Home U.S. Coin Forum
Options

The Thrill is Gone: Forrest Fenn's Treasure Found; with a Detailed Story from Finder. Updated.

PocketArtPocketArt Posts: 1,335 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited December 12, 2020 5:12PM in U.S. Coin Forum

There's always more to the story. Just thought I'd share this update for everyone's consideration. Appears to be a lot of gold that may end up in a TPG slab.

I'd like to own a piece of this if offered, and not for crazy amount, as I have time invested into hunt.

Copied from: www.dalneitzel.com

September 23, 2020
by The Finder

My friend Forrest Burke Fenn passed away at the age of 90 earlier this month, and if I have anything to say about it, far too soon.

September 8 was certainly not the first time Forrest made me cry.

I am the person who found Forrest’s famed treasure. The moment it happened was not the triumphant Hollywood ending some surely envisioned; it just felt like I had just survived something and was fortunate to come out the other end. For so long, I thought I might be haunted for the rest of my days by knowing where the treasure was but being unable to find it. Would I still be out there in that section of forest 50 years from now looking for it? When I finally found it, the primary emotion was not joy but rather the most profound feeling of relief in my entire life.

I figured out the location where he wished to die (and thus, where his treasure was) back in 2018, but it took me many months to figure out the exact spot. This treasure hunt was the most frustrating experience of my life. There were a few times when I, exhausted, covered in scratches and bites and sweat and pine pitch, and nearing the end of my day’s water supply, sat down on a downed tree and just cried alone in the woods in sheer frustration.
I spent about 25 full days of failure looking for the treasure at that location before getting it.

When I got back to my rental car after the find, I put my hands on the steering wheel and bawled my eyes out. Then I remembered Forrest said the person who found the chest would either laugh out loud or start crying.
I realized he had been right and started to get annoyed that I still couldn’t stop his quotes from popping into my head even after the chase was finally done.

I laughed at myself for getting annoyed. Then I realized I had just fulfilled his other premonition about laughing out loud.

In the weeks after, I still couldn’t stop myself from reflexively thinking about what he was thinking. After living inside his head for two years, meeting him in person was sensory overload. I could now analyze his words and facial expressions and tone in real time, mere feet away from me. I could ask him questions about the chase and he would actually answer them! I never got used to it, and I was still analyzing him unnecessarily when he died, unable to turn my obsession off.

Now that he’s gone, I’m no longer annoyed those Fenn quotes are still rattling around my brain. His words will live with me and every searcher out there for the rest of our lives.

I spent a couple more days crying after Forrest passed. He had meant so much to me in such a short time, and I had so much more I had wanted to ask him, the kind of things that were just better done face to face. For weeks he had wanted to fly me back to Santa Fe to spend more time with him (he even tried to convince me to move there), but circumstances out of our control made it more practical for me to come later.

I had never met Forrest until this June, and it was destined to be our only time spent together in person.
But I’m thankful for the time we did have. When I met Forrest, I told him I hadn’t been sure I would ever get to meet him. The treasure was just too hard to find. He told me with a big smile that he had always said it was difficult to find but not impossible, and I had proved him right.

Forrest Fenn was born in 1930 in Temple, Texas. A poor student who disappointed his educator father, he grew into a life of adventure — a decorated Air Force pilot who was shot down in the Vietnam War and survived the Laos jungle, a rakish and prominent art dealer who courted the rich and famous, and, in his third and final act, a compulsive memoirist who wrote a poem that launched a treasure hunt in the Rocky Mountains that inspired many thousands of regular folks the world over.

The first line of his New York Times obituary calls him “eccentric.” “I’ve been called ‘eccentric’ and I’m flattered by that,” Forrest once said, “because the difference between an eccentric and a kook is an eccentric has money.”
Forrest Fenn was the kind of man to drink buttermilk out of the bottle. He kept alligators in the garden of his art gallery. He collected run-over soda cans as pieces of found art. He loved books and language and held onto words like “crean” that apparently nobody but he still used. He went into business with former Texas Governor John Connally, the Johnson and Nixon confidante who was wounded by the “Magic Bullet” in the Kennedy assassination, to sell Elmyr de Hory’s famed fraudulent masterpieces as fraudulent masterpieces. Forrest once shot a mountain lion and leapt down into a canyon, grabbed hold of the top of a tree, climbed down it, and tied the carcass to a rope so he could lift it out and get a $50 bounty from the Cattleman’s Association.

He was also a man with an independent mind and a security with his masculinity (perhaps uncommon to those of his generation) that allowed him to express difficult feelings and question his own decisions and values in life, becoming a pacifist after retiring from the military and even regretting that affair with the beautiful mountain lion that had run in his direction.

Forrest wrote poignantly about his struggles with self-esteem and self-worth, and it’s probably these writings I connected to most.

In the few years before I had heard of Forrest Fenn, my confidence in myself had been totally destroyed. I like to think it aided me in finding the treasure — without any self-confidence in my abilities, I had to stick to the evidence and not stray into hunches and speculation not strictly supported by the facts, and into their close cousin, confirmation bias.

Knowing the exact spot on the globe where a person would like to die is a weird intimacy to share with a stranger, but the experience of figuring it out and proving it beyond a reasonable doubt provided confidence that was intoxicating to me, and perhaps helping me regain that belief in myself will be Forrest’s greatest legacy to me. In the outpouring of love Forrest received from his fans after his death, it was clear he knew just what to say to make people feel special. For me, it was soon after I told him I found the treasure, when he let me know, completely unprompted, that he thought I was a genius.

Few human beings peak as octogenarians. For most, old age is a slow dimming of the light, but Forrest fought against that. At 80, he attracted a large audience for the first time in his writing career, and in the next decade, as he continually dealt with the passing of his peers, he made hundreds or perhaps thousands of new friends, treasure searchers he met at gatherings and sometimes in his comfortable museum of a home.

For a decade, he wrote memoir at a breakneck pace, sharing the stories of his life with great relish yet seeming to never run out of them, even when he was down to telling us about the condiments in his refrigerator and the spices in his cabinets. He didn’t seem to mind that much of his audience wasn’t really listening to what he was saying and were only looking for secret hints.

For a man who expressed anxiety about getting Alzheimer’s, he seemed to have found the perfect deterrent to cognitive decline — talking frequently and in guarded detail about a huge, closely-held secret to a cache of gold, yet never divulging it to the thousands of interested people inquiring. In a decade, he never made more than a couple of subtle slip-ups in front of all the dogged reporters who came to his house, and even those apparently haven’t been caught by anyone besides me. He never paid to advertise his hunt, yet seemingly every media outlet wanted a piece of him, and he still managed to stay sharp as a tack and “keep his secret where” till the very end.

Forrest had the ultimate poker face. In the summer of 2018, the only time I had talked to Forrest on the phone before finding the treasure, I called to tell him in desperation I had found a “blaze” — the mark that the poem says points to the treasure — that seemed after some effort by me to have been faked by a cruel fellow searcher even though it had evidently been there for years. I couldn’t believe the chances. I told him exactly where I had been searching, but the call only lasted about 20 seconds, and he gave no impression he found my discovery at all interesting.
That fake blaze was less than 1,000 feet from where I eventually found the treasure. And that’s not even the half of that story.

