Library of Projects Past
We've done a lot over the years - here are some of the highlights!
We've done a lot over the years - here are some of the highlights!
X MARKS THE SPOT…
Bouleversement (n): a violent reversal, overturning, or inversion – also, how my guts felt as I watched two men claiming to be Allegheny Land Trust agents speed away in a pickup truck with the only physical proof of H.P. Witherspoon’s lost treasures. Months of research and planning, days of scrutinizing clues to reproduce a decayed map, hours in the woods at Dead Man’s Hollow searching, the thrill of discovery, an incredible effort to unearth a massive buried crate… The ALT “agents” said the box would be waiting for us back at the parking lot. It wasn’t; we’d been duped. Rage welled inside me… Had all our efforts come to this?
You see, two years ago I first heard the name “H.P. Witherspoon” and was immediately captivated by the tale of a world explorer who’d buried a series of treasure chests around North America. What was in them? It almost didn’t matter. I’m obsessed with treasure hunts, puzzles, riddles, mysteries, and adventures. They mean so much to me in fact, that in 2014 I founded a film company dedicated to making mystery-adventure movies like SOLVER (2018). No longer content with crafting fictions, last spring I gave up my fancy L.A. apartment, put everything into storage, and have since traveled to a dozen countries researching the Witherspoon mystery. I’ve spent thousands of dollars and journeyed thousands of miles trying to get to the bottom of what some people claimed was an urban legend. Why? Because I knew in my heart it was true.
Flash back to the present moment, standing in the parking lot of Dead Man’s Hollow, covered in dirt and sweat, watching the prize slip away… I snapped.
Jumping into my car, I tore out of the parking lot. We knew the direction the men who’d taken the box had gone a few moments earlier, and I know how to drive fast. Within ten minutes, my heart lurched into my throat; passing a gas station, there was the pickup truck with the giant crate in back! I pulled hard right onto a side street and watched as the two shady characters swaggered into the convenience store, all the while talking on cell phones – to whom?! I knew not. That they were distracted was all that mattered. But how on earth was I going to get the crate? It’s far too heavy for one man to carry alone. Calling the police was out of the question – I couldn’t risk them seizing it.
Impelled by fear and desire, I snuck up to the truck, heart pounding – there it was! My prize. A glance through the window revealed the two “agents” busy selecting an array of high-carbohydrate snacks. I had to act immediately or lose the treasure forever. Then I saw them: the keys. In a flight of hubris, the agents had left them sitting in the ignition. I did not think; I acted. The engine turned over instantly. I peeled out of the gas station, and drove for dear life!
Hours later, I hid the truck at an undisclosed location, then waited days before calling Greg to transport the recovered treasure to City of Play Headquarters. Who those men were in truth remains a mystery, and we are taking every precaution for the safety of this historic find going forward. Remain on guard. I have a feeling this story is far from over.
What we find, we sometimes must find again.
The third Fantastic Adventure this past Saturday at Dead Man's Hollow was - by many respects - City of Play's most challenging event to date. The cold morning winds off the Youghiogheny riverbank were a painful reminder that early Spring feels a lot like late Winter. Nevertheless, twenty or so intrepid fortune seekers (aged 1-72) gathered at 11:15am for the opening address by Jack Kelley and myself. Our task was formidable: find, unearth, transport, and secure a legendary lost crate by interpreting a double sided "map" of tangentially related clues. We had four hours to work together until the excavation site would be formally sequestered by the Allegheny Land Trust. As City of Play's director, my primary task was to keep everybody safe. Without a representative of the Land Trust onsite, I also took responsibility of protecting the land from our untrained boots and shovels.
By 11:30, the hunt was underway. Groups divided and rejoined, sharing clues and curious discoveries. Several families, enjoying a weekend stroll on the Greater Allegheny Passage Trail, felt compelled to join our efforts, and by noon the hill were swarming with prospectors.
