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Author: Golden Owl Hunter

NEW The Secret Notebooks (4th edition 2019)

A new edition of the Trail of the Golden Owl book was announced on September 16, 2019 via the Rochefort Museum of the Golden Owl website. The book, written by Michel Becker, offers insights into the development of the Golden Owl treasure hunt.  The book is available for sale for € 39.95, and I’d recommend buying a copy if you’re serious about this hunt and speak French.

The book includes an early version of the clues, with a very different theme. The Hunt of Father Méhus is about a quest for a golden egg. The theme was changed to an owl following discussions with the game’s backers as golden eggs were connected to Faberge.

Becker also presents two ‘intermediate’ clues, created between the egg version of the hunt and the final published clues.

The early versions of the clues reveal subtle differences that might hint at a solution to the final puzzle. They are almost identical to the Golden Owl clues, but have a few changed visuals and words. The book also contains the instructions written for Becker to create the art, these instructions could show the emphasis we need to place on the visuals.

The early clues list the colours that would be shown on each page, green, blue-green etc. This was later changed to the colour wavelength numbers we see now 530, 500 etc. This is because the colours couldn’t be printed exactly accurately, and using the numbers make this element of the puzzle more solveable.

The first draft of the clues

Here are the new clues (translated to English) with the key differences noted. I’ve listed them in the acknowledged game order.

Clue 1 B enigma, THERE IS NONE SO BLIND AS THOSE WHO WANT TO SEE

There is none so blind as those who want to see.

1 = 530
3 = 470
5 = 600
7 = 420
9 = 650
11 = B

Notes for illustration: A rainbow on a black background on the left, with all the colors blending on the right to produce white.

Differences from final version: The numbers are the same as in the final version, but here we find the addition of 11 = B. Presumably B=blanc or white.  Does this suggest the game order and then returning to the B enigma for the super-solution? The illustration notes are followed, but with the addition of a statue.

Clue 2 : 530 enigma, OPENING

Opening

My first, first half of the half of the first age,
Precedes my Second and Third, seeking their way.
My Fourth is inspired, my Fifth is in rage,
But, without protest, follows my Fourth and the roman alpha.
My Sixth is hidden at the limits of ETERNITY.
My Seventh, standing, spits his venom.
To find my all, just to be wise,
Because the Truth, in truth, will not be a Devin’s affair.

Notes for illustration: A sign marked ‘13469696’ pointing to a rooster. 

At the top of the page is the instruction for the colour. ‘4 – sheets. Sheet green.’ Possibly Max might have wanted the whole page coloured green? The 4 is a bit of a mystery, perhaps he planned to print this page in fourth place in the book? It was eventually the fifth page. 

Differences from final version: The riddle seems to be exactly the same, and spells out Bourges. However the illustration direction is quite different, it says, ‘a sign marked “13469696” and pointing to a rooster.’

In the next version of this clue Becker is told to draw the following, ‘A rooster (the symbol of France) stands in the middle of France – its legs are up to the city of Bourges.’

In the published book’s final illustration it is the rooster’s eye on the centre of France not its legs. The number sign is gone completely. Presumably, discussions with Becker led Max to agree to an illustration suggesting ‘Bourges’ but with the french cockerel positioned differently.

Some people think the  13469696 number, multiplied by the game measure, suggests a thousand leagues, and Bourges location in the middle of France. 13469696 * 0.33 = 4445 m = 1000 leagues = “middle”. A problem with this theory is that we are given this clue before we’re given the game measure… BUT, we have to remember this early version was to sell the idea to publishers. Max hadn’t finalised everything, and might he even have manipulated the text to make it appear that the illustrations were more important than they really were?

Clue 3: 780 enigma, FIRST STEP

There is only a first step.

Where you want,
By the nag and the coachman.
But where you must,
By the compass and the foot.

Notes for illustration: A compass whose circumference is exactly 33 centimeters. North is at the bottom of the page, and the needle therefore points down.

(Feuillet rouge-violet.)  Red-purple sheet.

Differences from final version: The final version of this clue has a simple title of ‘PREMIER PAS…’ So, there was a slight title change in the earlier draft, it said ‘IL N’Y A QUE LE PREMIER PAS. Or, ‘There is only a first step.’

The clue text appears to be the same, and the illustration note seems to confirm the game measure of 33 very clearly. The final drawing has a depiction of a coach and figure as well as the compass.

Clue 4: 470 enigma, THIS IS THE RIGHT PATH ONLY IF THE ARROW IS AIMED AT THE HEART

This is the right path only if the arrow is aimed at the heart

My first multiplies by gaiety.
My Second offers you space,
My Third from the air, and my Fourth from the water.
Sleep, my Fifth hums.
My sixth is worth a hundred, and my seventh is just one node.
My eighth tastes like laurel,
while my ninth, with astonishment, stays behind.
My tenth is always naked when there’s a link.
My eleventh, finally, is the unknown.

