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Real Life Author Mysteries Part 3: Forest Fenn's Buried Treasure

If you think burying treasure in the middle of a desert is a great marketing strategy for a mysterious author, think again.

close up picture of a cactus at sunrise

Forest Fenn's Buried Treasure

Many would-be treasure hunters lost their lives in pursuit of a cache of gold and jewels hidden in the not-so-much-wild-anymore west of the USA after art dealer and author Forest Fenn died. Fenn, a former Air Force Major, ran an art gallery in New Mexico with his wife, Peggy, after his retirement from service and earned a reported $6 million dollars a year selling Native American art and artifacts. Despite his wealth, Fenn was unlucky health-wise, battling cancer in his later years. But Fenn didn’t face fate like a man defeated, instead he penned a self-published collection of short stories from his life called The Thrill of the Chase: A Memoir. If the stories were based on Fenn’s true life experiences, then when he wrote that he, a rich man, had hidden a chest of gold, jewels, and gems in the mountains shortly after his cancer diagnosis, then many reasoned there was a true treasure chest to be found.

When the race to find the chest began, Fenn’s sales soared. Days, months, years passed with no one lucky enough to find the treasure - estimated to be worth $2 million dollars. Critics cried fraud as Fenn’s book sales soared - but he insisted the treasure out there, waiting. He took no money from the book sales and an investigation by the FBI found no wrongdoing on his part. Still, five people who went into the wild in hopes of finding the Fenn treasure found death instead.

In June 2020, the treasure was found. Fenn could rest easy knowing that the search was over. The press now knew the treasure was real: a 12-century bronze box , forged with scenes of knights and fair maidens, complete with jewels as described. A couple items Fenn had forgotten to put into the box, including a gold frog necklace, were later given to the finder, a journalist and medical student named Jack Stuef.

Fenn died in September, 2020. As to where Jack Stuef found his treasure, all we know is it was Wyoming. Stuef would not reveal anything more specific, believing that Fenn would not have wanted us to know. So, while this mystery is mostly solved, the details will always remain in the dark.

Read more about Forest Fenn here:

Would you ever trek into the wild on a treasure hunt? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation on social media.

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