A treasure, placed 7 years ago by Forrest Fenn, has left us with four dead bodies and more questions rather than answers. The 87-year-old former Vietnam pilot fighter and art dealer claims to have placed a treasure box worth a million dollars a thousand miles between Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Canadian Border, and left a series of cryptic clues pointing to its location. With the collected clues, as many as 350,000 people have gone out looking after the golden box, some even relocating their homes and making it their full-time job. “No one knows where that treasure chest is but me,” Fenn said in 2016. “If I die tomorrow, the knowledge of that location goes in the coffin with me.”
Fenn was a sophisticated character himself. In the summer of 1998, he was informed by his doctor that he had a tumour growing on his right kidney. His father had passed away two years prior due to cancer as well. The thought of slowly fading away just like his father, as his life became more of a chore than a responsibility, sounded dark and depressing.
“Dying is something I want to do by myself. I don’t need any help. I don’t want somebody holding my hand, everybody’s crying.”, he said. After hearing the horrifying news, Fenn decided to have a biography written about him, discussing his life story, being shot down F-100 over Laos and his relationship with his father, which would, later on, have an “Indiana Jones” twist on it. The cryptic codes would eventually reveal that the treasure is hidden somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, buried next to his father.
Fenn placed a variety of shiny, and expensive valuables in the treasure chest: were placed in there. 256 American gold coins, nuggets and gold dust; ancient Chinese jade faces, silver bracelets, an antique golden coat, and his twenty-thousand-word autobiography. The chest’s contents are estimated to be worth over one million dollars.
Fortunately for Fenn and his family, his cancer was conquered. However, the idea of a treasure hunt still appealed to him, and he contemplated it for the next twenty years.
Then, in 2010, without telling his wife, Forrest Fenn buried his treasure. Immediately a memoir was released containing a poem that supposedly has few clues that could lead one to the treasure.
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 night 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. As I have gone alone in there
Within the arcane poem lies nine clues, according to Fenn, which upon understanding, leads you to the danger-filled terrain, where you will come across the square hidden box.
The challenge has caught the attention of over 350,000 adventurous, treasure hunters from all over the world. Blogs, chats group, and teams have been created by the hunters, as they help each other get one step closer to the treasure. The slippery rocks, deep trenches and dangerous wildlife is are no deterrent for the adrenaline-seeking adventurers. The thought of life-changing money made some hunters devote their life to this hunt, some even moving to the New Mexico area for better access to the treasure.
However, the level of commitment has not only gotten people closer to changing their life but has also taken the lives of four Fenn Treasure Hunters in terrifying accidents. The deaths were caused mainly by the fall of people due to the deep thick forests and the slippery rocks and some getting lost in the dark deep layers of the trees and bushes. 54-year-old, Randy Bilyeu went missing as he headed into New Mexico. Bilyeu wrote a brief, chilling email to Fenn stating, “I will find your treasure or die trying.” Four months later, Bilyeu remains were found in Taos, New Mexico. Jeff Murphy and Eric Ashby are also the victims behind the deadly curse of Fenn’s Treasure, both being stranded alone as they took on the challenging hunt.
Feeling partly guilty for the deaths, Fenn has emphasized safety for treasure hunters. “Anyone who goes into the mountains should be prepared, use a GPS and always be aware of possible dangers,” he noted, “Many people don’t have experience hiking in the mountains, but that doesn’t mean they should stay at home. Just be careful and don’t get overextended.” “Life is too short to wear both a belt and suspenders,” he told the New York Times last year. “If someone drowns in the swimming pool we shouldn’t drain the pool, we should teach people to swim.”
Forrest Fenn has created a deadly game that is still undiscovered until this day. Has somebody already found it without informing the world? Are there more dead bodies to be found? Is there even a treasure or could this be a big hoax? People are literally dying to know.
With all the clues and tragic incidents, the hunt has introduced a new challenge: “try not to die.”
Image Credit: ArtStation