In 2016 I wrote a retrospective on the wonderful ‘Masquerade’ book by Kit Williams, which sparked an ‘armchair’ treasure hunt phenomena and presents a story that goes well beyond the book itself. However, one thing I really wanted to do was go into the exact detail of the solution to the book.. ..but within the confines of my original blog, I thought it would have be too distracting to the main context of the story and would have made the blog simply too long.
So, in this follow-up retrospective we are going to have a detailed look at the complete solution to ‘Masquerade’.
Two physics teachers, Mike Barker of William Hulme’s Grammar School and John Rousseau of Rossall School, correctly deciphered the clues within the book to discover the location of the ‘golden hare’ in March 1982. Barker and Rousseau were the only people to ever correctly decipher the clues as Williams had intended during the book’s initial publication.
The full story and details about the controversial winner can be found in my original retrospective.
The ‘Masquerade’ book contained all the clues necessary to locate the treasure’s precise hiding place in Britain to “within a few inches.” At the time, the only additional clue Williams provided was that the hare was buried on public property that could be easily accessed.
When first encountered, ‘Masquerade’ seems a somewhat modest book; it is remarkably thin, containing only the 15 paintings.. ..however, Williams ‘buried’ so many puzzles and details within it, it is not a book to be underestimated.
If you only causally glance at any of Kit’s work you cannot fail to notice how much of a ‘details’ man he is.. ..even to the point of designing and making the clothes his models wear to pose for his paintings. As such, the puzzles in ‘Masquerade’, whilst logical are detailed and extensive.
Let the quest begin
The book contains many puzzles, some which are easy to solve and some of which are of course much harder, including the main puzzle or ‘master riddle’ (which was only ever solved by Barker and Rousseau). So, in this blog we will go through the types of puzzles, in turn, up to and including the main solution. We will also look at the additional and completely separate illustrated clue which Williams had published in the Sunday Times on December 21st 1980.
The clues start immediately on the opening title page, which states:
“Within the pages of this book there is a story told, Of love, adventures, fortunes lost, and a jewel of solid gold. To solve the hidden riddle, you must use your eyes, And find the hare in every picture that may point you to the prize.”
So there is a ‘hidden’ hare in every picture, they are easy to find (some more so than others) and this is the first bit of fun that the book presents.
In the above image from the final painting, ‘Over the water‘ the hare is one of the clouds in the sunset. In the first painting of the book ‘One of six to eight‘, the hare is hidden as hill in the back ground. If you look closely, you will also notice that at the hares feet are in a somewhat contorted position.. ..this is important, as we will come to see.
You will also see that framing each picture are phrases within an ornate ‘marble’ border.
On the first painting ‘One of six to eight‘ the phrase is “I AM AS COLD AS EARTH AS OLD AS EARTH AND IN THE EARTH AM I ONE OF SIX TO EIGHT”.
Some of the letters are in red and some, which are less obvious, have small barbs on them (represented as strikethroughs here).. ..these letters form anagrams, which spell words.
In this first picture the barbed letters are ‘L’, ‘D’, ‘N’, ‘E’, ‘O’, ‘G’ i.e. ‘GOLDEN’. The red letters are ‘A’, ‘R’, ‘E’, ‘H’ i.e. ‘HARE’.
So the letters and phrases from the border of the first image tell us several things at once.. ..that the ‘GOLDEN’ ‘HARE’ is ‘in the earth‘, ie. buried. This confirms that the prize is indeed in the soil and not inside a building, vehicle or other man made structure. The fact that the ‘hidden’ hare in this picture is also in the shape of a hill seems to suggest that it is buried somewhere in a hill.
The final clue on this page comes from the phrase ‘ONE OF SIX TO EIGHT’.. ..it is indeed one of the biggest clues in the book, although admittedly cryptic. It suggests that Catherine of Aragon, the first of the six wives of King Henry VIII, is important in determining the location of the golden hare. If you look into the history of Catherine you will find that upon the dissolution of her marriage to Henry VIII she was banished to Ampthill Castle in Bedfordshire.. ..indeed there is a monument to her at the top of a small hill in Ampthill Park.
