Won't you help me solve a thirty-year-old puzzle?
May 14, 2013 10:39 AM   Subscribe

Hello darlings. I'd like your help, specifically in the form of looking at a painting and telling me if you recognize any parts of it from the city you live in, especially if that city is Boston. There's a fair amount of background in terms of what to look for, so please do bear with me. It's all relevant, I promise.

I hope you'll pardon me if I am a little obtuse about this - this is a very niche hunt, and if too many details are released to the internet at large, I'm sort of afraid that someone else will figure this out before me and then go get the thing I'm looking for. Normally I'm not so selfish, but I've been trying to solve this for about a decade now and I would be a bit put out, you know? Also, I first found out about this hunt when I was just a wee MONSTER, reading a preview of it in one of FAMOUS FATHER's issues of National Lampoon. I found the actual book about a decade ago (it's long out of print) and only in the last few years found out that other people remember it and are still working to solve it.

About thirty years ago, a man put out a book which contained clues that would, when solved, lead intrepid explorers to twelve locations in North America where little sculpted boxes were buried. Inside each box was a key, and each key could be redeemed for a precious stone, worth about a grand apiece. Two of them were found (one in the eighties, one in the last decade), and exchanged for stones. In 2005, the man who buried them (and the only person who knows the solution to all the puzzles) died in a car crash, and there will be no more jewelry, but whatever, there's still boxes and keys and I'd like to find one or at least figure out where it once was, and this is where you come in.

So it's like this. Ten of them are still out there. Clues to the location of each one (in terms of city and state) are hidden in images in the book. Most of the people working on this have a pretty solid idea about nine of the images; there are recognizable outlines of states or landmarks or what have you. There's one that we're not sure about, and for reasons to do with other content in the book, some people suspect that it might lead to Boston. This would be excellent news for me, since I live there.

First, the two solved images, so you can see what to look for. The notes in these images may refer to verses or months - just ignore that for now. The landmarks are the part we care about. I'm sorry, I know this is a lot, but it's crucial to the question I'm asking.

One was found in Chicago. Here is the image found in the book. Here is an annotated version of that image, showing which parts are Chicago landmarks.

The other was found in Cleveland. Here is the original image, and here is the annotated version, as above.

So as you can see, some elements in each image were painted from photo reference and are realistic depictions of statues or sculptures or buildings or whatever, in their respective cities. Some are not (unless the Chicago Warty Castle-Headed Goblin is just a really well-kept local secret, I guess), and for the purposes of this question, we don't care about those.

Keeping all of the above in mind, we arrive at the actual question I'm asking.

Kindly regard this image.

Do you see anything in the above image which looks (with a degree of accuracy similar to that found in the previous two) like anything - buildings, sculptures, the recognizable outline of a public park, whatever - in or near the city of Boston? Failing that, do you recognize anything(s) from a different city? You may have to turn the image upside down, or sideways, or maybe you're looking for an outline, like the Terminal Tower in the Cleveland image.


1. The book was published in 1982, so anything which was built after that would be an astonishing feat of prescience on the artist's part but wouldn't be useful here. The date also means that no Photoshop trickery would be required to solve this, et cetera (though turning it upside down, for example, is fine). It's entirely possible that the painting may depict something that has disappeared in the last thirty years, and that's okay. The box may or may not still be there and I know the odds aren't great, but I'd be happy just knowing I'd figured out where it was. Or, if you recognize things from a completely different city, I'd be happy knowing I can stop looking in Boston.

2. To keep this question between the buoys as much as possible, I'm really only looking for definite matches - something where you look at an element in the image, and you know what it is and ideally can link to a picture of the landmark that you believe corresponds to it. Again, it won't just be something that looks sort of like the landmark - it will be an extremely close match. Speculation (say, on what the numbers mean, or that you noticed the triangle inside the square is evocative of the Citgo sign but isn't a photo-referenced painting of it, etc) is fine but you should probably just MeMail me with it.

Okay? Okay. Thanks so much for reading, and thanks in advance for whatever help you can give. You're the best. I could just kiss you.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER to Grab Bag (181 answers total) 106 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, and just because I'm not sure I made it super clear: You are not helping me find a thousand-dollar jewel. The keys can no longer be redeemed for those. You're helping me find an old sculpted box and the painted key inside it, neither of which are worth anything in terms of dollar amounts. Thanks again!
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:44 AM on May 14, 2013

Is there a reason you are thinking Boston in the first place? My first glance thought was New Mexico because of

- the lines on the flower are evocative of the flag
- the green fireballs of New Mexico with that thumbelina character

But I don't know the area that well. I've been around Boston most of my life and don't notice clues for it at all.
posted by jessamyn at 10:55 AM on May 14, 2013

If it is Boston, the globe might reference the Mapparium.
posted by Morrigan at 10:59 AM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Might totally be pareidolia, but in the shading above the flower, could that be the Faneuil Hall weathervane?
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:02 AM on May 14, 2013

My first thought was also the Mapparium.
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:15 AM on May 14, 2013

Does it have to be literal? It could also be a reference to the Boston Globe building.
posted by something something at 11:17 AM on May 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Might the bird be for the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal? The woman's hair over the fairy/sprite certainly looks like piers.
posted by Morrigan at 11:17 AM on May 14, 2013

The emerald reminds me of Seattle, the Emerald City. Also, her hair on that side evokes a "state line".
posted by tilde at 11:18 AM on May 14, 2013

Response by poster: Is there a reason you are thinking Boston in the first place?

The short version (as short as I can make it) is that the solving method (solving in this case meaning finding where the box is buried and digging it up) involves pairing a painting with a verse which is also in the book. The other verses have been accounted for, except for one, and it seems to make reference to historical events strongly associated with Boston. So we have an orphan verse and an orphan image (this one) and they've been paired up.

I refrained from posting the verse here because the verses are really only used to figure out where to start digging once you have a general region of the city, and because it would only contribute to confirmation bias, which is a factor that has more or less derailed the few people still looking for the box. The general region of the city is found using the images first.

I know the city reasonably well and there's nothing in it which leaps out at me, either. My figuring is that either someone will recognize something in the image from Boston, or from another city. Either is fine.

To complicate matters even further, there's a competing theory (though it has less support among the people still looking) that the image may refer to St. Louis, if that jogs anyone's memories of landmarks. But with that, as with Boston, I'd really be looking for landmarks sculptures, buildings, etc) specifically.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:20 AM on May 14, 2013

If I squint I can see 42⁰ on the right, above the globe, which would approximately be the latitude for Boston (and a lot of other US cities.) It could also be 112 though.

I'm not seeing anything else that makes me think of Boston. No shapes that remind of me buildings or towns.
posted by bondcliff at 11:22 AM on May 14, 2013

oh, that cancels out hawaii, which looks like the state flower and has the stipes in the flag that the flower does. There's a lot of celtic imagry, though that really screams Seattle/Wa to me, even though that's not as Nordic as Minn or Wisc.
posted by tilde at 11:23 AM on May 14, 2013

I'm another Bostonian, not seeing anything that particularly reminds me of Boston. The one famous landmark I do see is the Devil's Tower (the shape of the center of the woman's bangs).
posted by pie ninja at 11:24 AM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

There is a pretty clear 4 digit on the bracelet, with potentially a 2 in a more cursive script below it.
posted by stopgap at 11:29 AM on May 14, 2013

There is a "4" on her left sleeve, and a triangle on the cuff of the other (partial).

Five circles, seven if you count the moon and star; seven inhabited islands (Hawaiian Main). I know Ireland is the Emerald Isle but ...

The decorations remind me of natuical flags which again points me at seattle, big port town.
posted by tilde at 11:31 AM on May 14, 2013

Negative space by the hawk's foot looks like a pig in profile — so Porcellian gate?
posted by stopgap at 11:32 AM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

> There is a pretty clear 4 digit on the bracelet, with potentially a 2 in a more cursive script below it.

Boston's latitude is ~42 degrees north...
posted by xbonesgt at 11:33 AM on May 14, 2013

I have no idea if/what this has to do with Boston, but the "negative space" around the bird's talon looks (to me) like the head of a pig in profile.
posted by Dr. Wu at 11:33 AM on May 14, 2013

posted by Dr. Wu at 11:33 AM on May 14, 2013

Reaching, here:

Emeralds --> Emerald Isle --> Ireland --> Boston Celtics --> Boston Garden?
posted by Dr. Wu at 11:36 AM on May 14, 2013

What I first noticed was that the "notches" on the stone circle over her head also appear to be numbers... by my reckoning it's 0-1-7-4-1, which happens to be the zip code for Carlisle, MA. Not Boston proper, but maybe something?
posted by DeadliestQuack at 11:37 AM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

OK, maybe this is crazy talk. But the circle in the background immediately made me think of the aerial view of the Space Needle. There's something about the way lines that shoot off curve out of the image that really makes me think 'Space Needle.'

