We All Want To Be Treasure Hunters

Sometimes, we need to take a break from the daily grind of typical GIS work.

We should mentally step away from a deep focus on the surveys, the watershed analyses, flood projections, census data, and all the other innumerable things we collectively do for a living that causes struggles during small talk at social gatherings. We should look deep inside ourselves and think about some of the more romantic aspects of the “Science of Where” to remind us why we have a passion for what we do.

For instance, I would like to introduce you to a real-life treasure hunt. It has been ongoing across the country and been mostly untouched for the last 30 years.

treasure hunters

The Secret: A Treasure Hunt

In 1982, Byron Preiss published a fantasy-style novel called The Secret: A Treasure Hunt, which includes twelve different paintings and twelve different verses. These cryptic paintings and verses, when paired together, give historical and spatially-relevant clues on the location of 12 treasures Preiss had buried the year before. These treasures are located across the United States (and possibly Canada). More specifically, they are suspected to be in cities along the East Coast, West Coast, Gulf Coast, and Great Lakes. They are protected by plexiglass boxes. Inside those boxes are handcrafted and painted ceramic casks containing keys. These keys were to be redeemed for gemstones (collectively) valued around $10,000 USD (at the time).

The Treasure Hunt Continues

In 2018, we have unprecedented access to knowledge and geospatial tools that simply didn’t exist in 1981. It’s kind of a shame that only TWO of the twelve treasures have been reported as found. The first was in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, a year after the book was published. The second one wasn’t discovered until 2004, in Cleveland, Ohio’s Greek Cultural Garden. Tragically, in 2005 Byron Preiss passed away while most of his buried treasure remained hidden. Since his passing, no new treasure locations have been reported as discovered. Those who still study the images and verses, to continue the hunt for the treasure, theorize that the rest are in the following cities:

  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • New York City, New York
  • San Francisco, California
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Houston, Texas
  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • Roanoke Island, North Carolina
  • St. Augustine, Florida
  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin

What next?

I would recommend those who live in or around these cities and have a passion for all things spatial, take a look at the images and verses to see if the secrets can be unlocked. Maybe you’ll be able to add “Treasure Hunter” to your resume and make the small talk at your next social gathering a little more captivating. Personally, I’ve been investigating the Boston area, as I see quite a few clues to give me an idea of where to search…



Live near a potential treasure spot? Reach out to us at @GEOJobeGIS and let us know what you find!

Even More from Blake Bilbo:

Blake Bilbo

Head of Customer Support