When I met Forrest, he had forgotten about the phone call and found it amusing when I told him. Of course, he had no idea how much I had tortured myself trying to read his reaction to that call.

Lost in some of the remembrances of Forrest is his generosity. Forrest used his chase not for personal profit, but supported a local independent bookseller and raised tens of thousands of dollars for cancer victims. He was a benefactor and donated artifacts from his personal collection over the years to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, on whose board he served for several years. Despite his years of disagreements with academics over the subject of archaeology, he supported and served on the board of the George C. Frison Institute at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Wyoming. Dr. Frison passed away the very same day as Forrest.

Of course, Forrest’s greatest gift to humanity was his treasure. Sure, it could only be given to one person, the one who found it, but it inspired hope the world over and the joy of discovery for all those who got to go out and appreciate the wonders of the Rockies. No good deed goes unpunished, of course, and that hope spun off into myriad permutations Forrest couldn’t have anticipated.

In some, that hope turned into false certainty in some people’s minds, and they had to be rescued or tragically perished after finding themselves in dangerous circumstances out in the wilderness. In others, that hope turned into entitlement, that the hard work they put into this all-or-nothing hunt meant they were owed the treasure in some way, and that entitlement turned into bitterness and loud recitations of his personal imperfections that some declared to the world in the wake of his death. In others still, the hope turned into obsession that tricked their own minds into strange and harmful ideas. At my most raw points of gnawing frustration, even I resented Forrest.

Forrest had a tremendous penchant, though, for turning the other cheek. He did an incredible thing and dealt with tremendous doubt directed his way, but he kept to his word, and it was a gratifying experience to prove him right.
In a final act of selflessness, in what should have been his moment of redemption, he went to great lengths to protect my anonymity. Over the past decade, he and his family have suffered stalkers, break-ins, and a potential kidnapping (just to name the things that have been publicized) from misguided searchers. I told him I didn’t want to be looking over my shoulder for people like that for the rest of my life, and he was completely understanding. Forrest went out of his way to protect me, a person he had never met before, even though in some ways it undermined the legitimacy of this hunt in some people’s minds.

My family and I will be eternally grateful. It’s incredibly generous to leave a chest full of gold out in the wilderness for someone to find. It’s a whole other thing to set aside one’s driving desire for a legacy in order to protect that stranger. Selflessness is the only way to describe it.

When I visited Forrest’s house in June, he asked me if I had ever read his book on his friendship with the artist Eric Sloane, Seventeen Dollars a Square Inch. I hadn’t. He gave me a copy. It’s a classic Forrest Fenn production: lavish, large, very personal, a little eccentric, and totally indifferent to appealing to the book-buying public’s wallets. But of course it looks gorgeous on my coffee table.

Getting the bracelet back and showing it off once again. The way his face lit up was indescribable. (Well, I was going to use the word “iridescent” to describe it just now, but for some reason a voice came into my head telling me to Google its definition in case I didn’t know what it truly meant, and — yeah.)

In the craziness of the past few months, I neglected to read it, but I picked it up after Forrest passed, and I’m glad I did. It’s a loving tribute of one friend to another, and reading it has helped me with my own loss. Its dust cover says:

Eric was a gifted painter and writer, and Forrest was a grateful admirer who sold his work. Their friendship lasted only ten years, but they were very influential years. You will see.

According to page 92, Forrest and Eric are busy now working to finish the book they began together years ago, so he won’t notice if I steal and rework that passage:
Forrest was a gifted adventurer and writer, and the finder was a grateful admirer who sold his famous treasure. Their friendship lasted only three months, but they were very influential months. You will see.

Alas, I’m a millennial and have student loans to pay off, so it wouldn’t be prudent to continue to own the Fenn Treasure. And at the end of the day, for all our similarities, Forrest and I couldn’t be less alike when it comes to collecting. I’m the kind of person who feels burdened by possessions and most free adventuring the world out of a carry-on suitcase, so the treasure and I will have to soon part, and I will offer it for sale (minus the turquoise row bracelet returned to Forrest, of course).

The treasure is a unique piece of American cultural history. The gold glitters, but brighter still are the embedded hopes and dreams of all the many thousands who searched for it. It should belong to a person or institution who will fully appreciate owning such an incredible thing.

But Forrest had a final wish for where he thought the treasure should end up. The first step for me will be to try to make that happen.

As for the legacy of Forrest’s chase, I suppose it is in many ways in my hands, as wrong as that feels. To be honest, I’m not sure what to do.

Whatever. Making plans is antagonistic to freedom. You will see. I’ll be back to answer some questions, in any case.
But no, not that one.

Forrest ends Seventeen Dollars a Square Inch with a quadplet poem for Eric (republished in Scrapbook 177). “Quadplet,” of course, is one of those invented words Forrest indulged in, so who knows what it really means, but I tried writing one for my own friend:
Cold, refreshing waters babble of your life,
Whistling pines proffer your wisdoms to sup;
In your place, the mountains rumble your name;
Can I even try to shut them up?

I’m sure I will go alone in there again in the future and appreciate its beauty anew. Forrest didn’t make it back to his special place in his final hour. But when I go back some day to lie down beneath those towering pines, tilt my hat over my face to shield against the bright sun, and drift off into one more afternoon nap in that serene forest in the wilds of the Cowboy State, I know he will be resting there next to me.

I hope that place will always remain as pristine as when he first discovered it.
Two people could keep a secret. Now one of them is dead.

Drying off after a decade in the elements. The Ziploc bags were full of condensation, and these two items were together in one. “Why did I put the scissors in there?” Forrest asked me when he saw them. I didn’t know, of course. I figured they belonged to King Tut or something like that. Nope. Just a pair of scissors. At some point before he secreted the chest, a simple pair of metal scissors made their way in there without him noticing. I got the sense that, even after many years of preparation, the final audacious decision to actually put the chest out there was something of a whim. I‘m sure he wouldn’t have liked it any other way.

Many searchers know that Seventeen Dollars a Square Inch doesn’t end with just the quadplet. There were two more characters at the bottom of the page — ΩΩ. Two omegas, side by side, just like at the end of The Thrill of the Chase. I’d always thought they could possibly have been a hint to a clue in the poem, but how could they be if they were also in this earlier book about Eric Sloane? To me, there wasn’t enough evidence of intent in order to consider it a hint.

It’s something I wanted to ask Forrest about when we met again, but I never got to. Some things will always remain a mystery, and I think that’s fitting. Forrest always said he was ambivalent about whether he wanted to see the chest found in his lifetime or for the chase to last many decades after he passed, and the depth of that ambivalence profoundly revealed itself to me in the process of figuring out exactly where it was.

He was completely open with me about anything I wanted to confirm or know when we met, but his emotions were a little perplexing. I could tell there was some eagerness in finally sharing these secrets with someone, but there was also melancholy. And so perhaps it’s fitting that ambivalence ends in me knowing most of the answers but him getting to keep some of them forever.

The relevance of the double omegas will go to the grave with the man who wrote the poem.
And so it is.
ΩΩ

Comments

  • Options
    thebeavthebeav Posts: 3,753 ✭✭✭✭✭

    There must have been some kind of publicized contest or something. I don't think I've ever heard of this guy.

