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Happy Holidays Musea Readers! ! This issue is our annual Musea Christmas Story. Take a rest from your busy schedule and find out what a series of treasure maps leads to. I wish you all a great Christmas season and an even better New Year in 2015.
See you then - Tom
HAUNTED WITH JOY
1 - The First Step
Betsy: (leaning on the padded arm of her dad's easy chair) I'm bored.... so is Ronny. What can we do?
Dad: How can you be bored? We just moved into this gigantic Victorian Mansion (as he sweeps the back of his hand from left to right) filled with empty rooms. We're in a new town, new neighborhood, with new people everywhere. How can you two be bored?
Betsy: Don't know...
Ronny: (joining his twin sister) ... But we are!
Dad: Well I'm not. I've got writing to do, accounts to settle, contracts to sign, reading galore, and all that has to wait when any of the tradesman come, or the moving van gets here.... Have you asked your mom if she has something for you to do?
Ronny: She's next.
Dad: Got any good books to read?
Betsy: We've finished all our mysteries. Do you think there's a library nearby?
Dad: Mission one - find out!
Dad: Find out!
Betsy Oh bother! (the twins headed for the kitchen).
The Watkins family had struck it rich. He, Horace, had devised a computer program and application that turned rough drawings into architectural level drawings. When it hit the market, it hit big; and everyone from housewives to hotel billionaires began designing their own skyscrapers, kitchens, barns, and even spaceships!
He and wife Mary went from bungalow in the suburbs, to dream house in the tony part of their fast growing, mid sized, Texas town.
Their new Victorian home was huge and situated on a sizable lot - specially for such a major city. It was painted deep purple red ("What a Maroon" teased the twins), with a wrap around porch, lots of gingerbread trim, and near the front door with its stained glass window, a dinner bell with a low long lasting tone. Rumor had it that it was slightly haunted - just enough to entice buyers, not scare them away. The former bachelor owner, who lived with his spinster sister, was known to be somewhat eccentric and liked to collect bugs among other things. What cache! What charm! What fun!
He and she, being in their late thirties, having a family, and willing to fix up - loved it.
When they showed it to the twins for the first time they said:
Betsy: Is this our school?
Ronny: What part of the house is ours?
2 - The Antique Clock is Wound Up
Horace and Mary were having after-dinner coffee. The twins had been excused and had gone outside in the twilight to collect fireflies in a jar.
Mary: We've got so much to do this summer. When the van gets here it will be nonstop.
Horace: Yeh I know. Catch your breath now.
Mary: But the kids are bored with all this. They want to help but I worry they'll just get in the way of the workman or just end up in front of a computer.
Horace: I've been thinking of that too. They love mysteries, and they love their computer games....
Mary: I think I know what you're thinking - summer camp! Well not this year. I want them around here till school starts. It's their first year at a new school.
Horace: Actually I was thinking of something else. There is a very creative guy that works for me. And he might just be perfect to help us set up a mystery.....
Mary: But not too easy. They're very smart - even when you're not watching!
3 - The Postman Passes By
When the postman brought down the mailbox lid with a clank, and passed the open screen door, the kids responded like Pavlov's dog, got up from reading, and went to get the mail. One envelope stood out form the others. It was addressed to 'The Watkins Family or Executor", with small printing, no return address, and the letters on the back F-Y-E-O.
Betsy: What does FYEO stand for?
Dad: For Your Eyes Only.
The kids watched their father read the cover letter, then look over the other pages until he got to the back that had "Top Secret" stamped in big red letters.
Betsy: What is it?
Dad: Wait a minute, let me finish. (Finally after he seemed to reread all of it)
I don't know if this is a Wild Goose Chase, A Red Herring, or the Real McCoy; but this is a letter from a lawyer named Jaggers for his former client, the previous owner of this house, Claus Danby. It seems to be clues to a treasure hidden in this house, bequeathed to the next owner!
Mom: (Mary walked in from the kitchen) Treasure Map? Let's see. (She looked at it reading some of it out loud) Claimant ... pursuant ... paragraph 3 ... (Picking up the envelope) No return envelope either - that's strange.
Dad: Well it could be something....
Mom: Let the kids look at it. There is a page of clues. Maybe they can figure it out.
Ronnie grabbed it and went off like a rocket, with the letter and his sister trailing in the breeze!
4 - The Terms
30 minutes later the twins came back with some words underlined.
Both: We don't know what these mean.
Mom: Well you've got to learn the lingo. I figured this would happened. Before you can understand the meaning of the clues, you've got to.... well we're going to give you a detective test.
Ronny: What is that?
