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A real whodunit at Avon Lake Public Library

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    A mystery in the stacks at the Avon Lake Public Library where staffers have found 28 clean and empty A.1. steak sauce bottles with the labels removed. Jill Ralston of the library marketing department shows off the bottles.

    BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

  • bottles-looking-jpg

    Jill Ralston of the Avon Lake Library marketing department looks through the books to see if another A1 bottle showed up as part of an ongoing mystery.

    BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

  • bottle-book-jpg

    A picture showing how the bottles have been stashed over the past year, and it's placed next to a fitting novel.

    BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

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AVON LAKE — Someone has been hiding empty A.1. steak sauce bottles throughout the Avon Lake Public Library and no one knows why.

Dan Cotton, the library’s page supervisor, said 28 of the 10-ounce bottles have turned up since he found the first one Jan. 11 hidden among the library’s newspapers.

No one has been spotted hiding the bottles, but it’s become almost a game among library staff to locate the bottles, which are typically left lying on their sides behind books on the shelf.

“It became something everyone wanted to find,” Cotton said.

The library’s security guard and pages, who shelve the books, have found most of the dark glass containers among the magazines, the fiction section, the children’s section and elsewhere. Although the bottles appear at random, the most popular location seems to be in the nonfiction section, Cotton said.

“We mapped the first 12 to see if we could find a pattern, but we couldn’t find a discernible pattern,” Cotton said.

Jill Ralston, the library’s public relations and marketing coordinator, said there doesn’t appear to be any malicious intent from whoever the culprit is. The labels have been removed and the bottles have been thoroughly cleaned.

“They’re real clean, like they’ve been put through a dishwasher,” Ralston said.

Ralston, who admitted to being disappointed she has yet to locate a bottle, said the librarians and other staffers searched online to see if there was some reason for the bottles, but came up empty. She said they’ve gone through a bunch of other theories as well, but haven’t been able to settle on a decent explanation for what may just be a simple prank.

“We’re all playing detective,” she said.

There was some initial thought that someone may have been sneaking booze into the library, but that idea was dismissed because no one smelled anything in the bottles other than a faint whiff of steak sauce.

The other theory was that the bottles might be an offshoot of geocaching, a game where people use satellite global positioning systems to locate small hidden items. There is a geocache on the library grounds, but it contained only a list of people who had found it, a small seashell and a felt spider when The Chronicle-Telegram tracked it down Thursday.

Ralston said the geocaching theory came from the popularity of Northeast Ohio Rocks, a Facebook group whose members paint and hide rocks all over the greater Cleveland area. Ralston said some of those rocks have been found at the library, but don’t appear connected to the bottles.

Hoping to get some outside advice from patrons, Ralston posted a photo of the bottles on the library’s Facebook page earlier this week, but the resulting speculation could be more sizzle than steak as well.

One person offered up that “dragon magic” might be responsible, while another suggested the library reach out to its “steak holders” for help.

“Pretty sure a book worm in the restaurant industry is having a good chuckle right about now,” one commenter wrote.

That’s as good of a theory as any other.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.



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