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The Secret (a treasure hunt) / Image 6 Verse 9 Solution
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Image 6 Verse 9 Solution

Page history last edited by Oregonian 1 year, 11 months ago



  The casque associated with Image 6 and Verse 9 is (or was) buried in St. Augustine, Florida at these coordinates: 29.907125, -81.316125.


  The image of a Spanish conquistador atop the outline of Florida ties in with the book's immigration theme and tells us to look for a spot associated with the arrival of Spanish explorers on the Florida peninsula.  A huge number of exact text matches confirm that our destination is the Fountain of Youth tourist attraction in St. Augustine.  A line-of-sight connecting a tall tree, a fountain, and the moon-like dome of a building pinpoints the exact spot for the dig.



Detailed Solution

  The solution given below will present clues from the verse and the image in a way that narrows down the search area to that specific point.  Bits of the original image are shown in the left column in cells with a tan background.  Lines from the verse are in the same column but with a yellow background.  (For more detail about any particular clue, check the page for Image 6 or Verse 9.) 
Clues Interpretations

  The negative space created to the right of the rock formation is a very strong match for the shape of the Florida peninsula. 


  The blue splash of the palm canopy in the lower right corner is even a reasonable representation of Lake Okeechobee ("Florida's inland sea").

  The rock and the palm tree in the lower right corner of the image represent some of the more bizarre elements of the Florida state seal as it existed from 1868 to the early 1980's.  The coconut palm that was mandated by state law is not actually native to Florida (and was displayed with no reflection or shadow in the water).  Even more strangely, the seal showed sharp mountains of rock that do not exist anywhere in the state.  (The seal was finally revised to correct some of those errors in 1985.)


  The fellow on horseback at the top is a stereotypical Spanish conquistador.  He's wearing the stockings and red-striped "pumpkin pants" and matching puffed sleeves that are associated with such figures.  The crested helmet he's wearing is called a morion.


  The first known Spanish conquistador to arrive in Florida was Juan Ponce de León, who arrived in 1513.  A popular myth about his voyage is that he was seeking a "fountain of youth." 


  The winding, tapering banner carried by our horseman is a good match for the general impression of the St. John's Waterway in northeast Florida.  The waterway is located near the stretch of coastline, between St. Augustine and Jacksonville, where Ponce de León is thought to have landed.



  The city of St. Augustine is built on a set of peninsulas where several small rivers converge before meeting the Atlantic.  The most distinctively-shaped peninsula is the easternmost one that holds Anastasia State Park.  There is a smooth, rounded corner at the top of that peninsula, and then a flat face on the west side.


  The pattern on the face of the white rock shows an artistic representation of three of those same peninsulas. 


  (Note: This is, by far, the most abstract clue associated with Image 6, and searchers who find the comparison unconvincing can freely ignore it.  There are plenty of other clues in the image and verse to confirm the final location.)



1)  The first chapter


  With or without the abstract map shown on the rock, the combination of the conquistador and the clues to northeast Florida would eventually bring searchers to Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth, a historical park and tourist attraction located near downtown St. Augustine.  And prominently displayed at the entrance to the park in 1982 was a large sign inviting visitors to enter "The First Chapter."


  (Obligatory disclaimer: It's obviously absurd and inaccurate to describe the arrival of Europeans in 1513 as the "first chapter" in "our U.S. history" when native Americans had already been living in the same area for thousands of years.  But Preiss was presumably quoting the phrase without endorsing it.  The sign was finally replaced sometime around 2016.)


  Sure enough, the text on page 30 of The Secret specifically mentions Florida, conquistadors, and a fountain of youth.  It even capitalizes "Fountain of Youth" to tell us that it is using the proper name of a specific location.


  By the standards of The Secret, this is overwhelming evidence.  Our search should be focused on the grounds of the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in St. Augustine.



2)  Written in water


  "Written in water" refers primarily to the arrival of the Spanish explorers by boat.  They were writing the "first chapter" of European exploration in the area of Florida when they traveled over water.


  This line of the verse is probably also a hint toward the coastal location of the site.  The Fountain of Youth park (hereafter referred to as "FOY") is located on the waterfront near the mouth of the Saint Augustine inlet, where the three peninsulas shown in the "rock map" are close together.



3)  Near men


  "Near men" probably refers to several life-size conquistador statues that resemble the figure in Image 6 and are prominently displayed at FOY.  The statues have moved around a little bit over the years, but there is always one beside the ticket booth or near the cafe area to draw visitors in from the parking lots.  There's always another statue inside the diorama at the fountain building.  And there is often a third near the driveway that exits from the park.




4)  With wind rose


  This line is the most powerful and specific clue in the verse up to this point.  (In fact, it's one of the most specific clues in the entire book.)  A "wind rose" is a primitive navigational tool used by early sailors to track the directions of the wind.  An exhibit at FOY (shown at left) displays a wind rose, identifies it by name, and explains how it was used. 


  The FOY wind rose is located in the Planetarium Building (#4 on the map below).  It is, as far as we know, the only wind rose that was on display in all of north Florida at the time Preiss was there.  This is a very strong clue that we are close to the correct spot.




At this point, we need to take a look at a map of FOY:


<----   NORTH       Magnolia Avenue       SOUTH   ---->


  Note that this map is rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise from the usual orientation.  North is at the left here and east is at the top.  Magnolia Avenue runs along the edge at the bottom.  The entrance driveway to the park, where the "First Chapter" sign was displayed is shown at bottom left (marked as #1 on this map).  There is no gatekeeper at that entrance and there is no charge to drive in through the gate and park in the parking lot (#26).  On the edge of the parking lot is the ticket office where you pay admission (#2).  There is usually one of the life-size conquistador statues in that area.  The fountain building nearby is where another conquistador statue appears in a diorama (#3).  The planetarium building is where the wind rose is on display (#4).


