A character is out on a treasure hunt, when they are given a Treasure Map
that supposedly leads the character to the location of the treasure. However, when you find where the X is located
and you dig for the treasure, you find nothing. Turns out that someone gave you a fake map, either intentionally or accidentally.
Put more simply, a character is given a false map that leads to them Going in Circles
or leads them back where they started from.
Compare Road Sign Reversal
and Script Swap
for similar cases.
See also: Wild Goose Chase
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Anime and Manga
- An episode of Ranma ½ had Ranma and Ryoga trying to find some artifacts that would cure their Jusenkyo curses using a map that Cologne had deciphered for them. It leads them all around Nerima before ending up back at Cologne's ramen shop. Ranma naturally thinks this is in effect and attacks, but in the process uncovers the very thing he was looking for.
- In a short Bone story published in Disney Adventures magazine, Thorn reminds Phony that he needs to do his laundry that day. Phony brushes her off, then he finds a treasure map. He convinces his brother Fone to come along on the treasure hunt. When they finally reach the X, the buried treasure turns out to be Phony's dirty laundry. The story ends with them wondering if Thorn played an elaborate prank on them, or it the universe itself is conspiring to make Phony do his laundry.
- The adult humor comic Cherry Poptart #3 had a parody titled "Oklahoma Smith and the Lost Temple of the Doomed Raiders". After surviving countless dangers to recover the secret idol, Smith exits the underground labyrinth only to find himself in downtown Puerto Vallarta, where identical "idols" are on sale in a souvenir shop. He comments "I'm gonna' kill the guy who sold me that map!"
- In National Treasure, Patrick Gates thinks the search for the eponymous treasure is a waste of time because he thinks, even when he has some of the clues to its location right in front of him, that it was just put out by the revolutionaries to keep the British busy looking for something that doesn't exist. He turns out to be wrong, the treasure is very real.
- Variation: In the Reunion Show Return to Green Acres after Oliver & Lisa move back to New York City, their friends in Hooterville try to track them down in order to make use of Oliver's lawyer skills. When they arrive in NYC, they're approached by a man selling watches from inside his coat They say no thank you, but ask for directions to the Douglas's Park Avenue (Manhattan) penthouse. The man purposely gives them bad directions and they end up in Brooklyn instead.
- In the kung-fu film parody Many Return of Honorable Grasshopper Fighting, the grasshoppers of Master Chinese follow his map across deserts, snowy plains, cliffs, and a temple filled with ninjas, only to find the end of the journey leads to a 7-Eleven in their hometown. When asking him why he gave them such a long path to get there, their master responds: "The answer is simple, grasshoppers: I got those directions on MapQuest."
- In Going Postal, Moist von Lipwig, waiting to be hanged, creates an elaborate treasure map that would keep a team of cryptographers engaged for a week, specifically for the jailers to steal from his body (or possibly left in the cell after his would-be escape). It leads to absolutely nothing, because he's that much of a Con Man; he figures anyone who would actually forget where they buried $100,000 doesn't deserve it.
- The Last Hero: It turns out that the Gods of the Discworld have been leaving mysterious maps around for ages, all leading heroes into dangerous deathtraps for their amusement. They over-reach themselves when the latest one, to the abode of the Gods themselves, turns out not to be as deadly as they plan and Cohen the Barbarian turns up on their doorstep with an unpleasant surprise.
- In Jericho Moon, the Jerichite merchant Sheshai lures groups of greedy Jebusites to the ruins of his birthplace with fake treasure maps, then watches from the shadows as the rival groups kill each other over non-existent buried wealth. Then he personally kills the survivors in vengeance for how Jebusi failed to help his people against the Hebiru.
- Saturday Night Live: In a Parody Commercial for Peter Jackson's Hobbit series of films, now in 18 volumes, part three is called Apple Maps: An Unexpected Detour. Frodo's iPhone search for a Quiznos takes him to Mordor.
- Happens in an episode of Salute Your Shorts when Budnick finds directions from a long-dead camp counselor, in dance steps, to where she supposedly hid a fortune. Since the original was hard to read, he types it out and gives copies to the other kids in exchange for their boomboxes. The directions lead them to collect a bunch of junk, but they find something that makes him think they were very close to it, so he and Donkeylips start trying to get the directions back. In this case, the player gets played, as the directions he gets back were fake as well, written by the other kids to lead Budnick to dig a hole in the middle of the softball field that Ug had been meticulously trimming.
- In an episode of Last of the Summer Wine, Foggy is eager to buy "the only copy" of a pirate's treasure map. His friends are sceptical regarding the non-availability of the original, the suspiciously low and flexible price, and the implausibility of a pirate burying any treasure in inland rural Yorkshire, but he buys it anyway. After a long trip over poor terrain (unnecessary, since there was a perfectly good road Foggy neglected to notice), they arrive at the site to find it swarming with treasure-hunters who'd been sold the same fake map.
- In The Order of the Stick, after the Order of the Scribble was dissolved and each of its former members was assigned the task of guarding one of the rifts, Girard Draketooth deliberately gave wrong co-ordinates for the desert rift to Soon Kim, the member of the Order who he disliked and distrusted the most. He instead gave co-ordinates for a completely random spot in the desert, then left a magical message at that spot that would activate and mock Soon Kim if he went to those co-ordinates seeking the rift himself.
- Tangential example: Some mapmakers make deliberate mistakes like nonexistent streets on their maps, so that another map made later featuring the same street can be used as proof of plagiarism.
- The Beale ciphers are a trio of coded documents that supposedly contain the location, contents, and beneficiaries of a hidden treasure buried somewhere in Bedford County, Virginia. Only the second one, the contents, has been deciphered, but an analysis of the text suggests they may be hoaxes. That hasn't stopped people from (illegally) digging up the county looking for it. To date, no one's found any treasure, but the cops have found plenty of fools.