On the Trail of the Golden Owl: An Armchair Treasure Hunt
By John Davis
So you say you are up for a quest for a magnificent hidden golden owl statue? You will spare no effort to find the elusive bird, knowing it is secreted in some dark chamber?
This search, begun in 1993, still has treasure seekers wandering the French countryside, looking here, poking there. The pursuviants are following 11 clues found in a French livre titled, “Sur la trace de la chouette d’or”, “On the trail of the golden owl”.
The author, whose nom de plume is Max Valentin, claims to have buried the treasure himself, and wrote the various clues. The clues are said to lead to a magnificent ‘golden owl’ art work, originally worth some 100,000 Francs. The Owl was made by Michel Becker, the same man who illustrated Valentin’s book.
Be advised, however, the Owl you will find is wisely a bronze copy, which you may trade for the gold original from Valentin’s lawyer when you find it.
What the searchers, who call themselves les chouetteurs, (roughly translated as the ‘cool ones’) have found to date is…nothing. Being French, they share tips, observations, bursts of insight and a host of other trivia on a website dedicated to this quest in their country.
Oh, did Max mean the owl is hidden in metropolitan France, or its overseas colonies and islands? Who knows? Apparently, however, the location is verified to within 100 kilometers of the French coast. The coast is very long!
The clues themselves are incredibly complex. Valentin spent almost two months to compose them. Yet, despite his efforts, searchers were digging in chapels, monuments, even historical sites in Paris. Poor Valentin, who thought this hunt would be solved in only a few months opened a website to clarify questions. Before he closed it down, he’d answered almost a hundred thousand inquiries. Trying to keep searchers on track, lawyers at bay, newsmen happy, and clues clear was tough. He even offered various additional clues to help the seekers along. Most clues are solved, although the veracity of the conclusions must now forever remain an enigma.
Sad for les chouetteurs, Max Valentin died in 2009. No one has found it, and some wonder if it is ‘there’ at all. Of course, Valentin left a tantalizing comment that once, upon checking the site to be sure no one had found it, he saw earth was disturbed ‘400 feet’ away. He was unable to verify if man or beast made the impressions ‘near’ the treasure. Such dangling verbal baubles keep les chouetteurs digging and hoping.
So brush up your high school French, and Bon chance!
~By MW Team Writer: John Davis
John William Davis is a retired US Army counterintelligence officer and linguist. As a linguist, Mr. Davis learned five languages, the better to serve in his counterintelligence jobs during some 14 years overseas. He served in West Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands during the Cold War. There he was active in investigations directed against the Communist espionage services of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. His mission was also to investigate terrorists such as the Red Army Faction in Germany, the Red Brigades in Italy, and the Combatant Communist Cells (in Belgium) among a host of others.
His work during the Cold War and the bitter aftermath led him to write Rainy Street Stories, ‘Reflections on Secret Wars, Terrorism, and Espionage’. He wanted to talk about not only the events themselves, but also the moral and human aspects of the secret world as well.
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