A few notes:

  • One consistent, reliable guideline for all of the puzzles in The Secret is that Preiss never expected searchers to smuggle a shovel past a gatekeeper and risk getting caught digging in a crowded tourist attraction.  The casque on Roanoke Island is not in the Elizabethan Gardens.  The casque at Hermann Park in Houston is not inside the zoo.  The casque at the Fountain of Youth is not going to be beyond the gate where one pays admission.
  • In addition to being a tourist attraction, Fountain of Youth is also a legitimate archaeological site, where digs are regularly conducted and artifacts left by early settlers and native Americans are regularly found.  (The main dig area is shown as #11 on the map above.)  Preiss would obviously not want searchers to dig in any site with archaeological value.  But the northwest corner of the property (shown in the lower left on the map above) has already been enormously disturbed by the construction of the parking lot.  That area no longer holds any archaeological value, which is why Preiss is telling us to stay near the conquistador figures and the wind rose.



5)  Behind bending branches


  Magnolia Avenue, shown along the bottom edge of the map, is (ironically) lined not with magnolias but with majestic old oaks that arch and bend outwards to form a canopy over the road.  The street was supposedly named one of the "10 Prettiest Streets in North America" by National Geographic and it is widely photographed


  The arching trees on Magnolia Avenue are in front of FOY, so all visitors have to go behind them to enter the park.  These may be the bending branches that Preiss is describing, although the reference is too vague to be certain.




6)  And a green picket fence


  The mention of "a green picket fence," like the mention of the wind rose, is a very specific and powerful clue to confirm that we are in the right place.  The FOY property contains a green picket fence and historical photos confirm that it has been the same color and in the same places for at least forty years.


  The fence is divided into three segments as shown on the map at left.  Segment C runs alongside the parking lot used for tour buses (#27 on the map).  It's a quiet location, but it isn't near the wind rose or the conquistador statues.  Segment B is closer to the statues and the wind rose, but it is beyond the ticket office (#2) and inside the fenced-in portion of the property.  One would need to pay admission and enter the park to get there, so it isn't a possibility.  (It's also highly unlikely that Preiss would expect us to dig right beside the ticket office, in full view of the staff.)



Bird's-Eye View of the Fountain of Youth Property

(note that the view is facing east)


<----   NORTH       Magnolia Avenue       SOUTH   ---->

  That leaves us with only Segment A, which runs alongside the exit drive from the parking lot to Magnolia Avenue.  The photo at left shows the east end of this segment as it begins its run along the exit drive.  The white-domed building in the distance (above the exit sign) is the planetarium where the wind rose is on display.


  The fence in this area is part of the boundary controlling access to the park. The area inside the fence requires paid admission, but the area outside the fence (along the exit drive, where the photographer is standing) is freely available.  That area also holds no archaeological value, having been disturbed by the construction of the driveway, parking lot, and restrooms.



8)  You can still hear the honking


  Over the years FOY has had a number of large, noisy birds on the grounds, including ducks, wood storks, peacocks, and at least one rhea.  "Honking" might therefore just be a general clue to the bird sounds one hears at the park.


  Crucially though, a Q4T user named Stercox visited FOY in 2007 and uncovered one hidden bit of history: "In the early 80's, and during BP's time, the park had a goose pen behind and slightly west of the planetarium."


  The goose pen is gone now, but we don't need to know the exact location where it stood.  If the verse is telling us to be close enough to hear the honking of the geese in the pen, all of the area around the planetarium and the exit drive to Magnolia Avenue is presumably within that range.




9)  Shell, limestone...


  A historical marker inside the grounds of FOY explains the difference between two local shell-based building materials: tabby and coquina.


  "Tabby" is a primitive form of poured concrete made of lime, sand, water, and oyster shells.  It is what was used to make the shell-covered wall along Magnolia avenue beside the planetarium (photo at far left). 


  Coquina is a type of natural limestone formed from oyster shells.  It was quarried near St. Augustine and used for constructing many of the early stone buildings, as explained in the sign at near left.


  Want to compare the two?  The historical marker at FOY specifically directs visitors to the "center gate" (exit gate) where the gateposts made of coquina connect to the walls made of tabby.  And one of those gateposts is also the endpoint of the green picket fence.




9)  ... silver, salt


  "Silver, salt" is another very specific and very strong clue.  It refers to the silver salt cellar that was (supposedly) unearthed on the site of FOY in 1904.  A replica of the salt cellar is now on display in the park.


  At the time Preiss visited the park there was a sign describing the salt cellar and — amazingly — the sign even included the word "casque"!  This sign may have been the inspiration for Preiss to use the word "casque" in his own puzzle.  Certainly, by directing the searchers to this particular sign, Preiss was trying to give a VERY strong clue that they were in the right place.


  Unfortunately, sometime after 2007 the sign was replaced with a new version that doesn't include the word "casque," so this clue isn't visible to modern searchers.  The photo at left is, as far as we know, the only surviving proof that the sign once existed.




10)  Stars move by day

11)  Sails pass by night


  These two lines bring us back, again, to the planetarium.  During the daytime, the building displays the movement of stars to visitors by projecting dots of light onto the domed ceiling.  ("Stars move by day.")  But the setup is designed to illustrate how early sailors used celestial navigation and so there is a mast with furled sails to show how the sky would have looked from the deck of a boat in darkness.  ("Sails pass by night.")


  The return to the planetarium after the earlier reference to the wind rose emphasizes the importance of being in this area.




12)  Even in darkness

13)  Like moonlight in teardrops


  These two lines are the most crucial part of the entire solution.


