Real Name: Robert Wallace "Wally" Spencer
Case: Harassment, Treasure
Date: June 1989
Location: Superstition Mountains, Nevada
Details: In 1927, a prospector named Earl Dorr drove deep into the Nevada desert. He had heard of an old Indian legend about a secret cavern that led to a river filled with gold nuggets. Eventually, he and a fellow prospector found the opening described in the legend. They descended over 3000 feet into a murky subterranean canyon. At the bottom, they found the legendary river. For four days, they searched along eight miles of the river. He claimed that the sands around the river brought out 100 ounces of gold per cubic yard. This would today be worth $1500 a bucket.
Earl had a problem, however. Someone else owned the land where the cavern entrance was located. Believing that he could find another way in, he decided to dynamite the original opening. However, he was never able to find another entrance. Over the next fifty years, many would come to the area in an attempt to find the gold-filled river. However, no evidence of the river could be found.
During the 1980s, however, the space shuttle program brought new clues. Clearer photographs of the Nevada desert were taken. These photos came to the attention of rocket scientist Wally Spencer. When examining the photographs, he noticed what appeared to be an ancient river channel going straight through the desert. He believes that plants surrounded the river millions of years ago. He also believes that these plants would have since decomposed into black gold or crude oil.
He modified a prospecting device on the basis that a below-surface liquid will block the natural radiation that the Earth emits. He hoped that he could find the oil with this device. In June of 1989, he put his device to the test. For three weeks, he waited for the device to react. When he got a reaction from the device, he first believed that he had found the oil. However, he now believes that he instead found an underground river, possibly the one described by Earl Dorr.
He estimated that the river flowed at an incredible seventeen billion gallons per day. He soon became involved in a bureaucratic dispute with state officials. Nevada law required that anyone drilling for water must apply for a permit. This meant that Wally would have to reveal the location of the river. Before doing so, he asked state officials if he could receive a finder's fee. However, they said that they could not promise him anything.
Wally and his wife believed that people were trying to find out the location of their river. They hired two experts to scan their home for electronic bugs. One sensor picked up a bug on the phone line. They also found a high-tech listening device behind a picture frame in the living room. The Spencers are convinced that the devices were placed in their home so that others could find the location of the secret river.
Some, however, suspect that Wally does not even have any information that is worth stealing. They believe that Wally does not know where this river is located. Wally's family, friends, and co-workers are convinced that he is telling the truth. Despite the eavesdropping and skepticism, Wally continues to search for the exact location of the river.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the October 13, 1993 episode.
Results: Unsolved. Wally Spencer passed away in 2003, but his family are still searching for the underground river. His wife has filed sixteen water rights applications, which are still pending.
- Quenching the thirst of the West
- Has Rocket Engineer Really Found A River?
- Does the river run through here?
- Obituary for Wally Spencer
- Wallace Spencer at Find a Grave