Epic Treasure Hunt Walk-Through
December 31, 2013 - Blog
In Fall of 2007 a few friends and I set out to make the most fun and complicated treasure hunt we could imagine on the University of Missouri’s campus. We put in hundreds of hours over the next several months and the result was a mind bending week of clue solving for the participants. Players skipped class to find their next clues, stopped eating, pulled all-nighters—it was pretty fun to watch them run around and solve the puzzles we’d made up.
The treasure hunt is over now, of course, but I’ve posted the complete clue walk-through that all the players received after it was over. Enjoy.
Treasure Hunt Clue Walk-Through
The first night you received two things: a rule sheet and a clock. The clock was covered in words and would give extra clues throughout the treasure hunt when you move the hands of the clock to make different times. There were a couple mysterious things about the clock and you gradually found out what exactly you got that first night as the hunt progressed. Mysterious thing #1 = there was a picture of a black tree with a red leaf in it. Mysterious thing #2 = there was a map of campus on the back of the clock which had a secret message written on it in blacklight ink. Mysterious thing #3 = the rule sheet was signed by C. T. Thorale written in scrabble tiles. All of these were keys to the rest of the treasure hunt, which everyone carried the whole time without knowing it.
The first clue was in the Missourian on Wednesday morning. It was a small ad that said “Wise shall be bearers of light” and had a picture of an X with a flashlight shining on it. This led to the Journalism School arch, over which is the inscription on the ad. On one of the stone lions was a tiny X which if you shine a flashlight on it glow letters appeared around it which said, “YouTube Thorale.”
That led to a video clue on YouTube under the search phrase “thorale.” The video split the treasure hunt into three parts, with each part coming together again two clues later. Each of the three paths gave you either 1. a building location 2. a locker number and 3. the combination to the lock. The first path led to the physics building to a photo case just outside the planetarium. In one of the scenes on the YouTube video there was a clock on the wall over Tom Hanks’ shoulder which had the time 1:55 on it. When you moved the hands on your clock you received the first night you should have seen the words Harlow Shapely. Inside the photo case was a picture of astronomer and Mizzou grad, Harlow Shapely. The combination to the lock was taped to the back of his portrait in the photo case.
The second place the video led to was to Peace Park. There was a map in one of the sewers in the park. On the map were four shaded regions of campus and directions on the back explaining that in each of the shaded regions there was an X hidden. What you had to do next was find each of the 4 points, mark their location on the map, and then cross them with an X. X marked the building the locker was in, Tate Hall.
The third part of the video clue led to the actual locker number. In A&S there was an X on a ceiling tile. You had to find the X (Room 200… by the way), move aside the tile and find an address above it. The address was 909 Lowry Mall, the address of the Student Success Center. Inside the SSC there is a giant projector screen that scrolls through powerpoint slides on a 5 minute rotation. The clue was one of those slides.
Once you had the combo, the building, and the locker number you could go to the right locker and find inside it a word find. The things hidden in the word find were things like 400 degrees, iron, invisible, scorch, burnt, etc. (yes… all the three letter words were accidental). These words pointed to the fact that there was invisible ink on the word find. If you put the word find in an oven, ironed it, or heated it up in any other way an email address would have appeared in dark brown ink.
After emailing the email address you received an auto-response back telling you that the next portion of the treasure hunt was a timed section and to assemble your team at Memorial whenever you were ready to begin. Then, when everyone was together, you texted the word “Gauntlet” to a phone number and then received the first set of instructions back. This first task of the gauntlet was to find a set of numbers taped on the black posts around the tiger mosaic. These numbers corresponded to the rows and columns in a plaque just inside Ellis library. Teams wrote the numbers down then figured out what letter each number represented using the plaque. The sentence was “3:16 The Union of two hands points the way.”
The two hands were the hands of a clock, the Memorial Union clock, which at 3:16 (when the two hands were right on top of one another) pointed directly at the next clue. It was on a balcony outside a room on the third floor of Memorial Union and was a reference number to a book in the west stacks in Ellis. After tracking down the reference number you would have seen a black book with the corresponding reference number and an X on the spine. Inside the book (in a cutout spot in the pages) was a blacklight that said “shine on the unseen map” on the side of it. When you turned it on and turned your clock over four X’s and an email address appeared written in blacklight ink. After emailing the address you found out that the four X’s were four riddles written on transparencies that you would also need the blacklight to read. The gauntlet ended when you solved each riddle and texted the answers to the same number you began the gauntlet with. If your team completed that series of clues in under two hours then you received the next clue immediately, if not then you received it 12 hours later.
The next clue came in the form of a text message that had the address of a Xanga site. On the Xanga site was a picture of a display case in the art museum with the caption “Look Closer”. The caption referred to the fact that the museum clue was hidden under the magnifying glasses on the display case counter. When you found the right display case you pulled up the little tray the magnifying glasses were sitting in and saw a picture of a bulletin that had been posted on a bulletin board somewhere on campus.
The bulletin board was in Middlebush and was three sheets of paper laminated together. On the outside of it, along with an advertisement for the treasure hunt, was a picture of a clock being cut by scissors. If you set the time on your clock to the same time as the clip art clock you received the hint “secret within”, which was a clue to cut open the clock and take out the clue laminated inside.
The page you found was a picture of the Maryland state flag that said “Level 3 @ 10:37” The time was a clue that said “Water reveals the truth.” When you found the appropriate spot in Maryland garage and poured water on it letters that had been written in clear sealant would appear, as the rest of the concrete around it would get wet and darker and the letters would stay light and dry. What you saw when you found that clue was the word mystical written seven times and also the word doorway. This clue led to the Mystical 7 display case in Memorial, where you would find an info card with an added clue (bracketed by X’s) which said that Mystical 7’s meeting place was Plaza amphitheater by night, near the lights.
In Plaza amphitheater there are round lights built into the sides of the walls. At night they would turn on and a message would shine through one of them. It was a cryptoquote, a word puzzle made by substituting letters for other letters. When unscrambled the sentence directed you to Townsend Hall in the Reflector. A time came along with this sentence that told you the background of the right computer in reflector and the search phrase to find the file on that computer.
The file was a video of two hidden places on campus. One was at the top of Switzler hall, where there were puzzles hidden. The other was beneath Arts and Science, where a decoder was placed. On the back of the puzzles there were many words written, which you would need the decoder to decipher. The only three words on the back of the puzzle that fit perfectly into the three cut out places on the decoder were “Sand” “S. E. Corner” and “Shovel”.
This led to the volleyball courts, where there were two cryptexes buried. Each ring is covered in many letters and when the letters were lined up in the proper phrase the cryptex would open. The clue to what that phrase was was “My name is my password.” This was a reference to the name that was signed on the rule sheet you received the first night. “C. T. Thorale” unscrambles into “Charlotte,” which was the phrase that opened the cryptex.
Inside the cryptex was a clue that led you to begin looking for a single red leaf in a green tree with a key attached to it. The key was the key to the final treasure. The first team to find the leaf won.