The globe below it looks like the globe from the Seattle PI building and also here.

Also, the little triangle dongle beside the globe makes me think of Key Arena.

All these things are within a few blocks of one another.
posted by Tevin at 11:38 AM on May 14, 2013

Or maybe just an allusion to Boston's strong Irish influence in general
posted by mikepop at 11:38 AM on May 14, 2013

Or maybe it's not a reach? The checkerboard patterning on the woman's scarf/shawl thingy looks not unlike the famous parquet floor at Boston Garden. (Since replaced? I don't follow the NBA anymore...)

Anyway, I suspect that I wouldn't be making such connections if I didn't have the mental "overlay" of "BOSTON." If you'd suggested DETROIT or OMAHA, I might find things in the drawing that evoke those cities!
posted by Dr. Wu at 11:38 AM on May 14, 2013

The emerald makes me think of the Emerald Necklace.
posted by JuliaJellicoe at 11:39 AM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

what type of flower is that near her left elbow?
posted by xbonesgt at 11:40 AM on May 14, 2013

Response by poster: what type of flower is that near her left elbow?

It is apparently a gladiolus.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:41 AM on May 14, 2013

I don't think the flower or gemstones are clues to the city - they are indicating the gemstone that is the prize for finding the key. In this case, peridot and gladiolus (the birthstone and flower for August).
posted by payoto at 11:41 AM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just to lend some credence to jessamyn's theory that the painting is about New Mexico, the woman's nose, upside-down, looks like a mushroom cloud.
posted by brevator at 11:43 AM on May 14, 2013

Also, the edges of her hair, where it fans out in a half-circle, is too deliberate and stylized NOT to evoke something. A city skyline? The edge of a boundary on a map?
posted by Dr. Wu at 11:43 AM on May 14, 2013

Some of the shapes I see that could be outlines of things are:

Light on her neck/shadow under chin. Looks like two hills. Reminds me of The Bubbles, in Acadia NP in Maine.

Her right shoulder/arm. Looks like a very distinct shape, almost like a bowling pin of boxing glove.

Blue space on either side of her waist. Especially on her right. Outline of town/state? Certainly not MA.

Index finger on right hand. Almost looks like a person. Reminds me of a bishop on a chessboard.

Sleeve on right hand. The bluish/white part around her cuff. Like a house on its side?

Black space on right, below the fairy. Reminiscent of a coastline or skyline.

Blue/purple space formed by the bird's claw and perch. Like a pig's head.

None of these things remind me of anything at all in the Boston area.
posted by bondcliff at 11:43 AM on May 14, 2013

Near Porcellian Gate used to be the Globe Corner bookstore, which had a globe hanging outside.
posted by stopgap at 11:44 AM on May 14, 2013

Look at the top stone of the arch/circle, to the right of where the crack is. Taken as a rectangle, it's basically an American flag in reverse. And directly to the right of the crack is a faded heart.

So you could make a case for Philadelphia - founding fathers, declaration of independence, city of brotherly love, etc.

The pig head shape in the bird's talons could refer to Hog Island, which sits under what is now Philadelphia International Airport.
posted by mikepop at 11:45 AM on May 14, 2013

So you could make a case for Philadelphia

Yes, I was thinking of Philadelphia as well. She looks like she's inside of a bell (a bell with a crack in it) and her head is bell-shaped.
posted by bondcliff at 11:46 AM on May 14, 2013

Going with the gladiola theme, a birth stone for August is also a Peridot which could account for the green gem (not an emerald?)
posted by danapiper at 11:47 AM on May 14, 2013

What are the other cities that have already been positively identified, so they can be ruled out?
posted by stopgap at 11:48 AM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

With the artifacting on the farie's wings, I can't tell if it's a cross, four leaved clover, or both.
posted by tilde at 11:48 AM on May 14, 2013

Google Image searching for the picture, I found the book in question. The picture FAMOUS MONSTER is looking for just happens to be the cover image.

Do any of the other Google Image search results give you clues that you haven't already considered?
posted by jozxyqk at 11:51 AM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Going on MikePop / Philly - I see the crack he's talking about, and a negative space heart to the right of it i the window frame.
posted by tilde at 11:56 AM on May 14, 2013

Going by some Google searches there is some talk that this could be Salt Lake City or Detroit.

I think with all the minds at work here and going by the other annotated images there would at least be one person who would recognize something from Boston.
posted by bondcliff at 12:04 PM on May 14, 2013

If you rotate what we called the "pig" image 90 degrees CCW it looks more like the head and leading leg of a horse. Unfortunately that doesn't help much in terms of landmarks because many cities have at least one equestrian statue (Philly and Boston both have famous George Washington equestrian statues in Eakins Oval and the Public Garden, respectively).
posted by mikepop at 12:04 PM on May 14, 2013

lat 42.112 = Charlton, Massachusetts 01507
posted by tilde at 12:10 PM on May 14, 2013

And in looking for numbers, to the right of the woman the metal curve piece around the globe and the metal curve piece below it (around nothing) form a sort of "3". Also in the scrollwork of the bottom square of the woman's skirt(?) to the right of that sphere is a fancy "3" or maybe even a script "B".
posted by mikepop at 12:11 PM on May 14, 2013

Also where someone saw either 112 or 42 at the edge of the flower earlier, that can also be read as 1122 (another 2-ish scrawl beneath the other)
posted by mikepop at 12:14 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: What are the other cities that have already been positively identified, so they can be ruled out?

They are:

San Francisco (reasonably certain)
Charleston (pretty sure about this one)
Roanoke Island (also pretty sure)
Cleveland (solved)
Chicago (solved)
St. Augustine (probably, but it's definitely in Florida)
New Orleans (pretty sure)
Houston (certain it's in Houston, but not found and it's probably gone by now)
Milwaukee (not found but it's definitely in Milwaukee)
New York City (not found but definitely in NYC)

There is also Montreal. There's some dispute over whether or not an image refers to Montreal or St. Louis.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:18 PM on May 14, 2013

Do you have the images? I'd love to see Houston's, as that's where I'm from. This is fun, sorry I can't help more.
posted by DynamiteToast at 12:22 PM on May 14, 2013

With some searching I found a higher-res image and put it here. There's a lot of other info out there for anyone who cares to search.

I've also found the verse in question, but I don't want to reveal anything FM doesn't want us to reveal.
posted by bondcliff at 12:23 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Nantucket is docked in East Boston, Lightship #112 (and a national monument).
posted by mikepop at 12:24 PM on May 14, 2013


Nevermind, found this that shows all the other images if you're curious.
posted by DynamiteToast at 12:25 PM on May 14, 2013

bondcliff: is the word "bucket" in it? ;)
posted by tilde at 12:26 PM on May 14, 2013

Turning back to Philadelphia, is that bird a raven? Because the Edgar Allan Poe house is a national landmark there.
posted by mikepop at 12:27 PM on May 14, 2013

More of a stretch, but the castle on the box could be a reference to the Armory of the First Corps of Cadets in Back Bay.
posted by stopgap at 12:28 PM on May 14, 2013

Response by poster: Would you reconsider not posting the verse? (by which I mean: could you post the verse?) This sort of thing is inevitably going to be confirmation-bias-y anyway, and I've love even a few scraps more information.


You can see at the end the apparent reference to Paul Revere's ride, but I'm open to interpretations.

CAVEATS ABOUT THE VERSE: Based on the working solutions, the verses are essentially stage directions. It's very unlikely that there are any anagrams, acronyms or whatever. Any wordplay will be basically the sort you'd expect to find in a fantasy novel in the eighties. The lack of punctuation means that it's not necessarily intended to be read sequentially, but really who knows.

It refers to Thucydides being north of Xenophon. Those two names are found on the exterior of the Boston Public Library, but T is not north of X (I have gone there and checked with a compass). Horace Walpole wrote a letter saying he envisioned "A Thucydides in Boston, a Xenophon in New York," which would fit, but it's a little obscure given that this was written long before Google, and anyway the solutions don't seem to require that kind of knowledge. It's worth pointing out that some of the verses do have fairly obscure literary references that do help to confirm the connection, but none of those have been crucial to solving their respective puzzles.

