It’s been several months since I last posted questions I’ve gotten from Fenn Treasure searchers, so I figured I would do another installment.
As you might expect, I get fewer emails these days than I did when I was first outed as the finder. The vast majority of searchers have been kind and respectful of the responsibility I have to protect the location where the treasure was secreted (and, therefore, the answers to the clues that lead there). At this point, they’ve done a good job at figuring out the bounds of what I feel I can responsibly share about my perspective on Forrest’s poem, his words, and what logic dictated was possible, without revealing details that I feel would go beyond what Forrest already said about his hunt, or would start to narrow things down or lead people to the right solution and location.
And by now, I don’t feel I have much more to add. At some point, I will probably stop answering questions, perhaps after I sell the treasure. I may write more on the treasure hunt in the future, but right now I look forward to a day where I don’t think about the treasure or this hunt at all. As much as I love it, there hasn’t been a day like that for me since I first heard of Forrest Fenn in 2018.
So let this be an impetus to searchers out there—if you have a nagging question but aren’t quite sure how to ask it or can think of a new area of inquiry you think I may feel comfortable exploring, work on that now. I continue to take questions at email@example.com for the time being.
As in previous installments, my answers to the emails below are in bold.
I hope you don’t mind my ramblings now and then. And to be honest, even though myself and many others are continuing “the search”, I don’t see how we will ever be sure of a find considering the state of what once was a blaze. Which makes me think of a question. Do you think that if the blaze was in it’s original form that others before you may have had a shot at a find? Or was it really that obscure both in location and recognition?
Enjoy and appreciate your responses,
That’s something that I’ve asked myself a lot. I think it’s obvious it’s more likely to have been found earlier, but I don’t know how likely. For what it’s worth, I don’t think I went to that section of the forest in my first year searching, yet I had felt I had covered the territory very well.
Hi Jack, congratulations on finding the chest. I hope it helps you redirect your life to a better place. I can pretend that I understand: medical school and residency were extremely trying times for me. I count myself as fortunate that the many years in the profession since have been much, much kinder to me.
A question for you: did the structure of TTOTC have any bearing on your solution? I believe you said that TTOTC had only a few useful hints, so I suspect your answer will be “no.”
I hope you know what I mean by the structure of TTOTC (e.g. at the broadest level, shared theme and imagery between consecutive pairs of chapters). Some caveats: I’m the first to admit that I’m no Harold Bloom, that the human mind seeks to impose meaning where there is none, and that the presence of structure does not make it relevant to the problem at hand. With that being said, I’m fairly confident that TTOTC has an unusually intricate structure for an essentially amateur creative writer and I’m fairly confident that Forrest must have intentionally crafted it that way. I remain uncertain as to why: was it simply artfulness on his part, is it meant to make his readers take him and his game more seriously, and/or does it have any bearing on the solution? Regardless of the reason, I applaud what likely was a monumental effort on Forrest’s part and even more so if all that effort has no bearing on the solution!
Congratulations once again and many well wishes,
Thanks Jeff. It’s certainly something I considered. I tried to analyze every decision he made in his writing.
Hi Jack, I have some questions again if you don’t mind helping me out.
1. Today I ordered a copy of Caro’s book so I can learn his research methodology. Are there any other skills you’d recommend adding to my mental toolkit that might help guide my thinking in the correct direction?
2. It seems clear to me that two of Forrest’s nine clues resolve to a starting point and an ending marker. Do you think the middle seven clues resolve to seven individual geographic points (or geographic areas)?
3. You no doubt noticed that Forrest added the words “clue” and “hint” to the text of two respective stories in TTOTC. Would it be generally accurate to say that the hints in Forrest’s memoir demonstrate by example how to solve the clues?
1. That’s a tough one. Try to think like a writer and editor. Forrest wanted to be taken seriously as a writer. Don’t forget that.
2. They all exist in the physical world and in the geography of the area.
3. Based on his description of hints, a hint is meant to help you with a clue, not the whole poem.
#1 Are their any questions that you would have liked to ask Forrest, or even ones now that you’ve thought of post-find, that you wish you could? If so, could you share any with me?