Mom: Your dad and I found this list of detective terms and people on the net. You're going to the library today anyway. While you're there, go to the reference section or go online and figure out the words.... And till you pass the test (yanking the clues from them) I'm holding the clues hostage!
Terms: FYEO, chalk outline, the perp, rap sheet, MacGuffin, 'Purloined Letter', cipher, MO, APB, powder burns, calibre, rookie mistake, Miranda Rights, Big House, bug, microfilm, the prisoner's dilemma, onion writing, DNA, ransom.
People: Sherlock Holmes, Edgar A. Poe, Columbo, Scotland Yard, Nancy Drew, FBI, Agatha Christie, The Shadow, Perry Mason, Hardy Boys, Philip Marlowe. D.A., Charlie Chan, Clue (the board game).
While the kids were putting on their backpacks and getting on their bikes:
Ronny: Do you think this is a real treasure or something Mom and Dad are doing?
Betsy: Pretty sure it's them; but I want to find the treasure.
Ronny: I want to see those clues!
The Detective Test Sheet took longer then they thought it would. It was almost dark when they got back home.
Mom: We're going out to eat. No time for clue hunting yet.
After the meal, they showed their research to their parents. Each took one page.
Dad: OK on terms.
Mom: OK on people. Now can we see your checklist for equipment? (Both kids looked puzzled). Before I can give you these clues you'll need to be prepared. Just so happens we have to stop at the Buzz Mart on the way home. We can get anything you need.
The store cart began to fill up: 1 flashlight, 1 multi blade pocket knife, 1 pocket notebook and pen, 1 measuring tape, (you've got your cell phone and it can take photos so we don't need that), box of white chalk, 1 compass, one small shovel with folding blade, and to top it off two identical brown caps with long brims.
When they got home, they asked if they could have the clue sheet.
Dad: Sure, but it won't do you any good tonight. See the first clue. You have to wait till 'dawn's shadow' shows you the way. (He pointed to the top line). See the first clue?
Betsy: Ronny what time is sunrise tomorrow.
Ronny (checking his smart phone) 6:30 a.m.
5 - Clues: Where Are They Taking Us?
Dawn's Shadow / from the oak on the lawn/ lands on the side/ of the mansion to start/ Go 3 yards/ out from the house/ where the sun meets shade/ chalk this spot /// Travel true East / if you dare/ and 3 yards longer/ what is there?/// (Eight clues later, they had one to go.) There is no lock/ in the dirt/ but what there is/ is opposite///
Betsy: Whatever is in the dirt is the 'key' to the problem.
They used their shovel to dig a hole in the grass. Nothing... nothing... clank! They hit a rock, uncovered it, and pulled it out of the hole.
Betsy: Maybe it has gold in it. Maybe gems? Maybe a message inside it!
Ronny: 'Rock' is opposite of 'Lock'? No that doesn't make sense. Bets, it's just a dirty piece of concrete. He tossed it aside. Anything UNDER it?
Betsy: (digging) A string (she pulled on it) and tied to it a KEY!
6 - Serpentine Puzzles
Next week, another letter from lawyer Jagger, more clues, more puzzles:
The key, you have found/ Well good for you/ So here's the next/ Round of clues./
Now look at that/ See where you are/ back to your own / big front door/
Knock 3 times/ be polite/ See the path/ where you climb///
The clues had them going in a serpentine manner, up and down the stairs from floor 3 to 2, to the basement, and back. How many rooms on the 2nd floor/ Multiply by 2 and no more/ Descend that many and see where you land/ Look for a lock/ for the key in your hand ///. They found it. The key on the string, fit the small door under the stairs. It was filled with boxes and papers.
Ronny: It'll take all day to go through these? There's ten taped packing boxes here!
Betsy: Wait... Look there is a 'purloined letter" in plain site. (Betsy snapped up a handful of faded papers stuck on a pin. The top was an envelope. She opened it and found a dvd labelled '???”. And under it, Not to be viewed until the tenth.
7 - Cat and Mouse
A week later, they played the DVD. It opened with a dark screen. Voice over said, "Jaggers here. As pursuant to the will of Claus Danby, I address this codicil to the new owners whomever they may be this year of our Lord.... (the scene lit up showing the room under the stairs) You are here / listen and learn /The FULL MOON rises / through the elm / into a high window / on the twelfth / It roams through the house / and lands on a door / open it up / to learn some more///. Twins were frustrated. They had to wait days!
The twelfth: They found the door, but no clue until Betsy ran her hand along all the edges of the door. On the top edge there was a long string of narrow paper taped to it that read: Next week you enter/ but not till then/ you're getting very close / and about at the end/ All this week / your job to do/ is to look for a key/ that's on the move / Like a mouse / in the house/ bells an enemy / It's your turn / my dear friends/ FIND THAT KEY!
