The Curse of Oak Island

Little known facts about the Lagina brothers

The Curse of Oak Island has made cult superstars of Marty and Rick Lagina. Over the show’s seasons, we’ve certainly gotten to know the siblings as they’ve toiled away in often treacherous conditions: the fact that Rick used to be a postal worker, for example, and that Marty made his name as a big cheese in the energy industry.

But here are some other things you may not have realised about TV’s favourite treasure hunters…

1 Marty is a lawyer as well as an energy magnate

Most Oak Island aficionados will know that Marty is a self-made multi-millionaire who made his fortune extracting natural gas in Michigan. But that’s not all. After the young Marty completed his engineering degree, he decided to go ahead and take a law degree as well. Demonstrating the tireless energy he’d deploy decades later on Oak Island, multi-faceted Marty studied law in between working as a petroleum engineer at an oil company.

He never even practised law – it seems he just wanted to scratch an itch he’d had since he was a kid, later saying that 'From childhood, I intended to go to law school. People always said I should be a lawyer because I loved to talk with people.' That said, being a qualified lawyer came in very handy when he founded his own energy company. 'You can’t make a move in business without legal knowledge,' Marty once said. 'I didn’t have the money to hire a lawyer initially, so I acted as my own.'

2 Marty’s not always been so well-liked

While it may look like Marty’s had a blessed business career, creating an energy company which he then sold on for tens of millions of dollars, it hasn’t always been plain sailing for the younger Lagina brother. Speaking to Randall Sullivan, author of The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the World’s Longest Treasure Hunt, Marty admitted to being the target of widespread hostility simply because he happened to be in the oil and gas industry.

'It’s made me hated my whole life,' he said. 'People think we’re the worst, the exploiters, the polluters.' Even after Marty made the big leap to wind energy, he came in for flack. 'People still hate us,' he told Sullivan. 'People think we’re killing birds, we’re giving the people who live nearby headaches. You better learn to live without love if you want to be in the energy business.'

3 The brothers 'rehearsed' for Oak Island as kids

The brothers famously got hooked on the Oak Island mystery as boys when Rick Lagina came across an article in a 1965 edition of Reader’s Digest. The article touched on all the now-familiar aspects of Oak Island lore, mentioning how the island was thought to conceal everything from Captain Kidd’s alleged booty to Marie Antoinette’s lost jewels to Shakespeare’s manuscripts. It was Rick who was initially most 'into' the story of the island – 'I just sort of absorbed his enthusiasm by osmosis,' Marty would later say.

As fans of adventure stories like The Hardy Boys, young Rick and Marty were inspired by the article to embark on their own little quests in rural Michigan, literally digging around forests and rocks in the hope of finding Native American relics. Little would they know these childhood games would be a kind of rehearsal for the most famous treasure hunt of modern times.

4 Their friendship with Dan Blankenship had an awkward start

The late Dan Blankenship was a much-loved figure in the show. Having been digging around on the island long before the Laginas showed up, he was their mentor and inspiration. Interestingly, though, their relationship didn’t have the smoothest of starts. They first met back in the 1990s, when Rick Lagina – whose teenage fascination with Oak Island had only increased over the years – got in touch with the Blankenships and asked if he could make a kind of pilgrimage there.

Rick and Marty took the 1,400 mile trip to Nova Scotia to meet Blankenship in person, both Laginas hugely nervous about actually setting foot on the fabled island of their youthful fantasies. When they arrived, Blankenship was felling trees and barely acknowledged them. So Rick broke the ice by wordlessly getting involved with the operation, pushing over the trees Blankenship was attacking with a chainsaw. The three men then had a rather halting and awkward whisky together before Blankenship had to abruptly leave on business. 'We basically got the bum’s rush off the island,' Rick would recall. 'Don’t get me wrong, Dan wasn’t unfriendly. He just got up and said "I’ve gotta go," and "thank you for coming," and that was it.'

Who could have foreseen the unique friendship that would grow from that first meeting?

5 Marty’s also a winemaker, by the way

Not content with being a lawyer, entrepreneur, treasure hunter and TV star, Marty also happens to be a winemaker. And it’s not just a little hobby either. Drawing on his heritage, he’s created Mari Vineyards in Michigan, named after his Italian grandmother who would distil illicit moonshine during the Great Depression to make much-needed money. 'She had a wine cellar hand-hewn out of granite beneath the house, full of homemade wine in barrels and all sorts of traditional Italian food, like prosciutto,' Marty said in an interview about his wine venture. 'I think my passion to make wine originated there, in the magic of that cellar.'