My name is Jack Stuef, and I am the finder of the Forrest Fenn Treasure. I searched for it for two years, and on June 6 of this year, I retrieved the treasure from the place I found it in Wyoming, the same place Forrest hid it 10 years ago. I now own the treasure chest.
Forrest died this September, and it was a tremendous loss to many thousands of people, including those like me who were enamored with his treasure hunt. I posted my feelings on his passing here.
For the past six months, I have remained anonymous, not because I have anything to hide, but because Forrest and his family endured stalkers, death threats, home invasions, frivolous lawsuits, and a potential kidnapping — all at the hands of people with delusions related to his treasure. I don’t want those things to happen to me and my family.
The U.S. District Court for New Mexico has ruled that Forrest’s estate must provide some of my personal information to a woman I do not know and with whom I have never communicated who has brought a meritless lawsuit against me. This would make my name a matter of public record, so I chose to come forward today.
My family and I have prepared for the potentiality of this day. Since finding the treasure, I moved to a more secure building with guards and multiple levels of security, and I have taken appropriate measures to protect myself.
After I brought the treasure down from Wyoming to Santa Fe to Forrest, I put it in a vault (not Forrest’s) at a secure location in New Mexico. It will remain there until I sell it.
When I found the treasure, it ended the hopes of the many people around the world who wanted to one day find it. I understand both the disappointment and disbelief many have and are experiencing and do not take personally the vitriolic comments made about me or the conspiracy theories that some seem to find comfort. But, to be clear, I am not and was never employed by Forrest, nor did he “pick” me in any way to “retrieve” the treasure. I was a stranger to him and found the treasure as he designed it to be found.
In July, with my support, Forrest announced the fact that the treasure had been hidden and found in the state of Wyoming. This was not meant as a slight to anyone who had been searching elsewhere, but as means of providing some finality or closure.
I do not see myself as being better than anyone else who searched for the treasure because I found it. I do not think more or less of anyone based on how close they were to its location, and I don’t think anyone else should either. This treasure hunt was not a referendum on anyone’s intelligence or abilities. Rather, it was a fun challenge based on figuring out what the words of a poem meant to the elderly man who wrote them, and nothing more than that.
I do not care to spend my time disputing anyone’s convictions about where the treasure was. Everyone is entitled to their opinion in the United States of America. But when they sue me, they cross a line.
This is an abuse of the court system. I am the legitimate finder and owner of the treasure, and no person has any remotely valid claim against me. In the case in New Mexico, many bizarre, false, baseless, and defamatory allegations have been made against me. I have never hacked or stalked the plaintiff or any person, nor have I been charged with or arrested for any crime in my life, and I certainly never searched for the treasure in New Mexico. I will take appropriate legal action against anyone who makes baseless claims against me.
I’m aware some people hope this frivolous lawsuit will reveal what the clues in the poem meant and where the treasure was located, but I feel a responsibility to keep that a secret. I have never revealed where I searched for and found the chest to any person other than some whose job requires them to know that information and keep it confidential, and I never plan to do so.
When Forrest began the hunt, he never imagined it would go viral, so he never expected many of the unintended consequences that came. I don’t think Forrest wanted his chase to be defined by negativity, and neither do I. But the fact remains that some searchers have been a destructive force. Multiple people have been arrested for digging holes and trenches where they were not allowed.
If I were to reveal where the treasure was, the natural wonder of place that Forrest held so dear will be destroyed by people seeking treasure they hope I dropped on my way out or Forrest on his way in. Adding to this risk is the fact that Forrest never wrote up an inventory of what was in the chest at the time he secreted it, so I can’t prove to anyone that no item is missing from the chest. Two items that Forrest had in the past said were in the chest were not when I found it — the small gold frog on a necklace and the Spanish emerald ring found at San Lazaro. Forrest was able to locate the small frog in his vault, and it was given to me after my find. But he had no idea what happened to the emerald ring.
In addition to probable damage to the site, there is the possibility of danger to human lives. Despite Forrest’s efforts to try to help people stay safe, many people searched in impossibly dangerous locations and prohibitive winter weather conditions. Some lucky ones, after endangering emergency workers, were rescued. But others died. Getting to the wilderness location where the chest was is not dangerous in the conventional sense of the word, but it very quickly can be when people do not take basic precautions or go out in the wrong conditions. It is not an appropriate place to become a tourist attraction.
I understand that searchers have many questions for me, and I will take some time to answer them. As a start for those who are interested in my perspective on the chase, I posted a (rambling, over-intellectualized) video to YouTube in 2019 with some of my thoughts before I found the treasure. Outside magazine also has a story out today with some more information from me.
I should be clear up front about boundaries with other searchers. The treasure hunt was a personal quest for me, and I never collaborated with anyone. I understand many others see it as a community and a social thing, and I think it’s great people get different things out of what Forrest started, but that’s not what it is to me.
Forrest enjoyed meeting and conversing with many searchers over the years, but that’s not something I’m looking for. I do not wish to receive any visits to my home or phone calls or text messages from searchers. I have acquainted myself with my local laws regarding stalking and will not hesitate to call the police if someone comes to my door. If searchers feel compelled to contact me, they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, but keep in mind I am unlikely to read most of the messages or respond to them.
There are some positive consequences to my being outed as the finder, and I hope knowing I am a real person is a solace to some searchers still grieving the conclusion of the chase. I am optimistic that this experience will still be a positive chapter in my life.