Forrest Fenn: An Interview

My autographed copy of "The Thrill of the Chase"

My autographed copy of “The Thrill of the Chase”

In one of my recent Get Rich Slowly staff posts, I wrote about Forrest Fenn and his memoir, The Thrill of the Chase.  My post, titled “Want to get rich quick?  Start looking for hidden treasure” included details about the treasure hunt currently taking place in the mountains north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It also included parts of my interview with the modern day “Indiana Jones.”  In case you haven’t heard about everything that’s going on, here are some basic details of the real-life adventure that is currently unfolding:

A Little Background on the Story

Ever since Forrest Fenn revealed that he had hidden a treasure chest worth an estimated $2 million in the mountains north of Santa Fe, much of America’s southwest has been in a frenzy. In fact, thousands of people have descended on the area, all of them hoping to strike it rich. If you watch the news, you may have heard about the eccentric millionaire who came up with the idea and sacrificed his own gold, collectibles and artifacts to bring his treasure hunt dream to fruition. You even may have heard about the best-selling memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, detailing his adventures and giving clues to the location of the treasure. Sound too good to be true? The modern-day Indiana Jones remains adamant that his story of hidden riches is 100 percent the real deal.

So, why would anyone give away millions of dollars of their hard-earned wealth? And beyond that, why would they hide it for someone else to find? The answers are as complex as the quirky millionaire himself. Funny, sarcastic, and always joking, Forrest Fenn has an overabundance of explanations as to why he did what he did.

Who is Forrest Fenn?

According to his memoir, Forrest was raised poor in Temple, Texas. Although his family never had much money, they spent their summers chasing adventures in Yellowstone National Park. Forrest never went to college. Instead, he married his high school sweetheart, Peggy Jean Proctor. According to his book, Forrest soon joined the Air Force where he encountered the greatest adventures of his lifetime. During his stint as a fighter pilot the war in southeast Asia, his plane was shot down twice — once in Vietnam and once in Laos. His military records tell the story of a decorated war hero who earned a Silver Star, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Bronze Star, 16 Air Medals, and a Purple Heart.

After retiring from the Air Force in 1970, Forrest Fenn moved to Santa Fe, N.M.,  hoping to start a new life. With little experience, he started an art gallery with Peggy and sold the finest antiques and artifacts to famous stars like Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Michael Douglas. Since he had been always been interested in history and the outdoors, Fenn acquired lands surrounding Sante Fe where he digs for artifacts and excavates Native American historical sites to this day. Forrest Fenn has lived a life jam-packed with adventure, and he wants you to enjoy the same thrill and excitement that he has experienced throughout his life. According to Fenn, that’s one of the reasons he hid the treasure in the first place.

Get Rich Slowly, June 27, 2013

Mr. Fenn also wrote a cryptic poem that includes hidden clues about the treasure’s whereabouts.  Tens of thousands of people have studied every word of it in the hopes of finding some hidden meaning or translation that will lead them to the treasure.

Where the Treasure Lies By Forrest Fenn

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.

For the interview, Mr. Fenn said that he would answer five questions.  Since then, we’ve exchanged some emails and I’ve found that he’s quite a character.  He also mailed me a copy of his memoir, The Thrill of the Chase.  (For additional resources, make sure to check out Dal Neitzel.com, a blog completely dedicated to the search for the treasure)

Five Questions with Forrest Fenn

Holly: I’ve  read that one of the reasons you hid the treasure was to encourage people,  especially kids, to get outdoors and look for adventure.  Is that  true?  If so, can you elaborate on that?

Forrest: We have a problem in this country with our  youth; obesity, drive by shootings, disrespect and much more. I would like get  those kids out of the game room, off the couch and out where they can smell the  sunshine. The teens today will be our leaders in 15 years and we as a country  are not preparing them adequately for that day

Holly: Some people have been skeptical about whether you actually hid a treasure in  Santa Fe.  What would you say to those people?

Forrest: Whatever I say to those people will not  satisfy them. It’s in their genes. I did hide the treasure in a place that is  dear to me. I have received more than 18,000 emails and only three doubt that my  treasure story is real, and each of them went to a place where they KNEW the  treasure was, and it wasn’t. They blamed me for it not being there for them. It  is not easy to find but it certainly is not impossible. Early on a reporter  asked me who my audience was for my book. I told her my audience was every  redneck in Texas who has lost his job, has a wife and  twelve kids, a pickup truck and a sense for adventure. That’s  who.

