Elaborate treasure hunt stems from San Luis Creek plaque

bmorem@thetribunenews.comAugust 15, 2012 

San Luis Obispo City Councilman John Ashbaugh holds a plaque that a city workman discovered on the creek wall below the bridge connecting Mission Plaza and the Network Mall.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

The mystery surrounding the Point Honda memorial plaque rescued from San Luis Creek as outlined in this column Aug. 9 has a conclusion, of sorts.

As previously noted, the plaque was part of an elaborate scavenger hunt. You can find the images of the puzzle in the posts at the end of the column online courtesy of Rick Castello, one of the merry pranksters who divined the hunt.

Because the plaque dealt with a Masonic Knights Templar engraving and a cryptic message in the Templar alphabet, Robert Bettencourt, grand master of the San Luis Obispo Masonic Lodge, was asked to help decode the encryptions and solve the mystery behind the plaque. This is what he found after exchanging emails with Castello:

The hunt took about six months and several thousands of dollars to create. The concept of the story, according to Castello, was that the players had found a WWII journal at the Nipomo swap meet.

“There were two different people who wrote in the journal, one a man from WWII and another, his grandson, who had recently found the journal. The grandfather had been told a story by an older soldier as he lay dying about a mystical artifact that the older soldier was in charge of and who had hidden it in San Luis Obispo before heading off to WWII.”

The background of the artifact, which gave the holder divine providence and luck, goes into elaborate detail of the Knights Templar in the 1300s and Bishop Louis of Toulouse (for whom San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is named), Valencia bankers, Columbus, Franciscan monks and Shriners. The Honda Point tragedy of 1923 was brought into the hunt when the artifact ended up in the ocean at Honda following a train wreck at the site in 1907.

As Castello told Bettencourt, “The actual scavenger hunt sent people to a storage unit with maps on the wall pointing to the mission, where they went and found clues to help them solve riddles that were written in the journal that led them to the plaque.”

Players had to decode the cipher bordering the plaque and discover that the name Russell had been added to the list of those who perished in the 1923 foundering of seven Navy destroyers at Honda.

The decoded cipher on the plaque dealing with Cora Russell Dorn and her baby was fabricated to move the hunters from the mission to the Oddfellows Cemetery and the Dorn pyramid tomb.

“It was easy to weave a story together about an undying husband and death of wife/child,” Castello said. “There was a section of puzzles around the SLO cemetery that started at the pyramid and led to various graves in the cemetery and then off to sections of the scavenger hunt, including finding articles from both the 1907 Honda Point train wreck and the 1923 naval disaster.”

Cryptically, Castello ended his note to Bettencourt with this: “Now you know at least more than the players did when they started.”

I guess the only mystery, or question, left is: Who has six months and thousands of dollars to spend on creating a scavenger hunt?

Could it be that Castello et al. are in possession of the artifact of divine providence and luck?

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