Finally, please bear in mind what I said about the verse: It's really the second step. The first is matching the image to a city. Once you have that narrowed down, the verse just lets you get more specific about where to dig, so try not to let the verse lead you anywhere the image doesn't support.

Okay. Here's the verse.

If Thucydides is

North of Xenophon

Take five steps

In the area of his direction

A green tower of lights

In the middle section

Near those

Who pass the coliseum

With metal walls

Face the water

Your back to the stairs

Feel at home

All the letters

Are here to see

Eighteenth day

Twelfth hour

Lit by lamplight

In truth, be free.

posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:28 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

The head of the bird is wrong for a raven. As are the claws - looks more falcon like to me.
posted by tilde at 12:30 PM on May 14, 2013

It's the detail work on the front skirt panel that is driving me INSANE. It's either an art nouveau stained glass panel or an architectural detail, and it strikes me as so familiar but I can't put my finger on it. (If it's an architectural detail it's probably Louis Sullivan, and there's a good bit of that in St. Louis so that might be an argument on that side.) Has anyone made stabs at identifying that?
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:30 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

For doubt on Boston, SLC is at exactly 42°N 112°W, and I agree that the detail in the lower center made me think of Louis Sullivan.
posted by stopgap at 12:32 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Is there a historical reason why midnight would be counted as the 12th hour? Because 18th of April, okay, but seems like the 12th hour would be noon, or at least a daylight hour.

Re: the bird -- pretty clearly a raptor of some sort. Also, we're meant to be looking for photorealistic clues more than metaphors.
posted by EvaDestruction at 12:33 PM on May 14, 2013

So, that tile on the top with the corner square cut out? Mirror image of Utah and the "crack" at the side/bottom of the state is Lake Powell?
posted by danapiper at 12:37 PM on May 14, 2013

Poem makes me think of the Harvard campus area, referencing the Harvard Coliseum and veritas ("in truth") pretty directly. I would guess a location near the River Houses ("at home")' facing the HBS library across the river ("all the letters are here to see"). This would also be by the boat house, home of "those who pass the coliseum with metal walls," i.e. in metal crew boats.
posted by stopgap at 12:46 PM on May 14, 2013

Yeah, 18th day and 12th hour of night would point strongly to Revere, as would the lighthouse/stairs and lamps of truth/freedom. Not sure why green lights. And duh, me, Boston is a heavy port town.

All of the identified / maybe identified towns are water port towns of one sort or another.

I can't find any famous letters but they do mention all the "letters" - some kind of libary that looks like / called Coliseum ?
posted by tilde at 12:49 PM on May 14, 2013

Also, the River House at that location, Eliot House, has a tower with a green roof at the top.
posted by stopgap at 12:49 PM on May 14, 2013

The panel on her skirt reminds me of Lewis Comfort Tiffany. The Ayer Mansion on Commonwealth Ave. in Boston is the country's only surviving residence designed by Tiffany. The mansion is open to the public, but unfortunately there aren't many pictured from it on the web, so it's hard to tell if the skirt matches any elements from the house.
posted by pompelmo at 12:58 PM on May 14, 2013

There are stairs at the Anderson Bridge (JFK St) at the location I was describing. Also only a couple blocks away to the west is Longfellow Park and the Longfellow memorial (Longfellow is the author of "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.").
posted by stopgap at 1:11 PM on May 14, 2013

The outline of her hair is tantalizingly similar to the piers in Boston Harbor, and not anything like the piers in Detroit, Philly or Seattle. But after playing with it a little bit I can't quite get it to line up properly. Have others tried?
posted by jhc at 1:16 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Next to the fairy is the outline of what I'm 90% sure is an aerial view of some docks/piers. With a river or channel coming in by one of them.
posted by fshgrl at 1:16 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

The bird strikes me as a peregrine falcon, or maybe a gyrfalcon?
posted by absquatulate at 1:18 PM on May 14, 2013

The book was published in 1982, so anything which was built after that would be an astonishing feat of prescience on the artist's part but wouldn't be useful here.

But I can't resist finding echoes of so many elements of this picture in the post-picture collection of the deCordova sculpture park, like the pattern in her dress panel, the heart above the window, the clover in Hope's wing, and then any number of thematic/geometric elements like the pig, the fanned-out hair, and the many spheres.
posted by payoto at 1:21 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

There is a sculpture of a falcon (possibly Horus) in the courtyard of the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum.
posted by Svejk at 1:22 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Could the skirt panel be a subway or train map of some sort? The "nodes" on the loopy bits could be stations.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:22 PM on May 14, 2013

Oh and the deCordova museum building itself has towers that resemble the ones on the Pandora's box.
posted by payoto at 1:25 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Speaking of the box, Castle Island is also near the piers.
posted by Morrigan at 1:26 PM on May 14, 2013

The more I look at the space below her right arm, (and the other "solved" puzzles), the more I feel certain that it's a rough state outline. Likely candidates are Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, or a (sideways) New Hampshire. I'm guessing that the front skirt panel is actually a road map around a city. There are six circular points--six interstate names, perhaps?

(Thank you for this. I love this stuff and now will get no work done today.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:36 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Might be Old South Church in Boston, whose facade loosely resembles the central panel and which has a Tiffany interior.
posted by crazy with stars at 1:45 PM on May 14, 2013

the front panel of the box she's holding looks to me like the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City.
posted by xbonesgt at 1:58 PM on May 14, 2013

I think the front panel of the box looks like the Smithsonian Tower in DC. But the rest of the imagery also suggests Harvard and the celestrial elements, including the opening behind her, suggest observatory. Hence my guess: the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard. Its address is 60 Garden Street (six circular points and flower imagery) in Cambridge.
posted by carmicha at 2:20 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Well the peridot/gladiolas are for August, the 8th month, and there are 8 globes (five at the bottom and then two inside the big one behind the girl). I have no idea what the month nonsense means but the other two you posted both had that (three sides of a triangle and five warts).
posted by jabes at 2:28 PM on May 14, 2013

home of "those who pass the coliseum with metal walls," i.e. in metal crew boats.
stopgap, I liked your reading but fyi the sculls and eights are made of composite or fiberglass and in the old days - probably more than thirty years old days - would have been made of wood.
posted by whatzit at 2:44 PM on May 14, 2013

No idea about most of this, but there is a famous pig in PHiladelphia's Reading Terminal Market (bronze, takes change for charity, climbed on by kids)...
posted by acm at 3:05 PM on May 14, 2013

Has anyone considered this might be somewhere in Colorado?
Turning the image sideways looks a little like the Colorado state flag.
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 3:06 PM on May 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

No idea about most of this, but there is a famous pig in PHiladelphia's Reading Terminal Market (bronze, takes change for charity, climbed on by kids)...

I found that when people were mentioning Philadelphia earlier. I forget what year that sculpture was made, but it was well after the book came out. Mid-1990s, maybe?
posted by stopgap at 3:06 PM on May 14, 2013

Could it be DC? That Smithsonian castle is a really compelling doppelganger for the one on the box, and the top panel in the skirt looks like a reasonable facsimile of a rotated map of the area. (If it was, "all the letters" could be the names of the streets in the district.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:34 PM on May 14, 2013

I'm starting to think this is like interpreting Nostradamus. The evidence is so ambiguous that a reasonable argument could be made for many places.
posted by stopgap at 6:00 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Other DC bits: falcons that have been at the Freer since 1909, Washington Coliseum.

Of course, stopgap is right and it's all confirmation bias, really.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:42 PM on May 14, 2013

If it's an architectural detail it's probably Louis Sullivan....

Louis Sullivan was born in Boston. He briefly attended MIT before moving to Philadelphia and the, of course, to Chicago.
posted by carmicha at 6:54 PM on May 14, 2013

More DC:

"Face the water
Your back to the stairs"

= the Lincoln Memorial and its reflecting pool?
posted by redfoxtail at 6:59 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been staring at this thing for far too long, but I'm leaning towards maybe somewhere in Cambridge, MA? Many of these are a stretch, but here's what I've got:

- The longitude and latitude of Cambridge is 42.3N 71.1W. The number 42 appears by the flowers on the right side and the reversed number 71 appears on the left sleeve.
- The hair edges on the right side seem like a port or shoreline, but I didn't find any exact matches to Boston or Cambridge.
- The checkered arch on the right side looks like part of the Longfellow Bridge.
- The globe just above the arch could be from the Bowditch memorial in Mount Auburn Cemetery.
- The pigs head outline by the falcon's foot could be the Porcellian Gate at Harvard.
- The falcon is the mascot for Cambridge Rindge & Latin School. (This seems to be a fairly recent mascot - mid 80's? But maybe the falcon has some other significance to Cambridge that led to that selection?)
- The castle on the box is similar to the Cambridge Public Library.
- The design on the front of her dress reminds me a little of a map. I thought maybe Harvard, with the circles being museums or historical buildings? But it's a bit of a stretch.
- The gap between her waist and the post on the left side looks like a mirror image of the stretch of the Charles River just south of Cambridge, bordered at the bottom by the Mass Turnpike.
- The designs on the two poles remind me of nautical flags, which might make Stopgap's Harvard boathouse suggestion. Also, MIT has a Nautical museum in Cambridge. (Of course, who in New ?England doesn't?)

