On April 11, 1921, a man named Christopher Columbus Gray claimed to have found a message in a bottle floating in the waters of Buxton Beach, North Carolina; he swiftly turned it over to the authorities. The text of the message goes as follows:
DEERING CAPTURED BY OIL BURNING BOAT SOMETHING LIKE CHASER. TAKING OFF EVERYTHING HANDCUFFING CREW. CREW HIDING ALL OVER SHIP NO CHANCE TO MAKE ESCAPE. FINDER PLEASE NOTIFY HEADQUARTERS DEERING.
But the theory of mutiny was eventually disproved when, on August 26, the world learned the note Christopher Gray found was a fake. Without knowing it, Gray confessed to writing the note to an undercover operative. When investigators came to Buxton Beach to take him into custody, Gray took off to avoid arrest.
His eventual capture was a stroke of luck and ingenuity on the part of Lawrence Richey, assistant to Herbert Hoover. Earlier that year, after he had found the note, Gray applied for a job at the Lighthouse Keeper's Station, hoping that his discovery would help him get the job. Through acquaintances, Richey leaked a message to Gray that he should come to the Lighthouse Keeper's Station concerning his job application. When Gray arrived, he was greeted by Federal agents who took him into custody.The handwriting in the letter was matched to that of the ship's engineer Bates by the widow of Captain Wormell, and the bottle was proven to have been manufactured in Brazil. This, along with the known sighting of the "mysterious" steamer that arrived at the Cape Lookout Lightship in the wake of the Deering, seemed to indicate that pirates were responsible.