An eccentric art dealer places USD$2 million of gold, precious gems and ancient artefacts inside a treasure chest and hides it somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. The only clue to its whereabouts: a cryptic 24-line poem. It sounds like the premise of an especially dubious Nicolas Cage film, but Forrest Fenn has sent thousands of people into the wilderness in search of a fortune since kick-starting his real-life treasure-hunt eight years ago.
In 2010, the wealthy octogenarian published an autobiography in which he revealed that, after being diagnosed with cancer, he’d planned to die in the forest beside a chest of his most valuable possessions. Instead, he beat the disease and cemented his legacy by giving adventurous souls the chance to strike gold in the mountains – but only if they could decipher his clues. He says he felt compelled to “give the kids something to do”.
“They spend too much time in the game room or playing with their little handheld texting machines,” he told Business Insider. “I hope parents will take their children camping and hiking in the Rocky Mountains. I hope they will fish, look for fossils, turn rotten logs over to see what's under them and look for my treasure."
The loot is still out there somewhere – Fenn has resisted pressure to call off the hunt despite four people having died in accidents while searching. Even his wife doesn’t know where the treasure is. “If I die tomorrow, the knowledge of that location goes in the coffin with me,” he told NPR.
Image credit: Steve Wilson and Michael Gerard Santos Ceralde