Category: Treasure hunt tools

The questions to ask if you think you have the solution

These 25 questions are adapted from a post on Patrick Salvy’s blog. Sadly the site no longer exists but I have found the questions a good checklist to see if a solution might be right.

The questions are based on the fact that there are a number of questions that no one has been able to answer. At least not with the precision needed to locate the owl. Some of the questions appear to be simple, yet not one has a clear answer accepted by everyone in the community. Patrick suggests everyone seeking the owl should have ‘humility’ and take a pause before announcing they have the answer. Many people jump to the conclusion that their theory is right, and ignore the fact that cognitive bias is a huge problem in all treasure hunts.

I hope you find these questions useful.

530: Why the word “opening”? [1]
We know for a fact that “opening” is the answer to the 530 clue’s riddle. This is Bourges, the place to start the game. But the word “opening” must have some other justification. Why did Max choose the word “opening,” what is the purpose of this word?
780: What is the “first step” that will induce others? [2]
The “first step” referred to in the title of the clue is not taken with our feet, and the fact that it is the first implies that there are others. What does this first step consist of?
470: Why is there an “A” in front of “Roncesvalles”? [3]
This clue gives a place. The result of the riddle is “A_RONCEVAUX”. Why is there an “A” in front of “Roncesvalles?” The riddle of the first enigma only gave “Bourges” with no additional letter. Roncesvalles seems to be a destination while Bourges was only a starting point, but wouldn’t we have understood that the hunt was leading us to Roncesvalles if the result of this clue had only been “RONCEVAUX”?
470: What is the light? [4]
At the end of this clue, we must be sure of what the light is, and the light does not only concern this clue. If we don’t see the light at this stage of the game, it would suggest a serious problem. Max said that an element prior to this clue allows us to know if it is the “right” light. What does this light represent that we see from the “whole” of the clue through the opening?
470: What is the heart? [5]
There is only one heart in the book. An additional clue said that ‘from the opening a heart was born’. Between the heart born from the opening and that of this clue, the symbol is identical, even if the meaning is slightly different …So what is this heart?
470: What does the arrow aimed at the heart represent? [6]
The arrow of this puzzle is not the same as the arrow of Apollo. Max said this arrow is incapable of killing. The word “arrow” must be interpreted by the treasure hunter. If this arrow is aimed at the heart, is it because it has not yet left the bow at the end of the riddle? Aiming for the heart means aiming in a certain direction and not in another. No doubt we will reach the intended destination later (or have we already reached it?) But what is the meaning of this arrow aimed at this destination?
580: Why is the geographic distribution of the ten cities important? [7]
The order of the cities in this puzzle must surely be important.
If it is only a question of finding the answer that A = 0, B = 1 etc … the order does not matter. But why is Angers at the end of the list rather than at the beginning? Would Angers-Bourges-Cherbourg have been inconvenient from a geographical point of view? Would it have harmed the understanding of the direction of rotation represented by the distribution of the ten cities? What does this direction of rotation mean?
600: What is the perched black ship? [8]
The decryption of this clue leads us to search for a black ship that is somehow ‘perched’. What is this perched black ship? Do we need to look for something that comes close to such a description, or do we have to interpret this expression?
600: What is the key that is hidden on the perched black ship? [9]
In the decryption of this clue we learn that ‘the key is hidden on the perched black ship.’ We are supposed to find out what this key represents and why would it hide? What is this key?
600: How is the key useful? [10]
Is the key a decryption key? Digital? Alphanumeric? Alphabetical?
Or is it to be somehow interpreted in order to understand what to do next? How is the key useful for deciphering the following riddle?
500: What does “2424 …” represent? [11]
“2424 …” is a place where we arrive thanks to a line already found and from which one sets out again, at a right angle and in a straight line, towards the Spiral with four centers. But what is this place? Is the generally accepted decryption of Carignan, based on Morse code, the correct one? Why did Max choose to use 2’s and 4’s?
