Brazilian Man Plunges To His Death After Digging A Hole In His Home To Search For Gold

Published January 12, 2024

João Pimenta da Silva died on January 5, 2024, while attempting to a dig a hole beneath his home to search for gold.

Joao Pimenta Da Silva

Corpo de Bombeiros MilitarThough Pimenta lost his life digging the hole, authorities remarked that he dug it with “perfection.”

João Pimenta da Silva had a dream. The 71-year-old Brazilian man woke up one morning with the utter certainty that there was gold hidden beneath his house in Minas Gerais. He started to dig a tunnel to find it, but Pimenta’s dream turned into a nightmare when he plunged 130 feet to his death.

“João had spent more than a year digging the hole and hired many people to do the excavating work,” a neighbor, Arnaldo da Silva, told local media.

Pimenta started the dig around a year ago. His neighbors explained that he believed that he’d been visited by a “spirit” in a dream who told him — apparently quite convincingly — that untold riches lay just beneath his feet.

So the elderly man set out to excavate the hidden gold. Despite warnings from his neighbors, he began to dig a tunnel in his home that grew to be around three feet wide and 130 feet deep — the height of a 12-story building.

As the project grew more intense, Pimenta also started hiring help.

Looking Down The Tunnel

Corpo de Bombeiros MilitarThe tunnel eventually grew as deep as a 12-story building is high.

“He began by paying 70 Brazilian Reais (roughly $15) a day when the hole was still shallow but the deeper he went the more the costs went up,” da Silva explained, noting that Pimenta sold “everything he had,” including his real estate holdings, in able to afford the extra help. “He ended up paying around [$100] to anyone who entered the hole and helped to remove earth.”

But as the project continued, it became more complicated. Pimenta hit a large stone as he deepened the tunnel, and da Silva claimed that the 71-year-old had started to ask around about acquiring dynamite.

Apparently undeterred by the difficulties, Pimenta continued to dig alongside a friend named Antonio Wilson Costa. He was teetering on what authorities believe was a repurposed child swing, attempting to remove mud and water from the hole, when the fatal accident occurred.

Local media reports that Pimenta was trying to climb out of the hole when he slipped on the wooden board and plunged 130 feet down the tunnel to his death. Costa, who witnessed Pimenta’s fall, was unable to help him.

Despite Pimenta’s tragic end — and fruitless quest to dig for gold — the authorities who flocked to the scene were impressed with his craftsmanship.

Joao Pimenta

Family HandoutJoão Pimenta da Silva was 71 years old when he plunged 130 feet to his death in a tunnel he’d been digging beneath his home.

Luís Filipe de Miranda, the 2nd sergeant of the Minas Gerais Fire Brigade, explained to a local newspaper that Pimenta probably had experience with excavations and very likely hired professional help, despite having tools that were “archaic” and “homemade.”

“This tunnel looks like something alien, with the perfection with which he dug it: very small diameter, very perfect cylinder, 40m deep. We found compressors, specific jackhammers used for tunnel digging,” the sergeant stated. “It’s a science to get down. Very complicated, but he had experience. We don’t know what he did in this regard.”

People say to follow your dreams, and João Pimenta da Silva certainly did — to the ends of the earth. Sadly, his prophetic vision of gold beneath his house led not to riches but to his tragic demise.

After reading about the Brazilian man who plunged to his death while digging a hole to search for gold under his house, discover the story of the Brazilian woman who was poisoned by a fortune teller — who’d just told her that she only had days left to live. Or, learn about the legend of Mel’s Hole, the magical bottomless pit said to exist somewhere in Washington state.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
Cara Johnson
A writer and editor based in Charleston, South Carolina and an assistant editor at All That's Interesting, Cara Johnson holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Washington & Lee University and an M.A. in English from College of Charleston and has written for various publications in her six-year career.
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Fraga, Kaleena. "Brazilian Man Plunges To His Death After Digging A Hole In His Home To Search For Gold.", January 12, 2024, Accessed June 14, 2024.