|N/A - Consolidated quotes appearing throughout the article.||mostly American eagles and double eagles, hundreds of gold nuggets, some as large as chicken eggs, ancient Chinese carved jade figures, Pre-Columbian gold animal artifacts, lots of rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds and other things...no need to dig up old outhouses, the treasure is not associated with any structure....Somebody could find it tomorrow and it may not be found for a thousand years. I’m looking at the big picture. A lot of people who are searching for the treasure don’t see it the same way I do. I would love if someone found it tomorrow but if nobody found it for a hundred years, that’s okay with me too.|
|N/A - Consolidated quotes appearing throughout the article.||Mostly American eagles and double eagles, hundreds of gold nuggets, some as large as chicken eggs, ancient Chinese carved jade figures, Pre-Columbian gold animal artifacts, lots of rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds and other things... I wanted the monetary value to be a consideration for those who are looking for it, but mostly my motive was to get kids off the couch and away from their texting machines out in the mountains...I think it's out of control... Somebody could find it tomorrow and it may not be found for a thousand years. I'm looking at the big picture. A lot of people who are searching for the treasure don't see it the same way I do. I would love if someone found it tomorrow but if nobody found it for a hundred years, that's okay with me too.|
|N/A - Consolidated quotes appearing throughout the article.||No need to dig up the old outhouses, the treasure is not associated with any structure. The treasure is not in a graveyard. I know the treasure chest is wet. (265 gold coins) mostly American eagles and double eagles, hundreds of gold nuggets, some as large as chicken eggs, ancient Chinese carved jade figures, Pre-Columbian gold animal artifacts, lots of rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds and other things.|
|9292||5/29/2015||Richard Eeds Show|
|Link: Click Here
RICHARD EEDS: Really happy to have in studio with us now a man who’s a legend in Santa Fe. Never met him until he did come in today. I had my doubts whether he’d show up or not. I think he likes to mess with people a little bit. Forrest Fenn. Good morning. Can you hear me okay? Sounds good?
FENN: I can hear you just fine. And I can say that I’m your biggest fan. You know, 101.5 on your FM radio dial. We listened to you on the way over here today.
EEDS: Really. So now you’re the biggest fan? You say we. You brought your granddaughter Mika?
FENN: Yeah, granddaughter Mika. She’s just out of college. She’s trying to find out what she’s going to do.
EEDS: Texas Tech International Business graduate.
FENN: That’s right.
EEDS: Red Raider. Alright, Forrest Fenn. Best known probably for, I don’t know how long this has been going on. Five years maybe? The treasure hunt.
FENN: Going on about five years.
EEDS: Five years. And so now you’re internationally famous, but you’ve been a well-known business man, collector, you’ve been into all kinds of different things. You’ve been around Santa Fe for a long, long time.
FENN: Well, I moved to Santa Fe in 1972. Yeah, that’s a long time.
EEDS: It is a long time. Especially, uh, I mean, there’s been people here for four or five hundred years but, a lot of other people have just moved here in the past 10 or 15 years. What did you do? When you moved here in ‘72, what was the reason?
FENN: Well I was a fighter pilot in Vietnam and I had a hard tour. I was shot down twice. I took battle damage. I lost some roommates. I lost 22 pounds and didn’t even know it. I came home mentally tired, and physically tired. Santa Fe was the only place I knew where the world would stop and let me out. That was my image of Santa Fe at that time. I knew I wasn’t going to wear a watch or a coat and tie. So, Santa Fe was the place for me.
EEDS: How much injuries sustained in the crashes? In the plane crashes when you were shot down? Did you sustain physical injuries?
FENN: I was damaged a little bit when the helicopter pulled me up through the trees out of the jungle in Laos. Hurt my head some, and beat me up a little bit. But the first time I was shot down, I crash landed on a little helicopter strip in South Vietnam. I walked away from it. I’ve always said any landing you can walk away from is a good one. But in that case, any landing you could crawl away from was a good one.
EEDS: What were you flying jets or propellers?
FENN: I was flying an F-100C and D. It was jet. It held the world speed record when I first started flying that airplane.
EEDS: But only land-based. No carrier-based?
FENN: That’s right. I’m too smart for that.
EEDS: Yeah. So that kind of prompted you to move here. Where did you grow up? Where did you spend most of your childhood?
FENN: I was born and raised in Temple, Texas a little town between Waco and Austin.
EEDS: Okay. Probably under floodwaters today. They’re having tough times down there.
FENN: That’s a little bit south of there, but you know, I was a farm kid. We had cows and chickens and things. We had a good life. I was born in 1930. People were still riding horses in those days.
EEDS: True, yeah. Cars were too unreliable on the dirt roads.
FENN: That’s right.
EEDS: Horses were reliable. Went to town with a wagon.
FENN: That’s right. The livery stable was just a half mile from my house. I was always watching cowboys ride back and forth.
EEDS: Alright, Forrest Fenn is our guest. Forrest, you moved here in the ‘70s, as you said intending to recover, get over the war in Vietnam, and you knew you were going to have whatever kind of life you wanted. A slower life because of Santa Fe. What did you come here intending to do, or did you just come here looking for something?
FENN: Well I came here wanting to deal in luxuries. I didn’t know anything about art. I made terrible grades in high school and I never did go to college so, you know, I started at the bottom. I had a bunch of rules that I’d made for myself over the years. And one of my rules was that I don’t want to do anything where my best customer gives me $100. I want my best customer to give me a lot more than that and I didn’t know how to do that. I found my niche though in Santa Fe eventually. I built a gallery over on 1075 Paseo de Peralta just two blocks east of the capitol building and we started slow. My wife and I slept on the floor while we plastered the walls. It took a while. I had two, what I call major, shows and didn’t sell anything. Didn’t even sell a book. And I told myself I may have to go flip burgers or something. But I had a little money left, I said I’m going to spend this money advertising and if that doesn’t work, I’m going to slam the door and walk away. But it started working. Things started happening. I started playing Monopoly. Buying
EEDS: So you sold one painting, re-invest it. Grow
FENN: I sell one painting, take the money and buy a better painting. Sell that one, and then buy a better one.
EEDS: Mika, are you listening?
MIKA: I listen every day.
EEDS: Yeah. Sounds like a good business plan in general. Don’t... But for you, you don’t want to take anything less than $10,000 from your first customer right? But it’s a good plan. And it worked out right?
FENN: It worked out eventually. There are businesses where you
EEDS: What were you trying to show in the gallery anyway? Were you trying to show native art? Western art?
FENN: I wanted to sell old art because I didn’t want to argue with artists. I wanted to deal with dead ones. That was a wise move on my part.
EEDS: No negotiation necessary.
FENN: That’s right.
EEDS: Except with the buyer. And eventually, how big did the gallery become?
FENN: How big did the gallery become… Well I…
EEDS: Artists come to you? Or art came to you?
FENN: Art came to me. Yeah. The secret to having a successful art gallery is having something that everybody wants to buy from you. Anybody can sell a great painting, but not everybody can find a great painting to sell. So my job was to find great art to sell.
EEDS: But you were not great at school. How did you learn what was great art?
FENN: Well eventually the price had something to do with it.
EEDS: Yeah, ok. If it was expensive, it was good art.
FENN: But I was looking for names too and I… All that work started working for me after a while. One of the measurements, the way I measure my success was I never had to borrow money to make payroll. That was one of my rules. I don’t want to do that. And after two or three years, we were living off of accounts receivable, and, so I told myself, as long as I can do that. I never did want to borrow money because I figured the only way I could lose my business is if I owed money.
EEDS: If the bank took it from you.
EEDS: Sounds like a very interesting beginning. It was hard there for a while, right? Before you got the ball rolling?
FENN: I started at the bottom and you know, I’d go around to different galleries in town. Actually I was one of the first art galleries in town 1972 there was Market Jameson gallery and that was just about it. But I’d go around to some of the shops and see what they were doing. What could I learn? I remember I went into the Kachina Gallery up on Canyon Road. They sold kachina dolls and there were just 10 million kachina dolls they were everywhere. They had little signs there on the wall and it said, “If you touch it you bought it.” You were responsible for your kid. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. I feared for my life. So I learned from that. I went back to my gallery and I made a number of little signs that said, “Please touch, we are responsible.” So that’s how I learned the business. I never had a customer break anything. I had employees break some things. But how are you gonna buy a great piece of art if you’re not allowed to touch it? I don’t understand some of these… I think I had an advantage over some people because I never learned the rules of what made businesses fail.
EEDS: And you didn’t learn the bad habits, the bad rules of the galleries or the artists around town. You figured it out with what you believed in. Your own business philosophy.
FENN: That’s right. And another rule I had was that I’ll take your check for any amount of money. This guy bought an expensive painting from me. I think it was $275,000. He said, “How can I pay you for this?” I said, “I’ll take your check.” He said, “You’ll take my check?” I said, “Sure I’ll take your check.” So he pulled out his ID card to show me. I told him I don’t want to see that. I said, “I can look in your face.” And I was never sorry. I had two bad checks. One of them was for $25 for a book and I forgot what the other one was.
EEDS: Right. The $275,000 cashed. It cleared the bank?
FENN: It cleared the bank. And I owed most of it and I was hoping it would clear the bank.
EEDS: Our guest is Forrest Fenn. We’ll continue our conversation and get into how he started collecting and what he started collecting and we’ll talk about the treasure hunt. Is it real, or is it just, I don’t know, a metaphor? Seventeen minutes after ten o’clock this is KVSF 101.5 the Voice of Santa Fe. We stream worldwide from santafe.com. Podcasts are available by about noon, one o’clock. Whenever Gino gets around to it. Also santafe.com/richardeeds. We’ve made it a lot easier. Also, pictures of Forrest and little videos of Forrest also on our Facebook page or KVSF 101.5. Be back right after this. Seventeen minutes after ten o’clock.
EEDS: Twenty minutes after ten o’clock it is Friday - means blues. We play the blues on Friday. Beautiful day in Santa Fe so far. Wind is picking up, and clouds are moving in a little bit, but it’s going to be about 80 today. Already in the mid-60’s. Should be a nice weekend as well. Guests in the studio is Forrest Fenn and his granddaughter Mika and we just learned that Forrest is looking for stuff. He not only likes stuff, but he’s looking for stuff. If anybody knows where he can buy a 1935 Plymouth. Now is it the two door or four door?
FENN: Well the one I had was a two-door. Very interestingly, the difference between a deluxe 1935 Plymouth and the second rate car is on the deluxe it has windshield wipers on both sides and it has a sun visor not just on the driver’s side but on both sides.
EEDS: Made it deluxe.
FENN: That’s right.
EEDS: Had two of each. But you would like to buy one if you can find the right one. Is this because this was the first car you had and when you went into the Air Force you came back and it was gone?