500: What is the Four Centre Spiral? [12]
We must find it (Max doesn’t say ‘draw’ it, but he might mean that) at 560,606 measures of “2424 …” and we should know what it is at the end of this clue. We know that the spiral has four centres. What are these four centres which must be identified? Is it a truly four-centre spiral, in the geometric sense of the term?
420: Where is the “there” located? [13]
The “there” mentioned in this clue is an important location, it is the place where Apollo shoots his arrow. Is it linked to where the previous clue ends, at the Spiral with four centres?
420: What does “count 1,969,697 measures towards the zenith” mean? [14]
Apollo counts 1,969,697 measurements towards the zenith before firing his arrow. Is it important that it is Apollo? Why does Max mention the altitude or height of the landing place? Is it because this guarantees the precision with which the arrow will land? The clue says, “count 1,969,697 towards the zenith” to solve this clue we need to know exactly what this means.
420: Where does Apollo’s arrow fall? [15]
Since it is a question of finding the point where the arrow falls, this suggests it aims at something concrete and real, located by its height. Max told us the exact laws of ballistics do not apply to a Greek god, we can ignore the possible mountains located on its path! So where is the arrow’s landing place?
420: What is the arrow that we find at the end of the clue? [16]
At the place where the line of Apollo’s arrow falls we are told we must “hasten to find it”, to discover only one arrow. The arrow is some kind of imagery in this hunt. Why is it necessary to suggest that its length is less than the route it will have made? What is this arrow?
560: What does “searching for the opening” consist of? [17]
Max suggests that from Carusburc, it is impossible to see the Heavenly Light through the Opening. This suggests “looking for the opening” might mean some movement on our map to get into the axis of the Opening and the Light. Or should we carry out the movement when we are on the axis of the Opening and the Light? Since the course seems to be interrupted when we see the Nave through the Opening, are the Opening, the Light and the Nave aligned? What exactly does “seeking the opening” consist of?
560: Where does the journey end? [18]
When we see the Nave through the Opening, Neptune is helping us. He is the god of fresh water and salt water, so we must be in an ocean or a large lake. Since Neptune interrupts his help at this point, are we on a shore? And what is this place? Is the orientation “back to Albion” enough to find it?
560: What is the ‘Becalmed Nave’? [19]
“La Nef”, located in mainland France, is tangible and above sea level. The word nave suggests a church or ship. Max said it has seen crowds pass or go there. What is this calmed ship? Is it the same entity as the perched black ship?
650: Where are we in the 650? [20]
Are we where Neptune left us after he gave us his help? Are we near the Becalmed Nave? Are we beyond the Nave on the “line we won’t regret”?
650: What does the “71721075” series of numbers correspond to? [21]
These numbers must be related to the other puzzles. How? Overall? Taken separately? Should this block of digits be decrypted or is it designed to be used as it is?
650: What are the sentinels/sentries? [22]
Max said these sentinels have a generic name without having a proper name, and their number is confirmed in one of the clues. They watch over something important in the context of the game and can be considered in their military sense of the term. They are massive but you cannot physically see them from a distance of 8000 measurements. We can only touch them separately even if at the foot of any one of them we can see the others. What are these sentries who get wet in rainy weather?
520: What does “them” represent? [23]
‘Between them, there would only be two gaps, if they were aligned.’ It is conceivable that this “them” is already encountered in a certain form in one of the preceding clues. Max said it represents something tangible. Does the word “them” relate to the sentinels?
520: What are the “threads”? [24]
What are these threads? Max said they are tied together by a single knot and can be counted once untied.
520: What doubt will remain? [25]
What will be the ‘doubt’ that will be inflicted on us at the end of the game? Is it the announcement of a super-solution?
Your ability to dig up the Owl might be determined by the number of correct answers given to the above questions.

Less than 10: You still have a lot of work to do!

Between 10 and 14: You have some good ideas but it’s unlikely you’ll find the Owl until you know more.

Between 15 and 20: Not bad! Persevere and you should be able to identify the final zone on the 989 map.

