Masquerade by Kit Williams: The Solution
Masquerade is the quintessential armchair treasure hunt book: beautiful to look at and filled with many small, easy puzzles as well as one large one that is nigh impossible to solve.
This post goes through some of the little puzzles in the book (as much as can be covered in a single blog post). It also gradually reveals hints to how the main puzzle works, before giving away the full solution. Skip to the end if you want, or try to work it out for yourself once pointed in the right direction.
The clues start right on the title page: “To solve the hidden riddle, you must use your eyes, / And find the hare in every picture that may point you to the prize”.
Indeed, there is a hare hidden on every page, and hunting them down is the first bit of fun to be had in the book. But this clue has two deeper, double meanings: eyes are important, and the hares point, literally, to the answer.
On to the first painting! There are several features common to every page, and this one starts off the book with some more massive hints.
As mentioned, every page features a hare and this one is slap-bang in the middle disgused as a hill. In the image, I have circled its four feet. Toes and fingers are often in contorted positions through the book (take a look at the “scream” painting on page 7 for a clear example) and we have been told that the hares point to the prize.
Every painting has a message round the border, starting on the left side and reading clockwise. Several letters on each page are written in red, and these letters can be arranged to form a relevant word. On page 1, the word is “hare”.
Less obviously, several letters have spurs on them. I have put squares round these letters in the image. On page 1, these letters make the word “golden”.
Turning to the message on this page, the first three sides read “I am as cold as earth, as old as earth and in the earth am I”. Knowing that the treasure has been buried in the earth, and combined with the fact that the hare in this picture is disguised as a hill, I take this as a hint that the hare is buried in a hill.
The fourth side on page 1 reads “One of six to eight”. This is a cryptic reference to the six wives of Henry VIII, his first being Catherine of Aragon. When their marriage broke down, Catherine was banished to Ampthill castle. By this circuitous reasoning, page 1 of the book has already given us the approximate location of the buried hare; Ampthill, Bedfordshire.
Skipping through the rest of the book, it is easy enough to find most of the hares (yes, the hare on page 2 is the guy in a rabbit suit) and to work out the words in red and with spurred letters, but none of this helps solve the puzzle.
There are a few riddles in the text, several of them being of the type that spell out a word. The trickiest of these is on page 7:
I am the beginning of eternity,
Followed by half a circle, close on by half a square,
Through my fourth, my fifth is seen,
To be the first in every pair.
My sixth begins my seventh,
The end of time and space,
Now put my parts together to see what’s taken place.
The beginning of eternity is “E”, half a circle is a “C”, and an “L” is half a square. You see through your eye, or “I”, and the first letter of pair is “P”. The letter that begins the word seventh is “S”, and the end of time and space is “E”. Putting all these letters together spells: ECLIPSE.
Try some of the other riddles yourself. Again, none of them help with the main puzzle.
Square grids of letters and numbers appear several times through the book. The one written in the football field on page 5 is a particularly difficult puzzle:
These are atomic numbers of elements and reading off the symbols from a Periodic table spells out the following: F Al S Es / N O U U / Th I N K / Ag Ar I N. With a bit of work, this becomes the message: “False, now think again”. In other words, all that effort was for a red herring.
Polly Pocket’s magic square on page 4 is, however, very important:
There is another square with an empty space near the bottom right on the Isaac Newton painting on page 12. This square contains coloured letters. The link between this page and the Polly Pocket page is confirmed by the prominent bees on both.
The meaning of the letters is so ridiculously cryptic and unhelpful that I won’t even bother explaining them. What matters are the colours. If you pick out Isaac Newton’s squares in the order given by Polly Pocket’s square, you get a repeating sequence: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue.
The four main control rings on all the marionettes, including most of the animals at the back, are the same four colours. Red attaches to the left hand, Yellow to the left foot, Green to the right hand and Blue to the right foot.
Another important point is that the strings connect to the pointed tips of the toes and fingers, echoing the clue of “pointing” to the prize. Finally, Jill has her eyes covered and the animals are hanging from their eye sockets, echoing the clue to “use your eyes”.
This single image is supposed to give you the entire method for solving the puzzle. Yes, really. Are you ready for it?
To solve the puzzle, you have to go through each picture in turn and find the animals and people. Draw lines starting from their eyes, through the tips of their hands and feet and out to the border. This will spell out a hidden message pointing to the treasure.
To get the letters of the message in the right order, you have to follow the Red, Yellow, Green, Blue sequence by going from left eye to left hand then left foot, then from right eye to right hand then right foot. You also have to use the order of the marionettes as they [sort of] appear on the Isaac Newton page: Jack, Jill, frog, hare, bird, fish, then other animals such as mice.
This is stupendously obscure, and really needs seeing in practice.
On page 1, the only animals are the hare and the three mice. Starting with the hare’s left eye and drawing a (red) line through his left “hand” points to a “C” on the border. The yellow line through the left foot points to an “A”.
