Forrest Fenn Treasure: Hoax?

The Forrest Fenn treasure horde received a surge of attention Wednesday when the 82-year-old multimillionaire told Erika Angulo at Today that he’d buried a hidden chest filled with “millions of dollars” in gold and gemstones. He claimed that he hid the box north of Santa Fe, New Mexico after receiving a diagnosis of fatal kidney cancer in 1988.

Apparently, nothing makes you want to haul a 40 pound box deep into the mountains like being told you’re going to die in three years. “After I hid the treasure I walked back to my car feeling very proud of myself and laughing out loud,” he said. I bet you did, Forrest.

Is there any evidence whatsoever that Fenn buried anything at all? If you visit The Thrill Resource website — and you will visit the website since it hosts a copy of his poem that contains clues to finding the treasure — you will notice that he’s selling a book, The Thrill of the Chase: A Memoir, about his own experiences as a treasure hunter over the years.

Hey, it ain’t easy promoting your own “exclusive” (read self-published) book. As Alan Finder wrote for the The New York Times, “the single toughest part of self-publishing is getting attention for your book.” With 350,000 new books published in 2011 alone, as many as 200,000 of them self-published, the average author is unlikely to attract much attention. For every Fifty Shades of Grey, the unlikely S/M romance by E. L. James that started as a self-published enterprise, you have hundreds of thousands of books that go unnoticed.

Fenn’s campaign seems to have worked according to this Tweet:

The publisher for the $45 book is given as “One Horse Land and Cattle Co.” which appears to be Mr. Fenn himself.

Angulo also spoke to Fenn’s friend, Santa Fe jeweler Marc Howard, who said he has already hunted the treasure 20 times. “Forrest is one of the most honest men I know,” he told Today. “If he says he did something, he did it.”

Well, alrighty then. But there’s another theory about why Fenn may have buried treasure, and it isn’t because the federal government has always considered him so honest:

So now we have two questions. 1) Was there ever a treasure to begin with? 2) And does Fenn hold legal title to any items he may have buried?

The average well-to-do 82-year-old grabs attention by threatening to change their will. Forrest Fenn’s treasure hunt may or may not be for real, but at least it’s more creative than that.