A team of four B.C. explorers Taylor Starr; Don Froese; Adam Palmer, a mountaineer; and Kru Williams, a prospector, have come together to achieve what has remained unachievable so far: find a certain lost gold mine.
All that the explorers have to rely on is a century-old legend about a certain Indigenous man called Slumach.
Slumach was a Katzie First Nations man who came to New Westminster from Pitt Lake every year in the 1800s with bags of gold, “flaunting his wealth,” as mentioned in the trailer of the series Deadman’s Curse that documents the explorers’ journey.
But in 1891, he got convicted for a murder, and was hanged in New Westminster. When standing in the gallows awaiting his death, Slumach is believed to have said something along the lines: 'when he dies, the mine dies'.
This, over the years, has been believed to be a curse that has cost the lives of those who dared to go looking for Slumach’s gold mine.
“There is definitely something out there, otherwise, there'd be no legend,” said Starr, who is Slumach’s great great-grandniece.
“There's definitely a gold mine, and there's definitely a curse that we have to be aware of. We have to take the appropriate measures to protect ourselves as we walk into these areas,” said Starr’s dad, Froese.
Froese was referring to the “huge areas” and “all the land and water” upto Bute inlet, all the way to Pitt Lake, and in between. Several prospectors walked the same paths in the 1800s and never returned, said Froese.
About 30 people have gone missing in the attempt to find the gold, as mentioned in the series.
“We're not sure that they were killed. Part of our exploration is to find what happened to them.” Did they just disappear, go into hiding? Or were they taken down by a predator or other human beings? — he wonders.
Froese and Starr were approached for filming the show two years ago; ever since, said Starr, “It's been a blast. I've really loved it.”
Added Froese, “It's been real… it's been more than real. It's been eye opening to see, and to go where a lot of people once walked like hundreds and hundreds of years ago, thousands of years ago. These places that we go to are still virtually untouched.”
“We've had a couple of close calls,” he added. “Recently, after putting in like a 14-hour day (filming), we were met by a cougar that was stalking one of the field crew.”
The experience taught them to be extra vigilant about their whereabouts. Added Starr, “You gotta keep some seriousness to it, in a sense, because there's lots of stuff out there that could potentially harm you or even kill you.”
Said Froese, “Between the cougars, bugs, weather systems, hurting feet and hurting bodies, it's definitely not a place where anybody can go, but it also gives us a lot of respect for those that have gone before us” — one of whom was Starr’s ancestor, Slumach.
Though Starr is the great great-grandniece of Slumach, she said, “I heard nothing growing up. We learned about Slumach just a couple years ago. And that's what started the whole ‘I want to know who's Slumach, and why didn't I hear about him from my family?’”
She took a deep dive into Slumach’s history, looking at “newspaper clippings, archives, Google. Talking to historians who have been researching Slumach, who he was, what was the legend for the past years.”
“I've been checking off all the boxes to see which information is consistent, which one is most true,” she said.
Meanwhile, Froese said, “I have been spending as much time as I can with the elders and researching a lot of our oral history. Find out as much about this person as possible.”
While Slumach has been portrayed as a villain and criminal in all past reports, said Froese, “We have heard other stories that are positive from oral history, through the elders.”
As far as the gold mine is concerned, Froese seems optimistic: “I think we're definitely in the neighbourhood.”
“We are getting close,” he said.
The eight episodes of Deadman’s Curse will air on History Channel through October.