In the first part of this series we began searching for a gemstone hidden somewhere in New York as part of a really cool treasure hunt from the 80s. If you haven't read Part One, you can find it here.
Part One Recap
Josh Gates, the host of the television series Expedition Unknown, searched for the treasure in Lower Manhattan. A clue that referenced a ‘slender path’ led him down Wall Street to the gates of a church and cemetery. Gates was led there by a verse with the words, “speaks of indies native.” He believed this was a reference to Alexander Hamilton, who was born in the West Indies and now is buried in the church cemetery. The church in question is the famous Trinity Church, famous for so many reasons not only because it is Hamilton’s resting place but because of another man also named Gates.
Another Gates in an Even More Famous Treasure Hunt
Before Josh Gates came to Trinity Church following cryptic clues, Ben Gates had come in search of a Templar Treasure. This Gates, however, was fictional, played by our national treasure, the one and only Nick Cage. Near the climax of the film a riddle on the Declaration of Independence told him to go Heere at the Wall. Trinity Church is at the cross section of Wall Street and Broadway. The original name of Wall Street was Heere.
Trinity Church is a badass location for a movie and a real life treasure hunt. The tombstones are right out of Tales from the Crypt, riddled with skulls and Freemason symbols.
And speaking of the Freemasons, it’s this secret society that pulls Ben Gates's ass out of the fire in National Treasure. You see the Knights Templars were enormously wealthy for some mysterious reason and they escaped persecution by the Pope by loading ships with their treasure and coming to America. They hid their treasure in New York, as you do, and evolved into the Freemasons. Everyone knows our founding fathers are Freemasons, just look at our money. Ben Gates found one of the clues left by the Freemasons on the back of the Declaration of Independence and it led him to Trinity Church.
Someone’s Got to Go to Jail
To prevent the bad guys from finding the treasure, and to stretch a one hour screenplay into two, Ben Gates had to steal the Declaration of Independence so he could look at them through Ben Franklin’s (Freemason) magic glasses. Police captain Sandusky, played by Harvey Keitel catches him at the Church and tells the not too cagey Cage that for stealing the Declaration of Independence, someone’s got to go to jail. “Someone always goes to jail.” In grave violation of police procedure and the laws of good screenwriting, Sandusky makes a deal. The camera zooms in on Sandusky’s ring to reveal… drum roll please… Sandusky is a Freemason! Sandusky lets Gates go because he aims to protect the treasure for posterity, not steal it. Turns out the treasure was hidden in secret tunnels below the Church. They would have made great prizes for the church bingo but sadly they were likely hauled off to a stuffy museum.
Byron Preiss’s New York Treasure Hunt Ends for the Real Life Gates
Cut to the real life Gates running around the graves just outside the church. He’s in front of the grave of Alexander Hamilton, an unfinished pyramid that looks a lot like Benjamin Franklin’s original drawing of the Great Seal. But no Freemason comes to his rescue and lucky for you, he has no idea where to go from there. You know how I know he didn’t find it? He would have dug it up. Duh! Know how else I know? Because I know someone who knows where it is. He’s got two thumbs and both of them are bouncing around the keys of my keyboard.
Josh Gates Gets Lucky in Boston
In 2019 TV host Gates returned to the treasure hunt, this time in Boston. Expedition Unknown didn’t film a reenactment, they filmed treasure hunter Jason Krupat and his family literally digging for the gemstone. The obstacles Jason faced may not have been the kind Byron Preiss imagined. The original spot was under the home plate of a baseball diamond. Now it was a construction area with a Danger: Keep Out sign.
Krupat pieced together broken pieces of the ceramic box and key. Byron Preiss’s estate authenticated the find and awarded the gem. But the bigger find goes to Gates. He’s unearthed a gem of nostalgia. Something ahead of its time in the 80s to a time we need it most. We want off the bloody sofa. We don’t have to listen to Millie Vanillie while we do it but we want to DO something again - together.
It’s a Different Ball Game Now
I’m sure Byron Preiss weighed the pros and cons of literally burying treasure in public spaces and decided to throw caution to the wind. And I’m glad he did. But a lot has changed. Digging a hole in a park in lower Manhattan post 911 might be like digging your way onto a no fly list. To find his treasure you need, what’s the word? Balls. You need balls. Some armchair treasure hunters on the internet goad New Yorkers into picking up a shovel. They’ll shout “I told you so!” but in the meantime they conveniently can’t come to New York. Maybe they’re on a no fly list.
The estate of Byron Preiss and artist John Jude Palencar assure treasure hunters that no laws need to be broken.
But Homeland Security isn’t the only obstacle to consider. If we don’t know whether we’ll be arrested or find glory, then a little voice in our head tells us to stay safely on the sofa. In the case of Byron Preiss’s The Secret, we stay on the sofa because we don’t know whether a condo was built over the baseball diamond where the treasure was hidden.
But there is a solution. One of the things about Byron Preiss’s treasure hunts that made it ahead of its time was how it layered the story onto the real world. Like how a real life water tower in Chicago becomes a fantasy turret in Palencar’s art. We have a tool that hasn’t yet found its place that is perfect for this.
Who is the Grey Giant? My 2023 Augmented Reality Treasure Hunt Update
As grateful as I am that Byron Preiss buried the treasure, I also think the time has come for compromise. Three treasures found in 40 years is not an optimistic trend. Unless we reach the Singularity and my consciousness is uploaded to the cloud, I won’t be around for 120 years to say, I told you it was there, each time a new gem is found.
Can You Solve Byron Preiss’s New York Riddle? Puzzle # 2
The image below is the New York clue from The Secret. Below that is a zapcode for AR app Zappar. With the app on your phone, the image below will become animated and present a clue slightly easier than the Byron Preiss original. It’s based on my theory of the treasure location. You can use Google Maps. The app has no ads, no privacy issues and is free.
Am I reaching? Am I cannonballing to conclusions? Am I certifiably bonkers? Leave a (kind) note in the comments if you watched the AR and solved the riddle. The beauty of augmented reality is that I can update it with hints whenever from wherever.
A New Kind of Treasure Hunt Begins
This is how it begins - how the real world can become populated with story. Maybe the puzzle locks will appear on our phones or smart glasses but the keys will be out there in the real world.
The last augmented reality clue to the exact location of the treasure is waiting in the queue. I'm waiting for a few more people to see the first two so please help spread this blog.
If you find it, the treasure is yours entirely. However, I would be eternally grateful to any hunters who share their experience with my readers through photos and videos.
Happy hunting and remember to bring your shovel. And your balls. You need balls. (But also remember I am not liable and I’m on a no fly list so I can’t go to New y bail you out of jail. - Remember, someone’s always got to go to jail.)
If you want to see how I'm building a real world alternate reality game in New York's Central Park join our beta team.