Alexander Clark Real Estate

‘The Front Steps’: The Richmond’s Buried Treasure

The news has been a little heavy the past few weeks, let’s lighten things up with one of the weirdest of all Richmond legends–and one that happens to be true to boot.

This odd tale starts with Byron Preiss, a Stanford grad who went on to work as a publisher for some of the big New York houses. Among his many projects: the slim but maddening 1982 tome The Secret. (Not to be confused with the questionable self-help book from 2006 of the same title.)

The Secret is a fairy tale account about a diaspora of magical creatures leaving their homelands, including a bit about how these ancient elves buried fabulous jewels to remember them by. (As one does.)

As part of the book’s promotion, Preiss actually traveled to 12 major American cities and buried boxes of “treasure jewels” in discrete locations. (Actually, what’s inside the hidden ceramic casques are painted keys that can be exchanged for the real jewels–even Preiss wasn’t nuts enough to go around burying diamonds.)

The Secret includes riddles and opaque, Tarot-like illustrations that provide clues about where the 12 hidden casques may be found. Whoever digs one up first gets to claim the treasure that goes with it, and presumably goes down forever in the annals of nerd history.

(Byron Preiss, looking much too normal for everything we know about him.)

Here’s the catch though: Preiss made his puzzles too hard. It’s been 40 years, and nine of his treasures have yet to be discovered.

Enterprising sleuths turned up the Chicago casque just a few months after the book’s publication. But it was more than 20 years more before someone unearthed the Cleveland treasure, and the one in Boston didn’t appear until 2019. The rest remain missing to this day.

Even worse, Preiss died in 2005–and apparently left no record of where he’d hidden everything. The online subculture around The Secret becomes more frantic to find the rest with each passing year–before they’re accidentally destroyed or misplaced.

You can probably see where this is going: Yes, one of Priess’ remaining casques is right here in San Francisco, and yes, it’s in (or near) the Richmond…probably.

I know some dedicated Preiss-philes who believe his SF redoubt is somewhere in Lands End. And a great number of people suspect it’s in Golden Gate Park–so, right in our backyard either way.

(Lands End)

Of course, lots of folks have guessed plenty of other places as well. But the park locations are such popular searching spots that SF Rec & Park has a formal permit system in place for diggers.

Every year, some journalists get in on the action as well–and every year they come up short.

If you’re anything like most people, curiosity overcame you several paragraphs ago and you went and looked up the SF riddle already.

But for those of you who stuck it out this long, you can consult the Secret wiki to learn more about the topic–more, in fact, than you probably even want to know.

We advise you browse with caution; lots of people head down a rabbit hole on this and never come back out. Of course, sooner or later, one of them will turn up some fairy jewelry for their trouble–or at least that’s how the story goes.

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