The Secret: A Treasure Hunt
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The Secret (subtitled as The Secret: A Treasure Hunt) is a fantasy novel created by Byron Preiss that was published in fall of 1982. The book, which tells the story of mythical creatures known as the "Fair People," garnered attention due to the contest released alongside the book, where 12 different treasures were hidden across North America and those who find a treasure will be given a prize, all 12 of which resulted in a sum of 12,000 dollars. with each prize costing 1,000 dollars each. As of 2018, 2 of the twelve treasures were found, and the search has been compounded in difficulty due to the passage of time and the untimely passing of Preiss among other factors. Despite the difficulty, a niche community still exists that is devoted to finding the remaining ten treasures.
The Secret tells the story of the Fair People, collectively referring to mythical creatures such as dragons, fairies, and leprechauns that, 300 years ago, inhabited the Old World of Europe and Asia who left their home due to Man and their expanding abode of Civilization. From the Old World, the Fair People discovered and traveled to the New World across the sea, bringing with them their treasures of jewels and gemstones. The Fair People would later vanish by the time Man had expanded across the sea, and with them, the treasures vanished as well, never to be seen again until the Fair People issue the reader a task and a pact to match 12 verses and 12 paintings to find their treasure. The treasures would be the subject of an over 30-year-long hunt that lasts even today.
Preiss had buried the treasures from 1981 to 1982, in various cities around North America, with the locations known only to him. The book had a number of collaborators, such as artist John Jude Palencar, who made the artwork in the book and one of the components for the puzzle. It would eventually be published in fall of 1982 by Bantam Books, and its contest falls under the genre of the armchair treasure hunt, a type of treasure hunt that involves solving puzzles and riddles usually contained in a portable manner, such as a book, to find a treasure in the real world. An early example of this would be Kit Williams' picture book Masquerade (shown below), which involved finding clues hidden in paintings to find an actual prize buried somewhere in the real world.
Within the book, alongside the story of the Fair People and their treasures, are 12 different paintings (example shown below, left) and 12 different verses (example shown below, right) that form the main part of the puzzle. Each verse corresponded to a certain painting, and each painting corresponded with a certain place that hinted at where the treasure was located, with the verse acting as a step by step guide as to locating where to dig for the treasure, a ceramic "casque" within a plexiglass box, and within the casque a key that could be redeemed for a precious gemstone worth 1,000 dollars, with the gemstone depending on the location in which the casque was found, if the key was sent to the publisher.
Numerous articles have been made on The Secret, ranging from local news to articles on sites like Boingboing and Vice. Two separate posts made on the /r/UnresolvedMysteries subreddit about the book and its contest, garnering more than 200 upvotes (99% upvoted) and 75 upvotes prior to archiving, respectively.
An episode of the TV show Expedition Unknown that focused on the treasure hunt aired on January 17, 2018 on the Travel Channel, showing the host Josh Gates as he travels across the US to find the treasure.
A wiki that centralizes the search and gathers information on where the casques might be located also exists, containing resources, theories, and interpretations of the visual clues in the paintings and the verses.
A podcast about the search, SHHH, The Secret, is also available on iTunes and its official website.
In 1983, a year after the book was published, the first casque was found in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois by teenagers Bob Wrobel, Eric Gasiorowski, and David James. The trio found the casque through the connection of various details in one of the paintings , such as a windmill in the painting bearing a resemblance to the Chicago water tower, a water fairy in the painting bearing a resemblance to the Chicago Art Institute's Spirit of the Great Lakes fountain, and the shape of the state of Illinois hidden as an outline, alongside working out the stanzas in the verse they presumed to be correct. The find was reported on local news from The Chicago Tribune and on WLS TV Chicago.
In 2004, over two decades since the discovery of the first casque, the second casque was found in Cleveland, Ohio's Greek Cultural Garden by Brian Zinn and his friend Andy Abrams, two members of the Quest4Treasure treasure hunting forum. The clues found within the painting included references to Greek mathematicians, the shape of Cleveland's Terminal Tower, and shapes directly taken from the Greek Cultural Garden.
In 2005, Byron Preiss was killed in a car accident, and with his death he took along the locations of the remaining ten casques to his grave. From there, Preiss' publishing company went into bankruptcy and the search was mostly called off until 2015, when the book was republished with new contact info and a new publisher saying that the contest will still be upheld.
As of 2018, the casques are still at large, though their locations have been theorized by numerous internet users. The aforementioned wiki has also gathered up a set of locations theorizing where the remaining casques are located (shown below). The search has also been compounded in difficulty due to not just Preiss' death but also in part to the changing appearance of the location's landscapes, natural events such as hurricanes, and the potential legality of digging for the treasure to begin with due to numerous laws and regulations set in place.
|1||7||San Francisco, California||Not Found|
|2||6||Charleston, South Carolina||Not Found|
|3||11||Roanoke Island, North Carolina||Not Found|
|4||4||Cleveland, Ohio||Found in 2004|
|5||12||Chicago, Illinois||Found in 1983|
|6||9||St. Augustine, Florida||Not Found|
|7||2||New Orleans, Louisiana||Not Found|
|8||1||Houston, Texas||Not Found|
|9||5||Montreal, Quebec, Canada||Not Found|
|10||8||Milwaukee, Wisconsin||Not Found|
|11||3||Boston, Massachusetts||Not Found|
|12||10||New York City, New York||Not Found|
 Reddit – The Secret: a thirty year old unsolved treasure hunt
 Reddit – The Secret: A Treasure Hunt!
 The Secret Wiki – Main Page
 Boingboing – The quest to find 12 hidden treasures from a 1982 treasure hunt book
 Vice – The 35-Year-Long Hunt to Find a Fantasy Author's Hidden Treasure
 The New York Times – Byron Preiss, 52, Digital Publishing Pioneer, Dies
 SHHH, The Secret – Main Page
 iTunes – SHHH, The Secret
Jun 10, 2018 at 05:15PM EDT
Jun 07, 2018 at 05:05PM EDT
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