Holly: What do you hope for the person who finds  this treasure?  Are you hoping that a particular type of person finds  it?  Do you hope it’s ever found?

Forrest: The person who finds the treasure will be  the one who solved the clues in my poem and walked to it. No one will happen  onto it. My hope is that whoever deserves it through his efforts will be the  finder.

Holly: You’ve been releasing clues.  Do  you plan on releasing any more in the coming months?

Forrest: The Today show wants me to give another clue  each month for a few more. I don’t know when that will end.

Holly: What tips do you  have for those wanting to find the treasure?

Forrest: Here is what I would do. Read my book in a  normal manner. Then read the poem over and over and over, slowly – thinking.  Then read my book again, this time looking for subtle hints that will help solve  the clues.

If you want to read more about The Thrill of the Chase, check out Forrest Fenn’s website, the Old Santa Fe Trading Co.  Also, check out our pictures from the treasure hunt on our other website, Travel Blue Book.

Have you guys heard about this before?  If so, what do you think about the hidden treasure?  Would you go looking for it if you had the chance?

If you want to read more about me and my financial journey, check out our About Us page by clicking here.

 

About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.

Comments

  1. Great story Holly! I like that he is actually willing to give up his money for the hope to get others outdoors and active. My wifey and I were talking about how people today are just rude, kids talk back and most people don’t bother with please, thank you or hold the door. I don’t doubt he has the money or hidden it. Not sure I would want to put myself through all the issues that come with the many who don’t find the treasure and believe it to be his fault though. some people are crazzzzzy!

  2. Definitely hadn’t heard about this, but it’s pretty cool. Definitely a much cooler way to spend a couple mill than some of the conventional methods. Looks like I’m off to Santa Fe!

  3. I have NOT heard about this before, but it sounds awesome! I’m not sure I could justify going after it, but it’s sounds like it would be a sweet opportunity for the right person.

  4. This is both insane and tons of fun. How did I never hear about this gentlemen before? I definitely want to give back to society when I feel comfortable and have the resources to do so, but this is pretty extreme. I just hope the treasure doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Just like in the Indiana Jones movies, there’s always a bad guy after the loot.

  5. I am with MMD on this, it’s crazy but downright fun! I loved his answer to your first question and anything that gets kids outside and doing things is a good thing in my book. Plus, you add in a little something to get their minds working on something and it’s even better. I just want to know how I haven’t heard of him or this treasure hunt before. ;)

    • I hadn’t heard about it until my brother told me. He goes on the Today Show to reveal a clue every month….but we don’t really watch TV so we definitely missed it!

  6. This is awesome, Holly! I’d never heard of this guy before. Thanks for an entertaining post. :-)

  7. How amazing! Who would have thought somebody would think of doing this. It’s a great idea and I hope it’s really working to get people outdoors, active, and searching.

  8. Count me among the skeptics–I’m willing to bet he didn’t hide $2M worth of treasure, but if it awakens people’s sense of adventure and they have fun, that’s great. :)

  9. I hope someone finds it while he’s still alive so mr fenn can enjoy it! =)

  10. Wow that is really freakin’ cool!!! And somewhat tempting…! :)

  11. I have not heard of this story, but I like the premise behind it. If I was in Santa Fe, I would look for it because it would be a cool adventure. Even if I didn’t find it, the experience would be something worth while.

  12. That’s pretty wild. I finally read the Davinci Code, so my sense of adventure is at a peek right now. So I’m thinking I would want to, but I’m sure I would get very frustrated very quickly.

    I agree with him that something needs to combat current activities that kids are involved in and searching for treasure could be one way.

  13. I’ve never heard of this, and I’m not that far from Santa Fe! I’m terrible with puzzles and clues, but I hope whoever finds it is someone deserving. I’d be afraid some jerk would get it if I’d been the one hiding my money. Although it would be cool to have enough money to be able to give it away.

  14. What a cool idea. I’d heard a story about this and I have to wonder what the net effect on all the people searching will be. By default, most of them will not find the treasure, but maybe they’ll still walk away happy for having participated in something so unique and for just giving it a go.

  15. How fun! I’ve been geocaching a couple of times, and it’s always a little thrilling to find the hidden “treasure” (usually a box with trinkets and stuff in it). Finding real treasure would be amazing!

  16. This is the coolest article I’ve read in a long time! I didn’t expect to come across my first article to include in my weekly Link Love so quickly – cheers!