#2 The slip ups you speak of. Are they in the original versions of the videos, or is there extra work (such as how you got the uncut version of the New Mexico video) that one would have to do in order to witness them?
1. There are a couple things people have asked me about that I wish I’d asked. I think the biggest thing is I wish I could have sat down with him and heard the whole story from start to finish — coming up with the idea, designing it, and seeing people search, without him having to hold anything back.
2. The sources of the slip-ups were both on Dal’s media-coverage page, so no, no extra work tracking them down. I don’t want to narrow it down more than that, Billy.
Hey Jack… Did you read The Codex?
Yes. What did you think about it?
…found it interesting. What did you think of it?
Interesting to see the funhouse mirror portrait of Forrest. But the most interesting part was how little time the characters spent figuring out where he was headed, compared to our chase.
As many have told you already, congrats on finding the chest, quite the accomplishment. I don’t really have any questions, just wanted to share a thought.
I remember thinking several times that I kind of didn’t want to find it due to some of the personalities of other searchers I saw on forums and those that threatened Forrest. Also being an introvert I didn’t want the attention. However I was addicted to the puzzle behind it. On my last BOTG I didn’t care if I found the chest, but I just wanted to know if I was right… that’s probably closure that a lot of people want. I fully understand the concept of keeping the place a secret and hope it can remain like that for years to come… I’ve gotten over my ego.
My idea of a solve was on a little chunk of land in Cortez, CO surrounded by Ute land and it was not an easy road to get there…so many coincidences led me there but selective perception got the best of me like it did for so many. I think the most interesting thing to observe was how stubborn one could get with this kind of challenge. It was all good fun and quite the learning experience though.
I guess I am curious about something…did you mirror any of the artwork in the book and overlay it on a map as part of your solve?
Best of luck to you in your future endeavors.
Thanks Wolfgang. No, I didn’t. That’s overcomplicating it.
I was late to the Forest Fenn Treasure hunt but really enjoyed trying to figure it out. I never did get a copy of TTOTC so was just going off the poem but still had fun.
I am a teacher’s aide that works with behavioural kids and special-needs kids at an elementary school in British Columbia.
Every Easter I secretly hide eggs for the students all around the schoolyard.
I make it difficult on purpose as I want it to be a challenge. I have noticed three types of searchers for my egg hunt: 1. The type that are doggedly trying to find eggs. 2. The ones that just follow me around begging for clues, crying for clues, telling me they have never found one /sob story. 3. The ones that search but often will come back and listen in to see if I have given any clues.
I am very much the guy who doesn’t want any clues and wants to find it honourably without help. I was wondering which type of searcher you would fall under?
I did find at some points I felt almost justified in misleading kids who just begged for clues or cried to get clues. Do you think Forest was the type that thought you must just use the clues provided, or did he have the use any strategy possible, “all is fair in love and war” mentality?
Congrats from RealChippendeal
Thanks for the laugh. I suppose I was in category three, but I was interested in what he said on the record, not gossip and hearsay.
I guess there is a fine line between joking with people and actively misleading them when you know that people are hanging on your every word. I know when I answer people’s emails on the subject of the treasure hunt, I try to hold myself back from making jokes because I know some people will let themselves miss the joke and read too much into what I’m saying. But it’s natural to want to have some fun with people, and even when you’re trying to be serious and precise, people will find a way to take things the wrong way.
Cynthia Meachum emailed me on this subject some weeks ago. This is what I told her:
“I was one of those searchers who were uncomfortable with the idea that others got to spend time with Forrest and potentially get more information, especially after I realized he had slipped up a little bit in front of the media before. And of course there was a little bit of jealousy that you got to meet him. But I think that access was a double-edged sword. Searchers, myself included, were prone to overvalue what they heard from him directly relative to other information. That’s human nature. And because the guy enjoyed being playful and asking questions, the circumstances were ripe for people to read too much into what he was telling them. So you may have had some advantages in having a direct line of communication with him, but I’d say it was also a disadvantage.”
