Rare is the treasure that somebody went out and hid just for the fun of it. Right at this very moment, Americans of every background are trying to find a king's ransom in the Rocky Mountains. Most of them won't succeed; no one has thus far. Still, a few explorers have come tantalizingly close to the bounty that they seek without even knowing it.
Forrest Fenn is a millionaire Vietnam veteran and a dealer of artifacts. In 1988, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer and told his days were numbered. However, Fenn didn't go gently into that good night. He's still alive and well today, but the cancer scare inspired him to do something rather outlandish.
In 2010, Fenn filled a bronze chest with hundreds of golden coins and nuggets. Altogether, the items are worth between $1 million and $5 million. He then proceeded to hide the loot somewhere in the Rockies.
Clues regarding the chest's location were hidden within a cryptic poem in "The Thrill of the Chase," Fenn's self-published memoir. Once the book came out, it was off to the races. In an interview with ABC's "Nightline," Fenn guessed that roughly 350,000 people have gone looking for the treasure. And in 2017, he acknowledged some close calls. At a presentation in the Santa Fe Center for Contemporary Arts, Fenn said that a few participants in the hunt unwittingly ventured within 200 feet (61 meters) of the chest.
He insists that the treasure isn't hiding in a dangerous spot. Nevertheless, at least four explorers have died while pursuing it. Last year, the New Mexico State Police chief asked him to call the whole thing off. As of right now though, the booty's still at large.
(If you're interested in reading more about Fenn's treasure, you might like this HowStuffWorks story on it, too: "Are People Dying to Find Fenn's Treasure?")
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With a poem published in 2010, Forrest Fenn started a treasure hunt. Follow the trail with HowStuffWorks.