In 2010, Forrest Fenn revealed that he placed a treasure chest in the Rocky Mountains, sparking a decade long search for the hidden riches. Where did Fenn grow up and what is the story of the Fenn Treasure?
Forrest Fenn grew up in Temple, Texas. He owned the Arrowsmith-Fenn Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1986, after being diagnosed with cancer, he allegedly placed a chest of valuable items in a chest somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. This sparked a treasure hunt in the 2010s until Fenn claimed that the chest had been found in June 2020.
For more on Forrest Fenn and the story of his treasure chest, read on.
Forrest Fenn was born on August 22, 1930, and grew up in Temple, Texas. He served in the United States Air Force as a pilot and was awarded the Silver Star during the Vietnam War.
After retiring from the Air Force, Fenn co-founded the Arrowsmith-Fenn Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which he ran with his wife Peggy.
The gallery dealt in antiques, artifacts, and artwork of varying authenticity, allegedly grossing about $6 million per year.
He was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 1988 and told that his illness was likely terminal. Believing that he could die, Fenn apparently filled a chest with valuable items from his collection and placed it somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.
Fenn recovered and, in 2010, he self-published a collection of short stories about his life, “The Thrill of the Chase: A Memoir”. The book revealed that Fenn had hidden the chest of treasure somewhere “in the mountains north of Santa Fe”.
The stories were intended to hint at the chest’s location, as well as a poem containing nine clues that would assist any prospective treasure hunters.
After the publication of the book, a treasure hunt ensued along the length of the Rocky Mountains through Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. Fenn, fearing that he might be labeled a fraud, stated that he had not received any profit from the sales of his book.
Between 2016 and 2020, five people died as a result of their pursuit of the Fenn Treasure. Randy Bilyeu was found near the Rio Grande and his ex-wife Linda issued a statement that she believed Fenn’s treasure to be a hoax.
Jeff Murphy, Pastor Paris Wallace, Eric Ashby, and Michael Wayne Sexson had also ventured into the wilderness in pursuit of the treasure and lost their lives. Sexson had been accompanied by an unnamed male companion on his quest, who was rescued and made a recovery.
In 2017, Pete Kassetas, chief of the New Mexico State Police, urged Fenn to end the hunt and prevent any further loss of life. There were several other incidents of searchers causing damage to artifacts or the environment in their hunt for the treasure.
In June 2020, about a decade after he revealed its existence, Forrest Fenn posted online that the treasure had been found. He offered a description of the location but did not reveal the identity of the successful searcher.
After Fenn’s claim, the media took him at his word and reported that the mysterious treasure had been found but further information failed to materialize, leading some to question its truthfulness.
In response, Fenn posted images of himself with the chest shortly after its discovery. While these don’t necessarily confirm that the chest was found by the anonymous man, the images do confirm its existence.
There are many who believe Forrest Fenn’s treasure hunt to be legitimate and many others who believe it to be a hoax. After its alleged discovery, frustrated searchers who believed they had solved the mystery had to come to terms with the chest no longer being obtainable.
Forrest Fenn did reveal one definitive piece of the puzzle: that the chest was found somewhere in Wyoming.