There’s $1,000 hidden somewhere in Kosciusko County, and a treasure hunt for the cash begins Sept. 4.

Mike Haverstock started thinking about creating an escape room in the area toward the beginning of 2020. An escape room is a 60-minute real-life adventure game in which teams assemble in a themed room and have one hour to complete a mission and “escape” the room.

“I started really looking at places. I had looked at a couple of places and talked to people, and then COVID-19 happened. It’s just not very clear that it’s a good time to open an escape room where a bunch of people are running around and touching stuff other people have touched. So, I kind of pulled away from that idea a little bit,” he said.

Haverstock had played in a treasure hunt in Fort Wayne. He did pretty well in it and placed.

“It was more difficult there than I think mine is going to be for someone who is remote because for theirs, you actually had to be there for a few of the things. There was no way to do some of them completely online,” he said.

For the Escape Warsaw treasure hunt, Haverstock said everything “you need to solve can be solved online. You might find things more convenient to not do it online, but it’s definitely possible online, so there’s no need to run around,” he said. “The only time you will have to leave your house is when you figure out where the treasure is and go get it. Because there is literally $1,000 hidden somewhere in (Kosciusko County). You will pick up $1,000 cash.”

Just like the Fort Wayne treasure hunt, Haverstock said he is charging $30 for the map. He’s already released the first riddle so people can get an idea of what the hunt is.

“This isn’t like one cryptic message that says ‘find the blue stone and walk ...’ It’s not that. This is a series of riddles and puzzles that all pertain to Kosciusko County in some way. And after solving all of them, you can combine the information to get the location of the treasure,” Haverstock said.

To get a map, go to escapewarsaw.com/treasure or visit the Escape Warsaw Facebook page. On the website, there’s a description of who is behind the treasure hunt, why they’re doing it, some basic rules like no trespassing on private property (nothing is on private property), etc.

“You can sign up in groups. There’s not a fee per person. However you big you want to make your group, but making your group 50 people is probably not a great idea because you’ll be splitting it with 50 people,” he said.

The map has all the puzzles all laid out at the very start. “So you’ll see exactly everything you need to solve. So you’ll have a bunch of riddles, and after you solve absolutely all of it, it’ll be obvious how you combine this information. But all of that information is available upfront. You don’t have to go to location A to location B to location C,” Haverstock explained.

He said the reason he structured the treasure hunt the way he did was to avoid the vandalism problems the Fort Wayne treasure hunt had.

If a person wants to play the game, Haverstock recommended they register before 7 p.m. Sept. 4. “You purchase the map, you give your email address. The day of, it (the map) will be emailed out to everybody at the same time so everybody gets the same jumpstart,” he said.

Haverstock estimates the game will be solved in three to four days, which is why he set it around Labor Day weekend.

“I would get the map early and be ready from the get-go,” he said.

The $1,000 cash is Haverstock’s own money.

“I honestly don’t expect to make a whole bunch of money. There’s two real motivations for this. I just love puzzles and I wanted to do something, and that was kind of the reason I wanted to do the escape room,” he said. “I was seriously considering doing the escape room even though I was fairly certain it was going to be a break-even or slight (financial) loss. I just want to build the best escape rooms in the area, but once COVID happened, I knew it was going to be a massive loss and I couldn’t do that.”

With the treasure hunt, he said he thinks it’ll be a lot of fun for a lot of people.

“And secondly, it’s an indirect gauge of how many people in this area are into the idea of paying a little money to solve puzzles and do that. So maybe it’ll help me gauge if people are interested in an escape room,” he said. “If this turns out to be a complete flop, I can guarantee that an escape room would be a complete flop because this is offering real money, and if people aren’t interested in that, then they’re not interested in paying money to not earn anything. I can tell you that for sure.”

He doesn’t expect to lose a lot of money on the treasure hunt, but does expect he’ll create a little community from the event.

Mike’s wife, Sarah, known locally as The Cake Lady, helped him along the way. She helped test out the puzzles and discuss what the map should look like.

“I love it. I’ve spent probably way too much time devising the clues and figuring out where to hide it and all that. I love it. I would do more, as long as Kosciusko County is interested,” he said.