Michiganians out to crack island mystery

Mekeisha Madden Toby
Special to The Detroit News

In season two of the History channel’s “The Curse Of Oak Island,” brothers Rick, left, and Marty Lagina are ratcheting up their search for an elusive treasure in Canada.

It all started with a 1965 Reader's Digest article.

That's when 11-year-old Rick Lagina read about and became enchanted with a mysterious place called Oak Island. A 140-acre stretch of land in Nova Scotia, Canada, the island is believed to possess a hidden treasure that has eluded prospectors for more than 200 years.

The Kingsford, Mich., native's obsession with the island lives on and can be followed on the History channel reality series "The Curse of Oak Island." On the show, which kicks off its second season Tuesday, Lagina and his younger brother, Marty, doggedly attempt to uncover the cache while solving the geographical and historical riddles that have fascinated and perplexed a great a number of people over time, including President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The Laginas own the controlling interest of Oak Island Tours, the company the island belongs to, but have very different objectives. Rick, a retired U.S. postal worker, is determined to find the treasure. But Marty, an energy businessman and millionaire who is bankrolling the project, hopes to turn Oak Island into a tourist destination.

"We've made some progress and found some interesting things," said Rick Lagina from his home in Kingsford during a recent phone interview. "But Oak Island is rather stubborn in giving up information. So have we completely solved it? No. Have we made some headway? Yes, we have. So we're still in it and still committed."

In season one, the Laginas uncovered a coin dating back to the 1600s and this time, the discoveries could be even greater — or that is at least what the brothers hope.

"President Roosevelt was enamored with the island his whole life," Marty Lagina said. "We have letters from him. People who get hooked on it just never quit and the island seems to give you just enough to keep you going."

But where Rick is blindly devoted and in it for the long haul, Marty said he is setting a limit on how long he will pursue this dream. Perhaps Oak Island's mystical charms will keep him invested.

"My brother doesn't believe in the paranormal," Rick Lagina said. "I tend not to be dismissive of things I don't understand. But strange things happen on that island, some of which we get to explain."

It is the Laginas adventures and misadventures that draws viewers and have Kingsford residents rooting for the two Yoopers.

"They root for us even though I'm a troll now because I live in Traverse City," Marty Lagina said with a laugh. "That's what Yoopers affectionately call people who live in Lower Michigan. We live under the bridge, so we're trolls."

Rick Lagina said Kingsford support runs deep. "It's not just two local boys trying to figure out this mystery," he said. "It's that the mystery does actually captivate people."

'The Curse of Oak Island'

9 p.m. Today