  • Options
    JimnightJimnight Posts: 10,820 ✭✭✭✭✭

    :)

  • Options
    LanceNewmanOCCLanceNewmanOCC Posts: 19,999 ✭✭✭✭✭

    that was one heck of a read. ESPECIALLY after those other threads.

    i haven't digested this all and will re-read again but i will say, i'm not sure many people get to truly experience this level of expression of emotion.
    .

    sat down on a downed tree and just cried alone in the woods in sheer frustration.

    .
    then, even fewer get to the other side of the river of whatever is plaguing them.
    .

    the primary emotion was not joy but rather the most profound feeling of **relief **in my entire life.

    <--- look what's behind the mask! - cool link 1/NO ~ 2/NNP ~ 3/NNC ~ 4/CF ~ 5/PG ~ 6/Cert ~ 7/NGC 7a/NGC pop~ 8/NGCF ~ 9/HA archives ~ 10/PM ~ 11/NM ~ 12/ANACS cert ~ 13/ANACS pop - report fakes 1/ACEF ~ report fakes/thefts 1/NCIS - Numi-Classes SS ~ Bass ~ Transcribed Docs NNP - clashed coins - error training - V V mm styles -

  • Options
    TurtleCatTurtleCat Posts: 4,594 ✭✭✭✭✭

    It’s nice to hear from the person who found it. Sounds like they’ll sell it all to pay off taxes and debts. Maybe they will save a few? Or simply not disclose some of the items found?

  • Options
    abcde12345abcde12345 Posts: 3,404 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Jimnight said:
    :)

    o:)

  • Options
    shortnockshortnock Posts: 371 ✭✭✭

    Nice reading your original post. Congratulations on your diligence...and find.

  • Options
    PocketArtPocketArt Posts: 1,335 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @shortnock said:
    Nice reading your original post. Congratulations on your diligence...and find.

    Not my find just sharing post from another blog that had detailed the many adventures of other's looking for Forrest's treasure.

    If I found treasure; I'd hire out story to someone who could write, and say it better than me. Wouldn't you? :p

  • Options
    yosclimberyosclimber Posts: 4,599 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 5, 2020 6:23PM

    Cool article.
    I see he did not give all the details on how the clues worked and exactly where he found it.
    I also saw that Forrest Fenn posted on July 22 that it was found in Wyoming.
    https://dalneitzel.com/2020/09/23/finder-story/
    https://medium.com/@thefinder/a-remembrance-of-forrest-fenn-1be2a8646ff2
    https://dalneitzel.com/2020/08/27/18/

  • Options
    derrybderryb Posts: 36,209 ✭✭✭✭✭

    List of the treasure box contents?

    Maybe "Forest Fenn Treasure" label?

    Give Me Liberty or Give Me Debt

  • Options
    HydrantHydrant Posts: 7,773 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Never heard of it until now. Interesting story.

  • Options
    jrrgdjrrgd Posts: 38 ✭✭✭
    edited October 5, 2020 8:39PM

    "For more than a decade, he packed and repacked his treasure chest, sprinkling in gold dust and adding hundreds of rare gold coins and gold nuggets. Pre-Columbian animal figures went in, along with prehistoric “mirrors” of hammered gold, ancient Chinese faces carved from jade and antique jewelry with rubies and emeralds."

    "Fenn told The New Mexican in 2017 that the chest weighs 20 pounds (9 kilograms) and its contents weigh another 22 pounds (10 kilograms)."

    https://msn.com/en-us/news/world/forrest-fenns-treasure-found-in-new-mexico/ar-BB15atMw

    contents and 'representative' pics:

    http://www.tarryscant.com/treasure

  • Options
    JedPlanchetJedPlanchet Posts: 907 ✭✭✭

    Great read - thanks for posting!

    Whatever you are, be a good one. ---- Abraham Lincoln
  • Options
    johnny9434johnny9434 Posts: 27,513 ✭✭✭✭✭

    i remember hearing about him on a special i saw. im glad some one found it and its a bummer he passed on RIP

  • Options
    derrybderryb Posts: 36,209 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Note the double Omega symbol in the last line of the OP.

    Omega Man, is that you?

    Give Me Liberty or Give Me Debt

  • Options
    HydrantHydrant Posts: 7,773 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @derryb said:
    Note the double Omega symbol in the last line of the OP.

    Omega Man, is that you?

    Nice detective work, derryb.

  • Options
    TreashuntTreashunt Posts: 6,747 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Great read, thanks

    Frank

    BHNC #203

  • Options
    PocketArtPocketArt Posts: 1,335 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 13, 2020 3:29AM

    I know @ricko provided his on the spot update, and that is appreciated, thought I'd post one here as well.

    There is something about adventure, and having that opportunity to take a chance for fun, fortune, or fame that leaves us with what path we might personally choose. However; I suppose one needs fortitude, as the finder had shown would be that driver for success with the chase. Good to see the human side, and explanation of self in how it relates to the chase.

    https://www.outsideonline.com/2419429/forrest-fenn-treasure-jack-stuef

                                                 **The Man Who Found Forrest Fenn's Treasure **
    

    The decade-long hunt captured the world's attention, but when it finally ended in June, everyone still wanted to know: Who had solved the mystery? This week, as legal proceedings threaten his anonymity, a 32-year-old medical student is ready to go on the record.
    It took two months of correspondence before the man who found Forrest Fenn’s treasure told me his name.

    We’d been emailing since September, and I honestly didn’t expect to ever know who he really was. I was fine with that; as a fellow treasure hunter, I completely understood his desire for anonymity.

    Since 2017, I had been pursuing Fenn’s treasure, too, becoming a kinda-sorta searcher in order to tell the story of Fenn’s hunt in my upcoming book Chasing the Thrill, to be published by Knopf in June. I’d been in the trenches, read Fenn’s clue-filled poem over and over, ended up in places I probably shouldn’t have been, and gone to places where other people died trying to find it.

    A decade ago, Fenn hid his treasure chest, containing gold and other valuables estimated to be worth at least a million dollars, somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Not long after, he published a memoir called The Thrill of the Chase, which included a mysterious 24-line poem that, if solved, would lead searchers to the treasure. Fenn had suggested that the loot was secreted away at the place where he had envisioned lying down to die, back when he’d believed a 1988 cancer diagnosis was terminal. Since the hunt began in 2010, many thousands of searchers had gone out in pursuit—at least five of them losing their lives in the process—and the chase became an international story.

    So many people had invested and sacrificed so much in pursuit of Fenn’s treasure that it was possible the finder would face threats, be they legal or physical, from people who resented them or wished them ill.

    And that was exactly what was beginning to play out.

    This past June, Fenn announced that the treasure had been found by a man from “back east” who wanted to remain anonymous—even, once we were in contact, to me. So despite exchanging dozens of emails with the finder, and discussing the details of the chest and what locating it meant to him, I never pressed him about who he was, and he never volunteered.

    Last week, he told me the situation had changed. Fenn had been targeted by lawsuits both before and after the chest was found, by hunters claiming that the treasure was rightfully theirs. One of the lawsuits, filed immediately after Fenn announced the hunt was over, also targets the unknown finder as a defendant, claiming that he had stolen the plaintiff’s solve and used it to find the chest. That litigation had advanced to a procedural stage during which the finder expected his name would likely come out in court. So while he remained guarded about his solve and the location where he discovered the treasure, he now didn’t mind telling me who he really was.