  17. I hear about it on the news every once in a while. I hope someone finds it that is the type of person that he imagined would find it :)

  18. What a kind of generosity he has? I think the lessons here is not only to be active in outdoor activities and adventures but also to have smart strategy and hard works. To acquire wealth or treasure first, we have to plan our strategy. Then do all the hard works to achieve it.

  19. I love this! I feel like it’s something my future ecentric self would do.

  20. I think that is a fantastic idea, and he does seem like quite a character. If I lived nearby I think I’d spend a few weekends looking for it! BF had a similar idea, he wanted to spread some of his colonial coin collection in the lake so divers could go treasure hunting, I’ll tell him about the book.

  21. michael says:

    The guy in the pick-up truck will be too busy looking for a job to feed his twelve kids and wife. This will take time and money to hunt this out, so think and research before going anywhere.

  22. Judy Ms.Girl says:

    Yes My Mom, My Son and Myself ;were a group of the crazzys that went looking for it and found adventure for two weeks in NM. Had a blast and are from MS. My son wanted to see Mountains, have been to Alabama mountains before was not the same. I am telling our story soon and posting it on http://www.chasechat.com when I can sit down long enough to post it. Our small party of three went on a swinging suspension bridge over a river, saw and went down into the Rio Grande Gorge and went down trails, saw buffalo up close along with big buck deer, elk and even sheep. Taos is a major hub and the Oldest Church is San Fransisco De Asis Church in Taos it is beautiful but does not allow photos inside. We are still on the search along with Blog friends, Dal,Stephanie, and Jennifer. We hope to encourage others to take the Buffalo by the leg as they would say and get outdoors and enjoy life and what God has made and has to offer. Stop and Smell the Pines and walk along the mountain trails it renews your soul. Again thanks Mr. Fenn for this chance to Bond with family, get in shape and commune with God and Nature. We had the best adventure of our lives. Judy,Mama and Cole………:)

  23. Judy Ms.Girl says:

    Love your Story Holly Lots of great information along with some clues too. Judy

  24. I’ve heard about this before. I don’t think I’d ever invest the time and money to specifically look for treasure (unless I was just doing it for fun as part of a vacation).

    I’ll take treasure when I find it, but I suspect that I’ll build my fortune the hard way! *grin*

  25. You did the a great operate writing and revealing the hidden valuable features of

  26. Wow, thank you so much for posting this! It is gonna help when I drive to the casino next time! Very Outstanding!

  27. mentalist says:

    Remember everyone that the clues should not be taken literally in all cases and are up for interpretation. It’s not about what you think the words mean, it’s what Forrest Fenn wants you to think the words mean. He is using misdirection to direct people past one of the locations mentioned in his stories. You have to remember too that he is not a person that always adheres to social norms and has been known to bend the rules so you have to do the same where you see fit with clues, words in the poem, with the stories, everything. Remember he got kicked out of pompeii muliple times, grew up playing in yellowstone when there were few park rangers and had to decide for himself what was dangerous and what wasn’t, and he sold fake paintings and advertised they were fake so it was legal and people bought into the idea because he said they were the frauds if they liked the paintings and valued them only because they were famous. He has made a living off of buying things low, talking them up, getting publicity, and increasing demand to inflate the price. I interpret a creek as being a creek, gulch, trail, river, and other things and do that with other words in the poem so I wouldn’t rule out any area unnecessarily just because you think a clue or the poem rules them out. It’s hard to tell what another person is thinking. Forrest Fenn also said it wasn’t associated with a structure. That could mean it is not connected to a structure, it is not near a structure, but a structure or former structure could still be relevant to solving the riddle. For example, Forrest Fenn also said think 10,000 years—well that could be 10k years in the past or 10k years in the future. 10k years in the past or future it wouldn’t necessarily be associated with a structure even if it was today so you can only take that clue and the others with a grain of salt. I found a weird site called braveandinthewood.com that popped up in several places in search engines and it has a spinning arrow. If you look at the code it mentions things that implies direction is subject to interpretation so even the clue north of santa fe can’t be interpreted literally since some early spanish explorers referred to the atlantic ocean as the north sea and that direction was north and the direction of california was south. The only clues I take literally as facts are things like higher than 5,000 feet, the search area and faintedregions on the map since Forrest said even those couldn’t be ruled out, and other things that definitely can’t be left to interpretation. Mostly I throw out the poem and explore areas mentioned in his book because then you are guaranteed to pick up his trail at some point. Areas in yellowstone, west yellowstone, new mexico in all directions from santa fe since he has invited everyone to santa fe multiple times for gatherings at the hotel (keyword that was mentioned in another weird site via an audio clip at wherewarmwatershalt.com).

