You've got mail, Dr. Jones

December 13, 2012

Alma Bahman

UPDATE: 12/17/2012 - The mystery has been solved!


Hover over the picture for fun facts about the mystery package (Tumblr/University of Chicago Admissions)

When a crinkly manila envelope addressed to Henry Walton Jones, Jr. arrived at the University of Chicago's admissions office few days ago, no one paid much mind.

It's prime time for them: college hopefuls will find out their admission statuses next week. And busy times mean lots of mail.

"We get the wrong mail a lot and so we thought it was just something meant for a professor," said Senior Admissions Counselor at University of Chicago Grace Chapin. "But when one of our student [workers] looked up the name, he just came back and laughed at us and said, 'You know this is Indiana Jones, right?'"

The office often gets art and research projects that students send as part of their application. Garrett Brinker, Director of Undergraduate Outreach (and a Jedi Knight), said it was their first thought, but it seems this is a well-done replica of a real movie prop.

"We're baffled by how much work has gone into this," Chapin said.

Brinker said they determined the package was dropped into a mail bin on campus. Further research turned up an e-Bay listing of another prop replica similar to this one, but there are key differences from the one they got.

"It's clearly trying to attempt to be this journal from 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'," Chapin said.

And someone put a lot of work into it. The package included a teal, bound journal belonging to Abner Ravenwood (though the handwriting inside isn't real), copies of Pan Am tickets, pictures, fake money, maps and fake stamps from Egypt on the envelope. And there's no return address.

Chapin said she has no idea why someone would send this.

One connection, she said, is that Indiana Jones mythology has him attending the University of Chicago (and his roommates were Eliot Ness and Jack Shannon). That was where Jones studied under Ravenwood, before their work was strained by romantic liasons between Jones and Ravenwood's daughter Marion. Ravenwood was fired by the university over his obsession with the Ark of the Covenant.

Chapin also said the building that houses admissions and the economics department used to be the geography and geology building.

"There are stone carvings that say "Dig and discover," so it's possible someone latched on to the fact that this building used to be that kind of purpose and theorized that he may have worked here," she said.

Admissions hopes the Internet can come to their rescue with an answer, posting to its Tumblr about the mysterious package. There's also an email address, in case anyone has tips or theories: indianajonesjournal@uchicago.edu

If it is a student project, Brinker said it would be a "wonderful way to have a little fun with the [admissions] process."

Although, he added, there's no need for every prospective student to send one.