    And that’s when I learned that a 32-year-old Michigan native and medical student was the person who had finally solved Fenn’s poem. His name is Jack Stuef.

    Stuef first heard about Fenn’s chase on Twitter in early 2018, and couldn’t believe it had escaped his notice for eight whole years. He was instantly hooked.

    “I’ve probably thought about it for at least a couple hours a day, every day, since I learned about it,” Stuef says. “Every day.”

    The treasure hunt immediately brought him back to his youth, when he was obsessed with a 2002 TV series called Push, Nevada, which allowed viewers to try and solve a real-life mystery that carried a million-dollar prize. Stuef also got caught up in a book by magician David Blaine, Mysterious Stranger, which combined autobiography with a treasure hunt and offered a $100,000 prize.

    Over time, those teenage dreams of adventure receded, and Stuef went on to attend Georgetown University, where he served as editor in chief of the Georgetown Heckler, a campus humor magazine. He graduated in December 2009 and began a career as a writer, both in humor—he worked for the Onion—and in more traditional media. He became embroiled in a few controversies early in his career, both at Wonkette, which he left after he made what Poynter describes as “a tasteless joke about one of Sarah Palin’s children having Down Syndrome,” and while freelancing for Buzzfeed, which had to apologize after an article Stuef wrote incorrectly painted a popular internet cartoonist as a hard-line Republican. He left the media business soon after.

    “I don’t think those were giant incidents,” Stuef says. “I regret them, but I don’t think about them very often. It was a long time ago now.”

    He soon entered a postbaccalaureate program, and then enrolled in medical school. But he disliked most everything about medicine beyond treating patients, he says, and something else captured his attention: Fenn’s chase. He was soon reading the hunter blogs to learn the basics, and he bought Fenn’s memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, before diving into as much primary source material as he could find. His method was to devour every Fenn interview, doing anything he could to hear and absorb his words directly, in an effort to better understand the man’s personality and motivations.

    As the hunt took up more and more of his time, Stuef mostly kept the extent of his pursuit hidden from friends and family. He didn’t think they would understand.

    “I think I got a little embarrassed by how obsessed I was with it,” Stuef says. “If I didn’t find it, I would look kind of like an idiot. And maybe I didn’t want to admit to myself what a hold it had on me.”

    Two years later, he had achieved what so many other searchers could not, finding and claiming Fenn’s treasure. (Stuef’s status as the finder was independently verified with the Fenn family.) He retrieved the chest on Saturday, June 6, 2020, in Wyoming, and began the long drive down to Santa Fe to deliver it to Fenn that same day. That evening, news of the find was already beginning to come out, as Fenn believed it must. “‘We should let [searchers] know as soon as you have it,’” Stuef says Fenn told him.

    “His thought was that, as soon as it’s out of place, we need to let people know,” Stuef says. “People have died. There could be issues.”

    Caught up in the chase: Many claim they&#8217, ve solved Fenn riddle
    Forrest Fenn at his Santa Fe home in 2014 (Photo: Luis Sanchez Saturno/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)
    Stuef asked Fenn, though, that he be allowed to remain anonymous, and they both seemed to agree that the location of the find should be kept secret.

    But controversy quickly swirled, as many hunters, unsatisfied with the lack of disclosure, decided this meant that something nefarious was afoot—that Fenn had never really hidden the treasure, or that he had unilaterally ended the hunt without a real finder. The backlash took Fenn by surprise, according to those around him. To address it, several weeks after the find, he released photos of the chest and of himself going through it after Stuef delivered it to Santa Fe, which provided enough confirmation for some. In July, Fenn suggested to Stuef that they also reveal the state where the treasure was found, in order to give further closure to some hunters. Stuef agreed.

    Beyond that, though, he remained silent, and might have stayed that way for some time.

    And then Forrest Fenn died.

    On September 23, two weeks after Fenn passed away in his home at age 90, a post surfaced on Medium, a platform that allows users to self-publish essays and other writing, anonymously if they choose. Called “A Remembrance of Forrest Fenn,” it carried the byline “The Finder,” along with a bio that declared: “The author is the finder and owner of the Forrest Fenn Treasure.”

    In 3,000 well-crafted words, the finder penned an ode to Fenn, who he described as his friend, even though he’d only known him briefly.

    “I am the person who found Forrest’s famed treasure,” he wrote. “The moment it happened was not the triumphant Hollywood ending some surely envisioned; it just felt like I had just survived something and was fortunate to come out the other end.”

    In his essay, the finder revealed a great deal about the circumstances under which he had discovered the treasure—but, crucially, he would not divulge exactly where he had located it, and said he didn’t plan to. He was also careful not to let any details about his own identity slip, indicating only that he was a millennial and had student loans to pay off. Beyond that, he was an enigma.

    He explained that in 2018 he had figured out the location where the longtime Santa Fe art dealer and former fighter pilot wished to die, and then spent a combined 25 days over the next two years searching the general area until he finally located the treasure. He said that, to find the solution, he’d carefully listened to things Fenn had said in interviews, finding a few crucial crumbs.

    “[Fenn] never made more than a couple of subtle slip-ups in front of all the dogged reporters who came to his house, and even those apparently haven’t been caught by anyone besides me,” the finder wrote.

    He included pictures of the chest, some of them taken in the wilderness shortly after the treasure was found, others taken at what was assumed to be a lawyer’s office, showing Fenn examining the chest.

    Still, there were doubters. Many searchers refused to believe that the Medium post was written by the true finder, and suggested it was fraudulent—perhaps written by Fenn’s grandson, Shiloh Old, or by his professional writer pal, Douglas Preston, or even by Fenn himself before his death, intended to be released posthumously.

    But I didn’t think any of that. In fact, after finishing the essay, I was pretty certain it was all real. And although the finder wrote that he would eventually answer more questions, the journalist in me didn’t particularly want to wait, or to leave what he answered up to him alone.

    So I reached out.

    Medium doesn’t generally allow readers to directly contact the author of a piece, which is one reason it’s good for anonymous posting. It does allow users to post public comments, and more than 100 people quickly did that, most of them supportive, some skeptical, a few angry and aggressive. But I wasn’t going to just post my email address in the comments, where anyone could read it. Doing that left me no guarantee that the person I might end up in contact with would be the finder.

    I had one trick up my sleeve, though. There’s a little-known way to send a direct message to the author of a Medium story: you flag a section of text, indicating that it contains an error or typo. This notifies the author that something needs to be corrected. The system doesn’t give you a lot of space, just enough to describe the problem. So I flagged a section, barely squeezed in who I was and my email address, and hoped for the best. I had no assurances that the finder would look at the message, or that he would understand exactly why he should get in touch. But it was worth a shot.

    Less than a day later, an email popped into my in-box. The finder had replied. He’d heard of my book project, he said, and he might be willing to talk to me.

    And so began months of back-and-forth, sometimes involving several emails a day. It didn’t really matter that I didn’t know who the finder was for most of that time. I hung on every detail, every minor revelation he offered up about the treasure that had occupied me for so long.

    Last week, after a lull in our ongoing conversation, the finder emailed again, explaining that one of the court cases surrounding the find had taken an unexpected turn, and his name was likely to come out as part of the process. So he told me who he was, and gave me permission to tell the world.