The green line starts on the right eye and passes through the right hand, pointing to a “T”. The blue line through the right foot points to an “H”.
Then we move to the mice. Starting with the leftmost mouse, we can only see his left eye. Drawing just the red and yellow lines through left hand and foot points to the letters “E” and “R”.
For the next mouse along, we can see both eyes, but only his front paws. Drawing the red and green lines gives us the letters “I” and “N”.
The third mouse’s right eye is visible so we draw green and blue lines through right hand and foot to get the letters “E” and “S”.
Putting all these letters together spells out CATHERINES, which fits with the hint at the bottom of page 1 that Catherine of Aragorn is key to the puzzle. We’re on the right track!
There is another clue to keep you on the right track on the final painting of the book, which has yet another square drawn on the sand:
Using the sequence from Polly Pocket’s magic square, these numbers tell you how many letters you are looking for on each page. Square 1 is the bottom right, so we have correctly found all 10 letters on page 1.
Square 2 is the 46 in the top middle. Don’t worry, there aren’t 46 lines to be drawn! This means that there are 2 words on this page, one 4 letters long and the other 6 letters long. When you come to trying page 2 for yourself, you’ll find there are 11 lines to draw and the fifth line points to an empty “space” on the border.
To get you started on page 2, here are some hints. Start with the man (Jack) and draw a line from his left eye through his left hand (red line). His left toe isn’t visible, so skip on to his right eye and draw lines through his right hand and right foot. Then repeat this with the woman. Finally, do the same with the dressed-up “hare”.
I’ve written the full secret message in white text to avoid accidentally spoiling the answer before you’ve given it a go yourself. Select the text to view it:
Answer>> Catherine’s long finger over shadows earth. Buried yellow amulet. Midday points the hour. In light of equinox look you. <<
This is a very cryptic message and it requires a lot of effort to understand what you’ve got. The first step to understanding it is to see that the first letter on each page spells out another message: “Close by Ampthill”. This confirms that we’re looking for somewhere near Ampthill.
There is a tall cross to Catherine of Aragon located in Ampthill park. At midday on the day of the Spring equinox, the tip of the shadow of this cross pointed to the buried golden hare.
That, is the final solution to Masquerade. I hope the journey was fun!
I have puzzled over Masquerade for most of my adult life (I am 61) The book is beautiful and although I am aware of the story behind what happened to the treasure, I am still delighted to read this solution. Thank you.
Kit Williams’ newly refurbished clock in Cheltenham is also worth the journey.
Thanks and always happy to hear from others who love the book.
We had this book in our library at school. I was quite intrigued and obsessed by it for a while then forgot about it until it appeared in a dream last night! This prompted me to check it out online. Thank you for this guide! I think I will try and buy a copy.
Good luck and hope you enjoy perusing it again!
I am similarly happy to find the answer here as I received the book as a Christmas present when it first came out. I was a child at the time and loved the book for it’s imagery.
Thanks. Never too old to enjoy Masquerade. Look out for his “Untitled Bee Book” as well. I enjoyed the art in that even more with its combination of painting and marquetry http://dreamsofgerontius.com/2016/09/22/untitled-bee-book-by-kit-williams/
Reached my late 50’s
Finally understand the book.
Although known as an avid book lover it still surprises some people when I tell them that Masquerade is probably my favourite book as I rarely mention it. I had a copy as a 12/13 year old and spent many, many days and weeks studying this. On a rainy day in winter 79/80 it was a godsend and I’ve never forgotten the sheer joy it gave me and all the subsequent copycat books that came later in the 80’s never quite had the same effect. I lost my original (unsolved – obviously) copy and found one on the net so treated myself a few years back. I also read up on the scandal of it’s ‘discovery’ by shady means and was prompted in turn to buy ‘The Quest for The Golden Hare’ by Bamber Gascoigne – who had witnessed the original burial. This book also contained the perfect solution sent in to Williams by two school teachers. They had been digging in the exact spot and had missed the clay covered casket in the spoil heap. To my delight I found the book is signed by both Bamber and Kit Williams. Nothing really brings back childhood for me more than Masquerade, and for that at least I will always be eternally grateful to Mr Williams.
I spent many hours and miles of travel; looking for this thing at the time. At one point I was on top of The Wrekin in Shropshire convinced I’d found the site !!. Of its day it was unique
Thank you all for your interesting stories and insights!
Thanks very much for explaining and illustrating the solution in such detail. When the book first came out, I intuited that the spot must be marked by the equinoctial shadow of something; some friends who were also fascinated by the puzzle had twigged that the eyes and digits could be used to select letters; and we were also clear that “One of six to eight” implied Catherine of Aragon. I seriously think that if we’d put our heads together, we might have cracked it – but we decided (thankfully) that we weren’t going to allow ourselves to become obsessed by it!
(One thing – at one point in the text, you’ve got “Catherine of Aragorn” – think I like it better than the original!)