What's driving me nuts is that the other two examples both included some kind of state map, and I can't find anything that remotely resembles an outline of Massachusetts. That and the numbers on the top arch don't seem to have any relevance that I can find.

Anyway, that's all I've got, good luck!
posted by platinum at 7:09 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Could it be a rough outline of Massachusetts, West side down, below the flower and globe?
posted by bibliogrrl at 7:25 PM on May 14, 2013

Looked at the poem and there's another potential Cambridge connection. "A green tower of lights" could mean the Green Building at MIT, which at night is essentially a tower of lights.
posted by platinum at 7:51 PM on May 14, 2013

I also think the Lampoon guys would honor their Harvard roots. I'm bugged by the fairy; she seems like a specific person. Her outfit strikes me as something a nurse would have worn or a girl's school uniform. I'm wondering about people like Clara Barton, Dorothea Dix, etc. I also looked at some famous area female writers, but to no avail.
posted by carmicha at 7:56 PM on May 14, 2013

State bird of Idaho: Falcon. State flower: something that looks... sorta close? Its theoretically possible the empty space under her left hand is a not too good Idaho? Or.. Virginia. Oy.

The blue space under her left hand looks like Tennessee to me.
posted by Jacen at 8:06 PM on May 14, 2013

Definitely reminds me of the Mapparium. If you look at some photos you can see the resemblance between the rim/edge around the circular window and the top (pole) in the Mapparium. Maybe spend some time thinking about Christian Science? It is a religion (or set of metaphysical beliefs) founded in Massachusetts and its history references a number of local places.
posted by barnone at 8:17 PM on May 14, 2013

I also looked at Mary Baker Eddy images for the fairy but didn't find a match.
posted by carmicha at 8:19 PM on May 14, 2013

Are those nautical flags on the two vertical posts? On the left from top to bottom it might read O W N (another N?).
posted by barnone at 8:36 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, Peregrine Falcons seem to like nesting in Salt Lake City.
posted by Poegar Tryden at 9:49 PM on May 14, 2013

The bird looks like an Osprey. They fish off the waters here in Seattle.
posted by ljesse at 10:48 PM on May 14, 2013

To keep this question between the buoys as much as possible, I'm really only looking for definite matches - something where you look at an element in the image, and you know what it is and ideally can link to a picture of the landmark that you believe corresponds to it. Again, it won't just be something that looks sort of like the landmark - it will be an extremely close match.

Based on the information from the Secret wiki, it seems as if Boston is the city (but I'm not sure I can see a 71 or 72 anywhere for the degrees longitude, unless you look at the "N" on its side). But why assume that there is any recognizable landmark? Given that only 2 of the 12 have been definitively found, and definitive landmarks have only been identified for, what, 7 of the 12, why assume that the clues in this picture are going to be the all of the same type as the others? Sure, there are the birthstones and birthflowers and immigrant home countries, but the clues could differ radically from painting to painting, right?

So I'm with something something: the Boston Globe building seems like the most obvious possible landmark, and Byron Preiss decided to go conceptual this time, just to mix things up.

(And if I weren't so lazy, I'd take the picture and remove everything except for the circles, their centers, straight lines, the leaves in the woman's apron, and maybe things like the crack at center right and draw lines and attempt to overlay it onto a map of Boston landmarks circa 1982.)
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 11:05 PM on May 14, 2013

Well, this is addicting as hell. I took the 42 for the latitude and the 112 (or is it 72?) as the longitude and threw it into a GIS (view full resolution via the gear in the upper-right corner of each image; I'm bad at imgur). Sorry about how cluttered the maps are; these are some bog-standard ESRI base maps (and I'm not taking the time to prettify them!). Orange line is 42N, purple lines are 112W and 72W, and they don't have anything to do with Alaska or Hawai'i.

The intersection of 42N and 72W is about 60 miles from Boston Harbor. The intersection of 42N and 112W is about 100 miles from downtown SLC.

The only other major city near 42N is Chicago, but since something has already been found there, that's out. There are no other major (US) cities near 72W, and the only other major city near 112W is Phoenix, though its latitude is a pretty firm 34.5.

This is all to say: despite my liking the theory of the Colorado flag, and wishing that the Rocky Mountain West got some sort of love in this puzzle game, I cast my vote for Boston. And not that this gets us anywhere, but I had to work through it myself to be sure.
posted by barnacles at 11:12 PM on May 14, 2013

To add to the SLC evidence, the triangle symbol to the left of the globe could be an All-Seeing Eye, which appears on the Salt Lake Temple. And maybe the flower is supposed to be a Sego Lily, which is the Utah state flower.
posted by Poegar Tryden at 11:12 PM on May 14, 2013

mikepop> Or maybe just an allusion to Boston's strong Irish influence in general

The Secret wiki that someone above linked to seems to think that because Ireland is already taken for the Chicago treasure, this one refers to a city with a significant Italian immigrant population. I'm actually not sure how they are able to definitively assign either (maybe the reference to the Coliseum means Rome, which means Italy, which means Italian immigrants), but there you have it.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 11:13 PM on May 14, 2013

And if it's not the Boston Globe building, people are looking at the docks/piers thing with the woman's hair on the right side of the painting. Maybe the fairy is a visual pun in line with the Milwaukee picture: fairy = ferry, which is supposed to suggest docks and piers.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 11:20 PM on May 14, 2013

A few things that strike m. From the verse: "In truth, be free". Could this be a reference to Harvard University, somehow, given that their motto is "veritas"?

I wonder also if Thucydides is a sly reference to JFK, as he was apparently fond of quoting quote Thucydides. Plenty of JFK-named buildings, departments, and streets around Boston, to be sure, so this would probably just confuse the issue more.

Rather than the all-seeing eye, the triangle could also be the Citgo sign.
posted by barnacles at 11:54 PM on May 14, 2013

(but I'm not sure I can see a 71 or 72 anywhere for the degrees longitude, unless you look at the "N" on its side)

I just realized: if you look at the image in a mirror, the woman's right sleeve (on the left side of the picture, but the right side in a mirror) shows either a 70 or 71.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 12:01 AM on May 15, 2013

I see the 71 in right sleeve. If your rotate the pic 90 clockwise the 7 is the 2 sides of the triangle we see, and the one is the line closer to the blue of her sleve. The coordinates of Boston are 42.3583° N, 71.0603° W
posted by brevator at 12:08 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

The highlights on the left sleeve (read from shoulder to wrist) could spell "BOS" (for Boston Logan?).
posted by beniamino at 1:03 AM on May 15, 2013

Re the beginning of verse: "If Thucydides is North of Xenophon Take five steps In the area of his direction". If Thucydides is North, then "his direction" is also North, and "the area of his direction" might be North Square, which is the location of the Paul Revere house.
posted by beniamino at 1:35 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I see a mustachioed (and maybe bearded) man under the bird. (High contrast). Maybe it's just me though; I see this kind of stuff in everything.
posted by taz at 1:41 AM on May 15, 2013

After digging around on Street View, my interpretation of the verse is:

If Thucydides is North of Xenophon
-- Boston = Thucydides, Xenophon = New York

Take five steps
-- You need to take 5 steps from somewhere

In the area of his direction
-- Thucydides' direction = North, Area = Square, i.e. North Square

A green tower of lights In the middle section
-- "Light" is a word for windows. There is a green column of windows in the middle of the north side of North Square, on the left here.

Near those Who pass the coliseum With metal walls
-- Dunno; could be a reference to the iron chains round the square

Face the water
-- Face East (towards nearest waterfront)

Your back to the stairs Feel at home
-- Stand with your back to the stairs at the bottom of the building with the green windows.

