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The Secret (a treasure hunt) / The Book
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The Book (redirected from Text Notes)

Page history last edited by Oregonian 2 years, 2 months ago

click on photo for larger image

  The Secret was published in 1982 and was jointly authored by Sean Kelly, John Pierard, Byron Preiss, Ben Asen, John Jude Palencar, Ted Mann, JoEllen Trilling, and Overton Loyd.  From the detail in Palencar's paintings, many people assume that the physical book must be fairly large, but it's actually the size of a paperback novel (see photo at left).


  The Secret is long out of print, but paper copies can be obtained easily online. (Try Amazon, Abebooks, Bookfinder, or Thriftbooks.  To avoid confusion with other books having similar titles, use the ISBN: 0553014080.)  An electronic version of the book is available through Amazon's Kindle eBooks.  High-resolution versions of the scanned images are available from: BunnyEars Website. In addition, there are places where you can read most of the book online:


The text of the book is arranged into three large sections:


  • The first 32 pages are a fairy tale about how various imaginary creatures left Europe, Asia, and Africa and came to North America. They encountered Native Americans and got along pretty well for the most part. Then North America was settled by the white man, the fairies watched as the Natives were slaughtered, and the fairies decided to go into hiding.  Some of those immigration details are clearly meant as clues to the locations of the casques, but in other cases they seem to point in a very different direction.  Where text, verses, and images disagree, searchers will need to make their own decisions about which source is more reliable.


The four chapters of this section are titled:

The Tale, Simply Told

The Passage to the New World

The Litany of the Jewels

The Vanishing

Some believe that there are important clues to solving the puzzles within these stories. 

To read these sections of prose as well as see the Fair Folk country map, plus introduction and postscript pictures that bookend the images section Click Here.

For more information on the Litany of the Jewels and the immigration references Click Here.


These first four sections of The Secret may heavily draw from a book entitled An Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, & Other Supernatural Creatures by Katharine Briggs first published in 1976. 


Katharine Briggs was an expert in the history of folklore and magical creatures of lore and author to several definitive works on the subject. The Encyclopedia of Fairies details things like the origin, customs, features, habitat, magical powers and literary references to all manner of fairies including nearly every one mentioned in these sections of The Secret. As an author of fantasy fiction it is highly likely that Byron Preiss was well versed in her works.

ISBN 978-0394734675 WorldCat listing. Amazon listing. 


  • The middle part of the book contains the 12 images and 12 verses discussed on this wiki.  This is the part of the book we all know so well.


  • The 3rd and largest section of the book, the "Field Guide to the Fair people" spans pages 55-215 and features sculptures by JoEllen Trilling posed in various places across North America, as well as illustrations by John Pierard and Overton Loyd. These "fair people" often have punny names, and poke fun at stereotypes seen in humans, such as the health nut, phony patriot, or just a fairy that curses people with Freudian slips. This entire section seems to have nothing to do with the Fair People of the first two sections. The photos of the sculptures are often in Secret cities, such as San Francisco and NY. The photographer was a man named Ben Asen. He and Trilling may have traveled together, or Trilling may have entrusted Asen with her sculptures and he traveled across the US alone. The pictures do not seem to be directly connected with Preiss' travels, or else their pictures would be very revealing. There's one on a Ferry just south of the Battery in NY, and also one in San Fran where you can see the famous row of houses in the background (the ones you see during the credits of "Full House"). One is in front of the Capitol building in DC, one is in Santa Monica (Los Angeles), and two are posed on other monuments.  Many people find this section of the book to be a bit odd.



Contact information to redeem a Treasure Find


The original 1982 printing of The Secret included contact information for Byron Preiss Visual Publications to redeem the key and be presented with the jewel for that puzzle. There were also options to contact them to indicate that you had a solve but that the casque was missing or unrecoverable. 


Following the death of Byron Preiss in 2005, the publishing firm went into bankruptcy and its assets were sold. For a time it was unclear whom should be contacted if a find were made and there were conflicting reports on whether the game was still on or not.


However, in 2015 a reprint of The Secret was released which included new contact information for finds, including an email address:




                         SEND TO: THE SECRET / SIGHTINGS

                         Byron Preiss Visual Publications

                         Box 342

                         Shelter Island Hts, NY 11965


Bricktower Press had purchased the assets of Byron Preiss Visual Publications. When contacted, owner John T. Colby reported that the game is still on. 




 Editor’s note: Mr. Colby also noted that since Byron Preiss was the only person with knowledge of the solutions, he could not provide any search guidance. So please do not attempt to contact him with such questions.



