Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An Adventure! ---

A Mystery Location ---

An Unbroken Cipher ---

A Quest for Hidden TREASURE!!!

The mere mention of these words, seems to set our collective imaginations on fire for all of us. It also explains why such motion pictures and network series like National Treasure, Indiana Jones, The Da Vinci Code, The Goonies, Treasure Hunters and Amazing Race have become almost national icons for their ability to capture and inspire the public’s imagination.

But Why??? --- The “Truth” is so unbelievably simple, it's almost too simple. --- The answer of course is; because there's a little “Indiana Jones” in all of us, when the Spirit of Adventure calls us.

This Page is devoted to the Game and the Global offerings of Ravenchase Adventures in their continual challenge to provide the Spirit of Fun and Adventure to all hearts, that dare to dream of being a Treasure Hunter.

I first discovered Ravenchase Adventures when I became hopelessly addicted to a NBC Summer Series entitled, “TREASURE HUNTERS,” sponsored by Genworth Financial Services which as a series, I would best describe to you as “Amazing Race,” with a Brain.

Contestants each week raced across the length and breadth of the United States and Northern Europe, seeking history and mysterious artifacts, all cloaked beneath various codes and ciphers that would, in the end, lead them to a secret location, and a Treasure Trove worth over Three Million dollars.

With this series, every Childhood Dream of Adventure of mine was set ablaze in my imagination. Week after week, I matched wits with the teams on the show, and with friends from on-line forums; all sharing the same Passion. --- The Passion and the Need to unraveling the clues first. Crack the Codes, and claim the right to be the first one to discover the Hidden and Final Location; even if we could never claim the Treasure for ourselves.

When the series ended in the fall, it left many of my friends and myself hungering for more. We all secretly planned and hoped for a second season of the series; so that we could put in our applications and join in on the Hunt, and compete. But, in the meantime, this shared dream needed to be acted upon.

My fellow travelers, and I, began researching the possibility of holding a private hunt of our own to celebrate this series. And in doing so, we discovered RAVENCHASE ADVENTURES. A company created in 2001 by John Czarda, whose sole purpose was to provide Adventure and the Spirit of the Chase to anyone that has ever dreamed of being Indiana Jones, a Master Cracksman, Sleuth, Spy, or just a Pirate of the Spanish Maine in Search of Hidden Treasure.

Hiring the company, Ravenchase Adventures rose to the challenge and put on an event for us in the Historic Town of Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Using Historical markers, old dark mill tunnels, graveyards, even the very town itself to build their hunt. Ravenchase provided everything from secret codes, cipher wheels and ancient parchment clues, that could only be cracked once the secret locations within the town itself were discovered.

Everything was there, that we could have possibly imagined and hoped for. Old Weathered Maps that glowed under Black Light, messages that only appeared when placed in water, cryptic locations and actors planted along the path to guide us, or perhaps to mislead us. --- And even though I lost this particular race, “Miserably!!!” --- I was “HOOKED!” --- I was “Addicted” from the very start and had to have more. --- More Adventures and more Challenges! All in the single minded Quest to bring home the Glory and the Gold!

Within my Private Reviews of Ravenchase Adventures more Public Hunts, found below, I invite anyone with a thirst for Adventure, or just a simple plain curiosity to discover what Ravenchase Adventures is all about; to read, and run along side of me through the entire race from beginning to end. Start with "The Perfect Hunt" and read on from there... perhaps following with, "The Enchanted Christmas Hunt" in New Hope

And through my Triumphs, Errors, stumbling Blunders and simple Joys, all “hopefully” peppered with my own peculiar sence of Wit and Wisdom, the Reader will come to discover within themselves, if they too have the need to “Stop watching Reality TV… Get off the Couch and Get into the Game! --- Ravenchase Adventures!!!

--- Geoffrey G. Wynkoop

A.K.A. --- The “Infamous” Rassilon

Tips and Tricks of The Game

The "Must" have...

"Go To..."

Items For a Ravenchase Hunt

There are forever Tricks of the Trade. "In-House Secrets", if you will, of many Winning Teams at Ravenchase Adventures. --- Every Team has their own secrets of success in a Race, which they guard like the Holy Grail. Many of these Secrets shall forever remain, "Team Members Only."

But, there are a number of simpler suggestions that are open for discovery, such as... What to Bring, What to Wear and What to Read.... That many newcomers to Ravenchase might have never considered these, or have all too frequently overlooked them... to their lasting regret.

To help those New to the Hunt, I have created a unique list of suggestions for the items you may consider bringing with you on your own Ravenchase Hunt. --- Remembering, always first that ... "It is the Thrill of the Hunt, not the Treasure, that Drives us on!"


1. The Number One Item to have is... a Really “Nifty” Team Name: --- This is a Fashion Accessory "Most" New Teams forget to even think about until the day of the Hunt, which can be a huge mistake.

--- A Terrific Moniker, as your Team’s Identity, can be your beginning path to "Fame" and "GLORY" in Ravenchase! Striking fear and dread into your competition’s hearts, knowing that your team has once again entered onto the game pitch.

--- Such notable Team Names as Jencrush, A-Squared, The Chase Monkeys, Nala’s Pride, The Brilliants, The Penultimates, The Fellowship of the Van and my personal favorite for a team name "Victorious Secret!," for an all female team. These Teams are the very best at what they do. Their Team names have come to earn respect, and are actually reasons to sign up for these events, just to race and test yourself against the Very Best!.

--- Other teams have become “Beloved” for being experianced Teams just to race against, because you can enjoy their sportsmanship and great company, Teams like “Team Dude, Run,” “The Happy Fairy Mushroom Princess,” "The Birthday Bears" and the ever “Infamous” Rassilon. --- Don’t find yourself caught with a Team name like “Ahhh.. What-ever,” as one poor Team I raced against did. --- Give it some Serious Thought... Really!

2. A Cell Phone:- Communication at all times is important for several reasons. One: Unexpected events do happen. --- During at least two of my races, historical sites written into the clues were closed; when they were expected to be open. So, the missing clues were phoned, or text to us. --- Two: Hints during a Hunt: can be called in for, though there is a time penalty. --- Three: Sometimes a race ends and there are still missing Teams out there; Lost in the Wilds. --- Its nice to call you and tell you where the party is. --- One team I remember, stopped into an Art Gallery for their clue and fell in loved with the Art Work so much, they forgot they were in a race, lost track of time and stayed to make deals for some of the Art Pieces with the Gallery's owner. (True Story...)

3. Pencils:- Not repeat “not” PENS and Yes!!! And a TON of them! I cut them down to five, or six inches, to fit better in my Top and Pants Pockets. I can not tell you how many pencils I have lost on a hunt,(Ivy Eats them Like Candy) Backups are important! In Cold Weather Pens Freeze up on you , Pencils Never Do.

4. Artist Square Eraser. The soft tan ones are Wonderful! These erase mistakes cleanly. The erasers on Pencils tend to smudge Pink and leave the work sheet dirty, confusing your hard work.

5. Graph Paper with 1/4" Inch Squares:- as your scratch paper to work out difficult Ciphers. --- I always keep about five, or six sheets with me at the back of my Report Folder during a race. The Blocks are really useful for keeping the columns of Cipher Letters lined up as you are doing a “Brute Force” decipherment, or a “Trickle Down” Cipher.

6. Clear Front Report Covers:- -- with the Center Pull Release Clip--- A Real Must !!! Keeps your clue sheets flat and together. It also Prevents them from getting lost, allowing you to read your clues easily through the clear front.--- The surface of the folder is major plus, as you have a light weight firm surface to write on when you’re at clue locations. --- These folders also come in many colors, so if you have several in your bag, you can color code them as to which is your Code book, Local Information & Maps and of course, your Work Book.

7. Scotch Tape:- Some Final Ciphers come in four sections, found along the Hunt path. Tape is the “Miracle” that holds them all together and keeps them from blowing away!! My Friend in Baltimore, "Flidais," lost points, because her team lost one of the final sections along the way.

8. A Cipher Wheel :- hopefully with both Alphabet and Numbers written on it is a very useful item to have in your kit. I found my Cipher Wheel useful twice in the same hour during a Baltimore Hunt doing both Caesar Ciphers and Numerical Letter shifts. --- My own code disk, which I designed myself, I keep down to a five, or six inch size for ease of handling and storage. ---- E-Mail me at if you would like a copy of this pattern and I will be happy to share it with you.

9. Pre-made work sheets with the “Alphabet” typed out neatly on "one line" in three places on the sheet. These are useful if you have to make new alphabet ciphers, based on a Key Word, or Phrase you are given. --- I’ve run into these ciphers several times so far. --- Every time you have to stop and rewrite the full alphabet, it costs your team nearly a full Minute. And Races have been won, or lost by One, or Two minutes alone. These again are kept in the back of my Clear Report Folder.


Not only to drink... but to use in the hunt as well. I went to a Drug store and bought a Small Travel Size Spray Bottle, about three inches long. The sprayer holds about an two ounces of water and costs about one dollar.--- Perfect for Water Clues. --- The sprayer does not over-soak the message, as does dipping the clue. You are less likely to lose your Secret Message due to drowning. Most Water Clues tend to be a one shot deal.

11. Power Bar Snacks:- – Ravenchase Hunts, on average, are about three and a half hours in length. And while there is always a wonderful Restaurant to look forward to at the end of the Hunt; a Power bar, or two, in your pack is a great way to take the edge off your hunger, and keeps your Energy levels up and your Mind Sharp.

12. A Flashlight:--- A Small Strong L.E.D. Light -- Yes. --- I bought mine off of E-Bay for about Seven dollars and is a “3 in 1 Torch” ---- Regular light, Ultra-Violet (black light) and a Laser Pointer in one. --- Regular Light, useful when searching dark corners of shelters, for hidden Clue Scrolls and Bonus Coins. --- The Black Light, for reading Hidden Messages given to you. And the Laser Pointer is great for large Monument Plaques. --- Squinting and pointing with your finger, you can lose your place many times messing up your count, when deciphering - Ottendorf Ciphers…

13. A Small Pocket Calculator:- – Many times during hunts I have encountered Number Ciphers, where I had to crunch, or subtract numbers down to find my true substitution numbers. (My own higher math centers of my brain have been Dead since High School. --- A Calculator is a God Sent) --- Also, highly useful at the end of the race when figuring out the Bar Tab, and who owes what, from your teammates at the party afterwards.

