May 27, 2024

Victorio Peak Cross and Soldier’s Hole

This quick article discusses a couple of interesting topics related to Doc Noss and Victorio Peak that may be less well-known. Both topics are supported by data from a man who worked at WSMR back before it was even called that, and who has spent plenty of time in his life following this particular mystery. He’s actually been back to Hembrillo basin recently, but of course was not allowed to stomp around or poke at anything, just stick to the roads with his guide and take advantage of an old soldier’s privilege.

The first topic is of the apparent Christian cross marking on a rock spire high up the peak. Shown in the image below, the cross mark could be sort of pecked-in, or could be the result of staining from an actual cross hanging there for a great many years. This latter theory put forth by the old soldier is supported by the apparent hole for a peg upon which to hang the cross, which can be seen in the image, and which he reports to have been very smoothly-made.

Cross symbol chiseled or as a result of weathering on a hung symbol located on a high spire on Victorio peak.

Finding places where iron materials have lain on rock and left stains and outlines is a fairly common thing to encounter, if you have the eye. This picture seems to represent some other form of weathering, if indeed the symbol is the result of a cross object which was hung from the peg-hole above it for many years. It is not know what sort of weathering pattern a silver cross might make, since the occurrence of one hung outside for long enough to leave an outline on limestone is probably extremely rare.

The gentleman who took the cross picture also has a different take on the whole Fiege polygraph/lie detector thing. If this man were a liar, he’d make up much more interesting stories. Instead, he’s a bit of a pragmatist, and known to shoot down ideas as or more often than supporting them. In any event, take it for what it’s worth, but here is a direct quote from him in a recent email prompted over the course of our dinner conversation:


“Capt. Fiege and Thomas Berlett said they found the gold in 11/58…..At the F. Lee Baily dig in the 70’s <name removed> witnessed Fiege identify the cave where it was and declared it was now gone…..I and others had carefully examined that cave in the fall 1956 and there was no gold there then…

The corp. formed was called the “Seven Heirs”  Capt. Leonard Fiege, Thomas Berlett, Ken Prather, Milleadge Wessel,,,followed by….Holloman AFB Deputy Commander Col. Ralph S. Gorman, Lt. Col. Sigmund Gasiewicz, and Holloman Staff Judge Advocate Col. Edward Rice of the SAI office.

The polygraph was administered by James McNevin 9/5/61 at Holloman AFB for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations…

I think it is reasonable to assume that the Deputy Commander and the Judge Advocate would have held some influence over McNevin

I still think it was all a ruse to get permission to search, thinking they could find it given time….”


So, this old soldier was in the very same hole a year or so before Fiege and Berlett, and saw nothing but an empty cave. His life-long hunting buddy, referred to above as <name removed>, was there when Fiege pointed out in exactly which hole he saw the gold bars. And, there seems to be a serious conflict of interest in the parties in control of the polygraph examination.

This soldier’s name is in one of the caves on the peak, too, but that piece of data is not written down within reach at the moment. Another thing that may be less well-known is the existence of an old cannon that used to be perched high on a ledge above one of the access roads into the basin. Whether it was from the US Cavalry battle with the Apaches there, or is from a much older conflict with the colonial Spanish, we may never know. For sure, it was real enough to go and attempt to recover at one point by the intrepid duo who have so much to report about the 50’s-70’s basin activity, but upon arriving to set up their rope and harnesses to recover it, the cannon was nowhere to be seen. Getting there second is apparently equally bad as getting there fifth or twentieth…


UPDATE: Some additional information after the informant saw the article:

“….you might also mention that the first time I saw the cross back in 1956 the hole had a wood peg in it with a metal ring inserted in it which caused us at the time, to conclude it was there to hoist something up and hang it there, we believed at the time it was an iron cross that hung there and caused the stain…..the fellows at the time in 1956 who were with me were an electrical engineer and the other a mechanical engineer….in the 1990’s one of the Noss family said he had seen it when the plug and ring were still there….there is no doubt the hole was directly above the center of the cross….”



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