Buried treasure: too good to be true? Probably, but that doesn’t stop people from risking it all to find out. Some people even put their lives on the line in the hopes of free money for the taking. That often means that the most enticing treasures can be incredibly deadly. Take, for instance, the Fenn Treasure. Allegedly, wealthy art dealer Forrest Fenn has hidden over $1 million worth of riches, allegedly in the Rocky Mountains… and at least four people have died looking for it. The kicker? Fenn is still alive, probably thoroughly enjoying watching the drama unfold.


Who is Forrest Fenn?

Forrest Fenn was a Major in the US Air Force, earning a Silver Star for flying 328 missions in Vietnam. After he retired from the service, he opened an art gallery with Rex Arrowsmith. The Arrowsmith-Fenn Gallery was known for buying sculptures from struggling artists to cast in bronze, and for openly selling forgeries of Monet and Degas pieces. The Gallery also sold artifacts as well as art. Eventually, it became Fenn Galleries and it sold to Nedra Matteucci.


In 1988, Fenn was diagnosed with cancer. During the illness, Fenn came up with the idea of hiding a treasure of gold nuggets, rare coins, jewelry and gemstones, along with his autobiography. His ultimate plan was to hide it and end his life somewhere nearby (which, that makes it way too easy to find the treasure, IMO). He wound up beating cancer before he got around to executing the plan. But, the idea of hiding a treasure stuck with him. He ran into a bit of trouble with the FBI, as he was suspected of violating federal antiquities laws. Even though the charges went nowhere, others involved in the case ended their lives because of it. When he was 79 or 80, during 2010 or so, he did eventually hide the Fenn Treasure. That’s what he says, at least.

The Fenn Treasure

Fenn claims the treasure is a 10-inch square box that contains about 40 pounds of gold, jewels, and more. He claims the reason he hid it was to cheer people up in the midst of the Great Recession. He wanted people to get off their couches, go outside… and to have something to hope for. Of course, he didn’t just chuck a treasure into the Rockies. He included a poem containing clues in his self-published book The Thrill of the Chase. Honestly, the treasure is a genius, if pricey, marketing plan for his book. Of course, there are people who are skeptical that he even hid a treasure in the first place as well. But, to those who believe, there’s no convincing.

via Flickr/Bradley Weber

The Poem and Hidden Clues

He says the poem contains 9 clues. There are some other obvious things we can deduce and he’s given some other hints in interviews. But, to this day, 8 years later, the treasure remains up for grabs. Here’s the poem. If it doesn’t strike any inspiration, you can further research the hints Fenn has given in interviews. And, of course, join the active community of treasure hunters still searching for the multi-million dollar booty.

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.

Fenn claims that many searchers have come within 500 feet of the treasure, and some have even been within 200 feet of striking it rich. No wonder the hunt has captivated people to the point of obsession. It seems so close, yet so far away.


A deadly hunt

But seriously, please don’t just take off for the wilderness in search of riches. Four people have already lost their lives hunting for the Fenn Treasure. Randy Bilyeu was the first man to die, in 2016. In 2017, 53-year-old Jeff Murphy fell 500 feet down a slope in Yellowstone and died and Pastor Paris Wallace and Eric Ashby drowned, in the Rio Grande and Arkansas River respectively. Fenn’s response is merely that any kind of outdoor activity is dangerous, and that he doesn’t suggest doing anything without the proper gear and preparation. Keep in mind that the man was EIGHTY YEARS OLD when he hid the treasure… and even then, you can never be too careful.

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