A blog from the Southern Ontario Library Service

A mystery so deep it will take a city to solve…

This fall, Hamilton Public Library launched a city-wide contest to solve an age-old mystery.

The adventure began on Friday September 13, 2019 when HPL received a cloth-bound journal written by Dr. Tiberius Hess, a man who lived and practiced in Hamilton during the Victorian era. The journal details a time machine called Chronocycle that he invented in 1860. Powered with steam and electricity and governed by “nautilus gears” it allowed him to travel through space and time.

According to the journal, Dr. Hess hid a set of nautilus gears in Hamilton during his short visit here and now – with the journal in our hands – we need to work together to find them.

His journal is split into two parts; a first-person perspective about his experiences from 1854 to 1860, with a brief sojourn to 2019, and the second section is six clue sets that he claims point us to the location of the lost nautilus gears. Each Friday over six weeks a new set of clues are released to the public to help solve the puzzle.

Grounded with real historical figures, places and events, the fantastical journal takes you on a ride from the 1800s into present day. Some Hamilton historical figures mentioned include Isaac Buchanan, Sir Allan Napier MacNab and James McFarlane. Businesses mentioned include the Hamilton Waterworks Pump House, the Crystal Palace, the Hotel Royal, the Argyle Coffee Rooms and the Arbor Dining Hall. In addition, other references include the cholera outbreak of 1854, the Desjardins Canal rail disaster of 1857 and the Prince of Wales’ visit to Hamilton in 1860.

The one-of-a-kind prize, locally crafted by Hamilton artisans is a mahogony puzzle box by Matthew Benedetti of Benedetti Woodworking and a gold-plated silver brooch by Caillin Kowalczky of Lovesick Designs and H. Williams Jewelry.

This is a collaborative quest –in which residents work together to decipher the clues and roam the city. A Reddit board is set up for discussion about the contest to stake a claim, share ideas, purport theories and profess leads.

It’s an opportunity to experience what Hamilton has to offer, both new and old. Join in on the fun! Check out Hamilton Public Library’s website for more information on how to play. All clues and journals are posted there, as well. And, a congratulatory prize is up for grabs for one lucky, randomly drawn puzzle solver. The contest closes Friday November 15 at 11:59pm.


Shelley McKay is the Communications Manager at Hamilton Public Library.