Go For a Nice Relaxing Puzzle Hunt with Letterboxing!

Who can resist a treasure hunt? Who doesn’t want to play the role of the clever intrepid adventurer who reads maps, deciphers clues, solves riddles, and finds a hidden cache that eluded so many others?

We’ve discussed them in the past, covering famous ones like Forrest Fenn’s poem or the visual treasure hunt clues of The Secret, as well as tips for creating one of your own.

But did you know there’s another sort of treasure hunting out there that requires nothing more than your wits, your patience, and your willingness to exercise and explore?

[Image courtesy of Underhobby.]

It’s called letterboxing.

Essentially, you’re hunting for small, weatherproof boxes in publicly accessible areas — parks, for instance — with the goal of celebrating your success locating the well-concealed box. From a given starting point — a letterboxing catalog, or a website, or one given to you by the letterbox designer themselves — you must hunt down the box. (Your state might even maintain an archive of available letterboxing spots. Mine certainly does!)

Sometimes there are clues, or puzzles to be solved, or it’s simply meant to be found by determined, keen-eyed hunters.

Inside, you’ll find a logbook awaiting your personal stamp (to mark that you found it) as well as a stamp unique to that letterbox for you to use in your own record book to record your success in locating the box.

Devoted letterboxers often keep careful records of how many letterboxes they’ve planted, how many they’ve found, which letterboxing events they’ve attended, and more.

And it’s a hobby that dates back more than 150 years!

[Image courtesy of Ms. Nasser’s Art Studio.]

Now, if this sounds familiar, there’s good reason for that. Over the last fifteen years, an updated version of letterboxing has emerged: geocaching.

Geocaching functions mostly along the same lines, but with one crucial difference.

Geocaching is all about finding exact GPS coordinates.

But it can also involve the same exploration, puzzling, and problem-solving as letterboxing. I’ve seen some that contain puzzles that reveal coordinates to other geocaches, like popsicle sticks that have to be sorted to reveal the necessary numbers. There are even some that require you to solve a puzzle to open the letterbox itself.

Some people are very clever indeed, and they’re waiting for you to accept the challenge.

Have you ever been letterboxing or geocaching, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Are you planning to try it out in the future? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!


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Make the Season Bright (and Puzzly)!

Christmas is fast approaching, but there’s still time to put a nice puzzly spin on this festive holiday.

Naturally, we have a few ideas for how to do that without shelling out more of your hard-earned cash. (This is why you won’t see puzzle boxes or those marble-run boxes for gift cards here. This is all DIY!)

So let’s look at some puzzle-inspired ways to enhance your Yuletide endeavors!


[Image courtesy of Destination Imagination.]

Scavenger Hunt / Puzzle Hunt

Yes, this is always the first suggestion on our list because it’s a fun idea you can tailor to any age group. Whether they’re solving riddles, figuring out vague references to places in the house, or simply searching for gifts like Easter eggs, it can freshen up the Christmas morning experience to exercise their brains before they put their arms to work tearing open wrapping paper.

puzzlelove

Puzzles for Presents / Puzzle Password

I know a couple who absolutely love cryptic-style crossword clues, and on more than one occasion, before one gives the other a birthday or Christmas gift, they’ll have to solve a cryptic clue.

Often they’re about the couple themselves, or multiple clues will spell out a message. It’s a sweet little puzzly way to “earn” your gifts, if you’re into that sort of thing.

You can easily do this with kids by pretending the wrapped gifts are “locked” and they have to figure out a code or find a “key” to free the present. (Heck, some ribbons are so resilient that you really can lock up a present!)

daggertrap

Paper Locks

Similarly, you can create actual paper locks to be opened or employ the puzzly art of letterlocking to create a little mechanical puzzle to be unraveled before opening a gift.

There are some wonderful DIY tutorials and YouTube videos out there detailing how to create these whimsical little challenges, and it’s pretty impressive how much you can do with some paper, glue, and creativity.

[Image courtesy of Nadim’s Craft.]

