Elliott Serrano, For RedEye
December 13, 2012
It's a mystery worthy of an Indiana Jones adventure. Earlier this week, the staff of the University of Chicago revealed that they had received a strange package. It was addressed to "Henry Walton Jones Jr." care of the university, and was processed with the regular mail. On further inspection, the package was more than it appeared to be. Once they realized that something peculiar was going on, they opened it to find a treasure trove of Indiana Jones prop replicas.
Now, fans of the Indiana Jones movies will know that a young Henry Jones Jr. attended the University of Chicago where he studied archeology under the tutelage of Abner Ravenwood. So the Indy geek in me was fascinated by the story. Was this some cool stunt being pulled by a fan even more devoted than I? Was this an experiment in social networking? Or just someone misplacing a Christmas gift in the most appropriate place in the world?
I reached out to the good folks of the University of Chicago to ask these very questions. Grace H. Chapin, the Senior Admissions Counselor of the The University of Chicago was kind to answer them via e-mail:
Geek To Me: What are some of the ideas you and the U of C staff have come up with to explain the origin of this package?
Grace Chapin: Well, as you can imagine, this is as much of a mystery for us as it is for everyone following-- it was just an incredibly bizarre thing to receive with no note, especially given the volume of very-normal mail we receive, and has only grown more baffling as time wears on.
Some thoughts on what this might be, which have been greatly helped by information from those who have been following the story and sending us updates to firstname.lastname@example.org:
1. This is perhaps the least fun but most plausible possibility: it looks really similar, but not exactly the same as, the journal we linked to in the original post that is currently being sold on Ebay. We're wondering if someone purchased it off of Ebay, it somehow fell out of the original packaging (because the package it arrived in is in no way close to USPS-mailable, as we've determined the stamps aren't real), and a mail carrier wrote on our zip code and delivered it to us without noticing the postage. Or if it was purchased off of Ebay and slipped in to our mail just for fun.
2. Biggest theory we've been getting from followers online: it may be a portion of an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) and contain a "trailhead", or clue, to some adventuresome thing. We've been contacted by a few people who think this may be the case and are going to work on getting some higher quality photographs for those people so they can see if it might have the type of information they look for as part of an ARG.
3. The third, but perhaps least likely, possibility is that it is some type of promotional material for any type of upcoming Indiana Jones events. We've also considered that it is something a student mailed to us as part of their application, but students tend to put their names on things, and to my knowledge we do not have any "Indiana Jones"-es in our applicant pool this year!
Geek To Me: Is this the first time that you've had an experience related to Indiana Jones at the University?
Grace Chapin: This is the first time I've experienced any Indiana Jones related mysteries or events on campus-- but he is purported to have gone here and worked here, so it is not the first time we've heard mention of "Dr. Jones" on campus. I wouldn't say it happens with great frequency, but we do see students who mention our famous Indiana Jones affiliation in their essays, especially if they're interested in archaeology.
Geek To Me: If an "answer" is not discovered for the items, what will happen to them?
Grace Chapin: Whether or not we find an answer for this, we're definitely going to hang on to the journal! The University of Chicago library system has an AMAZING "Special Collections" full of rare books and interesting artifacts, both of a scholarly nature and relating to the University of Chicago (for example, they have a collection of t-shirts with relatively snarky sayings that our students sell on campus). Once we're done with it, we'd be happy if they wanted to put it in their archives!
UPDATE: The University of Chicago informed REDEYE that they've SOLVED THE MYSTERY!
Check out pictures of the INDIANA JONES JOURNAL AND ARTIFACTS.
ELLIOTT SERRANO IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR AND INDIANA JONES GEEK.
HE ALSO ENJOYED THE FOURTH FILM, "KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL" AND IS NOT ASHAMED OF IT.
FOLLOW ELLIOTT SERRANO ON TWITTER!
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