FENN: In 1946 I was 16 years old. I moved to Atlanta to spend the summer with a friend and I saved $250 to buy a car and that’s what I gave for that 1935 Plymouth. I didn’t have a driver license but I, and I was so short I really couldn’t see over the dashboard. But I piled a book and a couple of pillows, and I drove my car from Atlanta, Georgia to Temple, TX at night.
EEDS: Without a driver license?
FENN: Because I didn't want the police to see that I was too young to be driving. So I slept during the day and drove all night.
EEDS: Have all your kids and grandkids known these stories? You’re not a very good example for a lot of them.
FENN: Well, if I don’t know a good story, I’ll just make up one. So they know all of them.
EEDS: You’re still looking for it. If somebody out there knows where there’s a two door or deluxe ‘35 Plymouth?
FENN: No, no. mine was not Deluxe.
EEDS: Alright. But you’d take either? You would take either if anybody has one?
FENN: Oh sure.
EEDS: But you want something that’s decent right?
FENN: I want to be able to drive it. It’ll be a culture shock for downtown Santa Fe if I drive around in that ‘35 Plymouth.
EEDS: That’d be great. So people could find you on the website?
FENN: oldsantafetradingco.com is my website.
EEDS: So they can find an email if they have a Plymouth.
EEDS: Yeah, get in touch with you. Send you some pictures maybe.
FENN: That’s right. I’d love that.
EEDS: That’d be cool. Alright, so what do you collect now? Pictures show that your house is pretty much floor to ceiling, wall to wall stuff. Started collecting when you were, eight?
FENN: I was nine years old when I found my first arrowhead and that’s what started me. My philosophy is, that if I don’t have that object, then I can’t have all of them.
FENN: So, and I’ll always paid too much. I never bought anything for a fair price, but my philosophy was, if I give you too much for something, you spend the money and don’t have anything but I have the object. So I always had an advantage when I was buying something.
EEDS: What’s the most you ever spent on something you still have?
FENN: Couple hundred thousand dollars on a painting.
EEDS: You still have it? What is it of?
FENN: It’s a Nicolai Fechin painting of a little girl painted in Taos. But I own Sitting Bull’s pipe and you know, it’s worth a bunch of money. And people laugh at me when I say Sitting Bull owned this pipe. But we took pictures of it, and we blew it up and we matched grain in the wood of Sitting Bull holding the pipe with grain in the wood of the photograph we took, so there’s no question that Sitting Bull was holding that pipe. And that’s one of my prized possessions.
EEDS: Along with the arrowhead.
FENN: It had a lot of history, sure.
EEDS: You still have the arrowhead.
FENN: Still have the arrowhead.
EEDS: And what kind of Indians lived in Temple, Texas? What was the tribe?
FENN: Well, we were on the southern edge of the Kiowa, Comanche, Southern Cheyenne, Osage. Mostly Comanche. I remember my grandmother telling me when she was a kid in Fort Worth, Texas, the Comanches running through her barnyard trying to catch chickens and her father said leave those guys alone.
EEDS: Yeah, let them have the chickens.
FENN: Yeah. Let them have the chicken, yeah.
EEDS: Interesting. I was born, I wasn’t raised there, but I was born in a little town called Beeville if you know where that is.
FENN: Oh sure, that’s south Texas.
EEDS: Between San Antonio and Corpus Christi. Pretty flat down there. We still have a ranch down there that just went on the market. Cousins decided it’s been sitting long enough, but they sent pictures. They have pictures posted on the internet. It’s exactly the same from when I was a little kid. So over all these years, Forrest, since you were nine years old, now you’re seventy-five-
FENN: I’m eighty-four.
EEDS: Eighty-four years old, I was trying to be nice. It looks like mostly historic memorabilia is what you like? American historical?
FENN: Well, not necessarily American. I have some Egyptian things. Ancient Egyptian. And, you know, Roman and Greek. If it’s old and good I like it.
FENN: Especially if it has some history.
EEDS: What about, what about, if there is anything, if there is a treasure chest, if there’s anything in it, if there are coins, gold, and jewels in it, if there is one, when did you start amassing those? How old were you?
FENN: Now why would you say if there is one?
EEDS: I don’t know. There are some people that think that you are trying to enlighten people to the fact that there are other kinds of treasures in life other than gold and jewels.
FENN: Well, you said if there is one. I was afraid that people would say I wrote my memoir as a gimmick to sell the book, the treasure chest is a gimmick to sell the book. So, I don’t know whether you know this or not, but I gave the all the books to the Collected Works bookstore in Santa Fe. I didn’t even get my publishing costs back. Just so guys like you couldn’t say “if there is a treasure chest.”
EEDS: So you’re stating emphatically, right now, there is a treasure chest.
FENN: There’s a treasure chest and it’s out there and you’re the kind of guy that can go out there and find it.
EEDS: I probably could. Alright, I’m going to try and get a clue out of you. So how big has it gotten? How big has the entire phenomenon gotten?… There have been… I know there have been hotels in Laredo… I think that when one of the clues came out, they ran a treasure hunters special and filled the hotel. I mean, you’re doing a lot for business in Santa Fe.
FENN: Well that’s right. The mayor presented me with a beautiful little thing yesterday at the bookstore thanking me for… Santa Fe - the occupancy rate in the hotels was up 10% last summer. Nobody knows why. But I think the treasure searchers came, 30,000 of them came to Santa Fe last summer.
EEDS: thirty thousand.
FENN: Yellowstone park had more visitors last summer than any other year in their history.
EEDS: Why Yellowstone?
FENN: Because that’s where I grew up and a lot of people think that the treasure is buried - is hidden someplace there. I’ve said that -
EEDS: Yellowstone National Park?
EEDS: Jellystone. Yogi Bear.
FENN: I’ve said it’s in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe, and Yellowstone is -
EEDS: That’s true.
FENN: Fits that description, sure. The treasure is out there, I guarantee it.
EEDS: You’ve also said it’s under 14,000 feet.
FENN: No, I said it’s below 12,200 feet and above 5,000 feet.
EEDS: Okay. But everywhere is about 5,000 feet.
FENN: That’s a lot of places in the Rocky Mountains.
EEDS: You’re not helping people - that’s a lot of places.
FENN: Well, this lady called me on the phone and she said, Mr. Fenn I’ve studied your poem and I’ve looked at your clues. I need some, I just, I cannot figure it out. You’ve got to help me. I need something else. I said, Lady, I’ll give you a clue. The treasure is more than 300 miles west of Toledo. And she said, well thank you Mr. Fenn, I really appreciate it. And she hung up the phone just happy as a bumblebee.
EEDS: Now the people are convinced, people have done this, ruthlessly gone through your clues and sense they know the spot. I was reading this story. One man said, “I’ll send you an email. You just wait, I’ll send pictures. I’ll have it by, what, this weekend” or something. You never heard back?
FENN: I get 50 emails a day that say that.
FENN: Sure. They know exactly where it is. There are five people that have said the whole story is a hoax. But all five of them were avid searchers. And they knew where the treasure was, but when they went to where it should be, and it wasn’t there one of two things happened. Either somebody’s already found it and left with it, or the whole story is a hoax. But interestingly, all five of those people are still out searching.
EEDS: Of course. Can you stick around a little while longer?
EEDS: Alright. Thirty minutes after ten o’clock. Our guest is Forrest Fenn. I’m glad he came in. I had my doubts. Forrest is a bit of a prankster. We’ll find out from Mika. We’ll find out the truth here in a second. Twenty-nine minutes after ten o’clock. We’ll be right back. It is Friday, thank God it’s Friday. We stream live at santafe dot com, KVSF 101.5 The Voice of Santa Fe
EEDS: Thirty-three minutes past ten o’clock. Our guest is Forrest Fenn. Treasure collector. Treasure hider. Book writer. Author. Has a new book coming out, we’ll get to that in a minute. Alright, so, do you want to tell us, Forrest, the treasure definitely exists. And doubters like me can just, you know, whatever. And, you know I don’t want to say it on the radio. But, can you tell us what might be in it?
FENN: What’s in the treasure chest?
EEDS: What’s in the treasure chest.
FENN: I can tell you exactly what’s in it. There are 265 gold coins.
EEDS: From what period?
FENN: American Eagles and Double Eagles, and there’s some Middle Eastern gold coins that date to the 14th century. There are hundreds and hundreds of gold nuggets. Two gold nuggets are larger than a hen’s egg. They weigh 1.2 Troy pounds each, but hundreds of other gold nuggets. Two beautiful little ancient Chinese jade carvings, and pre-Columbian gold figures and necklaces and hundreds of
EEDS: Precious gems?
FENN: Hundreds of rubies. There are eight - two Ceylon sapphires, there’s about eight nice emeralds, and lots of diamonds. It’s a… If you find the treasure chest and put it on your lap and raise the lid, it’ll be a culture shock for you, Mr. Eeds.
EEDS: Alright, I’m gonna start to believe here. What is the chest itself?
FENN: The chest is a beautiful cast bronze thing. Ten inches by ten inches and five inches high, and it’s absolutely full of gold.
EEDS: Is it old? The chest itself?
FENN: We think it’s 12th century, sure. Romanesque. I don’t know what to say. If you find it, you’ll either start laughing, or you’ll faint. One of the two.
EEDS: I’d pass out.
FENN: I gave $25,000 for the chest.
EEDS: How long had you had it?
FENN: Well, I started collecting things in 1982 when I had cancer and I thought I was going to die. That’s when I got this idea to hide this treasure chest. Why not let everybody else have as much fun as I’ve had over the many years. And that was my motivation.
EEDS: So you bought the chest right around that period?
EEDS: Okay. Um, how much does it weigh?
FENN: The gold in the treasure chest weighs 20.2 Troy pounds. And the chest weighs forty, uh, twenty-two pounds. So the whole thing, I think, is around 42 pounds. It was heavy enough that I made two trips to hide it. I took the gold in one time, and then I took the treasure chest in the second time.
EEDS: What kind of shoes? What kind of footprints did you leave? What kind of boots did you have on?
FENN: Well if I told you that, you’d go out and find it.
EEDS: Is there, Forrest, is there any chance that somebody has found it?
FENN: I’m 99.99% sure that no one has found the treasure chest yet. You can never be 100% sure, but sure, it’s still out there. I would bet my kingdom that it’s still out there.
EEDS: And you have a substantial kingdom? When, how do you decide when to add clues? And you’ve done them how and so on?
FENN: Well, there are nine clues in my poem and one is in my book. And I’m not going to give any more clues. I’m… There are hints in my book that will help you with the clues, but.. A clue will point you toward the treasure chest, and a hint will just help you with the clues, if you can understand that.
EEDS: No, that makes sense.
FENN: But I don’t give any more clues. I’ve given, I’ve said some things that people think are clues
EEDS: Two hundred miles west of Toledo.
FENN: And it’s not buried in an outhouse. I’ve given that as a clue.
EEDS: That’s good.
