The admissions department at the University of Chicago traffics a ton of mail every day: applications, letters, research projects; senior admissions counselor Grace Chapin said the office is often the college's catch-all for confused senders. A package they received a couple days ago, though, left them confused.
The parcel was addressed to a "Henry Walton Jones, Jr." at the university, and when the office couldn't find the name in the directory, gave it to a student worker to figure out. He returned laughing and with an unusual answer.
"We gave it to a student worker, and the kid came back laughing once he googled it. Some of us are in a haze with finals, you know, so he said it was Indiana Jones' name," said Chapin, a 24-year-old Hyde Park resident. "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. Here is how the admissions' office's original Tumblr post described the contents:
"The book itself is a bit dusty, and the cover is teal fabric with a red velvet spine, 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 they threw pictures of the package up on their Tumblr, responses starting pouring in. Chapin said several different publications called about the story, and many people offered potential explanations behind the mystery.
A very similar imitation journal is available on eBay, and one suggested explanation, however unexciting, is that this package broke free of any other packaging, and the faux-postage on the interior journal package caused the mailman to simply bring it to the university.
Chapin said other people have guessed that the journal is part of a large-scale "alternate reality" game, where players plant clues for other players in the game that often follow unusual methods and find their way onto the Internet. Another is that it's part of an Indiana Jones promotion, but she said the office hadn't heard back from the studio in regard to that. The last reason they've had suggested is that the book is an art abandonment project, where an artist alters an existing work to be their own, then leaves it for someone else to find.
None of these have been confirmed, however, and Chapin said she's 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. This is very, very different," she said.
While the office hasn't decided what to do with the package yet (they're considering trying to archive it in the library's special collections), Chapin said if they find out it was part of an admission package, they 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 today [Thursday]," she said. "We're going to be posting a follow-up with all the explanations we've been getting and what we know later."
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