Alkemstone: All the Clues   59 comments

It has been a while since I’ve posted about the Apple II game Alkemstone (and some reading this might have arrived from elsewhere without seeing my previous posts) so a brief summary/recap:

Alkemstone was a game released in 1981 by the company Level-10 with a $5000 prize attached (later upped to $7500) where the titular “Alkemstone” was hidden somewhere in the real world, and the clues on where to find it were hidden inside the game. It was confirmed fairly recently by the lawyer in charge of certification that nobody has claimed the prize. The company that sponsored it is long defunct, and the object buried was not valuable in itself (you didn’t even need to extract it to get the prize, just explaining the location of the Alkemstone was enough), so solving the mystery is only of historical interest, but still — a 40 year old mystery nobody has cracked!

Picture from @deliciousgames.

Last year I did a playthrough of the game, which involved running around a maze and finding clues that flashed at irregular intervals on the walls, ceiling, and floor. I managed to extract quite a few clues, but I knew (because someone on Mobygames found a clue I hadn’t) that there were still clues I was missing. I just didn’t know how many.

May I present to you:

A ZIP file with every single clue in Alkemstone

To clarify, a reader (Andy Boroson) did some hacking at the game file itself and managed to extract the locations of the clues as well as a method of stopping the invisible-flashing-clue effect from happening. This led to him making a complete map…

… and the file of images above. They are given the numbers matching the map above; some of the sequential numbers clearly go together (even if they aren’t placed together on the map) so the numbers themselves may serve as a clue. There are 80 clues (84 listed, but one of them is blank, and likely removed some time during development; 3 are “special coded” to be findable at the same location, marked “00” on the map) and I managed previously to find about 3/4 of them, but some of the missing ones have what seem to be essential information, so it is quite possible it was not feasible to crack the mystery until now, the moment I post this.

The ZIP file preserves the screenshots in a complete fashion, so I’m going to survey them numerically and clip images together when possible. (That is, what shows up as separate clues I have merged into the same image, for compactness; again, if you need “clean” images, refer to the ZIP file.) Additionally, some of the text clues are stored as text, so I’ll just give those in text format.

Are you excited? I’m excited.

Just as a note ahead of time, the main guess/presumption based on the clues is that the treasure is hidden somewhere in Washington, DC. However, there is nothing I’d call certain confirmation on this. I will say it is near certain (based on a trio of clues I’ll get to last) that the treasure is in a public place somewhere, meaning it should be in an urban environment, not hidden in some random place in the wilderness.

When booting Alkemstone, this is the first thing visible upon entering the maze…

There’s no “hanging banners” style messages other than this one.

…which is certainly reminiscent of the Albert Einstein statue in Washington DC, which was finished just in time for it to be part of the game (1981).

#1 John F Kennedy
#2 Stonewall Jackson
#3 Zachary Taylor

The #1 and #3 clues are names of US Presidents, while the #2 clue is the name of a Confederate General. This suggests historical US sites rather than something dealing directly with the Presidency itself (like the numbers attached to each president).

#4 (on left)
#5 (on right)

Both suggesting wordplay, and #5 is new. There are multiple anagrams using the letters P, I, N, E, S so I’m not sure which one to prioritize, but I should point out the author’s previous game included an ambiguous anagram puzzle as well.

#6

Bruecke is “bridge” in German but rata isn’t anything in German, but maybe it is wordplay leading up to that. (The Rs being lined up is intentional.)

#7 What You Don’t Do To Go
#8 (written as a fraction) DENVER / 10

Again not sure, although I have suspicion #8 is referring to Denver being the “Mile High City”, that is, the clue refers to a 10th of a mile. I haven’t had luck with zipcode or the like.

#10 Calentadora de dedos del pie
#11 Wo Adler sich sammeln

#10 is “toe warmer” translated from Spanish. #11 is “where eagles gather” translated from German.

#12 JOB
#13 TESS
#14 MARIA

The one and only puzzle I’m certain we have the real solve for. Roger Durrant pointed out that both names appear in the song They Call the Wind Maria from the musical Paint Your Wagon.