FENN: Yeah, some people were very happy to get that answer.
EEDS: Yeah. You said the, kinda the motivation was, you got sick. Did you think this was it? You were going to be checking out?
FENN: Well, my doctor gave me a 20% chance of living three years. I mean look at the odds. One in five is not very good. But I told myself, that has to sink, it takes a couple of weeks for that to soak in. But then I told myself if I’m going who says I can’t take it with me? Sure I can take it with me, and that’s when I got the treasure chest. That’s when I started filling it up with wonderful things, you know if I’m going to go, I’m just going to take it with me and to heck with what everybody else thinks. The trouble is, I got well and ruined the story.
EEDS: Yeah. You ruined the whole thing. Um, but, that was kind of the motivation, uh, for wanting to do that, and then how long ago… The latest book that you’ve published is three years old? Two years old? Three years old.
FENN: Something like that, yes. It’s called Too Far to Walk.
FENN: It’s kind of a continuation of my Thrill of the Chase book.
EEDS: What was the thrill of the chase?
FENN: Why would you ask me what is the thrill of the chase? You know that more than anybody in the world.
EEDS: I’m just sitting here. I’m hoping people are listening in their cars at work or at home. They want to hear it from you.
FENN: Well, if you haven’t been consumed by something in your life, I think you deserve another term, and the thrill of the chase personifies that to me.
EEDS: Keep living. Always be chasing.
FENN: Sure. Everybody needs to collect something. I might be the world’s greatest collector. I collected bottle tops. I collected string.
EEDS: Tin foil?
FENN: You know, I could have done that, but I don’t think I ever collected tin foil. That’s something that could have been on my agenda if I’d thought about it.
EEDS: One of the things that seems to surprise you when you have talked to the press, or done little videos about this entire treasure chest and about your life, and it’s been a you know, a life worthy of books and lots being written about it, you seemed a little bit surprised at the people that have invaded your privacy. Were you not expecting that? I mean, here’s a man, a Santa Fe New Mexican who lives out, you know, you live out in the open. You're not behind a giant wall or a compound, you live out in the open. You’re just a man who goes around and does his own business. Were you a little bit surprised that people would be so brash?
FENN: No, I worked on this project a long time. I really think I thought about most things. Certainly the thought occurred to me that my life could be in danger by somebody kidnapping me. I’ve called 911 three times in my home. This one guy started wrestling with police officers and they handcuffed him and took him off to jail. But that’s a very small group of people, and the great preponderance of people looking for the treasure are good Americans. They’ll say Mr. Fenn, we know we’re not going to find the treasure but I just want to thank you for getting me and the kids off the couch and away from the game room and out to smell the sunshine. That’s important to me. This lady from, a writer from Austin called me on the phone, she said Mr. Fenn I read your book. That’s really a strange book she said. Who’s your audience for a book like that? I said, lady, my audience is every redneck in Texas that lost his job, has 12 kids, and a pickup truck. I said, that’s my audience. That’s who I hope finds my treasure. But, you know, Mr. Eeds, we have a problem in this country with our youth today, and I think none of us are doing enough to solve that problem. The teenagers of today are going to be our congressmen and senators twenty, twenty-five years from now - president of the United States, and I blame the churches and the schools, and I blame you, and I blame me, and I blame Mika, because we’re not doing enough to combat the problem. The greatest asset we have in this country is our youth.
EEDS: You think the problem is lack of activity or are you talking about lack of education? What is the problem, Forrest?
FENN: Well, I think it’s all of those things, but it’s something I feel is incumbent upon all of us to try to solve. In my small way, I’m doing a part. If everybody in this country, all the grown ups in this country, would do a little bit, it would make a big difference.
EEDS: How many people are now actively part of your plan. Your master plan, your effort. You know, if all of this is to improve our country and to improve all of us, the lot of us, how many people do you think are involved now? Buy your books or are looking for your treasure?
FENN: Well, I think, my guess is that 50,000 will come to Santa Fe this summer.
EEDS: This summer?
FENN: And just as many into Colorado and Wyoming and Montana. A lot of people think the treasure chest is in Montana around Hebgen Lake and the Gallatin National Forest that was very important to me when I was a kid. And I’ve said that in my books, and they see that as a hint to where the treasure is.
EEDS: So 50,000 people you think this summer, but you’re not going to release any more clues?
FENN: I’m not going to release any more clues.
EEDS: What will you do to stoke the fires?
FENN: What would I do to what?
EEDS: What will you do to create more buzz, create more activity to keep people interested or get more people into it?
FENN: Well you know, it’s out of my hands now really. When I hid that treasure chest, there was nobody around. And I was walking back to my car and I looked around and I started laughing. And I said out loud, Forrest Fenn did you really do that? And I started laughing. I thought it was the most atrocious thing that I’d ever done. But, in the back of my mind, I told myself that if I’m sorry tomorrow, I can go back and get the treasure chest. But the more I thought about it, I said, no I’m not going to do it. And I told myself it’s out of my hands now. I’m an interested bystander at this point. But I get between 100 and 120 emails every day from people that, most of them know where the treasure chest is. They just want me to confirm it. This one lady says, you know Mr. Fenn, I’m coming out there in my pickup truck but it’s not a very good truck anymore. If my truck breaks, will you pick me up and take me the rest of the way to the treasure?
EEDS: No problem, right?
FENN: No problem.
EEDS: What, of course the value has got to fluctuate as the price of gold goes up and down. Average day, what’s the treasure worth inside the treasure chest?
FENN: You know, I’ve thought of that don’t really know. A lot of the coins have numismatic value, beyond the price of gold and
EEDS: Sure, historic value
FENN: and that fluctuates every day. There are so many little things that I really don’t know what they’re worth. Those two little ancient Chinese jade figures, I think I gave $12,000 each for those things and the Sinu and Tairona necklace that has fetishes made out of quartz crystal and carnelian and semi-precious stones, uh, it’s 2,000 years old and the last thing I put in that bracelet was a little bracelet that has 22 little turquoise disc beads in it that Richard Weatherall found the first time he went into Mesa - the day he discovered Mesa Verde. Climbed down the cliffs, and walked into Mesa Verde and picked up these 22 little beads.
EEDS: Was he one of the guys that was on the cattle drive that found… You say discovered, discovered for White Men, was he one of the guys on the cattle drive who discovered by accident?
FENN: Well, Richard Weatherall discovered Mesa Verde. If my story is correct, he was sitting up on the bluff there in the trees, took a nap, and when he woke up, the sun, the shadows had changed and he looked across there was Mesa Verde. He was flabbergasted because he had never seen it before. He worked around that part of the country.
EEDS: One of my favorite places.
FENN: Well I won that little bracelet in a pool game with Byron Harvey, who was one of the heirs of Fred Harvey. And it has a good story, and it fit me perfectly, and I wanted something dear to me to be in that treas - I wanted part of me to be in that treasure chest. When I closed the lid for the last time, I told myself that some of me is in that treasure chest.
EEDS: Can you turn on Mika’s microphone? Mika what have you seen, you’re nodding. Have you seen - do you remember seeing some of the stuff that’s in the treasure chest?
MIKA: I remember when he was putting… I was quite young at the time, but I remember when he was putting it together. I remember the bracelet, and I have lots of friends that have gone out looking for it. I’ve always told them that if you find it, the only thing I want is that turquoise bracelet. You can keep the gold, and you can keep the jade.
EEDS: The bracelet we’re talking about from Mesa Verde.
MIKA: Yes. But I’d love to have that bracelet because of the sentimentality behind it for my grandfather.
EEDS: Right. Anything else in there? The jade figures - anything else in there you remember?
MIKA: Uh, there’s a bracelet that I remember vividly because it’s so unique. It’s a dragon bracelet right grandpa?
MIKA: It’s made out of gold and it has its eyes are rubies I believe and it’s wrapped in diamonds. It’s just this extraordinary piece of jewelry that I remember quite vividly because it is so amazing.
EEDS: So if you weren’t here, I would still think he’s putting me on but -
MIKA: He’s not. I give you my personal word that he is entirely honest. He likes to embellish, but he’s an honest man.
EEDS: I love the idea that you won that in a pool tournament with Fred Harvey’s… FENN: Grandnephew. It was in a pool game in his house in Scottsdale.
EEDS: Have you been by to see the Harvey Girls exhibit at the History Museum? About the entire… You know, what an ag… what a monumental marketing discovery the size of southwest. People don’t know this story - Fred Harvey and the Harvey Girls. It was huge.
FENN: I have not seen that exhibit but I plan to. I knew one of the famous Harvey Girls. She lived up on Canyon Road in Santa Fe. She had called me on the phone and said, Forrest come on up here let’s celebrate with some libations. That was the word she liked to use. I’d go up there. She’d drink vodka and I’d drink coffee… I’m sticking to that story.
EEDS: Yeah. I bet you are. Can we talk about your book? We’ll take another time out here. Another quick break. Come back, talk about the new book - a Russian…
FENN: Leon Gaspard
EEDS: Announcement going to come out very, very soon and you say you’ve got some kind of ground-breaking publishing technology that you’re going to use.
FENN: That’s right. Everybody better sit down when I start talking about it.
EEDS: This is cool. Forrest Fenn is not only a collector and treasure hider, but he’s also cutting edge publisher. Who knew? Forty-seven minutes after ten. We’ll be right back. KVSF 101.5 the Voice of Santa Fe.
EEDS: Fifty-one minutes after ten o’clock. Our guest in the studio is Forrest Fenn and his granddaughter Mika. So, Forrest, uh, new book coming out. You said within the next 30 days the topic is:
FENN: Well we hope to print within the next 30 days.
EEDS: What’s it about?
FENN: It’s a biography of Leon Gaspard - the great Russian-American painter. He was born in 1862 and died in 1964. One of the famous uhh
EEDS: Wow! 102 years old!
FENN: Did I say that?
EEDS: 1862 to 1964
FENN: Well, you know, I may have stretched that a little bit one way or the other.
EEDS: Alright, so it’s fiction?
FENN: He was a painter. He joined the French Army in World War 1. He was a pil - he was sitting in an airplane and he was shot down, and he jumped out of the airplane and he went into a mud puddle and it’s a wonderful story. Took him a long time to recover. But when he got married, he married an American woman, and his uncle gave him three horses. So Leon Gaspard got on his horse with his wife Evelyn, and for two years, they rode across Mongolia and Afghanistan and those countries on their honeymoon. That’ll clean out your sinuses a little bit. That’s the kind of person he was. In my book, we think we are breaking new ground and, you can tell me if I’m wrong, but on two places in my book there’s a link that you type the link into Google and you get a video of Leon Gaspard riding on his horse in Taos. We’re talking about 1920. Another link you can click on, you hear Leon Gaspard’s actual voice telling a story. We have nine paintings illustrated in the book that are 20 inches wide. When’s the last time you saw a 20’ inch wide spread in a book?