8 - Red Herring
Where were the kids now? Mom walked in and saw them on top of a chair, with the back door of the grandfather clock opened, and a screwdriver in Ronny's hand!
Mary: (yelling) What are you doing? Stop!
Betsy: But the clue said mouse - as in mouse ran up the clock...
Mary: That's an antique clock that WE bought for a lot of money. It’s FRAGILE - and it is NOT a clue! Get away from there!
9 - Crystal Clear
"Key that's on the move"? The twins were getting nowhere, and it was the 3rd day of detective-ing. They were sitting there going over their notes when they heard a 'ding, ding, ding?' They looked up and saw the cat, Steamboat, with a key tied on his collar!
The cat's been belled by the mice like in the fairy tale! (But where does this key fit?)
Betsy: I've been thinking. The only place we haven't been so far, is the attic... Let's just see if the key fits there.
It did! The door was stuck. It took both to push it open. It creaked, then quickly gave way and flew back hard, hitting the wall with a loud smack.
They climbed the last stair into the attic. Some dust was settling. The attic was all one room, a vast space, with a bank of small windows on one side.... But nothing there except creaky boards... and - they soon found out - a piece of paper nailed to the back of the attic door! It was crinkly, looked like it had been starched, and was thick like parchment. But it was also blank! ....The twins looked at each other and yelled, "Onion writing!
They raced to the kitchen, lit one of the burners on the stove, and passed the letter lightly across the flame. Letters began to appear....
10 - Both One Letter and Many Letters
The message over the flame began to appear. But there were no words only the letter "Z" scattered across the page.... That was it.... Nothing more....
Ronny: Least it didn't say 'Nevermore!" (Later at the foot of the stairs, thinking out loud) 'Z's somehow mean sleep - catching some 'Z's. That's a pretty vague clue though.
But they both had learned that the obvious was often the best choice - or at least the first choice to start with - so 'Z's = sleep = bedroom. But who's? The owner, OK. But which one? He had the master bedroom as an adult when he inherited the house from his parents, and a small tiny one growing up as a child.
Start with the big one.
It was not only empty, but a wall had come down in their parents remodeling plans, that then joined the master bedroom to another room for more closet space and to make way for another bathroom. There was workmen stuff there, but no treasure.
Danby's kid's room looked more likely. It was on the top floor, near the end of the hall, with an outside wall. They went in and closed the door behind them.
Ronny: OK let's start with inventory. Ready to write. (Betsy read off what she saw beginning with the wall to the left of the door).
Betsy: Not much. One four poster, iron, bed, in the middle with big wooden knobs on the posts. One mangy sagging box spring. Be careful when sitting, sharp wires sticking up... and it squeaks.
Ronny: What else?
Betsy: That's it. Note what's not here: no rug, no furniture, two outside windows, no shades, they look onto the back lawn, peeling wallpaper - cream color, probably originally white, some square places on the wall that are lighter and probably once held pictures, one other door - a closet? Worth investigating. (Ronny stopped writing and pulled open the closet door, both went in. Empty except for two clothes rods - one on the left and one on the right.)
Ronny: Do the wall test:
Betsy: Ready to write? ... Left wall (knock knock) - solid wood. Back wall (knock knock) - solid wood, Right wall (knock knock) NOT THE SAME! Sounds hollow!. Magnifying glass test. (Ronny got out the magnifying glass from their pack. He examined the wall, while Betsy focused the flashlight on the spot.)
Ronny: A seam! A seam! This is a door! (He started at the floor and slowly went up the seam in the wood.)
Betsy: See if you can find a lock, or a doorknob, or a release, somewhere.
While Ronny was looking, Betsy rested her free hand on the clothes rod and casually pulled down on it. There was a click and that end of the rod began to fall. She thought she had broken it off and grabbed for it, to keep it from hitting Ronny on the head. She had to let the flashlight fall to free her other hand, and the closet turned dark...
But the rod did not come off! It was the hidden switch that opened the secret door! The seam that Ronny was looking at, was the hinge side of the door!
Recap: Hall - to bedroom - to closet - to secret room... This was getting good.
They both barely fit in the inner room, but it was empty too ... except for one thing attached to the wall - a ladder!
Ronny: Hold the notebook, I'm going up. (The third rung splintered and broke apart with a crack.) Easy does it... There's a trap door up here! (At the top of the ladder was a trap door and a sliding bolt to open it. Ronny had some trouble holding on to the ladder and pulling back the rusty bolt at the same time. It wouldn't budge. ) Hammer! (Betsy handed him their tack hammer. The 3rd try worked. The trap door opened!)