14. Magnet and String:- Twenty five feet of heavy cotton string rolled up. I have heard and read of them being used in Ravenchase hunts to retrieve clue scrolls from pits and gullies, but thus far have not encountered them in my own hunts. --- For myself, I bought (2) Telescoping Pens with Magnetic Tips. They extend out 26" inches can be clipped on to string loops easily and has a magnetic tip that can pick up 2 1/2 pounds. ---- They are also highly useful for counting Memorial Bricks under your feet, and once again Word counting on large historical wall plaques.

15. Mirror:- – A Small Hand Held Mirror . I carry a Unbreakable “Metal” Boy Scout Camping Mirror. --- Pocket Mirrors are very useful for looking under things like park benches, Phone Boxes, or the other side of Fence bars and railings, for Hidden Clues taped just out of sight. Great for reading Da Vinci Reversed Ciphers.

16. A Small Pocket Compass:- --- Unless you were born with a perfect sense of direction, a Pocket Compass is useful to orient yourself to your map. --- I lost fifteen minutes on a hunt, simply because I was holding the Map the wrong way up. --- Live and Learn!

17. QUARTERS:- Yes, it sounds strange, but having at least Three Dollars worth of Quarters in your kit bag will have several strange and wonderful purposes. One: In the event your Cell phone fails you, you can use a Public Phone to call in for help. Two: On several Hunts, the "All Important" clue scroll was hidden in a Public Newspaper Box, underneath the regular papers, or perhaps in the door. --- The Quarters can be your "Opensaysme!" to the locked-away clue (Ravenchase Clue Writers can be very, very, "Sneaky" when hiding clues) Three: The coins are great addition to your kit for survival against Street People and Panhandlers, while you are racing around the city. And perhaps your gift to the poor, and less fortunate, will be adding good Karma to your quest, and for the Win.

A Camera:- (Optional)
It is great to record the fun of a Ravenchase Hunt. But, to be honest, many times I am rushing around so much I completely forget to take Pictures. --- But, there is a plus to having a Camera Person on your team. --- In one race, I could have shaved ten minutes off my race when I needed to refer to a site I already visited and re-read a plaque I saw, but I did not have the picture. --- In another race, our team was "saved" by our teammate, “Holly from Down Under,” because she had taken the one a single photograph of a Historical Plaque we needed in order to correct a major mistake in our final answer. --- Thank you, Holly!!! We Miss you!

19. A Code Book:- Yes! -- but, for mine, I copied out those codes I have encountered in the past and reduced the weight of my code book down to less than a eight, or nine ounces. (Remember Weight is the enemy on a hunt!—Travel as light as you can!) One of my friends carried a five pound code book in her backpack up the side of a mountain during the Harper’s Ferry Hunt, and nearly killed herself doing so.

The VIGENERE Cipher Grid should always be PAGE ONE in your code book. ---- Learn especially how to use it, and read it quickly. --- For myself, I also carry a small clear right angle triangle about five inches long at all times to aid in my quick decipherments.

If you buy one code book for your bookshelf, buy the best. Codes, Ciphers & Other Cryptic & Clandestine Communication by Fred B. Wrixon (2005). But this is far too heavy to take on a hunt, unless your are in a driving event. It weighs almost five pounds.

A better one to carry with you is a light weight paperback called “Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing” by Martin Gardner This book contains a great overview of codes and Ciphers for the beginner. --- But, Don’t Obsessive or “Panic” Over This! --- Ravenchase Adventures makes game codes “Challenging,” but they “Want” you to break them. --- A good general overview of famous codes will always help you endlessly in your Quest for the Gold!

20. ALKA SELTZER:- This will never help you solve any clues, or reveal secret messages; but a few packs in your bag, is great for the feasting after the hunt and the after effects of the Ravenchase Party.--- You'll want a clear head for Day Two of a Hunt, or if you have to go back to work. --- Fuzzy Heads and Upset Stomachs, do not a winning team make. ---

21. A Bag to keep everything in:- Over-the-shoulder Side Bags a'la "Indiana Jones" are the best; rather than Backpacks, as they allows quick and easy access for you, even if you are on the run. --- For myself, I bought a “Israel Parachute’s Bag” off of E-bay and added my own logo to it. --- It Contains three inner sectional compartments and has a front button-down pocket. --- Ravenchase Adventure’s will, sometimes, provide you with a Over-the-Shoulder Bag, or Fanny Packs, but never count on them being there. --- Every race from Ravenchase is unique… which makes every Race a New and Fun Adventure to look forward to!

What to Wear on a Ravenchase Hunt:

Very Important!

We all dream in our hearts of looking like Indiana Jones, or if you’re Female, Marion Ravenwood. --- But, to be honest, in all my hunts with Ravenchase Adventures, I have yet to find a single use for a Bull Whip...

What is far more Useful on a Hunt is a Great pair of Walking, or Jogging Shoes! ----I promise you; you will pound a lot of pavement out there on a Hunt.

Open-toed shoes, Sandals and Flip-Flops, may look great... but, are never very practical on a Hunt. --- Best Rule of Thumb to follow is... Dress for the Weather. --- Dress comfortably.--- Wear your Play Clothes, because you will, I promise you, get a little dirty searching among the Bushes and Ivy for your hidden clue scrolls. --- Remember, you are there to have FUN... not to model for "Vogue" Magazine!!! --- For myself, I highly recommend "Cargo " style of Pants and Shorts. --- The extra large pockets are great for carrying and distributing the weight of your stuff, and again giving you easy access to it all. ---If you are smart enough to keep track of which Pocket you put it in.

Winning Strategies from the

Famous Hunters out there themselves:

Just to add on: Team A-Squared always brings a notebook filled with those plastic sheet protectors (first race we ever ran, it rained. I STILL can't get the smell of wet, burnt map out of those shorts...) which has the added benefit of getting those pesky scrolls to lay flat.--- I think “Team Brilliants” should empty out their kit bags, you might find a whole other team in one, and a full service bar in the other
--- Alexnanji


On our hunts, we did, however, when we remembered, bring a Dictionary and have A "Phone--friend", who was near a computer, if we needed directions, or to due a quick look up of something on the internet. --- But, if you really want to take home the Gold, it pays to use "All" your resources. But with Ravenchase, we always had tons of fun.
--- Jencrush


Team Communication Rules are also a must!!! You want to establish a SAFE WORD,” or Hand Signal that your Team members can use and that would be somewhat unobtrusive to other teams, to indicate you got the clue at the location.--- HEY GUYS, I GOT IT!!! It’s Right over Here; behind the Tree!!!” Somehow just doesn’t... REALLY... Work... Well... for getting ahead of other teams during a chase.
--- Chase Monkey Dave


See You All on the Next Hunt!!! – Rassilon

"Remember, there is a little "Indiana Jones" in all of us..."

Harpers Ferry Hunt

Treasure Hunters

First Annual Hunt
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

October 14th, 2006

A Rassilon Review


Geoffrey G. Wynkoop

“Heroes take Journeys, confront Dragons
And Discover The Real Treasure
of their Inner True Selves…”
Carol Lynn Pearson – American Writer

Where does any Adventure begin? As in all things, at the beginning... For most of us, it can start with something as simple as a quiet conversation among friends, a newspaper article, an unexpected journey, or an ancient book, long forgotten, on a back library shelf. Adventure, is anything that encourages the imagination to take flight and believe once more in all the incredible inspiring possibilities of “What If…”

For myself and my fellow travelers, our journey began on Sunday June 18th, 2006 with the first airing of NBC Universal’s summer replacement series, “Treasure Hunters.” A reality based TV series that pitted ten teams from every walk of life against one another in a global hunt to crack codes, discover hidden locations and find Treasure Troves valued at over Three Million Dollars; one of the largest prizes ever to be offered on a national television series.

The show for me was intoxicating. From the very beginning, I found myself rooting for nearly every one of the teams. Each team bearing its own individual personality and identity. Teams like Team Ex-CIA, The Fogal Family, The Grad Students, The Brown Family, The Wild Hanlons, Young Professionals, Team Air Force, Team Miss USA, The Geniuses and The Southie Boys. Ten Teams in all, each to be eliminated week by week by the enigmatic overseer and host, Lair Macintosh, until only three teams remained. But in the end, of the remaining Teams, only one would be able to claim the ultimate prize of the Treasure itself.

The Contestants each episode raced across the length and breadth of the United States and Northern Europe, seeking history and mysterious artifacts, all cloaked beneath various puzzles, codes and ciphers.

The puzzles and problems within this series fired my imagination, as this series also allowed the people at home to play along via the internet with our own set of puzzles and clues, for a chance at $10,000 dollars, and to be a part of the season’s finale.

Week after week, I matched wits with the teams on the show, and with new found friends from NBC’s on-line forums; all sharing the same Passion. --- The Passion and the Need to be the first to unraveling the mystery. To Crack the Codes, Decipher the Clues and claim the right to be the one that discovered the Hidden and Final Location; even if we could never claim the Treasure for ourselves. It was simply a need to know if we were right…

When the series ended in the fall, it left many of my friends and myself hungering for more. We all secretly planned and hoped for a second season of the series from NBC; so that we might put in our applications and join in on the next season’s hunt, competing against all comers. But, in the meantime, this shared dream needed to be acted upon.

My fellow travelers in this adventure, and I, began talking and researching the possibility of holding a private hunt of our own to celebrate this series. And in doing so, we discovered RAVENCHASE ADVENTURES. An adventure company created in 2001 by John Czarda, whose sole purpose was to provide Adventure and the Spirit of the Chase, to anyone that has ever dreamed of being Indiana Jones, or Benjamin Gates in quest of hidden Treasure.

Hiring the company, Ravenchase Adventures rose to our challenge and agreed to put on an event for us in the Historic Town of Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. What follows below is an account of my adventures, and what our Treasure Hunters group encountered in Harpers Ferry.

Friday, October 13th, 2006

“Adventures Assemble”

After weeks of planning, my journey from Philadelphia was a pleasant four and a half hour ride by Amtrak Train to the Historic Town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The trip might have been shorter, but there was an hour and a half layover in Washington D.C. before continuing on with a connecting train for my final leg. Fortunately, I had tucked the latest paperback by Douglas Preston, Tyrannosaur Canyon” into my bag and the time passed quickly for me, lost among its pages.

The coming event in West Virginia was the brain child of one of my favorite on-line friends, Whitney, A.K.A. “Trsrhuntr”, or “Treasure” for short. After weeks of planning, back and forth e-mails, forum meetings and cross referencing of everyone’s schedules, and available times off from work, a final date of Saturday October 14th was decided upon for the hunt, when all of the East Coast Teams that signed onboard for the hunt, could agree to all be there in force.