MIKA: I don’t think I ever have. Until 30 days from now
EEDS: Alright, so Leon became, he lived in Taos. Was he part, I mean, was he well-known, established painter, part of the Taos arts scene?
FENN: Well, he didn’t belong to the Taos society of artists, but he and Nicolai Fechin are both Russian-American. They were arguably among the two best artists that ever lived in Taos. But, yeah, they spoke Russian together. They played chess. Leon Gaspard made really great borscht and invited Russian friends over for dinner. There was high society in those days in the teens and 1920s.
EEDS: Okay, but this was, you didn’t know either of them?
FENN: No. I didn’t come on the scene then.
EEDS: Until ‘72?
FENN: But I wrote a book about Nicolai Fechin and he was born within a year of Leon Gaspard, and they were very close friends. Gaspard paintings that I was selling in my gallery in Santa Fe in 1976 and 1977 for $7,500 are $1.5 million today. I mean the appreciation on those things - and the same thing is true for Niocolai Fechin. If you have any money sticking in a tin can buried in your backyard, you’d better go buy a Nicolai Fechin painting or a Leon Gaspard.
EEDS: Art is still a good investment?
FENN: Art is a great investment.
EEDS: Who are, uh, that school, the famous Taos artists society, who are some of the your famous uh…
FENN: My favorites?
EEDS: Yeah. A painter - if you saw one up on Canyon Road today, you would go man, I gotta figure out how to go get that.
FENN: Well, Victor Higgins of course is one of my favorites, but Gaspard, and Fechin, and Earnest Bloomenschein. I wrote two books about Joseph Henry Sharp, I bought his estate. He was a good painter. He wasn’t one of the best, but he was probably fourth or fifth on that list. It’s extraordinary that so many great painters would move to a little town like Taos. You know, Bloomenschein and Burt Phillips were in Taos for the first time in September 1888.
EEDS: Some kind of accident. The wagon broke down.
FENN: Excuse, 1898. And Burt Phillips stayed. He was the first one to really stay in Taos. They became fixtures up there and they had trouble selling their paintings and Victor Higgins used to meet the bus with paintings. When somebody stepped off the bus, he’d try to sell them a painting. You know, $200 would buy the best thing he had. That painting today is $1,000,000.
EEDS: You talk about how we need to help our children. Children in the United States are under a lot of pressure and probably, like you said, they’re the future. Um, efforts in Santa Fe, really wonderful programs like art week, that try to take the art into schools. You believe in those and the value of them?
FENN: I certainly do. The more we
EEDS: Have you done it with your children, grandchildren?
FENN: Sure, let’s get our kids involved in something. We’re sitting on the couch too much. We’re playing with our little hand machines too much.
EEDS: Video games.
FENN: Mika’s guilty of that, aren’t you Mika?
MIKA: I am, unfortunately. I put it away when I come to your house though.
FENN: Well if you get out in the sunshine it serves a lot of things. First of all, you can lose some weight if you need to do that, you can observe nature, you can… the smells are good and the hikes are good and we need to get out of the house more.
EEDS: Alright this new book, you hope to come out in 30 days, how will it come out? Will it come out online, will it be in print, will it be in bookstores? Collected Works? What are you going to do?
FENN: All of that.
EEDS: Do you do e-books?
FENN: No, I don’t do e-books. Primarily, my books are picture books, so it’s hard for e-books to come out, but, the Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe handles all my books. They’ll have it and we’ll sell it online and ship it
EEDS: Let us know when it’s done and we’ll put it on Santa Fe dot com and however we can help spread the word.
FENN: Do you have any money? Can you afford to buy one?
EEDS: I don’t have thirty cents on me. Dina’s got money though. Dina’s got all the money in this studio.
EEDS: Hey I really - it’s been a blast. I hope that, you know, you didn’t mind that hour went really fast. You’re a pleasure to talk to.
FENN: Well, thank you, sir. That’s nice Mr. Eeds, I appreciate that.
EEDS: Have a great weekend, and um, come back any time you want. Bring him back Mika, will you?
MIKA: I’ll do my best.
EEDS: When the book comes out
MIKA: I’m the driver, so I’ll get him here.
EEDS: Yeah, I bet. And you’re still looking for anybody that has a 1935 Plymouth
FENN: Two door Plymouth, sure.
EEDS: Doesn’t have to be the deluxe. Just has to be the standard.
FENN: It has to be drivable.
EEDS: Has to be - has to run.
FENN: I have to show it off around Santa Fe.
EEDS: You know, it doesn’t have to run right now, but a little battery, a little air in the tires, you know, fixable. Email Forrest. Go to his website. Which is, once again old santa fe...
FENN: trading co
EEDS: trading co dot com. Right. They can find you through that. If you can find a ‘35 Plymouth, send him some good pictures, and make a good deal, right?
FENN: That’s right.
EEDS: Like you said, you never haggled for anything, you always overpaid.
FENN: If somebody can find me a 1935 Plymouth, I’ll buy them a hot dog. They can have mustard, relish, whatever they want.
EEDS: Thanks for coming by, Forrest. Mika, thanks for driving.
MIKA: Thank you.
EEDS: Alright, have a great weekend. Coming up next Julie Goldberg show. It is coming up on eleven o’clock. We’ll see you Monday morning, bright and early seven o’clock. By the way, great show on Monday. We’ll have the owner of the Violet Crown theater, also Al Dusare, you know Al? The guy who used to own Maria’s?
EEDS: He’ll be here.
FENN: I know Al.
EEDS: He’s a pain in the butt, that guy. As well as Ray Sandoval. Will make a big announcement on Monday as well. Be back Monday. Have a great weekend everybody. KVSF 101.5 the Voice of Santa Fe.
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A Beautiful World - Extended Interview
HEATHER MCELHATTON: I’m Heather McElhatton and this is A Beautiful World, bringing you inspirational stories from around the globe.
FORREST FENN: A reporter asked me, “Mr. Fenn, who is your audience?” And I said, “My audience is every redneck that is married, has 12 kids, lost his job, has a pickup truck, and has a sleeping bag. That’s my audience.” And I hope that’s the guy that finds my treasure chest.
MCELHATTON: Adventure, exploration, and intrigue. The thrill of the hunt. Those are the reasons that millionaire Forrest Fenn gave for why he buried a treasure chest in the Sierra Madres filled with gold and treasure valued in the millions. It all started when Forrest was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was told his condition was terminal.
FENN: My doctor gave me a 20% chance of living three years.
MCELHATTON: He realized that even though he had spent his entire life hunting for treasure, he wouldn’t be able to take a single coin with him when he died.
FENN: You know, when I thought I was going to die of cancer, I told myself I’ve had it - I’ve had such a good life. I’m 83 years old now, and it’s been so much fun for me chasing antiques and looking in trunks in an old antique shop. And I told myself, why don’t I give somebody else the same opportunity that I’ve had.
MCELHATTON: Forrest Fenn is a treasure hunter by trade - a real life Indiana Jones.
FENN: It just so happened that about that time, Ralph Lauren, who is also a collector, was in my library with me and he wanted something that he would like to buy from me and I said, well I really don’t want to sell that. He said, “Well Forrest, you’ve got so many of these things, you can’t take them with you.” I said, “Ralph, if I can’t take it with me, then I’m not going to go.” And that night I started thinking about it. I said, “Who says I can’t take it with me. Why do I have to play by everybody else’s rules?”
MCELHATTON: Fenn says, he thought about it for a while, and then he went out and he bought a $25,000 treasure chest. Because if he was going out, he was going out his way.
FENN: I started over the years, I started filling it up with gold nuggets and gold coins and pre-Columbian gold. There’s ancient Chinese jade figures and some pre-Columbian gold Wa’kas from Central America. I ruined the story by getting well, Heather. But I told myself it was a good idea anyway, I’m just going to take this treasure chest out and hide it. And I wrote a book called The Thrill of the Chase, and in that book there’s a poem that has nine clues in it. If you can follow the clues in the poem, they will take you to the treasure chest. And if you can find the treasure chest, you can have it.
MCELHATTON: Fenn said it was an experience he had with his father, early on, that got him hooked on treasure hunting for life.
FENN: Well, you know, I made D’s and F’s in school. I think I graduated from high school because my father was one of the principals. I don’t think my father had many expectations from me, but the first artifact I found, I was looking in a plowed field with my father in Central Texas and I… We were arrowhead collectors. He was an arrowhead collector, and I wanted to be, but I’d never found one so, we were walking down through this, a friend’s plowed field and I found my first beautiful little arrowhead. A little orange thing, it dates probably 800 years old, and it was the thrill of my life. You know, when I saw that little arrowhead, I told myself, that that beautiful little thing, little beautiful thing had been laying there on that field for 800 years waiting for me to come along and pick it up. It started on me a lifetime of adventure and inspiration.
MCELHATTON: And during that lifetime, Fenn has done things his way - a policy he plans to continue.
FENN: I want to go out - I’d like to go out on my own terms. That’s what my father did. He had terminal cancer. They gave him six months to live, and 18 years later, uh, 18 months later, he was in great pain. He wouldn’t take any kind of pain pills, and he took his own life and I so respected him for doing that. I talked about that in my book, you know. Why do you have to do those kind of things under everybody else’s terms? I mean, I respected my father for doing that.
MCELHATTON: It was searching for treasure that brought Forrest Fenn and his father together. Which is something he also hopes to pass on to others.
FENN: We have trouble with our children today. We’re obese. We’re sitting on the couch watching TV or we’re down in the game room and one of my reasons was to do something to try to get these kids excited. Get them out in the mountains and in the fresh air and interested in nature. I think that’s so important today. We’ve gotten away from that. A fortunate byproduct of what this chase has done is I got an email from a man who had told me had not spoken to his brother for seventeen years. But when he read about the treasure, he called his brother on the phone and they’ve hooked up again and now they’re out looking for the treasure chest together.
MCELHATTON: So it gets people out of the house and it brings people together.
FENN: The treasure chase brought them together, and there are lots of families can hardly wait till school’s out so that mom and pop can get the three kids in the car and head out to the Rocky Mountains. You know, we’re reuniting families, we’re getting them off the couches, and away from our texting machines and we’re getting people out in the mountains to smell the sunshine. It’s very rewarding to me.
MCELHATTON: Fenn has received over 36,000 letters and emails from people hunting for his treasure, all unsuccessfully.
FENN: I don’t know whether anybody will ever find it or not. You know, the Rosetta Stone was buried for 2,000 years before it was found and I keep telling myself, “Don’t you know that guy is proud that made that Rosetta Stone?” There’s a thrill in discovery. There’s no doubt about that. I know exactly how gold miners feel, you know? They think the next shovel is going to be the mother lode.
MCELHATTON: I asked Fenn to describe what exactly he put inside the treasure chest. The one that’s waiting out there for someone to find it.
