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An 85-year old millionaire hides $1M treasure in the Rocky Mountains (2016) (npr.org)
369 points by yurisagalov on Mar 15, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 158 comments

Worth noting people have died looking for it, which makes me believe the claim is likely real, especially given Fenn has charted private helicopters to help search for those lost and known to be searching for the treasure:


Fenn hasn't been out in the Rocky Mountains, north of Santa Fe, to check on the chest since he hid it, but he knows it's still there.

My guess is that the prize is not inside, but with Fenn; which explains why he checks to see if someone has found it and requests they provide proof of what is inside.

Fenn has more clues posted here: http://www.oldsantafetradingco.com/the-thrill-resource-page

That is not a plausible theory. Sure, the treasure might be elsewhere, but I wouldn't keep the prize in my own possesion if I were over 70 years old. What if someone finds the chest after his death.

I would rather believe it contains a note requesting that Fenn should be contacted by the lucky one.

Assure you that there are ways to deal with Fenn dieing and still require the party finding it to make contact with someone to claim the prize; in fact, Fenn planned this when he thought he would die from cancer.

From Wikipedia: "He filled the chest with "treasure" containing gold nuggets, rare coins, jewelry and gemstones, along with a jar holding his autobiography. He intended to hide it and end his life nearby, with the treasure as a legacy.[2] However, he survived his illness and waited until he was 79 or 80 to hide the treasure."

These are all bearer instruments. You may not know if it's found. 79-80 is 2009-2010. If he had a cellphone, there's a trail for some enterprising telcom worker or NSA analyst to follow (base station->sector->signal strength if not outright location). Presumably he drove there, maybe some ALPR database to mine.

Key to a safe deposit box and an address of the bank is more than enough to fulfill that requirement. At my bank, they come with two keys. Put one in the box and keep the other, and check the safe deposit box periodically.

That's not an option nowadays as far as I know.

I don't have the time to dig this up, but banking law forbids unknown parties to access safe deposit box in major banks. Sure you can give the second key to anyone you want but when they showed up at the bank, they will have to show their ID that matches name on the list of people you gave permission to access the box (at least that's how it is at Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo - I don't have boxes at other banks). This is part of KYC (know your customer) routine for banking institutions.

All he needed to do is leave a will-type of letter in this chest and directs you to bring this letter to his lawyer and that will do it.

You're right, I actually asked a banker after I wrote that and she said you'd need to show your ID that matches the name on the account. Sorry, too many bank heist movies I guess.

At my credit union they've moved to using thumbprints on a reader for regular visitors so the staff doesn't have to go through checking signatures, etc.

I'm executor for my aunt. She has a safe deposit box at a bank to which I have her key but I'm not on the list of people allowed access. They would have allowed me to open the box and remove a copy of the will if that was the only place it existed (that was also the situation with my dad) but otherwise I would not be allowed access.

Interestingly the agreements I've signed specifically disclaim any responsibility for gold, silver, cash and similar items.

Or a bitcoin private key. Fenn can monitor whether the money's been moved out of the account to know if the treasure's been found.

> Worth noting people have died looking for it, which makes me believe the claim is likely real,

At least one person died looking for the Fargo treasure, and that was made up.

Assuming you mean the Japanese woman, her death was ruled a suicide:


The urban legend that she died looking for the treasure however, was turned into a movie:


The real story is quite tragic. That people misinterpreted it as an accidental death from a hilarious misunderstanding just adds to the sadness of the whole thing.

I heard a great radio story that went into detail a while back, but I can't find it. I think maybe it was Snap Judgement?

Thanks, though I have no idea what the "Fargo treasure" is, so I'm not able to comment on it.

Do you have links to it, proof it's fake, the related death, etc.?

(Attempted to Google "Fargo treasure" but it appeared there were a number of different Fargo treasures.)

EDIT: Link http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/kumiko-the-treasure-hunter/t...

Yes, I would hope it's obvious that a fictional treasure is not real. Difference between your example and mine is the source is claiming it's real, aware people are dying, and spending money to help look for missing people.

Fargo the movie. Which in my opinion should not have said "this is a true story" in the movie or TV series. It's sort of "cheating" and uncool when credits in a movie state something as fact - which they know people will read as fact, but is actually made up.

To be fair I'm not sure I've ever actually seen a movie/series state the literal "this is a true story", it's usually more along the lines of "based on a true story" to excuse their creative liberties.

Many horror movies do the same thing nowadays, probably because it makes it more engaging for the audience?

It's especially funny when the story involves poltergeists or other paranormal elements. At least Fargo could plausibly have actually happened.