Over 20: Well done! You have every chance of digging in the right place. But this is a difficult game and most likely you need to be able to answer EACH of the 25 questions to uncover the Owl!

Good luck!

Links to useful sites

Most of these websites are in French but it’s easy to set browsers to automatically translate sites, or you can use

PDF versions of the clues

Download the enigmas from the 3rd edition of the book.

Wiki Chouette – A great wiki site full of information.

Madits Search App – An amazing search engine to study the thousands of ‘Madits’ the online Questions and Answers that Max participated in offering additional information about the Golden Owl hunt.

Wikipedia page – In English.


A2CO – The Association of Golden Owl Researchers, an organisation of owl hunters that organises annual events and operates a forum, they sought legal help and protected the Golden Owl when it was put up for sale.

L’association Chateau 1876 – An organisation connected to artist Michel Becker that’s trying to take charge of the Golden Owl hunt to promote it and open a museum in its honour in Rochefort.


La  – A busy forum and website operated by the A2CO.

Les sans hulotte – A forum and community site with a nice design and features.


Monglane – Blog by a longstanding owl hunter with an excellent study of the subtleties of this treasure hunt.

Zarquos – Good analysis of ‘madits’ and owl info.

Patrice Salvy – Interesting blog by someone who has searched for the owl since 1995 and written an encyclopedia about the owl hunt.

Marvin Clay – Owl blog that’s still updated fairly regularly.

Ilotresor – Blogger who believes in the popular theory that the treasure is near Dabo.

List of owl blogs – Many owl blogs are now abandoned but still hold interesting theories about the clues.

The maps

Max specified that only two maps were needed for the game, with the map only really becomes necessary in enigma 500.

A 1 in 1 million scale map

To set the Golden Owl puzzle Max used the Michelin 989 map published in 1993, at a scale of 1 in 1 million. The number 989 is no longer available, though the new Michelin 721 is the same scale. It is often possible to find old copies of the 989 map on eBay, and they can be downloaded online see this French site for details.

We know that this is the right map and scale for a few reasons. The enigma 500 mentions the scale with the line, “560,606 measurements, it is far. But the mega is a million times less.” This suggests the scale and the use of a much more detailed map for the ‘mega solution’ final stage.

The maker of the map was confirmed by a Supplementary Indication, which speaks of something, “inflated and his opinions hold the road”, that is, to say the famous Michelin Man. The Michelin brand was also clearly stated in a press article published in 1994.

A few things worth knowing about the maps. ‘Ronceveaux‘ is the answer to the 470 enigma but some later versions of the Michelin map use the Basque name for this town Orreaga.

The ‘precise’ map

The second map is the most accurate one possible. Max always refused to indicate the brand, it is most likely an IGN 1: 25000 map, or perhaps a local unbranded tourist map. He said, “The precise map is the one that is the most common!”

The first map is used to pinpoint an area about the size of a town, then you switch to a precise map to find the exact location of the treasure.

Other useful maps

It is widely accepted that solving this treasure hunt needs lines drawn on the map and/or towns plotted or marked. Many people use Google map or Google Earth Pro which is a free downloadable map program with many useful features. You can use this to stick ‘pins’ or trace lines and measure distances. It also has historic satellite imagery so it’s possible to see how locations have changed since the owl was buried more than twenty years ago. It’s my understanding that Google measures distance ‘on the ground’ so a mountaineous region would show as many more kilometre than a flat area, it’s a useful tool but worth considering that the Michelin map will plot things differently. If you decide that enigma 500 involves a 185km distance this is a simple 18.5cm of distance on the paper map, but it might reach a slightly diffent location than 185km measured by Google. It’s up to each individual owl hunter how much they think this may matter!

Google Earth Pro

There is also free software designed by owl hunting enthusiasts. Gribouillot is a Map Annotation tool created by Ludovic A. It allows the plotting of owl specific things such as spirals. It can be used with a downloaded version of the original 989 map.