The Telegraph | Magical Treasure Hunt 2013

Returning to the matter of the paper scraps, each bearing a print of a telegraph key, which were included with the sheet of music whose song produced the red light in the lantern, I proceed to render the text of each.

Shine the light of death…
The more you make of them, the more you leave behind.

Let fall the light of joy upon…
Lighter than what I am made of, more of me is hidden than is seen. What am I?

Direct the glow of loneliness upon what…
Forward I am heavy, but backward I am not. What am I?

With the light of meeting, go…
 There was a green house. Inside the green house was a white house. Inside the white house was a red house. Inside the red house were babies.

Cast the light of time upon a…
A water broader than the widest lake, traversed by countless souls, and never a one drowned.

Give me the head of Jason, found within Papa Gregory’s legacy.

Our earlier reading from the deranged diary page made it apparent that these were prompts from whatever spirit haunted the telegraph and that we should have further instructions from the telegraph if we could answer the six riddles.

The solutions:

  1. Footprints
  2. Iceberg
  3. Ton
  4. Watermelon
  5. Dew
  6. July*
* This one may need some explanation: Papa Gregory refers to Pope Gregory XIII (“Papa” being Italian for “Pope”). His best-known legacy is moving the western world onto the Gregorian Calendar. If you line up the initials of the months of the Gregorian Calendar, you get JFMAMJJASOND, which contains the string JASON. The head of that string, “J,” is the initial for “July.” 

Answers from the telegraph

We keyed the answers into the telegraph and each time (except for the sixth riddle) received a response in morse code which complemented the first line of the paper:

Shine the light of death…
…opposite five checked catenaries

Let fall the light of joy upon…
…four trees without fruit

Direct the glow of loneliness upon what…
…once was a mess but now is clean

With the light of meeting, go…
…rounding up then up then down

Cast the light of time upon a…
…place of make believe

As for the entry of the sixth riddle, the telegraph machine responded by popping open with a loud click. What we found inside was a little bundle consisting of tiny bones and dust bound up in a dirty, blackened rag.

Returning to the injunctions given for the first five riddles, we could produce but four colors in the lantern at this point, and there was some disagreement about whether any of them corresponded to the lights mentioned in these instructions. But it happened that some of the party recognized one or more of the songs which produced these colors:

The light for Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring (green) was understood first: joy. Then Danse Macabre: death. Then Somebody to Love: loneliness. Finally Victor’s Solo: meeting.

Shining the first four lights

We carried the lighted lantern to the appointed places.

We shone the light of death on the bookshelves opposite a curtain which draped in five places.

We shone the light of joy upon a number of decorated Christmas trees.

We shone the light of loneliness throughout the study.

As for the light of meeting, we found a spiral stair that lead upward from out of doors to a door against the house. Inside, we found another stair, which proceeded to the top floor, but stopping short of the entire ascent, a door opened off of a landing in the staircase. Through the door was another short stair leading down again into a dark and crowded storage cellar. We cast the light of meeting in this room.

In each case there was nothing remarkable to behold except through Remy’s unliving eye: In each of these locations, a tiny light glimmered in response to the lantern light, and those lights each directed us to a single wooden block no larger than a sausage link.

The wooden blocks were routed so that they could be assembled intelligibly, and when assembled, a diagram of a key was apparent on their collective surface. Examining closely, two lines of numbers were faintly visible, one on the upper half, one on the lower half of the routed face of the wood. There was nothing remarkable about them; they only proceeded in numerical order from 0 to 9 and from 0 to 9 again. There were blemishes on the wood, making it difficult to read further, but two other marks appeared, marring some of the numbers: one looked a bit like a raindrop and the other, something like a flower. You can just descry these faint marks in the photograph above.


I have no idea what kind of bones I used in the telegraph bundle. I found them a couple of years ago when digging through a collection of earth and bones to fashion the remains of Freya the Enchantress in the 2011 treasure hunt.

I was pretty pleased with the riddle about the head of Jason. I came up with that one myself, and I thought it would stump the treasure hunters for hours, but they had not found the telegraph riddles long before the solution was pronounced.

In fact the hardest of the riddles by far for our party was the broad water one. I believe that I encountered this riddle in A Shattered Fairy Tale, which Matt Crook (a co-author of the work) read to me. Matt, you’ll be pleased to know your riddle was a stumper.

To my surprise, no one in the party actually recognized the theme from Danse Macabre. In fact, the only one they got on their own was Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring. With the help of a song-recognition app and a smart phone, they identified Somebody to Love.

A heartbreak at this point was that I had staged in such a hurry that I placed the blinking spirit beacons in the wrong locations, so what should have been a fantastic effect was reduced to nothing. The red light elicited no response in the study because the green beacon was hiding there, etc. I don’t suppose a single beacon was placed in the correct location.

Building the telegraph

The telegraph was one of the easier circuits. It’s a box held closed by a solenoid latch, and the program runs on an ATtiny85. See the descriptions of the earlier boxes for orientation. The code is available on my github repo.

Building the spirit beacons

The spirit beacons run on ATtiny85’s. The code is available on my github repo. They’re powered with 2 AA batteries and an NCP1402-5V regulator. Aside from that, they’re just a crystal to govern the clock and a TSOP38238 to receive the IR signal. Oh, and an 850nm IR LED to output invisible light, just like on the box that held the lantern.

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