Sunday, July 21, 2024

PSUC grad finds fame, fortune

Plattsburgh State alumnus Eric “Real Deal” Deleel was cast last year in the History Channel’s “Legend of the Superstition Mountains” after a lifetime of treasure hunting.

Deleel, a Massena, NY native, graduated from PSUC in 2005 with a degree in print journalism and a minor in English. Graduating shortly before the recession, Deleel searched, without success, for a job in newspapers.

After being offered to write a sports column for no pay, Deleel started delivering pizza for Bazzano’s in Plattsburgh.

Shortly thereafter, in 2007, he made the move out West to Truckee, CA near Lake Tahoe with his college friend Dan Casper.

It was in California where he learned to mine for gold, but he has always had an adventurer’s spirit.

When he was about 5 years old, Deleel would spend time with his grandparents’ who had a garden full of quartz. He recalls filling a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles backpack with pounds of the mineral.

During his college years he and his friends would explore the Adirondacks, going fishing on the Saranac River.

While on these fishing trips, they found chunks of colored glass, dumped into the river by the Corning glass company, which sparked their interest in mining.

The crew also went mining for garnet, a red mineral, near Gore Mountain.

Also, while attending PSUC, Deleel and Casper, both English minors, took an outdoor writing class with the late Dennis April who they credit as one of their favorite teachers.

“He was just an awesome dude,” Deleel said. “He had a wealth of knowledge and he taught me a lot of what I know about the outdoors.”

It took Deleel barely a month, once settled in California, to go to a hardware store, buy some gold pans and round up some friends to go mining.

The first time they went mining, they brought back what they thought was two grams of gold but it was actually pyrite aka “fool’s gold.” It took Deleel 5 years to find his first real gold nugget.

After that, Deleel started doing research, reading any book he could get his hands on and searching the Internet, to teach himself the tricks of the trade.

“He taught me how to pan for gold and I got better at that,” Casper said. “Then we started having success finally.”

One of Casper’s most memorable adventures with Deleel was when they hiked Peterson Mountain in Northern California and found amethyst, a violet variation of quartz. While on the way back down the mountain, the two got separated and Casper ended up stumbling upon a cave that a miner had dug out.

“I ended up crawling in on my knees and it turned out to be a crystal cave, filled with crystals,” Casper said. “It was like being on the inside of a geode. It was really cool, I’ll never forget that.”

When Deleel isn’t out exploring with his friends, he goes out with his Chihuahua, Brew, whom he got as a sophomore in college.

“He’s the best mining partner,” Deleel said. “Just when you think he can’t or won’t, he does, so I guess he’s a little like me.”

Deleel, about 5-6 years after moving out West, learned how to pan, where to dig, how to read a river and started his own tutorial-focused YouTube channel, “Eric Real Deal Deleel.”

“I knew people needed it because I needed it when I was first starting out and didn’t know where to turn,” Deleel said of his YouTube videos.

With the help of his YouTube channel, casting agents and production companies discovered Deleel.

Last September, Deleel flew to Arizona to begin filming “Legend of the Superstition Mountain.” The show follows five men as they hunt for the Lost Dutchman’s gold mine, rumored to be worth $200 million.

The show, in its third week this Sunday, airs on the History Channel Sundays at 10 p.m.

“To be able to live out one of my lifelong visions, which is to go hunting for treasure, is a dream come true,” Deleel said.

Email Tawnee Bradham at

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