In 1982 a New York Publisher named Byron Preiss created a book titled ‘The Secret’. The book was a fantasy story about immigration, using fairies to illustrate how different cultures came to North America and the struggles they encountered when they got here.
The Secret: A Treasure Hunt! was published in 1982. It’s creator, Byron Preiss, was inspired by the book, Masquerade, which was published in the U.K. in 1979. Written and illustrated by Kit Williams, Masquerade contained fifteen paintings that pointed to the location of a buried treasure, in this case, a rabbit pendant made of gold and jewels. That book sold hundreds of thousands of copies around the world. That year, much of Great Britain was full of shallow, empty holes.
For his book, Preiss commissioned a young artist named John Jude Palencar (who went on to design the covers for the Eragon series) to create a dozen paintings. Each painting was paired with a poem. Used together, they pointed an armchair sleuth to a specific location. There, three feet underground, one could find a buried casque. Inside the casque was a ceramic key. And each key could be turned into the publisher, who would hand over a gem worth around $1,000.
Unfortunately, The Secret: A Treasure Hunt! was never as popular as Masquerade. And the clues proved harder to solve than Preiss imagined. There was no way to cheat, either, as metal detectors would never pick up the ceramic casque or keys.
In 1984, three kids unearthed a key in Chicago. Then, nothing much happened until 2004, when a pair of lawyers found one in Cleveland.
Preiss, alone, buried the keys. He never told anyone else the precise locations. And the secrets died with him in a tragic car accident, in 2005. The gems, too, were said to have been lost.
But hidden within this story is a puzzle, a treasure hunt of sorts.
The book explains that the fairies were creative creatures, who loved art and jewels, and due to common interests, got along well with Native Americans… but when Europeans started arriving, their advanced technology scared the fairies into hiding. The fairies took all of their jewels and hid them. They buried twelve ceramic boxes (called Casques), each one containing a ceramic key, all across North America. They then painted twelve paintings, and wrote twelve poems, hoping that one day, someone may come along who is creative enough to combine the correct painting, with the correct poem… find the correct city, dig up the fairies’ casque, and exchange the key for a jewel.
Its been forty years, and only two of the twelve have been found.
One casque was found in 1983 buried in Chicago, and another was found in 2004 buried in Cleveland.
While The Secret never sold as many copies as Masquerade, it did achieve a cult-like status among a dedicated group of puzzle solvers. Within months, 700 people wrote to Preiss claiming to know the location of the bins. It wasn’t until the following year that a casque was actually recovered by three teenagers in Chicago’s Grant Park.
“We didn’t really care who found the treasure, we just wanted to solve the puzzle.” — Brian Zinn
The next puzzle wasn’t solved until 2004, when an attorney named Brian Zinn tracked down a casque in Cleveland from a verse that mentioned Socrates, Pindar, and Apelles (all three names are etched into a pylon at the Cleveland Cultural Gardens). After four hours of digging holes, he found the casque buried next to a wall marking the perimeter of the gardens.
To date, the Cleveland casque is the last known resolved puzzle. “Byron Preiss, according to family and friends, figured all of them would be found upon publication. I don’t think he realized how difficult the poems were,” said James Renner, an author and filmmaker who’s working on a documentary about the book.
in 2005 the author of the book died in a car crash, and took the locations of the remaining casques to his grave. Since then an entire online community has formed. Thousands of people dedicated to solving this puzzle, and finding the remainder of the fairies boxes. The community believes there are casques buried in St Augustine Florida, New Orleans, Houston, San Francisco, Montreal, Boston, Roanoke NC, Charleston, Milwaukee, and either Manhattan, or Brooklyn.
If you live in one of these cities, and have seen people digging small holes at parks in the middle of the night… odds are you saw a secret treasure hunter.
Everything you need to solve the puzzle, from the images to the verses, and whole lot of miscellaneous information, is located at http://12treasures.com