Types of Stanzas

Last updated: 2020-05-29


Once the verses have been destructured into their composite stanzas, it starts to become apparent that there are similarities in the types of instructions that each stanza is providing, from verse to verse.

In the sections following, I will outline what I believe are the major Stanza categories, such as: the Starting Point Stanza; the Dig Site Stanza; the Locator Stanza; and the Path Stanza.

Each verse has a different combination of these stanza types and you won't find an example of every stanza in every verse. In some cases, a single stanza in a verse may embody two or more of the types. What's important is that we are able to identify the information that we're being given, so that we are more equiped to solve the puzzle.

Starting Point Stanza

Within each verse, there is a stanza that describes the point where Preiss expected you to start your path to the casque. Both Verses 4 and 12 have the Starting Point Stanza as the first stanza. Prior to the Boston casque being found, I believed that the Starting Point Stanza was always the first stanza of the verse. As more information about the Boston solution has come to light, I believe that pattern does not hold true for all verses.

It is interesting to note that with both Chicago and Boston, the Starting Point stanza corresponded to the entrance to the area of interest (i.e. Grant Park and Langone Park, respectively). Cleveland is a bit different. MLK Blvd, where the Starting Point stanza puts us, runs through the center of the greater park (Cleveland Cultural Gardens), though it does put us at the entrance to the Greek and Italian Gardens (a sub-area of the greater park). The only thing that can be conclusively said about these three verses, is that the Starting Point stanza puts you at the entrance to something. Whether that is the park, or an area within a the park, will need special interpretation.

Another interesting point is that both the Chicago and Cleveland starting point stanzas, based on this interpretation, are couplets (i.e. stanzas of two lines).

Starting Point: Chicago

Looking at the Starting Point for Verse 12, the first Stanza is:

Where M and B are set in stone
And to Congress, R is known

The Secret: A Treasure Hunt pg. 54

One interesting point about this stanza is that it is presented as a couplet (2 lines), where both lines rhyme.

From the hints in the Japanese translation, we know that the M and B are the names of famous composers. This leads us to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra building, where Mozart and Beethoven are engraved in the building. This is only about 350 yards from the entrance to Grant Park, where the Chicago casque was found.

Starting Point: Cleveland

Looking at the Starting Point for Verse 4, the first Stanza is:

Beneath two countries
As the road curves

The Secret: A Treasure Hunt pg. 50

This couplet puts us on Martin Luther King Blvd (formerly Liberty Blvd), within the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, near the intersection with Parkgate Ave. The two countries referenced are Italy and Greece, since this stretch of MLK Blvd right before the road curves includes both the Greek and Italian Cultural Gardens. In this case, we are only about 250 feet from the casque location.

Locator Stanza

The purpose of a Locator Stanza is to orient you within an area on a map. Preiss knew that maps would be one of the most readily available tools for narrowing down to a dig location.

Since the Verses are non-linear, the Locator Stanza has shown to be one of the more confusing stanza types. If attempting to read the verses linearly, as a step-by-step guide, when you reach the Locator Stanza, it appears extremely out of place. It reads as if Preiss was telling you to go to one area and then immediately telling you to go somewhere else.

Once you know what you're looking for, the Locator Stanza is relatively easy to spot, since Preiss used common key words to help identify them. Many of the verses have a stanza that uses one of: "near", "nearby", "not far a way", etc. All of these vague spatial references are his way of describing what was around him at the time that he was there. They are too vague to be useful if treating the verse in the step-by-step fashion. Near...How near?! The interpretation of "near" is often what sends people following an incorrect path.

Locator: Chicago

For Verse 12, the Locator Stanza is:

For finding jewel casque
Seek the sounds
Of rumble
Brush and music

The Secret: A Treasure Hunt pg. 54

This stanza refers to three things that you are to "seek", in order to get close to the casque's location: rumble; brush; music; and hush. To solve the riddle of a Locator Stanza, we often need to look at a map and find somewhere that these three things are seen together. In this case, rumble refers to the Railway Line, brush refers to the Art Institute, music refers to a bandshell (or perhaps the Symphony Orchestra), and hush refers to the Chicago Public Library.. Looking on a map, you can see where all of these things are found together.

