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Category: Theories and concepts

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.



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 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.


Coming soon

The game measure

I go along with the generally accepted theory that the game measure is 33cm.

The third clue enigma 780 talks about ‘where you must by the compass and the foot.’

The ‘foot’ most likely refers to  ‘pied du roi’ , and it the word ‘step’ in the title also hints at this measure. A common value was close to 33cm.

The visual shows a compass.  The compass has a diameter of 10.5cm, which Max confirmed.  The method to work out the perimeter of the circle = 2 x Pi x radius, where the radius = diameter / 2 = 5.25 cm and Pi = 3.1415, or about 22/7. So, the perimeter of this compass is 33 cm.

The 33cm measure fits very well with the measures mentioned in the book, to give neat whole numbers eg. 185km rather than messy numbers like 176.457889km!

Other ideas for the measure

Some people think the measure is the compass AND the foot, so 10.5cm + 33cm so 43.5cm.

The historic measure the ‘foot’ had many variations over the centuries, as this French Wikipedia page devoted to the ‘Pied’ shows.  The 74 cm foot is used by some owl hunters.

The word “measure” appears in the puzzles. 500 , 420 and 650 , as well as an additional clue : ” For good measure, there’s only one in the book ” .





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