As you continue through the book the ‘hidden hares’ are easy to spot, the only real ones that stump people for a while are painting 2, ‘Dance in time’ and 14, ‘Crystal aquamarine’. For painting 2, yes the man in the ‘hare suit’ is the hidden hare and for painting 14 the hidden hare is a logo on the girls swimming costume (who coincidentally is how Williams envisage the girl in painting 4, ‘Penny-Pockets’ would look when she was older). Some people also find the hare on painting 5, ‘Tara Tree-tops‘ hard to find.. ..but have a go, it is there.. ..if not, don’t worry I will give you a clue towards the end of the blog.
It is very easy to go through the book and solve the hidden words that are either represented by barbed or red letters, which are:
|Painting No.||Painting ‘Title’||Barbed letters word||Red letters word|
|1†||One of six to eight||GOLDEN||HARE|
|2||Dance in time||LADY||MOON|
|3||The day begins||SUN||RISE|
|6||Petals tumble upon air||CHILD||MOUSE|
|8||All animals are equal||LOST||SMILE|
|9||A poet and a musician||SAD||MELODY|
|10||Jack in the green||MOULD||JELLY|
|11‡||A practical man (high tea)||GULL||HERRING|
|12†||Sir Isaac Newton||SIR||ISAAC|
|13‡||In deep waters||GOLDEN||CARP|
|15†||Over the water||CLOUD||SILVER|
The ‘titles’ above I have made up using the story as inspiration as there are no ‘official’ titles to the paintings. Painting numbers followed by a ‘†’ are critical to solving the master riddle, those followed by a ‘‡’ contain red herrings.
However, unless you have made the subtle connections hinted at in painting 1, ‘One of six to eight‘, none of this helps us to solve the main puzzle and indicate the precise location of the golden hare treasure.
Text based riddles
There are a few riddles presented in the main text, which usually spell out a word. But the text of the book is largely irrelevant to solving the main puzzle.
An example of one of the word riddles, is found in painting 3, ‘The day begins‘:
“Fifty is my first, Nothing is my second, Five just makes my third, My fourth a vowel is reckoned…“
This one makes reference to roman numerals.. ..let’s examine and interpret this, line by line:
“Fifty is my first”
– Fifty in Roman numerals is represented by the letter ‘L’
“Nothing is my second”
– Nothing is usually represented by the letter ‘O’
“Five just makes my third”
– Five in Roman numerals is ‘V’
“My fourth a vowel is reckoned…“
– a vowel that is reckoned could be any, but in this case should be ‘E’
– ‘L’, ‘O’, ‘V’, ‘E’
So, ‘LOVE’.. ..simply part of the romantic tale of the story. The remainder of this clue reads:
“.. Now to find my name, Fit my parts together, I die if I get cold, but never fear cold weather.“
A bit morbid, but love dies with you.. ..but never fears the cold!
Another text puzzle is next to painting 7, ‘Eclipse‘ which is particularly cryptic:
“I am the beginning of eternity,
Followed by half a circle, close on by half a square,
Through my fourth, my fifth is seen,
To be the first in every pair.
My sixth begins my seventh,
The end of time and space,
Now put my parts together to see what’s taken place.”
Let’s examine and interpret this, line by line:
“I am the beginning of eternity”
– the beginning of the word ‘eternity’ is the letter ‘E’
“Followed by half a circle, close on by half a square”
– half a circle is the letter ‘C’, ‘L’ is half a square
“Through my fourth, my fifth is seen”
– you see through your eye, so the fourth letter is ‘I’
“To be the first in every pair”
– the first of ‘pair’ is ‘P’
“My sixth begins my seventh”
– ‘S’ is the letter that begins ‘seventh’ and is the sixth letter
“The end of time and space”
– the end of ‘time’ and ‘space’ is ‘E’
Now put my parts together to see what’s taken place.”
– ‘E’, ‘C’, ‘L’, ‘I’, ‘P’, ‘S’ and ‘E’
So the corollary of the above is the word ‘ECLIPSE’.
So we are starting to see that Catherine of Aragon, Ampthill and an eclipse may be important to solving the main puzzle and finding the golden hare, which is also probably buried in a hill.