A way out here they got a name for rain and wind and fire the rain is Tess the fire’s Joe and they call the wind Maria

“JOB” is a “typo” but it may have just been an honest mishearing. (I don’t think it’s a clue, but you never know.)

#15 144

I theorized long that this possibly references the fact that with 12 zodiac signs you can pair them with another 12 to get 144 angles (there’s zodiac symbols elsewhere). However, I haven’t found any confirmers to put this guess at high confidence.

I also pointed out the War Memorial in Washington DC had a 12-arrowed floor that could be interpreted in a zodiac direction sense.

#16-#22

All 7 images appear in roughly the same spot when drawn, so there may be some relation.

#23

Not quite in the same place as the previous clues, so might be distinct. Possibly hinting as to a time of year, that is, Easter (there are later references to this as well).

#24

Hinting a place with a famous speech? Or perhaps a current place (at least current for 1981) where speeches can be made.

#25 BLACK OR WHITE They Are All The Same To Me

This is where the internal number I think is helpful — it certainly seems likely #24 and #25 are related, perhaps referencing the I Have a Dream speech?

#26 Don’t Smell The Salt
#27 THOSE THAT SEEK TO FIND MUST FIRST SEEK TO PASS
#28 Seemanns-warnung

#26 might mean avoiding the ocean. #28 is “sailor’s warning” in German. I’m not sure if #27 is connected.

#29 The First To Recognize The Second
#30 For Us It Is Already Here
#31 Of All This One Is Equal

Not sure on any of these.

#32 WITH GIN YOU BEGIN THE END

More wordplay? I feel like there’s got to be word fragments being glued together at some point (“join” is a clue later).

#33 For the One You Seek The Two Are Known The Three Are There

Again not sure.

#34

The two theories I’ve heard are a.) the signature of TS Eliot and b.) (courtesy Casey Muratori) a metal access panel.

#35 My first is sixth My second is content Followed by the rest Finally a child could play

One of those riddles indicating letters in positions, perhaps, or word fragments being mashed together? I could see “the rest” being the literal “day of rest”, either “sat” or “sun” depending on your theology.

#36 -CIDE

Another word fragment clue. If it is the same as #35, is SLIDE (“a child could play”) somehow tweaked to be CIDE?

#37 join

Again, internal numbering adds some information; this probably refers to #35 and #36, at least.

#38 Coat Of Blue

Possibly the Civil War song.

#39

Look between the pillars?

#40 ONU

Another word fragment?

#41 To Start Anew

Feels very crossword-clue to me.

#42

Bees tend to be popular in rebuses for the sound “-be-” getting put somewhere.

#43 Don’t Go When Winter Blow
#44 Warmer Than Others

Referring back to the potential Easter clue, this might refer to a time of year. Easter has to (no matter the year) land after winter. This also might be simply fitting in with rebus logic somehow (the fragment “apr”, for instance).

#45

Redundancy with the child playing clue?

#46 GPI
#47 FTN
#48 pnijure
#49 BUSH

Not sure.

#50

I’ve played with this one quite a bit (add the numbers on top, then divide, subtract then divide, etc.) without much luck.

#51 Nothing Runs Like A Deer / And It Is A Beaut

The “Nothing Runs Like a Deere” slogan has been around since 1972 for the company John Deere, but I don’t know if the intent here is a pun or something else.

#52 It’s Best To Rest

Another resting reference.

#53

A word ladder? Don’t know what clue this indicates, though.

#54

#55, #56

The best I could come up with here is a reference to the Battle of Wounded Knee, but I have no idea what that would indicate.

#57, #58

Is the first picture of a train or something else?

#59 It’s Not Right
#60 The road is clear But you may have to leave it To find your way

Is this referring to directions at the actual site, or literal wordplay still?

#61 KAMM
#62 CIBURA

More word fragments, perhaps?

#63 Don’t Tread On Me

Another American History reference? All four words are written on separate lines so it could be the initial letters DTOM.

