Ed Mullard's Lost Spanish Cave of Jordan Meadows/Leechtown

by

R
.W. Nicholson

Ed Mullard's Lost Spanish Cave in the Jordan Meadows-Leechtown area of Vancouver Island is definitely one of the most interesting legends in British Columbia.  There are several stories describing the incredible treasures this mysterious cave is said to contain.  One of the earliest accounts of Mullard's discovery was published in the Sunday, September 21, 1969 edition of The Daily Colonist.  The Daily Colonist story is re-written below due to the lack of clarity in resizing the copies of the original newspaper article.  The original 1969 news story: Historical Reference Page.

The Daily Colonist
Sunday, September 21, 1969

Lost Tunnel of Leechtown
by
T.W. Paterson

Steps carved into a solid rock cliff, in the middle of a rain forest.  Rumors of a heavy bronze cannon seen in a Vancouver Island swamp.  Bloodchilling legends of a lost monastery and Spanish massacre.  A strange clearing in virgin timber, where nothing grows around an ancient cairn.  Bobbing white lights which "float" over a meadow, terrorizing hunters......

Are these the products of an unsound mind, or, at the very least, an overactive imagination?  Or are they fact?

The answer to this question would solve what must be one of the most intriguing tales of lost treasure in British Columbia history - and the key lies within 25 miles of Victoria!

The most important chapter of this story is quite well know locally, and began 10 years ago when former Colonist reporter Ted Harris heard a tantalizing story from a friend.  The friend told him of an old prospector named Ed Mullard, and, subsequently, Mr. Harris confirmed the fascinating details from Mr. Mullard himself.

Some time before - it is not recorded when - Mr. Mullard and a partner had been prospecting in the historic Jordan Meadows-Leechtown region.  Situated to the northwest of the onetime mining and logging camp, between the Jordan and Leech rivers, Jordan Meadows is a triangular quilt of trees, meadow and swamp.

Long ago, a family named Weeks, after whom Trout Lake was rechristened,  homesteaded here, but virtually all traces of their substantial home and outbuildings have disappeared.  Today only loggers, outdoorsmen and an occasional prospector visit this region, much of which floods in winter.

But to return to our story:  Late one afternoon, Mullard had left his partner to hunt deer.  Finding a fresh track, he followed his prey through the undergrowth.  Night descends  rapidly in autumn, however, and dusk ended the hunt prematurely.

Heading back to camp, Mullard elbowed his way though chest-high salal.  Suddenly, the prospector made a startling discovery - he was descending a staircase in the brush.  Shouldering aside the salal for a better view in the failing light, Mullard found himself facing an oblong hole in the cliffside.  

Upon peering into its murky depths, he could see another series of steps, seven in number.  Beyond was an arch and a rectangular gallery about 10 feet in length, and high enough for a man to stand upright (Mullard stood around six feet tall).

Overcome by curiosity, in the feeble glow of matches, Mullard inched along the silent passage, down the second staircase, and into the gallery.  At its far end, in the right wall, the scene was repeated: another arch, seven more steps and a second gallery.

Here, however, Mullard encountered water shin-deep.  Beyond the dancing pale of his match, he detected what appeared to be yet another gallery.  But instead of exploring further, he retreated to the entrance, memorized his location, and hastened back to camp.

He did not live to see the mystery shaft again, and, as far as is known, no other man has set eyes on it.

Reporter Harris had heard of Mullard's wondrous tale in April, 1959, and called on the prospector.  According to the Colonist account of 18 months later, "The old man told him (Harris) a great deal - perhaps more than he's told anyone else - and readily agreed to take Harris right to the spot."

Mullard and Harris made their pact in the spring of 1959 but, because of unsettled weather at this time of year, decided to wait until June.  A month before they were to go, Mullard died.

Which is where our mystery really thickens as, although Mullard told Harris more than he had told anyone else, he had not divulged the tunnel's exact location.

Upon hearing Harris' story, the Colonist had agreed to sponsor an official expedition, in the basis of seven clues which Harris had gleaned from his conversations with Mullard:

1.    The area was between Leechtown and Jordan Meadows;
2.    It is somewhere along a shorter route than the regular trail between the two, because Mullard spoke of a shortcut home;
3.    It is at the foot of a huge rock bluffs;
4.    It is on ground that isn't very steep, for the opening is almost horizontal;
5.    It is among heavy undergrowth on shallow soil, for it was overgrown although cut into granite;
6.    It is a substantial distance from Leechtown, for Mullard spoke of hoping to get to the site and out again in one day but being prepared for a
       two-day trip, just in case;
7.    It is in high country, for he mentioned it overlooking Jordan Meadows.