    The case that prompted him to step from behind the curtain was brought by a Chicago real estate attorney named Barbara Andersen, who alleges that the unknown finder of the treasure had located it by hacking her texts and emails and stealing her solve. She believed the treasure was in New Mexico.

    Stuef says he never met nor heard of Andersen before the suit; he denies her charges and says the treasure was nowhere near New Mexico. That has not stopped a New Mexico federal court judge from allowing the suit to proceed. Last week, Stuef learned that, as a result of Fenn’s death, the subpoena against Fenn would be transferred to his heirs and estate, which is in possession of Stuef’s information. This should allow Andersen to refile her suit, naming Stuef as a defendant.

    Stuef had expected that finding the chest would bring some level of blowback, that his possession of an item desired by so many makes him a target.

    “I thought that whoever found the chest would be absolutely hated, because it ends everyone’s dream,” he says. “That’s something of a burden. I realize I put an end to something that meant so much to so many people.”

    But even if he anticipated challenges to his find, being a subject of a lawsuit has been an unsettling experience.

    “I always thought that, based on people suing Forrest in the past, it was something that could happen,” Stuef says.

    This treasure hunt has never been easy on its participants; Fenn and his family experienced a great deal of harassment from searchers who went too far during the years the hunt was active—everything from stalking to threats to a break-in at Fenn’s home in Santa Fe. This is why Stuef hoped to remain anonymous, and why, even now, with his name known, he won’t disclose where he’s living.

    Many searchers I’ve talked to appreciate his desire for anonymity, and I understand it as well. But one thing many searchers have a harder time grasping is Stuef’s decision to withhold where he found the treasure, even though the chest has since been removed.

    People have died looking for the chest. Others have gone bankrupt. Many more have spent countless hours in search of it, and they want some degree of resolution. On our various excursions out West, my search partner and I both found ourselves a little too obsessed at points, and it took its toll. There are real human costs to this search, and knowing the final location could offer the desired sense of closure so many are now seeking.

    Stuef says he’s sympathetic to those feelings.

    “This is the most difficult question to answer, because I know there’s so many people who just want to know. They worked on this for a long time. And they just want to be handed the answer. I totally understand that. But doing that, I think, is a death sentence to this special place.”

    Stuef fears that Fenn’s spot, if revealed, will become a pilgrimage site for Fenn devotees.

    “It’s not an appropriate place to become a tourist destination. It has huge meaning to Forrest, and I don’t want to see it destroyed,” Stuef says. “And as much as I tried not to develop an attachment to the place, eventually I did, as well. I had whole days out there looking, and I would take a nap in the afternoon every day, as I said on Medium, under the pine trees. It was very peaceful for me.”

    Stuef is trying to find a balance between the various entities, because he feels responsible to all of them. To the search community and its desire to know the whole truth; to himself and his sense of what is right; to nature and this peaceful spot, which he does not want to see ruined; and to Fenn. Ultimately, Stuef believes he’s being consistent with what Fenn wanted when he was alive, and honoring his legacy.

    “He didn’t want to see it turned into a tourist attraction,” Stuef says of the treasure site. “We thought it was not appropriate for that to happen. He was willing to go to great lengths, very great lengths, to avoid ever having to tell the location.”

    Daniel Barbarisi's new book on the Forrest Fenn treasure hunt will be published in June 2021.
    Daniel Barbarisi's new book on the Forrest Fenn treasure hunt will be published in June 2021.
    Because of his stand, talking to Stuef can be maddening at times. For my book, I’ve interviewed him about his solve, discussed the process he used to come up with it, and chronicled the various searches he went on as he sought the exact spot, learning fascinating tidbits in the process. For example, he’s told me that one reason it took him two years to retrieve the treasure, even after figuring out the general area in 2018, was that the “blaze”—Fenn’s all-important final clue, found out in the wilderness, intended to let a searcher know they’re in the exact right spot—had been damaged. He doesn’t mind being open with all of that. And yet there are still things he holds back or talks around, in order to make sure, even now, that no one can figure out the precise location.

    Still, listening to Stuef talk about it, he makes it seem so attainable, so simple: that the key was really just understanding Forrest Fenn. Stuef hunted solo, never discussed his search with others, stayed away from the blogs after his initial looks at them, and tried hard not to get caught up in any groupthink. He did his utmost just to focus on Fenn’s words and primary sources, and understand those as best he could.

    “I don’t want to ruin this treasure hunt by saying it was made for an English major, but it’s based on a close read of a text,” Stuef says. “I mean, that’s what it is. It’s having the correct interpretation of a poem. I understood him by reading his words, and listening to him talk over and over and over and over again. And seeking out anything I could get my hands on that told me who he was.”

    When asked if figuring out the puzzles required the use of anagrams, or GPS coordinates, or sophisticated codes of any sort, Stuef was clear in his response.

    “No,” he says. “But I don’t want to say that people are stupid for thinking those things were valid, or that they were being irrational. I think Forrest designed this to be fun, and whatever people got out of it, that gave them fun, I think, to me, is rational. And they were doing it right, in that way.”

    The solution, Stuef says, is tied far more to understanding Fenn’s emotions, and to a close examination of the poem itself, than to puzzle-solving skills. Fenn simply didn’t care about those kinds of things. He was more interested in adventure, legacy, history, narrative.

    “There was no reason to think that those things would be something he was interested in, or had any experience in,” Stuef says. “I mean, he was coming to this not from the perspective of being a huge fan of puzzles or a puzzle master. He was not a fan of armchair treasure hunts. His point of reference was pirates! His purpose was not to create a great puzzle and show everyone how smart and slick he was. His purpose was this weird idea to entomb himself. And to create a historic legend. None of that supports armchair solutions. And he was open about that.”

    So far, ownership of the chest has not made Stuef a rich man. He has not sold it yet, has not even had it appraised, but the expected windfall has allowed him to quit worrying about repaying his student loans for medical school. With that in mind, he has decided to leave the profession before becoming a practicing doctor, and may move into equities investing next.

    “I was kind of in this sunk-cost-fallacy dead end with that, where I didn’t want to quit, because I didn’t know what else to do,” he says. “I didn’t know how to pay off my loans if I didn’t become a doctor. [The chest] was kind of my lifeline.”

    Once the time is right, he still plans to sell the chest. When he does, he will try to honor a “final wish” of Fenn’s: to have the chest end up in a specific place where searchers can view it, though he declined to say exactly where.

    “Before he died, he was going to try to help me with getting a certain party to buy it,” Stuef says. “And I think his hope was that it would be able to be displayed. … And so that’s my first step. After that, I think I would probably try and sell to the public.”

    If it gets that far, he’s unsure whether it would be best to sell it as a complete package, or to break it up, allowing individual searchers to own a piece of Fenn’s treasure.

    “I’d guess we kind of try and test the market in some way to see what it would sell for all together, because there’s a good chance it’s worth more all together, as the Fenn treasure,” Stuef says. “But, you know, it’s possible. There are a lot of searchers out there who would want maybe one item in there, they couldn’t afford the whole thing, but it would mean a lot to them to have one item. So it is still possible to break out.”

    With the chest located, one part of the treasure hunt is finished now—the chase, the part that obsessed all of us and pushed us to places we maybe shouldn’t have been. But the story has not ended. So many people have a stake in this hunt, it means so much to so many, that the tale didn’t, and doesn’t, end with a man finding a treasure chest.

