A few months ago, I began a project in honor of the 30th anniversary of the MIT Mystery Hunt—a map indicating all the coin locations over the years. Hunt originator Brad Schaefer ’78, PhD ’83 suggested it as a fitting tribute. The Mystery Hunt archives page and a lengthy, detailed article from the July 1991 issue of Games magazine, written by Hunt veteran Eric Albert, stated that the Hunt began in 1980. However, after extensive research and dozens of emails to past puzzle creators and participants (including Schaefer and Albert), one thing became clear. The Mystery Hunt actually began in 1981. It’s only 29. No matter. This anniversary may not technically be a milestone, but it is the 30th time the Hunt is being played. So we’ll just go with that. Learn more about the origins of the Hunt.
Mapping the Mystery Hunt Coin
Where to hide the coin can be a challenge. The location has to be accessible at all hours; impervious to outside forces like rain, squirrels, or cleaning crews; and easy to designate with clues—a lesson Schaefer learned during the first-ever Hunt when a mezzanine level he wasn’t aware of caused some participants to break into a librarian’s office (see 1981 on the map). In early Hunts, puzzle creators (usually one or two people) waited for teams to call when they arrived at the final solution. These days, the endgame includes a massive runaround with teams (often accompanied by puzzle creators) traversing campus based on an intricate set of instructions.
So what can be gleaned from this map? Buildings 4, 24, and 7 have each been used the most (three times) as hiding spots. East campus has only been used once, in 2006. Only two spots have been outdoors. And basements are especially popular—they’ve been used eight times. Check out the map and click on the coins for more insights and anecdotes, including when the first brute-force solution was required, what year the coin was hidden in someone’s pants, and which year even the puzzle creators didn’t know where the coin was hidden.
Also, please let us know (by replying in the comments) if you have additional anecdotes or if you can supply any of the following information: the location of the ever-elusive 1992 coin (the only year, regrettably, not accounted for), the location of the large-team puzzle in 1986 (there were two versions that year), or confirmation for 1991 and 1997 (which were best guesses by those puzzle creators).
Update: Check out video from the 2010 Mystery Hunt, where R2D2 made an appearance.