Forrest Fenn, the mastermind behind the famous hunt for hidden treasure somewhere in the Rocky Mountains of the American West, died on September 7 at the age of 90.
Fenn was an antiquities dealer and writer who lived and worked in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 2010 he published an autobiography that contained a poem with clues to the location of a chest filled with gold, jewels, and other valuable items that he had hidden. He told me he hid the treasure in order to inspire people to explore the wilderness and the beauty of the West and to experience some personal adventures.
At the height of the search, people quit their jobs, used their life savings, and even risked- or in some cases, lost their lives to find the hidden chest. They were tempted by the knowledge that within that chest were hidden hundreds of rare gold coins, gold nuggets, pre-Columbian animal figures, prehistoric “mirrors” of hammered gold, ancient Chinese faces in jade, antique jewelry adorned with emeralds and rubies. Law enforcement agents tried to persuade Fenn to call off the hunt, saying it was endangering people’s lives. Fenn always said it would not be fair to halt the hunt to the people that already spent so much time trying to locate the treasure.
As the hunt dragged on Fenn narrowed the scope, saying that the 18-kilo chest was not in a dangerous place or in one where an old man couldn’t drag it safely by himself.
In the past few months before he died Fenn announced that the treasure had been found, somewhere in Wyoming, but did not mention the name of the lucky winner.
Fenn grew up in Temple, Texas, and spent his summers in Yellowstone National Park. He was in the Air Force for over twenty years. After his service, he moved to Santa Fe, where he became one of that city’s most successful art gallery owners.