Eight Questions with the PResident of the Cascade Treasure Club

with William Pennington

For as long as I can remember, I've loved finding things on the ground.  This fascination has led me down many alleys, fields, abandoned places, junk yards, and ghost towns. This love of "the hunt" isn't completely unique, as many members of the Cascade Treasure Club can certainly attest.  Since 1973, this small group of metal detector enthusiasts have gathered together to share this same inner urge to find interesting items and explore the history of the land they call home. I recently talked with club president Mark Kulseth about their group.

One of my favorite shows is the Detectorists, from BBC (also on Netflix). Is the group aware of the show, and how accurate do they depict the culture of metal detecting?

I think most of the club is aware of the show ( I have the first two seasons on DVD) and have offered it to others to watch. They accurately depict many aspects. We all dream of that once in a lifetime treasure find and that find can be different for everyone. It might be gold or silver to some while others might dream of some rare artifact. Everyone is secretive of their honey hole ground so in a way it's a competition out there and we can all agree there are some interesting personalities in this hobby.

One thing the show brings up is "the curse of the gold". Is there such a belief, where if you find something of such great value, that bad things start to happen to you?

I have never been aware of any curse, at least here in America. Europe may be different because the treasure is so much older. I don't think that would stop any of us from seeking our ultimate find and most of us are proud to show them off. Great finds are the badges or medals we show for our successes.

What kind of status do you wish the hobby of metal detecting would ever achieve? I mean, what if you had 10,000 members, and your finds were front page news? Or do you prefer to be a low key group?

This question brings up many different feelings and opinions. As much as we want to talk about our finds and share the good news, most of us don't. Groups such as the archeologist, govt.historians, people who control the public lands (Land Management, Dept of Reclamation, etc) try very hard to shut our hobby down. They think we are stealing what belongs to them (govt). They make statements like saving these things for future generations. The truth is most artifacts don't last much more than a couple hundred years before they disintegrate into nothing. Sure quality metals survive but it's rare to find those items. Its not as if the govt has plans to conduct archeology digs everytime a military button if found. Last I heard they didn't have any money for these projects. Most detectorists are more serious about preserving history than the so called pros and would just like a little respect for our skills and efforts to save what they can't.

What is the goal of joining the Cascade Treasure Club? And can one be a member if they have no metal detector?

Anyone can join or visit our club and people do just to get exposure to the hobby. There are always extra machines to use [and for] members to teach the basics. The club does a lot of good in the community. We have helped law enforcement search for evidence at crime scenes, we remove literally tons of garbage from the parks and beaches each year. We clean up drug needles, batteries, lead weights from areas where kids play as well as donating to the food banks every month. We also provide the service of finding lost items for people. Each year members find dozens of lost rings and return them to their owners. We have reunited personal items such as military dogs tags, class rings to family members after more than 60 years of being lost. That's a great feeling to hear the gratitude from widows or children when they are connected to an item their husband or father lost so long ago.

Have you ever experienced any ghost-like stuff, or felt like you were hunting on sacred ground?

I have heard stories from friends who hunt in the New England area about places that just had that unnerving feel. Cold winds coming from nowhere, sounds that make the hair stand up, branches falling from trees when they shouldn't have. Once while some friends and I were hunting an area here in Seattle that was adjacent to a cemetery we came across, a person out in the woods was just staring at us and the graves.  Trying to be polite and cautious at the same time by trying to speak to him, we were given the warning of "beware of the shadow people". That was a bit spooky. We of coarse would never hunt in burial grounds.

You don't have to name any names, but do you have any well known people or celebrities as members?

We have members from all walks of life. Blue collar, white collar, teachers, doctors. We even had a local politician who almost became governor of Washington

Is there a "godfather" of all metal detectors, one who may have started it all? One person who may have invented the device?

The gentleman who modernized the metal detector and did more for the hobby than any one individual was a man named Charles Garrett. He started Garrett Electronics back in the 1960's and just passed away a year ago. He took surplus military mine detectors and experimented with them to set the basics for all modern machines. A few other inventors were doing this as well, but Garrett's name stands tall among many. Machines have become so accurate that they can tell you the type of metal and the denomination of the coin and how deep it is within 90% accuracy.

What is a great metal detector to own, for someone starting out? Something not too expensive, but good enough to keep it fun.

Once again I would look to the Garrett machines. They offer a wide variety for every skill level. Entry level machines will run $150 to $350. Mid range machines will hover around $500 and top of the line machines go $1000 or more. All these machines offer target identification and some level of discrimination, which are important. You don't want a machine that just beeps at a metal object. It's important to have an idea of what's in the ground before digging. The best place to learn skills is on the beach. You can dig holes without having to worry about how it looks, but be sure to always fill in your holes to prevent someone tripping.

Do you feel like metal detecting is very zen? In the books Zen in the Art of Archery, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the authors talk of this very simple activity as a way to escape and focus at the same time, to let go and gain focus. I would think metal detecting is in the same vein, no?

It very much is. Many of us have stressful jobs and escaping for just an hour or two puts you right back in order. You really don't have to think while you swing the coil, you can enjoy your surroundings and the birds/animals as you go along. It's very peaceful. Finding a nice item is a bonus to an already fun activity.