A Critical Analysis of the Briggs Method

by Jeremy Parnell


Andrew Briggs, a searcher from the United Kingdom, claims to have found a hidden message encrypted in to Forrest Fenn’s poem. A cipher, he says, developed more than two hundred years ago by Thomas Jefferson to send secret messages to Lewis and Clark, reveals the following:

“Go west. In a short hour you see a big lake, cross it, run south – west. ——————–. Mirror this trail. Aim south and look heading west for a grey ‘F’ sign.”

The blank is a part he couldn’t figure out, but he says the rest leads to a relatively small area of the Rockies. If you can solve the part he couldn’t, you’ll find the treasure chest. He’s published his solve and how it came about in an ebook, Title to the Gold, available at Amazon.

Andrew Briggs is just one of many searchers who claim to have solved Forrest Fenn’s riddle. His method, however, achieved a certain status and piqued the curiosity of more than a few searchers when Forrest Fenn said in a September 14th radio interview that:

“He’s a pretty bright guy. He’s got a lot of it figured out, I… maybe.” (source)

We don’t know what that means. Later in the interview Forrest states that he can’t find the treasure chest after reading Briggs’ email about his solve. There’s been no further clarification as of this writing (9/20/15).

I was curious what, if anything, Andrew Briggs had figured out. Many of us were. Particularly we were confused because he does employ, in part, the Jefferson Cipher (also known as the Lewis and Clark Cipher).The confusion over Briggs’ solve being mentioned so prominently by Forrest Fenn largely stems from a general understanding that ciphers won’t get you anywhere in looking for the treasure. This understanding comes from Forrest himself. Codes and ciphers, he says, “will not assist anyone to the treasure location”. (source)

Still, Forrest Fenn’s statement about Andrew Briggs left a lot of searchers wondering: Should I buy this guy’s book? Is there anything to it?

No one is implying (except for Briggs himself, perhaps) that Forrest Fenn has endorsed his use of the Jefferson Cipher. I won’t even try to figure out in this post what Forrest Fenn meant when he said that Andrew Briggs has a lot of it figured out. Anything I come up with would be pure speculation. However, the use of a cipher is certainly the most controversial aspect of the Andrew Briggs Method and I do think we can apply critical thinking to that much of his solve, at least.

I must confess that before hearing of Andrew Briggs, I didn’t know that Thomas Jefferson was a cryptography enthusiast and built devices to encrypt messages hundreds of years before computers were invented. More information about the Jefferson Cipher can be found here. I was instantly hooked into this interesting aspect of American History that somehow escaped my notice. Hooked, not because I thought that it might actually solve Forrest Fenn’s riddle, but because it was fascinating in general to a fan of history and cryptography like myself.

I should mention that I’m a software developer. I’d like to think that I’m a better software developer than I am a treasure hunter, because at least my software does sometimes work and, so far, none of my treasure hunting adventures have panned out. Early in my involvement in the search for Forrest Fenn’s treasure I came across his seemingly prohibitive statement about ciphers, so I didn’t even try to go down that route. I liked the idea of a simple treasure hunt using a poem that I took to be like the map in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a map with no names but otherwise a point-by-point search (Andrew Briggs disagrees).

I didn’t go down the route of trying to crack Forrest Fenn’s poem like a hacker trying to crack a password, but I could. I do these things for fun. My most recent coding adventure was trying to see if the Martingale Betting Strategy had any advantage over a simulated roulette wheel in Vegas. You can give that a try (spoiler alert: the house usually wins).

Call it a waste of time if you will, but I enjoy wasting time in this way. To me it’s fun. Indisputably, though, Andrew Briggs’ Method can be put to the test using software. I didn’t want to buy his book, but I did want to program a Jefferson Cipher decrypter. What a decrypter does, essentially, is it takes an encrypted string of text, unlocks it using a keyword, and reports back the unencrypted version. Human beings can do this, of course, as Jefferson and Lewis did, but as a program it becomes an automated process, and you can run many iterations quickly. Briggs seemed to be suggesting that words that appeared to be not encrypted actually were. I wanted to test that.

I won’t bore you with indepth details of how the cipher and the decrypter works. It’s only interesting to nerds like me. Still, it’s important to provide the code for fellow programmers to confirm these things on their own. You can find that here.

