Part 1: 2 and a half months ago, an old mansion, people are falling sick for no apparent reason. You, a PI, have been dispatched to go and figure out what is happening.

It's a snowy day in the middle of winter as you arrive at the mansion. The butler greets you, and leads you into the main hall. There's a fire in the fireplace, and 13 sick people laying on the floor, side by side resting, like so:

|                Fireplace                 |
|  Person                         Person   |
|  Person                         Person   |
|  Person                         Person   |
|  Person                         Person   |
|  Person                         Person   |
|  Person                         Person   |
|  Person                                  |
|------------------Door--------------------| (Picture not to scale)

Those who are the most sick have been placed closest to the fireplace, giving them more warmth. The butler informs you that the furnace at the mansion has been broken for 3 months, and as such the main hall is the warmest place in the entire mansion.

Some additional facts you obtained by asking questions:

  • Everyone started showing symptoms while in the main hall
  • Other than occasionally taking care of the sick, the butler spends most of his time outside of the main hall
  • Everyone who stayed in the main hall for extended periods of time eventually started showing symptoms of the sickness.
  • After everyone got sick, and the initial positions decided, people were never moved from their original positions.
  • The food and drink in the area is perfect, and is not contaminated in any way shape or form.
  • The furnishing of the mansion (furniture, placement of furniture, etc) has not been changed for years

Symptoms of the sickness:

  • irritated eyes, throat, sinuses
  • headaches
  • shortness of breath

What is the cause of the sickness?

Part 2: Assuming you've solved part 1 properly, insert the answer you got for part 1 into the ________ spot in order to solve this part.

The master of the mansion you saved a while back has recently taken a liking to riddles and famous paintings. Being the greedy rich [insert bad word here] that he is, he bought some very expensive paintings, and has challenged you to solve a riddle as well. But of course, he has to brag about his paintings first, so he shows you around the mansion and shows you 4 paintings.

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

He hands you a double A battery, and an envelope. On the front, it says, "Put _____ into a Playfair Cipher. Idcwsfew Denjwe"

You open up the envelope, and pull out the riddle inside.

Out of Time, Out of Place

Zfmrk lxgav ta jjerziak py jbqve odcnj hjkywwa wtj dpyj

Drxmbjscw jxbkko - wbfwfjf lbrk i avpvj
Jrzdwd thdmwke rc xdj cfazpyw gd sgffmala
Zmw Lmhw omx cbhry mba jfmbfzi wg ogwj p sgdfxzyd
Fdlrk Lklxd Jblr Orjr, Htpfgwimfq Wyhoe Yqbkypde Xgx
Ydgj juqdw zqa apsxbmj, imi wx yv exb gxw
Kfzhe milr airajhw, ljf sqcyys bhs vclyjgiiw
Idka rnjh hvda, mjypej vomfo hpniub
Jamj vwybw, rqafm pfzav, Npf Kxwk pklaem'w lrbu hpve, udpgt!

Omzr bx Y?
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ How did he steal The Last Spper? it's painted on a stone wall. $\endgroup$
    – Jasen
    Jun 18, 2016 at 7:00
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Jasen Evidently he got ripped off by an equally "greedy rich [insert ad word here]" who took a HD shot of it and printed it out really big $\endgroup$
    – Xylius
    Jun 18, 2016 at 9:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Omzr bx Y? = What am I? $\endgroup$ Jun 18, 2016 at 14:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Can part one be solved completely without looking at part 2? $\endgroup$
    – ash4fun
    Jun 18, 2016 at 20:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Although, you can use part 2 to test your theoretical answer to part 1 by inserting what you think is the answer into the cipher and seeing if something legible comes out. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Jun 18, 2016 at 21:32

3 Answers 3


Here is a post for me to hold my answers.

No real evedence, but I have a good idea that it's got something to do with the fireplace, the butler, or a poison
the sickness started quickly after the furnace broke, so I think the broken furnace or the newly demanded fire is the problem.

