Mysterious golden hare still casting its spell 30 years on

Author calls for owner of jewelled amulet that bewitched the nation to come forward

It is 30 years since the artist Kit Williams ventured out into the night to bury his golden hare in a park in Bedfordshire.

The jewelled amulet was worth a relatively trifling £5,000, yet the quest to unearth it, by solving a series of visual clues contained in Williams's book Masquerade, captured the imagination of millions and made its author a global publishing sensation.

But although it was controversially discovered in October 1982 from under the noses of two Manchester physics teachers who had successfully cracked the code, the mystery of the golden hare continues to intrigue.

Breaking his decades-long silence on the subject, the artist said he does not know the whereabouts of the artefact which was eventually sold to an anonymous overseas bidder at a Sotheby's auction in 1988 for £31,900.

He has added his voice to mounting calls for the owner of the amulet to reveal themselves and allow the hare to go on public display. "I don't think it is in the country... I suspect it has gone for ever," the artist told The Independent yesterday.

Physicists Mike Barker and John Rousseau had arrived at the correct solution to Williams's puzzle but they were beaten to the treasure by Ken Thomas, whose business partner was the boyfriend of Williams's former girlfriend.

The artist yesterday said he was still puzzled as to how his ex-girlfriend might have known the secret, but believes the most likely answer was that she recalled him marking the ground with a magnet during a preparatory visit to Ampthill Park in Bedfordshire, where he had buried the hare close to a cross dedicated to Catherine of Aragon. It was here, "somewhere in the middle of England that was a bit boring", at the furthest point cast by the shadow of the monument at noon on the Vernal equinox, that the amulet was eventually found.

Williams was overwhelmed by the attention his book generated. He was bombarded with thousands of letters and visitors to his Gloucestershire home at the height of the hunt and has preferred to concentrate on painting since. "I did not feel happy in that celebrity role. I had other things that I wanted to do but people wanted me to go on television and go to America but it did not really feel like me," he said.

Despite the enthusiasm of his publisher Tom Maschler of Jonathan Cape, Williams really expected to sell the plates for the book as individual oil paintings and was astonished when it went on to sell nearly a million copies. He and University Challenge host Bamber Gascoigne, who acted as celebrity witness, set out to bury the hare with some trepidation. "We thought we only have to be tapped on the shoulder by a policeman and that would blow the whole gaff. We just thought it was fun," he said. "It was right for the times and probably would be impossible now in the age of the internet. In those days there was no Lottery and the Daily Mirror had not even started doing bingo. Money things just didn't happen.

"The fact was that it was really there buried in the cold, wet earth."

The book has been out of print for 20 years yet interest in Masquerade remains strong. The solution to the puzzle was obtained by deciphering the codes: "Catherine's long finger over shadows earth buried yellow amulet midday points the hour in light of equinox look you" and the acrostic "close by Ampthill" from the 16 paintings contained within the book.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future