Wednesday, May 17, 2017

ABC13 News Features The Secret and the Houston Key!

Houston is quickly becoming obsessed with Byron Preiss' Secret keys. Check out these two new videos!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

New Video Teases Houston Treasure

ABC13's "Hidden Houston" series just put up this short video about the key buried somewhere around town.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Douglas Adams' Letter to Byron

So this is kind of cool. A Redditor found a fax sent from Douglas Adams' to Byron Preiss in a copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Apparently Byron edited a version of the book. I wonder if it was the version I fell in love with when I was a teen.

Fax from Douglas Adams to US editor Byron Preiss
Monday, January 13th, 1992, 5:26pm
Dear Byron,
Thanks for the script of the novel… I’ll respond as quickly and briefly as possible.

One general point. A thing I have had said to me over and over again whenever I’ve done public appearances and readings and so on in the States is this: Please don’t let anyone Americanise it! We like it the way it is!

There are some changes in the script that simply don’t make sense. Arthur Dent is English, the setting is England, and has been in every single manifestation of HHGG ever. The ‘Horse and Groom' pub that Arthur and Ford go to is an English pub, the ‘pounds’ they pay with are English (but make it twenty pounds rather than five – inflation). So why suddenly ‘Newark’ instead of ‘Rickmansworth’? And ‘Bloomingdales’ instead of ‘Marks & Spencer’? The fact that Rickmansworth is not within the continental United States doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist! American audiences do not need to feel disturbed by the notion that places do exist outside the US or that people might suddenly refer to them in works of fiction. You wouldn’t, presumably, replace Ursa Minor Beta with ‘Des Moines’. There is no Bloomingdales in England, and Bloomingdales is not a generic term for large department stores. If you feel that referring to ‘Marks & Spencer’ might seriously freak out Americans because they haven’t heard of it… we could either put warning stickers on the label (‘The text of this book contains references to places and institutions outside the continental United States and may cause offence to people who haven’t heard of them’) or you could, I suppose, put ‘Harrods’, which most people will have heard of. Or we could even take the appalling risk of just recklessly mentioning things that people won’t have heard of and see if they survive the experience. They probably will – when people are born they haven’t heard or anything or anywhere, but seem to get through the first years of their lives without ill-effects.

Another point is something I’m less concerned about, but which I thought I’d mention and then leave to your judgement. You’ve replaced the joke about digital watches with a reference to ‘cellular phones’ instead. Obviously, I understand that this is an attempt to update the joke, but there are two points to raise in defence of the original. One is that it’s a very, very well known line in Hitch Hiker, and one that is constantly quoted back at me on both sides of the Atlantic, but the other is that there is something inherently ridiculous about digital watches, and not about cellular phones. Now this is obviously a matter of opinion, but I think it’s worth explaining. Digital watches came along at a time that, in other areas, we were trying to find ways of translating purely numeric data into graphic form so that the information leapt easily to the eye. For instance, we noticed that pie charts and bar graphs often told us more about the relationships between things than tables of numbers did. So we worked hard to make our computers capable of translating numbers into graphic displays. At the same time, we each had the world’s most perfect pie chart machines strapped to our wrists, which we could read at a glance, and we suddenly got terribly excited at the idea of translating them back into numeric data, simply because we suddenly had the technology to do it… so digital watches were mere technological toys rather than significant improvements on anything that went before. I don’t happen to think that that’s true of cellular comms technology. So that’s why I think that digital watches (which people still do wear) are inherently ridiculous, whereas cell phones are steps along the way to more universal communications. They may seem clumsy and old-fashioned in twenty years time because they will have been replaced by far more sophisticated pieces of technology that can do the job better, but they will not, I think, seem inherently ridiculous.

One other thing. I’d rather have characters say ‘What do you mean?’ rather than ‘Whadd’ya mean?’ which I would never, ever write myself, even if you held me down on a table and threatened me with hot skewers.

Otherwise it looks pretty good […].

