Forrest Fenn: The Thrill of the Chase redoux

There’s still treasure hidden in the Rockies somewhere north of Santa Fe. At least, so says octogenarian author, Forrest Fenn, whose book The Thrill of the Chase, caused a media furor last year when it was discovered by network morning news programs. Apparently, hidden treasure makes a great news story. We sat down with Fenn shortly after he appeared on NBC’s Today show. Over a year after the original furor over the treasure, journalists, filmmakers and others from around the world still come to Santa Fe to interview him about the treasure. We caught up with him earlier this month to see if the loot is still there for the finding.

Thrill of the Chase, Forrest Fenn, Santa Fe,

“The Thrill of the Chase” Treasure Chest photo is taken from the back cover of the book

Is the treasure still out there?

He thinks it is, but hasn’t been back to the site to check. Is he worried people would follow him? He said that he has been trailed at times over the last year; a lot of people who want to find the treasure. Fenn gets lots of emails from would-be and actual treasure hunters every day. From these he has deduced that a few people have come within 500 feet of it, but he hasn’t told them. “It wouldn’t be prudent of me to tell anyone they’ve come close.” Fenn said. The author is a master of keeping his cards close to his vest and is a pro at avoiding questions. But, it’s always fun to see if you can get an end run around him So far, the answer is no.

The Thrill of the Chase is a personal story that contains a poem with nine clues to the whereabouts of the treasure. He’s said that it’s hidden in the Rocky Mountains somewhere north of Santa Fe. He’s given four more clues in the last year, none of which are very helpful (see the bottom of this post). Fenn also gave an accidental clue in his latest book, Too Far to Walk released in the fall of 2013. He writes that the treasure is somewhere on the fold-out map in the book. It’s not much of a clue; as the map is only of the US Rockies, it eliminates Canada. He said he didn’t realize that he’d done it, but after spending time with Fenn, you wonder.

The Thrill of the Chase, Forrest Fenn, Santa Fe,

Steve Collins and and Forrest Fenn in Fenn’s den, photo/Billie Frank

 An important clue

One thing Fenn will say is that most people are missing the most important clue; “begin it where warm waters halt”. When you solved this clue, he shared, and the others will fall into place. “If you don’t know ‘where warm water halts,’ Fenn said, “you don’t have anything.” It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Fenn told us last year that one of the reasons he hid the treasure was to bring families together to search for it. He wanted “to get kids off the couch and out of the game room and into the sunshine.” It’s not only families out hunting for the treasure; strangers are coming together, both online and in person, to discuss the clues. “People are being drawn together and I didn’t anticipate that to the degree it’s happening.” It’s even generated a treasure-hunting event. Fennboree! The Faux Fenn Treasure Hunt will take place at Gallina Canyon Ranch in Abiquiu on May 16th and 17th.  The limited slots for participants are almost filled. The book has even generated websites. Fenn shared that Dal Neitzel’s Thrill of the Chase blog, gets over 4,000 hits a day. Read the Meeting Forrest section. It’s fascinating.

Shields and dolls from Forrest Fenn's extensive collection, photo/Steve Collins

Shields and dolls from Forrest Fenn’s extensive collection, photo/Steve Collins

People love treasure

The Thrill of the Chase has changed Forrest Fenn’s life in many ways. He started out getting 400 emails a day from total strangers. “That didn’t last very long,” he said. Then it went down to between 80 and 100; now it’s steady at 40 to 50. “Almost all of them want to thank me,” he said, “They start out wishing I’m well- that’s a stock phrase,” he said. Many thank him for the wonderful experience of bringing their families together. He estimates that over 30,000 people have come to the Santa Fe area (or other places in the Rocky Mountains) to look for the treasure.

“There was never a question about where I was going to take the treasure chest,” Fenn said. Though he’s not usually “big on details,” he was very deliberate about the clues in the poem he wrote. He spent 15 years perfecting them. “I’ve thought and rethought and changed and rewritten,” he shared. He even looked up some words to see all the different applications that could be applied to them. He wanted to make the hunt challenging. “The person that finds it,” Fenn said, “is going to be a person who thinks and plans and has an analytical mind and uses logic, not someone who has a hunch.” Will it be you?

Forrest Fenn, The Thrill of the Chase, Santa Fe,

Forrest Fenn’s home is loaded with treasures, photo/Steve Collins

The Thrill of the Chase

At least 35 people have called to claim they found the treasure chest, but when he asks for a photo, they demur. Is the treasure still out there? If you found the treasure, would you tell? Would you even be able to keep it if you did? All land belongs to someone or something: private landowners, businesses; federal, state, county or local governments, non-profit groups etc. Bottom line: if you find the treasure, it may be theirs, not yours. And, if you find it and are allowed to keep it, you’d owe a bundle to Uncle Sam.

