What Men Call Treasure:
The Search for Gold at Victorio Peak
"This book’s truth is not about gold, but a tale (history, fiction, philosophy, and authorial intervention). That is why the book’s incomplete title (What men call treasure ... the gods call dross) is so poignant: It is the story, in all its complications, winding paths, claustrophobia, and sometimes frustrating dead ends, that is the true wealth." —San Antonio Current
"Delonas’s hunt makes for a sometimes quirky, always entertaining tale, full of strange characters, government intervention, and no small number of mistakes." —ForeWord Magazine
"A saga of discovery, lost treasure, and phenomenally questionable acts of the U.S. Government, What Men Call Treasure is a fascinating true story of lost mysteries, doubly remarkable in today's modern era when most corners of the earth have been thoroughly explored." —Midwest Book Review
"This wide-ranging book zigzags through time to tell the story of one man's fanatical belief in buried gold…What Men Call Treasure is highly readable and puts treasure hunting at a personal level, including numerous period photographs." —San Antonio Express-News
"You don’t have to be a treasure hunter to enjoy this book. You just have to appreciate fresh narrative technique and two fiction writers daring enough to tackle a true story that has no beginning and no end." —Chamber Four
"Starting with a nod to Treasure Island, and winding down with a nod to Odysseus, this book is filled with enough pitfalls and promises to make any would-be treasure-seeking throw down their shovel and give up the hunt." —El Paso Scene
Photo: Benny Sanmaniego is pictured in armor Doc Noss claimed to have taken from the treasure trove deep within Victorio Peak.
Robert Boswell and David Schweidel spent more than a decade researching and writing a book about Victorio Peak. Some of the research was done on their bellies, crawling through a network of caves inside the mountain. The story of Doc and Babe Noss is one of the wildest treasure stories in the Southwest.
Victorio Peak stands in the middle of the Jornada del Muerto, loosely translated as Dead Man’s Trail. From the sixteenth century to the nineteenth, the Jornada was the deadliest stretch of the El Camino Real, the principal route from Mexico City to Santa Fe. For more than four hundred years, virtually every trading caravan between Old Mexico and New risked falling prey to the Jornada’s brutal heat, dry water holes, roving Apaches.
The peak takes its name from the Apache chief Victorio, who defeated the U.S. Cavalry in a battle fought near the peak in 1880. Treasure enthusiasts speculate that Victorio was protecting a hoard of gold and jewels hidden within the mountain, the plunder accumulated from centuries of Apache raiding.
In November of 1937, unlicensed foot doctor Doc Noss found his way inside Victorio Peak. Over the course of several visits, Doc ventured down a succession of narrow walkways, squeezing through bottlenecks and fording an underground stream. Eventually, he discovered a series of small, linked caves and one large cavern that purportedly contained a treasure of fabulous proportions. The system of caves, according to Doc and Babe, held Spanish armor, statues of saints, swords, a crown, a chest of jewelry, twenty-seven skeletons, and an estimated 16,000 gold bars of various types, from primitively smelted cigar-shaped bars to uniform gold bricks stacked in boxes stamped with the Wells Fargo imprint. Eyewitnesses have since signed sworn statements declaring that they saw Doc Noss bring gold bars and other artifacts out of Victorio Peak. One witness claims to have gone with Doc into the treasure room.
Doc and Babe and their crew in 1941.
The story of Doc and Babe includes the assassination of Doc Noss by the coward Charley Ryan.
Doc Noss was shot from behind by Ryan after an agreement about gold bars went south. At the murder trial, Ryan defended himself by arguing that Doc Noss was heading for his truck, and everyone knew that Doc kept a gun in his truck. Ryan was acquitted.
This photograph of Doc's body ran in the newspaper.