Above: The Lucas & Lucas team from left: Lucas Serge, Megan O’Dell, Jenna Newborn, and Lukas Wieder, who worked together to solve the inaugural Dewey Treasure Hunt last weekend.

By Jim Miller

Turns out they have good hearts, too — the team donated half their winnings to the Kind to Kids Foundation, which serves Delaware children in foster care and at-risk youth with education programs and support services.

Which is exactly what we discovered last weekend when Out & About participated in the inaugural Dewey Treasure Hunt along with 39 other teams from across the state. Although we’d dubbed our team Real Quick, our group was just a tad too slow, finishing second to the faster-thinking treasure hunters of team Lucas & Lukas.

Lucas & Lukas correctly figured out a major key to the puzzle just 10 hours after the hunt began on Saturday. That enabled them to complete the quest the next morning when, under the boardwalk at Lighthouse Cove, they discovered the secreted trove — a treasure chest containing $5,000.

“Honestly, it felt like we were on a game show,” team captain Lucas Serge said about opening the chest to reveal the stacks of fresh bills and rolls of coins inside. “It was really cool to see, but still, there was definitely a ‘how-could-this-be-happening-to-me’ feeling. It was surreal.”

Serge and his pal, Lukas Wieder, and their girlfriends, Megan O’Dell and Jenna Newborn, respectively, were thrilled to have figured it all out. If it sounds like good minds were at work, that may be because Serge is a hardware design engineer at Agilent Technologies in Wilmington, and Wieder is a chemist at the same company. 

Turns out they have good hearts, too — the team donated half their winnings to the Kind to Kids Foundation, which serves Delaware children in foster care and at-risk youth with education programs and support services.

Serge says all four members of his team had previous puzzle-solving experience with escape rooms and were drawn to the hunt by the notion of solving a riddle that came with a $5,000 reward. Plus, the location was hard to beat.

“We all love Dewey Beach,” he said.

Yet, he admits there were plenty of dead-ends and frustrating moments on the way to finding the chest Sunday morning.

The day before at noon, under sunny skies, a hundred or so participants gathered oceanside at the beach off Read Avenue. Before us, on the sand, were placed 40 bags, each containing a 27-line poem, a sheet of blank graph paper, a vial of sand, a pair of toy binoculars, a black Sharpie, a pirate bandana, and a few other odds and ends. 

“Everything you need to find the treasure is in the bag,” treasure hunt co-organizer Nat Measley said. “It’s not easy, but it can be done.”

Measley referred to his partner and co-organizer in the hunt simply as a “mystery entrepreneur” and left it at that. Whether the mystery entrepreneur was standing there on the beach with the rest of us, we’ll never know.

It was all very enigmatic, weird, and wonderful. 

On foot, on bikes, and in cars, the teams took off, high-tailing it to various beach locations like Dewey Beer, Northbeach, and Dagsworthy Beach, while trying to decipher clues in a poem peppered with Dewey lore and legends — hints linked to pirates, devils, a cemetery, and even Admiral George Dewey himself. 

It was like The Goonies, but for adults. 

“My initial thought was it was going to be a location-based treasure hunt,” Serge said. But after a few hours of hunting, dinner in Rehoboth, and a reset of perspective, the poem spoke to them beyond just a literal or figurative meaning.

“We knew there had to be something with the poem, being that it was written with no spaces between words and with some letters randomly capitalized and others lowercase,” Serge said about the hunt’s major clue. “We knew it had to be intentional.”

A photo of Real Quick’s first attempt at converting the treasure hunt poem into a QR code.

Sure enough, like all good mysteries, there was a secret message in the poem. When the complete poem was written out on graph paper, it revealed itself to be a perfect square. Then, when the capital letters were marked with the Sharpie, the image of a QR code took shape. 

When the QR code was scanned it took the Lucas & Lukas team to a webpage that let them know the organizers of the hunt would be contacting them shortly. Thirty minutes later they received email instructions on how they would be able to find the treasure on Sunday morning at 8 sharp.

“It was a shock, honestly,” Serge said. “But as soon as we realized it was a QR code, we knew we had solved it.”

And so did our team. In fact, Real Quick and Lucas & Lukas were the only teams to get that far. But we were a couple of hours too late.

That said, we had a complete blast. The weekend offered plenty of funny moments, lots of wild history lessons about Dewey, and one big, clever twist that no one saw coming. 

Measley, who runs his own corporate event and retreat company, has already committed to organizing another Dewey Treasure Hunt the first weekend of November 2024.

“We will 100% do it again,” said Serge.

And you can believe Out & About will as well…

Mark our words, maties!

Jim Miller
Since 1988, Out & About has informed our audience of entertainment options in Greater Wilmington through a monthly variety magazine. Today, that connection has expanded to include social networking, a weekly newsletter, and a comprehensive website. We also create, manage, and sponsor local events.

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