The Secret Armchair Treasure Hunt to be on Expedition Unknown

A few years ago, I wrote a summary on The Secret Armchair Treasure Hunt book. This treasure hunt was published in 1982 and included clues to 12 ceramic casks buried across the states and one in Canada (each held a key to be redeemed for a gemstone).  To date, only 2 of the casks have ever been discovered since the book’s release.  One found in 1984, and another cask, decades later, was unearthed in 2004.

It’s been recently announced that The Secret will be featured on an upcoming episode of Expedition Unknown with Josh Gates. The new season begins late December (2017), with The Secret episode scheduled to air on January 17th, 2018.

Gates mentions at a meeting he spoke at how the upcoming show on The Secret is going to include visits to Cleveland and Chicago, where the 2 casks were found, and a visit to Florida, where one of the 10 remaining casks is believed to be buried.  It will be exciting to watch what all is included!

I always find it interesting to think about this hunt.  There are many people (including myself) who are still working on finding a cask- even after OVER 30 years!  AND even after the author of the hunt (the only person who knew the answers) was killed in a tragic car accident in 2005.  Byron Preiss, the creator of The Secret, was supposed to have left solutions to the puzzles, but they were never found. It’s possible with the passing of time and the changing of landscapes, some of the casks may never be unearthed.

armchair treasure hunt

Image 11 of The Secret (and used on the cover of the book)

Nonetheless, there continues to be hope another cask will be discovered some day!  And that would be treasure itself; determination and perseverance rewarded with achievement.  (It has been stated, however, the key and cask could be redeemed for a gemstone still.  The Preiss family has them.)

As mentioned in the previous article the hunt requires the matching of an image to a verse.  Numerous theories and ideas on how the 12 images match up with the 12 verses are discussed and can be found over the internet.

Fortunately, much can be learned from the 2 casks which were already found.  Going over their solutions and how the clues worked out in those finds, offer sound possibilities for how future casks might be ultimately unearthed.

So it is known that each image links up with one verse. Together, the correct image and verse, provide clues to the exact location of the buried cask.

As of now the most agreed upon locations are as follows:

Image 1 matches with Verse 7 : possible location San Francisco

Image 2 matches with Verse 6: possible location Charleston

Image 3 matches with Verse 11: possible location Roanoke Island

Image 4 matches with Verse 4:  CONFIRMED location Cleveland: Found in 2004

Image 5 matches with Verse 12: CONFIRMED location Chicago: Found in 1984

Image 6 matches with Verse 9: possible location St. Augustine

Image 7 matches with Verse 2: possible location New Orleans

Image 8 matches with Verse 1: possible location Houston

Image 9 matches with Verse 5: possible location Montreal CANADA

Image 10 matches with Verse 8: possible location Milwaukee

Image 11 matches with Verse 3: possible location Boston

Image 12 matches with Verse 10: possible location New York City

The above are ‘ideas’ based on sound reasoning and years of research.  It should be remembered, like any treasure hunt, until the treasure is found they are not confirmed locations and remain only possibilities.

To provide an example of how an image matches with a verse, we can look to the solution of the Cleveland find:

Image 4 with Verse 4.

Image 4 of The Secret

Verse 4: (Image 4 shown right):

Beneath two countries

As the road curves

In a rectangular plot

From right to left

Beneath the ninth row from the top

Of the wall including small bricks

Seven steps up you can hop

From the bottom level

Socrates, Pindar, Apelles

Free speech, couplet, birch

To find casque’s destination

Seek the columns

For the search.


The image hid an outline of Ohio (under the tree on left (above white area) and coordinates for general location (dates on monument: 1442 and 1881 for 41/42 and 81).

The columns matched the entrance to the Greek Cultural Garden in Cleveland, Ohio.  From there other items in the image matched up to items found in the Garden.  For instance, the Centaur holds a container which matches the shape of a fountain in the Gardens.

Much of the verse then directed a searcher where exactly to dig once the general area (the Garden) was realized.

Now it can be questioned how did one match the image to the verse, and that is where it does get tricky.  There doesn’t seem to be any ‘method’ revealed in this find, other than the fact the image provided clues to the Gardens and looking at the verses, Verse 4 was realized to match up to the area.  An example is within the Garden is a monument with the names of Socrates, Pindar, and Apelles engraved (there are other names engraved on the monument as well, but these 3 are among them). These names are mentioned in a line of Verse 4; connecting Verse 4 with the Image by location.

Other verses offer more help to finding the area though.  Take for example Verse 11 which has the line ‘Ride the man of oz’.  This is believed to refer to the Washington Baum Bridge which connects to Roanoke Island.  L. Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz and such the clue to the Bridge.  This is believed confirmed by the next line of Verse 11, ‘To the land near the window’.  In image 3 (the Image believed to match Verse 11), there is an outline that matches Roanoke Island next to the window in the image.

These kind of concrete matches, along with other subtler clues connecting Image and Verse, narrow down options for linking the more troubling of pairs.  Although challenging, it is the challenge that makes it fun.  How wonderful there remains ‘treasures’ out there to solve.

The Secret is a treasure hunt with treasures yet to find!  However, please remember, to respect all areas while searching.  The casks are buried, and digging is much more looked down upon than it was in the early 80’s.  Areas and ownerships have changed, and so permission from authorities must often be obtained.

These remaining casks have been hidden for over 30 years now, and it is time for another one to be found!  It’s on my list! Is it on yours?


Best of luck in all that you seek! Always Treasure the Adventure!


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3 Responses

  1. Buckeye Bob says:

    So many great treasure hunts!
    You’re going to be busy with this site for a long time, Jenny.

    What’s great is that they are difficult. That adds mystery and gives them a special place in history.

  2. JamesV says:

    I paired Image 2 with Verse 5, which led to a dig site along the Northwest Bastion or Fort Moultrie, Sullivan’s Island, SC. Haven’t been able to recover the casque (yet), but I put the full write-up on the Q4T forums in case the research will help solve other locations.

  3. Madesquare says:

    I became interested in this hunt a while back when MW posted the New York verse and picture. I worked away at that one for a while even though Boston is the closest one to me. I never expected to go digging or that the jewels are still obtainable. Hunt creator Byron Preiss died quite a while ago and word is that the jewels were sold off when the estate was settled. Be that as it may, I developed a solve around Owls Head park in Brooklyn. But a lot of people have made a really good case that the correct solution is Fort Hamilton High School, and that specific location is 22 feet from the center of the v shaped walkway I. Front of the school. A period aerial photo shows this clearly, though the current google maps image shows the area all dug up by construction, with no sign of the walkway. At this point, according to the verse, you are supposed to look for “simple roots,” that will show you where to dig. That’s not a lot of detail, but presumably if you were wandered around the spot in the early eighties (or just conceivably today) you would find something that would spark a connection. Simple roots may even have something to do with Preiss himself, since he graduated from FHHS in 1969. So why am I going on about this? While I was looking at Owls Head Park I made a small discovery that might have some bearing on the location of the lost casque. Simple roots is an odd phrase. But it anagrams beautifully into “lost promise.” Is or was there some symbol of a road not taken, possibly in Preisses own life, in front of the old school? Anybody care to look?

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