For three years, Forrest Fenn’s 40-pound, multimillion-dollar treasure chest has remained undiscovered, hidden in an undisclosed location, presumably somewhere in the American West.
Fenn, 82, hid the chest in hopes that it would inspire Americans to turn off their televisions and go outdoors. The person who finds it will be rewarded with gold coins, diamonds, emeralds and other precious stones.
To date, Fenn has received almost 7,500 emails about the project. While some people have thanked him for his mission, others want help finding the treasure.
The only clues Fenn will give are in a poem in his self-published memoir The Thrill of the Chase. Within the text, there are nine hints at the location of the chest.
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 it’s no place for the meek,
The end is drawing ever nigh;
There’ll be no paddle 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 was likely inspired by his own experience as a treasure hunter. When he served in the Vietnam War as an Air Force Pilot, he would take his days off to search for artifacts. When he returned to Santa Fe in the 1970s, he opened a gallery and began a successful career as an art dealer.
Twenty years later, when doctors diagnosed Fenn with advanced kidney cancer, he became serious about leaving a legacy. With his limited time left, he created the treasure hunt.
"A big part of me is in that treasure chest," Fenn told TODAY. "I felt it go in as I closed the lid for the last time."
So far, no one has been able to find the treasure. With growing publicity, however, it’s likely that more and more people will begin the hunt.
Ironically, three years after his diagnosis, Fenn is now cancer free. However, he still enjoys watching people hunt for the treasure. He told TODAY that he’s “ambivalent” about someone finding the box, and that it’s about the thrill of the chase.