1982 Book Could Lead Way to 10 Lost Treasures

If you unearth one of the 10 keys, you can claim a precious gem

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 16, 2014 1:15 PM CDT | Updated Jul 19, 2014 12:07 PM CDT

(Newser) – In the early 1980s, Byron Preiss buried 12 keys underground in North America that, when found, can be turned in for gems worth $1,000 each. He and a number of collaborators created a book called The Secret: A Treasure Hunt!, published in 1982, that contains a dozen paintings and poems, each of which leads the way to the location of one key—as long as the finder is willing to dig three feet and unearth one of the ceramic casques that holds each key. Preiss was inspired by a wildly popular book with the same idea, Masquerade, that was published in the UK in 1979—but The Secret wasn't nearly so popular, the clues are difficult, and just two keys have been found in the ensuing 32 years. Preiss, the only person who knew exactly where the keys are buried, died in 2005. But thanks to the book's resurgence on the Internet, James Renner is determined to unearth one of the keys, almost 30 years after he first became enchanted with the book as an 8-year-old boy at an Ohio library, he writes in Boing Boing.

A Reddit post introduced the book to a new generation of treasure seekers late last year, and it includes links to all sorts of resources, including a comprehensive wiki about the book, high-resolution digital versions of the paintings, a map of the presumed locations of the keys, and much, much more. Or you can do things the hard way, buy the Amazon Kindle version of the book yourself, and try to decode it. As for the two keys found so far, the first was dug up by three kids in Chicago in 1984, and the second was found by two lawyers in Cleveland in 2004. The rest are still up for grabs—and, Preiss' widow confirms to Renner, the gems are, too, so anyone who finds a key will be rewarded. Renner is set to interview the three kids from 1984 and then travel to various locations to search for more keys—all with a documentary crew in tow to film the hunt. (Click to read about seven more lost treasures you can search for.)

A man puts books into a shelf at the Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany, on Oct. 8, 2013.
A man puts books into a shelf at the Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany, on Oct. 8, 2013.   (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
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