Monday 27 January 2020

Eccentric's €1.6m treasure hunt could last for 1,000 years

It's still out there: Forrest Fenn’s treasure chest
It's still out there: Forrest Fenn’s treasure chest

Chris Bayne

An eccentric art dealer who claims to have hidden treasure worth millions of dollars in the Rocky Mountains in the US says 350,000 people have tried and failed to find the riches. Forrest Fenn (87) warned it could be "1,000 years from now" before hunters discover the whereabouts of the chest filled with gold nuggets and precious gems.

He revealed in 2010 that he had concealed the bounty somewhere in the 3,000-mile mountain range, and in a subsequent memoir, he published a map and a poem said to contain nine clues about the location.

Four men have died looking for the treasure, thought to be worth about €1.6m.

Fenn, a former US Air Force pilot and art gallery owner, is bombarded with hundreds of emails a day from people fishing for clues.

The millionaire estimates as many as 350,000 have gone hunting for the fortune, but said he had no way of knowing how close they had come to discovering it. "It could be found soon or 1,000 years from now," he told CNBC.

Fenn, whose gallery in the New Mexico city of Santa Fe, attracted frequent visits from celebrities in the 1970s and 1980s, initially planned to bury himself with the treasure when he was diagnosed with cancer in 1988. But after he recovered, he conceived the treasure hunt and dropped clues in a 24-line poem in his self-published memoir The Thrill of the Chase. He said the popularity of the search "has been successful beyond my wildest dreams".

However, police have accused Fenn of putting lives at risk. Last July, the body of 31-year-old Eric Ashby was pulled from Colorado's Arkansas River after his raft overturned. His family said he had moved to the state a year earlier to look for Fenn's bounty. Three other deaths have been linked to the search for the treasure.

Fenn said his main motivation for setting the challenge was to encourage families to spend more time outdoors. "Kids spend too much time in the game room or playing with their little hand-held texting machine," he said.



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