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Hidden Treasure Chest Worth $1 Million Found Deep in the Rockies

Steve Palace
Buried treasure

Forrest Fenn’s $1 million hidden treasure has finally been found in the Rockies. Fenn is a war veteran turned millionaire art dealer in New Mexico who started an old-fashioned treasure hunt back in 2010. The finder, who wishes to remain anonymous, is described by Fenn as “a man from Back East”. Photographic evidence has apparently been provided.

News was broken by the treasure master himself over the weekend, via Dal Neitzel’s Thrill of the Chase blog. “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” Fenn writes. “I do not know the person who found it, but the poem in my book led him to the precise spot.”

A 24 line poem containing 9 clues was published as part of his memoir, where the hunt was first announced. The Daily Mail writes, “Key elements mentioned in the poem are ‘warm waters halt,’ ‘the blaze,’ ‘canyon down’ and ‘home of Brown’ – all of which are open to interpretation by searchers, who have traced them to landmarks across Colorado, New Mexico, Montana and Wyoming.” In the years leading up to the discovery, Fenn stated the treasure was in the Rockies, 5,000 ft up between Santa Fe and the Canadian border.

“I congratulate the thousands of people who participated in the search and hope they will continue to be drawn by the promise of other discoveries” concluded Fenn, who promises more information “in the coming days”. The decade-long quest has proved both popular and controversial. How does Fenn feel now the saga has drawn to a close? Quoted by CBS Denver, he says “I feel halfway kind of glad, halfway kind of sad”.

Writing about the individual now in possession of the treasure, Forbes remarks “he’s a millionaire overnight—subject of course to appropriate taxation and pending lawsuits, including one against Fenn for ‘misleading clues.’”

Financial wrangling aside, what made Fenn set this unique challenge in the first place? In 1988 Fenn was diagnosed with cancer. Thinking his days were numbered, he conceived the idea of a hunt. His dream was realized in 2010 following recovery. Fenn hid (not buried) a 10 x 10 ” Romanesque box – worth $25,000 alone according to reports – in the great outdoors at the grand old age of 79. The endeavor took 2 trips, though was much longer in the planning.

According to CBS Denver, he “packed and repacked his treasure chest for more than a decade, sprinkling in gold dust and adding hundreds of rare gold coins and gold nuggets. Pre-Columbian animal figures went in, along with prehistoric ‘mirrors’ of hammered gold, ancient Chinese faces carved from jade and antique jewelry with rubies and emeralds.” The bounty weighed 22 lbs, in addition to the box’s 20 lbs. While valued at around $1 million, other sources say it’s possibly $2 million.

Though the hunt for the hidden treasure in the Rockies was like something out of a historical novel, Fenn had the modern age in mind when eventually hiding the chest. The Daily Mail mentions a 2018 interview, where he said “we were going into a recession – lots of people losing their jobs. I wanted to give some people hope… And secondly, we’re an overweight society – I think not only in this country, but the world. So I wanted to get the kids away from their electronic gadgets … and out into the sunshine, out into the mountains, hiking, fishing, picnicking – and anything but the couch.”

Together with his poem, Fenn would put clues online. He even had his own yearly festival named Fennboree, where the nuggets of information would be pored over. He estimates approx 350,000 people went looking, though some paid the ultimate price. Five died in total, most recently 58 year old Michael Sexson in March.

Randy Bilyeu’s body was found in 2016, 6 months after going missing during a search for the treasure. Ex-wife Linda has publicly criticized Fenn, thinking he made the story up and that her former husband died needlessly. New Mexico Police also wanted him to call off the hunt after the event. As reported by the Mail, Fenn responded: “It is tragic that Randy was lost, and I am especially sorry for his two grown daughters.” He stopped short of taking responsibility, adding: “Accidents can happen anywhere. Randy may have had a heart attack or otherwise become incapacitated.”

Commenting on Sexson’s end, an e-mail from Fenn to the Denver Post read “The winter Rockies can be mean and unforgiving. I feel so sorry for the family. I don’t know what else to say.” He has drawn attention to his age when the hunt began, stating “A 79 or 80 year old man went to that hiding place twice in one afternoon. There’s no point climbing up to the top of the mountain or hiking 20 miles looking for the treasure.”

Related Article: 2 Boys on Railroad Tracks Stumbled Upon a Treasure of American History

As the real world scratched its head over Fenn’s hidden treasure hunt in the Rockies, events inspired fictional thriller The Codex by Douglas Preston (2004). Documentary The Lure was released in 2017. This dramatic discovery seems to close the book on a colorful and controversial slice of American popular culture. Fans and critics alike are waiting to see who has claimed the fortune, and become the envy of the treasure-seeking community…