Nobody believed Randy was truly passionate. Many thought the items he had carefully gathered were useless. It was priceless to him. But none of them had any idea that he would come across anything so important at an antique shop. And Randy’s astonishing discovery was going to rock the globe.
The image he is holding in his palm captures a split-second in time. It can also change the course of history. The infamous icon-turned-outlaw, is this truly him? If he’s mistaken, he’s an idiot. He will become a millionaire if he is correct; this is a significant finding. High risks are involved. But he never foresees the series of circumstances that will take five long years to develop.
Luck isn’t something Randy Guijarro believes in. He is aware that achieving goals in life requires a lot of effort. From his parents, he learned this. Being the youngest of six children, Randy always took great care in all of his possessions. He has always collected pennies off the ground, junk from the yard, and glittering buttons from corners.
His mother dubbed him “the hoarder” when he was just seven years old because he had a magpie’s eye for even uninteresting stuff.
Randy’s mother believes that his interest in rubbish will fade as the years go by. She is horrified by how fixated he becomes. She is apprehensive, which makes sense. And she had every reason to be. In a short period of time, Randy’s home turns into a maze of coins, books, comics, statues, paintings, clocks, trading cards, toys, stamps, and jewelry.
His possessions are worthless to his family. He’s about to disprove them all, though.
Randy is able to support himself by selling the valuables he has found while scavenging. Every item he owns has a backstory. However, he later met Linda. He pledges to reduce his collecting once they decide to live together. But it’s challenging to break old behaviors.
He never imagined that one choice will have such an impact on his life and shake the western world.
One fateful day in 2010, Randy meets a friend for coffee and finds himself in the Fresno Tower District. He passes Fulton’s Folly Antique Collective’s red brick structure as he strolls down the street. Before selling the items in their “extra bedroom,” he had told Linda he wouldn’t bring anything else home.
However, he enters and tells himself that he will only be a few minutes.
Randy browses the aisles of goods. The shop is filled with pianos, chairs, bookcases, sculptures, porcelain, pottery, jewelry, paintings, radios, jewels, albums, dolls, prams, figurines, board games, and baskets, just like Mary Poppins’ magic bag. Randy hasn’t ever seen a collection like this.
Additionally, Randy just so happens to be in the ideal location at the ideal moment.
He takes a number of things to examine, but as soon as he is reminded of his commitment to Linda, he puts them all back. He decides to maintain his composure as he makes his way through the chest of treasure.
Then, something outside the back door causes his eyes to expand, and he finds it impossible to resist.
Two men outside are exchanging handshakes. Has a deal been finalized? They are surrounded by cardboard box piles, which Randy notices as he approaches them. It is a blind purchase based on the appearance of the various sizes.
An excitement rushes over Randy as he realizes there might be a gem concealed inside.
The owner definitely has to quickly get rid of certain things because the store is obviously overstocked. Before the bidding starts, the buyers only have a short window of opportunity to examine the items, and Randy simply can’t let them leave.
Although they place the highest bid, Randy is a friendly man and is feeling courageous.
“Would it be okay if I had a quick look?” asks Randy. The men had heard about Randy through the online antique community, much to his astonishment. So before they load the boxes into their vehicle, they let him dig through them.
Randy doesn’t notice anything, but he keeps looking in the hopes that his acute eyes will spot something that others have missed. And it turns out his instinct was correct.
He doesn’t know exactly what he is looking for, but he reasons that he will recognize it when he sees it. Then, he finds a small cardboard box. His hands shake as he gently lifts the lid.
He never could have imagined that this ordinary-looking box is hiding one of the most important discoveries in American history.
Although Linda asks Randy to ease off on his antiques, she is a sucker for a good photograph. The box contains three old black and white photographs. One man looks vaguely familiar, but Randy can’t immediately put his finger on it.
And he doesn’t have time to dwell on it — he just knows that he has to have them.
He reaches for his wallet just as the men load the last few boxes. To his horror, he only has $2 on him. Thankfully the men, thinking nothing of the old photographs, accept the small payment and wish him a good day.
Randy and his wife Linda are about to embark on the journey of a lifetime.
Linda is horrified when Randy presents her with the three pictures. “How much did this cost you?” Her brow furrows. When Randy tells her what has happened, she gawks and looks closer. “You do realize who this is?” She asks.
If she is right, this photograph is worth millions! And then, Randy sees it. That unmistakable face stares back at him.
Linda and Randy arrange to meet with a local historian to inspect the faces. The historian says that the pictures are from the 19th century. Randy isn’t surprised — the images are obviously dated. Then Linda voices what they had only dared to dream.