Find my All, and through the Opening you will see the light.

Notes for illustration:  Something that evokes Roncevaux, or Roland (Durandal stuck in a rock?)

Sheet blue.

Differences from final version:  This clue seems to be identical, save for a few  minor word changes. We have ‘couche, mon cinquième ronfle’ (sleep, my fifth hums) in this early version. The final version phrases this with a few more words, ‘Quand il est couche, mon cinquieme ronfle.’ Becker chose to illustrate this clue with the Durandal sword as Max suggested.

Clue 5: 580 enigma, THE GOOD WAY, IT IS THE WAY OF THE OPPOSITE WAY, AND VICE VERSA

THE GOOD WAY, IT IS THE WAY OF THE OPPOSITE WAY, AND VICE VERSA
19.9.13.12.15.19.18.21.15.9.19 the navel and the heart is first
12.15.19.18.21.15.9.19.18.9.13.8.15.4 from where Dix left in thirty, is second
9.13.16.16.9.13.9.5.18 and his faithful Abraham, is third
25.1.12.14.18.9.13.16.9.13 at the divine cellars, is fourth
8.15.4.1.12.9.19.18.15.1.6  at the smoking towers, is fifth

18.9.13.13.5.18.18.1.12.18.9.13.12.15.19 in its golden case, is sixth
20.18.21.15.15.4.9.18.9.13.8 shame of the reckless, is seventh
9.13.18.9.15.19.19.9 victim of the duke, is eighth
15.4.1.12.14.18.1.12.10 where was lost a Louis, is ninth
19.18.9.13.12.15.19.14.1.12, the sweet one is tenth

Notes for illustration:  The letters B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, A (in that order), and something that evokes a musical instrument (bow on the strings of a violin?)

Sheet yellow.

Differences from final version:  In the final version the fancy descriptive text is gone, the clues simply say ‘is worth 1′ is worth 2’ etc.  So we have ‘Issoire will be worth 8’ and no reference to the duke. It seems likely that the descriptions refer to historic associations with the listed towns. 

In the final illustration the order of the letters is changed. Becker’s illustration note changed into ‘The letters B, A, G, F, E, D, C (in that order.)’ Max’s vague instructions about the musicians was unchanged. 

Clue 6: 600 enigma, WHEN AL-MAR ALLIES WITH PRENESTE’S FIBULA, THE DARKNESS SHINES

WHEN AL-MAR ALLIES WITH PRENESTE’S FIBULA, THE DARKNESS SHINES

BDI, J. DF, F. CFD. BJ. HJ. EA, B. BC. E. DC, B.
CDI, B. BAB, H. BE.
CD. FB. BCG, J. BIG D. BE. BG. BJD, B. DB. BGH C.
BC. E.

Notes for illustration: A hand comes out of the water and holds a huge key.

Sheet orange.

Differences from final version: No differences here, this clue links to the previous one, with numbers and letters to decode a phrase. The illustration note makes it clear the background is meant to be water.

Clue 7: 500 enigma, UT QUEANT LAXIS

Ut queant laxis

At 2424 42 42 424 44 224 24 42 24 take the tangent. Count around 560.00 measurements on the Mega, and search for the spiral that has 4 centers.

Notes for Illustration: A walrus (the animal) a musical range, a square, a compass, a ruler going from 0 to 18.5cm (the rest of the ruler is hidden).

Sheet blue-green.

Differences from final version: The final version of this clue said: ‘ At 2424-42-424-44-224-24-42-24, take the orthogonal to find the spiral with four centers, 560,606 measurements, is far away. But the Mega is a million times less.’

So a slight difference of wording, and originally it was a ‘tangent’ not an orthogonal. It is also 560,000 measurements on the mega that you have to count instead of 560,606. The ‘mega’ is sometimes thought to be the smaller, super solution map, but in this original version Max seems to be referring to the main game map.

The final version’s illustration appears to be the same as was described.

Clue 8: 420 enigma, FROM THE SKY COMES THE LIGHT

From the sky comes the light

C’E-10752-365 LA Q-30667-E THE AIGLE
I-687-90677-RI-687-A
687-ARQ-30667-E DE 10752-E-10752 10752-ERRE-10752
DA-60140- 10752 LE 10752-ABLE,
CENT 4330-O-30667-R-10752 AVA-60140-365 DE 10752-E
CA-10752-10752-ER THE
E-365 Y-CAP Y LAI-10752-10752-ER 10752-E-10752
90677-L-30667-687-E-10752

Then lend a bow to Apollo  :
from there, he will count 1959,697 measures towards the zenith.
In a 46,242,688th fraction of a day , his line will fall.
Hurry to find the arrow.

Illustration note: The symbols for the earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and the letter N.

Sheet violet.