And, as a unique bonus to our hunt, we were to have the special pleasure of looking forward to meeting several of the cast members from the original television series, “Treasure Hunters.”

Hearing of our planned hunt, four of the cast members tentatively promised to make a showing and run the hunt along side of us, barring any unforeseen commitments. These people included Jacob, and Todd from “Team Ex-CIA,” and Melissa, Kaitlyn and Kristen, of “Team Miss USA.”

Personally, I was especially looking forward to meeting Melissa, as we had chatted privately on-line a number of times in the NBC Forum. --- Plus, Whitney knowing I was by myself, was already hinting strongly that I might like to run on their team during the hunt to help them out. The prospect of serving on a team with three former Miss USA Contestants, had me already planning one day of shaking off these mortal coils and dying a “Very” happy man.

The predicted weather reports for that weekend seemed to be in our favor; for the most part. Clear and sunny with predicted highs of about sixty-one degrees. A cool, crisp, fall day to look forward to. The autumn country side was already ablaze with a myriad of golden shades of color. But, in contrast, our predicted lows for the nights were to be in the lowers-thirties and bitterly cold.

Strangely, to me, this seemed very apropos, since it was during almost identical weather conditions that the series “Treasure Hunters” first began filming almost exactly one year before in September to make its summer June release on NBC Universal television.

As the light suddenly changed, I glanced up from the pages of my novel just as my train disappeared through a long tunnel in Maryland and after several minutes emerged on the far side of the mountain in the state of West Virginia, pulling smartly into the Train Station in Harpers Ferry at 5:16 PM; literally allowing me to step from the train into the Town proper itself.

For me it was not just passing through a mountain or from one State to the next, but a passageway through time itself. Most of the town of Harpers Ferry had been restored to appear exactly, as it might have been in 1859, when John Brown and his meager band of twenty-one followers invaded this tiny hamlet in an attempted to take over the United States Armory.

The armory, long gone, stood roughly where the modern day Train Tracks were laid down. The town almost as small as it was a century and a half ago, today supports a population of only three hundred and seven full time residents.

Looking out my window at the town, I will confess it had been my intention to wander around its streets and byways for an hour. There was still daylight, and I wanted to make an attempt to familiarize myself with the town, exploring it first hand, before calling on my friends to come and pick me up at the station. This was where the epicenter of our hunt was to be the following day.

Up to this point I had possessed only a few trifling maps and the internet web sites to guide me in all my preparations for the hunt. But, all my hopeful intentions were lost to me when, stepping down from the train, I found my friend, Whitney, was already waiting for me in the station’s parking lot ready to greet me and take me back to our campsite.

On a side note, it’s always interesting to meet people you have known intimately for months. People you have laughed with, schemed with, plotted with and joked with; all via instant messenger, web forums and e-mails. But, in all this time I had never spoken to directly on the phone with Whitney, nor met her in person. So, I think for both of us during this first meeting, there was a strange awkward moment of, “Is that really you???” before exchanging greetings.

To this day, I have also strangely wondered far in the back of my own mind; if there was yet another smaller agenda in Whitney’s plan to pick me up so immediately from the station. A devilish clever thought, which might have been lurking in the back of her own mind.; a thought, about how to quietly knobble my early chances in placing well in this the coming event.

For if all truths are to be known, there was one small tiny omission that Whitney had seemingly neglected to mention to me up to now, about the preparation of this hunt. In particular, her choice of West Virginia and the town of Harpers Ferry, as our hunt location.

The detail Whitney overlooked mentioning to me up to now was that she and her family lived only twenty minutes drive outside of Harpers Ferry and she knew this town like the back of her hand.

Putting my bags into the back seat, we climbed into Whitney’s latest personal toy, a brand new HUMVEE. An all terrain vehicle; capable of running up and down the sides of mountains, fording rivers, crushing unsuspecting opposition under wheel, and possessing a very nice, very practical, center console cup holder for your “Biggie Drink.”

Whitney, enormously pleased with her new toy, gunned the engine, threw it into reverse and we tore off out of the station’s parking lot, as if the whole of the Union Army was on our heels.

While the speedometer needle on the dash merrily spun around twice, and the “G” forces threw me back firmly into the passenger’s seat --- all before I could fasten my seat belt. --- Whitney, cheerfully chatted on and thoughtfully gave me the “Cook’s Tour” of Harpers Ferry, before we headed off for the Camp.

As several darkened shapes blurred past by my vision in quick secession; Whitney calmly pointed out, John Brown’s Fort, the High Street, the Mercantile, Stonebraker’s Bakery and the lovely Church on the hill. All these swiftly vanishing from view and into our rear view mirror, with Whitney cheerily adding, “Well, that’s it! …That the entire town. Aren’t you glad you came?”

I was dumbfounded. --- I was speechless. --- I was totally amazed, because up to now I hadn’t the slightest idea that, Whitney, a Realtor by profession, possessed any secret aspirations of also becoming a Naval Jet Pilot as well.

As we hurtled on down the main road at a leisurely Mach Three; I could only sit quietly in the passenger’s seat and pray to the Gods that be, that Whitney was not going to follow up her performance with a quick “Victory Roll” of the HUMVEE.

The KOA Kampgrounds, where we stayed, I will mention, while a clean and fun area to stay, does seem to have a few very unusual ideas when it came to the personal comfort of its guests.

First, when signing up, they tag everyone with a blue wristband identity tag as if you were just so much Texas Longhorn cattle; which for me, brought forth visions of the famous “Twilight Zone” episode, “TO SERVE MAN,” causing me wonder what exactly I was worth to an Alien race on the Hoof.

Next, were the signs and constant reminders everywhere within the KOA campgrounds, that you are not Camping, with a “C,” but you are “Kamping!” All “C’s” being removed everywhere in favor of “K’s. ”

The wooded site covered about fifty acres, dividing itself up into three main areas of Kabins, RV Kamp lots and Tent Kamping. I held a reservation for a private Kabin. And I suppose I should be very grateful that I even had a roof over my head, since I owe everything to, Gail, one of our on-line Treasure Hunters Group members.

Gail and her husband had booked a Kabin early on, but at the last moment bowed out of the hunt due to a family conflict, allowing me to take over their reservation. Gail kindly called the KOA in person to make sure the transfer to my name went smoothly. For mid-October, the KOA Kamp site was unexpectedly packed to the very rafters, with standing room only available. The reason why… I would discover much later.

My own little Kabin (since you could not even describe it as a Cabin) was, I believe in a prior life, a converted Tool Shed purchased from a mail-order SEARS Catalog; onto which someone had built a small porch and a door.

Spartan in nature, it contained only a rustic bunk bed, a large queen size bed, and did not even possess a chair to sit down in. Nor were there any bathroom, or shower. Those facilities were all public and about seventy-five yards away. I had to supply my own bedding, blanket and pillow, as these were not a service offered by the KOA.

My kabin number was also Lucky #13, which came complete with some bloody finger marks pre-etched, or perhaps clawed onto my door. The marks drawing comments from everyone that saw them.

Number #13 also turned out to be the one single Kabin, in the entire camp, completely devoid of Heat...( a very nice air conditioner, which work splendidly and efficiently, ) but no Heat.

Bare in mind this was October. --- Friday the 13th. ---- I was staying in Kabin #13.--- In a remote wooded Summer Camp. --- Miles from town. --- Dark and bitterly cold at night. --- All I needed to complete this intriguing tableau, was a tall ominous fellow with a par’ chant for Hockey Masks and oversized Machetes. --- Things were not seemingly boding well for our Hero-at-Large.

With the temperature dipping down in the thirties at night, naturally I "FROZE" all weekend long; having brought only two thin blankets and bedding with me. As I lay in my bed that night, and small icicles began to slowly form on the tip of my nose; I turned on my flashlight and carefully reexamined the blue “cattle” band on my wrist. I wanted to see if there were indications on it that mentioned I was perhaps already slated for the Frozen Meats Department in the Alien’s food larder.

My angel and savior that night was Whitney, who earlier kindly drove me to a large retail outlet store she knew of, and I bought myself some sweat pants and heavy socks to sleep in to survive the icy conditions of my Kabin.

Whitney, (bless her heart) was a real Gem and a Treasure all weekend long, acting as Hostess and Mom to us all during the hunt.

Saturday - October 14th,

Breakfast flambé

The next morning, most of our group rising early, were starting to make an appearance and checking in at Whitney’s Kabin. A diverse crew of on-line friends, known only by a mixture of real names, and their online personas.

We had Britney (Dollylama’s daughter) and her best friend. Mike Sky, a dealer in wine and his wife, Bajki Fudala-Taylor. JFray and Lady Diane. Whitney and her daughter, Taylor. T_Hunter, a programmer, and his code cracking daughter, Victoria. J15Bell and her friend Sluggy. Flidais, (a.k.a. Brittany) and her best friend, Laura, both Middle School Science Teachers. And of course myself, Rassilon. Before our eleven o’clock start time came for the hunt, there were still several more people expected to arrive and check in.

Whitney, who had gotten up early that morning, and with my help stoking the fire, began her day by attempting to prepare breakfast for all of us over an open fire grill. A feat she had never attempted before, outside of a real kitchen.

This terrific idea, and ultimate showing of love and affection for us all, lasted only until two full rashers of bacon, and its resulting liquid fat, caught fire and leapt to life.

The resulting fire created a sheet of flames and smoke high enough to bring forth envisionments of The Great Fire of London in 1666, if not the somewhat smaller Chicago Fire of 1871, nearly burning down the front porch of her own deluxe Kabin and perhaps half of the KOA site along with it.

After the flames were brought under control, and Last Rites were solemnly pronounced over the bacon. A "Unanimous Vote" was taken by all concerned, with the one “Abstention” from Whitney herself; who sincerely wanted to give it another go.

--- Our stalwartly group elected to set forth on foot across the Kamp to the early morning Pancake and Sausage Breakfast that was offered as a service by the KOA Kampground.

We reasoned it was far safer for all of us just to “Pay” for our breakfast, rather than miss the hunt, and to have bare the heavier expense of renting a large school bus to take us all on mass for a visit to the Intensive Burns Center at the county’s local hospital. Reasoning, that Medical Insurers rarely give out group discounts.

At about 9:45 AM, after our group had returned from eating the KOA out of house and home. A silver Mercedes AMD55 convertible, possessing specialized licence plates reading, in abbreviated letters, “Treasure Hunter” rolled up in front of Whitney’s Kabin and parked itself quietly.

