The Secret San Francisco

I love this blog, if for no other reason than the jawdropping diversity of the email that slips over the digital transom.

This note from a few weeks ago just about takes the biscuit. In breathless terms it tells the story of a decades-long treasure hunt, a project just brimming with danger, doggedness and derring-do!

Okay, fine … perhaps there isn’t so much going on in the danger and derring-do department, but as to doggedness, well … that we have here in spades, along with a tip of the cap to yours truly. But I’ll let my correspondent Matthew Sparks fill you in himself:

Buried Treasure in San Francisco?

“Did I get your attention with the subject line? I’m serious, It’s not a huge priceless treasure, but treasure none the less.

“In 1982 author Byron Priess (1953-2005) published a book called The Secret, A Treasure Hunt. I bought a copy the day it came out and have been working on solving it ever since…

“Preiss buried 12 casques. These were small little porcelain boxes each containing a symbolic key — no metal so they can’t be metal detected. Each casque was buried 2-3 feet down in a plexiglas box in 12 cities around North America. If you found the box, you got turn in the key to Byron Preiss and he rewarded you with 1 of 12 jewels. Officially and sadly the hunt ended when Byron Preiss died in an auto accident in 2005. But while the chance to get one of the jewels is probably over, the hunt for the casques continues.

The Secret Book

“The book contains 12 images and 12 verses, which verse goes with which picture is unknown, But if you can put a picture together with a verse you can resolve the location of a casque. Right after the book came out, a group of 3 friends were able to find the casque hidden in Chicago, using Image 5 and verse 12. Then there was a long long pauses of about 20 years, and most readers gave up.. From 1983-2000 I only looked at the book in frustration, but one day I realized there were people on the internet still working on the hunt, an entire online community. With some great success, a large group has banded together, pooling resources to finish the hunt.

“After about 20 years one of our members had success, he put together image 4 and verse 4 and was led to Cleveland… He found a casque, and Byron awarded him his jewel!

“So that eliminates 2 verses and 2 images. Using these solutions everybody on the board has worked to backwards engineer how the hunt works, and much progress has been made. We have found latitudes and longitudes hidden in the images that narrow down the images to specific cities and many other types of clues. Once you have the City from an image, you use the verse to center in on the casque.

Finally back to San Francisco…

“Image 1 ((pictured above) has always “felt” like it was San Francisco, but we had no “proof” — Suddenly the clues started lining up and Image 1 is definitely San Francisco. That means somewhere in San Francisco, in 1981 Byron Priess buried a casque. The question is which verse belongs with Image 1.

“I believed it was verse 7 — according to my theory of verse 7, the route to the casque starts outside of Golden Gate Park in view of Sutro Tower, and passes the Conservatory of Flowers, Prayerbook Cross, goes under Highway 1 and ends up at the site of the Goddess of the Forest totem pole.”

The “Goddess of the Forest” is a sculpture by Dudley C. Carter, a sort of totem pole hewn from a single redwood during the Treasure Island World’s Fair. After the Fair ended, the Goddess was given a home in Golden Gate Park’s Lindley Meadow. She survived decades of graffiti, rock concerts, a rotting base, even attempted immolation, and now — after lengthy restoration — is proudly on display near the Diego Rivera Mural at San Francisco City College.

The cement base, on the other hand, is still in Lindley Meadow. I return you to the treasure hunt, still in progress:

“I dug all around the pole’s base, but found nothing. Its possible it was dug up/destroyed when a water pipe was buried nearby… or maybe I am completely wrong.

“Others believe the casque is buried at the Japanese Tea Garden or in the park near the Maritime Museum. (this is based on a verse 7 connection)

“Lately I have been considering verse 6 (which has a Robert Louis Stevenson Connection). Who knew there was a Robert Louis Stevenson / San Francisco connection? You did — and it turns out that it might fit even better.

“The idea here is to find the casque, or if it is gone/destroyed being sure exactly where it was , that will help other searchers on the way to finishing the hunt. Lots of people are working on this, people come and go but there are some who are in it for the long run. The more people we can get on this hunt the more likely it is to be solved.

“It’s funny, every now and then somebody shows up and makes announces they have solved the secret and know the solution. But until we find a casque every solution is a good as the next.”

Wow. But with all that talk of buried treasure, the first thing that crossed my mind was “how the heck did he get permission to start carving giant holes into Golden Gate Park”?

So I asked:

“I looked them up on the internet, and then called — got transfered a few times then got right to the correct person, they were very helpful and had no problems as long as I put everything back as I found it.

“While I was digging, one of the park workers pulled up and I thought “uh-oh”, but he just got out and said hi and told me his boss had told him what I was going to be doing and he asked if I found anything…

“I’ve been back 3 or four times (with permission) and each time found nothing…”

And that’s where the story stands. The gold rush is over, dear readers, but take heart — there’s still treasure to be excavated. That casque is still buried out there somewhere, lurking deep in the heart of our own backyard.

Happy hunting … and keep me posted.

For further edification:
» The Secret Wiki:
» The Secret BBS: quest4treasure bbs (this site requires registration)
» Buy your own copy of The Secret