Hunt for ‘Lincoln’s Lost Treasure’ in Gettysburg

Interactive program makes the audience the main character
Posted: 07/18/2011 09:00:37 AM EDT


Jason Black of Florida holds a book with clues to the whereabouts of their next stop during the group’s search for ‘Lincoln’s Lost Treasure’ in Gettysburg in 2009. ‘Lincoln’s Lost Treasure,’ now in its third season, sends participants on a hunt through the pages of history. (FLIPSIDE — FILE)

Does the sound of a cracking bullwhip entice your appetite for adventure? Do you know enough to close your eyes when the bad guys open artifacts with mystical qualities?

Would you choose the right cup?

For the Indiana Jones in the making, there’s a swash-buckling, hair-raising, wild ride of an adventure right here in Gettysburg.

The whole family can take part every Sunday in “Lincoln’s Lost Treasure,” organizers say.

For three years, Phillip Cohen and Doug Hieatzman have been running their unique form of an interactive play. Part murder-mystery dinner theater, part dramatic performance and all adventure, “Lincoln’s Lost Treasure” sends participants on a hunt through the pages of history.

“The guest is the main character,” Hieatzman explained. “The idea is to break the four walls of theater, and make the guest the center of the attraction.”

Inspired by spy and adventure stories, Cohen and Hieatzman started this unique form of theater after a chance meeting.

Hieatzman previously worked for Disney in lighting, and did some acting, and had also been involved with theater most of his life. Three years ago, he was living in York and ran into Cohen, who had been writing and performing in mystery dinner theaters at some local restaurants.

The two came up with the idea of a new form of entertainment, and got to work. Some nights, for about seven months, they would meet over coffee, and spend four or five hours hashing out the story and the characters.

Now in its third season, “Lincoln’s Lost Treasure” turned out to be something creative and unique that they are both proud of.

The story is about the fictitious lost treasure of President Abraham Lincoln. On his way to Gettysburg to deliver the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln had treasury gold on his train, which he did not want to fall into Confederate hands.

But in modern-day Gettysburg, the gold is missing. That’s where you come in.

The “audience” becomes the main character, Hieatzman explained, and interacts with the actors, travels around Gettysburg and solves the mystery.

“It’s a real-world format where everything is happening to the characters in the moment,” he said.

Visitors find clues and decipher codes along the way, sometimes altering the course of the story. But that’s part of the fun. The actors are trained professionals, Hieatzman said, and are ready to improvise, and go with Plan B, C or even Plan Q when necessary.

It’s a challenge for the actors, and a fun time for visitors, he said, who often gasp at the surprise ending.

Ticket to Fun is a weekly column featuring local ongoing weekly and monthly events. Reach Steve Marroni at


If you go

WHAT: “Lincoln’s Lost Treasure”

LOCATION: Various locations throughout Gettysburg

HOURS: Shows run from noon to 2:30 p.m. every Sunday through Oct. 31

COST: $41.30 per person; discounts available for groups

DETAILS: Call 1-800-838-3006 or visit



History meets theater in Gettysburg

Lincoln’s Lost Treasure is both a theater production and treasure hunt.

Posted: 06/18/2009 01:00:00 AM EDT


Jason Black, of Florida, holds a book with clues to the whereabouts of their next stop during the group s hunt for Lincoln s Lost Treasure in Gettysburg on Sunday. Black, and about a dozen family members, were one of the new Gettysburg attraction s first customers. Lincoln s Lost Treasure fuses history and interactive entertainment that takes treasure hunters on a search for copies of President Abraham Lincoln s Gettysburg Address. (Evening Sun Photo by Shane Dunlap)

Sure, they looked like tourists. The strollers, especially, were a nice touch.

But this group of 13 family members were on a top-secret mission, and their directions were clear.

“You must not speak to anyone of this mission. You must act as tourists,” Kelly Clark told the group before they departed on a trek throughout Gettysburg.

If they succeeded, Clark said, the group would be handsomely rewarded. In the case of failure, the group may be the latest addition to Gettysburg’s ghost tours.

And off they went - after paying about $30 per adult - on Gettysburg’s latest entertainment attraction called Lincoln’s Lost Treasure.

On the weekends, anyone looking for a little adventure can sign up for a chance to sleuth around town in search of clues. Actors like Clark play street musicians, construction workers and even spies and are staged at different points of the journey to provide warnings, clues and advice. Even the starting point is not revealed until hours before the treasure hunt begins.

The ultimate goal: Discover the code hidden inside President Abraham Lincoln’s five copies of the Gettysburg Address.

Of course, the code is made up. But it’s the fusion of history and theater that makes the experience unique. The production is set in modern times but capitalizes on Gettysburg’s historical significance.

Lincoln’s Lost Treasure is the brainchild of two men from York who have a background in entertainment and a knack for entrepreneurship.

But even they aren’t really sure whether to call the production a play, a treasure hunt or a clever combination of the two.”There’s no one word that sort of describes it,” co-owner Phil Cohen said.

Cohen compares Lincoln’s Lost Treasure to the movie National Treasure, in which Nicholas Cage’s character interprets a map discovered on the back of the Declaration of Independence to find historic artifacts kept secret for centuries.

“It’s like that but live,” he said.

Cohen’s business partner, Doug Hieatzman, said he is particularly fond of the potential for improvisation and the ability for actors to interact with the treasure hunters.

“The idea is that the story is always changing,” he said. “It’s not a straight-cut storyline. That makes it interesting for the guests.”

Not long ago, the two owners began a project of writing dinner-theater mysteries, but “we wanted to do something different than what was already out there,” Hieatzman said.

What they came up with was a 2 ½-hour romp around Gettysburg.

And now they’re looking for acceptance from other local businesses and organizations - some of which already volunteer their properties as part of the story.

Cohen and Hieatzman said they’re hoping to carve out a niche in Gettysburg tourism and provide visitors a new way to enjoy their stay.

“At least this would be a whole different experience for them,” Cohen said.


What: Lincoln’s Lost Treasure, a live theater production that uses actors, clues and Gettysburg attractions to lead treasure hunters on a search for copies of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

When: Various times on  Sundays

Where: Starting points are not revealed until hours before start times, but all productions take place on the streets of Gettysburg.

Tickets: For tickets, call 1-800-838-3006 or visit This weekend, tickets will cost $31.99 per person but will be $39.99 in the future.

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