At least five people have died trying to find it, but the hunt appears to be over. Forrest Fenn, an 89-year-old art and antiques dealer in New Mexico, announced that someone finally found the $1 million treasure chest he hid in the Rocky Mountains roughly a decade ago.
“The guy who found it does not want his name mentioned. He’s from back East,” Fenn told the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper over the weekend, apparently speaking like an old-timey character in a John Ford western.
Fenn told the New Mexican that the unnamed treasure hunter sent him a photo that proved he had indeed found the collection of goods, but Fenn declined to show the photo to the newspaper.
Fenn first announced in 2010 that he had hidden an estimated $1-2 million worth of antiques, gold nuggets, and ancient artifacts in a box when he published his self-published memoir, The Thrill of the Chase. Fenn has only said that his treasure was in the Rocky Mountains, north of New Mexico and south of Canada, and somewhere above 500 feet elevation.
Fenn gave out clues to where he hid the treasure in the form of a poem in his memoir, but he didn’t reveal until 2017 that the treasure chest weighs roughly 20 pounds while the treasure inside weighs another 22 pounds. The antiques dealer has appeared on mainstream news channels like ABC News, sparking even more interest in the treasure hunt. It’s unclear how much money Fenn has made in sales from his book.
Many people have doubted that Fenn hid the treasure at all, and Fenn’s claim that the sleuth wants to remain anonymous likely won’t appease the skeptics—especially since Fenn won’t release the photo that supposedly proves the treasure was found.
Fenn originally planned to inter himself in the box along with the treasure when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer, according to a 2017 article in the New York Times, but that all changed when he survived. An estimated 350,000 people have searched for the treasure in the past decade, according to the New Mexican.
Not everyone has enjoyed Fenn’s treasure hunt, obviously. One 2017 letter to the editor of the Taos News in New Mexico even called Fenn “New Mexico’s own version of Donald Trump” for his desire to get publicity at any cost. Some police departments have asked that Fenn end the treasure hunt after numerous deaths and near-deaths.
At least five people died trying to find Fenn’s treasure. The body of Paris Shane Wallace, a 52-year-old pastor from Colorado was found in New Mexico in the summer of 2017. Wallace’s wife confirmed that he had been hunting for the treasure chest. And Jeff Murphy, a 53-year-old resident of Illinois, died in Yellowstone National Park during that same summer. Murphy reportedly died after falling 500 feet from a cliff in the park.
The antiques dealer has repeatedly said that while he doesn’t like how people have died, he never believed it would be good to end the hunt.
“Life is too short to wear both a belt and suspenders,” Fenn told the New York Times in 2017. “If someone drowns in the swimming pool we shouldn’t drain the pool, we should teach people to swim.”
Fenn has also been sued for allegedly giving out false clues about the hidden treasure, something that will likely be probed if the person who discovered the treasure ever comes forward.
How does Fenn feel about his bizarre treasure hunt being over after so much international attention?
“I don’t know, I feel halfway kind of glad, halfway kind of sad because the chase is over,” Fenn told the New Mexican.