the years: Crossing the Cane in Natchitoches, Louisiana


I rounded up a collection of photos of the Cane River bridge in the City of Natchitoches, Louisiana and in Natchitoches Parish.  Almost all the photos are from the Cammie G. Henry Collection, at the Northwestern State University Library.  I added dates to the photos where dates were available, and details where details were available.  Any input is welcome and appreciated on any of these photos.

Continue reading “Through the years: Crossing the Cane in Natchitoches, Louisiana”


A must visit if you like big old whales, high bluffs… Oh, and plenty of varied history too

I admit the following:  I recently visited the Grand Ecore Visitor Center in Natchitoches Parish primarily to see the big old whale skeleton and the super high bluff looking towards the Red River.

But I saw so much more.  Though the view and the big old whale definitely were my favorites.

Continue reading “A must visit if you like big old whales, high bluffs… Oh, and plenty of varied history too”


“The Best of the Bass Anglers”

imageWhile searching for something totally unrelated at the Sabine Parish Library, I came across rather fascinating articles on a local fisherman who apparently has been quite the celebrity in the fishing world.

The first article is from The Shreveport Times, entitled “The Quiet Champion” and dated June 2004; while the second is from Louisiana Conservationist, entitled “The Best of the Bass Anglers” and dated September 1981.


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Kisatchie Bayou

Kisatchie Bayou

Visitors to the Kisatchie Bayou Recreation Complex in Natchitoches Parish can enjoy scenic views of the rocky bayou surrounded by beautiful old growth hardwood and pine which gives this out-of-the-way recreation area such a wonderful setting for visitors. Hiking, camping with the best caravan from caravan dealers, picnicking, fishing, and just relaxing are all popular activities enjoyed here.

It is one of our favorite getaway places… so much to do and so incredibly beautiful.  There is a fee… I think it is like $2 or something really really cheap… we always put whatever we have in cash in the envelope… which is never less than $2 and never more than $20.  The fee is based on the honor system, so please contribute!

Here is some fun footage of the bayou we captured this past weekend:


Natchitoches promotional brochure from the 1950s or 60s

From 1950s or maybe 60s (I am unsure of the date it was published), promotional folding brochure for Natchitoches, Louisiana.  Click to enlarge the images.




Kisatchie School: “From a bygone area, a piece of rural culture, and a remnant of days gone by”

The old Kisatchie School as it is today, a remnant of days gone by

When the final bell rang at Kisatchie School in East Natchitoches Parish back in 1962, “a way of life and a way of education had come to an end,” according to Rickey Robertson, a local historian who has personal ties to the school (his mother was educated there and later became an educator herself for over three decades).

Continue reading “Kisatchie School: “From a bygone area, a piece of rural culture, and a remnant of days gone by””