The Shadow Returns - Hints

How to use this hint system.

First of all – this is a hint system for The Shadow Returns. If you’re not currently playing the game, then read no further and go sign up!

Obviously it should go without saying, but: SPOILERS AHEAD!

Below are a number of headings, each one can be dropped down to reveal more information. Go to the heading you require, drop it down until you see a hint that is relevant to where you’re stuck. Some will be phrased as questions to prompt you to approach the problem in a certain way, others will just be answers to help you proceed. Be careful not to move through too quickly and spoil the game for yourself.

For instance, you may be stuck in Berlin. So you would go to the “Berlin” heading and click on the title. This will reveal a few statements or questions that may relate to where you are within the progression of this location. Click on the relevant one to see more information. If it doesn’t provide you with enough information, click again. Each time you do, the hints will become less subtle, until eventually you will see one that says “The next drop-down will be the answer”. Only click down again here if you want the password revealed. We don’t recommend doing this unless you have entirely given up on the puzzle.

The locations are listed here in alphabetical order. Only open up hints on locations you are stuck on, be careful not to skip ahead and accidentally reveal spoilers.

When to get a hint?

Please note that whilst this hint system is here to make sure you can complete the game even when you get stuck – we would advise against relying on it too heavily. The fun in a game like this is the research, probing, and trial and error that eventually leads you to a revelation, so only get a hint if you’re finding a puzzle so hard that it’s stopped being fun for you.

We’d also warn caution after you’ve “broken the hint seal”. Often people hold out for ages before getting a hint, but once they’ve done so it’s like a mental barrier has been crossed and it becomes entirely OK to get a hint whenever they reach even the smallest obstacle. Obviously how much you use these hints is entirely up to you, be we would recommend enjoying the challenge and reward that comes with solving a puzzle, rather than becoming dependent on hints.

Over the lifespan of this game, we may periodically change this hint system to update and add in new hints (or take some away), depending on what puzzles people regularly get stuck on.


I’m new to this kind of game, how does it work?

So here’s the general gist – you have 6 PDFs, each is a different location that Ellen Granger has been to. Each one is locked with a password. Your job is to follow her adventures around the globe and work out exactly where she is. To do this, you’ll need to unlock the first PDF with a password. Use the elements available to you (in this instance, an MP3 and a photocopy of her passport) to work out where she went first and what the password is. Then, once you’ve opened the first PDF, there will be some story and puzzles inside that will ultimately lead you to the password for the next location. And so on…

Where are the puzzles? It all just looks like story to me.

Whilst the puzzles are largely separated from the narrative, they are all woven into the PDFs together. Look for “trailheads” – things you can interact with in some way that may reveal more information to you. Maybe there is a cipher you need to solve, maybe there is an odd bit of text that warrants investigation. Not everything you look at will be relevant, but be inquisitive and keep looking around.

Any other tips?

1. When you find a password, write it down!

2. If you think you’ve got a password correct but it’s not working, check your spelling before moving on. Some PDF readers allow you to view the password as you enter it.

3. Also, check the syntax of the password you’re entering. Capitals? Punctuation?

What if the question I need answered isn’t on this hint system?

You can always contact Red House Mysteries for a more specific question. We will get back to you as soon as we can, but don’t expect an immediate response.


How do I know which location to go to first?

Remember, the locations on this hint page (and most likely in the folder on your computer) are in alphabetical order. This is not the order you need to open them in.

You will need to follow the trail the Ellen has led. Where did she start her case?

The next drop down will be the answer

Ellen says she met Harlington in London. This is the first document you will need to open.


I’ve read through the document but have no idea where to start

What can you interact with here?

Look at Granger's ID badge. Is there anything about it you can use?

You can scan the QR code. It will take you to an online image.

Look at the image closely. Is there anything about it that seems out of place?

Compare it to the images in the PDF

There are dots around the outside. Do these look familiar?

The dots are braille. You can find the braille alphabet online – time to get translating!