FENN: Heather, when somebody finds my treasure chest, and they’re sitting down with that thing on their lap, it weighs 42 pounds, and they open that lid, they’re just going to take a deep breath and start laughing. It is such an amazing site to see. And, uh, that’s what I’m hoping for. I don’t know when somebody’s going to find that thing. It could be this summer, it could be a thousand years from now. But I know they’re going to have an amazing feeling and their pulse rate is going to increase, I can guarantee that. When they open that lid and they look at what’s in that - you know there’s hundreds of gold nuggets. Two of them are larger than a chicken egg. There are 265 gold coins. Mostly Eagles - American Double Eagles, but there are hundreds of rubies and diamonds, and emeralds, and sapphires, and jade carved - ancient carved Chinese carved jade figures. And I think when they lift that lid and look at their hand is going to go to their mouth and they’re going to say, “Oh my God.” And I know that they’re going to start laughing if they don’t faint.
MCELHATTON: If you want to try looking for Fenn’s treasure yourself, your best bet is to start with his poem. Which Fenn says contains nine clues that will lead you to the treasure. Here’s the poem that Fenn wrote, read to you by MPR reporter Dan Olson.
DAN OLSON: (Reads poem)
MCELHATTON: Fenn has collected millions of dollars of treasure over his lifetime, and I asked him what some of his favorite treasure hunts were.
FENN: I was excavating with a friend out at our pueblo, and we were using trowels going down in this room that was occupied about 1325 and we got down near the floor, and we started finding medicines. I say medicines because they were concretions and arrowheads and painted rocks and crystals and several pieces of painted pottery. And then all of the sudden, with my trowel, I uncovered a prehistoric kachina dance mask, and there was another one beside it. But, you know, history said that the kachina culture didn’t exist in prehistoric times, but we had these things carbon-14 dated at the age of - they were made about 1325 A.D. So that was a thrill, and I got so excited that I decided this was too important for me to do by myself, so I called the state archeologist and they came out and excavated these two masks for me while I stood there and made notes. I was smiling from ear to ear the entire time. It was a real thrill for me.
MCELHATTON: Over his long career searching for treasure, Forrest Fenn says that he has picked up much more than just artifacts. He’s picked up lessons for life.
FENN: Well, you know, in Libya, that’s the Sahara desert. The north end of the Sahara desert on the Mediterranean. I would get a jeep on the weekends and drive out into the desert where the great tank battles were fought in World War II. I could drive along past them, a burned out tank and there’s a German helmet lying on the ground there and, bullets and hand grenades laying around. And when you walk through that battlefield and look closely, you can find arrowheads that were, I don’t know how old they were, 2,000 - 2,500 years old. What we were looking at was wars on top of wars. It really brings history into context. And solidifies my belief that we need to learn to leave people alone. Why are we fighting all of the time? Some of those experiences are very graphic to me and made a lasting impression.
MCELHATTON: And all these lessons, led to some advice he’d like to give everybody.
FENN: My advice to everybody today is this: If you’re not happy in your marriage, and you’re not happy in your job, slam the door and walk away. It’s so much fun to start over again. You know, I’ve never been divorced, but I’ve done a lot of things. One of my rules when I was a kid was that I didn’t want to do anything for more than 15 years. And my reason is that there is so many good things to do, and not very many 15’s. I had to go to school for - high school, I had to graduate. I was in the air force for 20 years, so I’ve violated some of my rules, but I think it’s good advice. I don’t care how good you are in your job, and how much you enjoy it, after 15 years, you should go do something else. I see doctors and lawyers that are 85 years old and still going to the office every day with a coat and tie on and it just makes me shake my head. As I get older, I keep reminding myself that the most important thing in life, really, when you boil everything down, is contentment. If you’re contented, then everything else is full and in life, and you have to have a beautiful world if you’re contented. And I think that everybody alive today should use that word as their goal. If you can eventually end up being contented, then I don’t know what’s better than that.
MCELHATTON: If you want to find out more about Forrest Fenn and his treasure, you can go to MPR.org/abeautifulworld. Or pick up a copy of his book Too Far to Walk, which details his amazing life, and gives more clues as to where the treasure might be. I’m Heather McElhatton and this is A Beautiful World from American Public Media. I can’t thank you enough for talking with us. Is there anything else you want to add before I let you go?
FENN: Well, you know, I love your voice on the radio, is there, are you sure you’re spoken for, Heather? (laughter) I thank you for the call, and it’s been a pleasure to speak with you. You’re a sweetheart.
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Everything is Stories - 003 As I Have Gone Alone in There
FORREST FENN: Well, when I was nine years old, I found my first arrowhead with my father. He was an arrowhead collector, and so was my football coach in high school. So we did all that together. Most of the arrowheads you find out in the countryside are broken in half in two. And people say, “Oh that’s broken. That’s terrible.” But to me, that means a lot to me. That means that the projector was on the end of an arrow. It penetrated the body of a deer maybe. Hit a bone and broke right in front of where it was hafted. So to me, that thing has a history that a whole arrowhead doesn’t have. I think it’s the wonderment of being out there, of seeing nature, and visualizing what used to be. The Rosetta Stone was buried for 2,000 years before somebody found it, and I said in my book, “Don’t you know that guy is proud? The guy that carved that thing.”
Well it was 1988 when I acquired the treasure chest and started filling it up with thing. I paid $25,000 for the treasure chest, and I started filling it up with 265 gold coins. Most of them are American Eagles and some Double Eagles, mostly Double Eagles. My goal never changed. My goal was to take that treasure chest out in a very special place and put it there. I’ve never said that I buried it, but I never said that I didn’t bury it. I just don’t want to give that as a clue. And, let people go looking for it. If you can find the treasure chest, and open that lid for the first time, it’s going to be the most wonderful thing that you ever saw.
I crafted a poem that’s in my book. It has nine clues in it, and I changed that poem over a 15 year period. People read that poem and it’s there, “He sat down and wrote that poem in 15 minutes.” It took me 15 years. The poem is not so much written as it is an architectural plan. It’s been crafted. It reads very simple. Here, hand me that book.
I dare you to go get it. If you can find it, you can have it. And nobody knows where it is but me. If a train runs over me this afternoon, it will go to my grave with me.
My name is Forrest Fenn. We’re in my home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’ve lived in it since 1988 and I think it will be my last abode. The Santa Fe trail runs about 50 feet from my library window and I have an old 1880 Army ammunition wagon sitting right in the middle of the Santa Fe trail. It goes right through my pond. I’m very happy where I am. Santa Fe is a wonderful place to live. I’ll be 83 in two weeks. I’m going out at the top of my game. Some people are collectors and some people are not. My wife is not a collector, but I collected everything. I used to collect match folders and beer steins. I don’t know what it is, but if you have an old photograph of your mother, what makes you like that photograph? Antiques - there’s the mystery of it. The unknown that plays on your mind. The mystery of who they were and who made it and what they did. You can conjure back anything you want to about that.
It’s the thrill of discovery - the thrill of the chase. On we go / the virtue lies / in the journey / not the prize. And I believe that.
MARK HOWARD: There’s a lot of people that really enjoy the idea of a treasure, you know? Just like I enjoy the idea of it. From my perspective, of course, I’m a goldsmith and having 20 pounds of gold to work with, that’s my palette. That’s what I enjoy and that’s what I do, so that would be extreme freedom for me from $1300 an ounce gold, you know, which is what I have to pay today. My name is Mark Howard. We’re here in Santa Fe, New Mexico, or outside thereof, and this is my house, and as far as the treasure goes, I’m going to probably look again although the past two times, because it’s whipped me, I said to my wife, “You know, maybe I shouldn’t go again.” And it only takes me a couple of weeks to say, “No, I think I gotta go again.” I like the treasure hunt. It’s like when we were kids. Like Treasure Island and all those stories you read when you were a kid, and you thought, “God, I’d just love to go out and do something like that.” And this kind of fed into that, and I said, okay. I was, what, 57? I’m going to be 60. If I’m going to do this kind of thing, I’d better do it now. There’s some historical points in there, historical artifacts in there. All those interest me too. I really love the antique stuff. One of the things I really want is that damn box. I really want that box, because this is from like 1150 A.D.
FENN: The box is a beautiful cast bronze box that I’ve been told was 11th or 12th century. It’s 10 inches by 10 inches and 5 inches deep, and weighs 42 pounds. The gold is what makes it heavy. 265 gold coins, some pre-Columbian gold figures that are 1500 to 1800 years old. There’s a wonderful necklace in there made by Sinu and Tairona cultures with carved jade figures and carnelian and quartz crystals carved figures. It’s wonderful - 2000 years old. It’s… It’s worth looking for. I put a little bracelet in there that I won in a pool game with a guy. It’s the cheapest thing in there. It’s probably worth, well with all the notoriety it’s had now, it’s probably worth $750. It was worth $250 when I put it in the treasure chest. You can’t just go out and buy a bunch of gold nuggets. There are hundreds and hundreds of gold nuggets in that treasure chest. There’s a little jar of gold dust from Alaska. I couldn’t put a Porsche in the box, or I’d have done that. I was limited by so many cubic inches in that treasure chest.
HOWARD: He often says if it takes 2,000 years for someone to find it, that’s just fine by him. It’s not fine by me, but that’s okay. I think I’ve been out only maybe 20 times. Started here in Northern New Mexico, and at one point I went as far as Yellowstone. Then I went into Colorado, and I’m still kind of bouncing around looking for the treasure. Almost anybody that found it, with the exception of the people that are crazy, would probably let it go. I certainly would. My idea is to put Jim Weatherell’s bracelet on, and walk up to his house, you know, and knock on the door, and he’d know immediately. I wouldn’t have to say a thing; he wouldn’t have to say a thing. That way, he’d never have to say anything to anybody else either. That’s, uh, you know, that’s a daydream.
FENN: There’s something that I don’t know whether it’s in the treasure chest or not. It was a crazy idea. But, going about the question you asked earlier, “Did I want to know if someone had found the treasure chest?” So I said, “Yeah, I do.” One reason is so people won’t be spending all their money looking for something that isn’t there any more. So I put an IOU - I wrote out an IOU. “Take this IOU to my bank in Santa Fe, and collect $100,000.” I figured for $100,000, the guy that found the treasure chest would not want to keep it secret anymore. So now the IRS is getting in the act and everybody knows. But if someone finds it 1,000 years from now, my bank won’t be there, and there won’t be any money in the account even if they did, so, I think I took that IOU out. But I don’t remember whether I did or not. It’s in there in spirit.
There are two gold nuggets in that treasure chest that weigh more than a Troy pound apiece. I used to take them out and hand them to people that would almost drop them because they’re so heavy. I’d go on the Today show, you know, I’ve been on five times...
JANET SHAMLIAN: ...Talk you into, somehow, giving us another clue this morning....
FENN: Well I’m not going to put an X on the map for you.
