University of Chicago stumped by mail addressed to Indiana Jones
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."
Likely someone found it, looked in it, and decided to return it to its rightful owner not knowing it was a fake.
That's my alma mater. It's a great place for immersing yourself in the life of the mind.
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