All the letters Are here to see
-- If you take 5 steps East from the stairs, you will be moving towards a mailbox (which contains letters), see here.

Eighteenth day Twelfth hour
-- Revere references.

Lit by lamplight
-- The mailbox is indeed lit by an old fashioned street lamp.

In truth, be free.
-- Dunno

So, if I lived in Boston, I would go to North Square, stand with my back to the steps at the bottom of the building with green windows, take five paces east (toward the mailbox and lamp) and start searching.

Sadly, I live 3000 miles away. And I have work to do. But it's been fun!
posted by beniamino at 2:07 AM on May 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think the shadow on her neck looks like an outline of the Tobin Bridge

The triangular shadow on her right hand looks like this bridge, but that was constructed in 2003.
posted by rollick at 5:09 AM on May 15, 2013

I can't identify any of these as landmarks in town (though I would love a way to drag the Athanaeum into it, as that's certainly where I'd bury a mystery box).

BUT, the Big Dig started somewhere around 82, and was being planned for a long time before that, so Boston isn't where I'd choose to bury something like this at that time. If it is Boston, I'd imagine you'd have to look somewhere not affected by the Big Dig.
posted by Curiosity Delay at 7:25 AM on May 15, 2013

That triangle is TOTALLY the Citgo sign. Also, there's a B in the metal work/stone around the globe. The globe definitely makes me think of the Mapparium and could be a reference to the Globe w/o necessarily meaning the building (like the upside down Bull pointed to Chicago). The shamrock in the fairy wing could, in that vein, definitely point to the Celtics.

I see a backwards "S" in the panel and I've been trying to decipher the squiggles and see if they match the T lines at all, but not even a little bit. The building on the box *could* be a lighthouse and Boston Light is the oldest lighthouse in the country. There's some dome shape on her right arm that seems significant - state house? Christian Science Church?
posted by sonika at 7:31 AM on May 15, 2013

This is awesome.

I see a pig if you look to the left of the feet of the bird.
posted by ibakecake at 7:52 AM on May 15, 2013

Harvard stadium=a Coliseum
posted by Calicatt at 7:55 AM on May 15, 2013

Note also, there is a metal fence (metal walls) in front of the stadium
posted by Calicatt at 8:03 AM on May 15, 2013

The images on the poles look like nautical flags (and the triangle compellingly looks like the Citgo sign). They don't seem to spell anything. I see "Oscar Sierra November" on the left and "Papa (CITGO) November" on the right.
posted by sonika at 8:07 AM on May 15, 2013

Eliot House, at harvard, has a green domed top, which is visible when crossing the north harvard bridge (near the "coliseum") Also, the Harvard Lampoon building is nearby which has some similar shapes (crosses, squares, etc) to the image but havent matched anything yet. Wasn't this all done in The National Lampoon? I wonder if there's any connection...

PS this is totally awesome
posted by Calicatt at 8:17 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

ALSO, I'm not sure what to make of this, but there are 6 circles in the drawing, all but one of which has at least one dot on it. 3 of the circles (the three on the right--two small, and the one giant one) have two dots on them in eachtly the same places, the two middle ones (by her feet and the globe) have one dot, toward the top right) and the one on the farthest left has no dots, only shading. If you put the image in contrast mode this really stands out...but I have no idea what it means.
posted by Calicatt at 8:21 AM on May 15, 2013

Yeah, I'm starting to think it's really Cambridge rather than Boston proper based on what Calicatt said about the Harvard Lampoon. Sean Kelly (author) was from the National Lampoon, so it could work. Did he go to Harvard? Maybe that's where his National Lampoon participation all began?

However, I agree the Citgo sign suggests Boston itself. I'm wondering if it really matters though...? Maybe the author just merged Boston and Cambridge things and sees them as the same place. Many people do, so it wouldn't be out of the ordinary.

This is super fun, by the way.
posted by superfille at 8:23 AM on May 15, 2013

On top of the harvard lampoon building is a stork in the same position as the falcon.

But maybe now I'm stretching because this is totally my hood. :) I'll stop posting until I find something concrete, promise :)

ps this is reminding me of the book Ready Player One, which centers around a hunt for an "easter egg' in a virtual world
posted by Calicatt at 8:28 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

FamousMonster, thank you for this thread! This puzzle is fascinating, and I've been glued to the recent activity tab since you opened it.

I was really convinced, from the poem, that Paul Revere's house was the location of the key/box/treasure.

First, because there are actually 'five steps' to enter the home (two steps up onto a landing and then three small steps to get in the door). And it is on North street, of course the "feel at home" reference is obvious, and the 18th day and 12th hour are pretty darned specific.


I'm disturbed by the swirly imagery and other details from the image in the book, because there is nothing like any of that at the (rather severe) Paul Revere Home. If the other pictures serve as a reliable guide, we ought to be seeing more recognizable features from the architecture of the site itself relating back to the image than we do here.


Someone has already done a complete and thorough scan and 3-D rendering of the Revere home!). If you look through his findings, in the 5th image will come to the underground rendering(!), strongly suggesting nothing of interest is buried there (according to the guy who did the scans)..

The only place it looks like the key box thingy could be, to me, is where the basement fill is, and I just don't see anyone let you take a shovel and start digging there unless you have a lot more to go on than that.
posted by misha at 9:03 AM on May 15, 2013

Oh, and I am thinking more and more that although we are dealing with the Boston area, surrounding Cambridge is also well-represented, with the Porcine gate pig, Harvard coliseum, and possibly the Harvard castle as the image on the box.

To me--no one else has said this, so I could be way off--the hair on the bottom right of the picture clearly forms the outline of a witch's face, with the black hair even making a witch's pointed hat, so I would also toss the Salem area into the mix.
posted by misha at 9:08 AM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

beniamino> In truth, be free. -- Dunno

It's a rough version of John 8:32 ("And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free"). So if those words, or Veritas vos liberabit appear somewhere near the location, it's a good sign you're on the right path.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 9:32 AM on May 15, 2013

In the Google Street View images for North Square, there is what looks like a small sculpture of St. Francis by the tree at the south end of North Square Park. Is there a little plaque there? Does anyone know what it says? There's really nowhere else that something could be buried in the immediate area.
posted by stopgap at 9:56 AM on May 15, 2013


Check out #25 on this page.

I think this guy is definitely on to something. The visual markers seem to fit, too!
posted by misha at 10:45 AM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

misha, I came across that yesterday and although I like having the Coliseum reference be Fenway, that was what prompted my comment earlier that this is like interpreting Nostradamus because anything can be stretched to fit. Notice that that post starts at the library (presumably because of the Xenophon and Thucydides inscriptions), but then has theta and xi reference a fraternity. And then uses some numerology trick to refer to Greek letters again for some other fraternity. I doubt the solution would be so convoluted — just an appropriate level of convoluted. Hah. For example, the Chicago poem is actually pretty clear; given the general location from the clues in the picture, it describes a very particular spot to dig (a few feet between a fence and fixture).
posted by stopgap at 11:27 AM on May 15, 2013

Back to share a couple of random observations:
Does anyone else see a small scene or set of objects in the lower left "panel" (literally the square) between the table and the falcon? Also, i see the faint outline of a caricature face of a man peeking out from behind the lady's right shawl panel. The corner of the table is pointing directly at the end of his nose. His expression is sort of impish.
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 11:45 AM on May 15, 2013

Also, also...there appears to be a smaller male face below the caricature located between the shawl, table and the bottom edge of the picture. The smaller male face has a mustache and beard and may be wearing a hat or helmet and possibly some kind of guard uniform or official regency style adornment around the neck and shoulders. Could be a statue of a guard?
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 1:37 PM on May 15, 2013

The statue "Angel of Waters" is at the corner of Arlington and Beacon. Her wings remind me of the lady's hair, and possibly of the fairy. Streetview here.