  Earth's moon, of course, is a large gray sphere that rises in the night sky and glows with reflected light.  (It doesn't emit any light of its own.)  And the only orb that even remotely resembles a moon in the whole area of St. Augustine is... the Fountain of Youth Planetarium!  It is a gray half-sphere positioned on top of a building, where it is lifted up to near the visible horizon.  Even at nighttime, there would be enough light from the moon, the stars, and the city of St. Augustine to make the dome appear like a full moon rising through the treetops. 




  "Teardrops," of course, are drops of water.  To view the roof of the planetarium in the evening "like moonlight in teardrops," we need to be looking through droplets of water.  And, by no coincidence, directly north of the planetarium – in the direction of our green picket fence – is... a fountain!  (Preiss, of course, must have absolutely loved the idea of including a fountain in his solution for a casque buried at the Fountain of Youth.)


  The photo at left shows the modern view looking from the green picket fence past the fountain to the planetarium.  At first glance, it doesn't look like it would be possible to view the "moonlight" (the half-dome of the planetarium) "in teardrops" (i.e., through the droplets of water in the fountain).  Even crouching all the way down to the ground, one would need to be inside the green picket fence to get the right angle.  But...


  One of the single biggest steps in solving this puzzle was the discovery of a 1978 photo showing that the top of the FOY fountain was slightly different back then.  As you can see in the close-up at left, the cherub that now sits on top of the fountain was originally a taller urn.  And, crucially, at least one of the fountain jets shot water much higher in those days.  Droplets of water (indicated by the red arrow) went at least 18 inches higher than the water in the modern photo shown above.  (The height of the water spray in the 1978 fountain can be seen even more clearly in another photo by the same photographer.)


  What this means is that someone standing across the driveway in 1982 probably could see the dome of the planetarium through the "teardrops" of the fountain.



7)  At the base of a tall tree


  You might have noticed that we skipped Line 7 of the verse back there.  If all the rest of our interpretation is correct, the steps should lead us to the base of a tall tree.  Given the location of FOY in coastal north Florida, the most likely candidate for a "tall tree" would a pine of some kind.


  The full 1978 photo at left shows the view looking from the planetarium through the fountain to the green picket fence and the trees beyond.  The photo was taken in late afternoon in heavy shadows, but the original slide has been scanned at a high enough resolution to see some crucial details.


  Sure enough – across the driveway, almost perfectly in line with the fountain and the sidewalk, is a large, tall pine tree!  A line going through the planetarium, sidewalk, and fountain would pass over the western base of that tall tree.




14)  Over the tall grass

15)  Years pass, rain falls.


  There are some reports that the exit driveway may have once been landscaped with tall grasses.  It's also possible that "years pass" is a subtle allusion to the hourglass shape of the fountain.  Mostly though, these final bits of evocative imagery are poetic filler to complete an acrostic that Preiss is making.  The capitalized letters that start the five lines at the end of the verse spell out "SELOY" which is the name of the Timucuan village that is recreated at Fountain of Youth


  Perhaps ending his verse with this reference was Preiss' way of acknowledging that the arrival of European explorers was not the "first chapter" for this part of Florida but only a new chapter in a history that had already existed for thousands of years.


Photo used under a Creative Commons License Attribution Some rights reserved by Dave in the Triad on Flickr


So here is the hiding spot as Preiss intended us to find it.  North, again, is on the left.  The casque for Image 6 was buried on the north side of the exit drive at the base of a tall pine tree in a spot where the domed roof of the planetarium could be seen through the droplets of the fountain.  The fountain doesn't spray water quite so high, but all of the other elements are still in place.

(Note that both of these illustrations are just general representations and are not drawn to scale.)



Photo based on Google satellite maps.
(Click on image to see full-sized.)

  Modern satellite imagery of FOY (left) confirms that a straight line from the middle of the planetarium dome that passes over the middle of the fountain would continue over the exit drive and pass underneath a large pine tree just before crossing the sidewalk to the restrooms.


  A ground-level view looking back towards the planetarium along the same line (right) shows the same thing.  It also shows that there is now a young, 3-foot-tall cabbage palm growing at the base of the pine tree.


(Note that the ground-level view on the right isn't quite perfectly in line with the fountain and planetarium.  The head of the fountain cherub is visible below the "A" in "planetarium" when it should be below the "E."  If the photographer were standing a few steps to the left, the line of sight would pass directly from the weathervane over the doorway, straight over the fountain, and down to the young cabbage palm at the base of the pine tree.)


Thanks to wiki user Andy Hafler for this photo!

(Click on image to see full-sized.)


 Our final location is along the path from the parking lot to the restrooms.  The large pine tree is still there (and is easily old enough to have been a "tall tree" in 1980).  No paid admission is required and the spot, in a landscaped bed by a sidewalk, has no archaeological value.  But on the west side of the pine tree (between the pine tree and a sago palm) there is now a young cabbage palm.


  The area in the red box at left is what would need to be carefully excavated with an air spade to uncover the casque.


  The cabbage palm proves that the spot hasn't been searched or disturbed in the past thirty years.  But the cabbage palm is also now the obstacle that prevents the recovery of the casque.


Final Location: 29°54'25.7"N, 81°18'58.1''W

(Latitude: 29.907125, Longitude: -81.316125)






Modern Conditions (2018)

  This was probably meant to be the easiest of the 12 casques.  There are an overwhelming number of clues and they are all fairly simple.  They also reference words and sights seen by thousands of tourists every year.  So what happened? 


  One big obstacle was the change in height of the water sprayed by the fountain.  That definitely made it harder to interpret the "moonlight through teardrops" clue.  But another obstacle was the growth of plants – specifically cabbage palms – that obscured the crucial line of sight connecting the pine tree, the picket fence, the fountain, and the planetarium dome.

  This image, taken on the path from the parking lot to the restrooms, shows three palm trees that are relevant to our search.


