Swindling swami’s ‘treasure’ island for sale, conclusion

Not surprisingly, the vault was empty as per its inscription: “For fools and traitors — nothing.”

Not surprisingly, the vault was empty as per its inscription: “For fools and traitors — nothing.”

DeCourcy Island Farm, home of the infamous Brother XII’s Aquarian Foundation in the 1920s, has been listed for sale. For a mere $2.19 million, the 42-hectare property comes with a great story of voodoo, violence, and, perhaps, as much as half a million dollars in hidden gold!

So, what about the stories of Brother XII’s treasure? All authorities are agreed that Wilson took his disciples for an expensive ride, arguing only as to the total which, of course, is impossible to determine at this late date. But the record shows that his success as a swindler was nothing short of phenomenal, the late Bruce McKelvie, veteran journalist and historian being convinced that Brother XII “bilked his followers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars”.

“All this money,” he explained to an intent audience in 1933, “was converted into gold when possible, and if not gold then into one or two dollar bills. The gold was placed in jars and covered with melted wax, the jar was then placed inside a wooden box. It is known that at least 43 of these were constructed”! Alas for treasure hunters, McKelvie was convinced that Brother XII and his mistress Madame Zee “fled with all the money and his boxes of gold.”

The late Cecil Clark, author, historian and retired deputy-commissioner of the B.C. Provincial Police, once estimated Brother XII’s hoard to have been something less than half a million dollars: “As Wilson continued to bank the individual freewill offerings (ranging occasionally between $10,000 and $20,000), he found himself the custodian of a hatful of money. Someone once figured it to be about $400,000.” Clark also mentioned that a later owner of the swami’s yacht, repaired after Wilson’s unsuccessful attempt to scuttle her, thought the gold could be hidden in the yacht’s concrete ballast. He eagerly smashed the blocks open. But no gold.

Again, in 1964, Clark mused: “How much loot did Wilson duck out with? It’s a good question, and I put it to one of the faithful right after the event. He figured the island treasury once held about $400,000… One old chap called Barley, an English chemical engineer…claimed that Brother XII had him make about 40 cedar boxes to hold the cash, and told how they used to be moved periodically from one hiding place to another on the island, usually in the dead of night…

“One thing is sure, there was a bundle of money, for some contributions ran as high as $10,000 from people who’d never seen him.”

At least two of Brother XII’s hiding places are known today. One, a vault built into the concrete floor of the colony’s school house which never knew a pupil and is now a barn, is sealed by a concrete block with an iron ring. It was re-examined by Mr. Clark during a visit to the mysterious island in 1964. He found it empty, of course. Another witness mentions its inscription: “For fools and traitors — nothing.”

A third writer believes that Brother XII enjoyed his treasure in exile, leaving upon his death, $250,000 “in a Swiss bank”.

A fourth researcher agrees with Clark, putting Brother XII’s fortune at $400,000 in one and two dollar bills and in “pure gold”. This author states that, when police searched DeCourcy Island for its vanished guru, they found “a great many holes where the jam jars of gold had been buried”. The number of jars he generously placed at — I quote — 10,000!

(I leave it to readers to imagine how Wilson managed to dig them all up with the police on the way.)

Yet another account states that Wilson, as Julian Skottowe, died virtually penniless in Switzerland, this writer concluding: “What happened to his half million dollars in gold has never been discovered but it is felt that Madame Zee, wherever she is, may have the answer to that question.”

All of which would suggest, rather conclusively, that Brother XII had a mint in $20 gold pieces and small bills, but successfully skipped the country with fortune intact. Did he, in fact, take all of it with him? Although his last, vicious act of dynamiting his colony would seem to indicate otherwise, he and his wicked paramour were forced to leave in a hurry on his sea-going tug. And, contrary to some versions, he and Zee had finally run out of deluded followers. If he did load all his 40-odd boxes of golden preserves (the bulk and weight of which can be imagined) on board the tug he did it with only Zee’s help.

Which brings up another point: The existence of two secret vaults is known today. Also, firsthand reports of Brother XII’s penchant for shifting his fortune about at night, and references to his burying it about the islands at several sites known only to himself (and, possibly, Madame Zee).

And, remember, the ill-starred Aquarian Foundation was scattered over several islands, comprising hundreds of acres. Is it unreasonable to conclude that at least some of his vast hoard had to be left under such pressing circumstances?

As a final clue to the existence of Brother XII’s hoard, I suggest Canada’s Fall Prophet, published by Simon and Schuster of Canada. Written by Herbert Emerson Wilson, none other than brother of Edward Arthur Wilson, this fascinating paperback documents Brother XII’s outrageous career from boyhood to death (not, according to this source, in Switzerland), and offers previously unpublished information. The book’s accuracy is highly suspect but highly readable. If you’re impatient, turn to the last page and read about a treasure buried in a lonely spot on a quiet island in British Columbia’s Strait of Georgia. You may find it rewarding!