Join 3,373 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Are we really happy here with this lonely game we play?
April 23, 2009 9:09 AM   Subscribe

On August 7, 1979, under cover of darkness, artist Kit Williams took a jeweled, 18-karat gold pendant in the shape of hare and buried it near the monument to Catherine of Aragon in Ampthill Park near Bedford, England. Clues to its location were hidden the text and artwork of his book Masquerade. The armchair treasure hunt sparked a worldwide craze. The end was disappointing. But 30 years later, the quest is being commemorated with a new hunt in the Cotswolds. (previously)

The burial of the pendant was witnessed by Bamber Gascoigne, the host of University Challenge - which will be familiar to fans of The Young Ones. [And yes, that's Emma Thompson in the clip.] Also, the book became the basis of a flop musical starring a young Sarah Brightman.
posted by Joe Beese (30 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Dude, I was totally planning a Masquerade post last night. Minds think alike.
posted by jbickers at 9:21 AM on April 23, 2009


I was given Masquerade as a gift, in the midst of the buried treasure-hysteria. I remember being totally crestfallen that my ten-year-old brain was never going to figure out where the hare was buried, and that England was not some park I could ride my bike to from New Jersey.
posted by steef at 9:26 AM on April 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hey, I haven't heard of this before, but it's a great story! And how can that ending be disappointing? Secret liaisons, animal rights groups, good guys miss out by just a few foot, bad guys win and make off with the loot...just screaming out for a sequel.


[And yes, that's Emma Thompson in the clip.]

...and Stephen Fry, and House...*coff*...Hugh Laurie, and Ben Elton.
posted by Sova at 9:29 AM on April 23, 2009


The end was disappointing? What's disappointing about, clever con men, naive animal rightsers and greedy metal detection hobbyists conniving to uncover the treasure, but do so only after a real, play by the rules treasure hunter accidentally tosses the treasure aside and continues to dig in almost the right spot?

It's practically Raiders of the Lost Ark!

On preview, what Sova said.
posted by notyou at 9:30 AM on April 23, 2009


Kit Williams is a wonderful artist. There's a great book of his work called Out of One Eye (he is blind in one eye, which figures in a number of his pieces). He also had another "puzzle" book, which was untitled. The "contest" was to come up with a name for it. I believe it was ultimately named The Bee in the Comb.

I was crestfallen lo these many years ago when I heard of the hijinks that unraveled the mystery of Masquerade. It was such a great phenomenon back in the day.

And, for good measure, Rah rah rah! We're going to smash the oiks! I actually saw somebody walking down the street a few months ago wearing a Scumbag College T-shirt and I chanted that at them when he walked by. He seemed to have no idea what I was talking about.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:34 AM on April 23, 2009


To clarify: "disappointing" in the sense that virtue wasn't rewarded. Williams said:

This tarnishes Masquerade and I'm shocked by what has emerged. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to all those many people who were genuinely looking for it.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:35 AM on April 23, 2009


I was going to post in this thread, but first I must place this sticky bun precariously.
posted by thanotopsis at 9:37 AM on April 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


True Joe Beese.

But it's boring when virtue is rewarded.
posted by notyou at 9:37 AM on April 23, 2009


But it's boring when virtue is rewarded.

I dunno. I might mark that on my calendar.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:58 AM on April 23, 2009


It's only boring if by virtuous you mean smug and dull. I'd have loved it if some old tweedy coot with a a sense of adventure had found the thing through hard work, brilliant puzzle solving and relentless curiosity.
posted by tula at 10:12 AM on April 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Way I see it, the story plays out like this:

Man wins million dollars in lottery, hits local news. Dishonest men camp outside winner's house, loot trash bins. Turns out lottery winner threw out his winning ticket.

Sucks for the "winners" to be sure, but they dug right past it and essentially threw away the prize.
posted by explosion at 10:14 AM on April 23, 2009


Ampthill Park near Bedford

Says you - Ampthill is miles from Bedford*!
* Perception of significance of disatance may vary depending on whether or not you grew up in rural Bedfordshire.
posted by Artw at 10:17 AM on April 23, 2009


...and Stephen Fry, and House...*coff*...Hugh Laurie, and Ben Elton.

Griff Rhys Jones as well!

posted by djgh at 11:05 AM on April 23, 2009


I loved this book. (Is today old mystery puzzle day on MeFi, or what?)
posted by rokusan at 11:09 AM on April 23, 2009


I found out about Masquerade a good while after the treasure-hunting phase had played out, so it only registered as a small side-note to the much more engaging activity of taking hallucinogens and looking at the pretty, pretty pictures.

