Treasure Hunt

December 3, 2009

In 1979 artist Kit Williams caused a worldwide treasure hunt by creating a children’s book called Masquerade. The first person to solve the riddle and find the clues hidden in the book would find the location of a jeweled golden hare, hidden somewhere in Britain.

The intention was to create a book which people would study carefully, instead of just flipping through. Kit Williams himself said about the book.

“If I was to spend two years on the 16 paintings for Masquerade I wanted them to mean something. I recalled how, as a child, I had come across ‘treasure hunts’ in which the puzzles were not exciting nor the treasure worth finding. So I decided to make a real treasure, of gold, bury it in the ground and paint real puzzles to lead people to it. The key was to be Catherine of Aragon’s Cross at Ampthill, near Bedford, casting a shadow like the pointer of a sundial.”

Kit Williams

In March 1982, Williams announced that someone called Ken Thomas has won the competition, which turned out to be a fraud. Ken Thomas was a pseudonym of Dugald Thompson, an acquaintance of a girlfriend of Williams, who helped Thompson to find the location eventually. The hysteria and scandal that followed drove Williams underground where he remained to create art, which he refuses to exhibit.

There is a BBC documentary about the whole story and it’s creator, which can be watched here.

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