The Paintings — Christmas Clue — Bitter End — BBC Documentary

Kit Williams, author of Masquerade, recollects, “If I was to spend two years on the 16 paintings for Masquerade, I wanted them to mean something. I recalled how, as a child, I had come across ‘treasure hunts’ in which the puzzles were not exciting nor the treasure worth finding. So I decided to make a real treasure, of gold, bury it in the ground and paint real puzzles to lead people to it. The key was to be Catherine of Aragon’s cross at Ampthill, casting a shadow like the pointer of a sundial.

(Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife is the book's “ONE OF SIX OF EIGHT.” Ampthill is a small town in Bedfordshire, England, between Bedford and Luton, with a population of about 6,000.)

Bamber Gascoigne witnessed the burial of the hare with Kit and its resurrection about two years after the book was published. He chronicles the Masquerade phenomena in his book, The Quest for the Golden Hare.

“Tens of thousands of letters from Masqueraders have convinced me that the human mind has an equal capacity for pattern-matching and self-deception. While some addicts were busy cooking the riddle, others were more single-mindedly continuing their own pursuit of the hare quite regardless of the news that it had been found. Their own theories had come to seem so convincing that no exterior evidence could refute them. These most determined of Masqueraders may grudgingly have accepted that a hare of some sort was dug up at Ampthill, but they believed there would be another hare, or a better solution, awaiting them at their favorite spot. Kit would expect them to continue undismayed by the much publicized diversion at Ampthill and would be looking forward to the day when he would greet them as the real discoverers of the real puzzle of Masquerade. Optimistic expeditions were still setting out, with shovels and maps, throughout the summer of 1982.”

In 1988, the Sunday London Times revealed that the people who found the treasure did not do so by solving the puzzle. They cheated, and in doing so, robbed us of any further treasure hunt books created by the man who invented the genre, Kit Williams.