Differences from final version: In the published version of this clue we are told he counts 1969,697 measures  to the zenith. It is 46,241,860 fractions of a ‘sidereal day’ not a day, though I believe this works out the same way. 1959,697 and 1969,697 are quite small changes. Might Max have deliberately used the wrong number in the pre-release copy of the clues in case his papers got into the wrong hands? Unlikely but possible! In the illustration notes for the final version Max lists the planets and also adds ‘a compass planted in the letter N.’

Clue 9: 560 enigma AD AUGUSTA PER ANGUSTA

Ad augusta per angusta

Through the opening you will see the celestial light.
When, at Carasburc, you will have ALbion in your back.
Don’t linger, don’t ask for your rest,
But be ready to walk on the waters.

Turn your back on the North,
Neptune, twice, will have to help you.
It’s the right way, don’t stop
Until, through the opening, Léon appears.

Then we will have to draw a line
So you can go without deviating an inch.
You will not regret what you did,
Because, sometimes, a rolling stone collects moss.

Illustration note: A pencil “splits” the sea, from the bottom of the page, on the right, towards the top, on the left. See example of attached visual.

Sheet green yellow.

Differences from final version: There are a few interesting changes here. The final version includes ‘Before seeing, through the Opening, the becalmed Nave,’ with Léon dropped completely. The published version includes no last line about rolling stones collecting moss.

It’s also worth noting that the visual shows the pencil in a different direction.

A pencil “splits” the sea, from the bottom of the page, on the right, upwards, on the left . See attached visual example. In the final version the note says, ‘A pencil “splits” the sea, from the top of the page, on the right, towards the bottom of the page, on the left . 

Becker also includes an ‘intermediate’ version of this clue that also mentions Léon, but it has a slightly shorter final paragraph. 

Draw a line without deviating an inch,
And only then will you collect moss.

It is the treasure hunter collecting moss and not a rolling stone now. It’s worth noting that ‘tu amasseras mousse’ could also translate as ‘you will collect foam.’ I’d assume that ‘mousse’ is moss and not foam, based on the earlier version of the clue, and the famous saying, ‘A rolling stone gathers no moss.’

We can only guess why this line was removed, but it’s an interesting piece of information. 

Léon might be a town in south western France, but is it also the mysterious ‘becalmed nave’ that’s mentioned in the later clue?

Clue 10, 650 enigma, WHEN EVERYTHING IS REVEALED

This is another clue where we find an intermediate version of the text. 

Version 1  (The hunt for the golden egg)

When everything is revealed

Now you have wings.

Take off and fly north, northeast 11 degrees. 8000 measures further, the three sentries await you.

Illustration note: The numbers 7, 1, 7, 2, 1, 0, 6 7, and a shovel.

NO colour note.

Version 2 (Pre-publication)

When everything is revealed

Back to the Ponant, look for the three Guardians
At 8000 measurements from there, they are waiting for you.
Find them, you need to review them.

Illustration note: The figures 7,17,2,1,0,7,5 and a shovel.

Sheet red 650 nanometer

Version 3 (Final published version)

When everything is revealed
Back to the Ponant, seek the Sentinels.
At 8000 measures from there, they are waiting for you.
Find them, you need to review them.

Differences from final version: There are a few helpful points here. There are definitely 3 ‘sentinels’  which is suggested in Becker’s final illustration but made clearer by these iterations of the clue. The ‘sentinels’ are also called sentries and guardians by Max in the two earlier clues.

The 8000 measure is consistent in all the clues, with far more direction in the first version, which directs us to fly north northeast 11 degrees. However this first clue has slightly different numbers on the illustration, ending with a 67 and not the eventual 75. Does this show the ‘egg’ treasure was planned to be buried in a different location?

Clue 11, 520 enigma, EARTH OPENS

There are a couple of earlier versions of this text.

Version 1  (The hunt for the golden egg)

Earth opens

Be a little crazy, and to your madness, add a nest, two wings and an egg.

Illustration note: A shiny golden egg at the bottom of a hole surrounded by grasses.

Sheet green-blue.

Version 2 (An intermediate version provided by Becker)

Earth Opens

To the left? To the right ? Between ?
In front of the last or behind the first? …
But, before finding, wasn’t it important to search? 

Illustration note:  Light (reflection of gold) springs from the bottom of a hole surrounded by grasses

Sheet green-blue 520 nanometer.

Version 3 (Published version)

Earth Opens

Between them, there would only be two intervals if they were aligned
But that would be far too easy a game!
Now that you’ve untied all the threads,
Doubt is the last torture that will be inflicted on you, because it is the rule of this cruel part:
Alone, you must find where to carry your shovel.
Show your respect for Mother Nature,
And, before you leave, close your wound.

Illustration note: Light (reflection of gold) springs from the bottom of a hole surrounded by herbs.

