Monday, December 17, 2012

University of Chicago's Indiana Jones mystery solved

A mystery at the University of Chicago unfolded like the dotted lines on an old map in classic Indiana Jones movies.

Last week, the university posted photos of a package it had received, addressed to none other than Henry Walton Jones, Jr., better known to most as Indiana Jones. Inside was a replica of the fictional U. of C. professor Abner Ravenwood's journal from the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" film. With no explanation, the university reached out via Tumblr, asking visitors to the blog help solve the mystery. Was it a hoax? A clever admissions stunt? A misaddressed Christmas gift? Senior Admissions Adviser Grace Chapin found out the answer Monday morning, and it was none of the above.

The journal and packaging originated from Guam, where an Ebay seller who specializes in replica Indiana Jones props sent it off to the highest bidder who lives in Italy. On its way, the smaller package, addressed to Indy at U. of C., fell out of a larger package. Not realizing what had happened, USPS apparently inserted the correct zip code and shipped it to Chicago.

“What we can piece together, USPS honored the postage, which happens to be fake,” she told RedEye, adding that the Ebay seller confirmed Monday he had received a letter from USPS explaining what happened.

But before the mystery was solved, the university received tons of suggestions and conspiracy theories as to the origin of the package (see photos of it here). It even made international news, with outlets from Norway to Spain to Germany asking for permission to use the photos.

“We’ve been so amused that other people have thought this was so funny,” she said. “This is how fun the world is at this point, something being sent from Guam to Italy and it finds its way to us.”

Chapin said the Ebay seller has told the university it can keep the journal, and that currently several groups on campus are offering to put it on display or archive it, though no solid plans have been made.


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