The race is on to find the final emerald-studded number from the treasure hunt children’s book, Clock Without a Face. Over the past seven months, treasure seekers have found eleven of the twelve numbers buried at highway rest areas across the United States. And the final hidden number, the twelve, is rumored to be more valuable than all the other numbers combined.
Each of the numbers was once a part of a priceless (and rumored cursed) clock named the Emerald Khroniker. According to legend, the clock was built by a pirate named Friendly Jerome. The greedy pirate looted twelve different cities in twelve different countries, and stripped a jeweled number from each city’s grandest clock for the Emerald Khroniker. The most valuable number, the twelve, is thought to have been stolen from the tomb of an Egyptian king. It wasn’t long before thieves stole this valuable clock from Friendly Jerome. The clock was then stolen again and again, until it ended up in the hands of its most recent owner, Bevel Ternky. The Emerald Khroniker was not stolen from Ternky; instead thieves ingeniously pried off the numbers and buried each one in a separate location.
Within a month of the book’s release, treasure hunters deciphered the clues that led them to eight of the numbers in eight different states – Florida, Washington, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Connecticut and California. Since then, three more have been found, but the number twelve is still buried in the ground somewhere, waiting to be found.
On May 25th, I found one of the numbers myself, an emerald-studded silver beauty. I had read the book several times with my daughter, but the puzzle-cracking grind was a bit too much for a seven-year-old. She cheered me on and hoped that I would find her lucky number seven. With help from a group of Unfiction treasure hunters, I pinpointed the location of the number seven to just 30 miles from my home in Indiana.
Before venturing out to the rest stop, I was not confident with our solution. I thought for sure we were forcing the puzzle to give us an answer that was conveniently local to me. The page holding the clues for the number seven is carnival-themed. Jigsy Squonk the clown left the following clues in his apartment:
- a map of the United States with balloons covering all of the country except for the Illinios/Indiana area;
- a bottle of ketchup with “56 varieties” written on it;
- a wig head with the number 80 on it; and
- a sign that said “Whizz-Bang.”
From those four clues, our group of treasure hunters came up with a rest stop on Interstate 80 at mile marker 56 in Indiana. We thought the Whizz-Bang might point to the westbound side of the rest stop. It seemed tenuous at best, especially since there were multiple other numbers and possible clues that looked no less important than the four we chose.
Despite my doubts, I packed up my copy of Clock Without a Face and a shovel and headed down Highway 80. I was quite nervous about poking around a rest stop in broad daylight, so I brought my dog, Moose, along. I figured he would be a good cover story. If anyone asked why I was circling all the trees on the property, I’d just blame it on the dog having to go to the bathroom.
I had only a few hours to make the trip and find the number seven if I wanted to make it home in time to pick up my daughter at the bus stop. Since it was only 30 miles away, I figured I would have plenty of time to thoroughly search both sides of the rest stop. When I arrived at the eastbound side, my heart sunk. The road I saw on Google Maps, which connected the two sides of the rest area, was gated and accessible to employees only. The only way to reach the westbound side was to drive 20 miles to the next exit and turn around. My gut and a (seemingly) weak clue from the book told me it was on that westbound side, so after a quick search, I drove on.
When I finally made it to the correct side of the rest stop, I had little time left to search before I needed to head home. Moose and I hurried around, looking at all the trees in the area. I focused on the trees closest to the building and ignored the heavily wooded area behind the parking lot. I didn’t have time to search hundreds of trees anyway. If I had to, I would return to tackle those later.
At this point, I was pretty scared. The landscaping around the building was immaculate and my dog cover story didn’t feel as solid as it had at home. We wandered around the parking lot and then moved on to the lawn near the building. That’s when I saw it. I looked down at the base of one of the trees and saw a metal plate nailed into the trunk. Even though the plate was the same shape as the book, I still didn’t believe the number seven would be there. Still, Moose and I sat down under the shade of the tree and started to search. I petted Moose’s fur with one hand and dug at the base of the tree with the other. A few inches down, I hit a plastic bag. I pulled it out and, without even looking inside, ran to the car. My hands were shaking. Once in the safety of my Honda Element, I inspected the bag. There were some holes in it and it looked like whatever was inside had suffered some water damage. I carefully opened the bag and found a small black box. Inside the box, carefully wrapped with cloth, thread and a wax seal, was the emerald-studded number seven.
After calling my husband and chatting with a few of my fellow treasure-hunters, I returned to my digging spot and cleaned up my mess. I put a note in a bottle in the hole for future hunters to find. It was then that I realized that I had very little time to get home. I sped home, hoping to make it to the bus stop in time. Against the odds, I made it home only nine minutes before the bus arrived. My daughter stepped off the bus and saw me holding a shining silver and emerald seven in my hand.