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Featured CED VideoDisc No. 42 - Fall 2006


Treasure: In Search of the Golden Horse


Treasure in Search of the Golden Horse CED VideoDisc and Book This CED feature concerns Treasure: In Search of the Golden Horse - a treasure hunt launched in the United States in 1984 to locate a buried 2.2 pound golden horse with a hollow belly. Hidden inside the belly was a key to a safe deposit box containing the main prize of $500,000. To solve the puzzle, treasure hunters would seek clues in an 81-page book and 70-minute video, both available for separate purchase. The video was procurable on Beta, VHS, LaserDisc and CED, but being divided into distinct chapters and being banded on CED VideoDisc, it was tailor-made for the CED format in conjunction with an SJT400 random access VideoDisc player.

I was reminded of this Treasure VideoDisc by two other prominent treasure hunts that are going on as I write this (with a third in the works). The two that are going on now are the AOL/CBS Gold Rush and Michael Stadther's Secrets of the Alchemist Dar. Gold Rush is to win actual gold bullion, while the prizes in Alchemist Dar consist of a number of jeweled rings. The total value for each contest is over $2 million.

There was a plethora of buried treasure contests going on in the early 1980's, owing to the popularity of 1979's Masquerade, a treasure hunt for a golden hare buried somewhere in the British Isles. This hare could be located by deciphering clues in the published book, which itself sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Among these so-called armchair treasure hunts, Treasure in Search of the Golden Horse (TISOTGH) was unique in having the well-produced video to accompany the book.

Both Masquerade and TISOTGH later proved controversial due to the way they were solved. Masquerade was thought to have been solved in 1982, but it was later revealed that the solver had received some inside information from someone involved with the puzzle that allowed him to greatly narrow down the location of the buried hare. In the case of TISOTGH, the puzzle was never solved before the deadline on May 26, 1989, with rumors flying that the location of the buried horse had been changed after the publication of the book/video because too many people knew where it was. With the book/video not being updated accordingly, the puzzle was basically unsolvable. Two men later went to Tennessee Pass in Colorado and dug up a vial telling them the horse had been buried there until the deadline in 1989. They wrote a description of how they determined the location, but their solution was so fraught with illogic that experts on the puzzle leveled accusations that the two guys were merely planted by the promoters to try and legitimize the puzzle. The golden horse itself was donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

Another rumor that circulated was that there was a silver horse buried somewhere near the original golden horse along with a prototype game for the ColecoVision videogame system. To this day some people still go to Tennessee Pass looking for the second horse, and this puzzle still has a following 17 years after it ended. While the puzzle was still active, there were rumors that the horse was buried on Mount Hood near where I live in Oregon. This is because in the video, the protagonist Amanda is riding a carousel (Side 2, Band 1) upon which she sees a painting of Mt. Hood. The tiny likeness of this mountain can be seen on the CED cover at the top center of the carousel in the artwork. This leads Amanda (called "the girl" in the video) to Mt. Hood (Side 2, Band 2) and to the lodge (Side 2, Band 3) on it, which is Timberline Lodge, popular with skiers. This same location also figured prominently in the CED title The Shining, which was the featured CED for this season eight years ago. The carousel Amanda is riding is the Jantzen Beach carousel located at a mall in Portland, Oregon. This ride underwent a major renovation in 1995 (coincidentally costing $500,000) and now looks a lot different than it does in the TISOTGH video.

