Made By Humans #5 - See How We Make Our Pirate Maps

Made By Humans 5 - Pirate Maps

This is Mail Order Mystery team member Ilknur working at the crafty task of making authentic looking pirate maps for our Treasure Hunt! mystery. We still call this job “baking” because back when Mail Order Mystery first started we soaked the maps in coffee and baked them in the oven at a low temperature to get that faded, weathered look. Since then we have discovered that air drying works just as well as the oven, but nothing works better than coffee. We have tried a lot of ways to do this, but nothing beats the old school coffee soak. And we continue to confuse our new employees by assigning them to “Ye Old Bakery” to “bake” a new batch of maps.

Treasure Hunt! was the first mystery we created back in 2017 and it remains our most popular. We considered every detail and tried to make everything look as authentic as we could. We knew we did not want to use a handwriting font for the writing on the maps. Even though a font would have made things so much easier, font handwriting is generally too even and perfect to look real. We wanted it to look like it was written by a real pirate. And so we bought a pot of ink and an old-fashioned fountain pen and wrote out that text about a thousand times until we got it right.

One of the most delightful and unexpected outcomes of Treasure Hunt! Is that so many kids believe this mystery is real. They believe they are getting real pirate maps from their long lost pirate ancestor, that a museum curator really is trying to double cross them, and that their long-lost treasure is genuine pirate loot. This was not our intention at all. 

We design Mail Order Mysteries to be fun and immersive story adventures. We even warn people that kids can be extremely disappointed if they discover that a mystery is not real. But it can be so fun to go along with it that many parents cannot resist pretending. We are not sure why kids believe. Maybe it’s because all of the details add up: the authentic looking pirate maps, the pirate ancestor with the same last name as them, the voicemail that belongs to an actual character in the mystery. Or maybe it’s because Treasure Hunt! appeals to younger kids, and they are still at an age where they are true believers and magical thinkers.