After coding my decrypter I now had the ability to do what Jefferson and Lewis couldn’t, and what Andrew Briggs didn’t. I could now run as many keywords as I wanted, against as many phrases as I wanted, in very little time at all.

The Gist of the Andrew Briggs Solve
I don’t want to get into the logic that Andrew Briggs uses to reach his conclusions except to say that I disagree with nearly all of it. I don’t want to be too critical and say it’s nonsense. It simply resembles the justifications used by a lot of searchers. For all I know, he can be as right as anyone else. It goes like this: Forrest Fenn mentioned something, somewhere, and therefore my interpretation is justified. Or, lining words up like this makes the most sense for some reason or another. I don’t want to be too critical because we all do that, and it’s not really essential to the core of his solve. I want to be fair and keep an open mind in applying my tests. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. Never mind how you get there, does it work?

I think it’s a fair summarization of his method to say the following:

  1. Andrew Briggs identifies which phrases from the poem are the nine clues (what he calls Forrest Fenn’s first layer of security) and devises his own phrases as answers.
  2. Andrew Briggs then applies the Jefferson Cipher to these answers using keyword phrases he came up with after trying “hundreds” of keywords. (he calls the cipher Forrest Fenn’s second layer of security).
  3. There are other layers of security, but they follow from the second layer being confirmed by yielding meaningful hidden phrases.


The confirmation of his answers to the nine clues, again, comes in the form of hidden messages revealed by the cipher.

Example: Andrew Briggs identifies “Tarry scant with marvel gaze” as a clue. He then decides “Spiderman” is the answer for various reasons (according to Briggs: “a Native American trickster spirit the Lakota called Inktomi”). He then applies the cipher using his special keyword phrase and out comes “VYDEOZ”. This is, according to Briggs, his “eureka” moment that led to other meaningful phrases being revealed in a similar fashion.

Essentially, according to Briggs, “… multiple sections of meaningful text were produced that logically described a set of sequential geographical directions. It seemed to me that the odds against this happening by chance were astronomical.”

Odds. Vegas. OK, we can test that.

Testing the Andrew Briggs Method
Again, I didn’t want to buy his book. I did, however, want to see what came out of a Jefferson Cipher when applied to words in Forrest Fenn’s poem. I picked one that everyone generally agrees is likely to be a clue: “Blaze”. Andrew Briggs tried “hundreds” of words. I wanted more. To paraphrase Neo in the Matrix, “I need words. Lots of words.”

I ended up downloading a flat text file of over 109,000 of them to plug into my system.

I ran my decrypter against the words, attempting to decrypt Blaze using each of the 109,000+ as a potential keyword candidate. Here are the results.

I didn’t know what to expect, keeping an open mind. Generally, if you try to decrypt an already unencrypted word you can expect to get something that looks encrypted. Blaze is a human readable word, not obfuscated in any way. If something human readable came out of the decryption process, it’s easy to think that maybe there was an encryption after all. Like Briggs, I found most of the results to be unintelligible.

Still, “accomplished” yielded a phonetic version of “aches” (“aiykes”) which is how I imagine one would be who’s “done it tired” and now was “weak”. As I scrolled further I noticed clearer words. “Amen” yields “ahour” or “a hour” if you want to be generous. This was sufficient to demonstrate potentially hidden directions as Briggs might be using, so I stopped scrolling. I encourage you to check for more hidden messages. I moved on to other things.

Having satisfied myself that I might find hidden messages randomly, I then thought that this isn’t a fair test. Maybe Briggs was employing some other means in his solve. I didn’t want to, but my curiosity often causes me to spend money on a wide variety of things; I bought the book.

The Andrew Briggs Method, described above under gist, is actually very easy to test with the tools I created. The premise he puts forth is that the discovery of additional directional messages, hidden by the cipher, confirm that his choices for answers to the clues are correct. We can employ counterfactual reasoning here and falsify that premise: The discovery of additional directional messages hidden by the cipher in other random phrases demonstrates that his conclusion may not be correct.

OK. Let’s try some crazy ideas.

One of the clues Andrew Briggs identified is “where warm waters halt”. The answer to that clue, he decided, was “Rattlesnake Springs”. Among other hidden phrases, he felt that because the TTLESNA yielded “on green”, this was meaningful, and confirmed his choice.

For our test, we need to see if messages come out of phrases that Briggs didn’t use, running keywords that Briggs didn’t use.