Origami Puzzle Box

And speaking of all the things you can do with paper, it should come as no surprise that there are puzzle boxes out there that you can create with the Japanese paper-folding art of origami.

Some are simple, some are complex, and yes, none of these will stop a child determined to get to that gift, but these are wonderfully intricate and stylish ways to present someone you care about with a gift experience they’re remember.


Do you have any suggestions for making the holiday season puzzlier? Let us know in the comment section below! We’d love to hear from you.

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A Puzzly Radio Broadcast From the Past… Coming Soon!

As one of the strangest years in recent memory begins drawing to a close, puzzlers continue to adapt and innovate to ever-changing circumstances.

Trivia nights, scavenger hunts, and escape rooms have gone virtual across Facebook, Zoom, YouTube, Twitch, and other platforms.

By going online, crossword puzzle tournaments have hosted more than a thousand participants at the same time. And it’s not only one-day events like Lollapuzzoola and Crosswords Tournament From Your Couch, but larger ventures as well, including the ongoing Boswords 2020 Fall Themeless League, which has now entered its fourth week of competition.

And now, a group of intrepid puzzlers are embracing the technology of the present to take solvers on a journey to the past for a unique puzzly experience coming in December: The Club Drosselmeyer Radio Hour.

Over the previous four years, the organizers of Club Drosselmeyer have hosted an event in Boston set in a nightclub during World War II. The events have featured era-appropriate costumes, music puzzle solving, dancing, and even a swing-time version of the Nutcracker Suite!

But given the current global circumstances, they’ve redesigned their magical December event, and for the first time, folks outside the Boston area can take part in a virtual Club Drosselmeyer event presented as a radio show from the same era.

You can buy tickets online to participate, and not only will you gain access to the radio show, but the puzzles as well. Depending on what tickets you buy, you can get downloadable puzzles or a physical kit sent to your home (the Drosselbox). Either way, you’ll be solving in real time as the radio show goes on, and even interacting with the performers on occasion.

From the FAQ page on the Club Drosselmeyer website:

The Club Drosselmeyer Radio Hour will have three parts: the Radio Show, the Drosselmeyer Industries Switchboard and the Puzzles. As a player, you can plan the ultimate holiday evening gathered around the radio and interact at whatever level you feel comfortable. There will be no video camera watching you (no Zoom!) and our Drosselmeyer Switchboard will respond to how you play. Engage with all three parts of the production, or only with some of it- however you’d like!

The radio show will sound a lot like a 1943 radio show: songs, skits, performances and commercials. (Think of the Jack Benny or Bing Crosby Radio Hour.) However, there may be some surprises during the show and you’ll be called upon to help out.

Yes, you can actually call in during the event as part of the solving experience, engaging with a mix of prerecorded messages and live interactions with the actors.

You don’t, of course, have to participate on the day in question. The puzzles and prerecorded features will continue to run for months, so you can solve at your leisure. But for anyone solving on that special day, you’ll get a unique puzzly experience unlike anything I’ve heard of before.

This should be fantastic fun. Eschewing videocall-style visuals for a fully audio experience is such a cool idea, one that really embraces the spirit of the time period and adds tons of atmosphere. When you factor in the slang and delightful verbiage of the time period — plus the musical element — it sounds like an absolute blast. I’ve already purchased my ticket — and I wanted to spread the word. You can check out more details on Club Drosselmeyer here!

But be quick about it. As far as I know, the team is hoping to lock down their Drosselbox orders by November 1st in order to have everything locked and loaded for early December when the Radio Show takes place.

Will you be participating in the Club Drosselmeyer Radio Hour, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Or do you have other puzzly plans for the rest of the year? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!


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Farewell, Forrest.

For fans of Forrest Fenn’s “The Thrill of the Chase” treasure hunt, it’s been a strange and frustrating year.

In 2010, Forrest Fenn hid a treasure chest full of gold and diamonds, purported to be worth millions, somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. The only clues offered — nine, to be specific — were hidden in his poem, “The Thrill of the Chase.”