And my, what pretty pretty, pictures Masquerade has.
posted by lekvar at 11:11 AM on April 23, 2009


@levkar: You were cited in the (previously) link.
posted by shii at 11:20 AM on April 23, 2009


I had this book when I was a kid, but I never knew the final outcome.
posted by OmieWise at 11:41 AM on April 23, 2009



...and Stephen Fry, and House...*coff*...Hugh Laurie, and Ben Elton.

Griff Rhys Jones as well!


Wait, that's not Bambi Gascoyne?
posted by Sova at 11:45 AM on April 23, 2009


Other fun Bedford facts: John Oliver is from just down the road, in Kempston.
posted by Artw at 11:55 AM on April 23, 2009


I first read of this book in jr. high school (1982-83) in one of those magazines they hand out in reading class, Action or some such. I was instantly fascinated by it and found a copy in the library. I never got very far solving the puzzles, and by that time it had been solved anyway, but I still thought it was the coolest thing ever.

I then wrote my own "book", which was about ten pages of crude drawings and a really lame story. The story contained clues to where $5.00 was hidden in my back yard. I charged the other four members of my family $2.00 for a copy of the book, making a fat $3.00 profit.

I think the solution was that, when put all together, the thirteenth word on every page gave the location of the money. In any event, nobody actually solved the puzzle but my dad noticed the freshly dug soil in the back right hand corner of the yard without ever even attempting to read the clues, and found the money. The bastard. I know how Williams must have felt.
posted by bondcliff at 11:57 AM on April 23, 2009 [9 favorites]


The burial of the pendant was witnessed by Bamber Gascoigne...

Be sure to check our Gascoigne's book Quest for the Golden Hare (referenced in the 'end' hyperlink of the FPP).
posted by ericb at 12:48 PM on April 23, 2009


But it's boring when virtue is rewarded.

And surely virtue is it's own reward, so everybody's happy? The non-virtuous get the treasure, the virtuous get the virtue.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:41 PM on April 23, 2009


He also had another "puzzle" book, which was untitled. The "contest" was to come up with a name for it. I believe it was ultimately named The Bee in the Comb.

Yep, it's a great little book. Elegant solution, too: The Bee on the Comb.
posted by Paragon at 2:19 PM on April 23, 2009


In those old Canadian Club ads, did anyone find the hidden cases of whiskey?
posted by 445supermag at 3:41 PM on April 23, 2009


That necklace is gorgeous, who made it? Want. (well a copy in silver, actually, would be better)
posted by By The Grace of God at 4:01 PM on April 23, 2009


Wow. I have Masquerade somewhere. Like steef, I was crestfallen to be so darn stumped, and I was a bit older than ten when I read it.

I could have found it. I could have been famous.

**cries**
posted by Grlnxtdr at 4:34 PM on April 23, 2009


I saw the name Kit Williams and the post had already won me over.

I read and reread (and had read to me) Masquerade dozens of times as a child. I've managed to track down a copy of it, which sits right here, in my office, on my shelf with all the textbooks that my students use, waiting for a student curious enough, and bold enough, to tackle a book that might well challenge them to the limit of their English abilities, but that will, in the end, leave them with an unending sense of wonder.

The sun set, and the day was over. (one of the best endings of all time)
posted by Ghidorah at 8:35 PM on April 23, 2009


The guys who solved the puzzle the "right" way missed by a hare.
posted by mendel at 10:19 PM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow. The book made it over to my grandfather's bookshelf in Karachi, Pakistan where, a lonely, quiet 8 year old I found it around 1987. In the days before the internet, when we only had one state-run television channel (unless you lived in Lahore and hooked up a cooking pot to your TV, and might be able to get Indian state TV as well), I had no idea the hare had been found, and was not even entirely sure it was a puzzle or a weird dream sequence (hey, I was 8). It stumped me good, the pictures were both frightening and compelling (the two-page spread of the giant hare terrified me), and I dreamed of being the one who'd finally dig up the hare, but was unsure how I'd ever make it over to England to find it. In any case it stumped me good, sparked a lifelong uneasiness around puzzles and parlour games and I'd forgotten about it till now. Thanks for bringing it back.
posted by tavegyl at 4:08 AM on April 24, 2009


Well, it was disappointing at the time to those of us who were rooting for someone to solve the puzzles, even if it wasn't us. In retrospect it certainly is fascinating in its own way.

The book was still fascinating, and thinking of it now, it might have had quite a different life if it hadn't been seen as just a treasure hunt.
posted by dhartung at 11:52 AM on April 24, 2009


« Older Elphenden...  |  Tony wants to know, is it Ghos... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments