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Mystery surrounds Treasure Quest winner

Published Jul. 13, 1998
Updated Sep. 13, 2005

You think finding the correct answer hidden in Treasure Quest that would win $1-million was difficult?

You should try finding the winner.

Many people who spent the last two years playing the Sirius Corp.'s CD-ROM game would like to find that person.

But Sirius won't say if the person is a male or female, or give out any other information. Moreover, it appears the winner wasn't the first person to submit the correct answer.

About two years ago, the game began with a software program that contained a $1-million prize: Treasure Quest from Sirius Corp. of Scottsdale, Ariz. Players who bought the $50 game had to solve an intricate puzzle, made up of an estimated 1,200 clues, to find the mystery hidden in professor Jonathon William Faulkner's 10-room mansion. Players went through the mansion collecting clues.

Now, the game's buyers are searching for something even more elusive than the hidden treasure: the winner of the $1-million prize.

Sirius president Richard Gnant has refused to fully identify the winner, saying only that the prize was won by "P. Dreizen of San Francisco, Calif." The announcement was made in mid-May, and a Web site that allowed players to pass along ideas about solving puzzles and exchange clues was closed down soon thereafter.

Those who purchased the game might want to contact the Arizona Attorney General's Office at (602) 542-4266. A story by Dennis Wagner of the Arizona Republic reported recently that a complaint has been filed with the office. The office will not confirm or deny that, but if there is legal action taken, purchasers of the game may have recourse.

"My gut feeling is that it's a scam," Paul Wigowsky told the Republic. Wigowsky is an Oregon schoolteacher who filed the consumer-fraud complaint. "Unless we see the winner with our own eyes, we won't believe it's over."

There has been no press release about the winner. No picture-taking session. No address or other confirmation. A note was posted on the Treasure Quest Web site from the company saying the answer to the mystery is: "The Tree of Life." Searches for a P. Dreizen in San Francisco's telephone books turned up a Pamala Dreizen, who did not return a reporter's telephone calls over a period of several weeks.

Gnant insists the Treasure Quest winner is a real person. Losers, he told the Republic, "are miffed because they didn't win. We've maintained the integrity of this game."

Although he said the game rules don't require a public notification of the winner, the rules clearly allow the company to release the name.

The newspaper reported that Gnant also refused to say whether the winner was male or female, or how many others, if any, were involved on Dreizen's winning team. He also would not release the date of when the winning entry was submitted.

The newspaper reported that "P. Dreizen" wasn't really the first winner: "Last week, Gnant acknowledged that Wigowsky solved the riddle before Dreizen, but was disqualified because he did not place a contest registration number in the appropriate place. "The guy didn't follow the rules, so he didn't win Treasure Quest. I'm sorry,' " Gnant added. " "Maybe I should have told him.' "

Gnant said the New York firm of Ventura Associates Inc., which has handled contests for major companies, confirmed P. Dreizen as the winner. The Republic said Gnant's company has since switched from computer games to marketing CD-ROM movies, "and he didn't want to spend money on a victory bash."

The Republic said that now that the contest is over, players have started looking at Sirius' business. They've found the staff has been reduced to a third of what it was _ a downsizing Gnant said resulted from the change in the business (from gaming software to CD-ROM movies). It has also closed its business offices and moved its operations to a warehouse. Another Gnant business went into bankruptcy several years ago.