Let’s substitute Briggs’ location of Rattlesnake Springs with a different one. Because I found it amusing that someone was digging in Central Park for Forrest Fenn’s treasure, let’s try that. Most would consider New York to be an odd choice because it’s nowhere near the four states Forrest Fenn has greenlighted.

I ran “Central Park NY” and here are the results. Again, feel free to look for your own hidden messages. It’s half the fun.

Amazingly “unearth” led credence to the poor guy in New York. It yields, in part, “iris”. Look quickly down!

Attorney yields, in part, “blue”. Are we looking for a blue lake? Didn’t Forrest Fenn say he checked with an attorney about land rights, on the off chance that someone might find the treasure? Wasn’t Blue Lake in Taos the subject of a huge legal battle over Native American land rights?

Look for more. These are real, complete, words revealed on terms that Forrest Fenn might have used, albeit on a very strange location.

Let’s try another one, farther away. “Paris FR”. Here’s the results. Brief scan, “valuable” yields “u ford”. Again, directional. Should we ford a river? Should we look under the rusted Ford?

Let’s try one from Briggs’ area. “London UK”. Here’s the results. “Adaptive” yields “move”. Didn’t he say he rewrote his poem several times, adaptive? “Amicus”, an adviser, yields “beauty”. Have fun looking at any word starting with “cli-” as it renders “ice-” and a potentially useful suffix.

Forrest Fenn’s neck of the woods. “Santa Fe”. Here’s the results. “Debtors” yields “owl&mom”. Is Forrest’s mom the wise one? Didn’t he say in the book how long it took his parents to pay off their home?

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, not even close. It’s just some of the ones I found when briefly looking. I ran, but didn’t even check, Antarctica for your enjoyment. Here’s the results. It only takes a few minutes to run each of these. I can’t imagine how long it would take Lewis.

Long story short, there’s a lot of words or almost words in these decrypted results. There’s others that can easily be interpreted into a meaningful phrase with a little creativity.

My favorite, by far, is when I ran “My Back Yard” (results) and found that “acquiesce”, which means “accept something reluctantly but without protest” yields “lvlguffymc”.

Naturally, this can only mean that I must look for a level area (“lv”) of Guffey, Colorado (first autocomplete result that popped up when Googling “guffy”). M = mile. Roman numeral C = 100, second placement. OMG, there’s a Bull Moose Restaurant & Bar about a mile from State Highway 9 (nine clues!) off 102! This must be the home of Brown!

In addition to real words, Andrew Briggs uses similar coded fragments to form his hidden message. To be fair, maybe not as poorly as I did in Bull Moose Restaurant & Bar example.

If you’re still with me, following Andrew Briggs Method will indeed yield human readable patterns, possibly because human beings are hardwired to see patterns in random data and likely because the cipher has a finite number of combinations using the alphabet. However, we’ve also demonstrated that patterns are found, many of them clear and complete directional words, employing other keywords that Briggs didn’t use, ones that Forrest Fenn might have, on phrases that aren’t ones that Andrew Briggs says are confirmed by the discovery of hidden messages. The presence of these other hidden messages force us to accept one of the following conclusions, for one of them must be true:

  1. Either Forrest Fenn encrypted all of these meaningful patterns into the solve, OR
  2. Forrest Fenn encrypted some of these patterns, and the appearance of any others is merely coincidental, OR
  3. Forrest Fenn encrypted none of the patterns, and thus all appearances are coincidental.


I’ll leave it up to you to decide for yourself which of the above statements is true.

If you are into ciphers and finding hidden messages, there’s plenty to enjoy here. I imagine some of you might like the idea of using a cipher to solve Forrest Fenn’s riddle. If so, I’ve done some of the ground work for you already. The results files are there for your enjoyment. Anticipating that someone might request it, I even ran the entire poem against the 109,000 plus keyword candidates, in case you’re looking for the “word that is key”. Here’s part of that (rather large) data dump.

I imagine most of us were sweating Forrest Fenn’s statement a little, even if just a little. What the heck did he mean? I don’t know, but for those of you who were concerned I hope that I have given at least a little cause to be skeptical that it has anything to do with codes or ciphers. There’s plenty of reasons not to buy Andrew Briggs’ book. I don’t know him, but he seems like a decent guy. Still, the only thing I found interesting is the use of the Jefferson Cipher, which is tested here. Everything else is pure speculation, in my opinion. You can find enough of that on the blogs. If you really want to spend $10 for no reason, I accept PayPal donations at jeremysdropbox@gmail.com Or, you can save your money and just send me a thanks if anything I said here helps.