Back in the early days of CED Magic people used to email me asking whether this Treasure disc was ever solved. I didn't know much about the puzzle at that time, so I posted a query on the Usenet group rec.puzzles asking about it. Here is the response I got to my post which I simply pasted into reply emails until questions about TISOTGH stopped a couple years later:

"Treasure" was a puzzle by Dr. Crypton (Paul Hoffman) released simultaneously in 1984 as a book, a videotape and a laserdisk. The book and video versions include a number of mysterious pictures and images connected by a loose plot involving the theft of a golden horse. The 1-kilo golden horse itself was buried, and the mysterious images were supposed to give instructions on how to find it. The lucky winners would get the golden horse and $500,000. The clues were interesting and obscure; it was impossible to tell which of the puzzles were relevant to the solution and which weren't. Enough of them were sort of solvable to give people hope that they were on the right track. For example, some clues written on an umbrella gave the birth and death years of Mary, Queen of Scots; and a chess game turned out to be identifiable as Anderssen vs. Kieseritzky, the "Shower of Gold" game. Evidently neither of these observations was relevant to the solution in the end. It was alleged that during the production of the video enough people were let in on the secret that the location had to be changed... but that very little of the puzzle was changed to reflect the new location. Nobody solved the puzzle in time -- i.e. by midnight of 26 May 1989. The horse was dug up by the promoters and the prize donated to a charity: Big Brothers and Sisters of America. However, the promoters and Dr. Crypton refused to make the solution public. Seven months later two men, Nick Boone and Anthony Castaneda, went to Tennessee Pass in Colorado and dug up a vial with congratulations inside. They wrote a description of their thought processes that left other frustrated treasure-seekers suspicious and annoyed: their "solution" appeared to be motivated very little by anything in the puzzle itself, so that it seemed apparent to many that they were virtually guided to that location by the promoters. This suspicion has not been confirmed or denied.
-Jim Gillogly

And for comparison here is the text of the original press release for TISOTGH, which I recently stumbled on while doing a web search:


A sculpted horse containing more than 35 ounces of 24 karat gold is buried somewhere in the continental United States. Within the belly of this gold horse is a compartment containing the key to a safe deposit box. Inside the safe deposit box is a certificate redeemable for $500,000--the largest prize offered for a contest of this kind, according to Warner.

The horse and the $500,000 will go to the first person to solve Treasure (paper $12.95), a treasure hunt puzzle created by Dr. Crypton, a science writer named "the smartest man in the world" by Chicago magazine. IntraVision/Warner Books will publish Treasure by Sheldon Renan and Dr. Crypton in September. Jean-Francois Podain has illustrated the book, which contains a complete set of clues to finding the buried treasure. First printing of the book will be 100,000.

Treasure tells the story of a little girl whose father gives her an Arabian stallion named Treasure. Since she is too small to ride her pet, her blacksmith father casts a solid gold statue of the animal in miniature. "One stormy night, her idyllic world bursts apart," writes Warner. "Her father, her statue and her Treasure all vanish." For 13 years, she dreams of being able to search for them, setting off across America following obscure trails, mysterious maps and clues from curious strangers. She finds her father's grave, but Treasure is found alive.

The location of the actual horse is a site accessible to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, says Warner. The solution, the publisher assures, "cannot be 'number crunched' or accidentally stumbled upon," as happened to the treasure in Kit William's Masquerade. Only three people know where the treasure is buried, one of whom is a representative of D. L. Blair, the company contracted to write the game's rules and to act as referee. Dr. Crypton estimates that it will take the winner at least one full year to solve the riddle and find the treasure. (If, however, the gold horse is not found by May 26, 1989, the treasure will be awarded to one or more national charities.)

IntraVision, "a multimedia producer and packager," came up with the concept and will offer the $500,000. Warner will distribute the book in this joint deal, but there will also be a video cassette, a cable television show, a record album and a combination of board, computer and video games. The video cassette will be distributed by Vestron Video, a large company in the home video market, and music for the record album (for which no distribution deal has yet been signed) is by Vangelis, the Oscar-winning composer of "Chariots of Fire."

Treasure will have a $250,000 advertising and promotion budget. Dr. Crypton will make local and national television appearances, Warner says. For booksellers, Treasure is a special treat: at the ABA, Dr. Crypton will offer a contest entitling a bookseller to win $5,000.
-Publishers Weekly, No. 16, Volume 225, April 20, 1984.


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