Often, I thoroughly enjoy reading a book preferably by a local author to put me in the mood before traveling to a country. André Brink and Coetzee gave me my first impressions before traveling through South Africa, teaching me about the contemporary struggles of the rainbow nation. Paul Auster was my dark guide to New York City, Maupin took me through San Francisco and the entertaining mystery novels of Donna Leon had me discover the hidden canals of Venice. I didn’t really have that luxury traveling through Central America, with a hectic schedule prior to our 3-month trip. It is only arriving in Boquete, Panama, that I find myself reading a mystery novel taking me to the landmarks of this country.
After discovering Bocas del Toro, the Baru volcano, Casco Viejo, and more, the eerie plot focuses on a nearby valley. Finishing The lost and found by Patrick McGreer, I’m torn between horror and curiosity. The latter takes over, and we jump into a bus to try and uncover the truth about what happened to Matthew, the half-fact, half-fiction hero of the novel, leading to our first transmedia adventure.
Arriving at the Lost and Found Hostel, the magnificent views on the Panama mountains with the Baru volcano in the background distract us from the horrific scenes that were described in the book. Walls are covered with painted scenes, a few sleepy travellers hang in colourful hammocks and a cute chalet-like cottage houses a low-key bar, the place to be at night. While the sun slowly disappears behind the mountains, tainting the sky red, a curious white faced capuchin monkey greets us and all seems peaceful and serene.
We meet the kind and knowledgeable Patrick McGreer, author of The lost and found and owner of the like-named hostel who invited us for one specific reason: solving the mystery and unravelling the truth about Matthew’s disappearance.
Indeed, the FBI A31-268 case has never been closed after thorough investigations with the local police about the mysterious disappearance of 3 Americans. In the hope to gather critical information to solve it, Interpol has made its database partially public. Typing in the case number, we start our own investigation.
We soon discover that the main suspect, one of the characters of the book, has left a few clues at the very location we find ourselves! Digging in more by typing in keywords, we uncover videos, drawings and writings of the prime suspect making us run through the premises in search for more hints. This is the essence of transmedia: mixing different communication channels (the Internet database, YouTube videos, pictures, real life clues,…) to bring a story across, providing a fulfilling and intense experience to the participant.
And it works: we are completely hooked up and as it gets dark, we are still looking for clues with our headlamps, taking notes and pictures with our smartphones, jumping from excitement when we make progress, and incapable of going to bed before cracking the case!
This investigation set up by Patrick McGreer, linking back to his book and taking place at Panama’s most beautifully located hostel, is severe mind meddling. You will get confused, and challenged to unravel its secrets and it will keep you going until you uncover the truth.
If you are in Panama, or if you are planning to visit, pick up a copy of The lost and found book: beyond the few horrific scenes, some insights about Panama are quite interesting and it will lead you to experience transmedia should you decide to go to The Lost and Found Hostel. If not, you can start investigating the case online, and you may find yourself traveling to Panama very soon…
Claire & Marcella
- Check out the Lost and Found website to book and get directions.
- The Lost and Found Hostel provides travellers with the freedom to roam its surrounding nature on their own in a very interactive way. Besides the transmedia experience to investigate Matthew’s disappearance, a real-life Indiana Jones style treasure hunt has been set up in the mountains, through the jungle and along a river by the hostel.
- Apart from these two free treasure hunts which can be done independently, the hostel offers many organized tours such as a tour to an organic coffee farm, visiting nearby hot-springs with petroglyphs, horseback-riding…,