  Palm A is the mature, leaning palm by the exit drive.  It still has the overlapping petiole bases on its trunk.


  Palm B is another mature palm growing right beside our tall pine tree on the south side.  This trunk has lost the petiole bases and is bare.


  Palm C is a much younger palm growing at the base of the pine tree on the west side.  It has a trunk that's only a foot or two high.


  These palms were very different in 1980 (if they existed at all) but their appearances now give us clues that can help solve this puzzle.  To understand the significance of these clues, it helps to know a few facts about the state tree of Florida: the cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto).

  Cabbage palms grow like weeds all over north Florida.  Mature trees produce huge numbers of fruits and the seeds have a very high germination rate.  Seedlings pop up between cracks in the sidewalks and in every bare bit of soil.  But they don't become trees right away.  At the start of their lives, cabbage palms go through an "establishment phase" where they exist as a cluster of leaves at ground level with no above-ground trunk.  The palms use this phase to collect and store up energy. 


 Depending on the growing conditions, the establishment phase can take anywhere from a minimum of 14 years to many decades.  One study found that (under natural conditions) the average age at which the palms begin developing the trunk is 60 years.  Once cabbage palms begin to develop an above-ground trunk, they grow very rapidly however, adding about 15 cm in height each year by using their energy reserves.  The resulting trunk can be covered with a layer of old, overlapping leaf bases (petiole stumps) or it can simply be bare.


1978 view north from

the planetarium over the fountain


  The leaning cabbage palm by the drive (Palm A) is now about 20 feet or 600 cm high.  At a growth rate of 15 cm per year, the palm started growing an above-ground trunk around 40 years ago. 


 When the 1978 photo at left was taken, the palm was just ending its establishment phase and so it didn't have any above-ground trunk.  A viewer had a clear line of sight over the fountain to the pine tree.  But in modern times (right) the palm is directly in line with the fountain and the pine tree and it leans in just the right way to completely block the pine tree.


  (Note that the modern photographer didn't do a perfect job of lining up the fountain with the sidewalk.  The photo should have been taken from a step to the right, which would have put the concrete lamp post at the edge of the fountain rim and would have put the palm tree just to the right of the cherub.)


 The significance of Palm A is that it has managed to perfectly block the line of sight that Preiss expected the searchers to see.

2015 (approx.) view north from

the planetarium over the fountain


  The photo at left was taken by a photographer facing northeast.  Our tall pine tree of interest is directly in the middle of the picture.  On the right edge of the image is the bare-trunked palm that we're calling Palm B. 


  Like Palm A, this palm is also about 20 feet high, meaning that the trunk has also been growing for about 40 years.  Palm B had little or no trunk when Preiss visited in 1980, but it was finishing a few decades of establishment growth at the time.  It was a substantial cabbage palm growing directly from the base of the pine tree on the southern side.


  In fact, Palm B in 1980 probably looked almost identical to how Palm C looks today.


  The significance of this palm is that it means Preiss couldn't possibly have buried the casque on the south side of the pine tree.

  That brings us to our third and youngest cabbage palm.  The photographer who took the picture shown here was facing southwards, so the pine tree is now on the left, with Palms A and B hidden out of sight behind it.  Palm C is in the middle of the image, between the pine and a cycad.  Palm C is positioned at the western base of the pine and it is in line with the fountain and the planetarium.  This palm marks the spot where the casque is most likely to be buried.  But how old is this palm?


  As mentioned above, the average length of the establishment phase for a cabbage palm in a natural setting is 60 years.  But a cabbage palm that grows in a landscaped area and receives fertilizer, water, and plenty of sunlight would likely be able to store up energy much faster.  So it's very likely that this palm is no more than 40 years old.  In fact, it is entirely possible that, when Preiss filled in his hole after burying the casque, he inadvertently planted the seed that led to this palm! 


 The significance of this palm, therefore, is that it sits on the most likely spot where the casque is hidden and it confirms that the spot has not been disturbed by any human activity for at least 30 years.  The casque has essentially been guarded by a cabbage palm almost from the moment it was buried.




Other Notes:

  • For more information on the growth rates of young cabbage palms, see McPherson, K., & Williams, K. (1996). Establishment Growth of Cabbage Palm, Sabal palmetto (Arecaceae). American Journal of Botany, 83(12), 1566-1570. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2445830
  • Various searchers have used this solution to search in the general area of the pine tree.  The show "Expedition Unknown" came to FOY and attempted to use ground-penetrating radar in the grassy open area between the exit drive and the sidewalk to the restrooms.  Other groups have attempted to do something similar with probes.  But all of those groups were exploring open areas away from the tree!  In every case, the young cabbage palm (Palm C) prevented exploration at the western base of the pine tree.  And the wording of the verse makes it explicitly clear that the casque was buried at the base of the tall tree.   
  • Probing at the base of the young cabbage palm would be pointless, because of the many pine and palm roots that must thoroughly fill the area.  The only way to pursue this search will be with the full cooperation and permission of the owners of the Fountain of Youth.  If the casque is ever to be recovered, we will need to carefully remove the smallest cabbage palm (Palm C) and use an air spade to temporarily blow away the soil without harming the pine tree. It will cost a few hundred dollars to rent the air spade and an air compressor.  (To get permission to do a dig, we may also need to raise a small amount of money to pay for a replacement plant to fill the spot currently occupied by the young cabbage palm.)
  • Good luck, Florida searchers!  Let us know if you find it. 



Comments (38)

Marvin Calhoun said

at 12:38 am on Jan 24, 2018

Oregonian, There is a very tall and large pine tree in front of the restrooms and in line with your planetarium/fountain line theory. I took Google Street View into the parking lot as far as it went an saw the tree off to the right. Then I went back to satellite view and saw it from above. I believe that it is the same pine tree that is in your 1978 photo. Which side of the tree would it be on? Would he bury something on private property? In the Montreal verse he advises us to get permission to dig, but not on this one.