Part 1

Answer #1-wrong

When the furnace broke, the fire in the fireplace was started and made to burn vigorously. Unbeknownst to the keepers of the mansion, the paint contained a poison (lead) released by heat. Those who were in the room with the fire were breathing the lead, and became sick as a result. Paint with lead has been recently banned, but the paint on the walls had not been replaced since before that.

Answer #2

When the furnace broke, the fire in the fireplace was started and made to burn vigorously. Unbeknownst to the keepers of the mansion, snow had accumulated on top of the chimney, forcing smoke back into the house. Because this was a particularly hot fire, very little smoke was generated. But what was made was toxic to all the household (probably to all humans).

Part 2

I've found (thanks, Google) that the images are, in order,

Van Gogh: Boy cutting grass with a sickle
Van Gogh: View of the sea at Scheveningen
Van Gogh: -untitled- Early paintings
da Vinci: The Last Supper

  • $\begingroup$ Oh, well done for finding all the pictures. The second and third both date to 1882. So we have three by the same artist, all within a year or so of one another -- and then a fourth by someone entirely different, centuries earlier. Curious. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Jun 20, 2016 at 13:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Though I suppose it sort of fits with that title "Out of time, out of place". $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Jun 20, 2016 at 13:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure your proposed explanation for part 1 is physically possible. Lead compounds don't tend to be volatile, for obvious reasons (lead atoms are really heavy) and the fire isn't going to be heating the walls up all that much. Some other sort of poisoning with a similar mechanism might be easier to believe, though, and as we've been told nothing about the symptoms I don't see how we can either rule that out or get any more specificity about what the poisonous substance might be... $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Jun 20, 2016 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ allinahealth.org/mdex/ND7357G.HTM $\endgroup$
    – Jasen
    Jun 26, 2016 at 4:33

Not really an answer, just some possibly useful observations. (Nothing sensitive enough to need spoilering, I think.) Communitywikified in case anyone else feels like contributing.

The first part seems obviously not to have enough information for a solution.

There's also something odd about the time information in the puzzle. The first part begins "2 and a half months ago", but then the second part says that you solved it "a couple weeks back". Did it take you two months to figure out what was going on? If the victims survived all that time, can your figuring it out really be said to have "saved" anything?

The first painting is Boy Cutting Grass with a Sickle by Vincent van Gogh, 1881. The last is of course Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper.

I have so far failed to identify the second and third paintings. The third image has what look like horrendous JPEG artefacts; perhaps that indicates that it's a not-very-famous painting that the questioner wasn't able to find a really good image of?

Is some parallel intended between the 13 people in the first part and the 13 people in the Last Supper? The geometrical arrangement doesn't seem to match, and I'm not sure how it would help anything -- but there must be some reason why we're told the arrangement of the people in the first part of the question...

  • $\begingroup$ Ah, i apologize for bad timeline with regard to the weeks and months part, i'll fix that in the question (I posted the question while sleepy, not a good idea). I think the first part of the puzzle has enough information to be solved by itself, but I'll add a bit more to make it more clear, i think. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Jun 18, 2016 at 21:24

Edit: author says that my guess is wrong. Leaving it here for historical purposes.

My guess at the answer to part 1. Is it

Carbon monoxide poisoning?

All the symptoms check out, although I think the "irritated eyes, throat, sinuses" part is not so common. Though perhaps with such a long exposure...

  • $\begingroup$ You can use part 2 to test your theoretical answer to part 1 by inserting what you think is the answer into the cipher and seeing if something legible comes out. Unfortunately, "Carbon monoxide poisoning" is not the answer to part 1. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Sep 18, 2019 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Aify - Ahhh, too bad. Although "carbon monixide" has the same number of letters as "Idcwsfew Denjwe". As for the ciphers - I did a quick google search on what a Playfair Cipher is, and I got the basic idea, but unfortunately I don't have enough time and energy at the moment to try it. Also I'd need to figure out how you get the tableau from the disease name. So - let someone else try. :) $\endgroup$
    – Vilx-
    Sep 18, 2019 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Aify - Oh, wait, could the answer to part 1 be rot13(svercynpr) or rot13(shry)? The way the question is put, it kinda could be. $\endgroup$
    – Vilx-
    Sep 18, 2019 at 19:32

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