This post is from staff writer Holly Johnson.
Ever since Forrest Fenn revealed that he had hidden a treasure chest worth an estimated $2 million in the mountains north of Sante Fe, much of America's southwest has been in a frenzy. In fact, thousands of people have descended on the area, all of them hoping to strike it rich. If you watch the news, you may have heard about the eccentric millionaire who came up with the idea and sacrificed his own gold, collectibles and artifacts to bring his treasure hunt dream to fruition. You even may have heard about the best-selling memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, detailing his adventures and giving clues to the location of the treasure. Sound too good to be true? The modern-day Indiana Jones remains adamant that his story of hidden riches is 100 percent the real deal.
So, why would anyone give away millions of dollars of their hard-earned wealth? And beyond that, why would they hide it for someone else to find? The answers are as complex as the quirky millionaire himself. Funny, sarcastic, and always joking, Forrest Fenn has an overabundance of explanations as to why he did what he did.
Who is Forrest Fenn?
According to his memoir, Forrest was raised poor in Temple, Texas. Although his family never had much money, they spent their summers chasing adventures in Yellowstone National Park. Forrest never went to college. Instead, he married his high school sweetheart, Peggy Jean Proctor. According to his book, Forrest soon joined the Air Force where he encountered the greatest adventures of his lifetime. During his stint as a fighter pilot the war in southeast Asia, his plane was shot down twice — once in Vietnam and once in Laos. His military records tell the story of a decorated war hero who earned a Silver Star, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Bronze Star, 16 Air Medals, and a Purple Heart.
After retiring from the Air Force in 1970, Forrest Fenn moved to Sante Fe, N.M., hoping to start a new life. With little experience, he started an art gallery with Peggy and sold the finest antiques and artifacts to famous stars like Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Michael Douglas. Since he had been always been interested in history and the outdoors, Fenn acquired lands surrounding Sante Fe where he digs for artifacts and excavates Native American historical sites to this day. Forrest Fenn has lived a life jam-packed with adventure, and he wants you to enjoy the same thrill and excitement that he has experienced throughout his life. According to Fenn, that's one of the reasons he hid the treasure in the first place.
“We have a problem in this country with our youth; obesity, drive-by shootings, disrespect and much more,” says Fenn. “I would like get those kids out of the game room, off the couch and out where they can smell the sunshine.” Mr. Fenn's goal is certainly being realized as thousands of people, families included, have headed to the area looking for some good old-fashioned adventure — and riches.
According to the Huffington Post, Fenn may have also been influenced by a cancer diagnosis he received over 20 years ago. After being forced to accept the possibility of his own death, could he have hidden the treasure as a final act of defiance against his own mortality? It's more than possible. However, only he knows the entirety of his intentions. Of course, Forrest Fenn didn't die and is very much alive and well. However, at 82 years old, Fenn says that he no longer sees death as the big deal he once thought it was. In fact, the decorated veteran now describes it as “the ultimate adventure.”
Is the treasure really out there?
When I asked for his thoughts on those who doubt his story, Fenn says that he doesn't try hard to convince anyone. “It's in their genes.”
“I have received more than 18,000 emails and only three doubt that my treasure story is real, and each of them went to a place where they KNEW the treasure was, and it wasn't. They blamed me for it not being there for them.” Fenn remains adamant that his treasure will stay hidden until someone figures out the clues in his book and finds it. “It is not easy to find but it certainly is not impossible,” says Fenn. Although he doesn't give away any more clues than necessary, Fenn says that the treasure is hidden in a place that “is dear to him.”
Strike it rich
Although thousands of treasure hunters have descended on the area, no one has been able to locate the treasure so far. However, Forrest Fenn hopes that it's found by someone who works hard to decipher the clues that he lovingly prepared for them. “The person who finds the treasure will be the one who solved the clues in my poem and walked to it,” he says. “No one will happen onto it. My hope is that whoever deserves it through his efforts will be the finder.”
Until then, treasure seekers still wanting to give it a shot should focus on solving the clues he's provided in his memoir. Additionally, Forrest plans on revealing a new clue on the Today show every month, although he doesn't know when that will end.
When asked for tips, Fenn suggested that treasure seekers study his book and the his poem, “Where the Treasure Lies,” which was written to provide clues. “Here is what I would do,” says Forrest. “Read my book in a normal manner. Then read the poem over and over and over, slowly, thinking. Then read my book again, this time looking for subtle hints that will help solve the clues.”
Where the Treasure Lies By Forrest Fenn
As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.
Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk,
Put in below the home of Brown.
From there it's no place for the meek,
The end is ever drawing nigh;
There'll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and water high.
If you've been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.
So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know,
I've done it tired, and now I'm weak.
So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold.
If you are brave and in the wood
I give you title to the gold.