Kristian House of upstate New York found a badge engraved with an image of the Greek God Hermes under a set of three slides at Lions Park in Nampa over the weekend. It was part of a national treasure hunt that earned him $10,000. | Facebook photo
NAMPA – A New York man is $10,000 richer after finding hidden treasure in Nampa.
Kristian House, a math content writer and crossword puzzle creator from Oneota, New York, found a badge duct-taped under the lip of a slide in Lions Park on Saturday with the message, “You’ve just won $10,000.”
“It was such a beautiful day that the park was swarmed with people. I didn’t feel comfortable just walking over and hunting around when there were kids playing. I was there for a few hours in and out of the park,” House tells EastIdahoNews.com. “By the time I found it, it was more of a relief than a ‘Yahoo, I found it.’”
The prize is part of a national treasure hunt that launched Nov. 13. House first heard about it while listening to an episode of “The Secret” podcast on Feb. 1. He bought an e-book called “The Great U.S. Treasure Hunt” that contained clues to four hidden treasures scattered throughout the 48 continental United States.
House decoded a message in the book, which read, “Trislide, Nampa Lions, Hermes Badge.” He determined the location following a Google search and he caught a flight to search for the treasure.
“It was a little tricky getting to Idaho because of the COVID restrictions, so it was a little bit of a whirlwind once I realized I might have the solution,” House says. “My wife is a pediatrician, so she made me wear double masks (during my trip).”
He was officially declared the winner after sending an email to the puzzle organizers. A check, provided by a group of private investors, will arrive in the mail this week. House says he’s planning to use the money to help pay for his oldest son’s college education.
House is the third winner of the contest since its launch. Beth Hovanec, an artist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Nancy Zitko, of Las Vegas, solved the first puzzle in December after tracking down a silver ornament made in the shape of the letter “Z” underneath a park bench in Las Vegas.
The second puzzle was solved in January by Anthony and Margo Kneisser, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who found a tiny wings ornament hidden in a bench in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
One puzzle remains to be solved, which treasure hunt Vice President David Steele says is located somewhere east of the Mississippi River and south of the 40th parallel. You have to decode the message in chapter three to find the exact location, which can only be found in the book.
A treasure hunt years in the making
The Great U.S. Treasure Hunt has been in the works for many years. It was originally supposed to begin last February but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A book published in England 40 years ago called “Masquerade” by Kit Williams was the inspiration for the contest.
“He (Williams) buried a gold medallion somewhere in England and then wrote and illustrated this book. If you could figure out all the puzzles and illustrations in the book, you could go to the exact spot in England and dig it up,” Steele says.
A book with a similar premise by an American author named Byron Preiss was written several years later. It’s called “The Secret.” Preiss took the concept to a new level. Instead of burying one item, he buried 12.
“Of the 12 items that he hid, only three have been found,” says Steele. “People to this day (are still searching for them).”
(That’s what “The Secret” podcast is all about).
Note: House first heard about “The Great U.S. Treasure Hunt” from listening to this episode of ‘The Secret.’
Steele remembers searching for some of the items when the book first came out. He never found any of them, but hosting a treasure hunt of his own remained in the back of his mind for years. He’s happy to finally be doing it 40 years later.
The seeds for Steele’s treasure hunt were planted 10 years ago when he hid the silver “Z” from the first puzzle in Las Vegas’s Eldorado Park during a trip there.
“I used to visit Las Vegas a lot … and I thought maybe someday I’ll do a treasure hunt. So on a whim, I went to an auto parts store, and I bought one of those Zs you’d put on a 240Z, and I stuck it under that bench,” he says, referring to the Datsun 240Z car. “Every time I’d go back to Vegas, I’d check on it, and it was always there. Once we decided to do the treasure hunt for real, that was clearly going to be one of the locations.”
Organizers originally intended to have 10 puzzles to solve but narrowed it down to four once the pandemic was underway. Steele says they’re planning to launch another treasure hunt later this summer.
He’s excited to see who ends up finding the fourth and final treasure in this contest.
“We didn’t bury anything. Nothing is in a dangerous area. I just hope everyone has fun with this,” says Steele.