Aug. 5—Jim Eckles is set to provide a gold mine worth of information about Victorio Peak.
A tale of buried gold, coated with conspiracy, is something made for Hollywood, especially considering the treasure's very existence is in question. Eckles aims to further explain the mystery in his presentation "Victorio Peak: One Hundred Tons of Gold or Just One Hundred Tall Tales" at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces on Thursday, Aug. 11.
Eckles told the Journal, "I don't know if Victorio Peak will attract folks or not. I have the feeling it will, because everyone loves a good treasure story, right?"
The story of Victorio Peak is nothing new to the region, but the intrigue of the historical mystery has grown through almost a century of scattered media coverage and even a recent series of novels, "The Gold House Trilogy."
At the base of the legend, Milton "Doc" Noss claimed he discovered a treasure room with a massive amount of gold bars hidden deep within Victorio Peak in the 1930s. Nothing has ever been confirmed to be extracted from the mine, Eckles explained, and even the tunnels stretching to the mystical room have yet to be validated. Yet, the legend never dies.
Now, Eckles offers new information highlighting Noss' character. The revelation will either bring people close to an answer or further the ongoing debate of legitimacy.
Eckles said, "I've dug and found out quite a bit about Doc Noss."
After tracing Noss from Oklahoma to New Mexico, which included multiple arrests for various crimes, Eckles simply states that Noss is "the guy you probably didn't want your daughter to marry."
Eckles came to New Mexico in 1977 to work in public affairs for White Sands Missile Range and never left, eventually retiring from the military testing site.
"In public affairs, I got to go places, do different things. You got your finger in all kinds of pots."
With an academic background in English literature and psychology, a general curiosity for most things is ingrained in Eckles, but he became more interested in history after moving to New Mexico.
"It just seemed more real down here," he said. "That was an attractive thing to me ... to go out and learn more."
Eckles' position in public affairs also strengthened his knowledge of not only the missile range, but the area, as he was constantly in contact with the media and setting up tours.
"They were asking questions and you got to know the answers," he said. "It took years to learn all that stuff."
He was able to showcase his experience and great knowledge in his book "Pocketful of Rockets: History and Stories Behind White Sands Missile Range," published in 2013.
Eckles' connection to Victorio Peak, specifically, began just two years after arriving at White Sands. He said he was tasked with escorting Noss' wife, Ova, and a television crew to the site. His interest grew from there.
The conspiracies of the gold's origin heightened the call for research. The unproven tales swelled to claims of Spanish explorers, a German presence and the U.S. government's proverbial vexed hand that appears attached to unsolved mysteries by conspiracy theorists aplenty.
Eckles said, "This story has gotten so big since its origins in the 1930s."
Focusing on the geographical aspect of the tale, he continued, "There's no reason to talk about these other stories if there was no tunnel and there are no caves. If they don't exist, and never did exist, the treasure never existed."
Eckles has slowly accumulated and absorbed information on Victorio Peak for over 40 years. Despite his vast knowledge and research, Eckles expects loyal backers of Noss' claims to challenge his findings and argument.
"You gotta deal with people who have beliefs, because that's all they've got, they have no proof."
'Culture Series: Victorio Peak'
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11
WHERE: New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, 4100 Dripping Springs Road, Las Cruces
HOW MUCH: Free