In 1988, millionaire art and artifact collector and dealer, Forrest Fenn, of New Mexico, was diagnosed with cancer and told he hadn’t long to live. Feeling that he would like to make his mark on the world, Fenn decided to go bury treasure, publicize it, and leave a lasting legacy, one that would keep his name in the limelight for years to come. He sure as heck has done that—and lived to tell the tale.
Happily for Fenn, his cancer went into remission and he went on to his write his autobiography, The Thrill of the Hunt, in 2010, and a subsequent book, Too Far to Walk. The books, which contain clues to the whereabouts of the buried treasure, brought the mystery to the attention of a wider audience, especially as the story has been picked up by newspapers and television. What’s in the treasure chest? For a photo of it, head on over to http://www.npr.org/2016/03/13/469852983/seeking-adventure-and-gold-crack-this-poem-and-head-outdoors , which also has a copy of the map Fenn subsequently provided. Apparently, the box contains a jar of Alaskan gold dust, a Chinese jade figurine, and other antique coins and relics, all worth over a million dollars. Fenn, now in his late ‘80s, is not believed to be a prankster; he truly means the treasure trove to be found. He apparently claims his reason for giving this away, aside from the legacy, is to get overweight America off the couch.
But if Fenn’s intentions seem to be good, the story isn’t a completely happy one. Fenn’s Santa Fe mansion contains a wealth of Native American artifacts, as well as Aztec relics, that might be better served returned to the nations concerned or, at the very least, going to a museum. In the 1990s, he excavated a Pueblo Indian site he bought, and took away Aztec relics—something that does not sit well with archaeologists nor Native Americans.
Furthermore, the clues that Fenn has provided have led to a host of problems and disasters. Many treasure hunters believe the box is hidden in Yellowstone—which covers more than 3400 square miles—due to Fenn’s childhood association with the place. They have purchased metal detectors along with shovels for their hunt, despite the fact National Parks do not permit either. Such use impacts the environment, and several people have been arrested and/or banned from the park. Search and Rescue has been called out at least five times in four years when people seeking the gold have got lost; one man has died in his efforts.
And things have not always gone well for Fenn, either. Apparently, he has had to call out 911 on several occasions when people have appeared on his doorstep and threatened him for the location of the chest. Others have threatened to dig up his father’s grave. He gets over forty emails a day asking for more clues. For the former fighter pilot, who was shot down twice over Vietnam, life is not exactly quiet at home.
Meantime, for some, the search has become an obsession. I read about one man who has gone out more than thirty-seven times looking, and a woman who has hunted more than sixty. There are others who come close to those numbers, and still others who, according to Fenn, have come close to the treasure—he says within two hundred feet. But from what I can see, with a so-called ‘Fennboree’ for the searchers to all come together, Trekkies have nothing on these folks. And, as with the original ‘49ers, the real winners are those who sell to them; metal detector and shovel sales have boomed in Montana near the Yellowstone entrance, and one woman has set up a site selling promotional products for the Fennboree.
So where is the treasure? Fenn has divulged several clues: it is somewhere between Santa Fe and the Canadian border; it is hidden at over 5,000 ft. but not in Idaho or Utah; it is not in any structure, graveyard, nor any mine; and apparently it is above ground—so why the digging and shovels, I have no idea. Most of the clues are in a poem found in his book. Me, I won’t be joining in the hunt despite living part of the year within an hour’s drive of Yellowstone.
I’ll leave y’all to that pleasure.