I know what I need to do here, but I’m finding it really hard

If it’s difficult, try just translating the bottom left corner. It reads from the bottom upwards.

NOTE: This translation can take a little time. If you’re really struggling to make sense of it, click here to get a translation

“Driefus, I know this is a fake mask you have sent me. The Scarlet Shadow belongs with my family. Masks and Headdresses P187 L7 W1”

I’ve found a sequence of numbers and letters and I don’t know what it means

What could “P”, “L” and “W” stand for?

Where else have you seen the number 187? What would that make “P” stand for?

“P” stands for “Page”

“L” stands for “Line”, “W” stands for “Word” 

The code is telling you to find a specific word in a book

You have page 188 here. You’ll need to go back to the Cancun Document to find the previous page.

The next drop down will be the answer

Page 187, Line 7, Word 6 is: priceless

I’m certain I have the right password, but it’s not working?

Check the syntax. Is any capitalisation required?

The next drop down is  the answer

The word is not capitalised in the book, and so it should be: priceless


I’ve read through the document but have no idea where to start

This is the final document and it is one large puzzle rather than a sequence. Consider what information you have and how you can use it

What does Ellen tell you in her final note?

What other sources of information are less obvious?

Take a look at the hieroglyph page. There is a web address at the bottom that may be useful

You can translate the hieroglyphs. These will tell you which of the potential buyers has gone rogue and kidnapped her.

I know who is responsible, but what do I do with this information?

If you know WHO then you can work out WHERE

You can find out what hotel this person is staying in

You can use that information to find it on google maps

Follow Ellen’s description of where she was taken on maps. If you follow successfully you’ll find the location she describes

I’ve solved it. What do I do with this information?

Remember, you need to tell Freelance Detectives of her whereabouts

Go here to do this

You need to enter her location as the password

Check you have used the correct capitalisation – matching the name as it is listed on Maps

I’m certain I have the right password, but it’s not working

Have you remembered where you’re supposed to be entering this final password?

Go here

The next drop down is the FINAL answer

Ellen is being held at Happy Land Casino


I’ve read through the document but have no idea where to start

What can you interact with here?

What are those notes written next to the chess board?

This is chess notation.

Chess notation is used to record the moves in a game of chess. You can find out how it works online quite easily.

Try using the notation to recreate the chess game. The website Ellen Granger suggests may be helpful.

If you've played the game, then what information can you find now that the pieces have moved?

What letters remain visible on the board now the pieces are in their final positions?

If you have the letters but they make no sense then check you’ve played the game correctly. If you have, the remaining letters will spell out words. Click here to read them.


I’ve discovered some instructions, but what do I do with them?

Look around the rest of this document. Where can you find a Lawyer, a Taxi Driver and a Doctor?

Look at the business cards. What are their initials?

Put them together in the order suggested

The next drop down will be the answer

The initials are “Y.O.”, “B.E.” and “N.D.” Taken together in the correct order, it spells: BEYOND

I’m certain I have the right password, but it’s not working?

Check the syntax. Is any capitalisation required?

Have you definitely got the letters in the correct order? It should be an identifiable word.

The next drop down will be the answer

The initials are all capitalised, so too is the password: BEYOND


I’m stuck at the first hurdle. How do I open this PDF?

There’s only limited information you have at this stage. What might PI Granger use as a password?

You have her passport. What information is on there she might use?

You could try things such as Date of birth, Place of birth...

The next drop down will be the answer

It’s her passport number: 107648274

I’ve opened and read through the document but don’t know where to start.

What can you interact with here?

If you cannot read Spanish, try using Google translate.

What information is contained within the Spanish message that you can investigate further?

Look at the syntax of the password provided. Does it relate to anything else in this document?

This is the password of someone who has previously stayed in the hotel. The first two letters are their initials. What could the numbers be?

You also have Reyes' address. If you look this up on Google Maps you can find out more details about it.'

You can find a phone number related to Reyes' address. The last 6 numbers match his password.