    In order to locate what can’t be found, you have to search where nobody else is looking and where Forrest Fenn doesn’t intend people to search. In other words, if you are only searching in the areas you are being directed to by Forrest Fenn, you will never find it. So where is nobody searching? Private property! That is the biggest question he has been evading–whether or not it is hidden on public property. He refuses to answer this one because it is too big of a clue. Why? Most of the search area is public property since the government owns the majortity of land in the rocky mountains about 5000 feet and there are many public spaces like national forests where he could legally burry it or legally drop it in the water, hide it brush, etc. Everyone is searching public property because they assume that is where he hid it and that is why Forrest Fenn is scared to answer that question and why it’s too important of a question. That should tell us all it is not on public property at all and is precisely why nobody will ever find it except the property owners or people willing to break the law to get it which I’m not going to do.

    The treasure is hidden on private property otherwise Forrest Fenn would answer that simple question. You are wasting your time if you are searching public property.

  28. mentalist says:

    Remember everyone that the clues should not be taken literally in all cases and are up for interpretation. It’s not about what you think the words mean, it’s what Forrest Fenn wants you to think the words mean. He is using misdirection to direct people past one of the locations mentioned in his stories. You have to remember too that he is not a person that always adheres to social norms and has been known to bend the rules so you have to do the same where you see fit with clues, words in the poem, with the stories, everything. Remember he got kicked out of pompeii muliple times, grew up playing in yellowstone when there were few park rangers and had to decide for himself what was dangerous and what wasn’t, and he sold fake paintings and advertised they were fake so it was legal and people bought into the idea because he said they were the frauds if they liked the paintings and valued them only because they were famous. He has made a living off of buying things low, talking them up, getting publicity, and increasing demand to inflate the price. I interpret a creek as being a creek, gulch, trail, river, and other things and do that with other words in the poem so I wouldn’t rule out any area unnecessarily just because you think a clue or the poem rules them out. It’s hard to tell what another person is thinking. Forrest Fenn also said it wasn’t associated with a structure. That could mean it is not connected to a structure, it is not near a structure, but a structure or former structure could still be relevant to solving the riddle. For example, Forrest Fenn also said think 10,000 years—well that could be 10k years in the past or 10k years in the future. 10k years in the past or future it wouldn’t necessarily be associated with a structure even if it was today so you can only take that clue and the others with a grain of salt. I found a weird site called braveandinthewood.com that popped up in several places in search engines and it has a spinning arrow. If you look at the code it mentions things that implies direction is subject to interpretation so even the clue north of santa fe can’t be interpreted literally since some early spanish explorers referred to the atlantic ocean as the north sea and that direction was north and the direction of california was south. The only clues I take literally as facts are things like higher than 5,000 feet, the search area and faintedregions on the map since Forrest said even those couldn’t be ruled out, and other things that definitely can’t be left to interpretation. Mostly I throw out the poem and explore areas mentioned in his book because then you are guaranteed to pick up his trail at some point. Areas in yellowstone, west yellowstone, new mexico in all directions from santa fe since he has invited everyone to santa fe multiple times for gatherings at the hotel (keyword that was mentioned in another weird site via an audio clip at wherewarmwatershalt.com).

    In order to locate what can’t be found, you have to search where nobody else is looking and where Forrest Fenn doesn’t intend people to search. In other words, if you are only searching in the areas you are being directed to by Forrest Fenn, you will never find it. So where is nobody searching? Private property! That is the biggest question he has been evading–whether or not it is hidden on public property. He refuses to answer this one because it is too big of a clue. Why? Most of the search area is public property since the government owns the majortity of land in the rocky mountains about 5000 feet and there are many public spaces like national forests where he could legally burry it or legally drop it in the water, hide it brush, etc. Everyone is searching public property because they assume that is where he hid it and that is why Forrest Fenn is scared to answer that question and why it’s too important of a question. That should tell us all it is not on public property at all and is precisely why nobody will ever find it except the property owners or people willing to break the law to get it which I’m not going to do.

    The treasure is hidden on private property otherwise Forrest Fenn would answer that simple question. This is the most simple question Forrest should have no problem answering, that is if it is on public property (which it isn’t). You are wasting your time if you are searching public property.

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