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article imageTampa family finds severed hand, 'pirate treasure' in attic [Vid]

By JohnThomas Didymus     Apr 30, 2015 in Lifestyle
Tampa - A family in Tampa was cleaning out the attic when they found an old box containing items collected by their great-grandfather thought to have belonged to the legendary eighteenth-nineteenth century buccaneer José Gaspar.
Maria Lopez was clearing out the attic earlier in the month when she found an old wooden box. The box contained a tattered map with the word "Gaspar."
The map shows a section of the Hillsborough River in the Tampa area, including Lafayette Street — now Kennedy Boulevard. The box also contained old coins, their great-grandparents' — Eve and Ernesto Lopez — wedding picture taken at the studio of photographers identified as the Burgert Brothers.
The last item in the attic collection, and the most bizarre, was a skeletal hand wearing a ring on one finger. The hand and the coins were arranged neatly and secured with copper wire.
Maria's brother, Mike Lopez, told WFLA-TV that his sister Maria was cleaning out their grandparents' attic when she found an old wooden box containing the items.
Mike told WTSP-TV, "[My sister] Maria came across it and once she told me she found a hand in a box. I was totally blown away. Maybe my great-grandparents were pirates."
He said that when they were children, his grandfather had often told stories about their great-grandfather. He told the children that their great-grandfather Ernesto Lopez had found treasure belonging to the legendary pirate José Gaspar.
According to Tampa Bay Times, Gaspar, also known as "Gasparilla," is a legendary figure celebrated in Florida folklore, who allegedly lived in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and carried out raids in the west coast of Florida.
However, academic historians say there is no evidence that he ever lived.
Some experts believe that the legend of Gaspar originated in a railroad company's ad campaign of the 1800s, according to Tampa Bay Times.
Lopez told WTSP-TV that he took the wooden box with its contents, including the hand, to several antique shops in the Tampa area and dealers assured him that the coins, map and the gruesome skeletal hand were "authentic."
But Rodney Kite-Powell, at the Tampa Bay History Center, said that based on the places identified on the map it was likely a blueprint from the 1930s or 1920s. He said the coins were made of non-precious metal and were likely from the twentieth century and not Spanish and Portuguese coins from the eighteenth century as previously believed.
Similarly, the hand was unlikely to be Gaspar’s as the family thought.
Kite-Powell told WFLA-TV, "They [coins are] a little [too] thin to be Spanish coins or old coins in general. Generally older coins were thicker."
Although it was assumed that the hand was human, Kite-Powell said a medical examiner would need to look at it to confirm the assumption. Pointing out that the ring on the finger was also likely from the twentieth century, he said he did not believe the hand was Gaspar’s. It could be a "mummified monkey hand," he said.
"It smelled kind of funny," he added.
Maria Lopez's final assessment was that her great-grandfather had either perpetrated a "hoax" or had really found treasure on the Hillsborough River.
She wrote, "Either my great-grandfather made the best, most elaborate pirate hoax ever and never shared it with anyone or he really did find some treasure on the Hillsborough River. There's really no way to know which is the case."
"We are not sure what we're going to do with it. Possibly keep it forever. It is part of our family now," Mike added.
More about hand with ring, Hand, Ring, Attic, pirate treasure
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