Uh, no, it's not. Did you read the link you posted? Two minor details from two separate cases were (allegedly) kind of related. Everything else was made up.

"Based on a true story" is one of those film-marketing buzzphrases that means almost nothing. If the initial inspiration for the story is a true story, even if it bears little resemblance to the final product, it is "based on a true story". See also: Subway's "made with 100% chicken"

"Based on a true story" is not the same thing as a documentary; it's assumed that aparts of the story are not real; how much is made up is up to the writer, not the reader.

Not sure what you point is. Fargo says "This is a true story".

It adds that apart from the name changes "the rest has been told exactly as it occurred."

A blatant lie, not at all in the manner of "based on a true story".

Fargo's credits state:

"The persons and events portrayed in this production are fictitious."

Still not sure what your point is. You seem stuck.

Nobody reads the tiny print in end credits. Viewers were told in opening credits that every detail except the names was true.

Someone went looking for the buried money and got themselves killed as a direct result of the statement in the opening credits.

Every single modern movie has that lawyer-require statement just in case they get sued.

No, real (by intent and marketing, not necessarily truthfulness) documentaries (which are modern movies) do not.

Movies that are actually intended as works of fiction (even if inspired by real events, and even if—well, given the purpose, especially if—including some characters retaining the names of those in the real events doing some of the things they actually did) have it.

I suspect he's referring to the scene in the movie Fargo where a character buries some cash in the snow. I haven't seen the movie in a while, and couldn't find a clip of where the money came into the character's possession.


Good point.

From reading the article I immediately thought that maybe Randy Bilyeu did find it and decided to disappear.

Thanks. You'd think they'd would have checked and mentioned it (the article is much more recent, 2017/03/17)!

my guess is it's a scam, cause his story doesn't add up.

What does not add up?

Some people can't comprehend that a person would do something just for fun/interesting rather being selfish/greedy/personally optimal.

If he did drive there, the license plate would be interesting. He probably picked up supplies or even bought food along the way. When you are about to go deeper into the woods, and that LAST stop is just sitting there, you usually grab a few things. EVERY convenience store I know has a few cameras. Also gps units use satellites? If he did use one would there be a log of this?

Just sayin'

GPS units are receive-only. The tech behind GPS is actually really cool!


Yep. I've had the "We can only receive" conversation with my SO on a few car trips through the countryside.

"What? You have GPS. Why can't you search Google Maps on your phone?"

Explaining the difference between cell towers and satellites in orbit is hard to do when the asker has no idea how cell phone infrastructure works. Which is pretty much everyone.

What's a "satellite lookup for gps request"?

My ex-wife. She always knows where I'm thinking of going.

If he's confident that no one else knows where it is, either he killed someone, or it is in a place where an 85 year old man can carry a 40lb chest. I know some AT thru hikers that old, but I don't think their packs were that heavy, and the load was better distributed/more ergonomic.

If I had to guess, the location is within an 8 hour hike (12 miles at that age) of a road or jeep trail. Between that and the water clue, I think the field is considerably more narrow than the 5,000ft map in the article.

dang. I think i got bit by this gold bug ;)

> or it is in a place where an 85 year old man can carry a 40lb chest. I know some AT thru hikers that old, but I don't think their packs were that heavy, and the load was better distributed/more ergonomic.

Say it's filled with coins: he could have carried the empty chest and its contents separately, distributing the load. He could have also made multiple trips.

I'm not familiar with the area, but he could have also carried the chest on a Pack Mule. Short of treacherous terrain they are quite sure-footed. Or was there some indication he carried the chest to the location himself? Other than the blurb on Old Sante Fe Trading Co webpage I didn't see anything saying as much. I didn't watch all the videos though. Theorizing is fun.

According to him he did just that. Two trips.

Ah that makes sense. Still, off-trail in the Rockies with 20lb is difficult for me at 30. the CDT might be a good starting point.

It was two trips in the same afternoon too.

Doesn't that conflict with this hint:

> Not far, but too far to walk.

So he took a car to some area, and then drove a motorcycle (or snowmobile) twice to the spot? If you're taking a vehicle why do you need 2 trips, though.

It would conflict somewhat if it was a literal instruction that it's too far to walk.

he's also alluded to the meaning in the opening of one of his books what "not far, but too far to walk" is and said in an interview that "it doesn't take a genius to see what he meant".

At the bottom of a lake? Could drive to where you put the boat in. Can't walk to the bottom of a lake.

also said it was wet and exposed to wildfire so I doubt it's at the bottom of a lake unless the lake is seasonal.

