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Expedition Unknown exclusive: Josh Gates hunts elusive ‘Golden Owl’ in bid to solve 26-year-old treasure puzzle

On the hunt for the Golden Owl of France, Josh Gates is in Bourges, France. Pic credit: Discovery
Josh Gates on the hunt for the Golden Owl in Bourges, France. Pic credit: Discovery

A veritable treasure hunt awaits fans of Josh Gates and Expedition Unknown on Discovery tonight!

Have you ever heard of the Golden Owl? There’s a real treasure that awaits a lucky person somewhere in France and Gates was petitioned by a fan to explore and decode the mystery.

On this final week of Expedition Unknown (seriously, where did the time go on this series?) we head to Europe and join Gates as the race is on to find a Golden Owl — worth over half a million dollars.

Holding a mysterious looking book, Gates explains the lore of the Golden Owl, a treasure hunt mapped by two devious minds. He says: “Ladies and gentlemen I give you the Golden Owl… a contest I knew nothing about until a young fan of our show suggests that it might make for a great Expedition [Unknown] and once I started researching it… I was hooked.”

He explains the background in detail and says:  “That’s because right now a 10-inch owl statuette made of silver, gold, and jewels is hidden somewhere in France. Oh, and did I mention it’s worth half a million dollars [to be] awarded to the first person who can find it?”

The Golden Owl lore

Gates gives us the history of this artifact called “la chouette d’or” in France, buried somewhere in the country to this day.

He says: “In 1993 puzzle mastermind Max Valentin and artist Michel Becker created the statue as the prize to a mind-bending contest. They published a book featuring eleven devious riddles and paintings that form a cryptic road map to the owl’s buried location.”

La chouette d’or was buried in a secret location in France by Valentin — a pseudonym of writer and puzzle designer Régis Hauser — in April of 1993. It is believed to be buried about 80 inches deep and covered with dirt and rocks.

Valentin’s eleven clues to the statue’s location were accompanied by illustrations created by the sculptor Michel Becker, who also helped to create the valuable prize.

To date the clues are unsolved and the owl remains hidden. To top it all off Valentin died in a car crash before it was found.

Valentin had written several treasure hunts before and allegedly spent around 450 hours writing the Golden Owl’s eleven clues.

He and Becker published their book, Sur La Trace de la Chouette d’Or (In Search of the Golden Owl) together. But only Valentin knew the exact location of the owl; his partner in mystery Becker left in the dark.

Make sure to tune in tonight as Josh Gates stalks the elusive Golden Owl. Using new leads, will he be able to trace this still unclaimed fortune?

Expedition Unknown airs Wednesdays at 9 PM ET/PT on Discovery Channel.

April Neale
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