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The Fascinating Mystery of Fenn’s Treasure

Ravi loves writing within the realm of relationships, history, and the bizarre—where boundaries are blurred and possibilities are immense.

An antiquities collector Forrest Fenn hid a bronze chest full of gold, jewels, and other valuables more than a decade ago in the Rocky Mountains, creating a treasure hunt for people to find it.

An antiquities collector Forrest Fenn hid a bronze chest full of gold, jewels, and other valuables more than a decade ago in the Rocky Mountains, creating a treasure hunt for people to find it.

This is not an ordinary poem. The above poetry snippet is from a mysterious poem published by an antiquities collector Forrest Fenn in his 2010 book, Thrill of the Chase which contains 9 tantalizing clues.

Whoever could decipher the clues and follow the directions would be the owner of a fabulous chest full of gold and jewels. The Santa Fe based Fenn hid the chest, in the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico, more than 10 years ago.

‘Fenn’s treasure’ as it came to be known soon became a national obsession. and his riddle drew thousands of treasure hunters to the Rockies. Fenn himself told The New Mexican in 2017 that the chest weighs 20lb (9kg) and its contents weigh another 22lb (10kg) and he delivered the chest to its hiding place by himself over two separate trips.

The treasure hunt has since then brewed a lot of controversies. Thousands of people have hunted in vain for it. Many left their jobs to hunt for the elusive piece of gold and at least four people lost their lives searching for it.

And even the FBI has an open file on Fenn as they believed his treasure chest, may contain excavated relics of native Americans that is illegal and could be subjected to federal scrutiny.

But Fenn has been tight-lipped over the years. Not even his wife knew the location. And over the years, he has only added to the confusion by offering a handful of vague clues that only kept the mystery pot boiling further.

‘Fenn’s treasure’ as it came to be known soon became a national obsession. and his riddle drew thousands of treasure hunters to the Rockies.

‘Fenn’s treasure’ as it came to be known soon became a national obsession. and his riddle drew thousands of treasure hunters to the Rockies.

Forrest Fenn, an Unconventional Treasure Hunter

Long before he acquired the notorious fame for inciting a nationwide treasure hunt, he was already quite famous in his home town Santa Fe as an unconventional treasure hunter.

In his thrilling and often controversial exploits throughout the American Southwest, he amassed a large number of priceless ancient artifacts including ancient jade carvings, pre-Columbian jewelry to handwoven Paiute baskets. He was also the owner of a successful art gallery with $6 million in annual sales, catering to high-profile clients like Steven Spielberg and Gerald Ford.

In 1988, he was diagnosed with cancer and that spurred his obsession to create a treasure hunt of his own.

And that was when he stuffed a 10-by-10-by-6-inch bronze chest with some of the finest treasures he’d acquired over the years; hundreds of rare gold coins and gold nuggets. Pre-Colombian animal figures, prehistoric mirrors of hammered gold, ancient Chinese faces carved from jade and antique jewelry with rubies and emeralds, and much more….

He left his home, drove somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, and hid the chest. And in a subsequent memoir termed tantalizing as The Thrill of the Chase, he revealed the treasure to the public and offered a 24-line poem containing nine ambiguous clues leading to its precise location. Whoever could decipher the clues and follow the directions, the treasure is his, he challenged.

The determined treasure hunters read the cryptic poem again and again and pored frantically over topographic maps.

The determined treasure hunters read the cryptic poem again and again and pored frantically over topographic maps.

Fenn’s Treasure Becomes a National Obsession

Fenn stroked a ten-year-long nationwide treasure hunt that continues to this day. ‘Fenn’s treasure’ as it was known became a national pastime to become rich quickly.

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The determined treasure hunters read the cryptic poem again and again and pored frantically over topographic maps. They trekked through aspen forests, explored riverbanks, and rappelled down dangerous cliff sides looking for the elusive treasure.

But the "aha" moment never came. People left their jobs to find the treasure. At least four people lost their lives searching for the treasure and some even filed lawsuits claiming that the treasure was a hoax.

Fenn even received death threats and bribes and sometimes even strangers appeared at his front gate unannounced, to dig around his property for information. “I’ve had to dial 911 three times,” he said.

While all the treasure hunters failed in their desperate attempts, losing life and money in the process, a few also claimed to have some positive experiences out of the hunt. For example, Joe Mendoza of California, who went looking for the chest in 2013 with his two sons says.

“We never found the treasure. But it brought our family together. We bonded like we never have before.”

— Joe Mendoza

But for most of the hundreds of others who’ve joined the search and continued despite heavy odds, the seduction of the thrill of the chase proved far more intoxicating than practical considerations of life and depleting savings.

On June 6th 2020, Fenn announced that, the search is over and a man from "back East" has finally tracked it down.

On June 6th 2020, Fenn announced that, the search is over and a man from "back East" has finally tracked it down.

Has the Treasure Been Found?

On June 6th, 2020, Fenn announced that the search is over and a man from "back East" has finally tracked it down.

"It was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains, and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than 10 years ago," said Fenn, said in a statement.

While most accepted Fenn’s statement and few were still skeptical claiming that there was never a treasure in the first place and the whole was just a hoax perpetrated by Fenn to promote his book and his career as an author.

And one of them was Linda Bilyeu, whose ex-husband, Randy Bilyeu, disappeared during his search in the New Mexico wilderness in January 2016 and was found dead six months later.

“I believe [Fenn] never hid the treasure. ‘He needed attention and this is how he got it. Fenn needed more attention, which is why he said the treasure has been found with "no proof." She said.

Perhaps we will never know the real truth, but one thing is certain, the treasure madness is finally over as told in Fenn’s own words when he was asked about how he felt now.

“I don’t know, I feel halfway kind of glad, halfway kind of sad because the chase is over.”

— Forrest Fenn

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Ravi Rajan

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