#64, #65

5 is the base? Don’t know what the deal is with those parallel lines on the 5 then, if that’s the case.

#66 This Is Almost The Age of AQUARIUS

Another day of the year reference?

#67 TIME IS RELATIVE BUT SEVEN HOURS SHOULD BE ENOUGH
#68 THAT WHICH GOES DOWN / MUST COME UP
#69 follow your nose / where taylor goes / but not too far / you’ll find a scar

The last clue may refer to some specific site involving Zachary Taylor, although it is unclear what.

#70 ONE SHOULD BE TEMPORATE IN ALL THINGS

This might intentionally be related to time rather than a misspelling of temperate.

#71 Wherever You May Roam There Is No Place Like Home
#72 a billion stars may show you the way

These (plus clue #81) might reference specific museums in Washington DC. The ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz are at the National Museum of American History, the stars might refer to Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory (or that might just be another astrology reference so the clue goes with #66 etc. instead).

#73 Large And Small – Can’t See Them At All
#74 THE SUN ALWAYS RISES / THE SUN ALWAYS SETS
#75 WHOLE BUT NOT COMPLETE
#76 DO NOT OVERLOOK ANYTHING
#77 After Awhile We All Pay The Price
#78 MIDDLE AGE IS THAT TIME WHEN THE BROAD MIND AND THE NARROW WAIST TRADE PLACES
#79 THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY MAY BE OF VALUE
#80 97914
#81 If You Want A Scene / Holocene and Pleistocene Might Do

#81 might be the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

Finally, not with regular numbering, there are three clues in the same dead end (corresponding to the three walls). I’ll give the pictures this time:



Due to the status in the game, I suspect this is a meta-clue showing the structure of what is being solved for “Where I Live” is one set of clues, “Be Upon” is a second set, “A Thought of You” is a third set, and “How Far I May Go” is a fourth. All this is still guesswork, though.

While the “watch them play” feels most likely a park, it is possible this refers instead to “play” as in music; either way, not wilderness? (Although maybe you could stretch with a particular named rock monument.)

I’ve skipped some speculation from my previous posts, so if you’re looking for more inspiration, feel free to read those as well as the comments which include some more ideas. It’s fair to say the puzzle is still wide open at this point.

ADD: I put everything into a Google Sheet. It has all the images in miniature and a place to enter speculation.

Posted July 27, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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59 responses to “Alkemstone: All the Clues

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  1. It seems to me possible that the intended meaning is: standing inside the Lincoln Memorial (beneath the statue of Lincoln sitting or “resting”) and looking eastward through the pillars of the building, then the shadow of the Washington Monument at a certain time of day and season of the year will indicate the direction in which to walk outward from the Monument to find the buried treasure. The time of the year is evidently spring; the time of day would seem to be either around sunrise or sunset.

    The Washington Monument itself is 555 feet high, or just over 1/10 of a mile, and the walkway around it is circular in shape. (In effect this idea would be using its pyramid-shaped tip – cf. the pyramid clue – as a giant sundial of sorts, which may account for some of the generic “time” references.) The Potomac River is to the southwest of the Washington Monument, which may provide a boundary of sorts when searching.

    There are a couple of roads that separate the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, as well as the famous Reflecting Pool, which may account for the references to roads and lakes in the clues.

    The TS Eliot reference may be another spring indicator: “April is the cruelest month…” And the word ladder would seem to be LIKE > LAKE > LAME. Perhaps the intended reference here might be one of the war memorials to the north of the Washington Monument?

    Andrew McCarthy
  2. 48 can anagram to Juniper (that is the only word it anagrams to) and it is immediately followed by BUSH. That is highly suspicious! It could refer to a real bush or it could refer to the only Leonardo da Vinci on display in the US which has a prominent juniper bush.

    • This has probably been mentioned already regarding the 3 part clue.
      Where I live=home
      Upon=on
      You=thee
      How far I may go=range
      Therefore: when I get there I will be watching the deer and the antelopes play.
      Was there a local zoo with deer and antelopes?

