Trying to squash a rumor is like trying to unring a bell. ~ Shana Alexander
I thought we’d try to explore some of the rumors and mysteries going around about the chest…it’s hider…it’s location. Many of these rumors and mysteries started with stories that have misquoted Forrest. Perhaps you have an opinion on some of these…or others. If so, feel free to comment. Please understand that not all rumors can be squashed. Forrest rarely remarks on rumors except to say that searchers should only believe the poem and what he has written in the book. There is a wealth of material both written and recorded using Forrest’s own words. There is also material surrounded in quotes which Forrest never said and never penned. So be careful what you believe.
Lets begin with a very misleading quote that appeared in one newspaper and two on-line journals in 2010. This was very soon after Forrest made his first public announcement and gave his first interviews about the existence of the chest. Those articles are still around today because, what once appeared on the web…stays on the web.
The chest is in New Mexico – Some searchers believe this to be an actual quote from Forrest. But it is not. According to Forrest this quote is inaccurate. Forrest has tried to correct the writer’s mistakes and has often said. “I never said it was in New Mexico.” In fact, he has written and said, “The chest is hidden in the mountains north of Santa Fe.” Although Forrest has never said that it is in New Mexico, conversely, he has never said that it is not in New Mexico.
The chest is in the Rocky Mountains – Forrest first narrowed the location of the chest to the “the mountains north of Santa Fe”. Later, he said “the Rocky Mountains”. It is not in the Appalachians nor the Cascades nor the Coastal Range nor the Sierra Nevada Range nor the Brooks Range. Wikipedia’s definition of the Rockies include only the mountains highlighted on the map below. This is the commonly accepted geographical region of the Rocky Mountains. Forrest would know this although he might be counting on us not to know it. Many people believe the Rockies extend into places geographers do not. The Rockies extend from Northern New Mexico northward to northern British Columbia. The Rocky Mountains do not exist in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, California, Saskatchewan, Oregon or the Dakotas. It’s also important to realize that the lines where the Rockies end and start are fuzzy. Please keep that in mind if you start ruling out areas that are very close to the Rockies or because the first source you looked at said that such and such a range is not in the Rockies even though it is very close. Forrest has also said that the chest is above 5,000feet and below 10,200 feet.
The chest is in Colorado or Wyoming or Montana or New Mexico north of Santa Fe – More recently Forrest narrowed the resting place of the chest to be in one of four states. There is a map of these four states in the back of his book, To Far Too Walk. He has stated that the chest is somewhere on that map.
At least 8.2 miles north of Santa Fe – Forrest stated on another blog: “The Treasure chest full of gold and precious jewels is more than 66,000 links north of Santa Fe.”
100 links = 1 chain
66,000 links = 660 chains
1 chain = 66 feet
660 chains = 43,560 feet (660 x 66) = 8.25 miles
300 miles west of Toledo – Forrest has stated that the chest is “more than 300 miles west of Toledo.” He has also said “300 miles southwest of Toledo”. He has since admitted that this is a relatively worthless clue and will not help anyone to locate the chest. He has also recently said that by “west of Toledo” he meant “generally”. In the same way that the chest is “north of Santa Fe”.
I was very confused by this clue when I first read it from Forrest. I felt that all of the Rocky Mountains were generally west of Toledo, OH. So it was hard to imagine how a clue like this could help. It just seemed like a “non-clue”, in the same category as “not in Nevada”. Then one day I had a conversation with Forrest. I mentioned my aforementioned reasoning for believing that the clue was generally useless. Forrest lit into me. He explained quite strongly how West was 270 degrees and not a general direction…as in “it’s over there”. After that conversation I went home and located every Toledo I could find in North America. It occurred to me that to Forrest, as a military trained pilot, West would mean exactly 270 degrees. How could I not realize the import of that clue from the start? I dutifully drew a line 270 degrees from each Toledo and closely observed where these lines crossed the Rockies. I plotted and applied the clues from the poem. I looked for how following the clues in the poem could land me near one of these westerly headings in the Rockies. One line actually crossed a place I had been considering. I was excited. I sped out to this place. I searched. I moved north and south of the line to allow for miscalculation or improperly calibrated GPS. I spent five days exploring the area for any kind of blaze…none was to be found. I returned home and recalculated all my lines and set out once again to find a place where warm waters halt and etc. that could lead me to a place near one of my lines in the mountains…but I was skunked again.