    That, in so many ways, is just opening up the box.

  • Options
    jmlanzafjmlanzaf Posts: 31,969 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Hmmmm... an Omega....

  • Options
    Namvet69Namvet69 Posts: 8,674 ✭✭✭✭✭

    There are much worse conundrums to be involved in. Glad a young guy found it, use the money wisely grasshopper. Peace Roy

    BST: endeavor1967, synchr, kliao, Outhaul, Donttellthewife, U1Chicago, ajaan, mCarney1173, SurfinHi, MWallace, Sandman70gt, mustanggt, Pittstate03, Lazybones, Walkerguy21D, coinandcurrency242 , thebigeng, Collectorcoins, JimTyler, USMarine6, Elkevvo, Coll3ctor, Yorkshireman, CUKevin, ranshdow, CoinHunter4, bennybravo, Centsearcher, braddick, Windycity, ZoidMeister, mirabela, JJM, RichURich, Bullsitter, jmski52, LukeMarshall

  • Options
    BlackHatBlueStripeBlackHatBlueStripe Posts: 2
    edited September 17, 2021 3:25PM

    I found a great site in Montana that looked like an eagle's nest to me. Fun trip.

  • Options
    BlackHatBlueStripeBlackHatBlueStripe Posts: 2
    edited September 17, 2021 3:59PM

    I miss forrest

  • Options

    I'm thinking that maybe he's afraid that if he tells people the location, hundreds or thousands of people will go there to see it and take the treasure there, even if the treasure isn’t there. And they might also be afraid that they will not be able to complete the hunt by themselves. Fenn was a nature lover and he probably doesn’t want to see his treasure found there being trampled by people. He considered that place to be very special to him even before the treasure was discovered.

    I would like to find more of these, but I think that most of these have been destroyed by now. That is how Boston was found at the last possible moment. It would have been better if that man had waited for even a few more days before talking to the construction crew.

    I now need to watch that expedition again.

    There are some solid theories on the New York, San Fran, and Houston Keys, but it appears that they're all on properties that are too valuable to dig directly.

  • Options
    BAJJERFANBAJJERFAN Posts: 30,992 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @PocketArt said:
    I know @ricko provided his on the spot update, and that is appreciated, thought I'd post one here as well.

    There is something about adventure, and having that opportunity to take a chance for fun, fortune, or fame that leaves us with what path we might personally choose. However; I suppose one needs fortitude, as the finder had shown would be that driver for success with the chase. Good to see the human side, and explanation of self in how it relates to the chase.

    https://www.outsideonline.com/2419429/forrest-fenn-treasure-jack-stuef

                                                 **The Man Who Found Forrest Fenn's Treasure **
    

    The decade-long hunt captured the world's attention, but when it finally ended in June, everyone still wanted to know: Who had solved the mystery? This week, as legal proceedings threaten his anonymity, a 32-year-old medical student is ready to go on the record.
    It took two months of correspondence before the man who found Forrest Fenn’s treasure told me his name.

    We’d been emailing since September, and I honestly didn’t expect to ever know who he really was. I was fine with that; as a fellow treasure hunter, I completely understood his desire for anonymity.

    Since 2017, I had been pursuing Fenn’s treasure, too, becoming a kinda-sorta searcher in order to tell the story of Fenn’s hunt in my upcoming book Chasing the Thrill, to be published by Knopf in June. I’d been in the trenches, read Fenn’s clue-filled poem over and over, ended up in places I probably shouldn’t have been, and gone to places where other people died trying to find it.

    A decade ago, Fenn hid his treasure chest, containing gold and other valuables estimated to be worth at least a million dollars, somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Not long after, he published a memoir called The Thrill of the Chase, which included a mysterious 24-line poem that, if solved, would lead searchers to the treasure. Fenn had suggested that the loot was secreted away at the place where he had envisioned lying down to die, back when he’d believed a 1988 cancer diagnosis was terminal. Since the hunt began in 2010, many thousands of searchers had gone out in pursuit—at least five of them losing their lives in the process—and the chase became an international story.

    So many people had invested and sacrificed so much in pursuit of Fenn’s treasure that it was possible the finder would face threats, be they legal or physical, from people who resented them or wished them ill.

    And that was exactly what was beginning to play out.

    This past June, Fenn announced that the treasure had been found by a man from “back east” who wanted to remain anonymous—even, once we were in contact, to me. So despite exchanging dozens of emails with the finder, and discussing the details of the chest and what locating it meant to him, I never pressed him about who he was, and he never volunteered.

    Last week, he told me the situation had changed. Fenn had been targeted by lawsuits both before and after the chest was found, by hunters claiming that the treasure was rightfully theirs. One of the lawsuits, filed immediately after Fenn announced the hunt was over, also targets the unknown finder as a defendant, claiming that he had stolen the plaintiff’s solve and used it to find the chest. That litigation had advanced to a procedural stage during which the finder expected his name would likely come out in court. So while he remained guarded about his solve and the location where he discovered the treasure, he now didn’t mind telling me who he really was.

    And that’s when I learned that a 32-year-old Michigan native and medical student was the person who had finally solved Fenn’s poem. His name is Jack Stuef.

    Stuef first heard about Fenn’s chase on Twitter in early 2018, and couldn’t believe it had escaped his notice for eight whole years. He was instantly hooked.

    “I’ve probably thought about it for at least a couple hours a day, every day, since I learned about it,” Stuef says. “Every day.”

    The treasure hunt immediately brought him back to his youth, when he was obsessed with a 2002 TV series called Push, Nevada, which allowed viewers to try and solve a real-life mystery that carried a million-dollar prize. Stuef also got caught up in a book by magician David Blaine, Mysterious Stranger, which combined autobiography with a treasure hunt and offered a $100,000 prize.

    Over time, those teenage dreams of adventure receded, and Stuef went on to attend Georgetown University, where he served as editor in chief of the Georgetown Heckler, a campus humor magazine. He graduated in December 2009 and began a career as a writer, both in humor—he worked for the Onion—and in more traditional media. He became embroiled in a few controversies early in his career, both at Wonkette, which he left after he made what Poynter describes as “a tasteless joke about one of Sarah Palin’s children having Down Syndrome,” and while freelancing for Buzzfeed, which had to apologize after an article Stuef wrote incorrectly painted a popular internet cartoonist as a hard-line Republican. He left the media business soon after.

    “I don’t think those were giant incidents,” Stuef says. “I regret them, but I don’t think about them very often. It was a long time ago now.”

    He soon entered a postbaccalaureate program, and then enrolled in medical school. But he disliked most everything about medicine beyond treating patients, he says, and something else captured his attention: Fenn’s chase. He was soon reading the hunter blogs to learn the basics, and he bought Fenn’s memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, before diving into as much primary source material as he could find. His method was to devour every Fenn interview, doing anything he could to hear and absorb his words directly, in an effort to better understand the man’s personality and motivations.

    As the hunt took up more and more of his time, Stuef mostly kept the extent of his pursuit hidden from friends and family. He didn’t think they would understand.

    “I think I got a little embarrassed by how obsessed I was with it,” Stuef says. “If I didn’t find it, I would look kind of like an idiot. And maybe I didn’t want to admit to myself what a hold it had on me.”