She points to the man standing in the middle of the group of people playing croquet in the photograph and whispers: “Billy the Kid.”
Billy the Kid is one of the most well-known figures of the American Wild West and was one of the most wanted men in Arizona after he had been involved in multiple homicides. The outlaw then managed to outrun the sheriffs and escape from multiple prisons over four years until he was eventually shot at the age of 21. Unsurprisingly, he was notorious among cowboy enthusiasts.
But only one authentic photo of him has been found until now.
Randy is sure to do his research. He discovers that the last original photograph of Billy — the famous Upham tintype — has been bought by collector Bill Koch at an auction in 2011 for a staggering 2.3 million dollars.
But with no proof of who the photographer was and the circumstances around the photo, Linda and Randy have no proof that it is genuine. But they are determined.
Many collectors refuse to believe that the photograph is genuine. Linda is disheartened. She has already planned on redoing their home. Now, that seemed impossible. She is sure it is him from the moment she lays eyes on the photos, and other faces in the photographs are familiar, too.
Randy and Linda are convinced that the photograph depicts Billy and his gang, The Regulators, playing croquet. But can it really be possible?
Randy and Linda have to do some more digging into the history of the photograph before they can release their findings to the public. Over the course of a year, they have gotten many different opinions from experts, but some are skeptical.
Then, they take the photo to Witherell’s Old West Show in Northern California’s Grass Valley and are told what they had feared all along.
While they searched for Brian Libel, the man who originally brokered the deal on the only other photograph of Billy the Kid ever found, another expert steps in and writes Randy and Linda’s photo off as a fake, stating that there is no proof pointing to its authenticity. Randy and Linda are heartbroken, but they are still convinced that they possess a piece of history.
But then, something changes everything.
Linda and Randy’s photograph has captured the attention of Jeff Aiello, a local film and TV producer, and he is intrigued. What if this photo is, in fact, genuine and has passed under the radar of the experts? He knows that the two experts in the field who have examined it have only given it a passing glance before hastily labeling it as a fraud.
Still, there is a glimmer of hope: What if they are all wrong?
“I told Randy to let me have the picture. My wife, Jill, is a fantastic researcher,’ Aiello says. “We did photo overlays and all kinds of fancy computer stuff and dove into the history. After a month, we were both confident that was a photo of Billy and four of the ‘Regulators.’”
Now, they have to prove it to the world.
National Geographic takes on the million-dollar project with Aiello at the helm. The funds enable him to conduct further research to prove that the photograph is genuine and land Kevin Costner as the narrator of the 2-hour special. Aiello places Randy’s fight against the corrupt process of authenticating historical material at the fore.
Randy and Linda have almost given up hope, but by the end of the shooting, even Kevin Costner believes.
The 2-hour National Geographic documentary, “Billy The Kid: New Evidence,” uses facial recognition on Randy’s photograph against the existing images of Billy the Kid and The Regulators. All are at least a 70% match.
The producer of the croquet set seen in the photograph is also traced to give experts a reference that enables them to establish the heights of the people in the photo. But they still need more evidence.
Randy and Linda set out to visit all the known landmarks associated with Billy the Kid. One of the figures in the photograph has been identified as Sallie Chisum, with an 80% match on facial recognition software.
Then, they find the breakthrough they have all been waiting for — written in Sally Chisum’s diary.
Randy and Linda have now traveled 10,000 miles over four states to prove that their find is genuine. With money running out quickly, they pray that their last stop will be in New Mexico. All clues point to Tunstall’s ranch — There is evidence in Sally Chisum’s diary that she, The Regulators, and Billy the Kid himself had gathered there.
But will this be the end of Randy and Linda’s journey?
Randy stares in disbelief at the familiar landscape. All his hopes and dreams lie here, on this tract of land. He believes with all his heart that Billy the Kid has been here. And now, he is vindicated. He can almost see the ghostly figures standing there, framed by the rolling hills. With the help of Geographic mapping, the exact location where the photo was taken is finally found.
Randy and Linda return to California, feeling like they have finally won the battle. But they are wrong.
Linda and Randy go to see Don Kagen, authenticator and seller of Kagan’s Inc., but even after all the evidence is presented, Kagan still has doubts. The biggest cause for suspicion is that Billy the Kid and his cohorts are playing croquet. Randy explains how the croquet set belonged to Henry Tunstall, who was English. It all makes sense.
But why can nobody else see it?
“This is a journey I never expected to take. But the truth doesn’t always matter. And I can’t figure out why,” Randy says, defeated. They have spent almost all their life savings and five years of their lives pursuing the ghost of Billy the Kid, but he remains elusive — a mysterious, fleeting figure. Then, just when they have lost all hope, Randy gets an unexpected call.
