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‘The Secret’ scavenger hunt in NYC was a bust, but gem hunter plans to dig again using clues from books

He thinks Staten Island is a treasure island.

At 6 a.m. last Saturday, David Hager, 58, and his wife Michelle, 51, and two sons, Tyler and Ryan, 21 and 17, started digging in a small park in the forgotten neighborhood.

Hager, who lives in Colorado, believes he has correctly deciphered clues from Byron Preiss’ 1982 book “The Secret: A Treasure Hunt” that point to the buried loot on Staten Island.

“There were two things (in the book) that no one could think of,” Hager, a former geologist and science teacher who now owns a college planning service, told The Post. “We dialed this in like this. It has to be here.’

David Hager and sons Tyler and Ryan spent the holiday weekend digging for treasure.  LP mediaDavid Hager and sons Tyler and Ryan spent the holiday weekend digging for treasure.  LP media

David Hager and sons Tyler and Ryan spent the holiday weekend digging for treasure. LP media

In the early 1980s, Preiss is said to have buried chests and keys in plexiglass coffins in twelve North American cities. He placed extensive clues in the book as to their whereabouts. Only three of the treasures – in Chicago, Cleveland and Boston – have ever been found. It is widely believed that there is loot somewhere in the five boroughs, but it has never been found. Preiss died in a car accident on Long Island in 2005.

Hager and his family traveled from Denver to spend the holiday weekend digging. They brought battery-powered drills, shovels and underground cameras.

If Hager finds a helmet and key, he can exchange the key at the Preiss estate for a specific gemstone – a topaz according to his interpretation of the clues – with an estimated value of $2,000.

The Hagers had to conduct their digs in the park – the exact name and location they asked not to be published – in secret because they did not have a permit for the digs.

When a passerby walked by and asked what they were up to, Michelle Cagily told him, “We’re looking for Grandpa’s time capsule.”

One of their tools is a probe with a camera that connects to a monitor.  LP mediaOne of their tools is a probe with a camera that connects to a monitor.  LP media

One of their tools is a probe with a camera that connects to a monitor. LP media

At several points, Hager counted down the steps and told his sons where to dig, as he himself is recovering from a shoulder injury

“Before we came here, we practiced in the backyard,” he said. “We tested different tools and techniques.”

Early on, it appeared as if the family had hit something with the probe, which had a camera attached. Hager looked at the monitor and said, “It looks like the Plexiglas case.”

But unfortunately it turned out to be a stone.

Undeterred, the family – mother Michelle calls her brood “Team Hager” – continued to dig, covering a narrow path of about ten meters.

“There were two things (in the book) that no one could figure out,” Hager told The Post of the clues.  “We dialed this in like this.  It has to be here.'  LP media“There were two things (in the book) that no one could figure out,” Hager told The Post of the clues.  “We dialed this in like this.  It has to be here.'  LP media

“There were two things (in the book) that no one could figure out,” Hager told The Post of the clues. “We dialed this in like this. It has to be here.’ LP media

After five hours, everyone was hungry for lunch, the drill batteries were empty and the underground camera screen was broken. There seemed to be holes everywhere. As the Hager children began digging with their hands, David admitted that a break was in order.

“We’re going to the Airbnb to recharge,” he announced.

The family returned Sunday and Monday to dig, but they had no luck. Yet Hager is not deterred.

The last ceramic casque was found in Boston in 2019.  Boston Globe via Getty ImagesThe last ceramic casque was found in Boston in 2019.  Boston Globe via Getty Images

The last ceramic casque was found in Boston in 2019. Boston Globe via Getty Images

The find from Boston was exchanged for a peridot stone.  Boston Globe via Getty ImagesThe find from Boston was exchanged for a peridot stone.  Boston Globe via Getty Images

The find from Boston was exchanged for a peridot stone. Boston Globe via Getty Images

“We’ll be back,” he told The Post on Monday evening, just before his return flight to Colorado.

“We just ran out of time. We will come back with more equipment, more batteries and ready to go again.”

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