It’s been a year of unraveling, one could say. A year where we do the big no-no of asking ourselves how things could possibly get weirder. After all, how could it get any worse?
It turns out, 2020 is not the year to test that question. After months of back and forths regarding an infamous treasure that was hidden in the Rocky Mountains, the treasure’s gatekeeper, Forrest Fenn, has died.
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, in early September, police concluded that the 90-year-old Santa Fe antique dealer died of natural causes in his home. Fenn, a military veteran and writer, attained a bit of a celebrity in this life, especially this year, because of a $2 million bronze treasure chest he hid somewhere in the Rockies. The cache was allegedly found earlier this year in June in Wyoming by an individual Fenn would not identify.
“Because I promised the finder I would not reveal who found it or where, I have remained mostly silent,” Fenn claimed on dalneitzel.com, his chronicler. “However, the finder understands how important some closure is for many searchers, so today he agreed that we should reveal that the treasure was found in Wyoming.”
Because Fenn was so tight-lipped over the details, some speculated whether the treasure was ever actually found. To push back, Fenn released photos of the cache.
“The finder wants me to remain silent and I always said the finder gets to make those two calls. Who and where,” Fenn wrote.
The chest, hidden by Fenn in 2010 in the Rocky Mountains, was apparently filled with gold and valuable antiques. For the last decade, more than 350,000 people have scoured the wilderness in search of it. Some of them have gone as far as to give up their jobs and spend their savings in search of the treasure. As many as five people are believed to have died.
In June, however, Fenn claimed that a man (who did not wish to be identified) discovered the chest. To confirm he had found the treasure, Fenn said the man sent him a photo of the chest. He claimed the man who found the cache was able to locate the treasure in the Rockies because of a poem Fenn had written in his 2010 memoir, “The Thrill of the Chase.” The poem apparently held clues as to the treasure’s whereabouts. Fenn wrote the poem to inspire people to go on a good ol’ fashioned adventure, and boy did they take him up on that offer.
For some, Fenn’s release of new details has confirmed the story’s authenticity while, for others, it’s only added to their doubts. Linda Bilyeu, the ex-wife of Randy Bilyeu, a Colorado man who died hunting for the treasure in 2016, is one such outspoken skeptic.
“I believe he never hid the treasure,” she told Westword. “He needed attention and this is how he got it. Fenn needed more attention, which is why he said the treasure has been found with ‘no proof.’”
Since Fenn first announced the buried treasure, the quest has drawn its fair share of controversy.
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, a Chicago attorney, Barbara Andersen, said she filed an injunction in federal District Court. She alleged that it was actually she who solved the case but a mysterious hacker stole her answers.
Another treasure hunter, Brian Erskine of Prescott, Ariz., filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court claiming that it was he who solved the mystery. Erskine believed the treasure was located in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, between Silverton and Ouray.
Fortunately or unfortunately, however, with this new twist to the story, we may never know the whole truth of what happened with the treasure of Forrest Fenn. Perhaps the alleged finder will come forward now that Fenn can no longer serve as their mouthpiece, but for many, however, this strange and deadly tale will remain unresolved.