Kagan’s Inc. has found something that would leave Randy and Linda floored.
Don Kagen’s partner flies to Tunstall’s Ranch and travels to the spot where the photo was believed to have been taken. He notices that there are signs of another structure underneath the new building, exactly where the house in the photograph would have been. He then recreates the house on advanced software. They didn’t need more convincing. They set the base price at $5 million for the photo.
Linda can’t believe their hard work has finally paid off! But this isn’t the first case of a hidden treasure.
Shows like American Pickers and The Antique Roadshow had managed to turn dusty junk into thousands of dollars in cash. The viewers for these shows range from young to old and entice the widest age demographic imaginable.
Everyone loves a good bargain. But a large fortune hidden in the form of your grandmother’s vase is everyone’s dream. So, naturally, netizens can’t get enough of Randy and Linda’s story.
Understandably, Randy’s discovery has gone viral before he even caught the attention of National Geographic. The entire world now keeps an eye out for any hidden gems that could later gain them a small fortune.
But Randy had spent years researching to get to his level of expertise. And not everyone would be so lucky as to buy pictures for $2 that are worth $5 million. But there is one question left.
“I hope this prompts others out there to look into trucks and attics,” Randy shares, “because there are so many lost treasures out there!” If this has taught Randy anything, it’s to listen to his gut and, more importantly, to trust his wife!
But the story doesn’t end there. Another photograph of Billy The Kid has been found since the airing of the National Geographic documentary.
It’s 2011, and an attorney named Frank Abrams is strolling through a flea market in North Carolina. He spots an old photograph and buys it for $10. It wasn’t anything special, just a picture of five cowboys smiling at the camera.
Little did he know that he had a piece of history in the palm of his hand.
The wild west is known around the world with movies of cowboys and stories of hidden treasures from criminals of days gone by. Though the picture wasn’t a treasure and probably wasn’t worth much. Frank liked it.
It was a piece of the past that he wants to keep. He didn’t see the tiny detail in it though.
Frank later saw the National Geographic documentary about the picture that was discovered by Randy and started getting suspicious. He did feel like he recognized two of the figures in the pictures.
To him, one looked like Billy the Kid And the other looked like the Sheriff who shot him. But how could that be?
There is an old rumor that states that Billy the Kidd and Sheriff Pat Garrett used to be friends before each of them took on their respective roles of criminal and lawmaker. They even used to gamble together at the local saloon.
But when Pat was appointed as the sheriff it was his duty to bring Billy The Kidd to justice.
Few know that, even though Billy The Kidd was a legendary outlaw, he never robbed any banks or trains. In fact, he was just a gunslinger, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have a list of kills behind his name.
So it was clear why he had to be brought to justice. He had a lot of deaths to make up for.
But that also means that the picture Frank bought at the flea market was one of a kind. It had to be taken while Billy and Pat were still friends, which meant that it was much older than the one discovered by Randy.
Frank had the picture analyzed, and it turned out to be legit. That could mean it was worth millions.
However, Frank decided not to sell the photo. He feels that he’s the luckiest person in the world to not only have found the photo but to have bought it for such a low price. To Frank finding the picture is a privilege, and he doesn’t plan on parting with it anytime soon.
But what else do we know about Billy The Kidd and the Wild West?
Rumor has it that Billy The Kidd wasn’t actually killed by Sheriff Garrett but that he actually survived and lived a long life. However, those rumors haven’t been proven yet.
It’s also said that Billy The Kidd met up with another infamous outlaw of the wild west, Jesse James. According to the rumors, James asked Billy to join his gang, but Billy refused.
Jesse Woodson James had quite a reputation in the wild west. He was known as a bank robber, murderer, and leader of the James-Younger gang. Despite the brutality of the crimes committed by Jesse and his brother, they quickly rose to fame.
It’s even said that they gathered sympathy from the people, with popular portrayals embodying him as Robin Hood.
While tensions were high after the civil war, Jesse and his brother, Frank, joined up with the Younger brothers and formed The James-Younger gang. With Jesse as the face of the gang, they continued their streak of robberies.
They went all the way from Iowa to Texas and from Kansa to West Virginia.
The gang quickly rose to fame with their string of extravagant train robberies, and they became notorious outlaws. In 1874, the Adams Express Company turned to the Pinkerton National Detective Agency with the hope that they could stop the gang.
But they managed to elude the agency, which had suffered quite a few losses at the hands of the gang.