Sheet green-blue 520 nanometer.

Differences from final version:  This clue is the most changed, with three very different texts. It’s almost as if Max reached the ‘sentinel’ stage and then wasn’t absolutely sure of the directions to give! We can assume that the first clues nest and wings are to fit the bird and egg theme, but does this tell us anything more?  The version 2 directions tell us to ‘search’ is it a hint that we move now to the super solution?

Summary of key differences in the early version clues

B clue : 11=B

530: A sign marked “13469696” pointing to a rooster.

780: No significant change.

470: No significant change.

580: A little extra text about the locations, a different order of the letters in the illustration.

600: No significant change.

500: A ‘tangent’ not an orthogonal. 560,000 measurements to count instead of 560,606.

420: A day not a ‘sidereal day’, 1959,697 measures not 969,697, adding a compass to the image of North.

560:  We see Léon through the opening instead of the ‘becalmed Nave.’ There is an addition of a line about gathering moss, or rolling stones gathering moss. The visual shows a different alignment of the pencil.

650:  A direction to go north, northeast 11 degrees. Sentinels described as sentries or guardians. 7, 1, 7, 2, 1, 0, 6 7, instead of 7, 1, 7, 2, 1, 0, 7,5.

520: Completely different text in two earlier versions of this clue, one suggesting going crazy, one suggesting a confusion of directions.

Conclusions

The most interesting thing about these early clues is how similar they are to the final published version. Max quite clearly had his game play mechanics completely worked out, perhaps even the final location for the treasure set. Did he use a mechanic that could be easily tweaked to show any location in France? In that case 71721067 would lead to a slightly different location to 71721075, with both numbers working within his game ‘system’. If that’s the case then might anyone who uses totally fixed places in their game solution be likely to come unstuck?

There is lots of food for thought here. Many concepts remain the same and so must be vital to the solution, while other elements are much more vague… What do we make of the three words for the three sentinals? Max himself doesn’t seem 100% clear on what these creatures are representing.

Finally, this book confirms, what many people have said for decades, the illustrations are mostly unimportant to the solving of this puzzle. Anyone who sees hidden meaning in the imagery is almost certainly on the wrong track. There are a few conspiracy theories around about these additional clues and information have been faked by Becker, but that seems like nonsense to me.

I was worried that the release of these extra clues would reveal too much information and spoil everyone’s enjoyment of the hunt. They do nothing of the sort, I think they add even more intrigue to this great fun game! 

The spiral with four centres

The 500 enigma introduces the concept of a ‘Spiral with four centres.’ It is described this way:

At Carignan take the orthogonal. 
To find the Spiral with four centres, 
560,606 measures, it is far.

This suggests we take a right angle from a line plotted to Carignan, then measure 185km or 18.5cm on the Michelin map and either find or draw a spiral.

This spiral is described very precisely as ‘four centred’ and many owl hunters suggest this may mean drawing a spiral that’s an involute of a square. I had a go and it is actually quite easy to draw a spiral with four arcs using a bow compass or even a taut piece of string.

WikiChouette makes the point that any four sided polygon, not necessarily a square, can be used to create a spiral with four compass arcs – technically four circle centres. Unfortunately the directions in the 500 clue do not provide clear guidance on any starting point square or polygon.

 

In mathematics, a spiral is a curve which emanates from a point, moving farther away as it revolves around the point. There are several variations of a mathematical spiral, and there is no clear information on which version to use or what size to draw this spiral.

Some versions of spirals include an Archimedean spiral.

Fermat’s spiral.

A Fibonacci Spiral (the golden spiral)

A logarithmic spiral

The spiral of Theodorus

and more!

It is worth bearing in mind that Max must have intended any geometric spiral to be drawn using a bow compass which limits the size of this feature on the map.  There are two appearances of bow compasses in the clue images, one in the 500 which adds weight to the idea that we use a compass here, and there is a picture of a compass in a North symbol in the 420 clue. It’s not clear how this fits with the clue about Golfe Juan, Apollo and his arrow. Does it suggest we draw another spiral?

Some people do not believe this is a mathematical spiral at all and instead think the spiral is some feature or place that must be found on the map. Of course spirals can be found in many places, from curving paths like the famous one in Dabo, spiral staircases, architectural features, and in nature, like the spiral shell in the 560 clue image.

While spirals are everywhere it’s harder to make a case for a spiral with four centres. This mysterious spiral remains one of the biggest sticking points of the hunt.

More information:

Mathematical spirals described at Wikipedia.

The Archmidean spiral at MathCurve.

 

 

The 11 clues on one page

B 

Gives the clue order using the colour wavelength number titles for each of the clues.

HE IS NO MORE BLIND THAN ONE WHO DOES NOT WANT TO SEE

1 = 530

3 = 470

5 = 600

7 = 420

9 = 650

 

 

 

 

530

Gives seven letters that spell out the name of the city Bourges.

