A man hoping to find a treasure trove of lost gold died after falling into the deep pit he dug while his assistant stood helplessly by watching the tragedy unfold.
João Pimenta, 71, was so sure that there was a cache of gold hidden beneath his home in Minas Gerais, Brazil, that he had a 130-foot-deep hole dug in the floor of his kitchen.
For comparison, 130 feet is about the height of a 12-story building.
Pimenta became obsessed over the idea that there was gold hidden under his home after being visited in a dream by voices that told him where to look, according to All That’s Interesting, a website that focuses on offbeat news from “the lesser-known byways of human history to the uncharted corners of today’s world.”
“João had spent more than a year digging the hole and hired many people to do the excavating work,” neighbor Arnaldo da Silva told Brazilian media outlet O Globo Brasil, according to All That’s Interesting.
Pimenta reportedly began his excavation project in late 2022 or early 2023 after telling friends and family that a “spirit” had convinced him that the treasure was hidden under his home, All that’s Interesting reported. Minas Gerais, in western Brazil, is a Brazilian state rich in mineral resources, though its gold has been mined out for centuries, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
The homeowner began the project himself, but soon it got too involved for him to conduct alone and he began to hire workers to come in and continue the treasure hunt dig.
“He began by paying 70 Brazilian Reais (roughly $15) a day when the hole was still shallow but the deeper he went, the more the costs went up,” da Silva explained to O Globo, according to All That’s Interesting.
Da Silva added that Pimenta sold many of his private possessions to get the money to pay the diggers, including his other real estate holdings.
“He ended up paying around [$100] to anyone who entered the hole and helped to remove earth,” the neighbor said.
At one point, Pimenta hit upon a large rock that blocked his downward tunneling and reportedly began asking around for a way to get a hold of dynamite to blast the rock away.
Despite people urging him to quit digging and give up his quest for gold, Pimenta and his assistant Antonio Wilson Costa continued the work.
But ultimately, tragedy struck.
Pimenta was using what authorities have deemed a repurposed swing for children to raise and lower himself into the pit to remove dirt, rocks and debris.
But, on Jan. 5, when he was trying to exit the pit, he apparently slipped on a wooden plank, lost his balance, and then plunged legs first down into the monstrous hole he created.
The treasure hunter’s friend, Costa, could only watch in shock as Pimenta dropped into the hole.
Authorities said that when they reached his body, they found he had shattered both legs and suffered multiple severe head injuries, The Messenger reported.
During their investigation, officials marveled at Pimenta’s craftsmanship in digging the hole. Despite using hand-held instruments and without heavy machinery, his pit was a well-constructed piece of work, they said. And they imagined that Pimenta had some sort of experience in excavating, though no evidence of that supposition was presented.
“This tunnel looks like something alien, with the perfection with which he dug it: very small diameter, very perfect cylinder, 40m deep. We found compressors, specific jackhammers used for tunnel digging,” said Luís Filipe de Miranda, a 2nd sergeant with the Minas Gerais Fire Brigade, according to All That’s Interesting. “It’s a science to get down. Very complicated, but he had experience. We don’t know what he did in this regard.”
In the end, it was all a fruitless and costly obsession that ended up driving the man to his untimely death.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.