After a decade of dissecting his poem, searching across a half-dozen states, engaging in hundreds (if not thousands!) of hours of brainstorming, deliberating, planning, and exploring, no one had found a thing.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere during the pandemic, Fenn announced on his website on June 6th that the treasure has been found. The hunt was over.

But there were no details. No revelation of the treasure’s location, no hint as to the lucky treasure hunter’s identity, nothing. The best we got was that he was from “back East.”

As you might expect, many would-be treasure hunters were disappointed, and more than a few cried foul, believing that either the announcement was a hoax, or the entire hunt had been a hoax. Doubters couldn’t decide if the treasure was never buried at all, was buried and then recovered later, or if the finder was an accomplice.

fennfound3

Weeks later, Fenn offered some photos — two of him examining the treasure and one of the treasure chest supposedly in situ, long exposed to the elements — which proved unconvincing to the doubters. If the photos of Fenn handling the treasure were taken after it was found, why did the finder bring the chest and treasure back to him?

It was all very confusing and more than a little suspicious.

Finally, more than a month after announcing that the treasure had been found, in response to many cries for him to reveal the solution and end the mystery for so many, Fenn revealed… the state in which the treasure had been found: Wyoming.

That answer satisfied some, particularly those whose solutions had pointed to other states, like New Mexico, Colorado, or Montana. But others remained upset. Understandably so. Wyoming is a pretty big state, after all.

Unfortunately, the hunt may truly be over, as Forrest Fenn passed away this week at the age of 90.

fennfound6

Fenn leaves behind a complicated legacy. Five deaths have been attributed to the treasure hunt, as well as numerous costly search-and-rescue operations (including one in the Grand Canyon!), several court cases, and even a break-in at Fenn’s house.

Beyond the treasure hunt, Fenn was also associated with federal investigations regarding antiquities and artifacts. In 2009, his home was raided by federal agents and several items seized. Fenn escaped charges, however.

Regardless, many hunters and admirers are in mourning, sending heartfelt messages in celebration of the man who enriched their lives with this curious endeavor.

But, once again, solvers have been left without a definitive solution. In an interview, Fenn claimed there is a way to verify that the chest was found even after he’d gone, but he didn’t specify how.

And now, his passing has reignited the doubters, who find the timing of everything all the more suspect. Exactly ten years after it was first hidden, the treasure is found by an unidentified seeker, a virtual ghost. Then a few months later, Fenn passes away.

forrest fenn

[Image courtesy of The Santa Fe New Mexican.]

The idea that he wanted to end the hunt (or the hoax) before his passing does seem more plausible, given the timing. It’s especially notable given that he claimed on more than one occasion that his dream was to pass away BESIDE the treasure, and achieve immortality by being found with the treasure, as if we were an Egyptian pharaoh or something.

We don’t know if this is truly the end for “The Thrill of the Chase” and all those treasure hunters over the last decade.

What we do know is that an inventive and captivating figure brought his love of nature, the outdoors, and adventure to thousands of strangers through his treasure hunt. And whether it was real or fake, the magic of that puzzle, and the good times they had trying to solve it, can never be taken away from them.

Farewell, Forrest. Thank you for the mystery.


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Another Treasure-Filled Puzzle Hunt in the Works?

When it rains, it pours.

Just last week, after lamenting the (possible) end of Forrest Fenn’s famed treasure hunt, we spread the word about a new treasure hunt based in Michigan that had emerged unexpectedly from the ongoing circumstances caused by the Coronavirus.

As it turns out, Michigan may not be the only place an intrepid treasure-seeking puzzler can look for a challenge that ends with riches.

We recently received a message about the latest cache being hidden by “the Treasure Man” H. Charles Beil, a curious figure who is supposedly hiding caches of gold, coins, crystal skulls, and other valuables all over the country.

His goal is to hide a cache in each of the fifty states, and apparently, the hunt for his fifteenth cache — the Gallows Harbor Treasure Hunt — will soon be underway.

ark of the covenant

[This chest, designed to look like the Ark of the Covenant,
is supposedly already in place, awaiting cagey solvers.]

