The parcel was tied up with string, sealed with red wax and dated 26 August 1912 – but the words written in dark blue ink on its brown paper wrapping instructed the holders: “ To be opened in 2012”.
So the obedient citizens of the small Norwegian town of Otta some 180 miles north of Olso complied. They left the mysterious 3kg package, sealed in 1912 by the then mayor of Otta, Johan Nygaard, lying unopened first in their town hall and then in a museum, for close on a century.
But yesterday the secret of Otta's mystery package was finally unveiled to all in a grand parcel-opening ceremony. But if first reports anything to go by the mystery parcel was simply a monumental turn-of-the century hoax.
In Norway the package opening was given massive publicity and the event was witnessed by thousands of on a live television broadcast.
But last night it appeared that it contained little more than old newspapers, letters from the US, a Norwegian flag inscribed with the word's "the king's pennant" and papers concerning financing for a monument commemorating Norway's 1612 Battle of Kringen, fought near the town. Observers described the event as a "mortifying disappointment" .