    Two years later, he had achieved what so many other searchers could not, finding and claiming Fenn’s treasure. (Stuef’s status as the finder was independently verified with the Fenn family.) He retrieved the chest on Saturday, June 6, 2020, in Wyoming, and began the long drive down to Santa Fe to deliver it to Fenn that same day. That evening, news of the find was already beginning to come out, as Fenn believed it must. “‘We should let [searchers] know as soon as you have it,’” Stuef says Fenn told him.

    “His thought was that, as soon as it’s out of place, we need to let people know,” Stuef says. “People have died. There could be issues.”

    Caught up in the chase: Many claim they&#8217, ve solved Fenn riddle
    Forrest Fenn at his Santa Fe home in 2014 (Photo: Luis Sanchez Saturno/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)
    Stuef asked Fenn, though, that he be allowed to remain anonymous, and they both seemed to agree that the location of the find should be kept secret.

    But controversy quickly swirled, as many hunters, unsatisfied with the lack of disclosure, decided this meant that something nefarious was afoot—that Fenn had never really hidden the treasure, or that he had unilaterally ended the hunt without a real finder. The backlash took Fenn by surprise, according to those around him. To address it, several weeks after the find, he released photos of the chest and of himself going through it after Stuef delivered it to Santa Fe, which provided enough confirmation for some. In July, Fenn suggested to Stuef that they also reveal the state where the treasure was found, in order to give further closure to some hunters. Stuef agreed.

    Beyond that, though, he remained silent, and might have stayed that way for some time.

    And then Forrest Fenn died.

    On September 23, two weeks after Fenn passed away in his home at age 90, a post surfaced on Medium, a platform that allows users to self-publish essays and other writing, anonymously if they choose. Called “A Remembrance of Forrest Fenn,” it carried the byline “The Finder,” along with a bio that declared: “The author is the finder and owner of the Forrest Fenn Treasure.”

    In 3,000 well-crafted words, the finder penned an ode to Fenn, who he described as his friend, even though he’d only known him briefly.

    “I am the person who found Forrest’s famed treasure,” he wrote. “The moment it happened was not the triumphant Hollywood ending some surely envisioned; it just felt like I had just survived something and was fortunate to come out the other end.”

    In his essay, the finder revealed a great deal about the circumstances under which he had discovered the treasure—but, crucially, he would not divulge exactly where he had located it, and said he didn’t plan to. He was also careful not to let any details about his own identity slip, indicating only that he was a millennial and had student loans to pay off. Beyond that, he was an enigma.

    He explained that in 2018 he had figured out the location where the longtime Santa Fe art dealer and former fighter pilot wished to die, and then spent a combined 25 days over the next two years searching the general area until he finally located the treasure. He said that, to find the solution, he’d carefully listened to things Fenn had said in interviews, finding a few crucial crumbs.

    “[Fenn] never made more than a couple of subtle slip-ups in front of all the dogged reporters who came to his house, and even those apparently haven’t been caught by anyone besides me,” the finder wrote.

    He included pictures of the chest, some of them taken in the wilderness shortly after the treasure was found, others taken at what was assumed to be a lawyer’s office, showing Fenn examining the chest.

    Still, there were doubters. Many searchers refused to believe that the Medium post was written by the true finder, and suggested it was fraudulent—perhaps written by Fenn’s grandson, Shiloh Old, or by his professional writer pal, Douglas Preston, or even by Fenn himself before his death, intended to be released posthumously.

    But I didn’t think any of that. In fact, after finishing the essay, I was pretty certain it was all real. And although the finder wrote that he would eventually answer more questions, the journalist in me didn’t particularly want to wait, or to leave what he answered up to him alone.

    So I reached out.

    Medium doesn’t generally allow readers to directly contact the author of a piece, which is one reason it’s good for anonymous posting. It does allow users to post public comments, and more than 100 people quickly did that, most of them supportive, some skeptical, a few angry and aggressive. But I wasn’t going to just post my email address in the comments, where anyone could read it. Doing that left me no guarantee that the person I might end up in contact with would be the finder.

    I had one trick up my sleeve, though. There’s a little-known way to send a direct message to the author of a Medium story: you flag a section of text, indicating that it contains an error or typo. This notifies the author that something needs to be corrected. The system doesn’t give you a lot of space, just enough to describe the problem. So I flagged a section, barely squeezed in who I was and my email address, and hoped for the best. I had no assurances that the finder would look at the message, or that he would understand exactly why he should get in touch. But it was worth a shot.

    Less than a day later, an email popped into my in-box. The finder had replied. He’d heard of my book project, he said, and he might be willing to talk to me.

    And so began months of back-and-forth, sometimes involving several emails a day. It didn’t really matter that I didn’t know who the finder was for most of that time. I hung on every detail, every minor revelation he offered up about the treasure that had occupied me for so long.

    Last week, after a lull in our ongoing conversation, the finder emailed again, explaining that one of the court cases surrounding the find had taken an unexpected turn, and his name was likely to come out as part of the process. So he told me who he was, and gave me permission to tell the world.

    The case that prompted him to step from behind the curtain was brought by a Chicago real estate attorney named Barbara Andersen, who alleges that the unknown finder of the treasure had located it by hacking her texts and emails and stealing her solve. She believed the treasure was in New Mexico.

    Stuef says he never met nor heard of Andersen before the suit; he denies her charges and says the treasure was nowhere near New Mexico. That has not stopped a New Mexico federal court judge from allowing the suit to proceed. Last week, Stuef learned that, as a result of Fenn’s death, the subpoena against Fenn would be transferred to his heirs and estate, which is in possession of Stuef’s information. This should allow Andersen to refile her suit, naming Stuef as a defendant.

    Stuef had expected that finding the chest would bring some level of blowback, that his possession of an item desired by so many makes him a target.

    “I thought that whoever found the chest would be absolutely hated, because it ends everyone’s dream,” he says. “That’s something of a burden. I realize I put an end to something that meant so much to so many people.”

    But even if he anticipated challenges to his find, being a subject of a lawsuit has been an unsettling experience.

    “I always thought that, based on people suing Forrest in the past, it was something that could happen,” Stuef says.

    This treasure hunt has never been easy on its participants; Fenn and his family experienced a great deal of harassment from searchers who went too far during the years the hunt was active—everything from stalking to threats to a break-in at Fenn’s home in Santa Fe. This is why Stuef hoped to remain anonymous, and why, even now, with his name known, he won’t disclose where he’s living.

    Many searchers I’ve talked to appreciate his desire for anonymity, and I understand it as well. But one thing many searchers have a harder time grasping is Stuef’s decision to withhold where he found the treasure, even though the chest has since been removed.

    People have died looking for the chest. Others have gone bankrupt. Many more have spent countless hours in search of it, and they want some degree of resolution. On our various excursions out West, my search partner and I both found ourselves a little too obsessed at points, and it took its toll. There are real human costs to this search, and knowing the final location could offer the desired sense of closure so many are now seeking.

    Stuef says he’s sympathetic to those feelings.

    “This is the most difficult question to answer, because I know there’s so many people who just want to know. They worked on this for a long time. And they just want to be handed the answer. I totally understand that. But doing that, I think, is a death sentence to this special place.”

    Stuef fears that Fenn’s spot, if revealed, will become a pilgrimage site for Fenn devotees.