Alighting from the vehicle with style and grace, a tall dark hair man with slender build, rakish good looks and dark sunglasses like a movie star, strolled across the green grass and presented himself with a wistful smile.

As he did so, Whitney and nearly every other woman in the group went weak at the knees. --- J. Jacob Porter, from Team Ex-CIA had arrived on the scene, just as he had promised.

Todd from Team Ex-CIA was to have joined us as well, by a last minute illness, kept him home and in bed for the weekend; but sending us all his very best.

Now, I will give you that Jacob is tall, handsome, dashing and I would not fault any woman who might wish to run off with him. --- In fact if I possessed a girlfriend at the time and she suddenly told me she was leaving me for Jacob; I would not only understand, but perhaps even help her pack for her journey.

For myself, my preference towards women is unwavering. --- Three envisionments of Beauty in particular. --- But, for all my hopes and private dreams, there was to be no second vehicle to follow Jacob’s grand entrance.

No door would swing open, allowing me to witness the earthly embodiment of the Three Graces descending and alight themselves upon the earth, letting my own heart to sigh and beat on a fiery pace.

Team Miss USA, who was to join us that weekend, ran into strong scheduling conflicts at the last minute, and all sweetly and politely apologized for having to bow out; sending their regrets to all for not being able to join us on the hunt that weekend. --- I told you things were not boding well for our Hero-at-Large in lucky Kabin number #13.

Despite of my visible disappointment over the loss of Team Miss USA. And being personally hampered from birth with a total lack of all the usual social refinements and graces so easily instilled in others. I should like to believe I was tolerably well-mannered, gracious and polite to Jacob. --- This was of course, after Whitney stopped swooning in front of Jacob, long enough to allow me to be finally presented to him.

As we chatted about his experiences on the show, I presented Jacob with a small token of my own, to thank him for his showing up for our hunt. It was just a small souvenir I had found for him, and to pass along to his fellow teammates from Treasure Hunters.

The present I decided to give Jacob, was something that seemed decidedly fitting for a man who had once been contracted out to our Government’s CIA department. My souvenir I gave to him was three Secret Decoder Belt buckles, I discovered in my travels.

Jacob, admittedly, was tickled pink by them. But for me, in pure hindsight, which as everyone knows is forever 20-20 vision. I probably should have waited to present Jacob with the Decoders at the party "After" our Race was over.

I mention this simply because, during the hunt, Jacob, was able to put my little souvenir to good use, by immediately using the decoder to crack one of the clue scrolls we were given by Ravenchase Adventures. A true story …I promise you

Had Team Miss USA been able to make it to our gathering, it had been my intention to present them with gifts as well. In fact three very special Team T-Shirts for them to wear during the hunt.

During the Treasure Hunters series, the teams were sent to Paris, France in search of the all important Cryptex, and the Secret Society that guard the artifact for them.

One of their clues led them to the Eiffel Tower and eventually to
Edouard de Laboulaye’s Lady, the Statue of Liberty, on the Ile de Cygnes near the Grenelle bridge. This is the same statue that was featured recently in the film “National Treasure II: Book of Secrets.”

At the foot of this statue the girls found a stone plaque that read:

“They Hid Beneath the Streets of Paris

Clean the Streets of Paris

To find your Path”

Unfortunately the girls took this clue a little too literally, and with the buckets and scrub brushes they found next to the statue, they began to wash every square inch of Paris they could lay their hands upon; thinking that their clue was somewhere underneath all the dirt and grime that lay beneath their feet.

Painfully, what the clue was actually referring to, was to an ancient street map of Paris they had found earlier in the hunt. All they had to do was to pull out the map and wash the tempera paint off of it. Their next clue lay just beneath the paint.

This one single misstep and the hours lost, took them from Second place to Last place within the hunt. And just as they finally figured the meaning of message out, their cell phone rang and they were told by Lair, that their team had been eliminated from the race. Leaving Melissa only to sadly lament, “This is not the outfit I wanted to be eliminated in!!!”

Playing on this final mental image of them in the series, as well as adding my own theme from the old west of, “The Girls that Cleaned up Paris!” I used my photo programs and cleverly produced a lasting image of the trio standing before the Statue of Liberty all holding Mops, Scrub brushes and Brooms with the motto above saying, “We’ll always have Paris!” The image I then had printed on Pink T-Shirts to present to them that day at the hunt.

Later, I would contact and send these presents off in care of Melissa and the girls, and I received several wonderful e-mails and letters from Team Miss USA, saying how much they loved them. Melissa especially telling me she likes to wear the shirt to conventions she’s sent to, as a reminded that Miss USA Contestants are not the delicate Pageant Princesses most people take them for.

In return for my thoughtfulness, the girls of Team Miss USA sent me an autographed photograph of all of them, which I have framed, and is now sitting near my desk, even as I write this. ---- When I look at it, my heart still sighs a bit and wonders about a race that might have been; had the girls been able to make it to Harpers Ferry that weekend.

The RAVEN Has Landed

Our Ravenchase Hunt began at 11:00 Am. Three days earlier, all members of our group had received a PowerPoint presentation in our e-mails, featuring a cryptic poem and a cipher. Understand what the poem is telling you, you could crack the cipher and the revealed message would tell you the secret location where you were to begin the hunt.

Our clue led us to a ruined Cotton Mill on Virginius Island, which was apart of the Harpers Ferry National Park and about a half mile outside of the town. Finding the island was easy… Getting on to it, was yet another matter.

The main bridge leading onto the island was unexpectedly gated and locked, so all our members had to backtrack and use our own ingenuity to ford the waterways surrounding the island and follow the nature trails back to the Cotton mill. It was here we found, Josh Czarda, the President of Ravenchase Adventures, quietly sitting on a large rock waiting to greet us. At his feet lay the famous Ravenchase Chest, containing our clue scrolls and all our equipment needed for the coming hunt.

Joshua Czarda, is an interesting man of thirty-six, blonde haired and gently charming in his manner. He has a culinary background, a law degree, and was working with the United Network for Organ Sharing, before chucking it all, to found Ravenchase Adventures. The corporate name, coming as a small tip of the hat to the American Master, Edgar Allen Poe, and his creation “The Raven,” and for being the first America creator of an adventure novel based on the science of cryptography, “The Gold Bug.”

Our first order of business was simply to wait. Sadly, in part, for my own team to arrive. I had carpooled over to the site with Mike Sky and his wife, Bajki, and together, we found the “longest” of all the possible routes to the Mill. And we also had to wait for our British group to arrive, lead by a young woman I only knew online as, Mayogirl.

The Brit’s Team had only about five members, but one of their members in particular caught my eye, and made me smile every time I saw him that day. He was a small lad of five, or six years old, blonde hair and wearing a wool cap with a Pirate’s Skull on it.

I smiled, because every time someone mentioned the treasure hunt to him, his eyes lit up, becoming as broad as saucers and his face took on a secretive gleeful look. He was the very personification of everything we all felt that day. “We were going on a Treasure Hunt!!!

While Josh Czarda explained the rules of the game to us, he passed out among the Team leaders a zippered belt pack and our clue scrolls. Looking in the pack first, I found an interesting array of items. --- A UV Flashlight, a multi-colored decoder disk of symbols and letters, a cigarette lighter, a small mirror, a business card with Josh’s phone number on it and most interesting of all a twenty disk WORD-SPIN® which was in effect, exactly like a decoder wheel invented by Thomas Jefferson nearly two hundred years ago.

Know the correct placement of the numbered disks, align the proper letters, and somewhere on the cylinder your decoded message would appear. The code is impossible to break without the cylinder.

Moving on to the hunt, Josh Czarda cautioned us that there were to be a couple of special details to take note of. First, we were to look carefully, because there was to be one actor hidden along our game path. But, Josh added apologetically, we were to look for a “Man,” not a “Woman,” as one of our clue scrolls would tell us.

Next, there were to be bonus points to be had in the form of several golden coins hidden at different locations. The small Gold coins were worth ten minutes off our over-all-time. But, somewhere hidden, there was one Large gold coin that was worth twenty minutes off. This single coin that might take any team from third place to first place in an instant.

Taking a gold coin from his pants pocket to show us, Josh failed to notice that an extra coin dropped from his pocket and landed by his feet. But someone else did, Victoria, T_Hunter’s sharp eyed daughter, saw it drop. Picking up the coin, she presented it back to Josh and asked him if this one counted?

Realizing that he had just been, “Hoisted by his own Petard,” Josh laughed and said, “Yes, the first coin of the day had been found.” The Race had not even started and every team, except T_Hunter’s team, was now exacted Ten Minutes behind.

At 11:25 Am the race began. My own team consisted of Mike Sky, his wife Bajki and myself, running under the name of “Team Rass-Sky.” A horrible Team name I know, but it was the invention of Mike Sky and it was entered into the Ravenchase log before I could make up any better one. But, I did at least like Mike’s Wife’s name. Bajki, as in Polish it translates as “Fairy Tale”

It had been my intention to run the race with Brittany (a.ka. Flidais) and her friend Laura, who were already missing a teammate, and were running the race under the Team name of “Bert & Ernie.” I planned to offer my services to them and make the Team Name “Bert, Ernie and Gonzo!” ( My personal favorite Muppet)

But, before leaving the camp, Mike Sky hearing I was alone, caught me by the arm, threw his own arm around me and before I could speak, proudly announced that we would take on all comers as a team. ( ***Note to Self: - Consider seriously, taking that night course in Assertive Training.)

Sorting through our clue scrolls, I think all teams almost at once spotted Clue #4, as being related to the very place where we were standing. The Poem spoke of the Island and the Mill and of a history openly written. The rest of the clue was an Ottendorf cipher.

It was almost comical for my team to look up from our clue sheets, and realize that nearly every other team was reading and finishing the same clue at the same time. Everyone knowing exactly where they had to go next; the Historical Marker for the Cotton Mill.

Twenty-one pairs of eyes exchanged glances, smiled a bright warm smile and with a broad sidestep, worthy of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, we all hightailed it on mass for the Marker.

Amid a flurry of pencils and hushed mumbling whispers reading out the sign, the cipher quickly decoded for our teams as, In the Tunnels Below, seek the….”

(Here with apologizes to all, I must remain purposefully Vague about certain details of the hunt. As part of my Gentlemen’s agreement with Ravenchase Adventures, I may write of these hunts, but I am never to reveal too much of the hunt locations, in case these sites are ever used again in future.)