'Remember, you are trying to find a password to open Ellen Granger's next document. What information can you find on her?'

The next drop down is the answer:

The password is ‘EG675834’. This is Ellen’s initials, followed by the last 6 digits of her phone number.

I’m certain I have the right password in but it’s not working?

Check the syntax – what punctuation or capitalisation is required?

Try matching it to the password provided in the Spanish letter.

The password should be two capital letters, followed by five numbers.

The next drop down will be the answer

The password is: EG675834


I’ve read through the document but have no idea where to start

What here can you interact with?

The obvious thing here is the coded note. However, you don’t have enough information to decipher it yet, so try looking for other trailheads.

Look closely at the bank withdrawal form.

Granger has pointed out the account number is odd. If you don’t recognise what it is, then there is a clue in the form title.

If you don’t know what this means: “Hexadecimal” or “Base 16” is a kind of number system that can be translated into regular text. Decoders can be found online

Try going here. Once translated, it should give you a URL

I’ve heard the voicemail, but I don’t understand what to do with it

What kind of cipher does he mention?

He mentions a “Gronsfeld Cipher”. Try looking up how these work

A Gronsfeld Cipher requires a number key to decode. Where might you find the key?

What else does Harlington mention?

He mentions the name “Seth Pinem”

Where have you seen that name?

The number by his name is the key you need

You can find a Gronsfeld decoder online. We recommend this one.
If you are struggling to decode the message, click here for a translation


I have a set of directions, but how do I know where to start?

Re-read the email from Ballard

He tells you how to get the location of his office

Try sending him an email

You should get an auto-response containing the information you need. If you don’t receive it after a few minutes, then check your spam folder or other email filters. If you still haven’t received it then contact Red House Mysteries for assistance

I’m trying to follow these directions but I keep getting lost.

This best way to do this is on street view. On street view you can control how quickly you move along, so don’t move too far too fast. Follow the directions precisely. Recognise what is a junction and what is a drive-way or car park.

If you follow the directions correctly you will pass a playing field, a small car park, a cafe and then eventually come up alongside a larger car park on your right. There is a barriered entrance first – this is not the entrance. Keep going until you see where a car is turning into the car park – stop here. Look up at the building.

If you’ve done all this correctly, you should end up here

From there, look up at the writing on the top of the building. Second line, first word.

The next drop-down contains the answer

The password is: FACULTY

I’m certain I have the right password, but it’s not working?

Check the syntax. Is any capitalisation required?

The next drop down is  the answer

The word on the building is capitalised. So is the password: FACULTY


I’ve read through the document but have no idea where to start

What here can you interact with?

The scrawled symbols in the photograph – what are they?

Ellen explains what she thinks they are in her notes, try looking it up online

They are Devanagari numbers, you can find out how to translate them to western numerals online.

I’ve translated them, but what do they mean?

You have a string of numbers. What might they represent if they aren’t just numbers?

What is the range of the numbers you have? That may give a clue what they represent.

These numbers represent letters of the alphabet

For instance A=1, B=2, C=3…
If you're still srtruggling to translate to letters, click here for the translation


I’ve decoded an instruction. What does it mean?

You’ll need to apply this instruction to a block of text

'Every seventh word' – try counting out every seventh word on different blocks of text and seeing what comes up

The correct block of text is the telegram from Harlington

Note down every seventh word.

The first word is 'DO'.

Click here for the full sentence


I have found a hidden message, what does it mean?

What does Nayar tell you that you could apply the instruction in this message to?

Nayar tells you the password is “forward”. It isn’t…

The next drop-down is the answer

The password is: backward

I’m certain I have the right password, but it’s not working?

Check the syntax. Is any capitalisation required?

The next drop down is  the answer

The word is not capitalised in her letter, and so the password should be: backward

Remember: If you’re still struggling after consulting this hint page, then you can always contact Red House Mysteries for a specific or detailed hint. However, please bare in mind that you are unlikely to get an immediate response.