Image 6 Verse 9 Solution



  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.  Abundant map and location details confirm that our destination is the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.  The alignment of a fountain and the moon-like dome of a building pinpoints the exact spot for the dig.  This page gives a detailed solution and then an update on the modern conditions at the site.



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).  The ticket office where you pay admission is beside the parking lot (#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

9)  Shell, limestone, silver, salt


  These lines give even more hints at general features of the park, to confirm that we are in the right place.  "Honking" could refer to the swans that once lived in a swan pool on the grounds or to the noisy peacocks that currently roam around freely.


  "Shell, limestone" refers to the makeup of the walls along Magnolia avenue and other places.  (There are interpretive signs in the park explaining the use of limestone and why it contains so many shells.)


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




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 final 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.)





Modern Conditions (2018)

  This was probably meant to be the easiest of the 12 casques.  There are plenty 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.

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.  But there's now a lot of vegetation between the exit drive and the sidewalk.


  A ground-level view looking back towards the planetarium along the same line (right) shows that there is a young, 3-foot palm growing in the foreground at the base of the pine tree.  There's also an older, taller palm leaning to the right between the short palm and the exit drive.  And there is also a third palm, out of sight behind the pine tree, that is very close to our search area.


(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 through the leaning palm down to the base of the pine tree.)


Thanks to wiki user Andy Hafler for this photo!

(Click on image to see full-sized.)

  This image, taken from a little further to the side, shows the three palm trees 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.


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

(Latitude: 29.907125, Longitude: -81.316125)





Other Notes: