Although the 1987 Hunt had generally been a success, there were a couple of glitches. One significant issue was that putting written clues on real-world objects left them vulnerable. Non-participants could unwittingly remove a clue, or it could fall victim to animals or the weather.
After mulling this over, we had a brainstorm: Instead of leaving physical clues out in the wild for seekers, we would relay information over the phone. How would we know that the seeker was at the correct location? By having them tell us the number of the pay phone they were calling from! (Remember, this was back in the ancient times before cellphones.)
We chose 7 locations around the DC metro area that had banks of pay phones: the Bethesda Metro, an Erols video rental store in Bethesda, WJLA headquarters, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the DC Sheraton on Connecticut Avenue, and the National Zoo. We did take a chance on the final prize—the “microfilm” was really hidden behind a placard in the Zoo. We wanted the end game to be a showdown of agents vying to hold on to an actual object while duelling with water pistols.
Participants got a follow-up letter specifying the time and place of the “hand-off”, but when they arrived they were instead presented with a dead spy…