The decade-long search for Forrest Fenn’s treasure ended two years ago, but the search for answers did not. Although details have been slowly emerging since Jack Stuef located the chest full of gold, Fenn’s greatest mystery remains unsolved: where was the treasure hidden? Finally, last week, we got that answer.
Here is a brief timeline of how we got here. If you are already well versed in the history of Fenn’s treasure, skip to the next page break.
2010 – Fenn, an 80-year-old art dealer and writer, announces that he has hidden a treasure valued at 2 million dollars in the Rocky Mountains. The contents are not fully known, but there were 19th-century coins, gold nuggets, rare jewelry, pre-Columbian artifacts, and more inside a small bronze chest.
The only clues he provides as to the bounty’s location are that it is between 5,000 and 10,200 feet high, located near trees, and that he dragged it there himself in two trips. He also claims that there are about 10 hidden clues in a poem in his self-published book, “The Thrill of the Chase”.
June 6, 2020 – Fenn blogs that the treasure has been found. She initially does not disclose any details about the seeker or the location. “I don’t know the person who found it, but the poem in my book took it to the right place,” Fenn writes.
June 16, 2020 – Fenn posts three photos of him with the treasure in what appears to be a lawyer’s office. Once again, it does not include any new information. “The seeker wants you to remain silent and I always said that the seeker can make those two calls. Who and where,” Fenn writes.
July 22, 2020 – Fenn writes a blog post for the first time in over a month. She says that she feels an obligation to the community to at least reveal what condition the treasure was found in. “Because I promised the finder that I would not reveal who found it or where, I have remained mostly silent,” Fenn writes. “However, the seeker understands how important the closure is to many seekers, so today he agreed that we must reveal that the treasure was found in Wyoming.”
September 7, 2020 – Fenn’s family announces that Fenn has died of natural causes.
September 23, 2020 – Medium publishes a blog titled “A Remembrance of Forrest Fenn” by an anonymous author who just happens to go through The Finder. “I’m the person who found Forrest’s famous treasure. The moment it happened was not the triumphant Hollywood ending that some surely imagined; I felt like I had just survived something and was lucky enough to come out the other side,” writes The Finder.
The Finder says that it took him a full 25 days of scouring a specific area to locate the treasure. And although he solved the riddle in 2018, he couldn’t locate the real chest until two years later.
“This treasure hunt was the most frustrating experience of my life. There were a few times when, exhausted, covered in scratches, bites, sweat and pine tar, and nearing the end of my day’s water supply, I sat on a fallen tree and just cried alone in the woods out of sheer frustration.” .
December 7, 2020 – Outside Magazine publishes an article titled “The Man Who Found Forrest Fenn’s Treasure”, written by Daniel Barbarisi. Barbarisi reveals that The Finder is ready to lose his anonymity. “Two months of correspondence passed before the man who found the Forrest Fenn treasure told me his name,” Barbarisi writes. “And that’s when I learned that a 32-year-old Michigan native and medical student was the person who had finally solved Fenn’s poem. His name is Jack Stuef. You can read more about Stuef and his backstory here.
We may never have known exactly where the treasure was hidden, but a frivolous lawsuit against Fenn has revealed previously unseen details.
Jamie McCracken, a Floridian who believes Fenn moved the treasure four times to prevent him from finding it, recently filed a lawsuit against the deceased antiques dealer. McCracken is convinced that Fenn was monitoring his movements and would relocate the treasure whenever McCracken came near. McCracken claims this was made possible by Fenn buying property near his search location to control McCracken’s hunt.
In an effort to prove that Fenn did not move the treasure, his attorney revealed that Fenn told Yellowstone National Park Chief Ranger Sarah Davis where it was hidden. Fenn had this conversation with Davis in 2020 after Stuef found the treasure. Fenn told Davis where she hid the treasure so Davis could determine if the area could handle more foot traffic from tourists who wanted to visit the former location of the treasure. Davis’s verdict was that the area is not equipped to handle a large human presence, so they agreed to keep their location a secret.
Fenn’s attorney also cited Stuef, who could be called to say that he solved Fenn’s puzzle without Fenn’s help, and that the treasure was found in the exact spot it was left in 2010. If Fenn’s attorneys question to Stuef, then McCracken’s legal team will also have a chance. With Stuef under oath, this presents a scenario where he has to reveal the exact location of the chest.
The Yellowstone revelation is not surprising. In July 2020, a month after the chest was found, I wrote an article about the top four theories about the location of Fenn’s treasure. One of my favorite solutions involved the Custer Gallatin National Forest in Montana, which borders Yellowstone National Park. More specifically, I suspected it was somewhere around the town of Gardiner, which is less than a mile from the park’s north entrance. (I even planned hunts and rock-finding adventures in the area before the treasure was found, just in case, you know, I happened to run into it.)
In November 2020, five months after the chest was found, journalist and MeatEater podcast guest Benjamin Wallace published an article on new york magazine following a group of the most feverish treasure hunters. They, too, were sure the chest was hidden in Yellowstone National Park and even employed a dog that could sniff out precious metals buried up to 40 feet underground.
After producing a GPS-based solution using homophones (by = four, a = two) and kangaroo words (fact = one), they found a longitude and latitude that fell within the park boundaries. Once they searched that location and had a positive result from their treasure hunting dog, they determined they found where the chest used to be.
So what’s next for those looking for answers about the exact location of the treasure? Well, McCracken’s proceedings will start in June. If the lawsuit moves forward and Stuef is forced to provide a statement, we will likely find out precisely where the bronze chest was in the desert for a decade. But if this happens without Stuef being sworn in, then the largest treasure hunt in modern history could end with the reveal of a 3,500-square-mile cache.