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Friday, February 23, 2007
By John R. Ellement and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
Dr. Pepper's gold coin was in the Granary Burying Ground the entire time, tucked behind the lip on a slab of slate covering the entrance to an almost 200-year-old crypt.
The makers of the soft drink cancelled the Boston leg of a 23-city treasure hunt Thursday after irate city officials charged it was "disrespectful" that the company hid a coin inside the 17th-century cemetery home to the graves of Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and other founding American patriots.
The private detective who hid the coin for Dr. Pepper returned to the burial ground today to show officials where he had secreted the prize, which was redeemable for $10,000. The company's "Hunt for More" marketing promotion sent contestants following a series of clues in hopes of winning $1 million.
A clue posted Tuesday on Dr. Pepper's website appeared to direct contestants to the almost 350-year-old cemetery on Tremont Street along the Freedom Trail. The burial ground, however, had been closed by the parks department since Monday because heavy ice had made it hazardous for pedestrians.
"I think the fact that the gates were closed was almost like and act of god," Mary Hines, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department, said today. "It kept them out."
City officials feared that the contest would have sent hundreds of people rummaging through the burial ground, a national historic site, which would have made tampering with the graves a felony.
This morning, the coin was still tucked in its black leather pouch, exactly where detective Timothy L. Sullivan had left it on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. It was on the ground in front of crypt number 96, which had the names Edward and William Reynolds etched above the year 1810.
The parks department knew nothing of the marketing campaign until it was deluged with more than 100 phone calls this week from angry people demanding access to the graveyard. But officials kept it closed because of fears that the treasure hunters would damage the fragile headstones and disturb the cemetery. Founded in 1660, the burial ground is also the final resting place of Robert Treat Paine, a signer of the Declaration of Independence; Peter Faneuil, benefactor and namesake of the famed downtown landmark; James Otis, a Revolutionary orator and lawyer; five victims of the Boston Massacre; and the remains of an estimated 5,000 other people.
On Thursday, Cadbury Schweppes PLC, which makes Dr Pepper, apologized for the ruckus. Boston-area contestants received emails informing them that the game was off and that a random drawing would determine the winner of the $10,000, the jackpot that would have gone to whoever found the Boston coin.
The coin redeemable for $1 million was hidden in Houston, the company said. Contestants bought specially marked bottles of Dr Pepper each day to get a code to put into a website that disclosed a new clue daily.
Posted by the Boston Globe City & Region Desk at 11:59 AM