Marvin Calhoun said

at 1:25 pm on Jan 24, 2018

Now that I think about it, the overhead view shows the statue which arrived in 2015 and the tree is there. I woke up this morning with another idea. There is a Restroom close to the pine tree. One side would have a Women sign, the other side would read "Men". Third line in the verse is "Near men".

Oregonian said

at 2:04 pm on Jan 24, 2018

That actually sounds exactly like the sort of silly joke that Preiss would love. I'll bet you're right.

I tried to use Google street view to see if I could see the restroom sign, but I couldn't get close enough. But I did notice that there's a clump of what appears to be bamboo right there between the pine and the restrooms. Could be the "tall grass" mentioned in the verse.

xmastoo said

at 2:57 pm on Jan 24, 2018

Good thinking. Noticed the bamboo but didn't make the connection that bamboo is a member of the grass family.

Marvin Calhoun said

at 4:00 pm on Jan 24, 2018

That seems to be a very hot area. The nearby property perimeter wall with the shells could be limestone. Someone provided a link to a video with a "honk honk" about 1 minute in, like the sound a tram or trolley which carries passengers makes before taking off. On Google Street View, Magnolia Street (street side of the FOY restroom) traveling north there is a "train locomotive" pulling passenger cars past FOY. Was it there in 1981? Is it from FOY? Is it from another tourist venue in the area? Does it regularly run by FOY? In the video the woman comments when you hear the honking, like she knows what it is.

Indiana Jones said

at 4:52 pm on Jan 24, 2018

It is the St. Augustine Trolley Tour. You buy a day pass and ride the trolley around and hop on and off as you see fit. It stops at 19 different sites. FOY is one of the stops.

Marvin Calhoun said

at 1:33 am on Jan 25, 2018

I imagine that I am Byron and I want to bury the cask on or near this FOY site because it fits so well with my theme. It costs money to go inside and I can't smuggle a shovel in there anyway. So I look around the parking area and find a spot that is sheltered by bending bamboo on one side, the limestone shell wall on another and the restroom building on the third side. I go early in the morning before even the first arrivals to the park get through seeing everything so nobody's using the exit driveway. I quickly dig a hole, drop the cask in, fill it up and tamp it down. Is it at the base of the tall tree? Has bamboo grown over the cask? There should be something in the clues that narrows this down to a 2'x2' area. Was he prophetic with "Years pass, rain falls"?

Oregonian said

at 7:15 am on Jan 25, 2018

I agree that Preiss chose FOY because it fits in so well with his theme, but I have to disagree with the idea that this was done in haste. Preiss obviously paid admission and spent some time wandering around the park. That's how he knew about the wind rose and the silver salt cellar. He must have given considerable thought to choosing features that would last for years and choosing a hiding spot that would do no harm. The result is a very carefully crafted puzzle that's still solvable today.

The line of sight from the planetarium dome, through the fountain, over the green picket fence, and down to the ground is enough to narrow this down to a 2' by 2' area. The clue about the tall tree confirms the spot and even narrows it a little bit more. And, yes, Preiss probably did the digging early in the morning or late at night, when no one else would be around.

Marvin Calhoun said

at 8:21 pm on Jan 25, 2018

I don't disagree that Preiss spent some time wandering around the park looking for a place to hide the cask and gathering possible clues. I've staged many treasure hunts. On the other hand, I believe that this cask and all of the others were buried by Preiss "in haste" in order to avoid being caught or seen. That's the point I was making. Do you believe that the cask is buried on the line of sight you described where it passes the pine tree? Are you suggesting that Preiss may have hopped the fence and buried the cask after hours?

Zteam said

at 12:58 pm on Jan 25, 2018

I love the “near men” idea that it could be a reference to the men’s room. Gonna try to learn if bathrooms existed in 82 just as they stand now. The large pine tree that lines up with the fountain and planetarium dome, behind the picket fence, sits right next to the path in front of bathrooms. On the TV show, they used a magnetrometer to decide where to dig. There appears to be scrub palm in the dig area making it difficult to run the machine over this possible dig area.

Halla4 said

at 7:35 pm on Jan 29, 2018

I wonder if the outline I see in Preiss' image lines-up with the "new spot" http://thesecret.pbworks.com/w/file/123348297/Screen%20Shot%202018-01-26%20at%207.22.36%20PM.pdf

Ameripicks said

at 6:10 pm on Feb 1, 2018

Probed the tree in the proposed dig spot. Found nothing but roots at all depths. Rubber thud vs a click or clack from a plastic box. If at the BASE of this tree would have a hard time burying a 8x8x8 box in these thick roots 2 to 3 ft deep. Probed out as far as 4ft away from base. Roots out there also just not as thick. Only place I could not probe was the NE side of the tree facing the Ticket office. Strange mound of dirt. With solid rock? on top. Possible Byron, if insisting on burying it at this tree, did so because of all the roots. This being the only spot where the roots allowed him to at least get it below ground level. Would need permission to dig. Who can make the call to John Fraiser for approval? Doubt he will talk to me being a stranger. I am 360 miles away. Anyone closer is welcome to do it.

Oregonian said

at 7:33 pm on Feb 1, 2018

Good lord, is EVERYONE hanging out over at FOY these days??? This is the third visit report I've seen so far this afternoon.

So, more details please: When you say "the tree," do you mean the big pine on the south edge of the sidewalk that connects the parking lot to the bathroom? Did you try around the short (3') cabbage palm on the west side? How far out were you from the base of the trunk? (And did you really drive 360 miles each way just for this? Or were you already in the area?)