From the message, which was structured like a press release:

H.Charles Beil has hidden a multi-million dollar treasure weighing nearly a half ton in the Appalachian Mountains.

The treasure consists of six large brass chests, crystal skull signed by actor Dan Aykroyd and six smaller chests filled with gold, silver, precious gems, coins, pewter, jewelry, historical items and custom art objects.

I went looking for more information, and was a little surprised to see mentions of H. Charles Beil confined to treasure hunting forums and other odd corners of the Internet, rather than being reported in the major news outlets, as Forrest Fenn’s hunt was.

That’s especially curious if five of the caches have been found. How were none of them reported in online news sources? (At least, as far as I could tell.)

Of course, Fenn’s treasure hunt was quiet for years before it gained mainstream press, so it’s not impossible that this has flown under the radar, just highly unlikely.

The Treasure Man caches have evocative names like The Lost Cache of Wolf Run, The Secret Lovers Lost Cache, or The Legend of Woodsy Swamp, and they’re often steeped in local lore. (Click here for a rundown of many of the caches.)

Although sites like GallowsHarbor.com and TheTreasureMan.com have some details, they’re more like teases — hints you’d expect in a promotional campaign — instead of fully informational sources. It appears that most of the helpful information for these hunts are tied to the Treasure Man’s Facebook Group, where many hunters post videos and information relating to their efforts to hunt down these caches.

The Gallows Harbor Treasure Hunt is apparently tied to a book that hasn’t been released yet. This does make the websites, as well as all the cloak-and-dagger elusiveness feel like a PR stunt to sell a book, rather than a puzzly adventure. But again, I have no proof one way or the other.

gallows harbor

I wish I had more details to share with you, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers. It seems like the most useful and accessible source of information about the caches is Mysterious Writings, a website and YouTube account dedicated to treasure hunts of all sorts. You can check them out here and here.

If this is all true, then it’s a marvelous endeavor that is bringing joy and excitement to adventurous solvers all over the country. If it’s not, then it’s a fairly elaborate and well-constructed hoax that will hopefully boost some book sales for the Treasure Man.

Either way, it’s an interesting story, one that we hope sparked your imagination and your puzzly spirit.


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Treasures Galore Await Puzzlers in Michigan!

johnny treasure

[Image courtesy of Johnny’s Treasure Quest.]

One famous treasure hunt might finally have ended, but another one has risen up in its place halfway across the country.

And unexpectedly, this new bright spot on the puzzly calendar has grown directly out of the darkness of the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.

I’ll give you the backstory first. J&M Jewelers has been a presence in Washington Township, Michigan, for decades as a local emporium for gold, silver, diamonds, and antiques, but unfortunately the store was forced to close due to the economic strains imposed by the state’s lockdown period.

With plenty of unsold inventory from the jewelry store just sitting around, owner Johnny Perri and his wife Amy came up with an ingenious way to salvage the situation…

A statewide treasure hunt.

Yes, the Perris have prepared actual treasure troves in places all around the state, and they have invited puzzlers and treasure seekers to accept the challenge of their Michigan-spanning “treasure quest.”

If you locate one of the hidden troves — marked by an X, of course — you can either keep the treasure as you find it or exchange it for its cash value with the organizers! How can you go wrong?

There are different quests in different counties on different days, and you need to sign up for your particular quest and pay a registration fee. Also, be sure to join their Facebook group for details.

Several of the quests have already sold out, so new ones have been added, but spots are going quickly!

Honestly, this is a pretty ingenious way to make the best out of a bad situation, allowing intrepid treasure hunters to embark on a puzzly adventure and help out a struggling business all at the same time.

The first of the treasure quests starts on August 1st, with more later in the month and others launching in September. (One was just announced for October as well!)

Good luck to all the aspiring treasure hunters out there. And to Johnny and Amy Perri, thank you for this marvelous puzzly adventure. We here at PuzzleNation wish you and your family all the best.


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