Beneath the ruins of the Cotton Mill were the old water tunnels that use to provide power to the turbines when the Mill was in full operation in 1848. The tunnels, nine feet in height and perhaps forty feet in length, honeycombed the site in perhaps four, or five different places. The only question was which of these tunnels did the clue refer to, and what was hidden there?

For the next ten minutes, all our teams worked like an army of ants, crawling over every inch of the tunnels. At one point I found myself standing and working next to Jacob. Jacob was running the event with JFray and Lady Diane under the Team Name “The Leesburg Seekers” as they were from nearby Leesburg, Virginia.

Jacob and I, it appeared, both had the same idea at the same time, and were searching the dark with our Black Light flashlights, hoping that one of the walls would phosphoresce and reveal the secret hiding place, or at least an “X” marks the spot.

We were perhaps now twenty minutes into the race. My team was already ten minutes behind, due to the gold coin T_Hunter’s team found, and still no team had let out a squeal that they had found the secret location in the tunnels. That’s when everything came to a sudden and grinding rip roaring halt. --- Word came down from above that we were all to stop what we were doing, and return immediately to the big rock.

Arriving on the surface and squinting against the daylight, our teams discovered Josh Czarda standing next to the big rock, and standing next to him, wearing his official Smokey the Bear hat and badge was a National Park Service Ranger, ordering us all to “Cease and Desist.”

We were to abandon Virginius Island immediately and return to either where we came from, or to the center of Harpers Ferry. Virginius Island was closed, and officially off limits for that day. --- What happened??? --- Well… believe it or not, the Klu Klux Klan happened!


A small history lesson for you --- In the early evening hours of Saturday, October 16, 1859 John Brown and his band of twenty-one followers invaded the town of Harpers Ferry in hopes of stirring up and arming a slave revolt with the guns held at the United States Armory.

This raid on the Armory, as history would record, would end in utter failure. Today, some historians have gone as far as to view this defeat, as the first victory for the South and for Slavery, even though the American Civil War would not officially begin for another two years.

One hundred and forty-seven years later, the weekend of our hunt, two days before the anniversary of John Brown’s Raid; the Klu Klux Klan decided to commemorate this historical event by holding a rally in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. But, they were not the only ones to show up in Harpers Ferry to remember.

On this particular Saturday, the “Klu Klux Klan” showed up. The “Protestors“ against the KKK showed up. The “Civil War Recreationists” showed up. (Both the North and the South Contingencies in full Military garb. ) The Mr. Lincoln Returns to Harpers Ferry” pageant showed up. The National Park Rangers showed in force to oversee order, which included the able assist of a borrowed National Guard Helicopter circling continuously over head. And topping off this prominent guest list, and perhaps the most ludicrous of all, considering the circumstances, was the “Love Your Neighbor Festival” being held in the town’s central park.

For a town with a full time population of only three hundred and seven residents, this weekend population explosion was beyond belief. And caught up somewhere in the middle of all these events was our own “Treasure Hunters” reunion group. --- To say that we were “slightly out-numbered,” would be the understatement of the year.

Somewhere out in the Universe, I am sure, The Fates were laughing at us. Because, as the Fates would also have it, my friend Whitney, who pulled together this hunt for us; had also found time to make up a very special T-Shirt to sell, commemorating our “Treasure Hunters” Reunion that weekend.

Emblazon on the front of the T-Shirt, is the same colorful image you see at the top of this report suggesting the time period of Harpers Ferry and John Brown. And beneath it were the words:

“2006 Treasure Hunters


Harper’s Ferry, WV.”

However, on the reverse side of the shirt, Whitney, on a whim, also added a secondary message, that boldly read: Where are the Nuts” The message being a secret anagram for our group members, translating as “WE ARE THE HUNTERS.”

Upon reflection, and in light of our present situation, the message on the back of the shirt now made far more sense “Scrambled,” than it did “Unscrambled.” For an amazing assortment of Nuts in every variety, were now out in full force in Harpers Ferry that day, and that did not even include the normal weekend tourists.

Shaken, Rattled, but not Stirred

After being escorted, or if you will… “tossed,” off Virginius Island by the Park Services, because that section of the park was technically assigned as apart of the KKK’s legally assessed rally area; Josh Czarda quietly told us to regroup and meet him at a place known as “The Point” near John Brown’s Fort. Vowing to, somehow, reorganize the game quickly and save our hunt for us.

Behind us on the island, hidden in one of the tunnels we would learn later, was still the first section of Clue number #5/ This clue was quartered into four sections and hidden throughout Harpers Ferry. Because of the KKK’s Rally, we were now cut off from this first important section.

Hours later, after the hunt was over, Steve, a.k.a. T_Hunter, would sneak back onto Virginius Island and gather up the missing clue scrolls for all the teams, to have as a lasting souvenir of their memorable time spent on the island

As our various groups, found their way off the island again and walked towards Harpers Ferry; I used part of this time to sort out clue #3, which also spoke cryptically about The Point, a place where the two rivers, the Potomac and Shenandoah met. This was the clue that Jacob now apart of Team “The Leesburg Seekers” used my decoder belt buckle I had given him, to break the numeric cipher at the bottom of the page.

Deciphered, the scroll turned out to be a water clue; and the hidden message related to the actor in Red and what we needed to perform for him to receive our next clue, but there was something strange in my mind about the wording of the message. The clue seemed unnecessarily to repeat itself

On the surface, the clue suggested that you take the scroll to where the two rivers met, dunk the clue in the river and the water clue would appear, but there seemed in my mind to be something more to it than that, but I could not put my finger on it.

Arriving at “The Point” with some time to spare, I left Mike and Bajki to keep a watchful eye out, while I took a short “French Leave” from the hunt. I wanted to have a closer look at river banks below The Point’s large reinforced retaining walls. This is where the twin rivers truly came together.

I had time, as a number of our members were still trying to find new parking places closer to town. When I left, Mike Sky and his wife were hard at work on trying to uncover the mystery of the colored cipher wheel clue.

At the end of the walkway, I found a wooden staircase leading down to the water’s edge. I also discovered I was not alone down there. At least two other members from different teams had noticed the wording of the clue, and had come down to take a look at The Point as well.

We searched along the stone walls and under the stairs together for anything that might suggest a clue location, or perhaps a hidden scroll, but nothing very obvious came to mind. Standing at the water’s edge, I check my watch and saw my limited time was up. Giving out a heavy sigh of frustration, and finding nothing more, I headed back.

I would learn later, from Josh Czarda himself, that I had been right in my assumption about this area. There was something more hidden at, The Point. This was the resting place of the Large Gold Coin. A coin which none of the other teams would find. But as I walked away, at one point, according to Josh, I was exactly two feet from the gold coin’s hiding place and never saw it.

Arriving topside again, I have to award credit, where credit was due, Mike and his wife were showing their true worth as part of our makeshift team, by having cracked the multicolored cipher while I was away.

They recognized that one of the most repeated symbols within the message was an “O” not an “E” and with that, the rest of the message decoded swiftly. My appearance was also in perfect timing for Josh Czarda’s arrival, and for us to hear what he had come up with to save our hunt. --- The news was not all that promising.

High Steps to the Gravest of Matters

Josh Czarda, in his short tete-a-tete with the National Park Ranger, discovered that half the town was now fairly off limits to us, because of the KKK Rally. So much so, that the hunt itself might have to be cut in half.

The Park Service actually wanted us to call off the entire hunt; which Josh vowed to them that we would; but in private now, he told us we were going to continue on against the Park’s wishes.

If we were to do so, we would all have promise to maintain a very low profile. We couldn’t make it too obvious that our Treasure Hunters group was still on the hunt. We would also all have to do our very best to blend in as tourists moving about the town, as quietly as possible during our search.

Josh reported that because of reorganization, he was already forced to make a few changes to our hunt. First, he had sent home our actor, the young man in “Red,” so we could stop looking for him. And secondly, he had removed at least one of the other scrolls; whose location was directly in sight of several of the Park Service Rangers on duty. As the hunt was now flawed, extra points would be awarded, if we could at least located and name these areas that had been vacated.

For now, to start the race again; Josh decided to give us verbally what Clue # 5 would have told us. This was the four quartered Clue, which had to be assembled and then decoded, using the Jefferson Cipher Wheel. Our clue #5 would have been the midpoint marker for our game. Now this clue had become our new starting point.

Summoning up all his Poetic best, Josh told us to listen carefully, as we were, “To Seek the Enlighten Cliffs and Unlock the Secrets of the Fires that burn no more…” With those words, the race was once more on; the Clock was ticking.

These words, while poetic, were not Josh Czarda’s actual words, (again apologizing to the reader for being vague,) I knew from the cryptic message that he had given us that the clue was meant to send us across the river to an area of the park known as, the Maryland Heights.

From my early research and studying of local maps, I knew the clue could only be referring to the cliffs above the train tracks. There were a number of trails leading to an overlook above these distant cliffs.

Along these trails, there were also perhaps a half dozen old Military Batteries and other ruins; any one of which could be the location the clue referred to. And, if memory was serving me correctly; I also knew that these trails ran about a mile and a half long in total length.

As the teams started to break up, I assumed that the main mass of our teams would instantly head in the direction of the Maryland Heights. For my own Team, I made the decision that we should try for a totally different direction and location. One, I thought that was far closer and perhaps easier. I was to discover, painfully, how wrong I was. This would be Clue #1, the Cemetery clue.

The Harpers Ferry Cemetery, on the map, in measured distance was much closer. But there was a small problem; it rested on the top of the cliffs above the town. To get to the Cemetery was relatively simple, all you had to do was climb the famous Harpers Ferry Stone Steps which began on High Street in the center of town, and they and a foot path would carry you all the way up to the top.

In actuality there are only forty-four Stone Steps carved out of the natural rock formation of the cliff side. The stairs being carved around 1810, but they lead to a longer stepping path that runs up the entire side of the cliff face of the Harper Ferry Gap.

The setback as Mike, Bajki and I, were to discover was that these steps, and the stepping path, ran at about a fifty-five degree angle most of the way up. And for a distance of more than two hundred yards, or twice of your average football field.

For any reader having trouble envisioning this, or who have never been to Harpers Ferry to see and experienced the steps for themselves; think of The Stone Steps, as being the World’s Largest, and Longest Stair-Master®.