Then one day another searcher shared a note Forrest had sent about the “more than 300 miles west of Toledo” clue. In this note Forrest confessed that the clue was, in fact, “worthless”. So I wasted a lot of time drawing 270 degree lines out of a bunch of Toledos only to find out later that Forrest meant nothing by this “non-clue”. In my opinion Forrest is like the Navajo “Coyote” character. He is a trickster. But the clue is real because not only is the chest hidden in the mountains more than 300 miles west of Toledo…but also because all of the Rocky Mountains are generally west of Toledo (OH) by more than 300 miles.
Searchers have been within 500 feet of the chest – Forrest did say this and he was quoted in the Hemispheres story in January of 2013 by Margie Goldsmith. Some people think that this would be a huge clue to any searcher who was told this. Is it in fact a huge clue…?
Forrest has said the chest weighs about 42 pounds. The laws of biology pretty much demand that a 79 or 80 year-old man is not likely to haul that kind of weight very far on foot. So my guess is that the chest is probably within striking distance of some kind of road. That being the case, how many people do you think have driven down that road and passed within a reasonable proximity of the treasure, never dreaming it was there? Mr. Fenn is pretty frugal with any new information about where the treasure is hiding. Further, there is no reason to assume that the searchers who were within 500 feet of the chest were ever told by Forrest just how close they actually were. It may have been you. If this is a clue, I don’t see how.
Folks have had the first two clues correct – Forrest did write this as a comment on my blog in the story “Stephen Returns to the Blaze”. His exact quote from the comment is as follows:
“some folks correctly mentioned the first two clues to me in an email and then they went right past the other seven, not knowing that they had been so close”.
My interpretation of this is that a lot of people write Forrest with their ideas for the clues in the poem. I think some hope that Forrest might say something like “By golly, you’re right. You’ve guessed it.” Of course Forrest would never say that but my point is that Forrest hears a lot of ideas that searchers have for the clues in the poem. And at least some of them have gotten the first two clues correct but then went on to incorrectly state the next seven clues. Forrest keeps telling us that we have to start at the beginning or to start with the first clue. That may or may not be “Where warm waters halt.” Furthermore, he has said that trying to find the chest by starting with trying to identify “Home of Brown”, won’t get you anywhere. He tells us we must start at the beginning and follow the clues in consecutive order to find the chest.
Map in book shows where the chest is hidden – Forrest has said that there is no secret “x” on that map (page 133) anywhere so don’t bother looking for one with a magnifying glass.
Double Omegas in the colophon of the book – It was once relatively common for publishers to add their marks in the colophon of their books. Today, those devices and the colophon itself is rarely used. Since Forrest published most of his books himself and since Forrest is a collector of rare books it would seem a logical guess that the double Omega in the colophon (page 148) of “Thrill of the Chase” is Forrest’s personal mark. This could be, but I have not seen the double Omega in his other books.
Another idea is that at one time writers used the Omega symbol (the last letter of the Greek alphabet) to signify the end of their story. But typically, only one Omega was used…not two. Forrest has not commented on those marks and so it is possible that they are meant as a clue. I once interpreted them to be a clue to look near the Horseshoe Mine. Others have suggested they are somehow a unifying remark about the burros he saved. I now believe them to signify promises made and the end of a story for Forrest and his closest friend.
Postmarks contain a numeric clue to the lat/lon of the hiding place – Some searchers have tried to use the postmarks printed throughout the book as a numerical code to reveal the lat/lon of the hidden chest. Forrest has not commented on the postmarks. Still a mystery.
Tear in the bottom of the page of fishing photos in the book – Some searchers believe the tear (page 122-123) was placed there purposely by Forrest and is therefore meaningful. Forrest has not commented on that tear. I don’t know what to make of the tear but honestly, is every little oddity in the book to be considered a clue? Still a mystery.