      • Jake Wildstrom came up with that as well. It’s actually quite reassuring to have someone else independently get to the same solve — I think it makes it much more likely.

      • It appears the National zoo in Washington have had deer and since 1913…

  3. It is possible that the shadow indicated by the Monument is meant to point to a particular juniper bush at which the treasure in question is buried (or a bush that was on that site at the time). There have been juniper bushes on the the Monument grounds since the 1930s, and digging around in the grass off the sidewalks might be what is meant by the various references to children’s play and “leaving the road”.

    Andrew McCarthy
  4. The sheer preponderance of similar shapes and sizes in 16-22 makes me suspect that they’re meant to be composited. I’ve been toying with this in an image editor, and have made some fairly compelling shapes, but nothing obviously meaningful. Do they form anything interesting when superimposed at their original screen locations?

  5. The word ladder is ambiguous: it could be LIKE – LAKE – LAME, LIKE – LIME – LAME, LIKE – LIME – LIMB, MAKE – LAKE – LAME, MIME – LIME – LAME, or MIME – LIME – LIMB. There are a few more options if you allow MAME.

    As Phoenix Wright would say, “Almost the age of Aquarius means it’s not the age of Aquarius!” The astrological sign before Aquarius is Capricorn. Maybe that has something to do with it? Alternately, the word “aquarium” is almost “aquarius”, so it could be a hint to look for an aquarium.

    The TS doesn’t really look like Eliot’s signature. It isn’t Tom Stoppard’s either. Trying to think of other people with those initials.

    In a cryptic crossword, “To start anew” would indicate “a” and “coat of blue” would indicate “be”. Also, don’t forget the possibility that the 144 simply clues the word “gross”, which could be part of a name of a person or place.

    • I like your theory about 144 more than the others.

      With Aquarius, if take the full “Age of Aquarius” in a more literal sense, the 2160-year astrological age, so “almost” being the age would be something like “the year before it started”. The only problem is there’s a lot of argument about over when it started, so if this is the interpretation, it’d be hard to know what year Alkemstone means!

  6. for 57/58, my first idea was this hints at the rail fence cipher. ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rail_fence_cipher.

    • Ah, so “rail” + “fence” as a rebus. Interesting.

      (Any of the texts suggest an encipherment to you?)

      If it is more literal — just referring to a literal rail fence — it is kind of an odd clue since the second picture is of an actual rail fence.

  7. The “rail” idea may refer to Abraham Lincoln being known as a “rail-splitter”.

    Andrew McCarthy
  8. P I N E S! That is a completely natural order to unscramble those letters in and totally the first thing I thought of, not the order with the vowels exchanged!

    • Goodness, whatever can you be referring to? *clutches pearls*

    • We’re getting to the last On-Line Systems game, but that’s still about 10 away.

      • More seriously, it seems like maybe it’s significant that “pines” is in the shape of a cross and in a circle? There’s no Crosspines Circle in DC unfortunately. (There’s a Pinehurst Circle but that doesn’t seem like it can be relevant.)

  9. Perhaps more constructively, “sailor’s warning” makes me thing “red skies at morning.”

  10. I’m not sure if this is relevant, but it feels like it might be:
    At the time this game was released, there was a fiberglass statue of a triceratops on the national mall in front of the Natural History Museum. Children used to climb on it. Its name was “Uncle Beazley”.

    • I mean, I guess its name still is Uncle Beazley, it’s just that it was moved somewhere else back in the ’90s and they don’t let people climb on it any more.

  11. Some thoughts:

    In the manual, the puzzles are said to be written by two-headed “The Youth” who says that he felt “each head contained half the answer”
    I feel this may be a clue as to how to interpret/combine puzzle solutions (but may also just be superfluous writing that confuses the issue)
    It may offer an idea on what to do with puzzles #36, 40, 46, etc…

    #12,13,14: If those characters are fire, water (rain), and wind, then we’re missing “earth”

    #16 – 22: These look reminiscent of alchemy symbols or astrology symbols to me. #22 is definitely “sun” in astrology and I think it is “gold” in alchemy. #21 is quite similar to “mercury”

    #34: I agree with @muckenhoupt that the “TS” doesn’t match T.S.Elliot’s signature. That loop at the top of the S had to be plotted and programmed, so I’m hoping that means it is legimately trying to copy something specific. My first thought was “Tom Sawyer” but looking through the original illustrations for the book, there is no match to the letters. I tried making a high-res version of those letters and reverse-image searching to no avail.

