|This belongs in a museum|
Bespoke puzzles by post
All good mysteries start with something simple, commonplace and so does this tale, for Christmas is also the time for presents and wonder.
The weeks before Christmas are the busiest times for shops, but also for the University of Chicago’s Admissions Department as thousands of young people jostle to get a place in this famed institution, sending in their applications, documents and requests for help.
But this year, something very different came in the post, the admissions office explained, “Yesterday we received a package addressed to “Henry Walton Jones, Jr.”. We sort-of shrugged it off and put it in our bin of mail for student workers to sort and deliver to the right faculty member— we get the wrong mail a lot.”
Thankfully, one of the students recognized the recipient as Indiana Jones, the university’s famous yet fictional professor and the package was opened, revealing an extraordinarily detailed notebook, containing notes on the location and history of the Ark of the Covenant and many other pieces of ephemera, a replica of “University of Chicago Professor” Abner Ravenwood’s journal from the film, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
When opened, the mystery deepened. |UChicago Admissions
The university was baffled, asking “If you’re an applicant and sent this to us: Why? How? Did you make it? Why so awesome?” They continued, “Any hints, ideas, thoughts, or explanations are appreciated. We’ve been completely baffled as to why this was sent to us, in mostly a good way.”
Many fans of the Spielberg adventure films replied by quoting one of the movies famous lines, “This belongs in a museum!”
The mystery has been solved. The package was made by an eBay seller, Ravenbar, who posted it inside another envelope, to the buyer in Italy. While in transit, the package got separated from the original and the postal service delivered the inner package to the university.
Ravenbar also felt it belonged in a museum and has allowed the university to put it on display in their Oriental Institute and will make another for the Italian purchaser.
There are several people making replica props, but some of the Indy admirers go beyond a re-creation. Machty, from the Netherlands explained, “Grail diary makers are usually fans, who are so immersed in the whole Indiana Jones universe that they start collecting everything they can on it and eventually, when certain items are non- existent, they end up making them themselves.”
He enjoys making such memorabilia, “The process of making them is more or less like a journey in itself and allows the fan to fully ' lose' themselves in this wondrous world of adventure and mystery.” Machty continues, “The diaries are in fact more than just replica's. They use the movieprop as a basis and have added pages, details, events etc. based on the whole Indiana Jones universe. So not just the books, but also events that take place in the various books and even the videogames that came out in recent years.”
It’s also a demanding hobby, “Some only make one, but there are some, amongst which myself, who are almost posessed by the idea that it can be done even better the next time, thus starting the build over and over again, each time trying to make minute details even better.”
If this tale of mysterious mail intrigues, it’s easier than you may imagine arranging a mystery of your own, thanks to The Mysterious Package Company. This team, led by the enigmatic ‘Curator’ will design and create unusual and intriguing surprises and post them off.
Timothy Sullivan, The Mechanic for the company explained what they do, “The artifacts from The Mysterious Package Company are steeped in lore and adventure; an experience that becomes part of the recipients life story. It is almost more about how the items are presented than the items themselves.”
The packages are a team effort, stresses Sullivan, “The work is spread among myself, The Mechanic, who takes care of the online pieces (the web store, as well as custom websites we generate for storylines), The Artisan, who crafts items from scratch, forges documents, ages artifacts and generally adds the spice to the story, and The Professor, who crafts the stories and puzzles, making sure that every package is coherent in its message.”
Each of their packages is custom made, ranging in cost from $250 to over $1,000. “For a single-crate experience, where everything comes together at once and it's from our existing inventory of offerings, it generally takes 8 to 14 hours to create. For bespoke experiences, with custom artifacts and a unique storyline it could easily take 40 hours or more. This is why we limit the number of packages we send per month, with members getting preferred access,” says Sullivan.
In keeping with the mystery, the company “cannot confirm or deny our involvement in any specific packages.”
But one person who ordered a package told New Europe a little about why they chose such an unusual gift, “What I find gratifying is that people want to believe. The first item we received was a letter and people who found out about it just wanted to know more and more, to read and reread the letter. People have aggressively googled different "clues", like the postmark on the envelope that the letter came in. Although the mailings are so cool to receive, it's pretty clear that people SURROUNDING the giftee get something from this process too. This isn't just a break from life being predictable for the giftee, it puts a spark in the lives of everyone who follows along.”
We could all do with a little mystery in our lives and thanks to these imaginative people, it’s not too difficult or expensive to arrange.