By Tea Krulos

A unique treasure has been hidden in Milwaukee since 1982. The Secret: A Treasure Hunt is a book created by Byron Preiss. Before the book was published, Preiss buried 12 small ceramic treasure boxes (called “casques”) across the country (and one in Canada). He placed ornate keys in the boxes, which could be turned in for a gem. To guide treasure hunters to the right spot, Preiss, with the help of illustrators, created pieces of art that offered visual clues along with a cryptic poem to outline the path of how to get there. To make the story more mysterious, Preiss died in a car accident in 2005, taking the treasure locations to his grave.

The problem is, Preiss hid the treasures of  The Secret a little bit too well. To date only three out twelve treasures have been found– one in Chicago (discovered in 1983 in Grant Park ), Cleveland (2004 in the Greek Cultural Garden), and the most recent was found in Boston (2019, Langone Park).

We know one of the treasures is in Milwaukee.  Visual clues in the art, which you can see below, include a very clear outline of Milwaukee City Hall as viewed from the back of the building and a woman is juggling a mill stone, walking stick, and key (mill-walk-key). Other unfound treasures are believed to be in San Francisco, Charleston, Roanoke Island, St. Augustine, New Orleans, Houston, Montreal, and New York City.

The most popular theory among Secretologists about Milwaukee is that the treasure is buried in Lake Park (though not everyone agrees). The poem’s clue “ascend the 92 steps” seems to refer to a stairway in Lake Park, and the woman’s face in the painting somewhat resembles the stone lions found on a bridge in the park.

The treasure was close to being discovered by TV show adventurer Josh Gates. In a 2018 episode of Expedition Unknown, Gates followed the clues through Lake Park. He received permission to dig in the park ( if you just show up with a shovel and start digging, you’ll get in trouble) but a thunderstorm curtailed  his digging…and he moved on to the next city. What?! Josh, come back! But the cool news is that in 2019, Gates helped a family discover the hidden casque in Boston.

Think you can crack the mystery? Here’s the poem about Milwaukee’s hidden treasure. Good luck!

View the three stories of Mitchell
As you walk the beating of the world
At a distance in time
From three who lived there
At a distance in space
From woman, with harpsichord
Silently playing
Step on nature
Cast in copper
Ascend the 92 steps
After climbing the grand 200
Pass the compass and reach
The foot of the culvert
Below the bridge
Walk 100 paces
Southeast over rock and soil
To the first young birch
Pass three, staying west
You’ll see a letter from the country
Of wonderstone’s hearth
On a proud, tall fifth
At its southern foot
The treasure waits.