THE BLOG
11/16/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Mystery Rock at Brooklyn Borough Hall

When I was a kid, I used to love "Spy Tech," an early-90's  line of children's spy toys. No amateur clubhouse detective was fully equipped unless he counted at least two or three Spy Tech gadgets in his investigation gear, examples of which included a periscope hidden in a Cracker Jack box, rearview sunglasses, a fingerprint kit, a sound magnifier, and a camera hidden in a box of Good'N'Plenty (a great cover, until people notice that you're holding a box of Good'N'Plenty up to your eye).

One of the less exciting entries in the line was the "Secret Message Finder Set" - essentially, a realistic-looking plastic rock with a hidden compartment, in which you could store top secret messages:

Rock 01

The plastic rock came with a whistle, which was allegedly tuned to a special frequency and would trigger an alarm in the rock, alerting you to where a fellow agent had hidden it. While interesting in theory, there were three major problems with this: 1) the box only came with one whistle, so you had to give it to your spy friend ahead of time, and why not just give him the top secret note then in person?, 2) the whistle alarm never worked (not once), and 3) no decent spy would ever think of going around blowing a whistle and alerting everyone to their presence.

I was reminded of the Spy Tech Secret Message Finder Set today while scouting around Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Rock 02

Columbus Park stretches out south of Borough Hall, and features a pretty fenced-off garden.

Rock 03

As I was admiring it, I suddenly noticed this hidden in the foliage:

Rock 04

A hollow plastic rock ... the latest entry in the Spy Tech catalog? Is it for passing along top secret notes, or is there a more insidious purpose? Could there be an audio recording device inside? After all, the park is right in front of Supreme Court, and I could see plenty of reasons for justifying this. Perhaps a microphone is on the other side of these two holes:

Rock 05

I was going to open it, but then I started thinking that it might actually be some sort of rat poison device (there were rat poison warnings posted all around the area) and didn't want to touch it. I did notice that it was being held in place by a wire, so someone apparently cares.

Any guesses? I was also thinking it could be a Geocaching "treasure." Anyway, good to know fake rocks are still being used, in New York City of all places (though incredibly, this looks way more fake than the Spy Tech version). Maybe I should dig out my old whistle and see if I can find any more.

-SCOUT

More articles: www.scoutingny.com

Update! Not a mystery any longer! If this site
is to be believed (see the last image), it most certainly is a rat
poison rock. Really really glad I didn't pick it up and try to open it,
which I came very close to doing.