Forrest Fenn said that the secret of the treasure will go to the grave with him. “If no one finds the treasure for 500 years, people will still be talking about it,” he said. ” Once the seed is planted, he theorized, people will not give up and until someone finds it, the game goes on. It gives him a bit of immortality. For Forrest Fenn the thrill was creating the clues and hiding the treasure, for the rest of us, it’s The Thrill of the Chase. “

 Four more clues

Want more clues to the where the treasure is hidden? Forrest Fenn has revealed five additional clues that might narrow your search a tiny bit):

Clue 10
The treasure is hidden higher than 5,000 feet above sea level.
Clue 11
No need to dig up the old outhouses, the treasure is not associated with any structure.
Clue 12
The treasure is not in a graveyard

Clue 13
The treasure is not hidden in Idaho or Utah

 Read our original interview with Forrest Fenn: Forrest Fenn: The Thrill of the Chase

24 Responses to “Forrest Fenn: The Thrill of the Chase redoux”

  1. Leigh
    April 25, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    Love this post and I could definitely see myself getting caught up in the thrill of the chase if I lived in Santa Fe but I don’t think I’d fly there just to search.
    I like the reason Fenn hid the treasure in the first place.
    And the shot of him and Steve is interesting as he appears as his head is perfectly centered on the fabulous circle of art behind him.

    • Billie Frank
      April 25, 2014 at 11:41 am #

      We thought the same thing about the photo- it looks like a halo. Many people are headed this way to search for the treasure. Some are out there for fun and others, well…

  2. Irene S Levine
    April 28, 2014 at 7:08 am #

    This is a fascinating story with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow~

  3. Nancie
    April 28, 2014 at 7:13 am #

    How fascinating! I wish I was closer. I would be out searching! I’d like to read the book.

    • Billie Frank
      April 29, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

      A lot of people are heading this way from all over to search. The book is available from Collected Works Book Store in Santa Fe- the only people who can retail the book directly.

  4. Suzanne (The Travelbunny)
    April 28, 2014 at 7:45 am #

    What a fascinating story – and how awful to have people follow the guy around looking for clues!

  5. Michele Peterson
    April 28, 2014 at 10:24 am #

    Wow, 30,000 people have headed to Santa Fe to look for this treasure? That’s more than the population of my hometown! It just goes to show you that everyone is young at heart and believes in magic of discovery. It seems as though The Thrill of the Chase has tapped into people’s love of mystery and opportunity – good for Fenn!

    • Billie Frank
      April 29, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

      Not just to Santa Fe- the treasure can be anywhere between here and the Canadian Border. Many think it’s in Yellowstone a place that Forrest holds dear.

  6. Patti
    April 28, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    How cool is that? I’ve never heard this story, but it sounds so intriguing! Have you and Steve made a search?

    • Billie Frank
      April 29, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

      Nope. I wouldn’t have a clue- well I have nine of them (13 now) and I still haven’t a clue.

  7. Lois Alter Mark
    April 30, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

    Wow, that’s fascinating! Would love to read this book!

    • Billie Frank
      May 2, 2014 at 8:38 am #

      You can buy it online at Collected Works Bookstore or Amazon.

  8. Linda ~ Journey Jottings
    May 1, 2014 at 4:44 am #

    Ooooo yes – Where the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park run cool -
    That’s it!!
    I’m on the next plane ;)

  9. Michelle
    May 3, 2014 at 8:22 am #

    I would love to go on a treasure hunt! That would be something new and different. I bet I could get some really good photos while looking anyway :) What a great story

    • Billie Frank
      May 3, 2014 at 9:01 am #

      Thanks! You would definitely get great photos- can’t promise you’ll find treasure.

  10. Neva @ Retire for the Fun of it
    May 3, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

    What an intriguing story. I’m going to throw out all these clues to my children when we get together. This will be a fun trivia discussion.

    • Billie Frank
      May 4, 2014 at 6:25 am #

      Figuring out where the treasure is hidden is a great family activity. I want to get my grandsons on it.

  11. Nancy D. Brown
    May 4, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    Sounds like Forrest was ahead of his time with geocaching.

    • Billie Frank
      May 5, 2014 at 11:36 am #

      I think Goecaching gives you clues that make it easy to find the next cache- not so here. He’s more in the old pirate map school of treasure secreting- but no X marks the spot here..

  12. Tim
    May 20, 2014 at 9:34 am #

    What a great post and who doesn’t like a good riddle or treasure hunt. I can well imagine it has brought a lot of families together. Can we really be sure there is a treasure though?

    • Billie Frank
      May 20, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

      Well, that’s a good question, Tim. I had doubts until we first interviewed Forrest last year. The fact that he’s not making any money from the book convinced me it’s the real deal. He’s getting his money’s worth of fun from this. If not, people are having a heck of a good time looking and as you said, it’s bringing families together- a good thing.

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