There are a few other word puzzles within the main text, which you should have some fun with and I’ll let you find for yourself.. ..however, I’m not going to detail them here because none of them on their own, or combined, help us to really solve the main puzzle.
Confirmation your on the right track
The text puzzles are what Williams referred to ‘confirmers’, there to reassure treasure hunters that they are indeed on the right track.
Many additional hints, or ‘confirmers‘, are scattered throughout the book and some are in the paintings themselves.
For example, in painting 2, ‘Dance in time‘, the hands of the two figures are clasped together, crossing and pointing at the date of the spring equinox; this is ‘balanced’ at the bottom of the picture with the cords of the scales intersecting to the date of the alternative autumnal equinox. In painting 3, ‘The day begins‘ the rather obvious hare is standing on a stone which resembles a frog.. ..in Ampthill park there is a weathered stone know as the ‘Frogstone’. There is a picture of a football field in painting 5, ‘Tara Tree-tops‘ indicting the location is near a football field and the clock in painting 10, ‘Jack in the green‘ is very similar to the one in Ampthill itself (unfortunately, this latter clue is slightly obscured by the centrefold of the book itself).
The puzzle squares
In contrast to the text based puzzles, the puzzle squares found in the some of paintings are highly significant and largely critical to solving the main puzzle.
The first of which, appears on painting 4, ‘Penny-Pockets’.. ..let’s take a look:
|9||6||– (assume 7)||12|
This is because it matches the layout of another puzzle square seen on page 12, the ‘Sir Isaac Newton’ painting. This square contains coloured letters. Williams hints that these two pictures are connected as there are bee’s prominent in both. Another, more unnoticed indication is the so-called ‘Hare-bell‘.. ..it is mentioned a few times in the story, and appears a few times in the paintings… but there are only two story/painting combinations where it is both mentioned and pictured – namely, paintings 4 and 12!
The 12th ‘Sir Isaac Newton‘ painting is also key to solving the main puzzle and with painting 4, ‘Penny-Pockets‘ links all of the other clues together.
Painting 12 also contains other ‘confirmers‘. For example, in the border ‘Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick‘ is quoted.. ..this derives from a rhyme chanted during the old game of candle leaping (also shown in the painting), which was played by lace-makers on St. Catherine’s Day. Catherine of Aragon introduced the Ampthill region to lacemaking.
Anyway, lets continue and take a look at the puzzle square on the 12th ‘Sir Isaac Newton’ painting:
Now the actual link between the numbers in painting 4 and the letters in painting 12 is ridiculously cryptic.. ..the letters correspond to the initials of locations near to the buried treasure, the numbers their approximate distance in miles. So for example, ‘F’ corresponds to ‘2’, referring to ‘Flitwick’ being c. ‘2’ miles from ‘Ampthill’, ‘DU’, ‘Dunstable’ which is c. ’10’ miles from ‘Ampthill’ (check them out from here) etc. Again this is yet another ‘confirmer’ and has little to do with to the main puzzle.
The important aspect that relates to the main puzzle is the colours of the letters.
If you arrange the letters of Isaac Newton’s puzzle square by the sequence given by ‘Polly-Pockets‘ square, you get the following (assuming that ‘7’ is the missing number in ‘Polly-Pockets‘ number square):
As stated, it is not the letters or their meaning that matters, it is the repeating colour pattern of red, yellow, green and blue that is key.
This is because it matches the colours of the control rings on the puppets in the ‘Sir Isaac Newton‘ painting. Although somewhat hard to see.. ..red rings attach to the left hand, yellow to the left foot, green to the right hand and blue to the right foot (the white and black rings can be ignored).
If you look at where the strings attach to the puppets, it is always to the longest digit and echoes the “point you to the prize” clue at the start of the book (see above image).
The Final clue is that all of the animal puppets are hanging from their eyes and ‘Jill’ is pointing to her eyes, indicating that eyes are important as stated in the introduction as “you must use your eyes”.
