Treasure hunt psychology: Search at a popular park (Como) or a new one (Long Lake)?

St. Paul Pioneer Press - 01-26-2017

"There are no ‘gotta be’s’ in this."


As the annual Pioneer Press Treasure Hunt entered Day Clue 9 early Monday, two things were clear:

1. The medallion hadn’t been found.

2. There was no overwhelming consensus in which park it might be.

Two frequent theories — both born before the hunt even started — showed little signs of dying, both on social media threads and in quiet discussions among hunters:

1. Como

2. Long Lake

Each exemplifies the mind-cramping gymnastics treasure hunters go through as they try to be the lucky devil to find something smaller than a hockey puck in a county of some 170 square miles.

“Once you lock in a park, it’s hard to talk yourself out of it,” said Jesse Anibas, a longtime hunter and historian of the event. “I try to keep an open mind, but it’s really hard.”

Briefly, here’s the case for each:


For: Each of the daily clues fits. Or so some say. Of course, that’s often true of Como. It’s a big park with lots of features, ranging from amusements for kids and bemusements for adults. Plus, the clue writer seems to like Como. The medallion has been hidden eight times at Como, more than any other park: 1956, 1965, 1980, 1990, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2014. Don’t think it’ll be there so soon after 2014? Check out 2001, followed by 2003.

Against: Yeah yeah, but really, it’s been there too often. So obvious. So easy. Especially when you consider all the places it hasn’t been. Like Long Lake.


For: It’s due. plus, look at recent history: Bald Eagle-Otter Lakes Regional Park, 2016; Snail Lake Regional Park, 2015; Tony Schmidt Regional park, 2012. Big. Regional parks. In north suburbs. Clear pattern. Oh, and it matches all the clues. Maybe.

Against: History teaches us nothing, said Anibas, author of “Pioneer Press Treasure Hunt History.” “It hasn’t been at Highland since 1994. As hunters, we can’t figure that out. When I started hunting, we used to look there all the time. But now, it just gets overlooked. It’s almost like no one expects it there.”

And so on recent days the scavengers have been scattered, veering off the track to new parks and old standbys.

On Friday, Jeff McNaughton and girlfriend Denise Olson were at Como, triangulating a series of landmarks and scraping away an ice-covered area with hoes.

“The clues are very generic this year,” said Olson, a longtime hunter. “But we can definitely see them fitting here. Seems as good a place as any.”

Anibas said one of the charms of the Treasure Hunt is that the location is subject to the whim of an individual(s?) whose identity is unknown.

“People say ‘It’s gotta be here,’ or ‘It’s gotta be there.’ But it’s up to the (hider.) You can’t rule anything out. There are no ‘gotta be’s’ in this.”