By Marcus Tainsh
An enigmatic Melburnian and her team of ‘elves’ are building a reputation for placing gift vouchers around the city and tweeting clues about their location to a budding audience of amateur sleuths.
Combining her love for scavenger hunts, cryptic crosswords and the emerging online “geo-caching” craze, Dot, the founder of
@HiddenGiftMel, said she started the hunts to put smiles on faces at a time of social tension and political turbulence.
“It was late-May, the winter clouds were gathering and I felt the disastrous federal budget was really straining our community,” Dot said.
“We needed a release and when a friend told me about the growing ‘Hidden Cash’ movement in the US I thought ‘that’s perfect for Melbourne’!” she said.
Dot said the CBD’s rich history, eclectic architecture and residents’ willingness to engage in something a little left of centre made it an ideal place for a treasure hunt.
“Melbourne is awash with history and culture,” she said. “We really take for granted our hidden laneways, quirky buildings, terrific street art and historic monuments. I’ve learnt so much about the city and I hope our followers have too.”
Although just one of Dot’s treasures has disappeared without explanation, it has been a steep learning curve finding hiding places that challenged hunters, but won’t be stumbled upon by random people.
“I quickly realised hiding something resembling a plastic drug baggy in St Kilda was not a great idea!” Dot said. “Another time I hid a treasure in the branches of a tree which council workers cut down the very next day.”
Remaining strictly anonymous to all but a handful of confidants to keep separate her private life and role as “Chief Elf”,
Dot sometimes feels like she is living a double life.
“For four months my husband was completely unaware that I was running around the city hiding things in alley-ways and, to this day, my children remain none the wiser!” she said.
“A few times I’ve been having a drink with friends who’ve started talking about Hidden Gift and I’ve had to keep my mouth shut and resist the urge to reveal my alter-ego.”
“I sometimes feel like a spy or secret agent. It’s a bit of a thrill!”