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Spearhunt: Find The Lazarus Spear


Love a treasure hunt? Me too! I’m sponsoring one to celebrate my book THE LAZARUS SPEAR.

In the book, an ordinary guy gets lost on the Appalachian Trail during a storm. Wandering in the dark, he finds a cave and, inside the cave, a spear. If this spear cuts you, you heal instantly and are connected with your greatest enemy—to see a glimpse into their soul. But the spear can do more, provided you have the faith to let someone stab it into your heart!

The book’s set in Erwin, a mountain-wrapped little town in East Tennessee. Like my other books, there are familiar landscapes if you’ve hiked in the region.

I’m hiding two special commemorative spears in the mountains near the Appalachian Trail.

The book’s main character is an Information Security professional, so I thought it would also be fun to publish the approximate location for the spears in code and hide the passwords for decoding them in the book.



  1. Follow the spearhunt page.

  2. Buy the book on Amazon ($2.99), so you can look up the password when the hint is published. If you find the spear and can show proof of purchase for the book prior to the release of the hint, Tom will sign your spear and give you an autographed print edition.

  3. Encrypted GPS coordinates will be published on the site prior (dates below) to the hint’s release. The coordinates will be encrypted using the Vernam cipher (see below).

  4. The hint will direct readers to a sentence, or combination of words from THE LAZARUS SPEAR that combine to form the password. Only the hint will be published on the web site, not the password itself, so you’ll need a copy of the book.

  5. Use the password to decode the coordinates. There are a number of web sites that will quickly decode the plaintext coordinates if you paste in the password.

  6. Go find the spear! Please be careful and courteous to others.


What to expect


The spear will be hidden near the coordinates provided. Additional instructions will be provided with the spear. I’d love to pose for photos with the person, or team, that finds the spears and post them on the web site. The instructions will help make those arrangements.


A password will also be left at the site. If the spear has already been found when you arrive, please email the password to Tom along with a photo of you posing on-site and we’ll post the names of the first twenty people to find the treasure spot on the book’s web site.


Interviewed by Preston Ayres, WYCB
Interviewed by Chris McIntosh, WJHL



1st Spear hidden on Saturday, June 17, 2017.

1st Spear encrypted coordinates: Posting Sunday, June 25 (1:00 PM)

1st Spear hint: Posting Saturday, July 1, (8:00 AM)
The hunt begins! Be sure to buy your copy of THE LAZARUS SPEAR before the hint is released to qualify for a signed copy of the book if you are the first to find the spear.

Note change of schedule
2nd Spear encrypted coordinates: Posting Saturday, July 8 (8:00 AM)
2nd Spear hint: Posting Saturday, July 15, (8:00 AM) – Spear 2 has been found, coordinates are 36° 5′ 57.45836” N,82° 27′ 2.79223” W.



June 24, 2017: 1st Spear has been hidden for a week.
June 24, 2017: 1st Spear Photo clue posted 











June 25, 2017: 1st Spear GPS Coordinates (Encrypted) are posted


June 26, 2017: 1st Spear Video clue posted

June 27, 2017: 1st Spear Photo clue posted



July 1, 2017: 1st Spear hint (8:00 AM)
Go to chapter 17 and capture the two sentences following “It’s not a stair step, Hogan,” he’d said.”

Capitalize all characters.

Remove all spaces and punctuation.

Paste this “XSPEAROFDESTINY” at the very end (see the example under “Decoding”).

This is the password that decodes the GPS coordinates!


Good luck and don’t forget the supplies recommended in the post.

July 1, 2017: 1st Spear found by Steven McDevitt at 2:00 PM! Congratulations!


July 7, 2017: 2nd Spear is hidden
July 8, 2017: 2nd Spear GPS Coordinates (Encrypted) are posted


July 8, 2017: 2nd Spear, Deployed location video
July 8, 2017: 2nd Spear, Deployed location photo
July 8, 2017: 2nd Spear, Video hint



Spear 1: Steven McDevitt (July 1, 2017 2:00 PM)


Spear 2: Found by Steven and Charles McDevitt


Steven scanned the book for sentences of the right approximate length, with an eye toward sentences that were pithy and plugged them into the decoder to get all but the last three characters (which were “XXX”) and that was close enough for he and his father Charles to find the spear. Well done guys! For reference, the hint was to be

Chapter 52
Sentence after this one…
Dick watched him, assessing. He always watched people, even after he’d known them for years.
THEN add three “X” to the end.

Which results in the following password…Dick kept his eyes on people like a gunfighter stepping up from a poker table to scrape winnings into his hat (with the formatting and extra X’s of course)

July 15, 2017: Tom meets a group of spear-hunters on the trail.


Left to right: Charles deVries, Dennis Atkins, Ruth Atkins and Toby


Kathy Knowland, Pete Knowland


The decoded GPS coordinates will provide the approximate location of the spear.

Encrypted sample


Chapter 73
Paragraph 3
Sentence 3
Copy the third sentence and then paste the following at the end “THE LAZARUS SPEAR TOM DEADERICK X”

Remember to remove ALL spaces and punctuation from the password.

Once the hint is published, use it to look up the passage in the book.

The third sentence is…
Everything in her life had come undone as quickly as rope slipping over a cliff’s edge.

Paste the text to the end as instructed, like this…
Everything in her life had come undone as quickly as rope slipping over a cliff’s edge The Lazarus Spear Tom Deaderick X

To complete your password, capitalize the text, remove ALL spaces and remove ALL punctuation, as shown below.



This is the easy part. Now you have the encrypted text and the password. They are both repeated below to show you that these are both the same length which is the defining characteristic of the Vernam cipher. A password that is shorter than the message text is easier to decode – those are called Vigenere ciphers.

Encrypted sample (98 characters)


Password sample (98 characters)

Here’s just one of the online sites that you can use to decode using the password.

Copy and paste the encrypted sample into the field labeled “VERNAM CIPHERTEXT” and then paste the password into the field labeled “CIPHER KEY / ONE TIME PAD”. Click the “DECRYPT” button and the results will be displayed at the top left.

Decoded sample

38°54’23.4″N 77°02’30.7″W


Which is the location of a restaurant called the Shake Shack, which features prominently in the book. Paste the coordinates, 38°54’23.4″N 77°02’30.7″W in this example, into Google Maps and you’ll see the corner described in the book. Here’s a photo of Tom Deaderick levitating in front of it.

The Vernam cipher
The Vernam cipher is also called a “one-time pad”. 


This cipher was first conceived in 1882 and patented in 1919. It relies on a password that is the same length as the plaintext (in this case the unencrypted GPS coordinate) that is completely random.

There are two factors that might enable someone to decode the spear location without the password.

  1. Non-random password
    The password will be a series or combination of words or a sentence from THE LAZARUS SPEAR. So, it is not random and a frequency analysis might help solve the code without the password.

  2. Structured plaintext
    Knowing the plaintext is a GPS coordinate provides a more limited number of options. That might help someone with talents for decryption work out the location.



I’d love to hear that the Spearhunt is being used to teach young people about cryptography. If there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know via email. I created an Excel worksheet to work out the codes for the contest. Let me know if you'd like a copy.

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