Well, Dal states Forrest told him he’d driven within 300' of the chest. Care to confirm if the chest was indeed stashed within 300' of a road?
That’s a strange one, Rick. I don’t usually want to get involved when people claim to have emails with secrets, partly because Forrest isn’t around to refute them. (But I have a lot of respect for Dal and don’t think he would make up this email.) The bigger issue is I don’t want to get suckered into ruling out parts of Wyoming based on the claims people make. But I feel comfortable on this one because Forrest is already on record ruling this out. The treasure was not located in close proximity to a man-made trail, and what Dal is describing — a road within 300 feet — is clearly a man-made trail in close proximity. It’s just not possible he drove that close to where the treasure was (unless he was in a flying car, I guess). Sounds to me like Forrest was just messing with Dal.
A searcher recently asked me if a trail made by people riding horses would be considered a man-made trail or a game trail. That gave me a laugh. Yes, I would consider that a man-made trail. I guess you might say a trail made by wild horses would be a game trail, but Forrest wasn’t trying to trick anyone with his statement, and I wasn’t trying to trick anyone when I said there were game trails nearby.
I noticed this in one of your answers to a searcher who asked if you identified all the clues: I was right on what all of them referred to, but I will say there was some additional nuance to one of them for him that I would not have expected.
Forrest once told us to talk about the clue that searchers could discover for themselves but haven’t.
Could the additional nuance to one of the clues be that additional clue he told us to look for? Or, if it was a separate clue, did you figure it out?
Steve from Iowa
Hi Steve. I don’t think it’s possible any searcher could have figured out that additional nuance.
Allow me to be the millionth person to congratulate you on finding the chest, and I suspect also the millionth who has follow up questions. Compared to others you’ve answered via the Medium posts, I hope that mine are relatively straight forward and not too intrusive: how do you know that the blaze was damaged “relatively early in the search” if you didn’t get involved until 2018? Or, if you can’t answer that comfortably, can you at least answer if are you completely certain that it was damaged early on? And related to that, what time frame constitutes “relatively early” in this case?
Thanks for your time and I’m sorry for all the hassle you’ve surely experienced and will continue to experience via entitled fellow searchers.
Thanks Casa. When I made that comment, I was using “relatively early” to mean early in the scope of how long this thing could have lasted. Forrest envisioned that it could have taken decades or centuries to be found. And I always tried to keep that perspective, that in some way I was competing against searchers many years in the future.
Its raining here and I’ve been starring at the water droplets on my windshield for about an hour and a half thinking about Forrest. Is there a natural sciences building involved during the process of solving Forrest’s poem? If not did you find yourself going inside a structure that resulted in helping you know what to do or where to go at any point? I know he said it wasn’t associated with any structure but this is me just being sassy and still curious if one or more structures may be involved…
No. I did go to some libraries for information, but those were all dead ends.
First of all, let me give you the obligatory statement: congratulations on finding the Forrest Fenn Treasure. With that out of the way, I want to tell you that I am quite amazed that you searched for a combined total of 25 days. 25 days? I searched for less than 25 minutes. Actually, my search was part of a 5,000 mile round trip vacation to Yellowstone in 2019. When I arrived at my location, my ADD kicked in, and 10 minutes later I left to finish the rest of my vacation. Anyway, I have a question for you. If you did not find the treasure, and you never found the treasure, how much longer would you have searched until you permanently gave up?
P.S. I one day expect a TED talk from you discussing determination.
Thanks Brad. I don’t think I would have ever permanently given up, but I probably would spend fewer (if any) days there each year until I figured out a better way of searching or a new technology came along. I left detailed notes for my family so that they could have picked up the search if something happened to me. I’ve since destroyed those.
Greetings. First, congrats on finding the treasure chest. While I do envy the experience you had with the discovery of the treasure I do not envy the issues that the discovery brought you. I am hoping you would be able to answer a question I have regarding the design of the puzzle. I have been a puzzle designer for magazines as well as escape rooms. Puzzles and games are an area of study for me.
