For ten years, adventurers and puzzle fans have been hunting for a treasure hidden by US millionaire Forrest Fenn. As it seems, a person who wants to stay anonymous has now found it.

Yesterday, my co-author Elonka Dunin and I handed in the manuscript of our book Codebreaking: A Practical Guide, which will be published in November this year. If your looking for a nice Christmas present, consider this ground-breaking work.

A few hours before Elonka and I sent our files to the publishing company, I received an e-mail from Ralf Bülow, who made me aware of an article stating that Forrest Fenn’s infamous treasure has been found. Craig Bauer, Hias, and Dave Oranchak informed me about the same issue. Thanks to you all for your support.


Fenn’s treasure and poem

The Fenn treasure was one of my favorite topics in the early years of this blog. I published five articles about this story (in German), all of which proved extremely popular among my readers.

In 2018, I covered the Fenn treasure in an article about encrypted treasure descriptions. In my view, most of these stories are nonsense, especially the one about the Beale treasure, which was allegedly hidden by a buffalo hunter in the early 19th century. However, the Fenn treasure had in my view a good chance of being real.

Fenn (born 1931) is a retired art dealer and author who in 2010 claimed to have hidden a treasure worth over a million dollars somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. The location of the treasure could allegedly be derived from the following poem:

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 ever drawing 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.

This poem is not a cryptogram in the narrow sense, as it doesn’t represent the result of an encryption. However, it can be regarded as a puzzle, and it attracted the interest of many crypto enthusiasts.

When asked why he created the treasure hunt, Fenn said he “just wanted to give people some hope.”

Several people claimed to have found the Fenn treasure, but none of these ever provided any evidence supporting their claim. Four people are known to have died while searching for the treasure. As a consequence, New Mexico tried to pressure Fenn into ending the hunt, but to no avail.


Treasure found

According to the press reports my readers made me aware of, Forrest Fenn told the Santa Fe New Mexican that his treasure has now been found. Fenn was quoted: “The guy who found it does not want his name mentioned. He’s from back East.” A photograph the man sent to Fenn served as proof for his successfull hunt. Fenn did not reveal exactly where the treasure had been hidden.

Asked how he felt now that the treasure has been found, Fenn said: “I don’t know, I feel halfway kind of glad, halfway kind of sad because the chase is over.”

I hope, more information about the treasure and how it was found will be available soon.

Further reading: Solve a puzzle, find a treasure


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Kommentare (10)

  1. #1 Bill Briere
    Wyoming, USA
    9. Juni 2020

    14-21 August 2016: Jew-Lee and I spent our honeymoon touring the Rocky Mountains, while keeping an eye out for Forrest Fenn’s tiny treasure chest.

    We started in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Fenn’s hometown. As we swung through selected portions of the massive four-state search area, we sent him letters and postcards.

    The quest was much more than a treasure hunt to us. It meant sharing common interests, spending time together, and appreciating what we already had.

    We were chased out of one search area in Yellowstone by a raging forest fire. As we left the national park and headed east, Mother Nature reminded us that we were almost home: only in Wyoming could we be driving through a snowstorm in August.

    A little further down the road, we stopped to explore Jeffrey City, a ghost town in the middle of nowhere. A piece of paper on the ground caught my eye: it was a $100 bill—and a nice ending to our treasure hunt!

  2. #2 Christof Rieber
    9. Juni 2020

    I was in Montana, searching for it, pretty close I guess but it didn’t work out. Would love to know where it has been..

  3. #3 Seth k
    9. Juni 2020

    My solution was to put a GPS tracker on his car and/or track his phone then tell him I found the treasure so he’d go check on it.

  4. #4 Michael
    9. Juni 2020

    Ist das nicht großartig? Ein Millionär lässt einen Haufen armer Schweine übers Stöcken springen.

    BBC online:

    Thousands of people searched for it, many quitting their jobs and using up their savings. Four people died.

