“The treasure has been found,” wrote Forrest Fenn, in a June 6 post on a popular site dedicated to the ever-widening search for the eccentric collector’s storied cache. A brief 100 words offered an anticlimactic ending to a controversial hunt that spanned the Rocky Mountains across four states.
In 2009, the retired Santa Fe, NM, antiquities collector claimed he hid a treasure worth around $2 million. Fenn published a book with a poem containing nine clues leading to the spot. Over the next decade, thousands of amateur sleuths joined an increasingly chaotic chase, which led to dozens of rescues and five known deaths.
In a Santa Fe New Mexican article on June 7, Fenn stated the successful searcher was a man from “back East” who wished to remain anonymous. He’d confirmed the discovery by sending a photo to Fenn, who declined to share the photo for the article.
Meanwhile, skeptical observers wondered about a hoax. Perhaps Fenn retrieved the treasure himself or there never was a treasure in the first place? Under scrutiny for years, which was magnified due to the coronavirus pandemic, Fenn had been asked by regional authorities to end the hunt. Fenn consistently declined, explaining it would be unfair to responsible searchers, many of whom had invested thousands of dollars and hours.
On June 16, Fenn posted a cryptic update to his original post, explaining the finder did not want the location disclosed. Three photos were included with captions. One photo (pictured above) shows a dirt-encrusted bronze chest, resting in pine needles and grass, “taken not long after it was discovered.” Inside were gold coins and other jewels. A second photo shows Fenn in a conference room wearing a tarnished silver and turquoise bracelet, stating, “the bracelet on my arm was wet when found.” A third photo (below) shows Fenn unpacking the chest contents on a table.
Forest Fenn / Dal Neitzel
Reactions to the limited information have been varied, with some enthusiasts defending Fenn for protecting the alleged finder’s anonymity, possibly to avoid federal confiscation. Others pointed out the massive tax burden the finder now faces. Disappointed commenters criticized Fenn or expressed distress at not learning the mysterious location they’d sought for years.
Hunting for Treasure