If he is into mysteries, he might have picked the riverbank where D.B. Cooper's ransom cash was discovered in 1978 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D._B._Cooper#Physical_evidence).

If he is into mysteries, its entirely possible that he didn't hide any money and is hoping people will find my cooper or his money instead :)

Do you have a source for this statement?

It's apparently a statement he's made a number of times, e.g. http://mysteriouswritings.com/questions-with-forrest-fenn-an...

> where an 85 year old man can carry a 40lb chest

I wonder if you couldn't take it pretty far with a motorized contraption.

You could also hire some help that you're reasonably sure isn't experienced in mountaineering, and has no reason to believe they're carrying something valuable. Then, even if they discover the contents, they will be unable to return to the scene.

Also, it might be much less than 40lbs, assuming the treasure consists mainly of rare coins and gemstones, and not so much gold nuggets.

From the clues, I have a suspicion that it is on a river that is accessible only by rafting. An 80 year old man could easily raft to a location on his own depending on difficulty of the river.

I agree. He was featured on an Expedition Unknown episode and the host went out with some people that have been searching for a long time. Below is what I recall as theories from the show and some of my thoughts.

Begin it where warm waters halt.. canyon down = Yellowstone (known to be dear to Fenn), waterfall

Not far, but too far to walk... There'll be no paddle up your creek .... Just heavy loads and water high. = Seems obvious to be a raft through rapids

Put in below the home of Brown = refers to brown trout, good fishing spot

That's certainly the obvious meaning of that one stanza. Put in on a river and paddle downstream a distance that would be too far to walk. (Of course, he would need to get back to his car somehow unless there was a second person with him who could drive to the take-out. And this doesn't really square with his supposedly taking two trips.)

Depends on how far he had to raft, it could be a hundred yards between where he enters the river and where he leaves it. He's been hiking those forests for years.

Perhaps he took two trips to the put in. once it was floated the weight would be less of a burden and he could have taken any number of miles downstream that same afternoon.

He could have then packrafted to any subsequent point down the river or any trail connecting, taking as many days as he needed to extract himself after the deed was done.

Perhaps it is even intentionally in a place where it is relatively easy to get to, but difficult to get out of.

I've seen enough variants on the "two trips" comment that I probably wouldn't read a whole lot into it. e.g. he's quoted in one interview as making two trips in a car, so one trip might have been to pick up a boat.

It's also easy to believe that (assuming this is real), the X spot could be fairly isolated while the put-in and take-out are trafficked to the point where getting a ride back to a car might not be a big deal.

It could also be a very short swim to the other side of a river but too far to walk (because you'd have to go around the river or find a bridge).

I thought it was funny that the only place his book is sold in on Water St. The place to buy the book is a logical starting place. And there is a Canyon St not too far.

He hid the treasure in 2010, I believe, so he was only 78 or so, if that changes the parameters of your old-man filter.

He might know how to fly a helicopter :)

investigating that hypothesis is easier, since there are fewer places to land a helicopter in the rockies. or maybe he tied down the control stick and rappelled from the empty helicopter. Or perhaps dropped it on a line and went back on foot later to conceal it :)

> or maybe he tied down the control stick and rappelled from the empty helicopter

That's not how that works. Please don't try that with your helicopters.

Why not, by the way? Why don't helicopters have a simple control input system these days, that can be interpreted by a computer and applied to actual flight controls?

I'm imagining a helicopter with the same controls as a current one, but where the "balancing" act is done by computer. It's stable by default, and the human inputs controls to ascend, descend, rotate, or tilt in the desired direction. So a human could take their hands off the controls in a stationary helicopter and it would stay stationary. If the human wants to fly forward, they push the cyclic stick forward, and that's it, no need to compensate in the other controls.

Is this just not done because fly-by-wire would make helicopters even more expensive or less reliable? Are there any fly-by-wire helicopters today?

After writing this question I decided to do some web searches and came across http://aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/23977/why-not-si... and a Wired article about a fly-by-wire helicopter: https://www.wired.com/2012/02/electrons-dominate-new-sixteen...

I'm looking for a description of what it's like to fly from a pilot. Haven't turned up anything yet.

Modern multi-blade drones do this very thing : attitude, altitude and heading hold. They are incredibly stable, and even have a "return home" feature, obstacle avoidance, and more. Very sophisticated.

Could this be adapted to a full-size craft? Possibly, but that's a serious engineering task that would involve a lot of development and testing.