For what it's worth, I don't have much faith in probe rods finding any of the plexiglass boxes at this point. Time and pressure have probably shattered the boxes into little bits and they would just feel like gravel as something poked through them. The only way to really settle the accuracy of this solution will be to do a proper dig, but those tree roots are a definite problem. It would be best to use an air spade to avoid doing any damage, and I have no idea what it would cost to rent one of those (plus a compressor) in St Augustine. Maybe some local searcher can help us out by asking around and getting estimates.

Ameripicks said

at 9:11 pm on Feb 1, 2018

Thanks for helping me get set up on this site by the way. Seemed like a chore for you just to do that. Yes, The tall and only Pine tree going to the restrooms correct. This is the original tree in the 1978 photo in my opinion. The top has been torn out of it from a storm looks like. But has survived. So it doesn't look exactly the same above 30 ft or so anymore. It is huge at the base. The pine and the two palms I tried getting under. Nothing but a lot of roots between the three. Seems like one would have to get an Arborist to explore deeper here. I went out about 4ft from the pine. Only place I could not probe was that NE side of the tree. It is solid at ground level with a wide rock or something else. Only place right now I would want to dig/probe before going below the roots.

Laurel said

at 10:13 pm on Feb 4, 2018

Visited FOY this weekend. Observation: saw A LOT of probing has happened in the "search area". Specifically; lots of probing around the tall pine tree in line with the observatory and fountain (Ameripicks?) and other tall trees in the "bathroom area". As well as, probing in the area in front of the tall pine tree in line with the observatory between the tree and the exit driveway AND where the statue was (pictured in the photo for line 7 in solution) by the exit driveway and green fence AND all along the area between the green fence and the exit driveway.
Spoke with the facilities manager. You need permission from John Fraiser to prob or dig anywhere on the property. It is private property and there are underground hazards like pipes and electrical from previous buildings (it is the oldest settlement) that could possibly harm you and/or the property. The owners know where many of these are. They didn't appear "thrilled" that someone buried something on private property without permission but seem to be willing to accommodate reasonable requests. There are two "requests" (Dane?) that are meeting with John tomorrow.
The facilities manager confirmed the bathrooms were there in 1982 (Zteam).
My guess is because part of the solution is based on "landscaping" and the "landscaping" has changed a lot over the 35 plus years the solution has become difficult. People who work at FOY day in and day out haven't been able to solve it!

Oregonian said

at 11:19 pm on Feb 4, 2018

Any news about the short cabbage palm by the pine tree (along the sidewalk to the restrooms)? Was it still there? A couple of people were going to ask at FOY how they feel about possibly moving it, to allow a dig underneath, but I haven't heard anything back.

Laurel said

at 3:41 pm on Feb 5, 2018

Didn't focus on the short cabbage palm by the pine tree as shown by Andy's photo. Meaning, I saw it but couldn't say weather it had been moved. I was particularly struck by how much probing has already taken place and was more focused on where the probing has been done to rule those areas out.

Nigel Pearson said

at 1:25 pm on Feb 5, 2018

Lauren/FOY team - Laurel, can you verify if anyone has been approved for their request (Dane?) and when it might be. I am not sure how many additional requests John Fraiser will accommodate as I am sure he is getting a bunch. I will be there this weekend and was going to make a request of my own. I took the above data provided along with the poem and feel I have verified it with the painting and can show that. I also feel the painting has show us a more definitive place at the "base of the tall tree" of the exact location. I do feel it is located in close proximity to the base of the tree, but my location might not make the search zone. Since I don't think my location is exactly where the probing is being done, I would like to show my solution if the request is being accommodated while I am there this weekend. Can anyone lend insight if any accommodations are taking place this weekend and what time.

Laurel said

at 3:55 pm on Feb 5, 2018

Hi Nigel,
The facilities manager mentioned three requests that had been approved. One was the Travel Channel and the two others he mentioned were for today. I am guessing one may be Dane only because Dane mentioned the request here and also mentioned he was coming "this week".
I would call John before going and make the request, not just "show up" on the weekend. I did get the impression John may not work on the weekends.

Ameripicks said

at 6:09 pm on Feb 6, 2018

Okay folks . If you are doing this Saturday dig party thing. An Air Spade is available at Andy's Taylor Rental Center in St Augustine. 1005 Pope Rd, St. Augustine, FL 32080. (904) 471-2991. It is available on Saturday at noon. Return on Monday by 9AM. Price is $79.91. That is very reasonable. If none of you have as Air Compressor to run it. That is $138.22. Somebody has a good compressor I bet. You will be exposing roots under the Pine tree. Have a pack of cloths soaked in water to wrap around the roots so they do not dry out. Move the Cabbage Palm by - Yes digging it up and put in large pot/burlap sack? Something and keep roots wet. Maybe Park Maintenance can do this for us before hand. So, Laurel if you need a proposal to Give to John. This is my thoughts. Good luck St A. I will be in Panama City Beach for next two weekends. I will miss the party. Have a blast. Mike

Oregonian said

at 7:39 pm on Feb 6, 2018


Thank you for putting that all together, Mike! That's some very useful information all in one place.

First thought: Someone in this wiki must know John Fraser. If you feel comfortable pitching this idea to him, please do so. I think it speaks well of this group that we are proposing to do this in a way that would protect the pine, palm, and cycad (and probably help all three plants by loosening the soil).
Second thought: If there's a chance that we're actually doing this, someone should check to see what kind of air compressor is needed to drive the air spade. The one time I've seen one in action, the compressor was huge - the size of a compact car. It wasn't the sort of thing any individual would own. If the air spade needs something like that, we should plan on renting it.
Third thought: Only a few members of this wiki live in Florida, but hundreds more live around the country and are interested in seeing the search succeed. If - IF - we get permission to go through with the group excavation at the site described on this page, maybe we should try a Go Fund Me campaign to pay for the rentals. I think searchers around the country would be willing to chip in a few dollars to make this finally happen.