Many big puzzles and treasure hunts have puzzles that reinforce the solution with confirmers. Masquerade treasure hunt came up with an exact sentence that explained how to find it, and using the first letter of each word reinforced the solution by naming the town to begin in. Some suggested Forrest Fenn hid GPS coordinates in the poem that provide a second level of information. (I believe the GPS solution has been discredited, so I only used it here as an example.)
My question is this: Does the solution of the puzzle reinforce itself with confirmers from the puzzles?
Thank you for considering answering this question.
James, Forrest didn’t share your exact interest in puzzles. He did not set out to create an intricate puzzle designed to satisfy people who are interested in such things. It’s a different thing — a very personal poem that depicts how he saw this place and the journey there. So no, it doesn’t include “confirmers” as you describe.
Thank you for answering my question. It is going to take me a while to come to terms with what you said. Even search friends of mine refuse to believe it, but I think that is human nature at work.
One quick followup question if I could…
You focused on Forrest and discovered a slip up that you were able to fit into the poem and find the treasure. You had confidence in your solution, but everyone has confidence in their solution. There are a lot of locations that seem to fit into the poem.
Do the words Forrest chose for his poem (or poem and book) point to the hiding place to the exclusion of all other places?
Well, I hope that wasn’t too harsh, and I’m sure that approach would be valid in many other, if not most, treasure hunts. And I can’t really say you were doing it “wrong” just because you couldn’t figure out where the treasure was that way — the point was to have fun in a spirit of adventure, and if you were doing that in your own way, you were doing it right. I’m fortunate this hunt was designed in a way that happened to reward the methods of inquiry to which I would naturally gravitate.
To answer your question — absolutely. But writing also has a way of revealing ourselves in a way that is not always a conscious choice.
I watched your video on cognitive bias, I’ve tried to rid my solves of it; albeit unsuccessfully. I cant seem to start over. I enjoy spending a little alone time each week delving into rabbit holes I either come across or myself, dig. I have been alone in this armchair chase for 5 years and have nobody to discuss this with here in California, by choice. Its mine and selfishly, I love that personal aspect of it.
You mentioned that there is evidence right in front of people. To be so blunt and not dance around it…I cannot see said hard evidence in any of the research I have done. I am asking you for not a direct hint but a subtle lead. Please, would you give me advise on the proper way to chose my rabbit hole wisely. I have chosen quite poorly!
Cheers from California.
Mike, I never felt I got into a rabbit hole. If I didn’t have a direct reason to go down a path of research, it was just guessing and therefore unlikely to be fruitful, or worse, misleading. The hard evidence comes from a process of connecting the dots, considering the big picture, never losing sight of what it is that you’re looking for, and never forgetting who Forrest was and what he wanted to do. Rather than putting together a solve, maybe you should let the solution put itself together. Good luck.
Hi, Jack. I hope you are still answering questions. If so, here’s mine:
Forrest said the locations represented by the clues are contiguous. The dictionary defines “contiguous” as:
1. Touching; in contact (e.g. the 48 contiguous states).
2. In close proximity without actually touching; near.
I suspect the second definition is the one that applies. With the exception of “not far but too far to walk”, do you agree?
Steve from Iowa
The clues in the poem are basically a set of directions. They are contiguous in the same way any set of directions are.
Thanks to all who have asked questions and to those here who allowed me to share theirs so that other searchers could benefit from them.
As a side note, for those who are interested in reading more from me, I was interviewed for Dan Barbarisi’s book, Chasing the Thrill, which was released earlier this month. There is some very fine writing in the book, but I have a few small corrections to make:
I did not “sell” Forrest’s bracelet when I returned it to him. No money exchanged hands.
I don’t play poker or have any real interest in it.
In the photo we released of the treasure in the forest I took soon after I found it, there is no reflection of me in the olive jar. What people have interpreted as a reflection is wax. The jar was dirty, so I don’t think its glass could have reflected anything anyway.