Obsession, Death, and Glory in American’s Most Extraordinary Treasure Hunt
Imagine a wealthy art dealer, suddenly facing death. He decides he will have a last hurrah by hiding a treasure chest stuffed with gold, jewels, money and more. Clues to the hoard will be hidden in a biography and poem he has written. Sound like something out of fiction? It both is, and isn’t.
The art dealer was named Forrest Fenn. When he concocted his hunt, he had just gotten his cancer diagnosis. Fenn asked his old friend author Douglas Preston to write his clue-laden biography when he had passed. Preston demurred, but did write a very fun and similar fictional thriller, The Codex. But Fenn did not die. After surgery, he improved greatly. However, the idea stuck with him for years. His little chest of wonders sat in a vault where Fenn would tinker continually with it’s exact contents.
When we think of treasure hunts, two types come to mind. There are the treasures lost of hidden due to natural disasters or hidden to protect it. These run the gamut from sunken galleons to pirates about to be captured. The other type are created – whether a whimsical game, or one meant to defraud or profit from seekers. Fenn’s treasure hunt was a new creature.
He, the catalyst for the hunt, was alive and well. He knew where it was hidden. But more importantly, he was readily available via the internet to tease, taunt and dole out tantalizing clues. What started as a small game for a group of select friends and locals grew into a massive obsession. Websites and message boards were filled with thousands discussing and speculating on the location. Clubs and events grew up around the search. Friends were made, marriages destroyed and people died over the treasure. And Fenn appeared to love and revel in every minute of it.
Barbarisi gives a tight account of his own attempt to reconcile his growing obsession with hunt and the desire to maintain his journalistic integrity. A must read!