For that reason, I think it is exceeding unlikely to think a 78 year old man, ill with cancer, would invent and equip a 3-axis fly-by-wire guidance control/autopilot system for a helicopter so he could rappel down and hide a treasure while a helicopter hovered overhead. Then after securing the treasure, he would presumably climb the rope to re-enter the craft, disable the attitude hold then fly away.

This sort of thing is best left to the James Bond films.

The NH90 uses fly by wire controls, and the Bell 525 whenever it gets certified will be the first civilian helicopter with fly by wire controls.


Here's a pretty good one. It appears to be constant 3-axis compensation, although he alludes to newer helicopters that have made it much easier.

> investigating that hypothesis is easier

Anyone can search the FAA Airman Database to look up pilot ratings.

I just searched and he is not listed.


There's I think 5 states that it's been narrowed down to. I actually have a map open on my computer now that reduces the searchable area to 10%.

It is out there, but don't make assumptions about what/how Fenn did his thing. That man can accomplish some impressive feats.

Note he claims to have made two trips in one day. So make that a place where a 85 year old man can carry 20lbs. Also make it much less than 8 hours from the road.

Before getting too carried away, I'd suggest reading this piece [1], about the search for Randy Bilyeu, the missing treasure seeker mentioned int the NPR article. It provides lot more background and context, and is enjoyable as far as long form journalism goes.

Like many, I've casually followed the story over the years, but in the 5280 article, the reporter interviews Fenn in the context of the manhunt. To me, Fenn comes off as someone whose obsession with his own eccentric idea of a "game" overrides the very real life-and-death situations created as a result of that game.

The NPR article is surprisingly blase considering the dangers involved.

[1] http://www.5280.com/news/magazine/2016/07/how-one-colorado-m...

There was a neat little mini-documentary by Vox [1] that went over the details of this, talked to a few other people obsessed by this treasure hunt. Pretty good overview of the history and current state of the hunt.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4ahNpQLgdk

This is the first time I'm hearing of this treasure - fun stuff!

Reading the poem, the first place that popped into my head is Brown's Canyon National Monument, just outside of Salida, Colorado.


It's just 3.5 to 4 hours north of Santa Fe, is an area with multiple hot springs (Mt. Princeton, Poncha Springs, etc.), and downstream (Arkansas River) you go through Bighorn Sheep Canyon and the Royal George.

It's just an amazing area on this Earth.

So maybe go to Nathrop, CO, put your raft on Arkansas River where Chalk Creek, Gas Creek, or Cottonwood Creek joins it, then go downstream past 2 Class IV rapids (Canyon Doors, Pinball) and "put in" below Browns Creek.

There is a rail line there, so if you are squeamish about whitewater, it probably wouldn't be difficult to portage around the 12 named rapids on that section of the river. You could probably park at Hecla Junction and reach the search area by land.

Below Widowmaker (IV) rapids is an intermittent creek bed ("no paddle") to the west, that runs into some trees surrounded by big boulders ("heavy loads").

I'd start at 38.668777 N, 106.055444 W and follow the dry creek bed up to at least 38.670606 N, 106.063440 W, myself, but I'm not likely to ever visit that part of the country. If you find the chest there, send me a gloating postcard.

The place appears to be surrounded by ATV trails within 200 feet, so it's likely the guy just claimed "someone has been within 200 feet" because people are within 200 feet of it frequently, just from riding the trails.

I suspect that 200 feet off any walkable/drivable path is too easy for such a treasure. It's more likely within 200 feet of a river/stream/creek - the assumption being that there are people canoeing past without getting out and traversing overgrowth with no obvious man made paths.

The only detail that really matters in terms of whether someone can ever even find it is whether it is buried. If it's buried with no markers, the odds of stumbling upon it even with a metal detector are so incredibly low.

If I were nearly 80 years old, I'd skip the shovel, and either drop it in a natural crevice or dump it underwater. Then mark a blaze on a vertical surface, so that it's only visible from ground level.

Also, 200 horizontal feet does not account for terrain. 2/3 of the way across a football field is not equivalent to 200 feet across a hedge maze.

I love your way of thinking. Assuming proper waterproofing, hiding it underwater would be the most unexpected thing you could do. I'm a smart guy and that thought hadn't occurred to me, even if I only dedicated 3 minutes of my time to the process. The majority of people would naturally assume it's on land; to place it in the water automatically ruins the consensus assumption.

Weird. This is the very first thing I thought of. That, or properly secured way up in a huge tree. How many people are looking up, right? Although, the tree thing doesn't fit with his ability as a ~80 year old to put it up there.

