New Mexico Millionaire Lures Treasure Hunters With Hidden Chest

More than five years later, treasure hunters flock to New Mexico.

April 28, 2015, 11:40 AM

— -- More than five years ago, art collector and author Forrest Fenn decided to hide a treasure chest in the Rocky Mountains. Since then, he says tens of thousands of people have tried to find it.

The 84-year old millionaire, who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, left clues in his book, “The Thrill of the Chase” -- but so far, no one has been successful.

"I think it's out of control," Fenn told ABC Albuquerque affiliate KOAT, estimating that 30,000 people looked for the treasure last summer and that 50,000 may look for the treasure this summer.

Fenn has never revealed the value of the treasure chest -- which measures 10 inches by 10 inches -- but the New Mexico Tourism Department estimates the value to be as much as $2 million.

Fenn did reveal that a few have come close to finding it -- some 200 feet away from the hidden spot.

The retired fighter pilot who was shot down twice in Vietnam said in a video produced by the state tourism department that the idea to hide the treasure chest came to him after he was diagnosed in 1988 with terminal cancer.

Fenn told ABC News that the treasure includes 265 gold coins -- "mostly American eagles and double eagles, hundreds of gold nuggets, some as large as chicken eggs, ancient Chinese carved jade figures, Pre-Columbian gold animal artifacts, lots of rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds and other things."

Fenn said "numerous" people saw the treasure before he hid it, including New York Times best-selling writer Douglas Preston. Fenn told KOAT he is not impatient that people haven't found it.

PHOTO: Forrest Fenn, pictured here in a video from the New Mexico Tourism Department
Forrest Fenn, pictured here in a video from the New Mexico Tourism Department, has hidden a chest of treasure worth millions of dollars, offering clues to its location in a poem published in his memoir, "The Thrill of the Hunt."

"I wanted the monetary value to be a consideration for those who are looking for it, but mostly my motive was to get kids off the couch and away from their texting machines and out in the mountains," Fenn told KOAT.

Fenn left nine clues in a poem that was included in his book, he said.

PHOTO: Forrest Fenn hid a chest of treasure, similar to the one pictured in this video
Forrest Fenn hid a chest of treasure, similar to the one pictured in this video from the New Mexico Tourism Department, that has kept treasure hunters searching for over three years for the purported millions of dollars worth of gold, gems and artifacts.

"Somebody could find it tomorrow and it may not be found for a thousand years. I'm looking at the big picture. A lot of people who are searching for the treasure don't see it the same way I do. I would love if someone found it tomorrow but if nobody found it for a hundred years, that's okay with me too."

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