Best of luck,
Jeremy Parnell

P.S. Mr. Briggs. If you read this and you’d like me to alter my software to devise another test, I would be happy to explore that option.

153 thoughts on “A Critical Analysis of the Briggs Method

  1. Jeremy, can we run some Agile method. I don’t know Waterfall enough to be useful. Only a novice Scrum Master so let’s give it a shot on a Sprint.

    As the developer what amount of time would it take you to complete the task?

    Try William Hale Wilbur

    Forrest’s most significant act: Meeting William H.Wilbur because his influence still lingers.


    “Most significant act? Hmmmm…
    I guess it would be when I married Peggy almost sixty-one years ago, because she has played a major role in everything that has happened to me since then. But I don’t think you were asking for that kind of answer, so let me think.

    In 1954 I played golf at Scott AFB with Lt/col Bill Hale. I was a lowly 2/Lt but we became fast golfing and fishing friends. He was the administrative assistant to the general who commanded all of the combat crew training in the Air Force. At Bill’s prompting, the general asked me to become his aide de camp.

    The three of us travelled a big hunk of the world meeting with commanders who would influence my assignments for the next fifteen years. I was able to pick what I wanted. When the general retired Bill and I served together in Europe and Africa. He named one of his sons Forrest. Later Bill worked for me in our Santa Fe gallery. So I guess meeting Bill Hale was the most significant act I performed in my life. He’s gone now but his influence lingers.f”

  2. When estimating the relative size of user stories in agile software development the members of the team are supposed to estimate the size of a user story as being 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, … . So the estimated values should resemble the Fibonacci series.

  3. Nicely done.
    Until FF’s treasure is found many will enjoy expounding their own theories. (Did I say that right?)
    Here’s mine.. Has anyone ever seen the movie “Princess Bride”?
    Is this “The battle of the wits “… Or just the obvious unknown?
    Maybe I have had too many expressos this morn

  4. Jeremy, all I can say is WOW, just WOW! Thanks for doing all that work to show Andrew’s method can come up with seemingly meaningful results even when using “keywords” that make no sense to use. Other searchers have used methods that use ciphers of some kind or another, even though Forrest said they would not help. My conclusion, even before reading your testing process, has always been #3 – it’s just a coincidence. I think the solution to the puzzle is “straightforward” but very difficult because of the multiple meanings we can use for many of the words in the poem. Again, thanks. You probably saved a few people from wasting their money on his book. 🙂

    • Totally agree with CJinCA. Thanks for the effort, you’ve done the work for us, so we don’t have to.
      I think Fenn was just being polite AND the subconscious mind spits things out…. I’m sure ff wants to say that someone has most of it figured out. You just have to look at Fenn’s personality to see the correct solve…. imo he’s a story teller, therefore the solution will be a story. Thanks again Jeremy

  5. @Jeremy, well done. If you have some spare time, will you kindly analyze coincidences/correlations of data gathered from the chase and words/passages/thoughts found in James Joyce and Ulysses? I’m quite stuck on this and could use a mind like yours to get me unstuck.

    If you’re interested, have a look at the “Connecing the dots” blog entry to get started.

    • I’ll commit to reading Ulysses at some point in the future at least. It’s been on my list for awhile.

      I did want to say that the wife and I were looking for something to watch on Netflix the other day and we saw the Tinker Bell movies, so I suggested that because I recalled your post.

      Maybe there is some archetypal formula for treasure hunts that Forrest Fenn consciously or subconsciously tapped into, because the similarities were amazing. In the least, folks who have kids they are bringing on the hunt should show them those movies to get them excited about it.

  6. Jeremy,
    To be honest, I’m computer illiterate, and have just enough knowledge to know how to turn one on and off. When it comes to ciphers and codes I need to use my Dick Tracey decoder ring to help, Bazooka Joe spyglass, and a Cracker Jack X-ray glasses What I will say… besides that you are an intelligent person… You approach Briggs theory with an investigating attitude. I thought I dissected theories, you just put me to shame. Regardless of any theory or method used… this type of thinking is, imo is how the poem will be solved.