    “It’s not an appropriate place to become a tourist destination. It has huge meaning to Forrest, and I don’t want to see it destroyed,” Stuef says. “And as much as I tried not to develop an attachment to the place, eventually I did, as well. I had whole days out there looking, and I would take a nap in the afternoon every day, as I said on Medium, under the pine trees. It was very peaceful for me.”

    Stuef is trying to find a balance between the various entities, because he feels responsible to all of them. To the search community and its desire to know the whole truth; to himself and his sense of what is right; to nature and this peaceful spot, which he does not want to see ruined; and to Fenn. Ultimately, Stuef believes he’s being consistent with what Fenn wanted when he was alive, and honoring his legacy.

    “He didn’t want to see it turned into a tourist attraction,” Stuef says of the treasure site. “We thought it was not appropriate for that to happen. He was willing to go to great lengths, very great lengths, to avoid ever having to tell the location.”

    Daniel Barbarisi's new book on the Forrest Fenn treasure hunt will be published in June 2021.
    Daniel Barbarisi's new book on the Forrest Fenn treasure hunt will be published in June 2021.
    Because of his stand, talking to Stuef can be maddening at times. For my book, I’ve interviewed him about his solve, discussed the process he used to come up with it, and chronicled the various searches he went on as he sought the exact spot, learning fascinating tidbits in the process. For example, he’s told me that one reason it took him two years to retrieve the treasure, even after figuring out the general area in 2018, was that the “blaze”—Fenn’s all-important final clue, found out in the wilderness, intended to let a searcher know they’re in the exact right spot—had been damaged. He doesn’t mind being open with all of that. And yet there are still things he holds back or talks around, in order to make sure, even now, that no one can figure out the precise location.

    Still, listening to Stuef talk about it, he makes it seem so attainable, so simple: that the key was really just understanding Forrest Fenn. Stuef hunted solo, never discussed his search with others, stayed away from the blogs after his initial looks at them, and tried hard not to get caught up in any groupthink. He did his utmost just to focus on Fenn’s words and primary sources, and understand those as best he could.

    “I don’t want to ruin this treasure hunt by saying it was made for an English major, but it’s based on a close read of a text,” Stuef says. “I mean, that’s what it is. It’s having the correct interpretation of a poem. I understood him by reading his words, and listening to him talk over and over and over and over again. And seeking out anything I could get my hands on that told me who he was.”

    When asked if figuring out the puzzles required the use of anagrams, or GPS coordinates, or sophisticated codes of any sort, Stuef was clear in his response.

    “No,” he says. “But I don’t want to say that people are stupid for thinking those things were valid, or that they were being irrational. I think Forrest designed this to be fun, and whatever people got out of it, that gave them fun, I think, to me, is rational. And they were doing it right, in that way.”

    The solution, Stuef says, is tied far more to understanding Fenn’s emotions, and to a close examination of the poem itself, than to puzzle-solving skills. Fenn simply didn’t care about those kinds of things. He was more interested in adventure, legacy, history, narrative.

    “There was no reason to think that those things would be something he was interested in, or had any experience in,” Stuef says. “I mean, he was coming to this not from the perspective of being a huge fan of puzzles or a puzzle master. He was not a fan of armchair treasure hunts. His point of reference was pirates! His purpose was not to create a great puzzle and show everyone how smart and slick he was. His purpose was this weird idea to entomb himself. And to create a historic legend. None of that supports armchair solutions. And he was open about that.”

    So far, ownership of the chest has not made Stuef a rich man. He has not sold it yet, has not even had it appraised, but the expected windfall has allowed him to quit worrying about repaying his student loans for medical school. With that in mind, he has decided to leave the profession before becoming a practicing doctor, and may move into equities investing next.

    “I was kind of in this sunk-cost-fallacy dead end with that, where I didn’t want to quit, because I didn’t know what else to do,” he says. “I didn’t know how to pay off my loans if I didn’t become a doctor. [The chest] was kind of my lifeline.”

    Once the time is right, he still plans to sell the chest. When he does, he will try to honor a “final wish” of Fenn’s: to have the chest end up in a specific place where searchers can view it, though he declined to say exactly where.

    “Before he died, he was going to try to help me with getting a certain party to buy it,” Stuef says. “And I think his hope was that it would be able to be displayed. … And so that’s my first step. After that, I think I would probably try and sell to the public.”

    If it gets that far, he’s unsure whether it would be best to sell it as a complete package, or to break it up, allowing individual searchers to own a piece of Fenn’s treasure.

    “I’d guess we kind of try and test the market in some way to see what it would sell for all together, because there’s a good chance it’s worth more all together, as the Fenn treasure,” Stuef says. “But, you know, it’s possible. There are a lot of searchers out there who would want maybe one item in there, they couldn’t afford the whole thing, but it would mean a lot to them to have one item. So it is still possible to break out.”

    With the chest located, one part of the treasure hunt is finished now—the chase, the part that obsessed all of us and pushed us to places we maybe shouldn’t have been. But the story has not ended. So many people have a stake in this hunt, it means so much to so many, that the tale didn’t, and doesn’t, end with a man finding a treasure chest.

    That, in so many ways, is just opening up the box.

                                                        
    
    
    
                                                     
    
    
    
    
                                                          
    

    Is there no mention of the Heritage auction of these coins and nuggets that is going live in a little over 3 hours? I don't think the finder is even the one auctioning these off. Also don't understand the having them graded ATS. If they were indeed found in YNS why wasn't the chest and coins claimed by the NPS?

    Unless you're a speculator or have put in considerable time effort and funds in pursuit of the chest I'm not sure what the attraction of owning one of the coins would be. A piece of history, MAYBE?

  • Options
    MaywoodMaywood Posts: 1,898 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Forrest used his chase not for personal profit, but supported a local independent bookseller and raised tens of thousands of dollars for cancer victims.

    It appears by the pictures provided that maybe he should have donated everything to those Cancer victims if his intent was to helpful.

  • Options
    batumibatumi Posts: 797 ✭✭✭✭

    Seeing all the grifters using our pathetic, corrupt legal system attempting to horn in for 'their' share is the reason why I would never let it out if I was so fortunate to make a find of any kind. Finders Keepers!

  • Options
    rickoricko Posts: 98,724 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @batumi.. Among metal detectors, there is a sector known as 'cache hunters'... They do not seek the coins in parks or fields... They look for hidden 'caches' of treasure - around old foundations, fences etc.... Their motto is 'Tell No One', if/when they do find a cache. Cheers, RickO

  • Options
    logger7logger7 Posts: 8,090 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 13, 2022 9:24AM

    Thanks for sharing the story. Forest Fenn clearly treasured his relationships and memories over all the gold. I met Eric Sloane up in Warren when my father was working on a project with him. In retrospect Fenn seems to have been a living legend with all his connections and stories.

    It looks like the auction featuring the Fenn treasure was on HA:

    https://coins.ha.com/c/auction-home.zx?saleNo=63197
    https://www.krqe.com/news/weird/photos-forrest-fenns-buried-treasure-hits-the-auction-block/

Leave a Comment

BoldItalicStrikethroughOrdered listUnordered list
Emoji
Image
Align leftAlign centerAlign rightToggle HTML viewToggle full pageToggle lights
Drop image/file