I believe the reason my mind first went here is because of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn - in the climax of the film Spock analyzes Kahn's movements and informs Kirk, "his pattern suggests two dimensional thinking."

You also have to account for wildlife and weather. You wouldn't want a big blow or a bear to knock your chest down and scatter the contents. But you're correct that most people don't look in all directions when they walk.

Underwater was actually the first thing I thought of. Why a bronze chest, after all? Gold doesn't corrode, and bronze doesn't float.

I recall tales of WW2 military units tasked with cleverly camouflaging things. Technology has progressed. You can now take a photograph of terrain and print that exact photo onto a cloth which can then be epoxied over a fiberglass form and decorated with local surface features.

So I could make a fake fiberglass rock large enough to cover a 10" cube, perfectly camouflage it with a custom print shop order and about $80 in supplies, and anchor it to the ground. You might not realize it was a treasure cache even if you tripped and landed with your face one meter away from it. But that's not necessary if you just control sight lines.

Those are interesting ideas, but those kinds of techniques would violate the spirit of the deal. By creating such a large search area, he tacitly agrees to not hide the box itself too well.

"The deal", as I see it, is to find the treasure by solving the riddles and clues, not by stumbling across it by chance.

If the clues were sufficient to pinpoint the location with 1m precision, it would be acceptable to hide something so well that you would have to be within 1m to notice it. A buried treasure would require this magnitude of precision.

If the clues give 10m precision, I'd expect that the target should blend in a bit, but still be detectable from 3m away. A buried or submerged treasure marked with an obvious blaze could get away with this magnitude.

At 100m precision, you actually need to be sort of obvious. At 1km precision, it should be painted hunters orange and shoot fireballs into the air periodically. At 10km precision... you probably should have taken some of that treasure and hired Will Shortz or some other professional puzzlemaster as a consultant.

If you're into that sort of things, you can have a look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Trail_of_the_Golden_Owl.

Also the Book of Masquerade [1] which was a pretty fascinating little treasure hunt. There's a great lecture [2] on game design and eastereggs that gives a great overview of the events surrounding it.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masquerade_(book)

[2] http://ludix.com/moriarty/psalm46.html

Psalm 46 was what I've been thinking of when reading the article, especially after this bit:

>For further clues, you have to read the poem in his self-published book, The Thrill of the Chase.

He might actually make money on this, lol.

So at the end of the day, the guy might be giving away $1 million, but it's likely he will also make more than that from the book sales, or at least something close.

No wonder he has a million to throw around!

Has he ever confirmed whether the treasure is still at the location?

What if someone found it long ago, not knowing that it was part of a scavenger hunt, and decided to hide their discovery?

I'm not sure how old this information is, but I remember him confirming it still is and also saying that someone once made it within 200 feet of it (I'm not sure how he knows that, I wonder if he has cameras setup there?).

Actually, looking at the wikipedia page [1] for it, it seems to be from August 20, 2016.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fenn_treasure

>someone once made it within 200 feet of it (I'm not sure how he knows that)

There's at least one forum [1] where people post reports of their search. He's probably just keeping an eye on where people say they've gone looking for it.


It also occurs to me that if you do get to the general location by paddling, as many have speculated, if someone posted or emailed him with the correct put-in spot he would know that they would have passed by the treasure.

I'm not sure how he knows that, I wonder if he has cameras setup there?

If he does then that's how to find the treasure. Detecting electronics is a lot easy than detecting a metal box.

Or if he visits the site... just follow him.

If that's the way to find it then it must be a tshirt reading "I found the treasure of melee island"

The forest on Melee is fixed; you can find the treasure by memorizing its location or by following the map, but there is no guide who will lead you to it. You find the sword master in the same forest by following a guide (or, again, by memorizing her location).

This was an interesting choice, since the hell caverns in the same game are randomized and it's impossible to get through them without the guide.

You're more likely to end up having a ton of wonderful hikes through the park system. He doesn't just go out there to check his gold ;)

Or maybe he has access to high-resolution satellite imagery. If so, maybe someone could figure out what area he was checking.

Assuming the statement is true (and the treasure is real), presumably he visited the area and saw some sort of evidence of people having been digging or otherwise poking around. If that were the case, there's an implication that it's probably relatively accessible to where he lives.

He can get to the region, with weights, and home within an afternoon

I can't imagine ever telling someone I found it. I don't know the exact tax implications but I imagine it would be a lot like gambling which can be up to a 40% taxation rate. I would quietly take the gold, turn it into cash, and slowly launder the cash and never report it. Heck, I would just pay cash for everything and would probably just spent it naturally over my lifetime like this without bothering to launder. As long as I avoided the kinds of purchases that raise eyebrows, the IRS would never know. My normal salary would just go into savings/investments.