Using Mullard's seven clues and aerial survey photos, organizers narrowed down the target area to the southwest face of Survey Mountain.  This, because "the only rock bluffs (remembering Mullard's description) of any consequence" are to be found here.  "At the foot of the bluffs is a shoulder - at about the 2,700-foot level - roughly 100 to 200 yards wide and several miles long.

"All the clues point to the shaft being somewhere along this shoulder," wrote newsman John Jones.

That Remembrance Day weekend, representatives of the provincial museum, Colonist staff members, member of the provincial forest service, and volunteer university students began the arduous task of scouring Survey Mountain's southwest face.  Assisted by a helicopter from Vancouver Island Helicopters, and walkie-talkies, the dozen hunters had worked diligently for three days, until defeated by fog and the season's first snowfall.

As they ruefully noted, it would take an army to find anything in this rugged terrain.

Upon their return to Victoria, searchers had been in good spirits and optimistic.  However, despite talk of returning the following year, the hunt was never resumed.

As far as is known, the situation remains unchanged to this day.

Several years ago, this writer interviewed a close friend of the late Ed Mullard, to hear a fascinating tale of lost treasure and a "curse."

About a year after Mr. Mullard died, he said, Mrs. Mullard had informed him her husband had bequeathed him all his outdoor and mining gear.  When he examined his inheritance, he made some intriguing discoveries - discoveries which were to send him packing into Jordan Meadows time and again.

This is his story:

Unlike reporter Harris' information, he said, Mr. Mullard had not been alone on that momentous day, but had been accompanied by a man named McLaren.  Upon stumbling onto the steps, both men had peered curiously into the tunnel.  But only Mr. Mullard had had the courage to grope along the shaft, McLaren standing nervous watch at the entrance.  Perhaps the unholy circumstances of their discovery, or the waning daylight, slightly unnerved the partner.  Perhaps he simply maintained a healthy mistrust of tunnels and caves.  Whatever, when Mullard explored the strange steps and gallery, he was alone.

Encountering water, he had returned to the entrance, cut some saplings, splitting the ends.  Then, with these crude "chopsticks,"  he had returned to the shaft and groped about in the black waters.  Despite the awkwardness of his saplings, he had succeeded in snaring several relics of interest.

These items were found in Mr. Mullard's effects, along with instructions as to how to reach the tunnel.  Two of the recovered objects, shown this writer, were an old miner's pick and the head of a hammer, both hand-forged and badly corroded.

But far more interesting, was the third item which Mr. Mullard had retrieved from the shaft's flood floor - a small gold bar.  This I did not see.

According to Mr. Mullards friend, the ingot - "quite well made" - had measured approximately three inches long, one and one-quarter inches wide, and an inch thick.

He had since returned the bar to Mrs. Mullard, he said.

A last oddity recovered by Mr. Mullard had been some enormous, unidentified crystals.

Four days after Mr. Mullards amazing find, he was dead - according to this source.  As for McLaren, terrified by Mr. Mullard's sudden demise, and apparently connecting it with the evil tunnel, he had refused to discuss it with a soul, and, when continuously questioned, had left town.

Following Mr. Mullard's instructions, the friend had tried several times to locate the tunnel, succeeding only in finding one of the prospector's markers, the initials "EM" in a stump.

Asked why he was willing to disclose so much, he had replied: "Why not?  I've nothing to hide.  I don't give a damn who finds it."

And there the story rests today.  Rumors - growing wider with each telling - circulate the city, articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines, and interest in the mystery tunnel has spread throughout the northwest.  Yet if anyone is on the right track, or has succeeded in finding Mullard's tunnel, he isn't saying anything.

Some of the rumors even go beyond the ridiculous.  Such as the one told this writer - in all seriousness - of Communist Chinese agents making regular midnight trips in and out of the nearby Sooke Lake watershed, also reputed to have been visited by the Spanish.

As for the Spanish cannon, mentioned earlier, it has been a local legend for years.  Apparently, as the story goes, hunters have spotted it in the swamps of Jordan Meadows from time to time.  It would seem the meadows shift like the ocean sands, for no one ever sees it twice.

Then there are the stories of the white light which "followed" a hunter in the meadows.  We've heard several versions over the years.

The legends of the Spanish monastery are inspired by Sooke's Boneyard Lake, supposedly named after a massacre of Indians.  As with other rumors, it has little apparent support.

Yet another tale of an oft-spotted but never-plucked relic is that of a bronze tablet or plaque in the fork of a tree which has grown up around it.

Other reports are more credible - and as interesting.  One is the discovery of a "cave" on Survey Mountain's north side, in 1928.  The cavern is said to be "quite spacious" and deep.  The finding of a "Stores" cigarette package indicated it had been explored earlier.  Would this cave have any connection with Mr. Mullard's story?

