Parent Guide - Treasure Hunt

Treasure Hunt! is a pirate-themed mystery that unfolds through a series of personalized letters, objects, documents and clues. The adventure begins with a letter from half-way around the world, a strange key and a note from a long-dead pirate who happens to be your kid’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather. The characters in the mystery send clues to help kids find their long-lost treasure. But you never know who you can trust, right matey? There are ciphers to crack, puzzles to solve and double-crossing pirates with schemes of their own. Who’s to know when a pirate’s telling the truth, yaarr?

Installment #1

What is in it?
-White invitation size 7” x 5” envelope
-Letter on pink paper (2 page)
-Small key taped to letter
-Aged note

What is happening in the story?
Kid(s) receive a letter from a woman who lives on an island somewhere far away. While repairing her kitchen she discovered a strange key and note in the wall. She looks into it and discovers that the pirate has the same last name as the kid receiving the mystery. She mentions long lost pirate treasure, a curse, and that the treasure must be returned to its rightful owner (your kid).

Note: Kids are not the subject of the pirate “curse”. The curse on the treasure is for anyone who tries to steal it from the rightful owner.

What is there to be solved?
There is a cipher on the back of the pirate note. 

Pirate lore: What is real?
Fun fact: Jellyfish trees only grow in one place in the world, and that is the island from which you receive the letter.

Pigpen cipher was once used by a real pirate, whose long lost treasure was never found.

Need a hint?

The message is written in “pigpen cipher”. The key to the cipher arrives in the next mailing.

Just give me the answer!

I WRECKED IN A CREEK NEAR V… I WALKED UP THE RIVER AND DEPOSITED THE RICHES IN A NEARBY CAVE 

Installment #2

What is in it?

-White envelope 9” x 12”

-Magazine with a sticky note from the editor of the magazine


What is happening in the story?

You receive a copy of a magazine about sharks and pirates that has been in print for over 400 years. The editor is going to look through his records to see what he can find about your treasure. In the meantime, the magazine is full of all sorts of information, clues and the key to the cipher on the back of the pirate note that came in the last letter. 


What is there to be solved?

There is an important clue written in pigpen cipher on page 8 of the magazine. There is a shift cipher on page 8 and a crossword puzzle on page 9. The two puzzles are connected and they shed some light on where the treasure may be hidden.


Pirate lore: What is real?

This mystery is based on two connected stories about real long-lost pirate treasures. (We won’t mention their names here because we don’t want them to show up in a Google search.) One is mentioned on page 11 of the magazine about a pirate who threw a ciphered cryptogram into the crowd before he was hanged for pirating. (The cryptogram was written in pigpen cipher). The second story is described on page 5, about a pirate who left a treasure map and a ciphered cryptogram in his will. His own treasure, which he said was hidden on the Island of Mauritius, and the treasure connected to the cryptogram, have never been found.


Need a hint?

Follow the instructions on page 8 to solve both of the examples of the pigpen (tic-tac-toe) and the Caesar Shift ciphers. The shift 3 is a shift back cipher. The first letter of the message is “W”. When you shift back three letters you get “T”, so your message starts with “T”.

Just give me the answer!

The pigpen cipher says: STUMPY JOE HAS THE MAP

The shift 3 cipher says: TWENTY FOUR ACROSS IS WHERE TO LOOK

The answer to 24 across in the crossword puzzle is: MAURITIUS

Installment #3

What is in it?

-Brown/kraft envelope 6” x 9”

-Letter from archives (2 pages)

-Business card

-Coin envelope stamped top secret with a key inside

-Color map


What is happening in the story?

You receive a letter from someone at the archives. He is concerned that his aunt has sent you some things that she should not have sent to you because they should be preserved in the archives. He asks you to call him and leave a voicemail describing what she sent. He also sends you an important key and a copy of a map.


What is there to do?

You are asked to make a phone call to the archives to describe what you received in the first installment.


You now have two keys and a copy of one map.


Concerns about the phone call?

Some people may be concerned with kids making a phone call to a stranger, but this is, in fact, the point. Kids later learn that they should not have made the phone call, or if they did, that people are not always who they say they are and that maybe they should not have revealed so much.

Please note that the call goes to voicemail. The call will not be answered by a person and no one will be phoning kids back.


If for any reason you are not comfortable with the phone call, you can send an email instead to levisoeur@gmail.com. You will get an email back that says pretty much the same thing as the voicemail would say if you were to call.


Pirate lore: What is real?


The curator of the archives is a made up character but the pronunciation of his name is similar to one of the real pirates that this story is based upon.


Installment #4

What is in it?

-White envelope #10 business sized

-Letter from magazine editor (2 pages)

-Journal excerpt about missing treasure


What is happening in the story?

You receive a letter from the magazine editor telling you more about the strange happenings on the island, and the many connections to pirate treasure. His great grandfather knew your great grandfather, and he sends an excerpt from his magazine dating back to 1735. Your treasure may be real, and you should come to the island to look for it. He leaves a message at the end of his letter in cipher. It seems as if everyone is willing to help you, but do you know who you can trust?


What is there to be solved?

There is a cipher at the bottom of the magazine editor’s letter.


Pirate lore: What is real?

The journal excerpt written by the pirate is a fictional account of the real adventures of the real pirate.


Need a hint?

Shift back 7 to solve the cipher.

Just give me the answer!

DON’T TRUST THE NEPHEW

Installment #5

What is in it?

-White envelope 6” x 9”

-Letter on blue paper (1 page)

-Aged map


What is happening in the story?

You get a letter from the woman who first sent you the old note and the key. She discovered that the handyman had stolen your map, and she got it back from him and sent it to you.


What is there to be solved?

There is a message at the bottom of the map written in pigpen cipher.


Pirate lore: What is real?

The aunt talks about the two separate real life treasures that are described in the magazine from installment #2. One treasure is still buried somewhere on her property in the Seychelles Islands. The second treasure was left by an old Sea Captain to a pirate known as “The Booty Man”. In this fictional take on the story, the pirate was left to your great grandfather instead of the Booty Man and it now belongs to you. 


Need a hint?

The places on the map are “Port Louis” and “Vacoas”, which are in Mauritius. The cipher tells you where to find the treasure. 


Note: Some of the symbols translate to numbers. This is one tiny piece of the mystery that remains unsolved (unless you do more research).  

Just give me the answer!

CLIMB THE CLIFF GOING EASTWARD AND WALK 25 TO 30 STEPS LOOK FOR PIRATE MARKINGS NEAR THE RIVER

Installment #6

What is in it?

-Air mail envelope business size #10

-Letter from police

-Newspaper clipping

-Locked wooden box of pirate treasure

-Aged note and shark tooth necklace


What is happening in the story?

You receive a letter from the police saying that two arrests have been made in connection with the theft of the treasure that is rightfully yours. The culprits are in jail and the treasure is safe in your hands.


What is there to be solved?

The treasure is yours but you have two keys and only one key opens it. 


Need a hint?

You were sent two keys, one by the aunt and one by the nephew. One of them is the real key and one is a decoy to “throw you off the treasure trail”. 

Just give me the answer!

Open the treasure box with the first key, the one sent by the aunt.