Apple Seed #3

A couple weeks before Thanksgiving in 2022, I received a message from Robert Jenner (Live From the CodeBar) asking me if I'd be interested in knocking on a door for George Ward (The Secret Podcast). George Ward, it seemed, had done some massive detective work and discovered who the author of The Golden Apple Tale was and where he lived. At first I was skeptical. But I agreed to do it. George, Robert and I shared several more messages and George was very generous in sharing the "evidence" he had acquired that led him to believe he found the author. 

We were getting pummeled with 2 feet of snow in Grand Rapids, so the first encounter was delayed for several days. But a few days before Thanksgiving, I convinced my wife and daughter to make the trek with me. I joked that they were my human shields. Not knowing what I was getting into, I thought it might be less "threatening" if a family knocked at someone's door rather than a guy by himself. 

It was dark already when we arrived. A motion light came on along with the slightly mechanical sound of a dog barking. I approached the door as my wife and daughter stood behind me. A large "beware of dog" sign welcomed me. Alongside it was a "Smile! You're on camera" sign. The lid of a tote blocked out the window by the door. I was having second thoughts, but I rang the doorbell.

A man, nearing 70, opened the door slowly, just enough to slide his head through the crack. I introduced myself, then my wife, then my daughter. Then I asked, "Are you (name redacted)?" He said, "yes." I went on to explain that I belong to an online treasure hunting community and I was actually knocking on his door for a friend who lived in Florida. The door widened a bit. I continued that we had been working on The Golden Apple Tale for quite some time and were wondering if he was the author. At that point he opened the door and came outside. 

Suddenly, all the tension that may have been there faded away. He confirmed that he was the author and was surprised by the out of the blue visit after all these years. He confessed that The Golden Apple Tale hunt did not go as well as he had hoped. He explained that he's an entrepreneur and had created the hunt after the success of Masquerade. He thought it was long forgotten. I can't imagine creating a hunt some 40 years ago and then having someone find me to ask me about it all these decades later. It must be somewhat exciting and yet bittersweet. 

He wasn't aware that these types of treasure hunts were still a thing. I told him about Forrest Fenn, the Secret and others and how there are lots of communities and treasure hunts out there today. I explained how I am the Grand Rapids Riddler (and had taken over for the Wyoming Riddler, of whom he was aware). 

I turned the conversation back to The Golden Apple Tale and he joked if I wanted him to go dig it up for me (which I took to mean that it's buried!). Of course not, but I did ask him if it was still out there. He confirmed it was never solved and he never retrieved the jewel. In fact, he also confirmed that he has passed the location on a regular basis and the site has not been disturbed. He expressed worry over all the construction our city has seen over the years, but fortunately, the spot has been spared from any construction or development. He shared that he did not go far to hide it, so I took that to mean we're looking within the city of Grand Rapids or its very close suburbs. How far is "not far" is open to interpretation, of course. And we all know the discussions that were had in regards to another very famous treasure hunt that included a clue about "too far to walk".

I asked if he had books left and to my surprise he said he thought he might have a stack of them. He apologized for not inviting us in, but he was in the middle of a project. The weather was accommodating and the adrenaline was flowing, so staying outside was not an issue. He jumped inside to look for the books, but came out very shortly with a "piece of alien technology" for us to inspect while he looked for the books. The "alien technology" turned out to be a sort of hinge for a little invention he was working on for his mailbox. I was pretty excited because I felt like I was meeting a real life Doc Brown (Back to the Future) and imagined his project might be a time machine or the like. "Cam" came back a few minutes later and apologized profusely. He couldn't find the books. He said there was some water damage several years ago and he may have lost them. 

I asked him if he would be interested in getting involved back in the hunt and maybe releasing some additional clues. He could really spark the hunt again and maybe take it to a level he never imagined. I think he might have thought about it for a second, but he declined.

"Cam" values his privacy and has asked us not to share his real name or contact information. He's a kind, humble, humorous and interesting man. He was gracious to spend those 30+/- minutes with us. He could have very well denied everything and closed the door. At the end, he thanked us for the surprise visit. He's a great guy with a great mind who gave us a great mystery - a mystery which is still out there to be solved! 

Oh, one last thing. For my tribute hunt, you'll notice that I tried to stay very close to the original story and overall design. If you're working on the hunt, it might be worth keeping that in mind.