; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Thursday, December 20, 2012

'Raider's of the Lost Ark' Journal Mystery

The University of Chicago's admissions department is often the catchall for ambiguous mail deliveries, admissions counselor Grace Chapin says, but one package received last week left workers especially confused.

The parcel was addressed to a "Henry Walton Jones Jr." at the university, but the name couldn't be found in the school directory.

"We gave it to a student worker, and the kid came back laughing once he Googled it," Chapin said. "Some of us are in a haze with finals, you know, so he said it was Indiana Jones' name. Then we opened it, and it was very bizarre. There was no explanation as to why it was with us, so we talked about it and decided to put it online."

Inside the package was an elaborate replica of the fictional U. of C. professor Abner Ravenwood's journal from the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" film.

"The book itself is a bit dusty, and the cover is teal fabric with a red velvet spine," read the admissions office's Tumblr post about the package's contents, "with weathered inserts and many postcards/pictures of Marion Ravenwood (and some cool old replica money) included.

"It's clear that it is mostly, but not completely handmade, as although the included paper is weathered all of the 'handwriting' and calligraphy lacks the telltale pressure marks of actual handwriting."

Once pictures of the package were posted on Tumblr, responses starting pouring in. Chapin said publications began calling about the story. Callers offered potential explanations behind the mystery.

A very similar imitation journal is available on eBay. One suggested explanation is that the package broke free of its exterior packaging, and the faux-postage on the interior journal package caused the Postal Service to deliver it to the university.

Chapin said other people have guessed that the journal could be part of a large-scale "alternate reality" game, in which players plant clues for other players. Another theory is that it could be part of an Indiana Jones promotion, but Chapin said Lucasfilm, the studio behind the Indiana Jones movies, said it was not responsible for the package. Perhaps it's an art abandonment project — artists alter an existing work to be their own, then leave it for someone else to find.

Chapin said she has never received any kind of mail like this before.

"They aren't in the quality of ridiculous, but we do get art projects and research projects from people," she said. "This is very, very different."

While the office hasn't decided what to do with the package (one possibility is to archive it in the library's special collections), Chapin said that if it turns out to be part of an admissions package, the office would be impressed with something so intricate and interesting. She was quick to add, "I don't want to get everyone sending us elaborate Indiana Jones creations, though."

Chapin said the excitement has made for a nice change of pace at the office, but the university just wants to unearth the mystery of journal.

"It's been wild for us," she said. "We're going to be posting a follow-up with all the explanations we've been getting and what we know later." - Chicago Tribune


The mystery has been solved:

Mysterious 'Ark' package traced to Guam prop man

The mystery of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and the University of Chicago admissions office has been solved.

On Dec. 12 a crinkled package showed up in the university's mailroom addressed to Henry Walton Jones Jr. After a futile search for the faculty member, a student worker made the connection: Indiana Jones.

The envelope contained a detailed journal of professor Abner Ravenwood, Indy's mentor, along with photographs, currency and maps — all fictional, of course.

The stamps on the envelope were fake, so it must have been dropped off. Was an applicant trying to impress the admissions office? The university, after all, is known for its creatively offbeat essay prompts.

"We wanted to believe it was a student applicant," said Garrett C. Brinker, the director of undergraduate outreach. "That was our romantic version."

A highly publicized quest ensued. Lucasfilm denied a suggestion on the school's blog that the episode was a publicity stunt for a new movie installment.

But the package's route was suitably adventurous.

Paul Charfauros makes prop replicas that he sells on eBay for about $200. The university, noting a similarity, reached out. On Sunday night they heard from Charfauros, who lives on Guam.

He had mailed the journal to Italy in a larger envelope, and he had just received a letter from a Hono­lulu post office notifying him that the package's contents had fallen out. Somehow the journal — in a smaller manila envelope with the University of Chicago address for cosmetic effect, "Illinois" misspelled and no postage — had made its way to the admissions office.

"We want the mail to get through. That's our No. 1 priority," said Don Smeraldi, U.S. Postal Service spokes­man for the Pacific region. "We always attempt to deliver what we can when we find a mail piece like that, and since it wasn't an automated piece of mail, it was handled manually. Rather than just holding it at one of our mail recovery centers, (U.S. Postal Service workers) felt the best thing to do was forward it along and see if (the Chicago address) was a legitimate address."

Smeraldi said had the parcel run through automated sorting machinery, it would have been sorted out of the mail flow for lack of valid postage.

"This is a rare situation," he said.

The Oriental Institute, the University of Chicago's famed museum and organization devoted to the ancient Near East, likes the journal and asked to display it in its main lobby, Brinker said.

"They asked for it, and now it is in their possession," he said. - Star Advertiser

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventure Collection (Raiders of the Lost Ark / Temple of Doom / Last Crusade / Kingdom of the Crystal Skull)

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (Widescreen Edition)

Indiana Jones Men's Wool Felt Fedora, Brown, Large