Also, remember how at the start of the blog I said the position of hands and digits are important in reference to the somewhat contorted ‘hidden’ hare in painting 1, ‘One of six to eight‘.. ..you may also notice similar things in other paintings. For example, the fingers of ‘Lady Moon‘ (in painting 7, ‘Eclipse‘) are again strangely contorted (indeed some readers interpreted this as ‘signing‘) as if she is specifically pointing to something.. ..so the position of hands, feet, fingers, toes, paws etc. are clearly important.
The solution to the main puzzle
The combination of all of this gives you the entire methodology to enable you to solve the main puzzle of ‘Masquerade’.
OK, get ready for this as it takes quite a huge literal, but logical, interpretation of aspects of the 12th ‘Sir Isaac Newton‘ painting.. ..it’s not surprising that only two physics teachers ever worked this out! Here we go.. ..you are supposed to do the following to each and every image in the book to reveal the main message which confirms the location of the buried golden hare.
Identify all of the people and animals (including any that are ‘hidden’) in the picture and draw lines (like the strings from a puppet) starting from their eyes through the tips of the longest digits on their hands and feet.. ..they will point to letters on the marble borders of the picture. These letters spell out the main puzzle message.
You could simply treat these letters as an anagram and work out what message the letters reveal or, to get the right order straight away, follow the red, yellow, green and blue sequence of the puppet control rings in the ‘Sir Isaac Newton‘, painting. So this would be.. ..in order, left eye to left hands longest digit, left eye to left longest ‘toe’, right eye to right hands longest digit and finally right eye to right longest ‘toe’.
It also helps to use the order that the puppets appear in the 12th ‘Sir Isaac Newton‘ painting, when you are decoding each painting.. ..which is (sort of): ‘Jack‘, ‘Jill‘, frog, hare, gull, fish and then the other animals, such as mice. So for each painting draw lines from the humans first and then the animals, in turn, as described.
The result, which for some of the paintings can be amazingly complex, looks like this:
I have chosen to demonstrate this using painting 1, “One of six to eight“, as the only animals visible are the ‘hidden’ hare and the three mice.. ..making it a little clearer to both see and explain.
Starting with the hare’s left eye and drawing a red line through his left ‘hand’ points to the letter ‘C‘ on the border. The yellow line through the left foot points to ‘A‘. The green line starts on the right eye and passes through the right ‘hand’, pointing to the letter ‘T‘. The blue line through the right foot points to ‘H‘.
Now we can do the same with the mice. Starting with the mouse near the middle of the painting, we can only see her left eye.. ..so we need only to draw the red and yellow lines through her left ‘hand’ and foot, pointing to the letters ‘E‘ and ‘R‘. For the mouse on the bottom left, we can see both eyes, but only his front ‘hands’. Drawing the red and green lines points to the letters ‘I‘ and ‘N‘. The final mouse’s right eye is visible so we draw green and blue lines through her right ‘hand’ and foot to get the letters ‘E‘ and ‘S‘.
Putting all these letters together spells out ‘CATHERINES‘.
I’m not going to detail this method for every painting as the blog will get too long.. ..but to get you started with painting 2, ‘Dance in time‘, here are some hints:
- Start with the ‘Sun‘ and draw a red line from his left eye through his left hand, to get the letter ‘L‘.
- His left toe isn’t visible, so skip on to his right eye and draw lines through his right hand and right foot.
- Then repeat this with the ‘Moon‘.
- Finally, do the same with the man with the violin, who represents the ‘hidden hare’ in this painting.
You should end up with the phrase ‘LONG FINGER’
The final clue to the main puzzle (which acts as a ‘confirmer‘ more than anything else) is found using the puzzle square on the last painting, ‘Over the water‘. This reveals how many letters each word should contain for each painting.
Let’s take a look:
Again, using the sequence from ‘Penny-Pockets‘ number square in painting 4, results in:
|Painting ‘1’ = 10||‘2’ = 46||‘3’ = 4||‘4’ = 7|
|‘5’ = 5||‘6’ = 6||‘7’ = ?||‘8’ = 6|
|‘9’ = 6||‘10’ = 6||‘11’ = 3||‘12’ = 4|
|‘13’ = 2||‘14’ = 527||‘15’ = 43||‘16’ = 0|
So, for each painting, in turn, we should have a ‘master phrase’ that consists of words with 10, 46, 4, 7, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6, 3, 4, 2, 527, 43 and 0 letters.. ..hang on a moment, that doesn’t sound right!?!