And I think we’ll do it maybe another… and I give clues. The last clue I gave them was that it’s not in Utah or Idaho. But that’s not going to lead you to the treasure chest.
...The clue is that the treasure is higher than seven, uh, five thousand feet above sea level....
SHAMLIAN: ...The treasure is higher than 5,000 feet above sea level....
MICHAEL MCGARRITY: I think it’s in New Mexico. Now, the issue was: was it buried? We finally got Forrest to admit that no, it’s hidden. So, it’s quite possible it’s not buried, just simply hidden. My name’s Michael McGarrity, I’m a novelist. We’re in Cathedral Park, which is next to the Basilica a block from the famous Santa Fe Plaza. We like to get together once in awhile and have lunch and tell stories. Socializing is something that usually happens when someone throws a party, or there’s some special event to get folks together. This is the stuff that myths are made of, that legends are made of. And we’ve got our share of old mine treasures being hidden on the White Sands missile range. Vittorio Peak, or down in the Gila, now we’ve got the Forrest Fenn treasure.
FENN: There’ve been some people very close to the treasure chest. There have been people that have figured out the first couple of clues and walked right past the treasure chest. I think it’s there - I haven’t checked on it, but I’m 99.9% sure it’s there.
MCGARRITY: He has said publicly, that people have come within 500 feet of the treasure. Now, the question is: is that true? I mean that’s a great teaser, and I would have used it myself even if the person that got closest to it was five miles away. I still would have said that. If it’s found, and I asked him this question, if it’s found, how are you going to know its found? Now he’s convinced that he will be contacted, right? If I found a multi-million dollar treasure, I wouldn’t want the IRS to know about it, would you? No! I’d take it home and I’d sell one gold nugget at a time. He’s a character. What else can I say? He’s an interesting guy. He has a certain flamboyancey to him.
FENN: But I put other things in there too. I pulled a couple of hairs out of my head. Because somebody can do a DNA, they can do a carbon-14 test. You know, there’s another thing that I put in the chest that I’ve not told anybody about, and I’m saving it for the person that finds the treasure chest. In other words, this is not something that I put together in an afternoon. I spent a lot of time thinking about it.
MARY WOLF: My name is Mary Wolf. I’m the co-owner of the Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico. Forrest Fenn has been a loyal and constant customer of the bookstore since the bookstore opened in 1978. I got to know him best, probably, in 2010 when he came to the store to talk to Dorothy and myself about The Thrill of the Chase, the book that he was about to release and publish.
FENN: I wrote a book called The Thrill of the Chase and that’s the philosophy that permeates that book. You know, there’s a lady writer from Austin asked me, “Mr. Fenn, who’s your audience for this book?” I said, “My audience is every redneck in Texas with a pickup truck and 12 kids. He’s lost his job and has the thrill to go out and look for things.” I said, “That’s my audience.” Throw a bedroll in the back of your truck, get a six pack, and hit the road looking for a fortune! I mean, it’s the thrill of the chase. That’s what we’re talking about. Take your wife. Put all the kids in the back of the truck and head out!
WOLF: The Thrill of the Chase has had a huge impact, obviously, on our business. Forrest is not tied to the bookstore in any way contractually; however, he gave us this book to sell. He paid for the first printing, and then gave us the book because he didn’t want anyone to say he was making any money from this store, which he hasn’t. We’ve paid for the last printing, and we’ll pay for the future printings. And we are already in the 5th printing coming up, so we’re going through the books. First of all he can well-afford to hide a treasure of that value, and what really drives him is to leave a lasting mark on a whole generation of people and recreate a love for adventure and a passion for discovery that he has in his own life. And I think it’s beautiful. I think it’s a beautiful story. He has an amazing story.
FENN: Well, I was born in Temple, Texas in the heart of Texas 60 miles north of Austin. My father was a school teacher. When I started first grade, he started in the school that I started first grade in. He was a math teacher, and the next year, they promoted him to be the principal. And then I went to a Junior High School, and he moved over there and he was my principal again. So I passed all those courses because my father was principal. I’m not sure for any other reason!
I remember the first time I saw TV in Temple, Texas there was a big truck out behind, on the city square behind the city hall. And they invited people to come into city hall and look at the television set that was being transmitted from a hundred feet away. It wasn’t a very good picture. And then, a couple of years later, color TV came along and boy, that’ll never work! And I remember riding back from Yellowstone to Temple, Texas with my football coach in 1946 when they dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
HISTORIC VOICEOVER: When can we tell when the atomic bomb will explode?
FENN: And boy, that was the end. The beginning of the end. President Eisenhower told everybody to go out in their backyard and dig a bomb shelter and stock it with food for… and everybody did.
HISTORIC VOICEOVER: Always remember, the flash of an atomic bomb can come at any time no matter where you may be.
FENN: Every generation thinks that theirs will be the last. When the bow and arrow was invented, everybody said boy, the end is coming! And then when the Chinese invented gunpowder, that WAS the end.
MCGARRITY: Santa Fe’s a place that attracts unusual people. Forrest certainly qualifies in that regard. He’s a very unique guy. His record in the military is just an incredible one. You could call him a war hero. I mean he enlisted in the Air Force, I mean he can tell his own story.
FENN: I joined the military on the 6th of September 1950. The Korean War was brand new, and I was going to win the war! I started out as a private and I retired 20 years later as a major. The military in all their wisdom said that I had an aptitude for electronics, and I didn’t have the slightest idea what I was doing. But I went to an Advanced Radar Maintenance school for nine months in Biloxi, Mississippi, and I graduated but I still didn’t know what I was doing. I had a mean sergeant that didn’t like me and I didn’t like him so I went down to personnel and I said, “How can I get out of this place?” They gave me a bunch of forms to fill out and I could go to jump school, I could volunteer for submarine or I could go to pilot training. I said, “I’ll take the first one you can get for me,” and it was pilot training. So they put me in this little machine - it looked like a phone booth turned on its side. And it had a stick in it like an airplane has. It was on springs. If you turned the thing loose, it falls over and you crash. So the secret is to hold the airplane steady. And this guy said I was the best he ever saw doing that, I mean it was the simplest thing I’d ever been in. And I said, “If that’s all there is to it, I’ll take it!” So they accepted me into pilot training.
When you fly in fighter airplanes, the old saying is if the fighter pilot makes a mistake, he doesn’t have to worry about it. But when you get in that airplane all by yourself, it’s a whole different ballgame really. There’s nobody there but you. It’ll sober you up. I was in Vietnam for a year. I flew 328 combat missions. I was shot down twice, and took battle damage a few times. I lost some roommates. Getting shot down was routine. I didn’t get killed, but I had an airplane full of bullet holes, and it was totally destroyed. I did land the thing. I landed at a little airport that was used mostly for forward air controllers, little putt-putt airplanes and helicopters. I put the tail up on this F-100 I was flying and I engaged the barrier because I knew I wasn’t going to stop otherwise. But I pulled that thing the wrong way and I touched down at about 150 knots I guess and I stopped in less than 200 feet. I came away with the idea that we need to learn to leave other people alone. And I think we killed 10 civilians for every military person we killed because we’re dropping bombs and strafing, you don’t see the bodies laying there, but it’s a terrible thing. We need to stop doing that.
When I was 27 years old, no college, I was in a fighter squadron in Bitburg, Germany. They took me down to supply, and I checked out an atomic bomb. 61 megaton atomic bomb. I think the bomb at Hiroshima was something like 17,000 tons? Well this was 61 kilotons. I owned that thing. It had a crew chief like an airplane has a crew chief and it’s on a dolly. But the dolly couldn’t move one inch unless I was standing there supervising. I was all over Europe and South America and all over this country, and we had a gunner school outside of Tripoli, Libya - about 35 or 40 miles. On the weekends, I would get a jeep and go down to the Sahara Desert where the big tank battles were fought during World War Two. It’s just like they left that country, you know? You can see skeletons laying there and a German helmet and a burned out tank and bullets laying around. I can’t tell you how many times I would see a hand grenade laying on the ground there, with a flint projectile laying next to it that’s 1500, 2000, 3000 years old. You’d see wars laying on top of wars.
They grew me up in the Air Force. You get a haircut once a week, whether you like it or not, and I could see myself growing in the Air Force. They gave me so much authority, you know, I retired - you have to serve 20 years to get retired pay, but you have to retire at the end of the month so it cost me 24 extra days. I served 20 years and 24 days. And I got out the first minute I was eligible.
I had a wife and two daughters, two young daughters, and my retired pay was $800 a month. I could get by with that in 1970. We did alright but I wanted to do better than that, and I just wanted to go someplace where the world would stop and let me out. Santa Fe was the only place I knew where I could wear blue jeans, a short-sleeved shirt, and Hush Puppies, and make a living. One of my rules was that I didn’t want to do anything, where my best customer gave me $100 - talking about restaurant business, one hour Martinizing, I mean you go on and on and on. They’re labor intensive. Primary employee doesn’t show up - he’s drunk or something. I was a collector of Indian things and antiques and that sort of thing. So I wanted to deal in luxuries.
JD NOBLE: I’d known about him forever. He’s a local legend. He had an amazing gallery here in town and really brought it to the ultimate Santa Fe gallery. If you had to choose one of the major galleries, his gallery would have been the one. I’m JD Noble. I’m part owner of the Hatsmith of Santa Fe. I was looking for some photos of some old Indians that I knew… I knew Forrest had some photos of these old Indians from Taos. And so, I called him up one day and said, “Hey, I would like to have lunch with you and talk about these old Taos Indians.” So he says, “Yeah, yeah, I want to show you something.” We had lunch and he says, “Well, I don’t really have any photos that I can help you with, but I do have this…” And he unrolls this flyer for the new book on the treasure. And so man, I am hooked right away. So my trips are usually no more than two days. I’ll go in and camp out. If I can’t find it in two days, I come back, then I go out again.
FENN: When you’re dealing with luxuries, normally you’re dealing with better people. You’re dealing with people that can write a check that won’t bounce. I broke all the rules of custom. I would take anybody’s check for any amount of money. And normally, I wasn’t interested in looking at a Driver’s License. You know I go to New York today, and they won’t take my traveler’s check. Well, I took a check for $375,000 from a man one time and told him I didn’t want to see his driver’s license. He couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t believe I’d take his check. Seventeen years in the business, I had two bad checks. The big one was for $600. And the guy that wrote me the check for $600 he did it deliberately thinking he was going to get by with it. Didn’t say anything to him. I didn’t call him, I didn’t write him a letter. But 30 days later I sued him for $600, attorney’s fees, interest on the note, and $25,000 punitive damages. He was calling my wife trying to get her to talk me into dropping my lawsuit. I finally settled with him. I think I got attorney’s fees $75, Interest on the note was $1.75 or so, and I said come into my gallery again, and I’ll take your check for any amount of money, but next time, it’s $1,000,000 punitive damage because you have a track record.
