In 2010, Forrest Fenn, a successful art
"No one knows where that treasure chest is but me," Fenn told NPR. "If I die tomorrow, the knowledge of that location goes in the coffin with me."
Thousands have gone searching for Fenn's treasure that he hid during the Great Recession as a way to get people off their couches and into nature. While nobody has found it, two people have died in the pursuit of the treasure.
Fenn estimates he hid $2 million worth of gold and gems in this bronze box.
On June 18, 2017, authorities in New Mexico found a body in the Rio Grande River that they believe belongs to Paris Wallace, a 52-year-old pastor from Colorado, NBC News reports. While a positive identification hasn't been made yet, officers believe the recovered body is Wallace, whose family reported him missing last week after he went in search of the treasure.
While Pete Kassetas, chief of the New Mexico State Police, has called on Fenn to call off his treasure hunt, Fenn says he has no plans to end it.
"It is always tragic when someone dies, and this latest loss hit me very hard," Fenn told The New York Times in response to questions about Wallace's death.
"Life is too short to wear both a belt and suspenders," he said. "If someone drowns in the swimming pool we shouldn't drain the pool, we should teach people to swim."
In January 2016, Randy Bilyeu, a 54-year-old grandfather, went missing in the New Mexico wilderness while searching for the treasure. While his car, raft, and dog were found a few days later, his skeletal remains were found near the Rio Grande last summer.
"We don't want to get anybody else lost. Be prepared. Take a GPS. Take at least one other person with you. And wait [until] the snow and the ice melt," Fenn told NPR.
According to the New York Times, Fenn estimates that the bronze box could contain treasures worth nearly $2 million including "265 gold coins, hundreds of gold nuggets, hundreds of rubies, eight emeralds, two Ceylon sapphires, many diamonds, two ancient Chinese jade carvings, pre-Columbian gold bracelets and fetishes, and more." The box itself measures 10x10 inches and weighs about 40 pounds with the treasure inside.
So far, Fenn has revealed several clues in a poem in his self-published book, The Thrill of the Chase, including these three important hints:
- It's hidden in the Rocky Mountains between Santa Fe and the Canadian border.
- You can find it at an elevation
- The box is not in a graveyard, a mine or near any structure.
While some question whether or not the treasure is a hoax, Fenn's friend Doug Preston says that he saw the bronze box filled with gold, emeralds, rubies and more before in Fenn's house before he hid it.
"The chest is gone. It's not in his house and it's not in his vault," Preston told NPR. "And also knowing Forrest for as long as I have, I can absolutely say with 100 percent confidence that he would never pull off a hoax. I'm absolutely sure that he hid that treasure chest."
As long as you take precautions, searching for the treasure can be a rewarding experience even if you don't find anything.
"I have actually seen some of the most spectacular scenery because of this that I never would've seen," Cynthia Meachum, a treasure hunter who has been out at least 60 times looking for the box, told NPR.
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.