It was a dark and stormy night: All Hallows' Eve. A disembodied voice greeted us at the door of the old house. We were directed to go to the basement. A wood-panelled hallway and an oak staircase led down to a gloomy dungeon. The appropriately named Eve, the venue manager, and Josie, the master's apprentice, told us not to be afraid as there was no horror involved and no harm would befall us. I doubted the veracity of the statement because of their ghoulish Halloween disguises. And I swear I saw a witch muttering spells in the corner, but that may have been just a trick of the light.
We were taken to the Realm of Magic and ushered through a secret door that C.S. Lewis would have been proud of. I was expecting a winter wonderland beyond the threshold but was surprised to find a windowless, winterless snug. The room appeared to be a Victorian gentleman's study complete with glass-fronted bookshelves and an escritoire. A locked metal trunk suggested travel and exploration and mystery.
As total novices, we were stepping into the unknown. It was like reaching into the past, or into a beloved fairy tale. The creative designers' passion for history, mythology and legends was clearly displayed. For example, Celtic symbols, Chinese dragons and references to Merlin the magician from Arthurian legend. It's not all mediaeval or renaissance or Victoriana decor though, as you will be using a high-tech device and monitor. It took the wise creators years of research, connections and planning to devise the devious settings, realms and arcana with a whole host of secrets and mysteries.
Discover Hidden Messages with your Device (May Cross)
One had to find the clues then analyse them and solve the puzzle to "unlock" the next one. An added complexity was that they weren't sequential. Or maybe they were, but we weren't. The colourful clues could be visual, auditory, numeric, literary and so on and so forth. Some were hidden in plain sight while others were much trickier, so you need to be very observant and keep your wits about you. Think literally and laterally. They ranged from elementary, my dear reader, to astronomically difficult. There is a variety of problem-solving skills required but there are no physical barriers to overcome, you may be pleased to know. Leave your illegal lock picking tools at home – they won't help.
Our discoveries included a cabinet of curiosities that housed secret drawers, a spiritualist's Ouija board, skulls, ephemera and magic potions, with a slight whiff of Steampunk. We successfully uncovered the Wand of Illumination – a magic wand made from witch hazel that Harry Potter would have loved to own. The other Holy Grail, the Elixir of Life artefact, was also found to bestow supernatural talents.
Did we succeed in our search for the Stone of Destiny? If your measure of success is finding the prized Stone of Destiny, then no, we were unsuccessful. Although we were absolute beginners, we boasted skills in and knowledge of mathematics, engineering, linguistics and history between us, but we were a poor match for the dastardly tricksters who set the challenges. To use a mixed metaphor, we were outfoxed by red herrings. Anything, but not everything, in the room could be a clue. Time was against us as we raced the clock to find the ultimate prize. As Chaucer famously said, "Time and tide wait for no man".
If you measure success by the journey and not the destination, then we achieved what we set out to do – to have an hour of cerebral problem solving while seeking the truth with lashings of fun - then we were winners. (Despite the fact that our intellectual faculties were insufficient.)
A Potted History of the Stone of Destiny As a historian (with Scottish ancestors) I would like to enlighten those with little knowledge of the actual Stone of Destiny, by presenting you with a glimpse of its remarkable history. Like the stone from which Excalibur was plucked, the Stone of Destiny is the stuff of legends. Its origins are shrouded in myth, mystery and history and it's a sacred symbol in Scotland. It is a 150kg block of red Perthshire sandstone, from near Macbeth's Castle. It was kept at Scone Abbey near Perth, Scotland (not Perth. WA). It was used for centuries in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland. The English like to call it the Coronation Stone, but it is also known as Jacob's Pillow, placing it in Biblical times.
When he invaded Scotland in 1296, Edward Longshanks stole the stone and took it to Westminster Abbey, where it was used for 700 years for English and UK coronations. Or did Edward I take a fake after being tricked by the canny Scots? In 1914, the suffragettes protesting for women's rights, damaged it when they exploded a bomb in its vicinity. On Christmas Day 1950, four Glaswegian students "liberated" the stone and brought it home but broke it in transit. The police found it and returned it to London and it was last used in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Or was it yet another replica that was taken back south? During World War II the stone was secretly buried under the Abbey for safekeeping. Amid mounting pressure, in 1996 the British Government returned the stone to the Scots, to Edinburgh Castle where it sits with the Scottish crown jewels. What a mysterious (and magical?) relic it is. Where'er is found this sacred stone The Scottish race shall reign. (Ancient prophesy)
97 Wickham Terrace
Spring Hill, Queensland, 4000
Dod's House is heritage listed by the National Trust and was previously a doctor's consulting rooms and residence. It was designed by Scottish architect Robin Dods in 1906.
Car parking is available at Wickham Terrace Carpark across the road. I paid only $5 on a Saturday. There is some limited on-street parking.
Arrive early for a briefing prior to the start time of your session.
Don't forget to order your drinks at the bar which will be awaiting you on your exit. The cocktails have quirky names such as Sangis Dragonis, Vanitas and Mystery Mojito. They may be served in a crystal skull or a dragon's egg and taste as good as they look. I highly recommend the Liquid Luck (bubbles to bring luck) and the Mandragoras (a refreshing gin elixir of life).