In 1876, the gang attempted to rob the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota. However, things didn’t go as planned. The robbery went terribly wrong, and only Jesse and his brother Frank were left alive.
Later that year, the pair arrived in Nashville, Tennessee, with new aliases. Even though Frank decided to settle down, Jesse was feeling restless and kept up with the robberies.
Jesse trusted the Ford brothers since he had already been out raiding with Charley Ford, but his brother Bob was a different story. He was a new recruit and very eager about it. What Jesse didn’t know was that Bob Ford had been working with the Missouri governor to bring him to justice.
In April 1883, while visiting James, Robert Ford pulled out his weapon and shot Jesse James in the back of the head.
But just as with Billy The Kid, there were rumors that Jesse James didn’t die that day. Those rumors started almost immediately after the news of his death was released. However, in 1995 the body of Jesse James was exhumed, and DNA tests were conducted.
The tests proved that it was, in fact, Jesse James.
Those weren’t the only rumors surrounding Jesse James, though. There is another rumor that had people scratching their heads for years after his death.
That rumor stated that Jesse James had hidden a treasure worth millions in today’s equivalent. But are those rumors true? Did Jesse James really hide his gold somewhere in Missouri?
There are many tales of treasures being hidden by Jesse James across the States. The rumors include places like Gads Hill, Missouri, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
There was a big commotion in Gads Hill after someone claimed a woodcutter found some of James’ treasure but those rumors were false. So is there any truth behind it?
As far as we know none of the tales of Jesse James’ hidden treasure have been confirmed. There also isn’t any evidence to prove that Jesse James actually hid any treasure. But it is said that Frank James started searching for a treasure he hid with his brother after he was acquitted of the crimes.
Frank returned to Chandler Park but after a few days of searching, he left empty-handed.
Many agree that Jesse James’ treasure may indeed be a myth, but that hasn’t stopped folks from coming up with stories that insist otherwise.
Some of these reports revolve around his brother Frank, who, after being acquitted of his crimes, returned to search for the gold he, his brother, and their gang hid in their lawless days.
It is said that deep within the Wichita Mountains in northern Comanche county, some of the treasure lies in wait. The location is the Keechi Hills, and many locals whisper about cryptic codes that can lead to more than $2 million in hidden treasure.
What’s more interesting is the complex nature of these stories. They are elaborate enough to make sense, with tangible signs that have convinced many treasure hunters to step into the hills in search of more clues.
These stories talk about secret codes a shadowy post-Civil War Confederate organization made. It is believed that Jesse James was a part of this group and had hopes of using the cash to aid the South in rising back to power.
After stealing $2 million worth of gold bullion from a Mexican Government transport, his gang hid it in several places, with codes and hidden maps to help them mask the route. But that wasn’t all.
The gang wrote a contract on a brass bucket, dividing the haul amongst themselves. It is said that years after his brother was gunned down in his own house, Frank started going after the treasure.
The journey would take years, and he’d come up with very little compared to what he and his gang hid. He had no clue what he’d find in the Wichitas.
In 1907, a sixty-four-year-old Frank James settled in a 160-acre land a few miles from Fletcher. He came with his wife and was a retired outlaw looking to spend the rest of his life in the peace that the area offered.
But the locals were quick to notice that something was odd about his stay in the area.
Frank didn’t seem interested in spending time on his property. Instead, he rode his horse all over the rugged landscape, going up and down.
He followed the paths he and his old gang used to frequent, sometimes going up a hill and gazing south with focused intent. It was clear he was searching for something.
After a few months of the same, he contacted Mrs. Belle Hedlund, who owned most of the land he needed to visit. He asked about several landmarks in the area and was particularly interested in an old spring where he and his associates used to camp more than two decades past.
The spring marked the location of a large flat rock the gang had allegedly etched a map underneath.
It is believed that Mrs. Hedlund allowed Frank to search her lands for the spring in question. He was able to decipher a few of the cryptic codes his gang put in place.
In return, he uncovered a few thousand dollars in hidden gold he found in a kettle. But many locals at the time insist on a different story that will leave you amazed.
According to the locals, Frank wore out six horses with the haul he made from his search. Yes! It was more than a kettle of gold worth six thousand dollars!
But many insist that was the extent of his search. Due to his advanced years and the rugged terrain, he gave up his search and returned to Missouri, where he and his wife had a home. His search had lasted seven years!
There are still many stories revolving around the James-Younger treasure. Some of them have led enthusiastic treasure hunters to a rock formation called Buzzard’s Roost in the Wichitas.
While some lucky hunters have found some treasure there, others like Randy and Frank have found value in something less shiny but just as valuable: a photograph.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.