Article by Lilla Szőcs
During the eighties, the world went crazy over more than just pop music, voluminous hair and shoulder pads: a storybook illustrated with incredible paintings had everyone talking. Masquarade by Kit Williams invited readers on a real treasure hunt across the landscapes of Great Britain.
According to urban legend, Williams - who worked as a painter during the seventies - was approached by his publisher to create “something that no one has done before”.
Almost a decade later the realistic treasure hunting storybook that brought Williams worldwide fame was born. The artist hid 15 clues through 15 paintings and rhymes, which according to his promise would lead to fabulous treasure: an 18 carat gold amulet decorated with rubies, moonstones, and seashells.
“I am as cold as earth, and as old as earth, and in the earth am I, one of six to eight.” - This is the first puzzle of Williams’ book, which tells the heartbreaking love story of the Sun (man) and Moon (woman).
At dawn, when both celestial bodies are up, the Moon sees the Sun in the sky, falls in love and turns to dance, to win over the lonely Sun. The Sun is sad, because whenever he comes out, the people cover their faces (and even stop their dances with the Moon).
The Moon, as a pledge of her love, creates a beautiful amulet decorated with the treasures of the sky: ruby, gold, moonstone and shells. She asks Jack Hare, the rabbit, to get the amulet to the Sun, but the rabbit loses the gift during the mission…
This is where the treasure hunt begins in the book published in 1979 - and according to its promise, anyone who pays close attention to the story may find the lost amulet.
The first clue you can see above is a reference to a similarly gloomy love story from British history: that of Catherine of Aragon and the womanizer Henry VIII. Catherine was the first of Henry VIII’s six wives, or as the rhyme goes, “one of six to eight”. The author in this puzzle reveals that the treasure is underground, and its site has to do with one of Catherine’s monuments.
The second illustration depicts the wedding dance of the Sun and the Moon, and looking at their hands (which point at March 21-22) we get the clue when one might visit the monument.
Of course, these clues are meaningless without the following 13 - and as the artist promised, whoever follows the clues can find the treasure, and whoever finds the treasure gets to keep it.
In the end, the treasure was a rabbit shaped, 18 carat gold amulet decorated with rubies, moonstones and shells, which Williams hid when the book was published in 1979 “somewhere on the island of Great Britain”. As an artist, he created the jewel himself. It depicts the story of the book, as the main character Hack Hare rabbit delivers the incredibly valuable gift from the Moon to the Sun (and eventually loses it).
The world was in a treasure hunt craze, airlines started “Masquerade flights” for adventurers.
Some went about metal detectors, while others attempted threats and fraud to figure out the hiding spot of the amulet. Crowds made pilgrimages between the rumored sites, leaving havoc behind on the English countryside.
The story ended in scandal. After three years of competition, the winning reader was Ken Thompson, who was later revealed to have cheated: he cooperated with Williams’ ex-girlfriend, who disclosed the hiding spot to Thompson. Williams tried to reclaim the jewel but it was in vain, since by that time, Thompson had sold it for a fortune and the traces of the amulet were lost. The irony of fate is that for the next twenty years, the author was hunting his own treasure…