For fans of Forrest Fenn’s “The Thrill of the Chase” treasure hunt, it’s been a strange and frustrating year.
In 2010, Forrest Fenn hid a treasure chest full of gold and diamonds, purported to be worth millions, somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. The only clues offered — nine, to be specific — were hidden in his poem, “The Thrill of the Chase.”
After a decade of dissecting his poem, searching across a half-dozen states, engaging in hundreds (if not thousands!) of hours of brainstorming, deliberating, planning, and exploring, no one had found a thing.
And then, seemingly out of nowhere during the pandemic, Fenn announced on his website on June 6th that the treasure has been found. The hunt was over.
But there were no details. No revelation of the treasure’s location, no hint as to the lucky treasure hunter’s identity, nothing. The best we got was that he was from “back East.”
As you might expect, many would-be treasure hunters were disappointed, and more than a few cried foul, believing that either the announcement was a hoax, or the entire hunt had been a hoax. Doubters couldn’t decide if the treasure was never buried at all, was buried and then recovered later, or if the finder was an accomplice.
Weeks later, Fenn offered some photos — two of him examining the treasure and one of the treasure chest supposedly in situ, long exposed to the elements — which proved unconvincing to the doubters. If the photos of Fenn handling the treasure were taken after it was found, why did the finder bring the chest and treasure back to him?
It was all very confusing and more than a little suspicious.
Finally, more than a month after announcing that the treasure had been found, in response to many cries for him to reveal the solution and end the mystery for so many, Fenn revealed… the state in which the treasure had been found: Wyoming.
That answer satisfied some, particularly those whose solutions had pointed to other states, like New Mexico, Colorado, or Montana. But others remained upset. Understandably so. Wyoming is a pretty big state, after all.
Unfortunately, the hunt may truly be over, as Forrest Fenn passed away this week at the age of 90.
Fenn leaves behind a complicated legacy. Five deaths have been attributed to the treasure hunt, as well as numerous costly search-and-rescue operations (including one in the Grand Canyon!), several court cases, and even a break-in at Fenn’s house.
Beyond the treasure hunt, Fenn was also associated with federal investigations regarding antiquities and artifacts. In 2009, his home was raided by federal agents and several items seized. Fenn escaped charges, however.
Regardless, many hunters and admirers are in mourning, sending heartfelt messages in celebration of the man who enriched their lives with this curious endeavor.
But, once again, solvers have been left without a definitive solution. In an interview, Fenn claimed there is a way to verify that the chest was found even after he’d gone, but he didn’t specify how.
And now, his passing has reignited the doubters, who find the timing of everything all the more suspect. Exactly ten years after it was first hidden, the treasure is found by an unidentified seeker, a virtual ghost. Then a few months later, Fenn passes away.
[Image courtesy of The Santa Fe New Mexican.]
The idea that he wanted to end the hunt (or the hoax) before his passing does seem more plausible, given the timing. It’s especially notable given that he claimed on more than one occasion that his dream was to pass away BESIDE the treasure, and achieve immortality by being found with the treasure, as if we were an Egyptian pharaoh or something.
We don’t know if this is truly the end for “The Thrill of the Chase” and all those treasure hunters over the last decade.
What we do know is that an inventive and captivating figure brought his love of nature, the outdoors, and adventure to thousands of strangers through his treasure hunt. And whether it was real or fake, the magic of that puzzle, and the good times they had trying to solve it, can never be taken away from them.
Farewell, Forrest. Thank you for the mystery.