    I have to ask you, as you are “a software developer”… If a method such as { code or cipher } is used to actually solve the poem, that this method should reveal a 100% completed solve? Yes? No?
    I don’t know how long Andrew worked on this, yet seems to me even if you have use every word in the poem… there should be a complete answer. That is the part that confuses my last working brain cell. Maybe you can explain why only 95%?

    Great write up… I enjoyed, the parts I actually understood. lol.

    • I don’t really know.

      There’s a couple of things going on here. Software is only the mechanism for running the test, and it only happened to be something we could use in this particular scenario.

      Overall, devising the test is a matter for a logician. In this particular case Andrew Briggs suggested a premise. That is, that hidden meanings confirm correct answers. That premise is a testable premise because it has falsifiability.


      We can look for a black swan.

      Not everything is so easy. I cannot, for example, test whether his choices of the nine clues is correct. I have to maintain an agnostic position on that and allow for the possibility that maybe this is what Forrest Fenn may have been referring to. Again, it becomes speculation.

      Even being a logician doesn’t help much in the Forrest Fenn treasure hunt. As a logician, you have to account for the idea that Forrest Fenn didn’t use any logic at all! 🙂

      To speculate and answer your question, though, I at least hope that Forrest Fenn gave a single, 100% correct solve, somewhere, even if you can only find that tucked away in the chest itself. I don’t think there’s any reason to conclude that that “should” be the case.

      • I should probably add that logic doesn’t actually disprove Andrew Briggs either. The test only forces us to logically conclude (mentioned above) one of the following:

        1) Either Forrest Fenn encrypted all of these meaningful patterns into the solve, OR 2) Forrest Fenn encrypted some of these patterns, and the appearance of any others is merely coincidental, OR 3) Forrest Fenn encrypted none of the patterns, and thus all appearances are coincidental.

        1 and 2 are allowed just as easily as 3, but we can make certain statements about the likelihood of each due to other factors (such as frequency of pattern occurance, for example).

        • Jeremy, What is your “Enigma machine” called? With a labor of love a name must be given.

          Even Heidi Fleiss had a keyword to sell her black book on Ebay, it’s already sold now after being placed under the “Memorabilia” tag.

          This week will be a good one with that book going public and the Pope coming into town during the 4th tetrad super blood moon.

          Fun is where you find it.

  7. Regarding the requests to run [insert some phrase and keyword to test], I think I’ll make it simple for everyone and just convert this to a web application so you can have fun running your own combinations. Give me a little on that and I’ll put it up.

  8. I am computer illiterate also, but this whole idea sounds promising. Maybe someone has found the treasure and just has not come forward yet. Only that person and Mr. Fenn know for sure. Still in the chase!!! Ms. Girl

  9. I am confident that Briggs is using the wrong method to try and solve the puzzle.

    I haven’t read his book, though. Does Mr. Briggs offer a solution for where ww halts ? I imagine he has an advantage for solving that one, IMO.

  10. Interesting effort! 🙂

    If this is how Forrest planned for the solve, he left out so many wise and capable people. Including a red-neck with a pickup load of kids. Using this kind of logic, the most of us should just through in the towel.

    • So true. Fortunately, many are not using this type of method. Mine is so different and uncomplicated – it’s like child’s play.

  11. I thought the whole idea for forrest in hiding the chest was to get people off their butts with their machines and computers and get them in the woods and enjoy whatgGod gave us he wouldn’t use that stuff for the solve in my opinion anyone can write a book and say they solved it but the one with the chest will be the ones in the woods searching

  12. Jeremy, great write up. I’ve always found cryptology a fascinating subject. As you know there are many methods of encryption; I suppose Briggs chose the Lewis and Clark method due its historical significance. I wondered if he considered any of the other historically significant methods. Just one example would be the code developed using the Navajo language used in WWII by the “code talkers”.

    Many moons ago I thought about the poem being encrypted in some way. Did you know that anagramming each stanza separately the words Wyoming, Montana and Firehole show up in each stanza; New Mexico and Colorado do not…….

    Trying to find the method of encryption Fenn may have used or developed himself would be as difficult, if not more so, than finding a 10 inch box in the Rocky Mountains with a dart board in my opinion.