Locator stanza
Marker 1: Chicago Railway; Marker 2: Chicago Art Institute; Marker 3: Old Location of the Bandshell in Grant Park.

In this Verse, the Locator Stanza is also the last stanza. This aligns the the theory that the verses are not to be read in linear order, since you would not want to seek these things after having already found the 10 by 13 and the fence and fixture. If you passed the fence and fixture and continued in the direction of the Art Institute, you would pass right by the dig spot.

Locator: Cleveland

For Verse 4, I believe that the Starting Point Stanza and the Locator Stanza are the same:

Beneath two countries
As the road curves

The Secret: A Treasure Hunt pg. 50

The reference to the curvature of the road is what hints towards this also acting as a Locator Stanza. If the interpretation of the Painting already has us looking in and around the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, it would not seem unreasonable to be looking at a map and see how Parkgate Ave curves right above the Italian Cultural Gardens.

Locator stanza
Marker 1: Between two countries (Greek and Italian Gardens); Marker 2: Parkgate Ave curves.

The most interesting piece is that the first two lines of Verse 4 have a dual meaning. That they both telling you the starting point and orient you on a map.

Path Stanza

The Path Stanza describes how you get from the starting point to the dig site. This stanza often includes a waypoint or marker, which is how Preiss lets you know that you are on the right path.

Both the Chicago and Cleveland verses have prominent Path Stanzas that were key in getting to the dig site. It's also interesting to note that both of these Path Stanzas actually make mention of the casque. For Verse 12, it's called the treasure holder, in Verse 4, it's just called the casque. I will look for this same pattern in other verse to help identify the Path Stanzas.

Path: Chicago

For Verse 12, the Path Stanza is:

L sits and left
Beyond his shoulder
Is the Fair Folks'
Treasure holder

The Secret: A Treasure Hunt pg. 54

The L in question here is Lincoln, specifically a seated Lincoln statue in Grant Park. The identification of the Lincoln statue connected the dots from the Starting Point Where M and B are set in stone to the area behind the statue, where the casque was buried.

Path: Cleveland

For Verse 4, the Path Stanza is:

Socrates, Pindar, Apelles
Free speech, couplet, birch
To find casque's destination
Seek the columns
For the search.

The Secret: A Treasure Hunt pg. 50

The names of these Greek writers are chiseled on a wall in the Greek Cultural Gardens. Following from where the road curves en route to the dig location, you pass this wall and would have seen these names. This is the confirmer that encourages you to continue on this path.

Dig Site Stanza

The intent of the Dig Site Stanza is to tell you how to dig up the casque once you're in the right place. It is the "X marks the spot" of The Secret. In the cases of the 3 casques found, the Dig Site stanza was not the last stanza of the verse. In other verses, the Dig Site stanza does appear to be at the end of the verse. At this time, there is no clear pattern to where it will appear.

Some of the Dig Site stanzas are extremely explicit, going so far as to give exact numbers of steps or exact placement with respect to particular bricks. In other cases, the Dig Site stanzas are very vague, not giving any information about how or where to dig. There is a quote from Palencar to shed some light on this idea.

Where the verse leaves off, the painting may begin.

The Plain Dealer Magazine. December 19, 1982 ed. pg. 11

Based on that quote, there might be verses with no Dig Site Stanza at all, relying solely on the Painting for information. Or, there might be verses that need to be used in tandem with Painting based clues to get the precise dig instructions. Worth keeping in mind for the exceptionally vague verse like Verse 7.