Somewhat further afield, but of interest nonetheless, is the finding of a rusted cutlass near the Sooke Potholes, some years ago.  When interviewed in March 1967, its owner said he couldn't remember the details of his find beyond the fact it had been lying in deep grass, about a mile from the potholes.

The pitted blade is two feet long, curved, and 1 1/4 inches at its widest point.  No trace of the handle's covering remains.  Despite its obvious age, and indicated exposure in Sooke grass, it is in good shape.  One of the more interesting features is the fact the handle is too small for the "modern" male hand.  A glance through reference books in the library would date the weapon at the late 18th century;  it answers the description of both Spanish and British naval issue of this period.

Finally, the clearing where nothing grows around a cairn.  The story dates back to the summer of 1930, when two men were "kind of prowling around" near Sooke Lake.  Deciding to seek refuge from the blazing sun, they had pushed through undergrowth until one, ahead of his partner, had entered a clearing approximately 30 feet by 15.

He later described the clearing as a "bald patch on the ground, with not even a blade of grass growing on it."  At its far end was a strange monument of flat stones, piled atop each other.

Upon investigating, he found, resting on the top of the cairn, "the bones of some animal, which I thought then, and do now, that they were the bones of a horse.

"But what struck me as very peculiar was the fact that the horse seemed to have been killed in such a way that its body would fall right across the cairn."

In the very centre of the clearing, he had found a squat bottle, "five or six inches" tall.  On the bottom were the figures, 1670.  The bottle appeared to have been hand-blown.  Believing it to be very old, and possibly valuable, his partner had volunteered to sell it and share the proceeds.  "But where my partner went (with the weird bottle) I have not the slightest knowledge."

Was "1670" a date?  What of a clearing in which nothing grew?  Does it have any relation to Mullard's tunnel?

The rumors go on.  All are tempting, few can be verified.  We asked one man, who has done considerable research into the subject, including several field trips, if he really believed Mr. Mullard's tale.  He had replied, "Where there's all that smoke, there just has to be some fire."

Do any of the members of the 1960 Colonist expedition still believe the story?  One, at least, does.  Some time after the news stories had appeared, he said, he had been contacted by a Saskatchewan dentist.

Years ago, the dentist told him, he had known a man on the Prairies, who had talked of a strange tunnel with steps carved into a mountain on Vancouver Island.  From it, the man had said, he had recovered several Chinese artifacts, which he had sold to a Victoria second-hand dealer.  A check of old city directories had disclosed that, yes, there had been such a dealer in Victoria at that time.

Which opens up a whole new realm of conjuncture.  


Other stories written about the Mullard cave suggests that it conceals a fortune in Spanish gold and other priceless artifacts.  According to these accounts, the main gallery contains two separate piles of gold ingots.  Each of these piles is stacked in the shape of a pyramid.  Each golden pyramid measures approximately 2 feet by 2 feet by 3 feet in length.  The other galleries house a multitude of 19 inch tall gold Madonna statues.  Scattered throughout the tunnel system are countless Spanish artifacts as well as numerous skeletal remains wearing Spanish armor. 

According to several sources,  the B.C. Ministry of Mines had one of the Spanish gold ingots from Mullard's cave on display in their Mineral Titles display.  These sources adamantly maintain that the Ministry of Mines removed the display from public viewing in the 1980's.  The Spanish ingot is described as being about one inch thick, two inches wide and four inches long.  In the center of the ingot there is circle approximately one inch in diameter with a cross in the center.  The ingots were labeled, 70% Au, 10% Ag, 20% Cu.

In January 2012, I contacted the B.C. Ministry of Mines in Victoria to inquire about the display and request information about Ed Mullard.  The Ministry of Mines informed me that they have no record of Ed Mullard or any knowledge of any Spanish ingots having been in their Mineral Titles display.

Why there is a discrepancy between the people who claim to have seen Mullard's Spanish ingot on display and the B.C. Ministry of Mines is unknown.

What may be in, or have been in, the cave Ed Mullard discovered near the Jordan Meadows-Leechtown area of Vancouver Island may never be known.  According to the Daily Colonist story, Mr. Mullard took at least one gold ingot from the cave.  It is reasonable to assume, under the circumstances, that Mr. Mullard probably removed as many ingots as he possibly could at the time.   Where these Spanish ingots and any related artifacts may have ended up is anyone's guess at this point in time.

Mr. Ed Mullard died very suddenly shortly after he made his incredible discovery.  The B.C. Provincial Archives, Genealogy Index, lists Edward Mullard as being 56 years old at the time of his death on June 18, 1959.  Reg. Number: 1959-09-007340.  Microfilm Number:  B13242 (GSU#2033299).

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