11 - Open Sesame!
Ronny climbed up into the dark room.
Betsy: I'm coming up ... what do you see?
Ronny: Dark ... one window with musty curtains, some light,... FURNITURE, a hideout, a secret clubhouse! This is it - a secret attic! We found the treasure!
(Betsy followed up. They opened the window. Light poured in and filled the room for the first time in years. Now they could see. Stuff everywhere!
When Betsy made it up the ladder, she closed the hatch, and brushed the dust from her hands. )
Ronny: Inventory time. We need photo documentation too.
Betsy: Inventory: Room, size ... 10'x6' (secret attic room that tops the bedroom and closet below), 1 window, 2 falling apart, brown curtains, looks out on the backyard, 2 outside walls, 2 inside.
Ronny: This must have been walled off from the big attic!
Betsy: It sure wasn't on the house plans! Let's keep going!
Floor, creaky boards, one trap door exit. Lights, none. Furniture includes (from entry left, going clockwise) outside wall: Comfy padded green chair and 1 pillow with ships on it. BIG 5 drawer dark wood dresser: top drawer has two half drawers, the others have all one big drawer. Contents top drawer left, papers, envelopes, etc. Contents top drawer right, papers, envelopes, etc. 2nd drawer; fancy glass displays of mounted bugs, spiders, some moths and butterflies. 3rd drawer: train set and track- see if it works. 4th drawer: blanket, blanket, and 1 set marbles. (Moving to the next wall - the one with windows) Outside wall. Window with curtains. At base a rolled up blue rug.
He must have rolled this out once he was up here and the trap door was closed. (They unrolled the rug and it neatly covered the middle of the room)
3rd wall: one wood desk, with one drawer, and one hard back, soft cushioned, small desk chair. Inside drawer: odds and ends, too many to list, stuff boys would collect... 4th wall. Empty except wall map of South America, Amazon region...
Ronny: But what is the treasure? There aren't anymore clues....
Betsy: Something here... something in these things.... somewhere....
The kids decided to first tell their parents that they'd found the secret room, then have their lunch, and then come back and begin going through everything.
12 - What Secret Room?
Betsy: We found it!
Dad: Great! So how did you determine which of the 4 it was?
Ronny: Four what? No we found the secret room filled with Danby's treasures!
Mom and Dad: What Secret Room!!!
13 - The Dust Settles, Motes in the Sunlight
Gears switched. Turns out the secret room was not the treasure intended. Horace and Mary went up with the kids. Dad didn't dare try the broken ladder and he didn't want the kids climbing up the old one, so he got one left by the painters and leaned it against the wall. He barely managed to squeeze through the trap door, and yelled down to Mary,
Dad: Honey there's a hidden room up here! Danby's parents must have walled off part of the attic for the boy! What a find!!! There's all kinds of things up here....
14 - Treasure This Most of All - The Final Act
What the kids had found was not only the playhouse of a rich kid, but his collection of precious things. As a grownup - though value is in the eyes of the beholder - nothing in the secret room was of great monetary worth - though stamp collectors valued the stamps, toy collectors valued the train set, map collectors valued the Amazon Jungle map, etc.
The only true value they found was in one of the sealed wood boxes in the dresser drawers. Among the display cases of bugs, spiders, and moths, was one that had something different. When opened there was an envelope with papers, and under it, behind a tinted green glass, a stuffed red bird. No that's not enough information. It was a red RAVEN, the only known raven with 90% red feathers to have ever existed!
As the family shared reading the papers from the envelope, real winter birds sang outside, and snow began to fall.
Postscript: A Home for the Raven
The bird was valuable. Claus Danby knew that. He also wanted to will his, one of a kind, stuffed, bird to the Natural Museum up the street from the mansion. But he hated the director, Benzel Norse. Hated him with a great passion and attached a will proviso - given to his real lawyer, not Jaggers - declaring same:
I will the Red Raven to the Natural Museum of history on the day after Benzel Norse is dead. If I out live him, I'll see it on display. If he outlives me, he NEVER WILL! - signed Claus Danby II.
Christmas vacation for the twins. The family took an afternoon to visit the natural museum and see the 'Worlds only 'Red Raven' on display. It had its own case. It looked as if it had finally found its way home.
4000 Hawthorne #5
Dallas Texas 75219
AACA Member #1
Musea Annual Christmas Story - Issue
Musea #194 Nov/Dec/Jan
(c) Tom Hendricks 2014
Photo Caption: Rich Kid, Danby Clause. Photographer - unknown
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