I imagine most people would do this, at least the kinds of people who would hunt $1m lockboxes.

As a side note, I wonder if you can DIY ground penetrating radar light enough to be carried on a drone. Imagine a few drones shooting electromagnetic waves at the ground and waiting for a reflective ping from a metal box. You could probably cover a lot of ground with a few drones running everyday for a few days. If you can figure out how to filter out the false positives, you can probably just find this thing via radar. I imagine an old man doesn't have the ability to dig very deep and this thing might only be a couple feet underground, so within some reasonable sensing specs.

edit after some googling:

Working ground penetrating radar drone for $500 here. Heck, its even FCC legal! Its a IG42-SB4 robot which can drive for 3 hours on stock batteries, so maybe double that battery pack and you get 6 hours of non-stop sensing. Just a few of these should cover every human walkable path in a matter of days, perhaps a couple weeks at most (guesstimate).


Looks like he uses this visualization library from the US Navy. I'm no expert but I imagine something like this would be able to show a treasure chest-like box very easily once you have all the data. Cubes don't exist in nature so once you see something cube-like in your data, go on a hike. If you're clever you can have your drones pipe their data via 4G every five minutes or so, shoot it to your desktop, and look at this data in almost realtime. Or if you're especially clever use CV to look for square-like shapes in the data and to alert you when they pop-up. Now you can tell that drone to go back to double-check and to scan from different angles. If it really, really looks like a cube from different angles, then go on a hike and enjoy your million bucks.


I imagine there are tens of thousands of buried metal objects in the Rockies left over from the old mining days...

> exact tax implications

From https://www.irs.gov/publications/p17/ch12.html:

> If you find and keep property that doesn’t belong to you that has been lost or abandoned (treasure trove), it’s taxable to you at its fair market value in the first year it’s your undisputed possession.


This means that it's just counted as regular income. If you find a few million dollars, that puts you into a pretty damn high tax bracket.

I'd probably just declare it and take the 40% haircut. I got a couple thousand dollars from renting my guest room to a woman who was divorcing her husband, and I've barely touched it. It just sits in a shoebox. Cash is such a pain in the ass to deal with.

The poem makes it sound like it is under a visibly marked blaze, at an eddy in a river or creek that is easily navigable solo with a bare minimum level of strength and skill.

Does GPR detect objects underwater?

Seems like you only need a camera for your drone, looking for man-made markings near waterways.

What if someone found it long ago, not knowing that it was part of a scavenger hunt, and decided to hide their discovery?

Only one of the treasure hunters will find the treasure (or possibly no one will). If people are in it for a profit rather than for the "thrill of the chase" and to enjoy the mountains then they've only themselves to blame when they come away empty-handed. If the treasure is no longer there, for the majority of treasure hunters nothing has changed.

If certainty is a prerequisite for you, you'll never find treasure because you'll never look.

The podcast Everything is Stories did an episode on Mr. Fenn and his hidden treasure in March 2014. For anyone interested it fills out the picture a bit of his life and his motivation for doing this.


Random related story:

I was in New Mexico recently to see family and my brother said he had recently picked up a hitchhiker who had been searching for the treasure. She had started in Colorado and apparently been following clues found in the poems with geological features to travel along the Rio Grande in search of it. She believed based on her searching at the time (this was 1-2 months ago) that the treasure was likely hidden somewhere in Pilar. Apparently she had found marks on rocks in Embudo that led her to believe it was apparently on the other side of a rock formation she was near.

I wouldn't put too much faith in this person's account, but she had apparently been searching for it non-stop for several months and had been led to Pilar by these "clues".

This is interesting especially since I just started reading Read Player One.

Ohh. Good book imo. I get that a lot of people think the references are annoying, but I found them to be rather charming. Of course I'm young so I probably didn't get them all

I actually had the same thoughts about ready player one when I read this article. It was such a interested book and being able to be part of something like that in real life sounds like it would take over my life.

Sounds like the Rocky mountain version of the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

Could it be that he never checked whether all the hints he gave sufficiently narrow down the location to just one spot? That he has additional knowledge for every line, knowledge which he thinks is self-evident, but knowledge with is actually just very personal to him, and cannot be inferred?

In this case, the riddle might never be solved, and he might die in the self delusion that all the attention this raised is because he is a gifted writer, when the reality is much more sad: he was a terrible riddle author that threw away a million bucks.

