A Dangerous Poem, Indeed: The Treasure of Forrest Fenn

Can words kill?

Sure. Consider hate speech and the incitement to violence; words can lead to bloodshed.

But how about a poem?

I mean, poems are usually pretty nice.

Even the bleak, don’t-go-gently-into-the-night kind.

Hitler could flow with hate, but he couldn’t rhyme.

And yes, one could make an argument about the rhyming nature of many religious texts when sung in their native languages, but let’s not go there.

I’m talking murderous sonnets here, not scriptures.

Behold then the poem of which I write:

*

As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.

Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.

From there it’s no place for the meek,
The end is ever drawing nigh;
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and water high.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.

So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know,
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.

So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold.
If you are brave and in the wood
I give you title to the gold.

*

Cute? Innocuous? Insipid at best, harmless at worst?

Think again:

Here’s a short list of destruction this poem has left in its wake:

  • A man was arrested in new Mexico in 2013 for vandalizing a road side memorial
  • in 2014, two people were arrested for digging around Yellowstone National Park
  • A man in New Mexico was cited for digging a large hole near Heron Lake, New Mexico
  • A man was fined $4000 for repelling into grand Canyon after a successful rescue operation by the Park Rangers. He was also banned from the park for five years.

Of course, that doesn’t compare to the loss of life: five people have died as a result of this prose.

So what is the treasure, who buried it, and why?

*

What:

The Fenn Treasure is a cache of gold and jewels that Forrest Fenn, an art dealer and author from Santa Fe, New Mexico, stashed in the Rocky Mountains of the United States. Estimated at up to two million dollars, it was found in 2020.

The treasure chest was said to be a bronze box estimated to have been forged in the 12th century. The chest features scenes and reliefs with knights scaling walls on ladders and maidens above showering them in flowers, which ties into the them of scaling the castle of love.

Who:

Forrest Fenn was a Major in the U.S. Air Force, highly active during the Vietnam War. He opened an art gallery in New Mexico which dealt in Native American Artifacts and…

Forgeries, including: works by Modigliani, Monet and Degas.

At its peak, his gallery was reportedly grossing six million dollars a year.

Not bad, Forrest, not bad.

Why:

In the late eighties, Fenn was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was in this situation that Fenn decided to bury a treasure.

However, Fenn recovered, and wrote a book, an autobiography of sorts. Called The Thrill of the Chase: A Memoir, it includes a chapter called Gold and More, a section with nine clues to his treasure, including the poem.

The Result:

Tresure-ssekers spent a decade digging through the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.

And the Winner is..:

On June 6, 2020, Fenn posted on his Thrill of the Chase blog that the treasure had been found.

“It was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than 10 years ago. I do not know the person who found it, but the poem in my book led him to the precise spot. I congratulate the thousands of people who participated in the search and hope they will continue to be drawn by the promise of other discoveries. So the search is over. Look for more information and photos in the coming days.”

Beyond that?

The winner, according to Fenn, was a “was a male from the eastern United States”.

Hmmm….

*

And the take away:

Whether or not Forrest Fenn buried anything, he proved one point:

Never underestimate the power of a mystery, especially if it claims to end in claiming a treasure box.

It’s worked for religions for years; Fenn has shown that with a little bit of imagination, it can work for anyone.

On that thought, keep imagining…

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