Letters “CE5” on latch of chest – In the photo of the chest on the back of the TTOTC dustcover one can clearly see the engraving “C E 5” on the latch. Forrest has said that the “CE5” was placed on the chest by him and that it is an accounting code that tells him what he paid for the chest.
The chest is buried – Forrest has never purposely said the chest is buried. He has always attempted to say that it is hidden. He has gone out of his way to correct the language of interviewers who say that the chest is “buried” (on at least two occasions Forrest mistakenly said it was “buried”, but I believe those to be moments when he was simply repeating what an interviewer said and he mis-spoke). Conversely, Forrest has never said the chest is not buried. I personally believe the chest is not buried…but it is hidden from view.
Surrounded by trees – Forrest once wrote to a searcher that the chest was not hidden in a tree but that it was surrounded by trees. I suppose it is useful to know that the chest is not in a tree but the notion that it is surrounded by trees is definitely not a clue. Everything is surrounded by trees if you go far enough out. This is exactly the kind on non-clue a trickster would deliver.
Special spot – Forrest has said the spot is special to him. I suppose any spot with a million or so dollars hidden in it is a special spot. But I have always thought that the spot was special to Forrest before he hid the treasure there. Knowing Forrest and knowing his background and history will help me know what kind of place might be special to him.
Begin with the first clue – Forrest has reminded us over and over to begin at the beginning. That the clues are consecutive and that starting in the middle will get us no where. Without getting this first clue, he says, we cannot expect to understand the rest of the clues.
Oddities in the poem’s construction – Folks have recognized inconsistencies within the poem. One having to do with rhythm and the other with rhyming. Most of the lines have eight syllables but not all…Is this important?
Line #2 has six
Line #3 has seven
Line #7 has seven
Only one word in the poem does not fit the rhyming sequence. Why is that? Some have suggested that Forrest did this on purpose and in order to get the real clues one has to repair those errors. Forrest has not spoken about the construction of the poem nor about those idiosyncrasies in it. But poetry is an art form, not a science. Many poems never rhyme at all. Further, Forrest originally began writing the poem in 1988 so he has had a lot of time to make sure it’s exactly how he wants it. It is totally plausible that Forrest simply wrote it the way he did because he likes it that way and we should just accept it and move on. Perhaps we should not be trying to alter it. Once when I tried to substitute words in the poem he wrote me back and said “Don’t mess with my poem.”
What does Forrest want to happen with the treasure once it is found? – Forrest shared this note with us that he sent to a new searcher who wrote that Forrest was his idol. I think it illustrates beautifully Forrest’s humor, self-effacing character and desire for the future of the treasure.
“Don’t see me as your idol, set your sights higher. And don’t get old, it’s overrated. If you plan to join the Indiana Jones club you must have the right kind of hat, one that’s been seasoned in the soil and baptized in vinegar and sea salt. Let curiosity be your motor and adrenalin your fuel. If you find my treasure please give a little to someone who must otherwise do without and let the remaining baubles be seeds for your next adventure. Keep me informed about where you are and what you are doing.”
To the point-
I believe that folks who have been looking since the search began in 2010 have no more practical knowledge of the place Forrest is describing in his poem than the person just beginning their search. To wit: No one has found it.
Bottom line is that people have all kinds of solutions to the poem. There is no “one way” to decode the clues. This is certainly by design. The trick is to find Forrest’s spot by decoding it the way he has imagined it. Just because the first way you follow the clues have not led you to the treasure does not mean the 29th or 47th or 123rd time will not. Clearly, the clues in the poem are cleverly constructed. Don’t expect to match wits with a successful poker player, trader and trickster and win in the first round but don’t give up trying to understand his interpretation. Keep thinking about it and keep learning about Forrest and how he thinks.
Forrest has said that the chest is not supposed to be easy to find. Whoever finds it will certainly have to work at it. Remember, Forrest has had since the ’80s to contemplate a description to his spot. We have only had since 2010 to dwell on how to decipher that description.
I’ll try to update this page over time so check back…
(last updated October 2016)