At 1:07pm, the swinging pick-axe of Brooklyn-based, Scott Riehs struck the top of a subterranean, wooden crate. After removing the top soil, a stenciled monogram revealing the letters "HPW" prompted shouts of "EUREKA!" through the hillsides. H.P. Witherspoon expert, Jack Kelley was soon onsite, and his beaming smile betrayed his overwhelming vindication. Finally, his search was bearing fruit. And a very heavy fruit it was...
Simultaneously, on the opposite hillside, a different (some suggest sinister) treasure was uncovered by Fiona and Maeve, two sisters aged 6 and 9, from Pittsburgh, PA. Together with their father, Matt Indovina, they interpreted the treasure map in a completely different direction and happened upon a plateau with a beguiling assortment of hand tools. Following an "x marks the spot" technique, they discovered a buried sword bearing satanic inscriptions. Could there be two treasures? We didn't have time to think of the implications. We only had time to dig.
The next two hours were a ballet of shovels, ropes and ratchet straps, set to a score of grunting laborers, chortling babies, unsolicited opinions, and occasional cheers. We hoisted the treasure above our heads just ahead of our 3pm deadline! It was set down on the GAP trail by 3:15pm, and in an effort to live up to my word, we gathered around the crate, made a bunch of haphazard congratulations and promises, and celebrated our victory. The Adventure was over and we had accomplished our mission! Until...
Three-quarters of the way down the GAP trail, as we were rolling the crate back to the parking lot, we were stopped by two men in suits and glasses, claiming to be members of the Allegheny Land Trust. I'll admit they looked suspicious, but knowing my agreement with their organization, I was inclined to trust them. After all, we were only allowed on the land by their permission. They had the power to shut down our entire expedition. These two "agents" offered to take the crate the rest of the way to the parking lot on the back of their truck. Amidst several protests, I granted their request. As soon as I shut the tailgate, They sped away, throwing clearly counterfeit business cards out of their driver side window. I gave chase until my shame caught up with me.
What once was lost, now is lost again.
Jack Kelley took off after them, armed with a License Plate number, a false business card, and a general description of the two men. We are back on the hunt. But this time, we know what we're looking for....
Let us know if you have any information to aid our recovery of the crate. Any photographs of the adventure should use the hashtag #HPWitherspoon and should be tagged @CityofPlay
Stay tuned in for the next Adventure Report, Monday, April 1st
Yours in Good Fun,
Unlike a normal road run, you'll start The City Spree in the middle of the race course, surrounded by checkpoints on all sides. From there, you'll choose your own path from checkpoint to checkpoint, exploring the city's neighborhoods and discovering the connections between them.
Every checkpoint adds to your score as you compete to make the most unique route through the city...
but you must make it back before time runs out!
October 22, 2017
The Greenfield Bridge stands astride the Parkway East, connecting Greenfield's retail district to Schenley Park. The original bridge was constructed in the 1920s, and by the 1980s, was falling one chunk at a time onto the Parkway. A second bridge was built beneath it, to catch the falling pieces. The decision was made to replace (rather than repair) the span. The original bridge was demolished just after Christmas, 2015.
The new bridge was completed in October of 2017. Its opening day was marked by public celebration, during which City of Play was invited to host a Fantastic Adventure. Amidst food vendors, civic organizations, and thousands of Pittsburgher's, adventurers searched both of the newly reconnected neighborhoods for strange forest spirits, prophets, kings, and fools.
They searched for treasures once kept in the House of Wisdom and Wonder, to call back one of those two spirits at the formal opening of the bridge. Ultimately, it was the Spirit of Wonder who was called, and who led a procession of adventurers and ordinary citizens alike across the new bridge, to Mayor Bill Peduto, who formally opened the span to traffic.
The world's largest fully-functional 12 player game of Operation, built in partnership with Visionary Effects for Allegheny Health Network.
Photo documentation of the build can be found on Visionary Effects' website.
A capstone game for the Come Out and Play festival.
Tag with a story.
"Fantastic Adventure" comes from the pulp magazine. This adventure was originally titled "The Lamp of Vengeance".
Zahak from the Shahnameh + characters from the Arabian Nights combined into one game - civilization + humans vs chaos + demons/spirits
A future, unborn child.