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Painting 3 Revealed

A couple years ago I got a tour of John Jude Palencar's studio. Brian Zinn, one of the men who found the Cleveland key, noticed Painting 3 in the background of some video I shot there and wondered if the original had more detail that what was printing in the book. He was right. As you can see from this screen shot, there is much more detail around the borders. I wonder if you might find some new clues there...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Secret on TV in 1983

Here's some classic footage of Eric Gasiorowski, Rob Wrobel, and David James, from local WLS-TV in Chicago, after they dug up one of Byron's keys in Grant Park in 1983.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Chicago Key

 Check out this new clip from an earlier cut of The Secret of Byron Preiss!

Eric Gasiorowski and Rob Wrobel take us to Grant Park and reveal the location of the buried key they discovered in 1983.

Monday, February 20, 2017

New to the Adventure? Start With These Videos.

YouTuber "DJ Keep Calm" has an excellent set of 4 videos dedicated to The Secret and the search for Byron's lost keys. You'll find links to the rest in the information posted on the first one, here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

What the Casques look like.

Here's a nice shot of the casque found in Grant Park, in 1983. There are 10 more out there, waiting to be found!

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Original Goonies

It took a year for the first of Byron's keys to be found. But in 1983, three kids from Chicago - Eric Gasiorowski, Rob Wrobel, and David James - dug a big hole in Grant Park and unearthed a plexiglas cube, inside which was an ornate casque with a ceramic key, inside.

I met with Eric and Rob, in Chicago, in 2014. Along for the adventure was my friend, Charles Moore (who was with me back in 2005, when we knocked on J.D. Salinger's door). After we poked around Grant Park, Eric and Rob took us to Milwaukee in search of another key.

This is a clip from an early cut of our documentary, The Secret of Byron Preiss.

Friday, February 3, 2017

A Grand Adventure Awaits!

Somewhere out there, right this minute, in some dark corner of a public park within the borders of the contiguous United States and Canada, are 10 ceramic keys that were buried in 1982. Each key, when found, can be turned in for a real gemstone worth about $1,000. The clues to finding the keys are hidden in the details of 12 paintings and 12 verses that appear inside an old book, The Secret: A Treasure Hunt. Do you have what it takes to find one?

I was eight years old when I found a copy of The Secret: A Treasure Hunt at the Bedford library, outside Cleveland. This would have been in 1986, in the dark days before the Internet, when it was impossible to simply Google the book to see if the keys had been found. I figured they'd all been dug up, already - or would, before I turned 16 and could drive off in search of them, myself. And so I forgot about it for many years.

Flash forward to 2014. I was working as a crime writer, finishing up research for a book called True Crime Addict, about my obsession trying to solve the Maura Murray case. I desperately wanted to leave true crime behind forever and so I began looking for an unsolved mystery that might be fun to explore for once. Maybe even something I could share with my son. And then I remembered the book I found when I was his age.

I learned that the hunt was still on! In fact, only two of the keys had ever been found. The only person who knew the exact location of the buried keys was Byron Preiss, who died in a tragic car accident, in 2005.

Since then, I've traveled across the country in search of these damned keys. I've dug holes beside the Fountain of Youth, poked around the lost colony of Roanoke, explored San Francisco and Milwaukee, and got lost on Staten Island. I've also gotten to know some of the people close to Byron - the artist, John Jude Palencar, for one - as well as Byron's family. Learning about Byron's legacy has made me a better father. And the adventure has opened my eyes to great, beautiful world around us.

I have much to share with you, in 2017. I have completed a documentary, The Secret of Byron Preiss, with Low Spark Films, which we will submit to festivals later this year.  And there are plans for a sequel to Byron's book, as well.

Check out the trailer!

For now, I wanted to share the basics with you. On this site you can explore the puzzle paintings and verses. You can also learn about the history of the book and find links to messageboards devoted to theories about where the keys might be found. The book is available in Kindle format as well.

Feel free to share your own theories in the comments sections.

If you have a possible solution you would like to share with the community, please contact me at so that we can Skype about it.

In the coming weeks, I will post interviews and clips that will shed more light on the story and reveal new clues that lead to the locations of the buried treasures.

For those who have obsessed over this book for years, we look to you for guidance and help. Please remember, this website is a fresh start for people new to this mystery, so be kind when we throw out some bone-headed new theories.

Good luck, everyone! And have fun out there!

-James Renner