The Clues Were Ingenious, but Staging the Hunt Would Kill Him

Inside the treasure hunt that would claim Hunter Lewis' life
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2022 9:30 AM CDT
The Clues Were Ingenious, but Staging the Hunt Would Kill Him
   (Getty Images / Laura Fay)

A California college student who created an adventurous treasure hunt for family and friends as a Christmas gift is presumed to have died while hiding the treasure: Hunter Lewis, 21, was last seen on Dec. 30 paddling a canoe into the Pacific; the waters were frigid, he was clad in a T-shirt and shorts, and shards of his canoe later washed up. The story made national news, but Stephen Rodrick takes a much deeper and more intimate look at it for Rolling Stone. He paints a picture of an adventurer who was born to adventurers: His parents met on the Pacific Crest Trail; his mom swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco in her 30s; his dad taught Lewis and his brother parkour. He also staged treasure hunts for them.

Lewis, who had his pilot's license and dreams of becoming an astronaut (he was a student at Cal State Long Beach, which had an aerospace program), spent two years working on his own hunt, which purported to be a search for the "legendary Lost Lewis treasure." Rodrick details some of the clues, and they're involved. One was a recording of Lewis playing the Scooby-Doo theme song; his girlfriend used an audio-edit-function app "to isolate tracks and find one on which he had written on the file’s spectrogram 'S3 E12 2:00 Blue Lake.'" That led them to a Scooby-Doo episode, which led to a treehouse, which led to a 3D printed key that had Braille on it and referenced Isaac Newton and René Descartes. But as Rodrick writes, he was worried in writing the story "that everyone would concentrate on the ingenious and, yes, the joy of the treasure hunt" and "skim over the fact that a promising young man made a terrible mistake that will forever haunt his family and friends." Read the full story to gain an appreciation of both. (More Longform stories.)

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