As I wandered to War Memorial Hall one morning, a foreign piece of paper clung to a light pole, advertising a VT Hunt that not only piqued my interest but rattled my brain. 48 hours later, my team and I scoured the campus, looking for clues and boxes that left no trace. This is no ordinary scavenger hunt and the answer isn’t so easy to unravel.
I had to find the phantom creators who seemed to only exist over an anonymous email and Reddit posts. I tracked him down, and organized a meeting at the Pylons, not to pry the final clues out of him, but to pick his brain like a lock and understand where this idea came.
Around 3:30 p.m. at the Pylons, I met Jamie Simon, a senior engineering science and mechanics major, and Bennett Witcher, a masters aerospace student — the masterminds behind the hunt. We talked about our favorite books as we dangled our feet over the edge of the Pylons and talked about the hunt overall. In total, there are 13 clues, counting the initial flyers that were sprinkled all over campus, on Reddit and Facebook. The clues lead you places all over campus, from the smallest of trees to the the most well-known buildings all over campus. Each clue hinted to where you could find the next riddle, until you reached the final resting place of the unknown grand prize. So far, approximately 100 groups are on the quest for the prize, and only four have finished.
Simon was the puzzle master, conceptualizing all the clues and answers, while Witcher developed the flyer and tested clues. The rest of their team helped set up flyers and test clues. Witcher even jokes by saying 90 percent of it was Simon, 5 percent was Witcher, 5 percent was others.
“I started something like this in high school and wanted to do something strange; something that would be only positive and would make everyone’s lives more interesting (around campus),” Simon said. “I wanted to see how far we could take something like this.”
The team started planning in February and Simon created the clues and riddles in only a month, with the organization happening two weeks before the start of the hunt.
“(I) came up with the tricky mechanics and worked out to the actual clue; I tried to think of the answer first and then the clues, unraveling something from the inside out,” Simon said.
Locations were decided first, and then locks were correlated with the clues and locations. Simon said he picked out the locations simply based on where he thought would make the best hiding places.
“I love the idea of something so simple … once you know the answer, it seems so obvious,” explained Simon, regarding his love for puzzles.
However, one burning question that I thought, as I was searching under rocks and looking for clues was why? Why on Earth would someone create a scavenger hunt for us to solve? Witcher’s simple answer was “adventure.”
Simon, though, had a different reason.
“This is something creative that I think VT could use more of, something not academic or practical … something I would have done if someone else had made it … something that can be passed down through the school long after we graduate. My little brother will be here next year, so I want him to be able to be a part of this.
One area Simon thought they could improve in was advertising, saying that they could have announced it better, or maybe put more flyers around campus.
Simon hinted to another scavenger hunt around the same time next year, despite the fact that he and Witcher are graduating.
Even as I angrily trudged through campus searching for clues that I felt had no answer, I couldn’t help but feel more relaxed than I had all week. The hunt made me feel more connected to campus, more connected to my friend group and more apparent of the fact that I hated riddles.
I recommend you start the hunt before finals, as you will become addicted shortly after starting. Even if you forgot to participate this year, keep your eyes open for that VT Hunt flyer next year. You never know what the prize could be. After the interview, Simon, the puzzle master, messaged me one last riddle for all the contestants and for you reading:
“It was a challenge making it, but it helped that it was never repetitive. Varying Themes Helped Us Not Tire.”
If you know the answer to this riddle, email the answer to email@example.com.