A guy came into my gallery years ago. He had a little tiny human skull, about the size of a big orange. He said, “This is Napoleon’s skull.” He said, “I want $1,000 for it.” I said, “That can’t be Napoleon's skull, it’s too small.” He said, “Oh, it was his skull when he was a kid.” So, you know, that’s what you have to put up with when you’re a trader. You know, I almost bought the skull! The story was too good to turn down! I ran my gallery for 17 years. My first two shows, I didn’t sell anything. Not even a book. And I finally decided, I had a little bit of money left, I’m going to spend my money on advertising. When that money’s gone, I’m going to slam the door, leave this town and go do something else. Probably flipping hamburgers someplace. I tell people to - if you have a daydream, then that’s where your aptitude is. Go do that.
HOWARD: I think what people need to know is, if they know Forrest Fenn, then they know that he’s a historian and ethnographer and archaeologist, anthropologist… I think part of it is, one of many parts of it is, like, looking to match wits with Forrest. He’s very intelligent. He’s very logical. He’s very creative. And he’s very crafty. I had many of the misconceptions that everybody else starts out with. Misconceptions by - you have a certain perspective, and when you read this book, it’s from your perspective that you look at whatever clues are there, and then try to find this treasure. But, you can’t look at it from your perspective. You have to divorce yourself from that and look at it from the perspective of Forrest Fenn. So first you have to know the man. You have to read the book, and then I read every book that he mentioned in the book. Including things I hadn’t read in years, like Catch-22 and The Great Gatsby. I looked at each one of them trying to say, “Okay, is there a clue in each one of these books as well?”
WOLF: If you know Forrest, then you know that, primarily, he’s an adventurer, and a great explorer of life, and a great collector of things. The thrill of the chase really sums up what his whole life has been about. It’s about pursuing the ‘hard to reach’, going places other people don’t go. Obtaining things that other people aren’t able to obtain. And doing it in a really loving and careful way. I think that the treasure is just indicative of how Forrest thinks, and he has one of the most amazing art collections in the United States. So he was going to leave a legacy behind anyway, but this speaks to his larger desire to leave a legacy for the world.
FENN: People think I did this for my legacy. When you’re dead, a legacy is not worth much to you when you’re dead. So that was never a consideration of mine, really. I don’t care if anybody remembers me after I’m gone. You don’t have to acknowledge me while I’m alive as far as I’m concerned.
MCGARRITY: I used that word with him - legacy. He kind of gave me this strange look like, you know it’s not about legacy, I’m just having fun. I said, “Oh now wait a minute, Forrest, come on, there’s a little bit of the legacy thing. Leaving something behind. This is of legendary proportion. That’s what legacy means. Let’s talk about it from that standpoint. Taking a beautiful antique bronze box and filling it with jewels and coins and gold and nuggets, and burying it, and writing a poem so people can go and find it. If that’s not about legacy, tell me what it is.”
FENN: I learned I had cancer in 1988. I had a small pain in my left groin, and it persisted for a number of months. So I was talking to a doctor at a party one day, and he says, “Well, you ought to go over and check it out.” The first time I knew I was in trouble, the nurse, they gave me some stuff to drink, and they were looking at my kidneys on this machine, and the nurse said, “Hey girls, come over here and look at this.” And I had a dead kidney and my doctor said, “Well, just because your kidney is not working is not reason enough to take it out, but since you have a pain, let’s take it out.” And I said, “What are the chances of it being cancer?” He said, “five percent.” A one hour operation turned into five and he gave me a 20% chance of living three years.
I was standing right here in my office with Ralph Lauren one time. He was a friend, and a client. And I had something that he wanted. I told him I didn’t want to sell it. He said, “You’ve got so many of them. You can’t take them with you.” And without thinking about it, I said to him, “Well, if I can’t take it with me, then I’m not going.” And that night I started thinking about it and I, you know, I had a 20% chance to live, that’s not too good. My father called me on the phone one night. He had pancreas cancer. They gave him six months to live. Eighteen months later, he called me on the phone and said that he was going to take 50 sleeping pills that night. I had an airplane. I said I would be there first thing in the morning. He said, “That’s too late.” And it was. And I respected him because he did it on his own terms. Why do you have to do it on somebody else’s terms all the time? So I decided that if I was going to die, and the odds certainly said that I was going to, then I appreciated what my father did and the last thing I want to do is die in a hospital bed. I said in my book, a hospital bed gives you temporary postponement, and you’re miserable the whole time. The poem originally said, “Take the chest and leave my bones alone.” I ruined my original story because I got well. Why not hide a treasure chest full of wonderful things and let somebody else have the same thrill that I’ve had all these years? For 70 years. 75 years. The gold in the treasure chest weighs 20.2 Troy pounds. It’s full of emeralds and diamonds and sapphires and 200 something rubies. When I hid my treasure chest, walking back to my car, I had this strange sensation. I asked myself out loud, I said, “Forrest did you really do that?” And I started laughing at myself out loud. There was nobody around, but in the back of my mind I told myself if I’m sorry later, I can go back and get it. But then the more I thought about it, it started evolving in my mind, I became really proud of myself. You know, once in awhile you do something that you’re really proud of. It hasn’t happened to me too many times. But I was really glad that I hid that treasure chest.
My wife doesn’t know within 18 months of when I hid that treasure chest. But the clues are there. They’re not easy to follow, but certainly not impossible.
WOLF: I have no doubt that it’s out there. I know that some people think that there’s no way that he could have done this or would have done this, and I think that people who believe that don’t understand, uh, what drives Forrest. He really, really is driven by wanting kids having the same sort of experiences today that he had growing up even though they’re growing up in a very different world. And so, he really wants kids to get out and bond with their families and go out and explore nature and get out there and experience the thrill of the chase.
FENN: We have a problem in this country with our youth today. We’re obese. Graffiti. Drive by shootings. Disrespect. The teenagers today are going to be our senators and presidents in the future, so what are we doing to prepare those people? And I’ve got to blame the churches. I blame school teachers. I certainly blame archeologists who have a wonderful thing to offer, but they’re so full of jargon and everybody has their thing going and we’re mostly oblivious of the problems that somebody else sees but it’s not my problem. That’s the attitude today, and I think that’s a terrible attitude. In a very small way, I was hoping to get kids off the couch, out of the game rooms, and away from their texting machines and out to smell the sunshine and see what’s going on out in the countryside.
MCGARRITY: I think that’s Forrest’s whole intention. Get their kids. Take them out, and show them the outdoors and have an adventure. It doesn’t matter if you find it. I’ve had some amazing times out in the mountains just looking for it.
WOLF: We have heard numerous times, “This is the first time we have taken a family vacation. All of us. This is the first time that we have all gone somewhere and spent this much time together.” And we hear that from the kids too. Like, “This is the first time we’ve ever gone anywhere with mom and dad and done what mom and dad are doing.” And that’s really powerful. Forrest loves to hear those stories. Frankly, there’s just as much chance of a six year old from Kansas finding it as there is somebody in Santa Fe who has been dedicating their months to figuring out the puzzle. And if they wander across it, they will find it.
FENN: Again let me say that I’m not thinking of something “Let’s go do it this afternoon.” I’m thinking about a thousand years from now. Nothing has happened that was not predictable. I’ve called 911 three times. They arrested a guy at my gate and put him in handcuffs last week. Took him off to jail. I’ve had death threats. You know, when you look at politicians they get death threats every day.
HOWARD: And you know you can’t guess what these people are going to do. And people get in their head, “It’s my treasure. I deserve it. I’m going to go get it.” That can be a little scary.
FENN: So I’ll be 83 years old on the 22nd of this month and I told a guy the other day if torture and death are the only two things that you can threaten me with you’re in trouble. I’ve been down the road a few miles you know? I don’t want to leave my wife with all of these things. The vultures would circle this house and so I’m selling some things now. I’m not tearing down my walls, but things that are laying down. I’m just trying to ease the pain for my heirs. I think over spring break in Santa Fe there were about 6,500 people in Santa Fe related to the treasure chest. And, this summer, before the summer is over I spent some time estimating. I think there will be 43,000 people looking for the treasure chest in New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming.
MCGARRITY: On the one hand, it’s given an award for increasing tourism in the community right? I was walking in a shopping center just after the book came out and there was this huge 4x4 extended cab Dodge 350 Ram Charger. And in the back there was a 4 wheel drive all terrain vehicle. And this big Texan gets out. I know he was Texan because he had license plates from Texas. And he says, “Can you tell me how to find Forrest Fenn? I’m looking for Forrest Fenn. I’m here to look for that treasure.”
WOLF: We have met people from, probably, four continents and ten countries, who have come here. We have families, older people, young people, college kids who have come together. People who have started teams working on the puzzle. Crowdsourcing. Solutions to the puzzle, and then sending delegates out here to look.
HOWARD: I’ve run into people who’ve told me they spent their life savings coming out here. Literally coming from Florida one guy came. Spent at least $12,000 on airfare. That was his life savings. A lady come in from Mississippi. She was an old client and she said, “Well, when I find Forrest’s treasure,” she’s 40 pounds overweight, five years old than me and she’s rich and I say, “Okay, you go!” you know? “You go girl!” What the hell.
FENN: I’m right at 22,000 emails from people related to the treasure chest. They tell me where they are and where they’re going and want to know if they’re hot or cold. Thousands of emails from people that have said thanks to me for getting them out of the house. I had a man send me an email who said, “My brother - I had not spoken to my brother in 12 years. He called me on the phone and said let’s go look for the treasure chest”, and so they’re connected again. I see a lot of that - that kind of thing. It’s very rewarding, you know, it’s a by-product of something that I did. I’m the big winner in this thing, because I feel a sense of satisfaction.
WOLF: About the best one that I heard was a gentleman who said that if he found the treasure, he would give the bracelet back to Forrest and then he was going to re-hide the treasure somewhere else, and write his own book. And just kind of keep it going because he was having so much fun looking for it. And he’d been looking for it for six months and he kind of wanted to find it, but he kind of didn’t want that to end.
HOWARD: ...come to my shop, I had the guy from Florida that I mentioned came to my shop, and he brought me a detailed map. Layed out on a piece of cardboard. Told me what he was thinking. And said, “Will you go get this for me and split the treasure with me?” I said, “Look, that’s not my thing. I know where I want to go.” And he got offended and left.
MCGARRITY: You know, I really kind of wonder if some people have found it. My last adventure out, somebody had beaten me to it. To the spot. I had been there once before, but I was unprepared. And I came back, and waited for the weather to get warm, and went back. Somebody had left a message that they had been there already. Done in pink chalk. With a big X on a rock and said, “It is not here.” I think it’s a diversion because I still want to go back because there’s many many, uh, I can’t tell you where it’s at. People - somebody else already figured it out too, so whoever it was, we were both thinking and putting the clues, and that’s just interpreting the clues, which are so vague.
