Masquerade by Kit Williams
“Armchair Treasure Hunts” first came to my attention through the amazing book Masquerade by Kit Williams
Published in 1979, it is a glorious work of art filled with visual and textual puzzles and a sweet fairytale story of unrequited love. The unique (at the time) selling point was that the book contained clues to a golden hare that had been buried somewhere in England. A real-life treasure hunt!
I was maybe 10 years old when I stumbled across my grandfather’s copy and it stuck with me for years afterwards. I used the final words of the book as my email footer all through the late 1990s: “The best of men is only a man at best, and a hare, as everyone knows, is only a hare.”
But I never managed to solve the puzzle and never had the faintest idea where the golden hare might have been buried. It wasn’t until 2005 that I thought to look up the solution on the Internet.
The solution was easy to find and I was amazed to learn the history behind the book. Feverish treasure hunters had gone digging up half the UK during the early 1980s, while the pair who solved it in early 1982 somehow overlooked the box they successfully dug up. An opportunist who had learned the rough location of the treasure after questioning Kit Williams’ former girlfriend found it in a pile of earth they left behind. It makes for a sad end to the story of the lost hare.
As for the puzzle itself, I’m not surprised I never solved it myself. It is highly cryptic, involving several leaps of logic. I’d love to know how the pair of physics teachers who worked it out managed to do so! Here is my solution to the puzzle.
Though the finding of the hare mirrored the grimness of real life, the book remains a lovely fairytale. It’s worth tracking down a copy and decent ones can usually be picked up fairly cheaply on Amazon, in various editions from 1979 to 1987. There was also a version published in 1983 which came with the answer.
If you still long to know more, there’s also the “Quest For The Golden Hare” by Bamber Gascoigne. Gascoigne served as witness when Kit Williams buried his treasure and his book discusses the creation of the puzzle and the chaos caused by the search. Happy hunting!