    Fenn’s statement about no codes or ciphers put an end to any thoughts I had about the poem being encrypted. Fenn is probably saying the same thing about this he did when folks were digging up his yard and thought it was in Santa Fe…. “GAWD WHAT ABOUT NORTH OF SANTA FE IS SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND”.

    I can’t help but think Fenn would have an appreciation for Briggs’ marketing astuteness. He has apparently convinced a lot of folks in the UK he knows what he is talking about. I thought the radio host was kin to Brigg’s after his gushing introduction to his solution.

    It doesn’t matter if you know what the poem says, it only matters they think you know what it says. 🙂

  13. All below is IMO


    I’m happy that you’re interested in ciphers and are testing my solution.

    To test your keywords you’ve used part of the text of the poem – a clue ‘ the blaze’.

    I said in my last post that the text of the poem has nothing to do with a cipher. The cipher is only employed when you have identified the answers to the clues – a completely different block of text. The text ‘the blaze’ wasn’t encrypted.

    Here’s some more background.

    Using Forrest’s surname ‘Fenn’ I guessed the keywords for the first answer line “rattlesnake springs” to get the ‘ON GREEN’ deciphered phrases. This didn’t prove anything.

    The word VYDEOZ came out when I ran a single word from the first keyword line on a different answer. This happened for all words of the first keyword line when run against other answers in the block of text assembled from all the nine answers.

    In my opinion it is very unlikely that this could happen by chance. I realised that the keyword line was a phrase that could be repeated down the block of text assembled from the nine answers, to decipher each line of text.

    When the deciphered lines of text were revealed they described a logical sequence of geographical directions.

    There are two possibilities here.

    Possibility 1.

    Restricted by the 24 lines of Forrest’s poem, I have picked out 9 lines and come up with answers to those lines that fit with subjects of personal interest to Forrest. I have then looked through Forrest’s output for confirmatory hints to those answers. I’ve managed to do this many times for some answers e.g. the Rooster Cogburn answer.

    Then I have found keywords to do with Forrest and found within his output confirmatory hints for those keywords (e,g, the keyword ‘INVICTUS’ -he quotes the poem ‘Invictus’ in the Moby Dickens bookshop video). I have managed to choose answers that when listed in sequence as a block of text allowed the same keywords to be repeated down that block of text to produce meaningful deciphered text at multiple places within that block.

    I have managed to do this so that the 9 lines I have chosen in sequence from the poem generate a set of geographical directions that work in sequence when decoded from the answers to the clues using the same keywords repeating down the block of text produced by the answers.

    Possibility 2

    Forrest started his riddle with a set of geographical directions that progress from a starting point to the treasure chest. With the whole English dictionary at his disposal he tried to create a meaningful phrase of text as the output to encrypting each line of text from these directions.

    The output phrases could be to do with any subject on earth. It didn’t matter as long as they were formed from standard English. Then, these ‘answers’ were referenced by a clue. So he started with a phrase like ‘Rattlesnake springs’ and tried to find a clue that referenced that. e.g. where warm waters halt. He then listed this clue within his poem.

    ‘All’ Forrest had to do was list the nine clues in the right order in the poem so that the original geographical directions remained in the right order.

    If you believe ‘Possibility 1’ is the most likely then there are an awful lot of coincidences where Forrest has mentioned references that are convenient for the answers to the clues I have identified.

    For example the answer “Rooster Cogburn”. Forrest posted two emails in his Scrapbooks from a woman who had a pet rooster called John Wayne and in his ‘book collecting’ video highlighted a book written by ‘Coburn’ illustrated by someone with the middle name ‘Marion’ and containing a cartoon highlighted by Forrest about someone else who had the middle name ‘Marion’.

    There are many more examples I could give.

    I found some ambiguity in trying to decipher the last line of text – answer #9. I’m convinced this answer is right but concluded the keywords to unlock the last answer were different to those that repeated to decipher the block of text from the other eight answers. Your software may be able to do a much better job of deciphering the last line and may complete the last 5 % of the riddle.?


    The White Knight (Andrew Briggs).

    • I hope I made it clear in my post that I was curious what came out of testing against the poem at first, before reading your book.

      After reading your book, I tested what might come of just running random places around the world.