Mountaineering our way up these stairs, our team got as far as the Old St. Peter’s Church, before we lost Mike’s wife. Bajki wheezing for breath, collapsed in a heap on a nearby retaining wall and valiantly, if not weakly, waved us on, as if to say, “Go…(wheeze)…Go On and Save Yourselves…(wheeze)…Just let me …(wheeze)…Lie here…(wheeze)… and Die quietly! …(wheeze -- gasp)…”

Leaving Bajki to rest and recover by the Church, Mike and I continued on by ourselves at a quick forced march, trying to stay well ahead of the other teams. By the time we reached Jefferson’s Rock, I nearly lost Mike as well.

Like myself, Mike was panting and perhaps a just little punchy from the climb. Because before I knew it, Mike was starting to blindly follow another line of tourists, who were heading down a side trail. Running after him and turning Mike about, I pointed out the final staircase to the cemetery above us on our right.

Mounting these last few steps, which if anything, seemed even steeper. I found my own legs finally turning to rubber beneath me. I had to hold onto the fence railing, just for support and to pull myself through the Cemetery gate. It also prevented me from tumbling back down the hillside. On a forced march, this was one huge haul up the cliff side.

You truly need the constitution of a mountain goat, and the brain of an idiot to do this run more than once in a single day; unless you are in Olympic training. I was at this precise moment feeling very old, if not decidedly ancient; but the journey did have one reward for us; Mike and I were the very first Team to arrive at the cemetery. The place was ours alone, and the clues were everywhere. I was once again in my true element.

Our clue told us we were to seek out The Raven’s Stone, not knowing what that was, our only guides were to be the gravesites within the cemetery. Locate and align certain names, and they acted as an arrow pointing to a location somewhere within the cemetery.

While Mike and I search the headstones for the names we needed, The National Guard Helicopter buzzed us several times, checking us out. With my own satchel in hand, I assumed they wanted to make sure we were not snipers carrying concealed weapons.

I have to confess, as I explored the cemetery, I became impressed with some of the ancient obelisks and memorials discovered along our path. One of my favorites that day being a large headstone of the purest and brightest Rose Pink Quartz I could ever recall seeing. Its rough hewn crystals shimmered brightly in the sunlight. It was so simple; yet it was so eloquent in its natural beauty. It was a gravesite, not to be forgotten.

Following our arrow of clues, to one of the far sides of the graveyard, Mike and I found perched in the bushes a large black Raven sitting on a branch. We looked at the Raven, and the Raven stared back at us, never flinching, or showing the slightest trace of fear. The bird was, of course, stuffed and had been placed there by Josh Czarda.

Its head was cocked curiously, Mike and I followed its line of vision and found that the Raven seemed to be staring at one of the near by gravestones. Searching along the base of this stone, we discovered hidden beneath the leaves and grass, a small nest of gray stones, about the size of your fist. These were The Raven’s Stones spoken of in our clue.

Picking one up and examining it, I found that the stone was not a stone at all, but rather a lump of gray clay shaped like a stone and imprinted with a large “R”, for Ravenchase, I assumed. The next step, was pure whim, but it took me in the right direction.

Cracking open the clay slowly; inside we discovered a small plastic vial filled with a red fluid. And this was where Mike and Bajki’s true worth as a part of the team came shining through.

I had mentioned earlier, that while I was away on French Leave, checking out The Point; I had left Mike and his wife behind, to play with the Colored Cipher Disk clue. And on my return, they had cracked it.

What I had not mentioned before, was what that clue told us. It was a cryptic meaningless message, which now suddenly made perfect sense here in the cemetery. Our Clue told us to, “Pour Stone’s Blood on…” (again apologies) a certain side of one of our many clue scrolls. Contained within this vial, was the “Stone’s Blood.

Pouring the fluid slowing over the spot indicated, the page darkened for a moment before a chemical reaction occurred, and the following message slowly appeared:





Mike and I nearly hugged each other, but in this moment of utter triumph for intuitive reasoning and clue solving, there were just one, or two minor problems.

First, for myself, sadly at the time, I was one of the last holdouts against modern technology; I did not personally own a cell phone.

Secondly, the last four digits of the phone number on the page, were blurred and unreadable. The only thing we could logically do was to call Josh Czarda at the number he had given us with our belt packs, and ask him what the last four digits were. Fortunately for the home team, Mike Sky, did at least own a cell phone, but he was also extremely reluctant to use it.

Mike, at that time, was not partnered with the Verizon® “Can you hear me now???” network. He was terribly worried about getting any signal in the cemetery, and suggested that we wait until we got back down inside the town for better reception and call from there.

Now, being a total neophyte to cell phone technology at the time; this idea of Mike’s sounded fairly good, until we walked down as far as Jefferson’s Rock. This is when looking down the Stone Steps again, every gray cell in my body screamed out and demanded that we stop. We were being monumentally stupid about the way we were going about this.

Logically, whatever secret the mysterious phone number had to impart to us; it had to relate to the Cemetery. If we walked down the Stone Steps and called from the center of town, we might have to walk all the way back up the steps… AGAIN! --- The mere thought of making this journey twice in one day was too great to consider. At my insistence, Mike tried his phone from Jefferson’s Rock.

While Mike dialed, I finally took a moment and looked out to see what Thomas Jefferson saw in 1783; when he visited this spot and later wrote in his Diary “This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.”

The view down the gap, especially during this time of autumn’s ever changing leaves, was wonderful and especially beautiful. Not much had changed in two hundred years when Thomas Jefferson himself stood by this rock. This view admittedly, was well worth all the pain and suffering of coming up to see it.

Josh’s phone rang several times before he picked up and Josh chuckled when he heard of our dilemma. He first congratulated us for being the first to find the Raven’s Stones and figuring out what to do with them.

But, instead of giving us the missing numbers, he just told us the phone number was to an answering machine. The message the machine would have given us had we called was... “Now that you have found the Raven; seek and find the (…CENSORED…) for it guards and looks over your next clue.” Mike and I looked at each other, sighed, then mounted once more the final steps to the Cemetery. We did have to go back to the Raven’s nest.

Six minutes later we returned, but this time in triumph. In our hands was one of the missing sections of Clue Number #5. Now made useless by the words that Josh had given us at The Point, but Mike and I looked upon it, as if it was gold.

There is an indescribable feeling you get inside, when who know you have successfully cracked a multilayered Ravenchase Cipher. I can only describe it to you, as a feeling of being “Worthy of the Challenge.” --- And, as in all Quests, “only the worthy will succeed.” --- And that feeling, is a wonderful self-assuring experience for anyone to undergo.

With our hearts lighten now, the journey down the stone steps was much easier. Success and gravity are wonderful helpers to speed you on your way.

We picked up Mike’s wife Bajki, now rested and ready, by St. Peter’s Church. Pausing only for a few moments to listen to the sounds of the Ku Klux Klan rally below. Their rally being broadcasted loudly over speakers in the park below. They were loud, very narrow minded and spewing their twisted views out to a World, that no longer has a place for them.

It still amazes me that this group and subculture still exists in this day and age. Personally, I have no room in my own heart for hatred and bigotry, except perhaps to hate bigots.--- Which I believe is allowed. --- But, I do have room in my heart always for a bit of wit, humor and the secret wish for something discussed the night before to have actually happen.

I mention earlier that the KOA Campsite that weekend was solidly booked at a strange time of the year, the reason being of course because of all the various groups that showed up in Harpers Ferry that day.

Friday night, as Whitney, Brittany, Laura, T_Hunter and the all the rest with myself included, were all sitting around the camp’s fire pit, roasting hotdogs and getting royally snookered; we hatched a small but delightful plan of our own.

It was just the drinks talking of course, and we never did anything; but we all played with the idea of running around the camp that night and seeing if any of the KKK staying at the KOA, had left their Whites out to dry in the clothing line.

We laughed and toyed with the delightful idea of doing their laundry for them, and dyeing all their sheets a Lovely Bright Pink, before returning them to the clothes line.

As I stood up on the hill with Mike and his wife listening, I couldn’t help but crack a wicked smile, at the thought of what these speeches might have been like that day if all the KKK, had been forced to wear Pink that day.

As our team walked down and reached the town again, we decided it was time to go for the major clue that Josh had given us at The Point and head for the Maryland Heights. To get there we had to follow a part of the Appalachian Trail.

I know it sounds strange, but a part of the Appalachian Trail does in fact run directly through the center of Harpers Ferry and crosses the river by the railroad tracks. In the mid-eighties, to help hikers of the trail, a protected footbridge was installed next to the train tracks, spanning the Potomac River and connecting it the Maryland Heights. Our clue, as stated before, told us that we were “To Seek the Enlighten Cliffs and Unlock the Secrets of the Fires that burn no more…”

Crossing the bridge by the railroad tracks could only be done at a snail’s pace, due to the extent of crowds visiting the town that day. At the end of the walkway there was a spiral staircase down and again our team had to be patient and wait, as several people with bicycles blocked the stairs going down. But, at last our team made it to the other side, and we stood at the entrance of the Maryland Heights trail.

If there is any secret to understanding Ravenchase Adventures Clues, it is to try not to over-think the problem and overanalyze. Which is all too often, more easier said, than done. As Mike, Bajki and I followed the trail path westward along the base of the cliffs, I suddenly realized what part of the clue was telling us.

Unlock the Secrets” was a play on words. Running along side of the Maryland Heights trail, was a part of the old Chesapeake & Ohio Canal that once carried river barges hundreds of miles, before they were replaced by modern train cars. We were walking along one of the original tow paths. I might have completely overlooked this clue, until I notice a marker, showing that we were passing by Lock 43. That’s when I saw the play on words; “Unlock”--- “Canal Lock.”

Searching along the length of Lock, we spotted something on the other side, a small open ruin of something that had once been a building. The possibilities were too good to ignore.

Mike and his wife wanted to follow the natural path around and see it brought us closer, or at least to a natural crossing, or foot bridge. I, on the other hand, was feeling far more adventurous, and I simply leapt into the lock itself; on the theory that the shortest distance between any two points still remains a straight line.

Scrambling up the other side, as gracefully as I could; admitting now that I am not the slender reed of my youth, and that my swan like grace, is now more to liken to that of a lame duck, I reached the roadway beyond.

Looking both ways, I crossed the road and push my way through the bushes and weeds to enter the old ruin. Once inside the second part of the riddle made sense to me, “the Secrets of the Fires that burn no more” This part of the message too was a double entendre as well, but within three minutes of searching, I found hidden beneath weeds and rocks, a small clue scroll. Clue Number #6 had now become ours.

Returning to Mike and Bajki, we slipped the blue ribbon off of the scroll I had found, and together we read the clue aloud. Poetic in nature, the clue was not so much a puzzle but rather a poetic description of Harpers Ferry and places found within it.