OPENING

My first, first half of the half of the first age,
Precedes my Second and Third, seeking their way.
My Fourth is inspired, my Fifth is in rage,
But, without protest, follows my Fourth and the roman alpha.
My Sixth is hidden at the limits of ETERNITY.
My Seventh, standing, spits his venom.
To find my all, just to be wise,
Because the Truth, in truth, will not be a Devin’s affair.

 

 

 

 

780

Gives the game measure, most likely 33cm, but much of this clue is mysterious.

FIRST STEP…

Where you want,
By the nag and the coachman.
But where you must,
By the compass and the foot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

470

THIS IS THE RIGHT PATH ONLY IF THE ARROW IS AIMED AT THE HEART

Gives letters that spell out the name of a town, ‘A_Ronceveaux.’

My first by gaiety multiplies.
My Second offers you space,
My Third from the air, and my Fourth from the water.
When he’s lying down, my Fifth hums.
My sixth is worth a hundred, and my seventh is only a knot.
My eighth has the taste of the laurel,
while my ninth, by surprise, is dragging.
My tenth is still naked when he has an affair.
My eleventh, finally, is the unknown.

Find my All, and through the Opening you will see the light.

 

580

Gives 10 towns in alphabetical order, the final key is A=0 B=1 etc., which is used as a key to solve the next clue.  So it means Bourges will be worth 1, Cherbourg worth 2, Dieppe worth 3, Epernay worth 4, Forbach worth 5, Gerardmer worth 6, Héricourt worth 7, Issoire worth 8, Jarnac worth 9, Angers worth 0.

THE GOOD WAY, IT IS THE WAY OF THE OPPOSITE WAY, AND VICE VERSA

19.9.13.12.15.19.18.21.15.9.19 will be worth 1
12.15.19.18.21.15.9.19.18.9.13.8.15.4 will be worth 2
9.13.16.16.9.13.9.5.18 will be worth 3
25.1.12.14.18.9.13.16.9.13 will be worth 4
8.15.4.1.12.9.19.18.15.1.6 will be worth 5
18.9.13.13.5.18.18.1.12.18.9.13.12.15.19 will be worth 6
20.18.21.15.15.4.9.18.9.13.8 will be worth 7
9.13.18.9.15.19.19.9 will be worth 8
15.4.1.12.14.18.1.12.10 will be worth 9
19.18.9.13.12.15.19.14.1.12 will be worth 0

 

 

600

The key of the last clue is used to produce an unsolved clue phrase, ‘The key is on the black perched ship.’

WHEN AL-MAR ALLIES WITH PRENESTE’S FIBULA, THE DARKNESS SHINES

BDI, J. DF, F. CFD. BJ. HJ. EA, B. BC. E. DC, B.
CDI, B. BAB, H. BE.
CD. FB. BCG, J. BIG D. BE. BG. BJD, B. DB. BGH C.
BC. E.

 

 

 

 

 

 

500

Gives the town of Carignan, where we must take a right angle to find a four-centred Spiral at 185km.

UT QUEANT LAXIS

A 2424-42-424-44-224-24-42-24 , borrows the orthogonal.
To find the Spiral with four centers ,
560,606 measures, it is far.
But by the Mega it is a million times less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

420

Decodes to give the town of Golfe Juan, where Apollo fires at arrow 559km towards a 650km zenith.

FROM THE SKY COMES THE LIGHT

C’E-10752-365 LA Q-30667-E THE AIGLE
I-687-90677-RI-687-A
687-ARQ-30667-E DE 10752-E-10752 10752-ERRE-10752
DA-60140- 10752 LE 10752-ABLE,
CENT 4330-O-30667-R-10752 AVA-60140-365 DE 10752-E
CA-10752-10752-ER THE
E-365 Y-CAP Y LAI-10752-10752-ER 10752-E-10752
90677-L-30667-687-E-10752

Then lend a bow to Apollo :
from there, he will count 1969,697 measures towards the zenith.
In a 46,241,860th fraction of sidereal day ,
his line will fall.
Hurry to find the arrow.

560

We are at Cherbourg, with England at our back, and we must look for the Opening, drawing lines on the map.

AD AUGUSTA PER ANGUSTA

When, at Carusburc , you will have Albion in the back,
Look for the Opening that reveals the Heavenly Light.
Do not wait, do not ask for your rest, But get ready to walk on the water.
Twice, Neptune will come to your rescue And lead you away from the icy North.
Pursue your way and do not interrupt your journey
Before seeing through the opening, the becalmed Nave.
Without deviating an inch, draw a line, and you will not regret what you did.

 

 

 

 

650

Having solved the previous 9 clues we have found the mysterious ‘Sentinels.’ We review them at 2.64km from the end location of the previous clue.

