Someone is hiding cash all over an N.B. city and residents are loving it
Mysterious game has residents finding $100 and $50 bills throughout Miramichi
A strange and exciting mystery has gripped the city of Miramichi, drawing residents out of their homes and into forests and fields, sometimes in broad daylight, sometimes under cover of night.
They're following cryptic clues that are posted in a Facebook group titled Miramichi Mystery Machine, hot on the trail of the same thing: $100 and $50 bills that have been hidden all over the northern New Brunswick city.
The game began six days ago with the creation of the Mystery Machine group and a single clue: "May 1, 7 P.M. $100 hidden at Ritchie Wharf."
Dozens of residents flocked to the wharf and the money was found within hours.
Since then, the creator of the mysterious game has posted a clue a day, and the number of participants has swelled to hundreds.
The clues have grown more cryptic, often involving eerie, voice-distorted videos or photos of scenes from a horror movie.
Sometimes, the mystery poster makes comments that suggest he or she is watching the hunters as they search for the cash. "Checkered shirt. U are not close at all." "Yellow hoodie is in the ballpark." "Savannah, how did u get so smart?"
And the hunters themselves are getting more and more engaged.
The Facebook group that at first had just a handful of members boasted more than 700 by Friday evening, with the numbers rising by the hour.
No one is sure who is behind the hidden-money game. But pretty well everyone is enthralled by it.
'Most exciting week in Miramichi in a long time'
Tim Sutton has been in on the game from the get-go and says it has caused an "incredible" buzz among the city's residents.
"This has been the most exciting week in Miramichi in a long time," Sutton told CBC News. "I'm still excited from today's game and cannot sit still."
Sutton said he hasn't found any of the cash yet, but says it's really more about the community bonding and the thrill of the chase.
"Since this began I've made many new friends and also old friends whom I haven't seen in a long time," he said. "Everyone helps each other out while trying not to divulge all their secrets. ... My turn is coming tomorrow!"
Amanda Rolph and her husband, Dave, have also been out on the money hunt almost every day.
Rolph said they were skeptical at first, and even debated whether the game was a scam. But as players began posting comments about their search, and photos of their wins, they were drawn in.
On day three, they hit paydirt.
They noticed that the first clue — a photo from the 1980s horror film Prom Night with Jamie Lee Curtis — had a setting that looked a lot like the former Harkins Elementary School.
'Leave no stone unturned'
A few more clues followed and "we started to sort of figure out what the location was," so they headed over to the old school, Rolph told CBC's Maritime Noon.
By that time, quite a few people were starting to show up "because they also had started to figure it out," she said.
After hunting for awhile, they ran home to check for more clues, but Rolph's teen daughter was getting antsy.
"She was like bouncing, she was like, 'Let's go, let's go, I'm going without you if you don't come.'"
So they returned to the scene, and by this time, another clue had been posted: "Leave no stone unturned."
Rolph said her partner, Dave, flipped over a rock that he had kicked, "and sure enough, it was there.
"And then everybody knew we had found it because there was a loud roar."
Will the real Roman Dungarvan please stand up?
So who is hiding hundreds of dollars around the city? And why?
These are excellent questions, to which almost no one in Miramichi has answers.
The Facebook page's creator goes by the name Roman Dungarvan.
He notes in his bio that he is making amends for his family's haunting past, a reference to a ghost story about an alleged 19th-century murder on New Brunswick's Dungarvon River.
His profile photo shows a black hoodie worn by what appears to be a faceless spectre.
But for all his love of horror-movie clues and shadowy drama, he seems to be a kindly sort.
He urges the money hunters to be careful, repeatedly reminding them no money has been hidden in garbage cans or around broken glass. He reminds them to "be respectful" of private property. He sends out encouraging comments.
And of course, there's the fact that he's giving away cash, and lots of it. The final instalment of the game, to be held next week on Friday the 13th, will have a bigger-than-usual payday, Dungarvan has said on Facebook.
Sutton said he hasn't a clue who the game's creator is, and he isn't sure it even matters.
"I am thankful they got people out of the house and active," he said.
She said everyone is puzzling over who could be behind this strange and seductive game, with theories ranging from the city's business district to a single magnanimous individual.
But whoever it is, she said, they've done something very special for their city.
"It sort of ties together social media and being active," getting people outside and socializing, she said.
"I think it's absolutely wonderful what they've done."