The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 23, Number 50, December 13, 2020, Article 32


Perhaps there was a real Forrest Fenn treasure chest after all. A man has come forward identifying himself as the finder. -Editor

Finder Jack Stuef with Forrest Fenn examining treasure

A decade ago, Fenn hid his treasure chest, containing gold and other valuables estimated to be worth at least a million dollars, somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Not long after, he published a memoir called The Thrill of the Chase, which included a mysterious 24-line poem that, if solved, would lead searchers to the treasure. Fenn had suggested that the loot was secreted away at the place where he had envisioned lying down to die, back when he'd believed a 1988 cancer diagnosis was terminal. Since the hunt began in 2010, many thousands of searchers had gone out in pursuit—at least five of them losing their lives in the process—and the chase became an international story.

So many people had invested and sacrificed so much in pursuit of Fenn's treasure that it was possible the finder would face threats, be they legal or physical, from people who resented them or wished them ill.

And that was exactly what was beginning to play out.

This past June, Fenn announced that the treasure had been found by a man from "back east" who wanted to remain anonymous—even, once we were in contact, to me. So despite exchanging dozens of emails with the finder, and discussing the details of the chest and what locating it meant to him, I never pressed him about who he was, and he never volunteered.

Last week, he told me the situation had changed. Fenn had been targeted by lawsuits both before and after the chest was found, by hunters claiming that the treasure was rightfully theirs. One of the lawsuits, filed immediately after Fenn announced the hunt was over, also targets the unknown finder as a defendant, claiming that he had stolen the plaintiff's solve and used it to find the chest. That litigation had advanced to a procedural stage during which the finder expected his name would likely come out in court. So while he remained guarded about his solve and the location where he discovered the treasure, he now didn't mind telling me who he really was.

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.

As the hunt took up more and more of his time, Stuef mostly kept the extent of his pursuit hidden from friends and family. He didn't think they would understand.

"I think I got a little embarrassed by how obsessed I was with it," Stuef says. "If I didn't find it, I would look kind of like an idiot. And maybe I didn't want to admit to myself what a hold it had on me."

Two years later, he had achieved what so many other searchers could not, finding and claiming Fenn's treasure. (Stuef's status as the finder was independently verified with the Fenn family.) He retrieved the chest on Saturday, June 6, 2020, in Wyoming, and began the long drive down to Santa Fe to deliver it to Fenn that same day. That evening, news of the find was already beginning to come out, as Fenn believed it must. "'We should let [searchers] know as soon as you have it,'" Stuef says Fenn told him.

"His thought was that, as soon as it's out of place, we need to let people know," Stuef says. "People have died. There could be issues."

Stuef asked Fenn, though, that he be allowed to remain anonymous, and they both seemed to agree that the location of the find should be kept secret.

But controversy quickly swirled, as many hunters, unsatisfied with the lack of disclosure, decided this meant that something nefarious was afoot—that Fenn had never really hidden the treasure, or that he had unilaterally ended the hunt without a real finder. The backlash took Fenn by surprise, according to those around him. To address it, several weeks after the find, he released photos of the chest and of himself going through it after Stuef delivered it to Santa Fe, which provided enough confirmation for some. In July, Fenn suggested to Stuef that they also reveal the state where the treasure was found, in order to give further closure to some hunters. Stuef agreed.

I'm glad to see this development. When hoard finders remain anonymous, questions remain unanswered and without proof there's no way to believe any of what people are saying. The article's author Daniel Barbarisi has been writing a book on the Forrest Fenn treasure hunt that will be published in June 2021. -Editor

To read the complete article, see:
The Man Who Found Forrest Fenn's Treasure (

Thanks also to Paul Horner and others for passing the story along. -Editor

To read other articles, see:
Man who found Forrest Fenn's famed treasure reveals identity (
Finder of Rocky Mountain treasure chest identified as 32-year-old medical student (
Man Who Found Hidden Treasure in the Rocky Mountains Is Revealed (
Treasure hunters claim finder's lack of details raises 'red flags' (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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