    #39: My first thought on the “pillars” is that they look more like football goal posts. Do with that as you may.

    #53: On the word ladder, I’m personally partial to make > lake > lame. I think the action verb of “make” as an instruction to the puzzle-solver makes sense. Also, saying those words together quickly almost forms something like “make acclaim” Not sure where I’m going with this.

    #66: There is, of course, the song “The Age of Aquarius.” Given #12-14 seem to reference a song, it seems possible that another song is referenced. The lyrics say “when the moon is in the 7th house”. The immediately next puzzle #67 also references 7 in the “seventh hour” which may mean absolutely nothing.

  12. The numbering for these is wrong, I think? Or are we missing a clue?
    In this list there is no #11.
    In the screenshot package there is no #9.
    If numbering is important to solving things, might be best to get the numbering squared away.

  13. Could #34 be Greek letters? Tau followed by lower-case zeta?

  14. The fact that the starting area of the game map has different graphics from the rest seems like it must be significant. Maybe the idea was for the overall map to approximate an American flag, as a very broad clue to Washington DC? And so maybe #27 roughly means that if you want to find the treasure you first have to traverse (and map) the maze?

  15. I’m investigating the manual for additional information.
    I’m super interested in this clue “don’t overlook anything” and the manual saying, “As you wander through the caves, pay attention to every detail, no matter how insignficant it may appear.”

    Might there be additional clues than the non-obvious text/image based ones? While wandering the maze, looking at every single wall/ceiling/floor… maybe there’s something else there? For example, while stepping through the images in the .zip file, I norticed that the lines of the walls are usually white/blue… except sometimes they’re green: 10, 18, 30, 39, 62

  16. Overlaying images is turning up some very interesting potentials.

    #53 and #49 (word ladder and “BUSH”) line up perfectly, with a perfect one text line gap.
    #48 and #60 (“juniper” scrambled and “the road is clear”) fit pixel-perfectly together.

  17. Pingback: Alkemstone: New Resources | Renga in Blue

  18. “Home on the Range” was made the official state song of Kansas in 1919.
    The clues for Home on the Range are the only 3 that are hard-coded and guaranteed to appear, I believe?
    Perhaps our search begins in Kansas?

  19. There are some distinct capitalization patterns in the clues:

    Words Capitalized:
    1, 2, 3, 7, 26, 29, 38, 41, 43, 44, 51, 52, 59, 63, 71, 73, 77, 81(?)

    ALL CAPS:
    6, 12, 13, 14, 27, 32, 40, 46, 47, 49, 53, 61, 62, 67, 68, 70, 74, 75, 78, 79

    lower case:
    37, 48, 69, 72

    Words Capitalized PLUS CAPS:
    25, 66

    Sentence case:
    35, 60

  20. #24 and #25 The “watch them play” reference and the image below it seem to refer to an orchestra playing (the image being that of a conductor).

    #4 and #5 clearly says “Coach Penis” or “Penis Coach” for whatever that’s worth

    #10 is actually “warmer of toes” in the plural, if that’s important. Although the English translation would be “toe warmers”

    #57 look like guard rails on the side of a road to me

    Dont know why, but I think all these clues in the game are somehow referring to Wolf Trap park just outside of DC. There was certainly a major incident there in 1980 (large parts of it burned down). Been a while since I’ve been there, but if it has some connection to either the names (Taylor, etc) or zodiac/constellation stuff, I wouldn’t be surprised.

  21. While it may not be in the spirit of the puzzle, has any attempts been made in tracking down the original developer Gene Carr?

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