  5. #5 Hias
    9. Juni 2020

    So paradox es klingt, aber gerade die Fundmeldung lässt mich daran zweifeln, dass es den Schatz jemals gab. Es ist doch so, dass alle Informationen bezüglich des Schatzes nur von Forrest Fenn persönlich kamen. Die Geschichte von dem kranken Millionär der einen Schatz versteckte war noch glaubhaft dargestellt und ich muss zugeben auch versucht zu haben, die eine oder andere Textzeile zu interpretieren. Dass aber nun sogar der Fund nur durch Herrn Fenn bestätigt wurde hat einen seltsamen Beigeschmack. Bis dato gibt es weder Bilder vom bergen des Schatzes oder vom Versteck, noch wurde die richtige Lösung der Gedichtzeilen genannt. Nennt mich einen ungläubigen Thomas, aber durch die Art und Weise der nun veröffentlichten Informationen komme ich zu folgender Schlussfolgerung.
    Ein exzentrischer Millionär erlaubt sich einen Spaß und erfindet eine Schatzgeschichte. Jahre und leider auch einige zu Tode gekommene Schatzsucher später, möchte er die Geschichte beenden. Er berichtet, der Schatz wurde gefunden und es lägen ihm Beweise vor.
    Es würde mich nicht wundern, wenn in naher Zukunft der Schatz veräußert wird und zwar von Forrest Fenn persönlich. Natürlich im Auftrag des anonymen Finders.

  6. #6 CriCraCrux
    10. Juni 2020

    Etwas seltsam ist es schon, dass jetzt nach Ende dieser Schatzsuche vermutlich nicht einmal die korrekte Lösung des Rätsels bekannt gegeben wird. Als ich hier das erste Mal von dieser Geschichte gelesen habe, habe ich ja schon vermutet, dass es sich dabei eher um einen Hoax handelt. Ein alter Millionär, der zum Lebensende noch einmal etwas Aufmerksamkeit will und sich ein Denkmal über den Tod hinaus setzt.
    Vielleicht ist ihm dass jetzt doch zuviel geworden, oder er will seine Familie vor Spinnern schützen. Ich habe gelesen, dass schon ein paar mal Schatzsucher mit der Waffe in der Hand bei ihm geklingelt haben. Und wenn Forrest Fenn stirbt, gibt es niemanden mehr der diese Schatzsuche beenden könnte.
    Um auch nach dem Tod glaubwürdig zu bleiben, hätte er, so wie Max Valentin, die Lösung des Rätsels bei dem Juristen seines Vertrauens deponieren sollen.

  7. #7 Bill Briere
    Wyoming, USA
    24. Juli 2020

    Forrest Fenn confirmed yesterday: “[T]he treasure was found in Wyoming. … [It] had not moved in the 10 years since I left it there on the ground.”

    Although this brings closure to those who had previously thought that their own “almost solutions” in Montana, Colorado, or New Mexico were correct, Fenn has not yet given any additional information to narrow down the area within Wyoming—except for what he had already given us, in his poem.

  8. #8 David Oranchak
    1. August 2020

    So the only source for both the claimed existence of a treasure, and the claimed discovery of it, is Forrest Fenn? Is there any independent confirmation of any of his claims?

  9. #9 Bill Briere
    Wyoming, USA
    2. August 2020

    @David Oranchak: “Yes” to your first question, and “no” to your second.

    I’m sure Fenn is feeling some pressure to release the details of the exact location. The finder has put him in an awkward position. The best outcome would probably be for the finder himself to reveal the location and his identity. And I think that that will happen at some point.

    There’s a huge element of trust here, of course, but it’s not blind trust. For those of us who have read “The Thrill of the Chase” and “Too Far to Walk,” Fenn’s autobiographical works, that trust comes easily. His story is consistent with his character.

    When some less-sensible treasure hunters have found themselves in trouble, he has launched search-and-rescue operations at his own expense. He has been very accessible to his fans and the media. Many knew and respected him long before the treasure.

    Dave, if someone like yourself were to announce a game or a cipher challenge here with a prize, I would have no reason to question it. There are, however, other treasure hunts and cipher stories that are sketchy to say the least. I think it’s fairly easy to detect most of the legitimate ones and most of the phony ones.

  10. #10 David Oranchak
    3. August 2020

    @Bill Brier: That makes sense. Thanks.

    Trust but verify, as they say.

    I wonder how the poem was meant to be interpreted. Fenn is protecting the identity of the treasure finder. But what’s stopping him from revealing some or all of the correct interpretation of the poem?