Indiana Jones said

at 8:00 pm on Feb 6, 2018

I have a compressor. Kobalt 26 gallon compressor with a 155 Max PSI. I also have a pickup truck and I can haul it there. I am 30 minutes away. I don't know what kind of pressure the air spade requires. Let me know if this is an option.


Ameripicks said

at 9:09 pm on Feb 6, 2018

Yes, Air Spade compressor requirement. Google it - and you will see compressors on their own two wheel trailers. Holy Cow. Although the PSI numbers I see fit possibly what Andy has?? Andy can you call Andy's Taylor Rental Center. (904) 471-2991.
Ask them the exact model spade/nozzles they have. And tell them what you have. And would work. May have to tell them what exactly what we are doing. And would we have enough power with that combo. Thanks.

Lance said

at 10:50 pm on Feb 6, 2018

Hello Everyone,

I just received my access to this forum and wanted to jump in with a quick introduction, have been a big fan of BP's The Secret. Just read through most of the comments, I'm one of those that (Laurel) mentioned having met with and been permitted by John yesterday. So, I just wanted to share some things with the group. While John is an extremely friendly individual - I'm not too sure on the thought of the weekend air-cannon party... He is obviously intrigued with The Secret, and has entertained searching with others for some 15+ years - he's aware of most of the information here and on other forums and has exhausted these proposed locations. (Hence doing EU in a "final effort" to most open theories) And I really don't think that that much of a disturbance would be entertained... we had discussed much about his family history with the park, the changes it's seen, and some of the most intriguing solutions/digs he's undergone since first approached with the book.

Please understand that unauthorized probes and searches are most certainly not welcome being the property is an archaeological site, as most are aware. So PLEASE do not go about that and respect the park. Those that have been recently probing the grounds without permission have been approached and told that authorities would be involved should it continue. No stone throwing here, just forewarning to others as this was not mentioned above and John had asked me to please mention this where I could.

He was intrigued to meet with us as the proposed solution we have merits a good amount of evidence supporting a very specific location that had not been previously searched, and a thorough examination was not going to cause any kind of disturbance. Otherwise he would have turned it down. We completed about half of this survey with a narrow margin grid style probing and will continue finishing in the near future.

Laurel said

at 1:03 am on Feb 7, 2018

Hi Lance,
Happy to hear your search went well!
If you wouldn't mind, would you share with the group some of the things you mentioned you learned from your meeting with John? I am sure people (such as my self) would love to hear about John's family history with the park, the changes it's seen, and some of the most intriguing solutions/digs he's undergone since first approached with the book. After all, wasn't part of the point of the book for people to learn and enjoy their local history? I for one would love to hear what you would be willing to share!

Lance said

at 1:21 am on Feb 7, 2018

Hi Laurel,
Well there is probably too much to cover in this forum. (As I wouldnt want to flood it with info beyond its purpose lol) But the park has been in his family for generations, he's literally grown up playing around it as a child - so he has some of the best familiarity and insight as to it's going ons, as well as the various references in the painting and verse.

He spoke of several searches and inquiries he had received, but the backstory of the EU episode is probably the best to cover here.

The gentlemen that were searching the park in the episode had actually been to the park before with him and had dug a massive hole up in the same spot where that "tile" was found. John stated that during the show he wasn't sure why they asked where 'he' thought would be a good place to start, as he knew they were going to go back to this spot. Then when that tile was uncovered, it was blowing his mind thinking there was NO way that they happened to miss it during that first dig! Rewatching the episode you can kind of see that in his reaction 😅

During our exploring we had a few people approach and converse with us asking about the book as well, it's definitely nice seeing that it brings folks together. We had some great conversations!

Kang said

at 11:02 pm on Feb 6, 2018

Best of luck everyone. To whomever will be operating the air spade - two words: Eye Protection. As you may surmise from the size of the compressor people are posting about - when 'the dirt flies' - apparently it does so with great ferocity.....

Oregonian said

at 8:48 am on Feb 7, 2018

Eye protection and ear protection are both very necessary for the operator, and other people need to stand about 20' back. But don't get the impression that an Air Spade is some huge, destructive force that will tear up an area. It's actually a very precise tool. Here are a couple of videos to show it in action:

A few years ago I got to attend an Air Spade demonstration and try it out for myself. (It's actually very fun to operate.) We were working around a large, older tree to loosen the soil that had gotten compacted by footsteps. After 10 or 12 of us had taken our turns handling the Air Spade, we turned it off and got down on our knees to examine the roots. Even the finest, thinnest roots were absolutely fine. There was no damage at all. The compacted soil had turned into this nice, fluffy powder. We were able to prune away the girdling roots, get rid of some rocks, and then fill everything back in with no mess. It was very impressive.

Kang said

at 10:37 am on Feb 7, 2018

Well said. I did not mean to imply that it was destructive or damaging. Just sayin' - safety first. Sorry for any miscommunication.

Ameripicks said

at 9:12 pm on Feb 7, 2018

Checking in. See things have changed. Yes, the Air Spade thing sounds aggressive. Let us back up then and ask if we can do a good exploratory around the pine tree. Including surface flip of any rocks and probe of area to detect any hard target. Might get lucky between the roots and find it. Then put everything back as found. probing is not much more than aerating the soil. So, Lance if you would, can you contact John and ask if we can do this. Do we need to do a proposal on paper? If so, can we just give it to you as our liaison. Just asking is okay with us. We would love meet him sometime. Build a rapport and trust that might open the door for other opportunities. The treasure box is his when it is found anyway. I believe we all know that. People outside this group that can see this research, can not say how they see it. Would like to get it out of the ground and put an end to problems that go on with it not being found. So please let us know, if you would, how we may proceed. Thanks, Mike

Oregonian said

at 9:33 pm on Feb 7, 2018

Hmm... Where are you getting the idea that an Air Spade is "aggressive"? (And what does that even mean?) If you watch the videos posted above, you'll see that it's really a very precise tool. The operator can control the edge of what's being excavated within about an inch. In the scale of landscaping, it's practically a surgical tool.