Possible literary references


  Byron Preiss was a publisher who clearly had a love of books.  The Secret is full of references to other books, both famous and obscure.  Many of the references relate directly to books about hunting for treasures.  It isn't clear whether Preiss simply put these references in for fun or whether identifying them is crucial to finding the casques.  The known literary references in the book are listed below in alphabetical order by first author:


  • Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth Paul Revere's Ride (1860) - This poem may be referenced in Verse 3 (although the references to the historical events could have come from somewhere else).


  • Melville, Herman Pierre: or, The Ambiguities (1852) -  A line from this book appears in Verse 1.  Here is the original: "What we take to be our strongest tower of delight, only stands at the caprice of the minutest event--the falling of a leaf, the hearing of a voice, or the receipt of one little bit of paper scratched over with a few small characters by a sharpened feather."


  • Melville, Herman Moby-Dick (1851) - The penultimate line of Verse 1 — "There's the spout!" — may very well be a reference to the shout sailors would give when they spotted a whale (e.g., "Thar she blows!").  The fountain that existed in the lake in Hermann Park in 1981 was just a single jet of water going upwards, and it was positioned directly between Engine 982 and the likely burial spot in a grove of four trees.  The connection between a fountain and a spout would be familar to fans of Moby-Dick.  Melville devoted a whole chapter (called "The Fountain") to describing the spout of a whale.


  • Morris, William The Earthly Paradise (~1868) -  This book is referenced on page 16 where it says that the immigrants from Persia "found the sunset land -- crimson flowers, crystal fountains, sweet-scented winds -- an Earthly Paradise." (Note the capitalization of those last two words in the text.)  According to Wikipedia, "The poem is divided into twelve sections, with each section being a month of the year."  (Note the similarities to the structure of The Secret.)


  • Pachter, Marc and Frances Wein (eds.) Abroad in America: Visitors to the New Nation 1776-1914 (1976) - The verses include at least two bits of information taken from this book.  On page 110, the book quotes Sarmiento, who wrote "Here is the sovereign people who build palaces to shelter their heads for a night!"  (This is referenced in Verse 2.)  On page 164 the book talks about the twins Edwin and Edwina born in 1889 in Charleston, SC.  (This is referenced in Verse 6.)


  • Scott, Walter The Journal of Sir Walter Scott (1890) -  This is referenced in Verse 10, where it mentions "him of Hard word in 3 Vols."  The original edition of Scott's journal spelled the title word as "GURNAL" and noted that it was "A hard word so spelld on the Authority of Miss Scott now Mrs. Lockhart."  It would not be surprising to find other references to Scott in The Secret because of his role in recovering the Honours of Scotland.  (The recovery was a sort of real-life treasure hunt for hidden jewels.)


  • Spenser, Edmund The Faerie Queen (1590) - This was an epic poem that was intended to be structured around 12 books based on 12 virtues.  (Spenser died before the book was finished.)  It is one of the longest poems in the English language and contains many references to magical creatures.  Preiss made the connection fairly explicit.  On page 13 in the book, it says "In England, the erstwhile high-honored court of / the Fairy Queen was now much diminished."  The Litany of the Jewels on page 20 also adds "Fairies of England proudly bear / Gamet, crown-jewel of their Queen." The fairy holding the jewel in Image 11 is thought to be modeled on a figure in a painting called The Red Cross Knight, illustrating a scene from The Faerie Queen.


  • Stevenson, Robert Louis Treasure Island (1883) - The opening words of Verse 6 appear to paraphrase the opening prologue of Stevenson's book about pirates and buried treasure.


  • Thompson, Francis The Kingdom of God (~1897) -  Almost the entire fourth stanza of this poem is quoted on page 32 of The Secret at the end of the narrative about "The Vanishing."


  • Walpole, Horace Letter to Horace Mann (?) - A line from this letter is referenced in Verse 3.  Here is the original: "The next Augustan age will dawn on the other side of the Atlantic. There will, perhaps, be a Thucydides at Boston, a Xenophon at New York, and, in time, a Virgil at Mexico, and a Newton at Peru. At last, some curious traveler from Lima will visit England and give a description of the ruins of St Paul's, like the editions of Balbec and Palmyra."  Horace Walpole's home was called Strawberry Hill House and there are other Strawberry Hills related to the search areas for Image 1 and Image 11.



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Comments (2)

Jess said

at 2:27 pm on Apr 12, 2018

Hey all,

Managed to record a video showing the basic features of the original book for anyone who was curious. Thought this might be easier to visualise than just a description.

Password = 'secret' (literally)


GreenQueens said

at 10:18 am on Apr 14, 2018

Thanks for this Jess. I had wondered if the original could actually be that much better. Good to know that for the cost it would not be worth it!

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