WHEN ALL IS REVEALED

Back to the Ponant, seek the Sentinels.
At 8000 measures from there, they are waiting for you.
Find them, you need to review them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

520

A final clue suggesting information that will help us when we dig for the buried owl prize.

EARTH OPENS

Between them, there would be only two intervals if they were aligned.
But this would be a too easy game!
Now that you have undone all the yarns,
Doubt is the last torment that will be inflicted to you.
Because it is the rule of this cruel game:
Alone, you have to find where to land your shovel.
Show your respect for Mother Nature,
And before getting away, close its injury.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The legal status of the Golden Owl prize

This treasure hunt was set up in 1993, and the book’s publisher has since gone out of business, and Max Valentin, the designer of the puzzle, and co-author of the Chouette d’Or book, has died.

The original rules of the puzzle state there is no time limit to the game. ‘ It is not limited in time, but will be closed the day of the discovery of the cache.’

The rules also state, ‘The Prize is a statuette of gold, silver and stones, representing an owl sculpted by Michel Becker. Its value is about one million francs. In no case can it be exchanged for its cash value.

The rules continue, ‘The book provides the clues needed to solve the riddle. The first person who has deciphered the final enigma to locate the cache is deemed to be the winner.’

A bailiff is listed in the rules, they are in charge of administering the owl game. ‘Participating in this game implies the full and complete acceptance of the present regulations deposited with Maire Frédéric LLOUQUET, bailiff, 130, rue St-Charles – 75015 PARIS.’ This bailiff is no longer active or paid for, though it’s possible a successor at the company still has some regard for the game.

There is another rule ‘Article 7’ that asks the owl finder to reveal no details of their solution for one year. This is so that Max could publish a book of solutions himself. The rule states, ‘This person (the winner) will refrain from making any statements, granting interviews to publish or reveal the solutions of riddles and the location of the cache, to report the anecdotes about the treasure hunt, and, as a rule, to broadcast any information for a period of one year after the discovery of the Owl. He or she formally agrees to reserve her statements to Max Valentin, co-author of the book.” Max is no longer with us, but it would be wise to respect this rule if the owl is found.

So, a bronze replica of the owl treasure is buried somewhere in France, along with instructions and a phone number (most likely no longer working.) It seems that anyone finding this bronze owl would have rights to claim the prize, however the owl’s status has been the subject of a few legal disputes.

The golden owl statuette was held by the publishing company, Manya, but this company went into liquidation in 2003. When Max Valentin discovered the owl’s precarious status he tried to take ownership of the owl prize. There seems to have been some secret legal dispute by Max to regain control of the prize, and from what I can understand, he didn’t involve co-author Michel Becker in his legal claim to take possesion of the owl.

The case was eventually resolved in January 2009 with the judge agreeing that the original creator of the owl, Michel Becker, should own the owl. Becker paid for the owl himself, which may well explain the judge’s decision. The judge stated Becker held the owl, “within the limits of the exercise of the right of ownership”, that is to say that Becker had to consider the rules of the game and hand over the statuette to the discoverer of the buried owl.

The story of the Golden Owl took an unexpected turn in 2014 when the treasure hunting community was shocked to discover that the golden owl entered in an auction. Michel Becker had decided to sell the prize. This sale was prevented due to legal proceedings by the AC2O. It was pointed out that the previous ruling had given Becker limited rights to the owl. The owl was withdrawn from the auction and the owl’s status was protected – it couldn’t be sold.

Michel Becker still holds the golden owl and it is highly likely he would give it to anyone who produced the bronze version, most likely without any legal case. Max Valentin left a ‘book of solutions’ revealing the location of the owl to his son, although Max’s son has little interest in the Chouette d’Or hunt, he has committed to protecting this important document.

If a treasure hunter produced a bronze owl, and a location that matched the answer in Max’s solution, it would be hard to deny the winner of the game their prize.

What to do if you find the owl?

Here’s what I think would be the best plan.

  1. Celebrate!

2. Don’t announce the discovery to the world, remember the ‘Article 7’ rule. It’s not worth risking breaking the rules by tweeting, “I’ve found the treasure!”

3. Try the phone number and follow any instructions left with the cache.

4. Get in touch with the owl hunting organisations. It’s a good idea to join the AC2O because they’re a great organisation dedicated to protecting this game and the best interests of owl hunters.

5. Contact Michel Becker, the Chateau 1876 organisation or the AC2O, should help, and it would be worth clarifying the Article 7 rule and checking out what will happen with the incomplete ‘book of solutions’ owned by Max’s son.

6. If there is any dispute (unlikely) find legal help, and feel sure that you have the support of thousands of owl hunters who will support your claim!

See also:

The rules of the game (French) on the WikiChouette site.

The legal dispute about the owl statuette (French) on WikiChouette.

Interview with Max’s son, detailing the Chouette d’Or solution that he protects in a safe.

