Steal the Declaration of Independence—check. Kidnap the President of the United States—check. Uncover countless historical artifacts and treasures while restoring the family name and legacy—double check. So, what’s Ben Gates going to do next?
Late last week, The Hollywood Reporter casually confirmed news of a third National Treasure film in a report announcing Bad Boys 4. The article confirms Bad Boys for Life writer Chris Bremner is writing the third installment in the National Treasure franchise. However, Disney hasn’t confirmed any other details about the film.
It goes without saying that the excitement for National Treasure 3 hinges on the return of Nicolas Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates: historian, cryptologist, and treasure protector. And, of course, Justin Bartha and Diane Kruger as his trusted associates, Riley Poole and Dr. Abigail Chase. Assuming the lead trio is prepared for another dangerous (by Disney standards) romp through conspiratorial history, fans are eagerly anticipating a third National Treasure film.
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In National Treasure, Ben Gates found the Templar Treasure, following clues hidden by the Freeman Founding Fathers in the nation’s most revered artifacts, proving a generations-old family lore to be true. In the 2007 sequel, he absolved his ancestor from accusations of participating in the Lincoln assassination plot and discovered more treasure—with a minor Presidential kidnapping and rendezvous with a secret president book, for good measure.
The National Treasure franchise lives and dies by its use of real historical moments and figures and tossing in bit of secret society action and a healthy dose of conspiracy theory. With another National Treasure film on the horizon, Disney still has a rich and messy U.S. history to delve into. Here are just a few of the eras, figures, and missing artifacts National Treasure 3 could incorporate into the franchise’s latest treasure hunt.
The British successfully established a presence in the New World in 1607 with the Jamestown colony. But the Virginia colony was hardly the first attempt at a settlement across the Atlantic. Sir Walter Raleigh twice attempted to establish a colony on Roanoke Island—in 1585 and 1587—the latter of which famously vanished by 1590, with the fates of over 100 settlers unknown.
Colonists investigated the disappearance on and off for a hundred years after the discovery of the abandoned site, and it has remained of interest to researchers for centuries. We still don’t formally know if Roanoke colonists successfully relocated to Croatoan Island (Hatteras Island), assimilated into a nearly Native American tribe, or were massacred. But if anyone can discover what became of the settlers—and its ties to a fictional conspiracy—it’s Ben Gates.
Skull and Bones Society
The most famous of the college secret societies in the U.S. this Yale group has produced generations of politicians (including several presidents), leading scientists, bankers, and lawyers. Of course, a famed secret society known for producing U.S. leaders is ripe for conspiracy theories, most notably that it’s part of the Illuminati.
Ben Gates famously holds degrees from Georgetown and MIT, so he’s not a Bonesman. However, the Gates’ ties to America run deep so it wouldn’t be too big of a stretch to assume at least one of his ancestors was a Bonesman and left a cache of secret letters at his disposal.
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California Gold Rush
The California Gold Rush kicked off in 1848, after carpenter James Marshall discovered gold flakes while building a sawmill for John Sutter in the own of Coloma. Around the same time, California (and most of the southwest) became U.S. territory. Within a year of the Sutter Mill discovery, word spread and thousands of people flocked west, vying for their own shot at finding wealth.
The Gold Rush was a complicated and messy time in U.S. history. The general lawlessness of the territory brought death, destruction, and racism—not to mention the mass murder and displacement of the indigenous population. It’s an era of U.S. history most Americans know a little bit about but is vast enough for Ben Gates and company to explore, bringing just a touch fiction.
Thomas Beale Papers
An alleged missing treasure whose origins can be traced back to a mysterious 1885 pamphlet already feels like it was ripped from the Disney franchise. However, it is a very real legend that goes as such: In the early 1820s, an explorer named Thomas Beale and a group of companions stumbled across a trove of treasures in New Mexico, and transported and buried it in Bedford County, Virginia.
To protect the treasure, he drew up three ciphers: one containing the treasure’s location; a second containing an itemized list of the treasure; and the names of the men claiming ownership of the treasure and their next of kin. Beale allegedly entrusted innkeeper Robert Morriss with the ciphers.
Decades later, Morriss unsuccessfully attempted to break the codes, ultimately passing it along to a friend. The three ciphers were published as part of the pamphlet and to this day, only the cipher containing the treasure’s contents has been revealed. The validity of the missing treasure is widely disputed, with many cryptographers and linguists casting doubt on the pamphlet and ciphers being anything other than a work of fiction.
Twin Sisters Cannons
The cannons haven’t been formally spotted since the 1930s, but they are deeply ingrained in Texas history. In the midst of the Texas Revolution, citizens of Cincinnati gifted the Texan fighters a pair of cannons. The Twin Sisters were used in the Battle of San Jacinto, of which they helped secure a Texas victory. The post-war fate of the cannons remains unknown.
Some believe the sisters were used in battle during the Civil War but were buried to avoid falling into the hands of the Union Army. Others believe the cannons were simply lost after the war. Despite numerous searches in the 150-plus years since their disappearance, the Twin Sisters remain lost.
As such, the fate of the missing 19th Century cannons is right up National Treasure‘s alley. While we can’t imagine the pair of cannons being the final treasure, their discovery would be in line with helping Ben and company solve an even greater mystery.
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I mean, who could ever forget. But according to legend, the San Antonio mission wasn’t just the site of the pivotal Texas Revolution battle, in which nearly all of the Texan forces were killed—including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie. To some, it’s also home to lost treasure. Prior to joining up with Texan forces, Bowie led two expeditions in the search for the Los Almagres (or San Baba) mine.
While it’s believed Bowie was unsuccessful in both expeditions, legend has it that he did find the treasure, hiding it deep within the confines of the Alamo. Despite many efforts, no trace of the treasure has ever been found. However, it would make for a fitting twist for the already mythicized battle site and its famed defenders.
Founding Fathers (again)
As countless biographies, and even a beloved musical has taught us, the Founding Fathers were an often shifty, scheming lot. National Treasure already established that the masonic Founding Fathers secretly had their hand in a lot of history. Far beyond their non-conspiratorial feats.
It would be an exciting return to form to revisit this era, if only as a jumping off point for another great mystery. Because let’s face it, after watching National Treasure, it’s impossible to not think about what else the founders were secretly up to as they shaped the United States.
Feature Image: Walt Disney Pictures