The Man Who Buried his Treasure in a Poem

Forrest Fenn, an art dealer told he was dying of cancer, has decided to leave a unique legacy: a fortune in antiquities hidden in the Rockies, and a cryptic poem that may lead right to it. But will his treasure be found? Dozens of people have searched so far, all in vain. Some think the entire thing is a hoax. The Telegraph has a fascinating piece on the subject:

The title of Fenn’s book is significant. He insists that, for him, it isn’t really about finding the treasure at all. It’s about the “thrill of the chase” – encouraging families out of the house and into the mountains; getting children away from their computer games or television shows and experiencing the wilderness. “I have thousands of emails from people, most of them thanking me for getting their family out of the game room.”

The bulk of Fenn’s wealth will be passed down to his daughters and grandchildren. But what really was the purpose of giving away part of his fortune? In his book, Fenn ponders the nature of death. He describes experiences of his tour in Vietnam, stumbling upon the unmarked graves of French soldiers. “What about those whose bones are rotting under the headstones of a thousand wars?” he writes. “Is it fair that no one recalls where those brave French soldiers fell?”

On paper at least, Fenn seems concerned about the fact that most of us will be “nothing but the leftovers of history or an asterisk in a book that was never written”. And so I ask whether this is the real reason for the memoir and the hidden treasure: that as he approaches his 84th year, he wants to ensure his legacy – make certain that history will remember him.

Dated to about AD 1150, the chest is said to contain in the region of $3 million worth of treasure: gold coins, pre-Columbian gold animal figures, Chinese jade carvings, a 17th-century Spanish ring with an inset emerald, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds.

I, for one, believe Fenn is for real. I endorse his motivation for hiding the treasure:

What Fenn wants is for people to experience history, not just read about it in dusty books. When he was an art dealer he used to raise eyebrows by letting schoolchildren touch the canvases of 200-year-old paintings. One of those was of George Washington, produced when the first President of the United States was sitting just a few feet away from the artist. By letting those schoolchildren touch the actual paint, they could, Fenn says, connect with what this really was and what it meant. “You can become part of that episode,” he says. “And that’s exciting to me.” When somebody finds his treasure and reads his memoir (a tiny copy of it, together with a magnifying glass, is included in the treasure chest), he says “they’ll be amazed at what things were like back then.”

Interesting in its entirety.

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(via @longreads)

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