Again, Williams is being cryptic ‘46’, doesn’t mean we will be drawing 46 lines on painting 2, it means there are two words.. ..one 4 letters long and one 6. The same is true for the numbers 527 and 43.. ..but 10 does mean 10. So let’s try that again:
We should have a master phrase with 18 words, consisting of 10, 4, 6, 4, 7, (5), 6, 6, 6, 6, 3, 4, 2, 5, 2, 7, 4, 3 and (0) letters, respectively.
The corollary of all of the above, finally reads:
Painting 1 – ‘CATHERINES’
|2 – ‘LONG FINGER’||3 – ‘OVER’||4 – ‘SHADOWS’|
5 – ‘EARTH’
|6 – ‘BURIED’||7 – ‘YELLOW’||8 – ‘AMULET’|
|9 – ‘MIDDAY’||10 – ‘POINTS’||11 – ‘THE’||
12 – ‘HOUR’
|13 – ‘IN’||14 – ‘LIGHT OF EQUINOX’||14 – ‘LOOK YOU’||
Let’s make this phrase a little easier to read:
“CATHERINE’S LONG FINGER OVER SHADOWS EARTH BURIED YELLOW AMULET MIDDAY POINTS THE HOUR IN LIGHT OF EQUINOX LOOK YOU”
The acrostic of these words also approximately spells the phrase/instruction “CLOSE BY AMPTHILL“.
So Williams was instructing the reader that the treasure was buried near the cross-shaped monument to Catherine of Aragon in Ampthill Park. As hinted at the beginning of the book in the first painting, ‘One of six to eight‘.. ..and indeed the monument is on a hill.
The precise area to dig was revealed by the tip of the monument’s shadow (literally a cross marking the spot, see above image) at noon on the day of either the Spring/vernal or Autumnal equinox.. ..there you have it, the complete solution to the main puzzle of ‘Masquerade’!
Please don’t go digging there now.. …remember, the ‘golden hare’ has long been found!
False, now think again!
Williams also placed several other riddles in the book, which are not as useful as they may first seem.. ..in painting 5, ‘Tara Tree-tops‘ there is a picture of football field which suggests that the treasure maybe buried near a football field (which it was). However, within the field is another number square:
At first this seems meaningless, but a scientist would know that sometimes numbers can relate to letters. Indeed, every element is represented by a letter or letters but are ordered in the periodic table, according to their atomic number (which relates to the number of protons in the element).
The numbers in painting 5 are indeed, atomic numbers. When you replace the atomic numbers with their corresponding atomic letters the table becomes:
Still not obvious? Well lets write them down in order.. ..’F Al S Es N O U U Th I N K Ag Ar I N’.
Which, with a bit of liberal interpretation reads:
“False, now think again”
A red herring!
There are several others….for example, painting 13, “In deep waters” is of a rather obvious red fish which reveals the word ‘IN’. Painting 11, “A practical man“contains a ‘Herring Gull‘ and reveals the word ‘THE’. Neither of these words are essential to the solving of the main riddle. In painting 11, the red letters also spell ‘HERRING‘, to add insult.
It is interesting that these two pages come directly before and after the critical 12th “Sir Isaac Newton” painting.
The Sunday Times Clue
As no body had come anywhere close to solving the main puzzle, Williams had an additional clue printed in the Sunday Times on December 21, 1980. It was also reproduced in the paperback edition of ‘Masquerade‘, which contains the solution to the main puzzle, but the solution for this news print clue was curiously omitted. So I will explain it here.
Apparently, Mike Barker and John Rousseau, the only people to ever solve the main riddle, also solved this one.. ..and it confirmed their theory for cracking ‘Masquerade’.
Bear in mind that this clue originally appeared in a newspaper.. ..as such, its easily folded and light passes through it.
That being the case, the strange symbols on the scroll that Kit is holding are mirror images of (mainly) half letters.. ..so if if the lower half of the paper is folded in the centre (below the third line of symbols) they come together to form fully readable English words.
