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One Man’s Treasure Hunt Thrilled a Canadian Town, Turning Strangers into Friends

A horror-themed treasure hunt, organized anonymously in a small Canadian town, left the community enriched with funds and friends.

The town in question, Miramichi in New Brunswick, has a history replete with scary stories of murder and ghosts, which the hunt’s organizer used as context to keep the spooky search going all the way up to Friday the 13th—where the game came to and end with $1,000 (CAD$1,300) in total prizes.

Locals were sure that nothing of the sort has ever gripped the town of 17,000 quite like it, and for getting people out of the house after so many months of COVID restrictions, it’s been a catalyst for community reconnection, and a boon for businesses.

All of this began in early May when, on a Facebook page called the Miramichi Mystery Machine, a man calling himself Roman Dungarvan said there was 100 Canadian dollars hidden somewhere around the town harbor.

This mysterious Mr. Dungarvan claimed, according to the Guardian, to be a descendant of a 19th-century Irish cook who lived in town. Robbed, murdered, and buried in a shallow grave in the woods, the local legend of Dungarvan’s death was that on that night, the entire forest was filled with terrifying noises described as ‘whoops’ that sent the culprits running for their lives, leaving a tale of the Dungarvan Whooper in their frightened wake.

For days, Dungarvan posted videos and photos about where $100 bills could be found. One prize was found in French Cove, which is supposedly haunted by a headless ghost, and another was in an abandoned school building, the clue for which was the release poster for the 1980s slasher film Prom Night.

The big night

Lesfreck, CC license

On May 11th, Dungarvan announced that the last event would be Friday the 13th, which would include an extra $100 for the person with the best costume. The Facebook group exploded with activity.

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The first clue was posted after 7:00PM, after which hundreds of people were out exploring, lending the treasure hunt an air of real camaraderie.

Tim Sutton, a local TikToker, found himself frustratingly close to one of the stashes of money.

“I… searched for nearly seven hours that night. I didn’t find it,” he told the Guardian. “But it’s not about the money. It’s more about the hunt and getting out in the fresh air and kind of making new friends.”

“It was good to see everybody out there having a good time,” said Mallory Barnaby, one of the Friday the 13th winners.

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Mr. Dungarvan posted an image of a text message he received that read, “Thank you Mr. mysterious for bringing the community out together and your amazing generosity. I saw so many smiling faces over the last two weeks on adults and children. Many friends made!!!”

A Friday the 14th comment on the Facebook group agreed, saying, “Maybe the real prize were the friends we made along the way.”

A new name

Some of the clues led hunters to local breweries or pizza shops, after which he would remind people to be respectful of their property and to tip their staff.

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On Friday the 13th, he warned hunters that with a heart condition should refrain from participating for risk of becoming startled with spooky conditions—exactly the kind of polite behavior one would expect from a Canadian. Hence the shifting of the organizer’s name from ‘Mr. Dungarvan’ into ‘Mr. Canadian’.

But this is really the story of how one individual used the character of a small town to bring it together at the end of a very difficult period in its history—with one high schooler remarking, “we absolutely love[d] it.”

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