Monday, 15 April 2019

Hare Clip

I picked up this little treasure for £1 on Tuesday- I've done a few of the puzzles so far, and I think that BP might have recruited me had I been around in WW2. I managed the test crossword in 11min 59 seconds [the allotted time was 12 mins] then spotted that I'd left one clue blank, and had to write in my answer quickly! Puzzles and BP - definitely a book I'm enjoying.
But I was reading this week about another puzzle book, now 40 years old - which is being celebrated with special events this summer. In August 1979, an artist/author called Kit Williams, accompanied by his publisher, and a 'neutral' witness [Bamber Gascogne, then the respected host of University Challenge] buried a beautiful handmade, jewel encrusted hare somewhere in the British Isles. A couple of weeks later Kit's book was published called "Masquerade" [not to be confused with Maskerade, pub 1995, by the late, great Terry Pratchett.] One is a glorious romp involving Granny Weatherwax and co - the other a picture book full of incredibly detailed illustrations which are riddles wrapped in enigmas, leading to a treasure.
The first book tells the story of Jack Hare, who sets out to carry a gift from the moon to the sun. But on the journey, he loses his precious treasure, and it is up to the reader to discover the location. Kit made his hare and buried it secretly one night, with the two men, then the book came out and people were challenged to buy, read, and decipher the clues.
I was busy, August 1979, getting married. I sort of hoped somebody would give us a copy as a wedding gifts. We had some lovely presents [including 14 cheeseboards - despite the fact I don't eat cheese] but not the book. But people were talking about the book, and the first edition sold out  incredibly quickly. Groups met to try and work out the riddles - and they were very complex, with misleading clues - but the pictures were rather pretty. I never had a copy.
But some folk got rather carried away, convinced they'd cracked it - and they dug up public land, private and, historic land...[oh Cadbury's will you never learn? you made a mess of it again this Easter]
But to no avail. Then in 1982, a man called Ken Thomas contacted Kit and said he knew where it was. They went to the spot, and he dug it up. He was awarded the hare - but Williams felt the man had got to the answer by luck as much as by skill and deduction. A few days later, two teachers from the Manchester area contacted him with a carefully detailed, correct explanation. They had actually been to the spot earlier [Ampthill, Bedfordshire, but somehow did not see the box when they dug into the soft earth. Sadly Thomas had won...
Other people felt that it was the wrong hare, and kept on digging in other places, despite Kit's assurances to the contrary.
6 years later, the Sunday Times revealed Thomas was a fraud. His real name was Dugald Thompson, and his business partner, John Guard had a girlfriend called Veronica. She had previously lived with KW, and remembered that he had a favourite picnic spot [near Catherine's Cross in Ampthill] 
Williams was upset at the deception. Thomas/Thompson founded a software company [Haresoft] and marketed a computer game which if anyone solved, they would win the hare. It was an impossible game, nobody won, and the company went bankrupt. He had to auction the hare to cover his debts, and it was sold to an anonymous bidder for £31K. Williams was really upset by the whole business, and became a recluse. The beautiful hare disappeared from public view
In 2009 the granddaughter of the buyer, from the Far East, loaned it briefly for an exhibition, and again in 2012 it was shown at the V&A. This year, the 40th anniversary is being marked in Ampthill by various events. The people of the town are very proud that their community was the place which was briefly home to a much sought after gem.
I'm sad it all went so sour in the end. The full story is here. I don't think you could produce such a venture nowadays. With the Internet, people would be swapping ideas and sharing suggestions and it would all have been solved so much faster.
I hope that the good people of Ampthill are able to enjoy a summer of rich beauty, innocent joys, and happy laughter as they recall 1979, and the puzzling and pleasure of that summer.
Do you remember Masquerade? 
Did you ever try to solve the riddles therein?
You can find the whole solution, here
I'm going back to my BP Crosswords and Codebreaking...


  1. I LOVE this story! What a wonderful idea he had and what a shame it didn't work out the way he wanted. I love this kind of treasure hunt due to my diet of Enid Blyton as a child.
    I have to say that your aside about the 14 cheeseboards has made me and CBC fall about laughing as we are driving up the M11! So funny! And unfortunate! Reminds me of James Herriot and all the toast racks!

  2. We had a copy of Masquerade and loved it! I think I bought it at a school book fair in my teens. I remember us all poring over the illustrations, baffled at the clues which were all so very English and completely out of our Northern Irish ken! I must read the story, so thank you for the link. I remember hearing on the news that it was found, but didn't know the rest.

  3. I remember the story - don't think I knew the ending. I use to love those good old fashioned treasure hunts. Our church did a car one when my girls were little over Huddersfield, Halifax and Brighouse area - we had such fun finding the clues and came second (most cars had 4 adults so I thought we did very well with only 2 adults and two small children).


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