November 18th, 2019

I have lately become obsessed with a treasure hunt described in a book called “The Secret” by Byron Preiss (1982)

I’m just the right age to have been very interested in this book when it was published in 1982, but I honestly don’t remember it. It wasn’t until I saw the episode of Expedition Unknown in January of 2018 that it caught my eye.

For those who don’t know, The Secret describes twelve hidden treasures that the author deposited in 1981. Byron Preiss visited twelve parks around the country where, disguised as a utility maintenance worker, he buried what he called casques - small ceramic containers protected by plexiglass cubes. The goal of the reader was to solve the clues and find the casque, inside which is a ceramic key which can be exchanged for gemstone worth about a thousand dollars. They say that he expected these twelve keys to be found fairly quickly - maybe a year or so, and that would pave the way to writing a second book. That didn’t happen, and it wasn’t until 1983 that the first one was found by teenagers in Chicago. After that, no one found anything for decades all the while, grounds-keepers, and the ravages of time have changed the landscape erasing clues. It seems to be a common theme in the search. It gets very exciting for a bit, and then years go by.

A second casque was eventually found in Cleveland in 2004, and then, you guessed it, nothing for many years after that.

Since then, Josh Gates of “Expedition Unknown” has been sucked into this obsession, and he has done(so far) three episodes about The Secret. In the most recent, he went along with a search in Boston, and they actually found it!! I watched it three times!

This brings us to my own obsession: image #6 and verse #9. Everyone agrees that image #6 is in Florida. Everyone also agrees that verse #9 goes with Image #6. By the way, that’s how we are supposed to find the keys. Each of the twelve treasures has an image that hints at a city, and each has a verse that tells you where to dig.

Everyone agrees on those two things, and most sane people believe the city is St. Augustine, and the park(these are all in parks) is The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. Although the Florida treasure has not been found yet, this location is so close to being an established fact that it approaches religious dogma, and with good reason. The connections with the verses are amazing. Even some of the things in the image point to the F.O.Y. park

You may have guessed by now that I’m about to propose heresy. So, here goes. What if, what if - it’s not in St. Augustine?

Marjory Stoneman Douglas

The most prominent element in image #6 is a stone man. In 1947 the Everglades National Park was established, and that same year “The Everglades: River of Grass” was published by Marjory Stoneman Douglas. In the lining of the hardback cover of her book, there is a map of South Florida, and the coastline matches the profile in image #6.

So, that’s the good part. The disappointing part is that, while there are two parks named after her, neither of them has anything resembling anything in verse #9 except the green fence and tall trees. In both cases, the fences are steel and not picket, so that’s no match. The smaller of the two is about the size of my front yard, so not a place B.P. would have buried a casque. The larger park is even less interesting, with nothing more than cement sidewalks and grass(not even tall grass).

There is also a statue of her in yet another park, but the plaque says it was created in 2005, so that’s another dead end.

Don Quixote

The character on horseback is assumed to be the conquistador Juan Ponce De Leon because of his connection to the fountain of youth. But look closer, and you’ll see he’s not dressed like a soldier. He’s dressed like a fool. He’s not even wearing shoes. Notice also that he’s looking down, which is a good match for the famous Picasso sketch of Don Quixote.

If it is Don Quixote, then he fits the whimsical mood of The Secret better than a Rape-Pillage-and-Plunder conquistador.

When I think of Don Quixote, I always think of windmills, and the only full-sized Dutch-style windmill in Florida, according to the Wikipedia page of windmills (that’s a thing) is in Miami. Or I should say was in Miami. It’s gone now, destroyed by a fire in ??. I can’t find confirmation of a year. We do know where it was, though. It was an icon of Miami for decades and featured prominently on many postcards. It was built to promote a casino in Miami Beach. I found at least three different names for this hotel/casino: Carl Fisher Casino, Roman Pools Casino, and St John’s Casino. It was somewhere between 22nd and 23rd street and Collins Ave.

What’s there now is interesting and matches a few of the things from verse #9.

The Bass Museum of Art

The interesting things in the lawn in front of the museum are:

• A huge and beautiful tree (tall tree)

• Four bronze busts of men (near men)

• A vertical stack of stones (just like the image)

• A piece of art called The Story of Man (every story has a First Chapter). This piece is ringed by a low pool which reflects the carvings (written in water)

But before we get too excited, there is bad news aplenty. Here are the misses:

• No windmill today. Was it there in 1981?

• No tall grass, bending branches, green picket fence(or fence of any kind)

• No shell, limestone, silver, salt, wind rose, or honking unless you count the traffic (there was quite a bit of that while I was there)

In fact, it really only sorta matches four out of the fifteen lines in verse #9. So there you have it. I had great fun searching Miami but didn’t come up with anything definitive.