Dig Site: Chicago

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, I believe the Dig Site Stanza for Verse 12 is:

The end of ten by thirteen
Is your clue
Fence and fixture
Central too

The Secret: A Treasure Hunt pg. 54

There's a bit of disagreement over the ten by thirteen, most believe that it is related to the tree line, that it was telling you to go to the intersection of a line of ten trees with a line of thirteen trees. I've also heard that Priess mentioned it as ten by thirteen feet. In any case, it is an explicit direction for where to go and start to dig.

The additional lines about fence and fixture actually tie the verse to something that you see near the dig site and to something that you see in the Painting. The last line Central too, is a reference to the Chicago Central Railroad, which runs right past the dig site.

Dig Site: Cleveland

For Verse 4, the Dig Site Stanza is:

In a rectangular plot
Beneath the tenth stone
From right to left
Beneath the ninth row from the top
Of the wall including small bricks
Seven steps up you can hop
From the bottom level

The Secret: A Treasure Hunt pg. 50

The majority of Verse 4 is spent describing the instructions for the dig site. Preiss gives detailed and exact instructions for where to find the casque.

Dig Site: Boston

For Verse 3, the dig site stanza is actually the first stanza. This has been a source of confusion for a long time and caused so many people to head in the wrong direction, because they interpreted this stanza as the beginning of the instructions.

If Thucydides is
North of Xenophon
Take five steps
In the area of his direction

The Secret: A Treasure Hunt pg. 50

A lot of people interpret this as a locator stanza, referencing the Boston Public Library, which is a very reasonable connection. That said, I believe the real connection here is the literary one. Horace Walpole, in his letters, wrote:

The next Augustan age will dawn on the other side of the Atlantic. There will, perhaps, be a Thucydides at Boston, a Xenophon at New York.

Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, to Sir Horace Mann pg. 370

We know Preiss has hidden literary references into many of the verses (see below). It also does not seem surprising that Preiss would be familiar with an author like Walpole, who was known for writing fairy tales. The Fair Folk are such an important part of the mythology of The Secret.

Even if you don't accept the Walpole reference, all the information needed is in these lines. Thucydides is the subject. So if he is north of Xenophon, then take five steps in the area of his direction (emphasis added). This is telling us to take five steps north from our current location. That instruction only makes sense after we already feel at home, that is, when we are at home plate in the baseball diamond. Preiss is simply telling us to "take 5 steps north from home plate and dig".

There are alternate interpretations of these lines, which treat them as the beginning. The gist being, start at the Boston Public Library where the names Thucydides and Xenophon are engraved on the wall (though let's not forget that those names are also on the wall of the Greek Pylon, next to Socrates, Pindar, and Apelles...), then go five subway stops or pass five wharfs, to lead to Langone Park. Although these may "work", it seems like forcing the details to fit the theory, rather than the other way around.

For example, there are actually 6 Wharfs between Columbus Park and Langone Park: Commercial, Lewis, Sargents, Union, Battery, and Constitution. I find it hard to believe that Preiss would expect us to know to "ignore" one of the wharfs, to count them as 5. At least harder to believe than the idea that Priess was referencing 1774 letter from an English author who wrote about fairy tales. It's also worth mentioning that 1774 Walpole letter was only a year before Paul Revere's ride (see above).

Other Stanza Types

I cannot say that this list of stanza types is exhaustive, as I am sure there is still more to uncover. There may be other stanza types that are waiting to be identified.

One type that I have on my radar, but have not spent enough time analyzing, is the Literary Reference Stanza. Verses 2, 3, and 6, in particular, appear to have explicit references to works of literature, Treasure Island and Abroad in America respectively. There may even be as many as three more references to Abroad in America within the verses at large. Not to mention references to The Wizard of Oz.

Over time I hope to do a deeper dive into these Verses and see what can be learned about them.


Understanding the intent of each stanza is the first step to solving the riddles that Priess has encoded within them. Applying this framework of Stanza types across the verses will hopefully shed light on what Priess was trying to communicate through the verses to get us to the casques.