It's a quirky guy who buried treasure - actual treasure - along with a riddle. That's fucking magical and fun... it's beautiful. You'd have to be pretty sad to think that "reality is much more sad" for him.

Exactly, he most definitely didn't do it for designing a riddle, he did it for the fun of seeing how people would respond and seeing them struggle and go beyond expectations.

Perhaps he's hid a million dollar treasure, and perhaps he actually hasn't. Regardless, he is probably in the black financially due to book sales alone...

Whether or not it's a truly good, solvable riddle may not be the goal in the end – could equally be that he just wanted to give people a sense of excitement and wonder. Maybe that's too generous on my part, though. :)

> Regardless, he is probably in the black financially due to book sales alone...

Well, if he's sold more than 20,000 copies at $55 each[1] then yeah, he'd have broken a million. And if he just kept the treasure then he's golden.

[2] http://www.koat.com/article/author-who-hid-2-million-treasur...

If I were him, the point is not a million dollars. That's trivial. It's not helping people find the treasure, that's also trivial. The point is all the entertainment to be had searching for the treasure. In fact if I had some money and time I might put together a game centered around finding the treasure. Imagine all the fun to be had and all the stories to be told about the treasure that was never found. In fact I would probably not even put any treasure out there. Just a tall tale for the ages.

Or maybe he realized that if you monetize a treasure hunt, you'll die rich?

Vox had a good video about this recently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4ahNpQLgdk

Bet satellite recordings know where he hid it. Some spy is chortling.

I bet not, assuming perfect conditions and you knew the date it was hidden he would look no different from any of the other thousands of hikers out and about.

What if he hid it on a cloudy/rainy/snowy/foggy day?

There are wavelengths other than visible light that satellites use.

Yeah, and which of those go through rain? The atmosphere blocks lots of wavelengths outside of visible light. Rain fade is huge above 11 GHz. Good luck imaging a person from orbit at a low RF frequency.



Outside has published a number of columns on this usually accompanied with crazy stories of treasure hunters. If nothing else, it's a great way to get some folks into the wild :)

Some friends and I decided to have a go at the treasure a few years back. It was a good excuse to go out camping and road-tripping with some mates. We identified a spot we each thought it may have been and then spend some weekends one summer checking them out. One place we found outside of Estes Park, CO did have a rather large hole dug out right next to a 'swamp'/water-filled depression, there were a LOT of beer cans and champagne bottles around from at least a winter beforehand. The place fit all the bills for the treasure's location, at least to our minds. Maybe the people that found it are mum, the tax reasons would be enough to shut my mouth too.

The treasure has been around for so long, and there have been so many attempts at it, I figure there is no way that it has not been discovered yet, if the thing really exists. Maybe Fenn put some note in there that says to contact him for more cash or something, so that he'll know that it was found. I doubt this. More than likely, there is no treasure at all and it is an intentional wild-goose chase and the 'real treasure is friendship'. But that doesn't square with all the deaths people have had looking for it. If the 'real treasue is friendship' then Fenn has real blood on his hands. We all had a great time camping at least.

>The treasure has been around for so long, and there have been so many attempts at it, I figure there is no way that it has not been discovered yet, if the thing really exists.

I think you are vastly underestimating the size of the rockies. The clues are so vague that there are probably thousands of square miles that match the poem description [1].

1. http://www.npr.org/2016/03/13/469852983/seeking-adventure-an...

Yes, the Rockies are large, I would know, I have a fantastic view of them from my house. But an ill man is who buried the treasure taking 2 trips and the poem does narrow it a fair bit, the search range is 'spaghetti' but not a large amount of area in net total - So says someone that never found it.

Also, I kinda doubt it exists to begin with.

> I think you are vastly underestimating the size of the rockies.

I would bet there is probably more than $1M worth of (naturally available) gold to be found in the Rockies, and it is spread around, so it's much easier to find than a single treasure.

Way more than that. The Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine produces over 200,000 ounces of gold per year. Not to mention countless closed mines that are probably yet to be played out.

>The treasure has been around for so long, and there have been so many attempts at it, I figure there is no way that it has not been discovered yet

This one has been going on for even longer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Trail_of_the_Golden_Owl

And here we're certain it hasn't been found since only a token has been buried, the real golden owl will be given in exchange of it.

>> If the 'real treasure is friendship' then Fenn has real blood on his hands.

Apparently he has said you don't need to take any big risks to find it. I think that absolves him of any moral responsibility for people dying. You are responsible for your own actions.

Somehow this story reminded me of the movie CrossRoads from 1986.