The Broadway Fire House (200 Columbus Avenue) also has the onion-dome roofs in the Pandora's box in the lady's hands.
posted by barnone at 2:43 PM on May 15, 2013

The pigs head is on the front of the Porcellian Club, a secret society at 1320-24 Massachusetts Ave above the store of clothier J August. It's a secret society started in 1794.
posted by fshgrl at 2:51 PM on May 15, 2013

The stars and planet in the window make me wonder if it has any reference to Oliver Wendell Holmes' saying, "The Boston State-House is the hub of the solar system." It has been shortened to "Boston is the hub of the universe" or "Boston is the hub of the solar system." The state house itself is a round gold dome.
posted by barnone at 3:03 PM on May 15, 2013

Here's a picture of the Porcellain Club with the pig's profile above the door.
posted by barnone at 3:05 PM on May 15, 2013

The bird's lifted talon totally looks like an outline of Cape Cod.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 3:20 PM on May 15, 2013

And to return to the Boston Public Library connections:
- Personification of Science is a gorgeous statue at the main entrance. She is holding a round ball or a globe and looking at it. There is another statue, "Personification of Art" but it doesn't seem to be a direct reference.
- Right above the entrance is "Free to all." There are other inscriptions around the building that might be worth noting.
- Inside of the building has spectacular arches - worth poking around some details in the windows and courtyard.
- It's at the right location to begin based on the map found in Misha's link
posted by barnone at 3:27 PM on May 15, 2013

Don't think I saw this link here yesterday, but here's another theory (starts on page 5) that points to the Hatch Shell area on the Charles River Esplanade in Boston, directly across the river from Cambridge.

One commonality between the two solved puzzles so far is that the cache was found in a public park area, and this seems to be the case on some of the unsolved ones as well according to the wiki for The Secret. Hiding it in a public park makes sense since anyone would need free access to it and there was less chance of construction or removal by private property owners. Might help narrow down the destination some!
posted by platinum at 3:45 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I figured we had pretty much established the Porcellian Gate as the souce of the pig profile.

Well, if we are sticking with Boston.

Because we could surmise Seattle just as easily:
Hawk with its claw held up in the letter C, so Seattle Sea Hwaks
Pig from Pike Street Market
Maritime imagery for the Seattle Mariners, etc.

'Course, if I were going to hide something in Seattle and then leave cryptic picturesque clues, I'd definitely include the troll.

Point is, you can really make yourself start seeing a lot of this differently, sepending on what you know going in, which is why I think Famous Monster was really trying not to lead us too much to begin with.
posted by misha at 4:01 PM on May 15, 2013

Furthermore I will posit the bird is a shrike, often depicted with one foot raised as shown, although I don't know how that helps.
posted by fshgrl at 4:05 PM on May 15, 2013

Misha- I think the club itself is more likely for the pig head than the Porcellian Gate, given all the "August" hints in the painting.
posted by fshgrl at 4:07 PM on May 15, 2013

Perhaps obvious question: has anyone tried digging in the areas suggested in the Boston "solutions?"

(Note: I am not volunteering. Yet.)
posted by sonika at 4:30 PM on May 15, 2013

in 1969, they put "The Black Sun" in volunteer park. From the correct angle, looking thru it, the space needle looks just like this woman's hair.
posted by bensherman at 4:38 PM on May 15, 2013

Hades, yeah, I don't really think it is Seattle, I think it is Boston. I just was making the point that a lot of this is so subjective that it's hard to really narrow it down specifically (especially if you are prone to overthinking, like mei).

August does work with the society better, you're right, barnone! I don't think that the other months really went along with the locations too much, though, right? They were mostly for linking the right verse to the right image and showing what the treasure gem would be.

The "five steps" in the verse could also refer to five stops along the Freedom Trail (where Revere's house and the Old Church where he hung the lanterns are located) rather than 5 actual paces.
posted by misha at 4:51 PM on May 15, 2013

Response by poster: Perhaps obvious question: has anyone tried digging in the areas suggested in the Boston "solutions?"

Not that I'm aware of. If any of the solutions seem to actually line up with the known method, though, I'll be there in half a second.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 5:08 PM on May 15, 2013

Yeah - I must admit I think it must be Boston - can't quite figure out the verse, though I'm thinking along the lines of it being somewhere near the Prado/Paul Revere Mall:

In the area of his direction - North Square
Near those Who pass the coliseum - Roman Catholic church opposite of the mall
Face the water - towards the fountain
Lit by lamplight - The Old North Church at the other end of the mall.
posted by nightwood at 5:20 PM on May 15, 2013

The verse is the tricky bit - if it starts at the library could it be somewhere in Copley Sq? There is a fountain and the Pru is a tower that is sometimes lit green on different occasions. It's the finish line of the marathon, which fits passing the Coliseum.

Seriously, I think this might be it. I live a block away, MeMail me and let's dig.
posted by sonika at 5:26 PM on May 15, 2013

Response by poster: The fountain in Copley was installed after the book was written, unfortunately.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 5:29 PM on May 15, 2013

posted by sonika at 5:33 PM on May 15, 2013

So it looks like there are three basic possibilities in the Boston area, with non-overlapping bits of reasonably-strong evidence:

Harvard Square area
  • pig = Porcellian gate/Porcellian club building
  • "coliseum" = Harvard Stadium, so near where people drive past the Stadium means along JFK St?
  • Paul Revere references = path of William Dawes, e.g. Dawes Island (also this is not too far from Longfellow's home and memorial)
  • "in truth" = veritas, Harvard's motto

    North End
  • "the area of his direction" = North Square
  • "feel at home" = Paul Revere's House
  • "lit by lamplight" = Old North Church, adjacent to the Paul Revere statue
  • harbor/pier imagery in hair on right side of image

    Copley Square/Back Bay
  • "Thucydides" and "Xenophon" = literally inscribed in the Boston Public Library
  • "coliseum" = Fenway?
  • triangle = Citgo sign in Kenmore Square
  • "see all the letters" = the library itself?

    I think the green tower and the other clues in the poem are ambiguous enough that something that fits could be found in any location. I still like Eliot House, but I admit that it's a stretch without any other strong clues from the picture. I mean, the green tower of lights could be the Civil War memorial in Cambridge Common, and "home" could be literally home plate on the diamond there. It's easy to rationalize an explanation when we have so little to work with, and I don't want to encourage anyone to start digging up the Old Burying Ground or something.

    Did I miss anything that's not too out there for establishing a general location?

  • posted by stopgap at 6:06 PM on May 15, 2013

    Response by poster: I don't want to encourage anyone to start digging up the Old Burying Ground or something.

    Byron Preiss was pretty clear on the fact that none of the casques are buried in graveyards. They're all in public places. Mostly parks, I think, but don't quote me on that.
    posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:49 PM on May 15, 2013

    The Fenway Victory Gardens seem to have pathways named with the letters of the alphabet. In that case, it could be maybe read as:

    Near those Who pass the coliseum With metal walls
    - The Victory Gardens are near Fenway

    Face the water
    - The Gardens are on Back Bay(?).

    Your back to the stairs Feel at home
    - Could home be related to the home team's dugout? Wikipedia says that the Red Sox dugout is on the first base side, so you'd be on the side of the home team if you were standing in the Victory Gardens.

    All the letters Are here to see
    - As I said above, all the pathways are marked with the letters of the alphabet - at least up to P, but the front section doesn't seem to be named on Google Maps.
    posted by urbanlenny at 7:07 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

    Sorry, just found a map of the Fenway Victory Gardens - all the letters from A-Z are used as path names.

    (Cool garden, Boston!)
    posted by urbanlenny at 7:11 PM on May 15, 2013

    Nice find. There's even a "center section." Anyone familiar with the area?
    posted by stopgap at 8:00 PM on May 15, 2013

    "Face the water" would probably mean face the Fens. I think you're on to something here!
    posted by sonika at 8:02 PM on May 15, 2013

    It even has an emerald necklace!
    posted by sonika at 8:04 PM on May 15, 2013

    The Victory Gardens was my top choice, using a totally different thought process: here's why.

    The rhyme is:
    If Thucydides is, North of Xenophon, Take five steps, In the area of his direction, A green tower of lights, In the middle section, Near those, Who pass the coliseum, With metal walls, Face the water, Your back to the stairs, Feel at home, All the letters, Are here to see, Eighteenth day, Twelfth hour, Lit by lamplight, In truth, be free.

    Starting in the middle, as usual, I decided that IF the coliseum with the metal wall is Fenway then the "5 steps" is a route that crosses the main routes past Fenway about halfway ish. So it crosses either the Green Line or Hwy 90 in an area with a green tower (the intersection of the two routes is near the tower not necessarily the start or stop point or Fenway itself). I decided steps could be subway stops, blocks, piers etc. but probably not bus stops or walking tours stops as those are likely to change fairly often.

    The XZ frat house mentioned above is arguably 5 blocks from the Victory Gardens and you cross 90 on the way. You are standing by Fenway home dugout looking down at the lettered paths and there is an emerald necklace as noted above. I haven't found anything related to Paul Revere or veritas but there is lots of places with freedom names. No lampposts that I can see.