The final stage – The super solution

The first stage of the treasure hunt uses the 11 enigmas to find a location on a map of France. Max said this stage reveals an area the size of an average city. So how to find exactly where to dig?

Max said that when you understand the clues to solve the puzzle there are elements leftover, he called these ‘remnants.’ The ‘super solution’ to discover the owl’s location uses these remnant clues.

It’s likely that the super solution will be a few words long, just a short sentence that clearly defines where to dig. It might be something like, ‘5 metres from the left foot of the statue’ or ’10 metres opposite the town clock.’ It will be a clear direction that means the owl can be found simply.

Putting together the super solution is really only possible when the 11 enigmas are solved, it would be difficult to know which elements of the enigmas are ‘remnants’ until we have solved the treasure hunt.

See also

What we know about the owl’s location

Mandits for the Super Solution on Zarquos site (French) 

Towns and cities

There are five places clearly revealed by the clues, Bourges, Ronceveaux, Carignan, Golfe Juan, Cherbourg. There are also some vague or unknown locations described by clues.

There are 10 towns listed in enigma 580 but many people believe these are only used for decoding clue 600.

The game places are revealed in the following order.

Clue 1 : B enigma – None.

Clue 2 : 530 – Bourges

Clue 3 : 780 – None.

Clue 4 : 470 – Ronceveaux

Clue 5 : 580 – Bourges, Cherbourg, Dieppe, Epernay, Forbach, Gerardmer, Héricourt, Issoire, Jarnac, Angers. These may just be used to decode the 600 enigma.

Clue 6: 600 –  “The key hides on a black perched ship” This may be a place.

Clue 7: 500 – Carignan

Clue 8: 420 – Golfe Juan

Clue 9: 560 – Cherbourg, “the Opening” (Bourges?) “the becalmed nave”

Clue 10: 650 – “the Sentinals”

Clue 11: 520 – None

We know we need to trace lines on the map, probably connecting the locations in the order they are revealed.

The five locations clearly revealed by the clues.

 

These towns appear to align with Bourges as a central point

 

All the named Golden Owl locations (excluding “Albion” and Preneste which are outside France.)

The sticking points – Why is this mystery still unsolved?

There are many elements of the Golden Owl treasure hunt that are understood and accepted by the ‘chouetteur’ community, but several sticking points that prevent progress from being made.

Taking the clues in order I will try to highlight the major sticking points.

Clue B – Gives the game order, its solved.

Clue 530 – Reveals the city Bourges.

Clue 780 – Reveals the game measure (likely 33cm) and probably more, perhaps a direction, but the ‘coach and bad horse’ concept of this clue is little understood.

Clue 470 – Reveals Ronceveaux,  but also through the Opening you will see the light.

Clue 580 – Reveals 10 towns, used to solve the next puzzle. It’s not clear if the towns have some other purpose.

Clue 600 – Big sticking point, the mysterious phrase, The key is on the black perched ship.’

Clue 500 – Reveals Carignan, but what is the spiral with four centers at 560.606 measures?

Clue 420 – Reveals Golfe Juan, but from there we need to plot the fall of an arrow flying at 1969,697 measures towards the zenith.

Clue 560 – Reveals Cherbourg, but we don’t understand  the opening that reveals heavenly light or  how Neptune helps twice, or the meaning of seeing the ‘Nave becalmed’, through the Opening.

Clue 650 – Describes how to process the clues that have come before, there are Sentinels at 8000 measures from ‘here’ and we need to decode the number 71721075 that is drawn in the image.

Clue 520 – Suggests the final place to dig for the owl, at this stage you need to understand the remnant clues that give the super solution.

So, to solve this puzzle you will need to:

  • Understand the meaning of the coachman and bad horse in the 780
  • Understand the meaning of the ‘light’ seen through the opening and also described in clue 560 and 600.
  • Decide whether the 10 towns of clue 580 have some extra function.
  • Discover the meaning of ‘The key is on the black perched ship.’
  • Know what the spiral with four centers means.
  • Know where Apollo’s arrow lands when it’s fired from Golfe Juan.
  • Plot a route from Cherbourg as described in 560, understanding the meaning of Neptune’s help and the meaning of the ‘becalmed nave.’
  • Know how to use the places discovered through the 11 clues with the number 71721075 and some ‘sentinels’ that have been revealed.
  • Know which game phrases and concepts have not been used before and are clue ‘remnants’ that reveal the super solution of exactly where to dig.

General pointers :

There is almost certainly some simple game ‘trick’ that makes sense of the towns and cities that have been revealed.

The clue order probably matters, there is an important progression from one to the next.

Insights and personal theories into the meaning of repeating game concepts such as ‘light,’ sentinels, ‘the Opening’ will give ideas for progressing the game.