This was another, the arrow points the way clue, but this time, according to the clue, we were in search of twisted iron and a poem, rather than a gravestone. We needed to return to the center of Harpers Ferry as quickly as possible.

The journey back was almost just as long, but I did at least have an idea of where to begin. Our poem spoke of clocks and I recalled as we came down off of the Stone Steps we had past a clock store at the bottom of one of the streets.

Starting here, we began to follow the stepping stones of the poem. Many were simple, others more cryptic, but finally I spotted something that caught my eye and I called Mike and Bajki to my side to check it out.

The clue spoke of finding twisted Iron and a Poem. What I was looking at was the a ornate iron railing of a staircase leading down to a bookstore. I argued what better place to look for a poem, but in a bookstore. Mike and his wife were not totally convinced, but they allowed me the time to explore this idea.

Entering the store, I found it was one of my favorite kinds of bookstores with small tight areas, crowded to the gills with books of every age and description. I have a bookstore like this in my own neighborhood, and I love exploring among the stacks, for old forgotten literary treasures.

Stopping at the counter, I ask the Bookstore owner where his poetry section might be located in the store and he gladly pointed out the far corner to us. Here I was to discovered that I was partly wrong, but also mostly right about our clue and the store.

It was not the ornate iron railing outside of the store, the clue spoke of, but a forged iron chain hanging from the ceiling above the Poetry section. This was our twisted iron and hidden among the books, was a large ancient book of poems mentioned in our clue.

Opening up the ancient tomb of poetry, Mike’s wife laughed, as we all discovered that the book was hollow and inside was our next clue scroll. We gave the honor of opening it to Bajki to read aloud.

Clue #7 spoke of a group of men, naming them all, but saying singularly none would speak, but all together would point our way. Once there, we must seek out a President for he alone holds the secret of our journey’s end.

Three confused faces looked up from the page and looked blankly at each other. We had no idea what the clue meant, or who the men mentioned were.

Thankfully we had read the clue aloud, because it caught the ears of the owner behind the counter. Looking up from the book he was reading, the store’s owner smiled at us like an all knowing college professor puffing on his pipe and quietly said, he could tell us who the men were…. “If we were vaguely interested?"

He began by relating a lesser known piece of history about John Brown. One that not many people were familiar with. Beside the twenty-one men that rode with Brown that night in 1859; John Brown had been supported and secretly funded by a small group of men. Just up the street were two places named in honor of these men. One of them just might be what we were looking for.

Thanking the gentleman quickly, we vanished from the scene and were off on the hunt again. Halfway up the street, we saw the first business the bookstore owner mentioned to us, but it didn’t seem to lend itself very well to what the rest of the clue was telling us. So we went on to the second location and entered a souvenir shop. Once inside, all we knew for certain was that we were in search of a President. Our conundrum was, this was a gift shop, and it was covered and filled with Presidents everywhere.

There were postcards of Presidents, T-shirts of Presidents, photographs of Presidents, statues of Presidents, both large and small, and even a photograph of the President of the Wurlitzer Piano Company, which sat atop of a old antique coin operated piano in one of the corners. This was an active and very real retail store, and we did not want to break anything that we could not afford to pay for. As I moved about, I began to feel like a Bull in the proverbial China Shop. Breakage, was definitely not covered in our contract with Ravenchase Adventures.

Mike, Bajki and I search among the shelves carefully, and I even pulled out the black light again, in hopes something would illuminate and point the way. But nothing showed up. The answer finally came to me about six minutes later, when I glanced down and saw something on the wooden floor itself.

Bending down, I saw particles and bits of plaster on the floorboards. Rubbing them between my fingers, they crumbled easily and at the same moment it sparked a memory. A memory of Sherlock Homes.

Josh Czarda was being both cleaver and sneaky; borrowing from one of the most celebrated of all the Sherlock Homes stories, “The Six Napoleons.” Our clue had to be hidden inside of the one of the plaster statues of the Presidents; but which one? There were at least several dozen to chose from.

Lifting each one carefully, I inspected each statue methodically. Even as Mike stood by my elbow, and asked me to please be careful. Touching the bottom of one, I found a center point where the plaster was still wet and soft. Fingering it, the plaster broke away and a clay plug followed, dropping the rolled parchment out into the palm of my waiting hand.

Mike was still begging me not to break anything, when I lifted up my hand and presented him the small parchment scroll. Suddenly Mike didn’t seem quite so interested in how careful I was being. He just began to quietly smile at me, and so did his wife.

While I was meeting high approval at this moment from my teammates, I learned later that another team was not so appreciative of the inspired brilliance among its fellow teammates. Whitney and T_Hunter had joined forces that day and were running this race as a team with their individual daughters, Victoria and Taylor.

When their team arrived at the store they too were stumped by all the Presidents on display, until T_Hunter a.k.a. Steve, looked at the statues and recalled seeing ones similar to these mentioned on Ravenchase’s own website.

Grabbing one of the Thomas Jefferson Statues from the shelf, Steve raced out of the store with it, and told Whitney he was certain the next clue was hidden inside of the statue. Whitney was thrilled and instantly dreamed of keeping the statue as a small memento of their adventures here in Harpers Ferry.

These dreams of hers however were short lived, when Steve suddenly hurled the statue to the pavement and smashed it into a million pieces, crushing it all under foot. Whitney told me her jaw hit the pavement at almost the instant that the statue did. Their team had found their clue, but she was never so angry at Steve, then in this single moment, for destroying her trophy.

The scroll inside the statue gave all our teams our final destination; the finish line. It simply said: “Well done! End at the Quartermaster’s Tavern!”


Up to now, Team Rass-Sky had been doing rather well in our hunt. Clues were solved, intuitive leaps of logic were paying off; but there comes a moment in every hunt when all this vanishes and rampant stupidity and abject blundering become the final order of the day.

Back in the store, I had just unrolling the clue scroll in my hand and we knew where to go; The Quartermaster’s Tavern. But, in the back of my mind I was still concerned about T_Hunter’s Team’s ten minute lead ahead of everyone else. His daughter, Victoria, was holding those ten minutes in the form of the Gold Coin she had found. In all our searches thus far, my own team had failed to find even a hint of one of these hidden golden coins.

There was, in my mind, only one way to even out the odds, and that was to go for the extra bonus points that Josh Czarda offered us at The Point. We had to search out the answer to at least one more clue, if we were to balance the scales.

This was my first major blunder. Perhaps this being my first Ravenchase hunt, or perhaps I was still riding high on the crest of my own self-approval, but for whatever the reason, as Team Captain I was making a fatal error. And this was not be the only one.

My first blunder was not immediately going to the Tavern and checking in with Josh. I believe at the time, my fear was that he would hold us there, until the other teams checked-in. My second blunder came even before we even left the souvenir store.

I wasn’t sure what to do with the small statue in my hand. I didn’t want to be accused of trying to steal it, and I was not sure if Josh expected it back for reuse on another hunt. Taking the statue to the front counter I spoke to the manager. As I was openly offering the store manager the statue, the front door open behind me and in walked “Team Leesburg Seekers” with Jacob, Diana and Jfray.

I was caught red-handed, with the statue in my hand, giving Jacob’s team now a perfectly good idea of where to look for their next clue. It was time for my team to leave, and quickly.

Now, had we left for the Tavern and checked in immediately Team Rass-Sky just might have come in fourth in the race. But, the decision to stay out and search for clues was entirely my own blundering fault. Not Mike Sky, nor his lovely wife, Bajki, they simply placed their trust in me, and I let them down.

I knew that Josh had removed the actor in “Red” from our course, Virginius Island was still closed to us, so there was really only one clue left for our team uncover, and that was our History scroll, or Clue #2.

Harpers Ferry possesses several fine museums, and our sheet in turn lead us to one of these. The poem, again cryptic, was a verbal map of the museum and its exhibits, what we were instructed to find was a name, a flag and what ever lay between them, would point our way to our solution.

Again giving credit, where credit was due, it was Mike’s wife that solved this first half of the clue for us. While Mike and I were searching high and low among the exhibits, Bajki found the name we needed and pointed out the correct flag. What we found exactly between these two objects befuddled us all, until we realized it was not what lay between them; but what lay beyond them was what was important.

What we wanted was not even in the museum. It was hidden somewhere a street, or two away. What lay between our two objects was a museum window. It was something this window overlooked that we needed to find.

Racing out of the Museum and down around the corner, I was at least given hope for doing well in the race, as we ran into T_Hunter’s and Whitney’s Team. They and their children were scouring the outside of a building in search of anything that might looked like a clue to them.

If they were still out there, I thought to myself, then there were still points to be had. --- Unfortunately for my Team, I was to learn later that T_Hunter and Whitney had already check-in with Josh at the Tavern, and were now out looking for extra bonus points.

Around the next corner, I was struck by one building that we came upon. It was another smaller museum. Harpers Ferry, for being such a small town, was apparently an important axis point for American history.

As well as being famous for John Brown’s raid, and being apart of the Appalachian Trail, it was also one of the starting points for the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

In 1803 Meriwether Lewis visited Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and its arsenal to obtain on Presidential orders, the guns and hardware needed to meet the unique requirements of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

Lewis remained long enough in Harpers Ferry to designed and have built a collapsible iron boat frame to use on their expedition. I wondered briefly if Jacob from TV’s Team Ex-CIA had seen this exhibit, and I speculated on what his thoughts might have been on the subject. His own history so strangely linked to Lewis & Clark.

In the television series “Treasure Hunters” in an episode entitled, “Bend the Light” Jacob and his fellow teammates had to follow the path of Lewis & Clark, rowing twenty miles down the Missouri River, and then decipher a clue left for them in the secret code used by Lewis & Clark to communicate with President Jefferson. I wondered if Jacob saw this place, as shades of his own past catching up with him to haunt him.

Twenty minutes of chasing our tails, and over-thinking the clue; we finally figure out that the scroll was hidden beneath a flat rock at the base of one of the town’s historical markers.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be the other location Josh Czarda had mentioned at The Point, as being in direct line of sight of some of the Park Service Rangers. The nest was empty. We had found the location, but had nothing to show for it, or even to prove that we were ever there.

At the bottom half of the hour, Mike’s cell phone rang. Just by the tone of its ring, I knew bad news was about to be delivered. I found myself understanding how Team Miss USA felt in Paris, when Lair Macintosh called them to tell them they had been eliminated.

The news for our team, was much the same. Josh was calling us to find out where we were, as every other team had checked-in and were all now waiting for us at the Tavern.

