In 1979 a British artist published a book containing riddles and puzzles about the location of a 18kt gold hare, setting off a worldwide treasure hunt which lasted over two years, and ended in scandal

In 1979 a British artist published a book containing riddles and puzzles about the location of a 18kt gold hare, setting off a worldwide treasure hunt which lasted over two years, and ended in scandal

Where’s Waldo is a children’s book where you have to find that character Waldo who is hidden in a picture.

Before this, though, a British writer named Kit Williams wrote a children’s book titled Masquerade with a real life treasure hunt with a much better prize than just satisfaction: an 18-carat golden hare.

Challenged by Tom Maschler, of the British publishing firm Jonathan Cape, to "do something no one has ever done before" with a children's book, Williams set out in the 1970s to create a book of paintings that readers would study carefully rather than flip through and discard.

He sealed the hare inside a ceramic hare-shaped casket both to protect the prize from the soil and foil any attempts to locate the treasure with a metal detector.

On 7 August 1979, Williams (accompanied by celebrity witness Bamber Gascoigne) buried the casket at a secret location within England. Williams announced that his forthcoming book contained all clues necessary to decode the treasure's precise location "within a few inches." At the time, the only additional clue he provided was that it was buried on public property that could be easily accessed.

In March 1982, Kit Williams announced that Ken Thomas had won the contest, but that wasn’t the end of it. On December 11, 1988, The Sunday Times printed a story accusing the winner of the Masquerade contest of being a fraud. The winner, "Ken Thomas", was revealed to be a pseudonym of Dugald Thompson. Thompson's business partner, John Guard, was the boyfriend of Veronica Robertson, a former live-in girlfriend of Williams.

Only later did Williams discover that Thompson had not solved the puzzle in the intended manner, but appeared at the time to have blundered into a lucky guess. Shortly after Thompson was formally awarded the prize, the correct solution was unraveled by two physics teachers, Mike Barker of William Hulme's Grammar School and John Rousseau of Rossall School.

Barker and Rousseau had actually unearthed the prize themselves, but had not noticed it inside its clay box; Thompson, who was loitering in the area, discovered it in the dirt piles they left behind.

Williams was shocked to discover the scandal and is quoted as saying:

"This tarnishes Masquerade and I'm shocked by what has emerged. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to all those many people who were genuinely looking for it. Although I didn't know it, it was a skeleton in my cupboard and I'm relieved it has come out."

(Source)

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