The entire message can then be read in a mirror.. ..Williams was, typically, being as cryptic, as ever.
Williams was still making this quite hard for treasure hunters. ‘I A•ED‘ translates as ‘I appointed‘.. ..this may hint towards the ‘eyes that point toward the prize‘ which Kit reveals at the start of ‘Masquerade’. However, more importantly the message largely offers insight as to how the master phrase can be solved by the reader:
‘To do my work, I appointed four men from twenty, the tallest and the fattest, and the righteous follow the sinister.‘
‘Four men from twenty‘ relates to four fingers/toes out of the twenty digits on the human body. ‘The tallest and the fattest‘ referring to the size of the digits on the hands and feet, i.e. use the two longest fingers and the two largest toes. ‘The righteous follow the sinister‘ helps you determine the order of the letters, using the left (sinister) eyes through left fingers and toes first, then the right(eous) ones.
The ‘Å’ symbol next to the ‘6000’ written on the label attached to the fish (that Kit is holding in his other hand), is an Ångström. It is a unit of length, equal to 10−10 m (one ten-billionth of a metre), which was commonly used in physics for measuring things like the wavelengths of light. It has been largely replaced by the use of nanometers (nm). 6000 Å would equate to 600 nm, which corresponds to the red part of the visible spectrum.. so another one of Williams ‘red herrings’!
The animals surrounding Kit (ignoring the ‘red herring’) are a Mouse, Elephant, Rabbit, Reindeer, Yak, Cat, Hedgehog, Rat, Iguana, Snake, Toad, Monkey, Ant, and Snail. The beginning letters of which spell out a message appropriate to its original date of publication.. ..’MERRY CHRISTMAS’!
Finally, did you spot the ‘hidden hare’?
Insight – more hidden details
- Black Country folk, may be interested to know that one of the famous places mentioned in ‘Masquerade’ is ‘Dudley Zoo‘.. ..see if you can find it;
- In painting 5, ‘Tara Tree-tops‘, the town depicted is Tewkesbury. If you look closely, you can also spot the publisher Tom Maschler’s name on a van in the lower right corner (which is just down from the often missed ‘hidden hare’ in this picture);
- The shopfronts in painting 10, ‘Jack in the green‘, showing the names ‘Lister’ and ‘L. Levy’ relate to the owners of the ‘Portal Gallery‘, where Kit’s work was displayed for many years;
- ‘Sudbury Hall‘ was an interesting place for Williams to use in painting 14, ‘Crystal aquamarine’. A copy of ‘Et in Arcadia ego‘ (also known as ‘Les bergers d’ Arcadie‘ or ‘The Arcadian Shepherds’) was kept there and the painting has long been thought to contain hidden geometry, lines etc. that are supposed to provide clues to a hidden treasure, similar to that of ‘Masquerade’ (to find out more, read ‘The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail‘). In addition, the painting, like ‘Masquerade’ is also surrounded by controversy.
To help me understand the puzzles and pursue the golden hare, I found the following books (I particularly recommend Bamber Gascoigne’s ‘Quest for the golden hare‘) and website (a fantastic site created by Dan Amrich), in addition to the original book, very useful :
- ‘Masquerade – the complete book with answers explained‘ (1983), Kit Williams, Workman Publishing, ISBN 978-0894803697
- ‘Quest for the golden hare‘ (1983), Bamber Gascoigne, Jonathan Cape Ltd., ISBN 978-0224021166
- ‘Masquerade and the Mysteries of Kit Williams‘, accessed Jan-Feb 2019
* Please note – the images in this blog have been deliberately cropped, ‘desaturated’ or are of a reduced size.. ..it is not my intention to reproduce any of Kit Williams fantastic artwork at a high resolution. If you find this blog interesting, I wholeheartedly recommend you buy a copy of the original hard back version of ‘Masquerade’ to savour Kit’s fantastic paintings.
Artwork © 1979 Kit Williams & Jonathan Cape, All Rights Reserved. ISBN 0-224-01617-2. Used under fair dealing and fair use for research and commentary. No copyright infringement is intended.