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Hidden Treasure - Masquerade and The Best Treasure Hunting Books

Updated on January 20, 2012

In 1979, something phenomenal happened in the United Kingdom, in the shape of a treasure hunting book. Masquerade by English author and illustrator, Kit Williams, created a buzz that has never been seen since in the world of books. Kit has created an intriguing story which rewarded the readers with the chance to find an ultimately valuable prize.

Masquerade was a beautifully illustrated and captivating tale about the moon falling in love with the sun. To express her love, the moon sent Jack Hare to give the sun a beautiful amulet. On his journey, Jack Hare inadvertently lost the amulet and this is where the reader of Masquerade becomes more involved. The book had been designed so that the reader had to solve the puzzle and when they did, they would be able to find an actual jewel-encrusted golden hare hidden by Kit Williams, somewhere in Britain. The prize was worth approximately £5,000 at the time and had been made by Kit Williams himself. The book sold over a million copies at the time it was published and as word spread around the globe about this fascinating opportunity, many people from further a field travelled to the UK in an attempt to find the prize.

The book was a story within itself and even if there had been no prize and treasure hunting element, the book is still a wonderful and intriguing story. Each page is full of decorative pictures of animals; on every page is a border with surrounding text. For those who were interested in cracking the puzzle, it was no mean feat. There were so many red herrings and the clues contained within Masquerade were hard to find. Despite this, Kit Williams was confident that a ten year old child with some knowledge of maths, language and astronomy was just as likely to find the golden hare as an Oxford graduate. The only two people who knew where the prize was buried were Kit himself and television presenter, Bamber Gascoigne.

Books from Kit Williams

Under a shroud of controversy, three years after the book was first published, the golden hare was found. A man named Dugald Thompson, going by the pseudonym of Ken Thomas, sent a map to Williams, stating that he knew where the hare was buried. He was correct but it later turned out that Thomas knew people who had been close to the ex-partner of Williams, who had been with him at the time that Masquerade was being written. In 1988, the golden hare was sold at auction; at the present time it is believed to have been sold on to an anonymous buyer. After this Williams declared that he would not be writing any more books that contained a physical prize. He released a new book in 1984 which had no title; the aim of this puzzle was to work out the title of the book from the clues given within the story itself.

After more than 30 years, Masquerade and the golden hare are back in the spotlight. Interest has been rekindled due to Williams making an appeal to the find’s owner to put it on public display in a museum, so the whole of the world can see it. A BBC documentary and articles about the book have been widely listened to and read, reigniting the passion and fascination with Masquerade. Some of the later editions of the book are being snapped up by those eager to see what all the fuss is about. Perhaps you could purchase the book and try and crack the code yourself!

Masquerade by Kit Williams sparked a trend for treasure hunting books. Some successful publications include Menagerie by Dillon Waugh, Maze: Solve the World’s Most Challenging Puzzle by Christopher Manson and The Whistle Pig by Duck Miller. For those who cannot wait to crack the code of the original masquerade the answer can be found by doing a quick search online; alternatively Bamber Gascoigne wrote a book, The Quest for the Golden Hare, which details the process of burying the prize and the answers to the puzzle.

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