Published December 17, 2012
CHICAGO – First, there was "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Now, there's "Mailers of the Lost Package."
Days after the University of Chicago announced it had received a replica of the journal from the film "Raiders of the Lost Ark," the school says it has solved an international mystery with its roots in Guam.
A few weeks ago, a journal addressed to one Henry Walton Jones, Jr. — the given name of Hollywood's Indiana Jones — was placed inside another package and mailed from Guam to Italy, where someone had bought it on eBay.
But the smaller package fell out and was spotted by a U.S. postal worker, who saw it was addressed to Jones at the University of Chicago. The worker added the Chicago zip code and sent it on its way.
Upon its arrival at the school's admissions office, officials didn't know what to make of the package. There is no Henry Walton Jones Jr. on the faculty.
It took a student doing a bit of research on the Internet to discover that Jones was real — on big screen. Indiana Jones' character is said to be based loosely on two U of C professors. Abner Ravenwood was an Egyptologist and archeologist at the school about a century ago. In the movie, he is a mentor of Indiana Jones, and the journal is his.
Though the craftsmanship of the journal, chock full of maps and old photographs, was impressive, a spokesman for the school's admissions office said, there were clues that indicated Ravenwood was not the author.
"The photos were of Harrison Ford during filming," said spokesman Garrett Brinker.
The school found out the journal was the work of a Guam man whom Garrett described as a "prop replicator."
"Apparently, it takes him two weeks to make one of these replicas and then he sells them to people all over the world," Brinker said. "He says they usually go for about $200 (but) I believe this one went for $177."
Brinker said that the Oriental Institute, the university's famed museum and organization devoted to the ancient Near East, likes the journal and asked to display it in its main lobby.
"They asked for it and now it is in their possession," he said.