FENN: I’ve given clues to everybody. I’ve never given a clue to an individual. The first clue that I gave that wasn’t in my poem was because I made this guy mad and he demanded another clue. And I said, “The treasure chest is hidden more than 300 miles west of Toledo.” I don’t think he knew that I was pulling his leg. There was a guy out here someplace, dug a hole 18 inches deep and 9 inches wide and they arrested him.
FEMALE VOICEOVER: ...charges for digging near a descanso looking for Forrest Fenn’s box of gold and jewels.
FENN: Please tell me what’s going on here. Nine inches wide and eighteen inches deep and they arrested - all over the paper, they’re quoting the police officer that they’re going to prosecute this guy.
MCGARRITY: There are people saying, “Oh wait, wait, wait. He’s sending these people off to trample our wilderness.” What wilderness? Come on. About the only real wilderness we have, most people can’t get to. And that’s up in the Pecos which recently burned. You know, most of what we have in terms of national forest is not wilderness. But, “oh no, it’s going to send people out and they’re going to dig up, uh, plants and disturb the ground and be where they shouldn’t be.”
FENN: No matter what you do, somebody is not going to like it. There are always just disgruntled people. Somebody picks up an arrowhead worth $8.00. And they “stole that from the government.” So I guess the government is going to come and get them and arrest them. Too many PhD’s in government. Bureau of Land Management came in and searched my house four years ago. Somebody told them I had taken something out of a cave in Arizona that was on government land. Well it wasn’t on government land, it was private property. But, even if everything they said was true, the statute of limitations had run out 47 years ago. So four years passed, and I got a letter from them that absolved me of everything. That was the end of it. It builds character. I just wonder what I’m going to do with all this character.
MCGARRITY: And he’s very bright. There’s nothing at all about this man that doesn’t speak to how smart he is. He’s a curious guy. That curiosity has led him to a point in his life where he is extremely well off. Lives a beautiful lifestyle. He likes to tell stories. He likes to confound people. He likes to put little things out there that has folks guessing.
HOWARD: I’m not there to try to pry information out of him. That’s not to say I don’t look carefully at everything he has said to me, because, he’s that way. There could be something there. But I don’t ask him any specific questions, and he doesn’t volunteer any specific information. It wouldn’t be fair. He’s really interested in this being something that, where the playing field is pretty level for people. But it’s going to take somebody that’s intelligent, who looks at all these in different aspects, I think, to find it. I don’t think anybody’s going to stumble upon it.
MCGARRITY: This last spot that I’ve been in, I really feel like it’s there. I’ve already hit Forrest up; he denies it. But uh, you know, he tries to get me to go back to one of my first spots, and that’s a diversion, I know.
FENN: I still have about uh, something like, 4,000 arrowheads. And I tell people I’m saving those, because after the next war, I’ll make a fortune selling my arrowheads to different armies around the world. Einstein had said, “I don’t know what we’ll fight World War III with, but World War IV is going to be fought with sticks.” And the technology is changing so fast. I mean, if your computer is two years old, it’s archaic today. Technology is not going to help you find that treasure. But your mind and your body and your attitude changes as things change.
HOWARD: It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve been a lot of places. I’ve been on top of some mountains and I’ve been in a lot of hot springs and when nobody’s there, that’s great I just take it all off and throw myself in and wait awhile. I’ve had Bighorn Sheep right near me. Bald Eagles fly right over my head. I’ve been up in the mountains for the first snowfall of the year, which at that point, in that place, was September 30.
FENN: The greatest thrill is going by yourself. You don’t know where the edge is unless you go out there and look for it.
HOWARD: I always bring something back. Generally speaking, it’s something I found along the way that interests me a feather, a mineral specimen, you know, an artifact that somebody lost long ago.
FENN: Yeah, I have some advice. Read the book. And then study the poem. Over and over. Read it over and over. Maybe even memorize it. And then go back and read the book again looking for hints that are in the book that are going to help you with the clues that are in the poem. That’s the best advice that I can give. You have to find out - you have to learn where the first clue is. They get progressively easier after you discover where the first clue is.
WOLF: Forrest has given some good advice. I mean, Forrest has told people to enjoy themselves, but not get into danger. Don’t get into trouble. Don’t go into places that a 79 year old man couldn’t get to carrying a 42 pound box. But, then again, you haven’t seen Forrest. He might not be your average 79 year old man.
HOWARD: One thing I need to tell people who think they’re going to go do this, you better be in shape. If you think that this guy at 79 was a pushover, you got another think coming.
MCGARRITY: You were asking me earlier about the reason, I was at a point in my life where I was ready for some adventure. And this was just perfect.
HOWARD: I mean I believe I know where it is. I just haven’t found the blaze. And that’s going to be the toughest part.
WOLF: I’ve seen a lot of stuff I wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t been out there looking. And, while, a couple of times I thought, “Oh yeah, I got it. I know exactly where it is.” When I came back empty handed, I didn’t feel disappointed somehow. I came away with just more excitement about going out again.
MCGARRITY: Well Forrest contends that his real mission in life, when he wrote this book, was to get people up and off the couch and out doing something in the wild. Right? And I just roll my eyes. I said, come on. But he sticks to it. He sticks to his story.
WOLF: He is, um, passionate about adventure and he is passionate about sharing that love of adventure, and treasure seeking with other people. An American archetype if you will.
FENN: I think the thing that, as much as anything, is that first little arrowhead that I found when I was nine years old. I still have it, yeah, sure. My autobiography is in the treasure chest. I put it in a little olive jar. I rolled it up. Printed at Kinko’s. I have to use a magnifying glass if I want to read it. The olive jar had a metal lid. And metal will rust. It’s tin. And so I dipped it in hot wax to make it airtight and watertight. 10,000 years from now, that autobiography is going to be just like it is when I put it in there. There’s an old saying, “You can never go home.” How many encores can a person take? I mean, I’ve played my hand.
I don’t feel like I gave you anything.
INTERVIEWER: Oh I think we got plenty.
FENN: (reads poem)
|9621||2/1/2016||CBC - As It Happens # 2|
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JEFF DOUGLAS: It began as a good old fashioned treasure hunt. Several years ago, a wealthy antiques dealer by the name of Forrest Fenn stashed a 40 pound box of gold and jewelry somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. It is said to be worth $2,000,000. But now Mr. Fenn’s fun may have turned fatal. A Colorado man who was one of many who went into the wild to find that treasure has not been heard from for more than three weeks. We reached Forrest Fenn in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
CAROL OFF: Mr. Fenn can you tell us about this search that has been launched for this man Randy Bilyeu?
FORREST FENN: Well, it’s not a good story. He’s been lost in the Rio Grande River canyon west of Santa Fe. Today is the 25th day. And we’ve had as many as 50 people walking up and down those canyons and I’ve been in helicopters three days. It’s a pretty sad story. We’re still looking for the man, but we have three inches of snow on the ground here today and it’s still snowing.
OFF: When did you learn that he was missing?
FENN: Evidently, he went into the canyon on the 5th of January and I didn’t know he was lost until about the 11th. So we started late on our rescue efforts. State Police and the state search and rescue people did their searching and then they decided they didn’t have any more leads so they quit. And that's when we picked up the search. Our search people are people that have been looking for my treasure chest. But they all came together while this guy was lost. We had people come in as far away as Vermont to New Mexico to look for this guy.
OFF: Let’s talk about your treasure chest because that’s what’s really at the heart of this isn’t it? What was Randy Bilyeu doing out there?
FENN: Randy was in that canyon looking for that treasure chest that I hid in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe.
OFF: And we’ve talked to you about that before. Remind people about that treasure and why you hid it there.
FENN: Well that’s a long story. You really need to read my book, “The Thrill of The Chase” in order to get - but I’ll tell you the quick answer. In 1988 I was diagnosed with what everybody thought was terminal cancer. I lost a kidney and my doctor told me I had a 20% chance of living three years. That’s when I decided I would start gathering up some valuable things and putting them in a beautiful little treasure chest and hide them someplace. I’ve had so much fun over the years looking and collecting things that I thought why not let somebody else have same thrills that I’ve had all these years?
OFF: Uh-huh, and so this - we talked to you about this - this is a hidden treasure you hid in the Rocky Mountains worth about $2,000,000. All kinds of people have been out looking for it, right?
FENN: That’s right, but I’ve never said what it was worth. I’ve never had it appraised. But it has 265 American Eagles and Double Eagle coins, and it has hundreds of gold nuggets. Some of them as large as chicken eggs. And it has two hundred sixty some rubies and there’s diamonds and eight emeralds and two Ceylon sapphires and pre-Columbian gold and jade figures. It’s a wonderful treasure chest full of good things.
OFF: Your understanding is that Randy was out searching for the treasure when he went missing?
FENN: That’s my understanding, yes. There are a lot of mysteries involved in this so I can’t speak with any authority on exactly what he was doing or where he was.
OFF: Do you feel any guilt for encouraging people to venture out into remote, dangerous areas looking for your treasure, like Randy?
FENN: No. Nobody is responsible for what this man did but himself.
OFF: Uh-huh, but he went out looking for the treasure you put there, so how are you feeling about that?
FENN: Well I’m - anytime somebody gets their kids off the couch and game room and away from the texting machines and going into the Rocky Mountains looking for my treasure I’m tickled to death with that. It’s sad when somebody gets lost. But I’ve said over and over you should not look for my treasure in the winter time. You know the winter mountains are not your friend when there’s snow and ice on the ground. I don’t know what else I can say.
OFF: Well I’m sure you’ve heard that since you put that treasure there, there have been other people with not enough experience perhaps were out. A woman got caught in the dark in, when she was out looking for it. There have been others who have had to be rescued by rangers and and some people damaged some sensitive archeological sites looking for your treasure. Does any of that give you pause?
FENN: What you say is true, but how many people have been lost in the mountains hunting for deer and elk over the years? I mean if somebody gets lost in the mountains looking for - while they’re hunting, does that mean we should stop hunting?
OFF: So you - are you going to call off the treasure hunt?
FENN: No, I will not call off the treasure hunt. 65,000 people have had wonderful experiences in the mountains looking for my treasure and I get 120 emails a day from people that thank me for hiding that treasure and I got an email from one man who said he had not spoken with his brother for 17 years but they called - he called his brother and now they’re out looking for the treasure. I mean that’s very rewarding to me. Occasionally, someone gets lost and I’m very sad about that. It’s unfortunate. But you should not be looking for my treasure in the wintertime.
OFF: Well now the treasure hunters are out looking for Randy is that right?
OFF: And so what chances are do you think they’ll find him alive?
FENN: You know, I can’t predict the future and I don’t know what the odds are. We’re not going to give up looking for him.
OFF: But if it does turn out that Randy did not survive this, it won’t change anything for you.
FENN: I’m not going to speculate on that and I don’t even want to think about it.
OFF: Alright Mr. Fenn thanks for speaking with us.