Josh Gates searches for a treasure from the book The Secret in Golden Gate Park of San Francisco, California.

The Secret Treasure Hunt Explained for Beginners

No, not that Secret.

October 23, 2019

Are you a fan of impossibly hard riddles? Then you might be interested in joining an elite society of treasure hunters centered around a book called The Secret.

Mysterious painting by John Jude Palencar

Mysterious painting by John Jude Palencar

What is The Secret anyway?

Not to be confused with the popular 2006 self-help book about using the laws of attraction, this Secret could manifest you some real cash. Okay, onto the good stuff.

In 1982, author Byron Preiss published a puzzle book that combines 12 short poems and 12 elaborate paintings by renowned fantasy illustrator, John Jude Palencar.

Paired together correctly, each painting and verse leads to different north American cities, where Preiss, often disguised as a construction worker, went to local parks and buried ceramic casques encased in plexi-glass boxes. The key inside each casque can be exchanged for a jewel - and even more valuable, bragging rights.

According to the book:

"The jewels collectively are worth over ten thousand dollars. The treasure casques themselves are of incalculable value, never having been owned by man or woman." - The Secret

Pretty enticing stuff.

Solve the riddle, find the location of a buried key. Sounds easy.

It's harder than it sounds. Seriously. So far, only 2 of the 12 boxes have been found since the book was published.

That's just 2 boxes in over 3 decades. Preiss may have overestimated how complicated the riddles were. Still to this day, there are treasure hunters dedicated to solving all 12 riddles.

So how were the first locations found?

The first of the 12 puzzles was cracked not long after the book was published by a group of young students in Chicago. In 2004, a second box was uncovered in Cleveland. Then, in a tragic turn of events, Preiss died in a car accident, taking the locations of the remaining 10 to his grave

Alright I'm intrigued, but why is this all coming up again now?

Over the last few years Expedition Unknown host Josh Gates has received thousands of messages with people claiming to have solved The Secret, but one fan just cut through the chatter with an image that made Josh’s jaw drop: the broken corner of a ceramic clock-face. Josh is one of only a handful of people to have seen Byron Preiss’ puzzle boxes in person, and there’s no doubt that this is part of one - causing Josh to drop everything and fly half a world away to join the new investigation

Get a Sneak Peak 00:28

Josh Gates is on the verge of finding a new piece of the puzzle that no one has cracked for nearly 40 years: The Secret. Is this discovery the real deal? Josh is dropping everything to find out in a special Expedition Unknown season finale event.


Josh and Coy Lothrop dig for treasure in Charleston, South Carolina (2006). No box found.

Josh and Coy Lothrop dig for treasure in Charleston, South Carolina (2006). No box found.

Where did the box come from and how the hell did this guy get it?

The puzzle-solver won’t say much other than that he believes he’s located one of the hidden treasures and has part of the box to prove it. Josh is on a mission to find out if the next chapter in the world of The Secret is about to be written.

Find out if the third treasure has been located in the Expedition Unknown season finale event, Wednesday Oct. 30 at 9p on Discovery and the Discovery GO app.

Expedition Unknown | The Return Of The Secret 01:39

The secret is a continent-sized treasure hunt that's been going on for close to 40 years. In 1982 publisher Byron Preiss buries 12 treasure boxes in 12 North American cities and releases a book of enigmatic images and verses, offering clues to their locations: find a box and you recover a key, which can be redeemed for a valuable gemstone. To date, just 2 boxes have been found.

Next Up

The Mystery of the Crooked Forest

Nobody knows what happened to the pine trees in this strange and eerie forest. To date, it remains a mystery.

Meet the First 6 Awardees of The Explorers Club Discovery Expedition Grant Program

Today, The Explorers Club, a non-profit world leader in exploration, and Discovery Channel announced the first class of awardees to receive approximately a quarter of a million dollars collectively to fund their expeditions. Let’s meet The Explorers Club Discovery Grant awardees.

The AuthaGraph Is The World's Most Accurate Map

View the world in correct proportions with this map.

Exorcisms, the Ark of the Covenant, and Ethiopia: The Adventures of Justin Fornal

"There are all different kinds of demons inside of people, some of them go easy, some want to negotiate, others want to fight."

The House on the Rock Is the Tourist Trap to End All Tourist Traps

Here's the thing about the House on the Rock — it's certainly a sight to behold, but it's no museum.

The Eight Faces Of The Great Pyramid Of Giza

This ancient structure has more sides than you think.

Can Coach John Calipari Survive the Alaskan Frontier? The Kilchers Put Him to the Test!

Earlier this year, the Kentucky Wildcats’ head coach claimed he had the chops to go off-grid, so the Kilchers quizzed him on his survival skills.

Tanzania: Beyond the Wildlife

Most people know that Tanzania is home of the Serengeti and an amazing diversity of wildlife. The country is made up of 430 species of wildlife and 17 national parks. But did you know that it’s where 51 million people call home as well?

Can You Name the New Seven Wonders of the World?

Millions of people voted these magnificent places as the "new" seven wonders of the world.

Dave Turin Heads Into the Unknown in Search of the Mother Lode

With the clock ticking and no ground to mine, mining veteran Dave Turin takes a gamble on a remote claim. Find out if his gamble pays off on an all-new season of Gold Rush: Dave Turin's Lost Mine premiering Friday, May 20 at 9PM ET/PT on Discovery and discovery+.