As we trudged up the hill towards the Tavern, just knowing that our team was dead last, was a bitter pill to swallow. I finally understood now what Melissa of Team Miss USA meant, when she bemoaned, “This is not the outfit I wanted to be eliminated in!!!”

She was not complaining about the clothes she was wearing, she was upset that they were not going down in the hunt Perfect.” --- It is one thing to be beaten by another better team in speed, or mental agility, but to lose because of a stupid mistake, was painful. They knew they were better than this, and did not want to be seen in this light.

As our Team stepped out onto the garden terrace of the Quartermaster Tavern, we were met with cheers and applauds, just for making it this far. This was not jeering, or a slight, it was simple appreciation for fellow travelers in this journey we call Ravenchase. And it has always been a unwavering and unyielding Ravenchase Tradition to salute the winners and the losers equally, and alike.

Another Tradition is, as the losers, we entitled to a special award; “Two Free Drinks” on the Ravenchase’s Tab to drown our sorrows and all our mistakes in.

Though I was greeted with love and warmth; it did little to abate my own feelings of utter failure. I was sullen. I was morose. In short, I possessed all the grace and charm of an old disgruntled Bear, with a sore paw and a case of Colic. Not much was going to help with my mood.

Later back at the camp, T_Hunter and Whitney joked endlessly about how bad I looked at that moment. They said they could see the dark clouds forming over my head from all the way across the restaurant, and the weather forecast was for Gale Storms and Rougher Seas ahead. --- God pity the poor sailor out on a night like this.

My mood and my ill temperament aside, if I have to say anything for the people of Ravenchase Adventures, they usually come through with a terrific choice in restaurants to end their hunts in. --- The food was good and, of course, the “Two” Free drinks, did much to soften and comfort my ill mood and helped pull the metaphorical thorn out of my paw. So much so, I was practically fit company to be around other human beings, by the time the final tally and the awards were announced.

The honor of first place was awarded to T_Hunter, Whitney Victoria and Taylor. Their Team coming in with an unbelievable thirty minute lead over the second place winners, Team Bert & Ernie, even though they walked through the Tavern door practically at the same moment. T_Hunter’s Team had won out over, Flidias and Laura’s team by sheer strength of bonus points.

Victoria, T_Hunter’s sharp eyed daughter had not just found one coin, but two gold coins before the hunt was over. Also, T_Hunter, himself had figured out clue #3 and located the young man in “Red,” before Josh had sent the young man home.

The young man in “Red” held the third section of Clue #5 and as T_Hunter had the scroll to prove it. And his was the only team to find it, and he was award another ten minute bonus, for a total of thirty minutes, with the gold coins included.

The third position fell fifteen minutes later went to J15Bell & Sluggy’s Team, closely followed later in fourth place by Team Leesburg Seekers with Jacob, Diane and Jim (Jfray).

But regretfully I have no idea who came in, fifth and six in the race. Whether it was The Brit’s lead by MayoGirl, or DollyLama’s daughter Brittany and her team, I can not say; but I can say with reasonable certainty, I know which team came in Dead Last.

For the prizes, Ravenchase maintains another unbreakable tradition, they always give out absolutely Fabulously “Tacky” Prizes. First Prize was the Golden Flying Pig Award, married along side with a small treasure chest filled with candy and chocolate, which Taylor and Victoria both share their new found wealth of goodies with everyone at the restaurant.

Team Bert & Ernie’s Prize for Second place was awarded, The Silver Art Deco Lady, a statue of a Grecian lady standing next to a bowled pedestal. Rather pretty I thought, the way the gown flowed off her naked shoulder. Brittany tells me Laura still uses it as a candy dish in her home, and as a reminder of their team’s glorious victory that day.

The Third Prize awarded to J15Bell and Sluggy, was The Bronze Urn award. Which from the back of the restaurant, looked to me like an old Funereally Urn. I found myself musing and hoping for the girls sake, that the urn was not still occupied. If it was, it would certainly make it a unique, if not an embarrassing award. But, the girls took ownership of the award with great pride, holding it aloft.

It is an interesting thing to note about the Ravenchase choice of prizes; they all being so Fabulously “Tacky,” few people are sad for long for losing them to another team.

Some I have encountered in my travels, have confessed to being rather relieved in “not” winning, just so they would not have to drag home some of the more unusual prizes and explain them to their friends and family. The greater joy is found in just running the race and being with like-minded friends.

But, as for the Bragging Rights of Winning; these are always something highly sought after in any race. It is something wonderful to hold in your heart. Solving, and winning a Ravenchase Hunt is, I assure you, an accomplishment to take pride in.

Our Party at the Quartermasters Tavern broke up about an hour later; or rather, it simply relocated itself back to the KOA Kamp. Our party did not simply end at the finish line, but continued on well pass the midnight hour. We had other things planned as well.

From our Treasure Hunters groups from across the country, came a flood of gift baskets which Whitney used as a special Silent Auction. One of the baskets held a special treasure in it; a real Cryptex made by the hands of Justin Nevins, who made the Cryptex Artifact boxes for the television series Treasure Hunters.

The winning bid for the Cryptex was won by Jfray. As part of the winning bid, only he and Whitney, who obtained the Cryptex for the auction, would know the five lettered word that will open it.

But if anyone would care to make a guess; I should mention that there are five locking rings, with twenty six letters on each, giving you nearly 12 million possible combinations (11,881,376) to open it. Good luck in that. --- Jim (Jfray) told me that he would personally enjoy watching anyone try to solve the puzzle and open it.

Our Guest, Ex-CIA Jacob, also put in a bid on one of the basket; choosing for himself a basket containing a very special bottle of a super-premium bourbon made only in the heart of Kentucky. Produced only in small allotments. it’s known as, Woodford’s Reserve.

He lost the Basket to a joint bid from Team Bert & Ernie and Whitney’s brother Matt. But, being of a generous nature, they shared the basket’s contents with Jacob and by midnight Jacob was feeling “Very” well and “Very” content with the world.

One of the highlights of the entire evenings festival, which was by nearly universal agreement, was the introduction of J15Bell’s Chili. There were legends were born that night about how good this chili was. And the recipe is a J15Bell’s personal guarded secret. Whitney’s brother Matt at the end of the night wanted to bring home buckets of this Chili when the party ended; it was that good.

Matt was also one of our heroes of the night, as he kept the huge fire pit stoked and burning against the cold frigid weather. But, Matt also did managed get a little over zealous with his resourcefulness in finding firewood.

At least a cord of wood disappeared into the fire pit that night, and when that was gone, Matt began sneaking around the KOA camp and several discarded wooden pallets also wound up in our fire pit. By morning all evidence of his misdeeds had vanished into smoke and ashes.

For myself, still feeling out of sorts from my loss, I took up an special invitation from Team Bert & Ernie, Brittany and Laura. They had invited me to go along with them on a special outing back to Harpers Ferry. It was to join them in taking the eight o’clock “Ghost Tour,” of Harpers Ferry. --- Being a great lover of both ghost tales and history, I found the invitation too great to resist.

Stopping off for a burger at the Harper’s CafĂ©, we joined an eager group of about forty people on the tour. The tour was hosted by Shirley Dougherty, the daughter of the original woman that started these tours many years before.

In spite of the cold that night, the tour was one of the highlights of my whole trip to Harpers Ferry. A secret passion of mine, has always been finding the forgotten and unusual pages of history. And aside for the ghostly tales of Screaming Jenny, and the Phantom Army, I was far more intrigued with the unwritten pages of history that were never taught to me when I was in school.

I was very impressed with the reason why St. Peter’s Church was the one church in all of Harpers Ferry to survive the Civil War. It was due to the brilliance of one man, Father Costello, who raised a British Flag over his beloved church. Both sides of the conflict, fearing an International Incident, if they were to fire upon a British Flag, decided to spared the church from bombardment, allowing it to stand to this day.

During Prohibition, one of the ruins over in the Maryland Heights was a notorious Speakeasy. And in the Maryland Cliffs above, so may illegal stills were being operated that the Chicago Mobs made special arrangements for a Train Tankard Car to stop beneath the cliffs, and be filled from a small pipe line from the flats above. I will leave it to your own imaginations to guess how much Moonshine it would take to fill a Tankard Car, and still have some left over for local consumption.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of history was why John Brown’s Raid really failed that night in 1859. His men had made a successful raid on the Armory and seized the weapons, but there was an interesting fact I learned, which was never recorded in any of the history books I read as a student. There was no ammunition stored with the guns.

The entire town was famous for the manufacture of weapons, but it possessed very little stores of powder and shot. When the townspeople came to defended the armory; many were forced to shoot and kill the raiders with six inch spikes and nails loaded into their weapons.

For anyone planning a visit to Harpers Ferry, I highly recommend making the effort to take The Ghost Tour during your visit. It is well worth the effort. The history was fascinating, and I found myself wishing that I had taken the tour before our Ravenchase Hunt, as much of its history would have been invaluable to me during the hunt.

My evening ended back at the camp, and once more by the fire pit, roasting hotdogs and swapping war stories of the day’s events with my friends, enjoying a well deserved drink. I slept cold again that night, but very peacefully, in my little Kabin #13.

The following morning, Sunday the 15th, at 11:45 Am, I was on the train heading northward back to Philadelphia. I had lost this race, but I also discovered within myself that I was now also hopelessly hooked and addicted on this wonderful clue solving adventure, called Ravenchase.

There would be other Ravenchase Adventures in my future, this much I knew, as I looked out the window at Harpers Ferry and suddenly recalled a line from NBC’s Treasure Hunters series. One spoken by Tonny Brown of Team Brown before their own team’s elimination. I think Tonny best summed up all my present feelings when he said, in a philosophical moment:

The Hunt, is the Hunt

The Game, is the Game

And we go on as we always have…

I had lost this race, but I was not defeated. There would be other games and I would not stop, until I brought home the Gold...

Until the next Hunt, and we all meet again…

I Remain Very Sincerely and Philosophically Yours,

Geoffrey G. Wynkoop


*** Post Script: In the spirit of Love and Fun, I apologize to my friend Whitney, who I endlessly enjoy poking fun at, and who is by the way, a very safe driver and a God sent to all our teams for putting this Hunt together for us all. --- We love you Whitney.

And I will also mention one last strange alliance from this hunt. In July 2008, Laura from Team Bert & Ernie, married Matt, Whitney’s Pyrotechnic brother. I only hope their Love for each other burns as brightly as the fires kindled that night.

Congratulations to you both. – G.G.W.

For Photos of Hapers Ferry and the Hunt just click on this Link