Not to ruin the fun, but the chances of finding the treasure over such a huge area is very low.

There are a few books dedicated to "lost treasure" around the Colorado mountains. I bought this one at a used book store a few months ago, and it's a fun read: https://www.amazon.com/Treasure-Tales-Rockies-Perry-Eberhart...

Many of the stories are dubious, but quite a few are legit and still "lost". Lots of stories along the lines of a prospector finding a rich gold vein, or very promising claim, and then hiding it for the winter, but never get back to it for whatever reason. There are also quite a few where travelers hide a "treasure" to protect it from Indians or bandits, but can never find it again.

Many times the locations are known down to a particular gulch, valley, or mountain, and still nobody's been able to find it for 100+ years.

I think knowing the history of an area makes hiking there more enjoyable, and it's fun to peek around for treasure, but the people taking it super seriously are wasting their time, IMO. Probably cheaper and better odds to play the lottery.

Treasure hunting is a lot of fun, though from experience if you really do find something, it's not always a good thing for the relationships of those involved.

Always have a written agreement prior to starting with anyone involved before starting; that is the search crew, land owners, etc.

Oh yes, we even drew up contracts for how to split it and what to do in case of legal action, death, etc. I think we based it off the one in The Hobbit, but it has been a while. It was fun to read though as I do remember that there was a clause that you had to drink a few beers before negotiations could start. In general, it was enjoyable to go out and do that shindig and I would suggest it to others to have fun with it, but be sure not to, you know, die while out tramping about in the Rockies.

Interesting, are you referring to this contract:


That does sound familiar, but I cant really recall, altitude and beer have an effect on the memory.

he has stated that the treasure is at least partially exposed to the elements and is not buried and requires no tools to find it and at least one person has been within 250 feet of it

If this interests you, I highly recommend checking out book The Secret. Super interesting. http://thesecret.pbworks.com/w/page/22148559/FrontPage

Reminds me https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Trail_of_the_Golden_O..., which is hidden in France and people have been searching for it for decades.

Maybe I should start off with Pokemon Go first to get warmed up. Similar concept where Fenn wants people to bring out their inner Indiana Jones. Instead of giving away a fortune, the makers of Pokemon Go were trying to make one.

Or, the makers of Pokemon Go were installing a system to easily obtain video footage of any urban location (less easily, other areas).

If the Fenn-treasure-seeker ground penetrating radar drone teams do materialize, they will almost certainly locate archeological sites, which is pretty cool. The algorithms ought to also pick up petroglyphs while searching for blazes.

If this interests you, you might like the book Daemon by Daniel Suarez. (Ready Player One also deals with similar themes)

Is it not possible someone's already found it? Whoever finds it would have to pay taxes if they report it.

Seems like he'd be setting himself up for a kidnapping?

I am not sure I would publicly claim to be the only person who knows where there is an untraceable million-dollar stash, whether it is true or not.



We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13877558 and marked it off-topic.

Massive massive tangent... But there is overlap between many religions, to the extent that it is at least theoretically possible that more than one of them are correct to at least some extent. :-)


Let me get this straight. People have died and this geriatric narcissist hasn't yet decided that maybe 4 dead people are too many and maybe, possibly, it would be a better karmic strategy for him to forgoe his little scheme and just call the thing off?


>Since 2011, 21 people have died in Rocky Mountain National Park, eight of those fatalities coming in 2014 alone. While grim, Rocky Mountain's annual death toll pales in comparison to that of Grand Canyon National Park, which averages 12 fatalities each year... About 150 people die in national parks each year, according to the latest federal data, tracked between 2007 and 2013.

Yet we don't go shutting down the National Parks or accuse the Federal government of bad karma.

Hundreds of people a year die adventuring in that region cash prize or no. Leaving the house is dangerous.

Sounds like you are assuming a net negative impact. How does that compare to expected rates of death doing similar activities?

Relevant XKCD

Ponytail: We should go to the north beach. Someone said the south beach has a 20% higher risk of shark attacks. Cueball: Yeah, but statistically, taking three beach trips instead of two increases our odds of getting shot by a swimming dog carrying a handgun in its mouth by 50%! Beret Guy: Oh no! This is our third trip!

Reminder: A 50% increase in a tiny risk is still tiny.

[0]: https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/increased_risk.png

They died doing what they love?

Seems like he's setting himself up for a kidnapping?

He even hid a bottle of wine behind those books on his shelf...

> The most recent was Randy Bilyeu who went missing in January 2016 and was later found dead in July of that year.

I wonder how he feels knowing at least one person died because of his actions :(

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