‘We absolutely love it’: horror-themed treasure hunt thrills Canadian town
Thousands of locals in Miramichi, New Brunswick, have been swept up in the hunt – and Friday’s clue promises $1,300
It started in early May with a post on a Facebook page for second-hand goods in the Canadian town of Miramichi, New Brunswick. A hundred Canadian dollars had been hidden somewhere near the town’s harbour, it said.
The following days brought more clues for other locations. Some made sense. Most were maddeningly vague.
A week later, the town of 17,000 has become gripped by a mysterious horror-themed treasure hunt, with thousands of local people grappling with a succession of clues – and the promise of a cash prize.
“I don’t think anything of this magnitude has ever happened in Miramichi,” said Adams Robichaud, a high school student. “And we just absolutely love it.”
Robichaud has been unsuccessful in his attempts to find the money. But like others in the town – where many have felt stifled by Covid public health restrictions – he has been swept up in the excitement of the hunt.
The game is run by a shadowy figure calling themselves Roman Dungarvan, and claiming to be a descendant of an Irish cook robbed and murdered at a nearby logging camp in the late 19th century.
According to local lore, the cook’s body was buried in a shallow grave in the nearby forest, but on the night of his death, the air was filled with the “most dreadful whoops and screams anyone has ever heard”. The men fled the next morning – and the legend of the Dungarvan Whooper hasfascinated residents ever since.
On the Facebook page Miramichi Mystery Machine, the younger Dungarvan posts messages with a distorted voice and the image of a hooded figure.
Many of the competition’s locations have a horror theme: one clue took the treasure hunters to French Cove, supposedly haunted by the headless nun. Another was the poster for the 1980 slasher film Prom Night. (The money that night was eventually located in an abandoned school building.)
Tim Sutton, a local TikToker, found himself frustratingly close to one of the stashes of money.
“I was wearing my pizza costume – something I do for TikTok videos – and searched for nearly seven hours that night. I didn’t find it,” he said. “But it’s not about the money. It’s more about the hunt and getting out in the fresh air and kind of making new friends.”
A few days later, Sutton successfully solved a different clue, and received the money via bitcoin transfer.
Dungarvan has remained eerily close to the action, giving hints and directions to treasure hunters in real time..
“One time he posted, ‘Tim Sutton, you’re going the wrong way.’ ,” the TikToker said. “Another night he said, ‘Man in the orange shirt – you’re close.’ He’s watching you.”
Despite its forbidding persona, the Dungarvan character also has a softer side, reminding treasure hunters to socially distance when they met at a local Dairy Queen – and to tip cashiers.
(Staff at a fast food restaurant told the Guardian that event brought in $50 in tips).
On the Facebook group, residents have enthused about their new shared obsession. One woman described spending a rare day outside with her husband and children. “They weren’t glued to electronics – they were making memories,” she wrote.
So far, six prizes of $100 have been discovered and Dungarvan says that this Friday – Friday 13th – at 7pm, the prize will be C$1,300.
A posting for the event features an image from the Friday the 13th horror films, a warning that anyone with a heart condition should not participate – but also a plea for participants to respect the speed limit.
Sutton admits the game could be a ruse put on by some local businesses or even the city. But he’s already started trying to guess where the final payout could be hidden, drawing on his girlfriend’s extensive knowledge of horror movies.
“There’s so many different horror legends here in Miramichi that it’s hard to know where to start,” said Sutton. “But like everyone else, I know I’ll be ready, sitting in my car on Friday the 13th at 7pm – and ready for anything.”