If I were a property owner, I wouldn't be wild about having people jab metal rods into tree roots. Any break in the underground surface of a root is going to be an opening where disease organisms can get in. That can damage or eventually kill the plant. And using shovels or other metal digging tools would be even worse.

Seriously, I have no shares in Air Spade and no stake in promoting the company. But if we're serious about attempting a recovery beside that pine in a way that doesn't damage John Fraser's property, then an Air Spade is the only way to go. I only know so much about it because it's the tool that the New York City arborists are insisting that we use for the dig up there. And those are the people responsible for maintaining the health of tens of thousands of trees.

Ameripicks said

at 10:39 pm on Feb 7, 2018

Got it. But is sounds like we would have to talk him in to it in time. I am with you. The whole scene of noisy compressors and flying dirt does not settle well with some people. Customers of the park having to be exposed to it etc. Sorry for my use of word aggressive should have quoted the above statement from John through Lance as" far too pervasive" is how He thinks about it. Oregonian you sold me on it all ready. That is why I want to do it. It will get it done easy, fast and safe. But we have to convince them. Sounds like for now they just do not want to do that. Up to us to gain trust and sell them on it later.

Nigel Pearson said

at 6:24 pm on Feb 12, 2018

Went to FOY both Saturday and Sunday. I can tell you that physically being there helped to answer some lingering questions. I suggest a trip. I should also state, that they wouldn't let me probe in the area I believe the casque to be (or anywhere else). I should also make mention that I was told they now have a camera in the proposed area and there was a FOY employee in that area on a 4 Wheel Rhino keeping guard both days and times I was there this weekend. They also have new lighted signs inside each gate with no trespassing and violators will be prosecuted for after hours. There was also no one with an air shovel. We need to try to find some contact info. I did take pics and will upload them.

Lance said

at 5:09 pm on Feb 13, 2018

Yeah as I stated above, I do believe with a 99% certainty that the FoY park is through with searches. I'm sure the exception we received was rare to come by (not sure we'll even be able to finish that due to the "heat" of inquiries..), and the owner stated to us personally that pretty much all proposed solutions have been thoroughly examined over the past several years. So he's come to settle with that it's probably lost to changes/etc over time. The owner's and staff are all extremely friendly, so I don't want to bother them personally past the few conversations and meetings I've had as I'm sure this is all getting a bit annoying to them... maybe over some more time things will calm down a bit and open more opportunity.

With what (Nigel) stated, I don't believe the signs were there when we were just earlier this month - with someone watching over those areas now and everything, I'm sure that there are just far too many inquiries heading their way - mixed with a lot more notice of unsanctioned probe marks etc.

In all honesty - not trying to be a downer, but if the correct solution was in one of these many proposed locations of FoY - it's very highly probable that it's just unrecoverable due to the changes it's seen over time. For those that did find possible solutions elsewhere - I do wish you luck in your searches! :D

Kang said

at 8:12 pm on Feb 13, 2018

Anyone have any reason to believe that the FOY ticket office has changed much since the 80's? If not, this theory may help make the case for St Augustine, FOY park and perhaps this solution spot.

The ticket office is off to the left from the proposed solution tree (#2 on the Park brochure). See top image linked here. Bottom left image, from the best angle I can get as it would look from solution spot.Note the hut shape and tree at right. Perhaps this is the inspiration for the Rock/Palm icon. In the Florida seal, the tree is on the opposite side as the Image 6 icon. Why? In the matchup, note the similar angle to the left side of the roof and how the image 6 icon left side of the rock is nearly vertical like a wall rather than the Florida seal rock. I'm theorizing that Preiss/Palincar used the scene borrowed from the Florida seal to disguise the stylized match. And that's why they moved the tree to the right side.

If a real clue, it would at once hint to Florida, FOY park and possibly the solution spot. Anyone on board with this theory? Any differing opinions?

Dane said

at 8:02 pm on Feb 16, 2018

An update for anyone interested. Joe Frasier never ended giving me the okay to dig. I contacted a few individuals working with him but never spoke to him myself. I considered proceeding with my digs in the specific spots I had a friend check out, but wasn't sure if someone on here had already probed or dug there. Here is a link to my photo bucket. I have a few pictures from some different sites and some previous digs. I read on here that people have dug already in some spots near the exit path at FOY. Would anyone be interested in going there and face timing me to coordinate efforts and fill me in on what spots haven't been searched thoroughly? Feel free to message me or post below


Indiana Jones said

at 8:45 pm on Feb 16, 2018

It would appear that the Fountain of Youth parking area and proposed solution site is now being renamed Stalag 17. The have apparently installed no trespassing signs and cameras. They even have a guard posted on a 4 Wheel Rhino. It would appear that after a face to meeting on 6 Feb that all future digs will not be allowed. It was speculated that you were at the 6 Feb meeting as well but apparently not. If any progress is to made we would need to secure permission from John Fraser. Without this permission we are just spinning our wheels.

Oregonian said

at 9:38 am on Aug 23, 2021

It's been a few years since we've seen any images of the small cabbage palm on the west side of the pine tree. Cabbage palms grow very quickly at the phase where the above-ground trunk is just getting established, so it's probably significantly taller now. If anyone happens to be visiting FOY, please take a moment to get a few pictures and add them to the wiki.

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