    The other possibles I came up with were South or Broadway metro stops which both allow you to stand with your back to the subway exit (stairs), face the water and look at the US Postal Inspection Facility on Dorchester down on the waterfront or they did back in the early 80s I think from aerials. They are 5 stops south from Central and Kendall/MIT in 1980 on the redline respectively. In front of the Broadway exit is a little corner park with lampposts with orb lights right by the James Kelly bridge (named the Broadway Bridge in the 80s). Nothing fit regarding the x/z clue or feeling at home or truth and there was no real tie to Harvard but I didn't spend much time on those clues. If it's by South metro it probably go nuked in the Big Dig.

    I will repeat my thought process for the Harvard coliseum. Right after I have this beer....

    One other thing- I really think the fairy is a copy of a style I've seen and the band around the bottom of the dress and weird draggy feet are what are pulling at my brain. I think it's an angel or similar and they're holding a cross in the original and it's early pre-Renaissance style art.

    Oh and the swirly dress is clearly just a general impression of the Boston road network haha.
    posted by fshgrl at 9:14 PM on May 15, 2013

    I was going to point out that there is no path R, which would be the 18th letter, but I think the Mother's Rest Park across the Fens is much more promising. It is five blocks from the Boston Public Library, is on the Fenway, you can see the Victory Garden letter paths, and "mother" = "home." Furthermore, it apparently has stairs that face the water. If I were in the area, that is where I would start looking for something that fits the last few lines of the poem.
    posted by stopgap at 9:15 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

    I've poked around some photos and monument pages trying to match stuff in the Fenway Victory Gardens/Back Bay area to the drawing and here's what I've come up with. I've got no photo software at work, so I can't unfortunately do side-by-sides for comparisons.

    On the page of monuments in the Back Bay Fens, it lists the John Boyle O'Reilly Memorial, which is found on the Mother's Rest side of the Bay (described as "backside depicts a statue of Erin weaving a wreath of laurel and oak for her sons Poetry and Patriotism with Celtic calligraphy as a backdrop"). The centre statue of that reminds me a lot of the main woman in our picture, although her gaze is down to the branch in her hands in the monument. There are also similar geometric shapes in that statue to those in the drawing (the guy on our left's belt, the clovers/shamrocks, an intricate patterning - that doesn't really match that on the drawing's dress panel - and two spheres on either side of the woman's head).

    In the rose garden near to the Victory Gardens, there is a central pillar with a pattern similar to that on the woman's dress. I think that it's sometimes covered in vines, but here is a photo of it not covered in vines (top photo on that page).

    There is also a victory statue in the War Memorial Garden, which you can see in a couple of different views. It bears some similarities to the fairy in the drawing, but not enough to be convincing.

    Across the river on the Mother's Rest side, there is also the Boston Fire Alarm - Dispatch, which looks a bit like the crenellated building on the box the woman in the drawing is holding.

    On the poem, I've been thinking about the "Eighteenth day Twelfth hour, Lit by lamplight" part, and think it's interesting that, as stopgap points out, the victory garden is missing the letter R, but could it be that 12th hour refers to the letter L (the 12th letter of the alphabet) and then further reinforces the L by the alliterative "Lit By Lamplight"?
    posted by urbanlenny at 9:47 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

    So I found this photo that is a reasonable match for the main portal in the background of the image. It was geotagged near the Mother's Rest area with the "playground" tag. The fence is identical to the Mother's Rest playground, and the location looks right, at the bottom of a slight hill. It is geotagged a block away, but the camera it was taken with is from 2004 — how accurate was auto-geotagging then? Is anyone going to wander this area this weekend? (The playground equipment doesn't look too old, so it's possible/likely that it has been replaced since 1982.)
    posted by stopgap at 11:55 AM on May 16, 2013

    Sorry, more! I found this concrete wall along Clemente field further down the set of parks along Back Bay. You can see that the posts of the wall kind of resemble those in the drawing. The other posts sort of look like the boxes in the bottom of the drawing.

    Between this wall and the track there is a set of monumental concrete bleachers/staircases. Here is a shot of the side of them, with the post and ball (there's probably an architectural name for that type of wall, but I don't know it!).

    Interesting to also note that the rose garden centre circle (here's a better overhead shot) kind of resembles the window behind the woman in the drawing.

    It's hard to establish viewscapes from maps, since I've never been to Boston and can't compare, but this photo of the aforementioned Boston Fire Alarm Dispatch with the crenellated building shows the view on the other side of the Bay from the Victory Gardens. A couple things could look like the building on the box.
    posted by urbanlenny at 12:18 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

    Actually that rose garden has a rectangular path network connected to it, which looks like the portal window continuing down to her sleeve panels. Don't know why I didn't notice that until now.
    posted by urbanlenny at 12:24 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

    In the original image it's really not clear if those are panels draped from her shoulders, or if the opening behind her is keyhole-shaped.
    posted by stopgap at 1:15 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

    Were the keys or boxes metal? Maybe you could borrow a metal detector and check out the likely spots. (You may need to get permission for that though, even in a public park.)
    posted by myelin sheath at 2:56 PM on May 16, 2013

    Response by poster: Ceramic. Possibly in a plastic container. No metal.
    posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:59 PM on May 16, 2013

    There are pictures of what the casques might look like on the last two pages of this website (pdf).
    posted by urbanlenny at 5:04 PM on May 16, 2013

    So I'm sure someone must have noticed and mentioned this before, but just in case it hasn't been brought up:

    The line in e poem about "all the letters are here to see"? is possibly self-referential.

    The capitalized letters at the beginning of each line contain "FENWAY".

    "Feel at home" might mean to dig under home plate?
    posted by misha at 12:36 AM on May 17, 2013

    "Feel at home" might mean to dig under home plate?

    No way. It almost certainly has to be a moderately secluded public park area, which I think rules out North Square and anything on the actual Harvard campus. The place to dig will also probably a non-landscaped area, so it wouldn't be disturbed. I will note that Fenway (the baseball park) is named after Fenway (the fens area), which includes the Victory Gardens, Mothers Rest, etc. Finally, since the letters that spell FENWAY in the poem aren't in order, I feel like an acrostic reading is too much of a stretch. This is a convoluted puzzle, but it's not going to require National Treasure-style defilement of famous monuments to find.
    posted by stopgap at 5:38 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

    Here are the best photos of the bird in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (aka or previously known as Fenway Court) I could find. Bears a striking similarity to the drawing indeed! The mosaic in the centre of the courtyard also has a bird on it and has similar whorls to that in the panel on the dress. Here's a pretty good photo with the bird and the mosaic.
    posted by urbanlenny at 8:06 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

    I found another view of the fountain in the Kelleher Rose Garden. It looks like each panel may have a different pattern, but the ones we can see don't match the dress panel. All seem to have much more symmetry than the dress panel.

    I am strongly liking urbanlenny's hunch that the portal and lines coming down suggest a circular area with a connecting pathway - if not this rose garden, then a similar feature in a park somewhere.
    posted by payoto at 8:11 AM on May 17, 2013

    Ooh, maybe the building on the box looks like the administration building of Emmanuel college. There may be some artistic license taken to condense it, but it's pretty strikingly similar: rectangular base with turreted tower rising out of it, peaked roof sturcture just to the right of that, and then the other peaked-shaped tower to the left.

    I'm still coming up short on the green tower of lights business of the poem, though. The only tower that seems to be visible from the Back Bay Fens is the Prudential Tower, although it is not clear to me that it is necessarily green. I guess that part could refer to... trees as green towers of lights? I'm stumped.

    I put together a Google Map with some of the locations I'm referring to. They're all in the Fenway neighbourhood surrounding Back Bay.
    posted by urbanlenny at 9:22 AM on May 17, 2013

    I am strongly liking urbanlenny's hunch that the portal and lines coming down suggest a circular area with a connecting pathway - if not this rose garden, then a similar feature in a park somewhere.

    Eh, I don't know. Apparently the guy who buried the casques gave polaroids to the artist with visual clues to include in each drawing. The plan layout of any particular park is not the type of thing that would show up that way.

    This is one of those situations where when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. We're trying to decipher this thing using Google Maps and aerial photos, but the pictures and poems were created to describe an actual path to take on the ground.