There are many small mysteries alongside the big ones listed here! It’s quite possible that someone exploring a small game mystery will stumble upon something that solves this 25-year long game.

The additional clues and ‘mandits‘ have been explored as much as the original 11 enigmas, yet they don’t seem to have progressed the game an awful lot. Max said the owl could be found by studying the book alone. In my opinion he spent years carefully avoiding giving any meaningful answers in those mandit Q&A! However the mandits can be very useful to check theories.

The topics that Max refused to be drawn on in his ‘mandits’ are almost certainly key to solving this puzzle. Max refused to answer questions on the light, the methods for linking each enigma, the spiral with four centers, the becalmed nave, and (understandably) any clear description of the final location.

The game images, drawn by Becker, were added after the basic concept and clues were devised by Max. It’s worth bearing in mind the fact this was originally devised as a text only treasure hunt! The images were drawn based on Max’s descriptions with Becker having no understanding of the game solution. It’s hard to be sure of the role the pictures play, clearly when Max knew the book would have visual elements he incorporated them. Clues such as the 650 and 500 have important visual elements.

It’s expensive and almost certainly unnecessary to buy a copy of the out of print original book ($220 on Amazon) however I found it useful to print a bound copy using a downloaded PDF of the clues. This cost me about £10 including shipping, I used Dox Direct. but any online printer will do!

The Light

The word “light” appears three times in the book.

“Find my All, and through the Opening you will see the light.” The last line of clue 470.

“From the heavens comes light.” The title of clue 420

“Seek the Opening that reveals the Heavenly Light.” In the text of the 560.

It also appears in a subtle way in the form of “darkness” in one clue. “The darkness shines”  is in the title of clue 600. This suggests that the light appears in the darkness.

Light also appears in two additional clues Max released after the publication of the book.

“The big lights are made of small lights.”

“Clarity will come from three clever rendezvous in the Cantabrian Sea.” The word clarity might suggest light being shone on something. 

The proven uses of light in solving the clues are the make-up of white light in the B clue, and using the speed of light to calculate a distance in the 420 enigma.

Although light is a key concept of the book there is no consensus on how to use this theme. Max refused to answer questions about light in madits, which suggests it does have some importance.

Some thoughts…

‘Seeing the light’ is a common phrase for understanding something, could Max have meant the phrase in this context? The 420 mentions that the light comes from heaven, is this something to do with stars or astronomy? This clue’s image suggests the sun and details planets. Could the light refer to a place, the city of Luxeuil has been mentioned as the Latin root ‘lux’ means light.  Or could it represent a character? In previous treasure hunts Max used the Sun King and the Lumière brothers.

Light has many different meanings, if this hunt has a scientific theme it might be light waves, if it’s used in a figurative sense it might mean knowledge, the spirit, the truth. In a symbolic sense it might suggest contrasts, light versus darkness. It might be something to do with the sun or time through the rising of sun and the passing of days, or it might be about heaven and celestial light.

The light theme feels like one of the key mysteries of the hunt, understanding this will surely lead to breakthroughs in solving this treasure hunt.

520 – Generally accepted solution

EARTH OPENS
Between them, there would be only two intervals if they were aligned.
But this would be a too easy game!
Now that you have undone all the yarns,
Doubt is the last torment that will be inflicted to you.
Because it is the rule of this cruel game:
Alone, you have to find where to land your shovel.
Show your respect for Mother Nature,
And before getting away, close its injury.

Solvability: This final clue talks about unearthing the buried owl, there’s plenty to do before attempting to solve this enigma.

This clue is mostly a mystery because it refers to the final stage of the treasure hunt, when the location of the treasure has been discovered. It seems to connect closely to the previous clue, the 650.

There is probably little point working on this final enigma until all the previous clues are understood.

The visual

There seems to be little additional information in this clue’s visual, it symbolically reflects digging a hole to unearth the owl. The light shining from the hole links to the light theme in previous clues.

Points to consider

The title refers to the planet Earth. Is this some kind of link to the planet clues of the 420 enigma?

‘Between them there would be two intervals’ must be referring to objects that could be aligned, but what are they? Perhaps lines or shapes on the map, or the mysterious Sentinals?

The line about ‘undoing yarns’ may refer to a tangle of string-like lines drawn on a map.

The ‘rule’ of this ‘cruel’ game could refer to measurement and angles. In French this is, ‘Car c’est la règle de cette partie cruelle.’ la règle can mean ruler, and cruelle suggests a sharp angle.

‘Alone’ you must land your shovel has an interesting choice of word, why ‘Alone?’ Does this mean one?

Why refer to Mother Nature? Or ‘Dame Nature’ and her injury? Is this simply a flowery way to suggest digging a hole or does it mean something more?

In conclusion

Little is understood about this final enigma, there are few theories about this puzzle – the other clues must be worked out first.

See also

Clue 11 – 520 enigma text

520 enigma madits and links

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