The Lost Treasure of Phoencia

In my opinion, lately the quantity and variety of good old-fashioned York Stater folklore has declined greatly on this site, so I thought it was time to jump start with something new. So, in lieu of our usual tales of haunted cemeteries (like this one and this one) and unique recipes, I would like to pass on a legend of a fantastic treasure buried in the rolling foothills of the Catskills.

The story begins in 1935, when the legendary mobster
Dutch Schultz—fleeing a prison sentence for tax evasion—along with his flunkie Lulu Rosenkrantz, brought his fortune in a metal box north from New York City. They buried it under a tree (which they marked with an ‘X’) next to the Esopus Creek in Phoencia [map]. The exact nature of the treasure varies, from $5 million to $9 million; some say that it was all in hard cash, others say it was a mixture of cash, gold and jewels. [1]

Schultz was a legendary racketeer, bootlegger and mob boss famous for his brutality: “Enemies often ended up dead, one hung by his thumbs on a meat hook.” [
Schultz's success -- and probably his talent for making headlines -- caught the attention of prosecutor Thomas Dewey, the future New York governor and Republican presidential nominee. Mob historians believe that by 1935, Schultz wanted Dewey killed. But New York City's other crime lords, uncomfortable with murdering the high-profile lawman, decided instead to get rid of Schultz. Assassins were dispatched to the Palace Chophouse in Newark, N.J., the night of Oct. 23, 1935. As his henchmen were sprayed with gunfire at a table, Schultz was plugged in the bathroom with a rusty .45 bullet. [2]
Despite being shot in the spleen, stomach, colon and liver, Dutch lived for another 24 hours. In a Manhattan hospital, the feverish gangster babbled strange phrases (that is a link to the transcription), which were dutifully recorded by a police stenographer:

Oh, mama, mama, mama . . .I am a pretty good pretzler. . .How many shots were fired at me?. . . John, please, did you buy me the hotel for a million?. . .I'll get you the cash out of the box. . .there's enough in it to buy four-five more. . .You can play jacks and girls do that with a soft ball and do tricks with. . .Lulu, drive me back to Phoenicia. . .Don't be a dope Lulu, we better get those Liberty bonds out of the box and cash `em. . .sure it was Danny's mistake to buy `em and I think they can be traced. . .Danny please get me in the car. . .Kindly take my shoes off, they're not off. . .there's handcuffs on `em . . . Wonder who owns these woods?. . .he'll never know what's hidden in `em. . .My gilt-edge stuff and those rats have tuned in. . .What did that guy shoot me for? [1]

Since then, the legend of Dutch Schultz’s treasure has become something of a local (and beyond) passion in Phoencia. People search the woods with everything from metal detectors to backhoes, some referencing maps, others combing Dutch’s ramblings and the enigmatic statements of his fellow mobsters for clues. There has even been a film made about it: Digging for Dutch. In many ways, the search for Dutch has become a part of the identity and pride of this little town deep in the mountains—which is perhaps worth more than anything Dutch left behind.[3]

-By Jesse

[1] “Dutch Schultz and his lost Catskills Treasure” from Purple Mountain Press
[2] “
Did mobster Dutch Schultz bury millions?” from the Chicago New Times, July 17th, 2005 by Michael Hill.
[3] “
Eye For Film: Digging for Dutch” and “Dutch Schultz’s Millions


Anonymous said...

He never said those things, did he?

Doesn't the booklet cited in turn cite treasure writer Schurmacher who inserted those sentences? Isn't the authoritative transcript published in the New York Times, October 26, 1935, which makes no mention of Phoenicia, though it does seem to have Dutch discussing the cache. He left the Hotel Stratfield in Bridgeport (not NYC) on August 7, 1935 at 11 p.m. and slept late the next day. (see news article on Aug. 8 and Aug 9).

Gary Grieger said...

Descendant of "East WestDingerdissen" who testified at Dutch's trial - would love to hear more information GBGrieger@aol.com

Gary Grieger said...

my grandfather testified at the trial in new york as "east west
dingerdissen. Can anyone tell me more? gary