    I still like the idea of wandering the Mother's Rest area. Assuming that the image places us in Boston, it fits the start of the poem reasonably well (with admittedly some interpolation/rationalization required):
    If Thucydides is / North of Xenophon
    Start at north side of Boston Public Library where these names are engraved.
    Take five steps / In the area of his direction
    Go five blocks from the library; face "north" and go left, as in arrangement of the inscribed names. (This direction still seems arbitrary — five steps of up-one-over-one from a previous theory is just as reasonable/crazy.) After five blocks, you would be at Boylston & Hemenway, which I realize is still not quite to the Back Bay Fens.
    A green tower of lights / In the middle section
    The Pru is halfway along this route. This seems like a stretch, but these lines are super-ambiguous.
    Near those / Who pass the coliseum / With metal walls
    This is by the Mass Pike, which passes Fenway Stadium. Metal walls refers to either the Green Monster and fence at the stadium or people's cars as they drive.
    Face the water / Your back to the stairs
    Go down the stairs to the path on the Fens
    Feel at home
    "Mother's Rest." This is actually a fairly common park name in New England. This one was established in 1918, so the name is old enough for the puzzle.
    All the letters / Are here to see
    The letter paths at the Victory Gardens are visible across the water.

    Eighteenth day / Twelfth hour
    Lit by lamplight / In truth, be free.
    Hopefully these lines lead to a specific spot to dig, either near Mother's Rest itself or counting out some sort of intervals along the Fenway path. The place to dig has to be narrowed down to within a foot or two by these lines, so this is really not something we can figure out using the Internet.
    At this point, I'm losing interest unless someone starts wandering the Fenway looking for clues and maybe posting photos back here. The poem for the casque found in Chicago describes a path through Grant Park, ending at the dig site. (The newspaper article about the Chicago find noted that even once they figured out the location, they still had to dig several holes to find the casque.) So any theory proposed here should also fit a plausible reading of the poem as describing a path along certain landmarks.
    posted by stopgap at 9:23 AM on May 17, 2013

    For clarification, the names of Thucydides and Xenophon are engraved on the east (main) face of the Boston Public Library, near the southeast corner of the building. Thucydides is is two rows up and two rows left of Xenophon. This places Thucydides technically south of Xenophon, but since the poem doesn't have punctuation, it could be read as "If Thucydides is, north of Xenophon take five steps," or some other liberal interpretation.
    posted by stopgap at 9:46 AM on May 17, 2013

    I found an older map of the Victory Gardens and there IS a path R. It's just a really small path.
    posted by urbanlenny at 9:46 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

    I've been trying to look into the Library angle, but can't find good photos of the engravings on the building. Do you know of a good source or a list of the names/locations?
    posted by urbanlenny at 9:48 AM on May 17, 2013

    Google Street View will let you read the big inscriptions. All the names are in this guide. I found it surprisingly difficult to find Flickr photos of the facade to place the names, though you should be able to find good pictures of the east and north facades.
    posted by stopgap at 9:51 AM on May 17, 2013

    I do remember that five names north of Xenophon was "Chatham." Chatham is also a city southeast of Boston on Cape Cod, so this could be read to go southeast from the library (assuming that's even the right place to start). Really, any interpretation is possible when the clues are so vague.
    posted by stopgap at 9:56 AM on May 17, 2013

    If it is buried somewhere around the Victory gardens, what are the odds it's already been accidentally dug up when someone was gardening? Aren't those public gardens? Does the author say how deep the boxes are buried?
    posted by danapiper at 10:45 AM on May 17, 2013

    From the article in the pdf that urbanlenny linked, the one in Chicago seemed to be about 3 feet down
    posted by Calicatt at 5:42 AM on May 18, 2013

    @stopgap: Out of curiousity, what was five names north of Thucydides?
    posted by Calicatt at 7:51 AM on May 18, 2013

    In the original image it's really not clear if those are panels draped from her shoulders, or if the opening behind her is keyhole-shaped.

    When is a keyhole not a keyhole? When it's a clock. The picture linked below looks an awful lot like the illustration.
    Edward Howard was trained as a Clockmaker by Aaron Willard, Jr. of Boston, Massachusetts. He joined with David P. Davis, also an A. Willard apprentice in the manufacturing high-grade wall clocks under the name of Howard & Davis in 1842. Together they became well known and respected as manufacturers of clocks


    This excellent example was made by the E. Howard Clock Company and is called the Model No. 11. This model is often referred to as the "Keyhole" in the trade due to the case form and it's resemblance of a keyhole found in most doors of the period.
    posted by Room 641-A at 8:40 AM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

    Five names north of Thucydides is "Shaw." Not much help there.
    posted by stopgap at 9:02 AM on May 18, 2013

    I'm going to propose one more theory, then I think I'm done speculating until someone goes to check some of these places out on the ground. I am trying to think of the least convoluted reading possible. Here goes:

    Start where Thucydides and Xenophon are inscribed, at the Boston Public Library on Dartmouth Street. Go "north" five blocks. In the "middle section" is the Comm Ave greenway, a "green tower of lights." The line about those who passing the coliseum with metal walls is unclear, but hopefully it can refer in some way to Storrow Drive. I don't remember if any part of Storrow Drive is walled, but it is separated from the main street grid.

    Conveniently, there is a footbridge to cross Storrow at Dartmouth Street. At the Esplanade, there are plenty of features that could fit the final few lines. There are stairs. There is water. There are lamps. There is an Oliver Wendell Holmes /"home" memorial. There are rows of trees that number more than 18. Holmes's library ("all the letters") is mentioned in the inscription as overlooking the memorial.

    The Holmes memorial has a sundial — there's your 12th hour, pointing in a specific direction. The Harvard (veritas/"in truth") bridge is kind of far from there, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was a Harvard seal somewhere near the Holmes memorial, due to his association with Harvard (this is the Senior OWH, who was a poet and professor at Harvard I believe — not the Supreme Court justice).

    This is a pretty straightforward reading of the poem, but I think that's as far as Internet speculation can take us. Can anyone check out any of these places this weekend?
    posted by stopgap at 9:31 AM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

    The sundial, pointing toward the twelfth hour, though the dial may have been removed at some point.
    posted by stopgap at 9:55 AM on May 18, 2013

    Walked around by the harvard coliseum and the b school yesterday as well as over by the Harvard Lampoon building. Nothing jumped out as really fitting the picture or the poem beyond what's been mentioned. Hope to get down to the Esplanade today. At the very least it will be a nice walk :)
    posted by Calicatt at 10:17 AM on May 19, 2013

    As famous monster points out, the verse is just too ambiguous to be meaningful without some confirmation of the city (at least) from the picture. So I've been scouring the picture again.

    To fit with the logic of the other pictures, there should be numbers in the picture (possibly written backwards) that unambiguously identify a major US city. If the city is directly on a line of latitude/longitude, there will be one number for that line; if the city is between two lines, then there will be two numbers that bracket the line. There are several numbers in the picture that correspond to lat/long lines that intersect the US (65-125W and 25-49N): 42 or 112 (scratch on wall, near fairy), 71 or 77 (frame over window, left), 34 or 43 (triangle and square in her left-hand drape), 33 (two triangles in her right-hand drape), 45 or 54 (square and checkerboard on her right-hand drape), 70 or 71 (right-hand sleeve), 91 (frame over window, centre-right), 44 (squares on neckline of dress).

    So, we need to check for major cities on longitudes 112W, 70-71W, 77W and 91W, and latitudes 42-43N, 33-34N, 44-45N. Salt Lake City is near 112W, but is not directly on the line, so would need the numbers 111 and 112 to be in the picture, plus 40 and 41 for the latitude. However, Phoenix AZ is directly on the line and matches a latitude as well (33-34N). Portland, Maine is at 70W, but outside the latitude bracket (43.4N); it's not big enough either. Boston is bang-on 71W and bracketed by 42-43N. Washington DC is bang-on 77W but at 38-39N. There are no major cities directly on 91W. 42-43N takes in Detroit (83W); no other matches for 33-34N or 44-45N. [Info from http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0001796.html ].

    So, the best possibilities are Boston and Phoenix, for both of which all the necessary coordinates are in the picture. Detroit is possible if we can find an 83 for the longitude. Washington DC is possible if we can find a 38 for the latitude. The only evidence of an 83/38 that I can find is a stretch: the globes/metal arc to the bottom right look a bit like a 3, and there are 8 white marks on the lower metal arc.Salt Lake City would need an extra 111, 40 and 41 so we can probably rule that out.

    So Boston and Phoenix are easily the most convincing. I'm not sure I can see any reason to prefer Boston over Phoenix, though.
    posted by beniamino at 1:52 PM on May 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

    Did anyone ever start wandering places in Boston to test some of the theories here?
    posted by stopgap at 2:34 PM on November 20, 2013

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