Hidden Rocky Mountain treasure chest found after decade-long hunt

Forrest Fenn's treasure chest is shown in this 2010 photo. The Thrill of the Chase/Facebook

Forrest Fenn‘s secret treasure chest has been found.

The accomplished New Mexico art dealer, 89, revealed on Sunday that someone has finally found the treasure trove he hid in the Rocky Mountains over a decade ago, ending a lengthy quest that had became an obsession for some, a lawsuit-worthy frustration for others — and an indirect cause of death for an unlucky few.

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“The search is over!” Fenn wrote on his website, the Old Santa Fe Trading Co., on Sunday. “It was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than 10 years ago.”

He told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the successful treasure-hunter was “from back East,” and that he didn’t want to be publicly identified. The man sent Fenn a photo of the treasure to confirm that he’d found it.

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In this file photo, Forrest Fenn sits in his home in Santa Fe, N.M., on Friday, March 22, 2013. AP Photo/Jeri Clausing

Fenn originally stuffed a 13th-century bronze treasure chest with US$1-2 million worth of gold, jewelry and gems, then placed it somewhere in the mountains north of Santa Fe in 2009 or 2010. He posted clues about the treasure chest’s location online and included hints about its location in a 24-line poem included with his autobiography, The Thrill of the Chase. 

The treasure trove became an internet obsession for many people, and an estimated 35,000 bounty-hunters set out to look for it in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, which share borders in the mountain region where it was hidden.

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He says the real purpose of the treasure hunt was to encourage people to explore the wilderness through an old-fashioned adventure.

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However, the search for Fenn’s fortune generated plenty of misfortune on its own. At least four people died after suffering mishaps in the wilderness over the last decade while chasing down his clues.

New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas urged Fenn to stop the contest following one such death in 2017.

Click to play video: 'Authorities issue warning after New Mexico treasure hunt leads to death' Authorities issue warning after New Mexico treasure hunt leads to death
Authorities issue warning after New Mexico treasure hunt leads to death – Jun 22, 2017

A handful of people have also unsuccessfully sued Fenn, claiming that his clues were fraudulent, that he had somehow deprived them of the million-dollar prize or that they should be paid out for “solving” the hunt, without actually finding the chest. Others have broken into his home in hopes of finding clues to the chest’s location.

Barbara Andersen, of Chicago, told the New Mexican that she had solved Fenn’s treasure hunt, but that she’d been “hacked” by whoever found it. She said she’s filing an injunction in court over the incident.

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“He stole my solve,” Andersen told the paper. “He followed me and cheated me to get the chest.”

Fenn did not say where the man found the chest, “but the poem in my book led him to the precise spot.”

Here is the full text of the poem that led to the treasure:

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 is no place for the meek.
The end is ever drawing nigh;
There’ll be no puddle 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 congratulated the thousands who tried to find his treasure, and said he hopes they will continue to be “drawn by the promise of other discoveries.”

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He says he’ll share photos and more information about the discovery in the days ahead.

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