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The Steak-Sauce Bottle Mystery Unfolding at an Ohio Library

A local paper referred to it as a “real whodunit.”

An old advertisement for A.1.
An old advertisement for A.1. Public Domain

Small town newspaper photography can be a thankless task, a never-ending parade of firefighter photo ops, the occasional crime scene, and, yes, parades. But Bruce Bishop, the photo chief at Elyria, Ohio’s Chronicle-Telegram, brought his A-game when tasked with providing art for a story on what the paper says is a “real whodunit”: the mysterious placement of steak-sauce bottles throughout the Avon Lake Public Library. 

Bishop could’ve taken that photo anywhere in the library; only a pro chooses to stage it with the library’s mysteries section subtly showing in the background. But a great story calls for great art, and the Chronicle-Telegram was on to a great story. 

Someone, the paper reported Friday, has been hiding A-1 bottles on bookshelves since January. Twenty-eight of the bottles had appeared, providing the library’s staff with a small collection and an enduring riddle.

No culprit has been found, despite the efforts of library staff, who told the Chronicle-Telegram they even drew up a map—like detectives hunting a serial killer—to see if any patterns emerged. 

No patterns did, though the non-fiction section, the paper reported, appeared to be the most popular hiding spot. 

On Tuesday, a library spokeswoman told Atlas Obscura that two more bottles had been found since the Chronicle-Telegram’s story, but, despite the publicity, there had been no more new clues uncovered, “nor a culprit.”

For now, then, the mystery lives on, though if you have any theories, the library is interested in hearing about them.