People are Digging for Buried Treasure in S.F. Parks

Alleged ‘buried treasure’ from 1982 is back in the news, but Rec and Parks doesn’t dig random shoveling in public spaces.

An obscure 36-year-old mystery book has modern-day treasure hunters digging through San Francisco parks, hunting for supposedly precious stones hidden since the early 1980s. The alleged booty has never been found, but the book’s recent feature segment on a reality show has treasure-seekers descending on S.F. parks with shovels — and also has S.F. Rec and Parks a little concerned.

The ‘buried treasure’ book in question here is Byron Preiss’ long-forgotten The Secret, a 1982 Dungeons and Dragons-inspired volume of illustrated fantasy poetry in which the author, as a publicity stunt, buried keys to safe deposit boxes in 12 U.S. cities. The verses and illustrations supposedly give clues to the location of the 12 treasures.

The publicity stunt did not really work at the time, but generated new interest when it was recently featured on the Travel Channel series Expedition Unknown.

The book does not actually say there is treasure in San Francisco, but hardcore fans seem certain that a park in our fair city does have one of the hidden items. They have started a Wiki devoted to The Secret that explains their reasons for digging in San Francisco.

“We have a Proposed Solution for Image 1 and Verse 7 that narrows the search area to a small section of path at the top of an outdoor stairwell in Golden Gate Park. The path is currently paved with asphalt, covering any potential dig spot,” the Wiki says. “Any test of this solution will require cutting away a square of asphalt.”

That doesn’t sound like a good idea at all! Particularly to S.F. Rec and Parks general manager Phil Ginsburg.

“If you’re going to come to San Francisco and dig for treasure, yeah, ask first,” Ginsburg told KPIX. “We’ll help you dig, but we want our treasure hunters to be escorted by our treasure rangers, folks who know things, say, about tree roots and irrigation lines.”

We should note that the Golden Gate Park treasure location is just a theory, and treasure-hunters have also been digging in the Marina Green and at Mount Davidson. And heck, the mere existence of this treasure is also a theory (though two of the 12 casks described in the book have been discovered in Cleveland and Chicago.)

And the casks don’t even contain the treasure, they contain a key to safe deposit box that supposedly contains the precious gem. We’d ask the book’s author for comment on whether the gems are even worth anything, but Byron Preiss passed away in 2005.


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