      I think no matter what text you run, given enough keywords or phrases, patterns are going to emerge. I think you can actually stack the deck, so to speak, to force these patterns, but it can also happen unintentionally through biasing favored words. As I noted, against the phrase “London UK”, any word starting with “cli-” is going to get you an “ice-” pattern. If you look at the words and phrases you chose, I think that might have happened in your case.

      Again, I’m not challenging your results. I’m offering alternate conclusions than those you reached formed from a larger run of keyword candidates.

    • Andrew,
      This is all interesting, but I’m still confused what you mean by :
      ” The cipher is only employed when you have ***identified the answers to the clues*** – a completely different block of text.”

      If the clues are “Identified”, why is there a need to use any kind of cipher on them? Why not give us what you believe to be the first clue or a clue and give an example of how that Identified clues doesn’t help lead to the chest without a code breaking or cipher breaking system.

    • Honestly Andrew, IMO you’ve taken the same approach many others have: pick and choose items from the poem and from Fenn and cobble together into a logic that ultimately points to a geographic location. The only reason why your solve has received so much attention is because it contains a level of technical detail which goes above the head of some. That element of “I don’t understand it but it sounds really smart” is the one of the reasons this approach is getting so much attention. If this were a systematic approach which was applied without bias and yielded clear findings that would be one thing. However, you’ve picked and chosen the inputs, interpreted the outputs to fit a predetermined hypothesis and then called it a solve. I’m sorry if this comes across as harsh, but with all the discussion on this blog about misdirection in the past 24 hours, this is the only subject I can reasonable find to apply that label to.

      • The truth is, every word or sentence in the English language can be converted into another readable word or sentence using a cipher, as long as the keyword is correct. They keyword might be complete gobbly-gook, but it is possible. Sounds to me like the selectively chose the words/phrases to be converted and then selectively chose the keywords that produced something readable.

        The chance of a 24-line poem, where every word is chosen carefully, converting to another readable set of clues using a “proper” cipher is beyond the realm of possibility, WAY beyond that realm. Has anyone ever done a Cryptoquip in the newspaper? Do any of those ever look remotely readable before deciphering?

        No offense to Andrew, but the idea of using a cipher to solve this poem is, well, crazy. In other words, threerocks, I completely agree with you.

    • Here is MY IMO rebuttal, Sir…
      1. The poem points in no way to John Wayne. Forrest made simple comments about a chicken, and in the era J.W. was born, “Marion” was one of THE top names for boys, like “James” is now. So was used frequently.

      2. Rattlesnake has nothing to do with warm water. Now if the poem said, “warm rock”, then maybe. I can name 100 warm to cold water confluences, falls and hot springs that make more sense.than a snake! He mentions “buffalo” alot, maybe it’s a place where they tinkle, or end of their bum?…sorry.

      3. F DID come out and say the cipher method would not help. I’m sure you are stoked that he said you had alot of it figured iut, but here in America, it’s called sarcasm. It means, “Yeah, right, uh huh…”, and he added maybe on the end, to let us know there was a questionable solve, so think for our selves.

      3. The kicker was, when he said he couldn’t find the chest using your solve you sent him. Even if some was missing.

      I know you are a credible treasure hunter in England, but Fenn is NOT your typical man, maybe even a little certifiable!
      No, I don’t have the treasure, but have been searching, networking locals with the knowledge and yrs experience Fenn has, and feel I may be one of the close ones!
      You need to jump the pond, get your feet on our Rockies, study basic geology and fly fishing and take a hike!
      Good luck, Sir.
      ¥Peace ¥
      《Again, all IMO!》

      • I apologize, Mr. Briggs, didn’t realize you have searched here several times. Good luck is in order, but I hope you fly home empty handed, (said in a nice way!).

    • Example of forcing a fit:

      I took the last drawing in Thrill of the Chase and decided to use the keyphrase “AXE FENN MET NYMPHS”.

      (Get your mind out of the gutter, they’re just woodland spirits such as fairies, sprites, and gnomes).

      Seemed an appropriate phrase for an environmentalist themed drawing.

      I ran that against “LITTLE BIGHORN”.

      Out comes: “KLONGBOATA”.

      OK, we’re looking for a long boat.

      • Note, I chose “Little Bighorn” because I noticed in Briggs’ solve that the “TTL” with “FENN” is going to match “ONG”, a good base no matter what you throw at it. I worked it a little, added some padding, created a story around a drawing in Fenn’s book, and put us in Montana. I even accidentally put fairies into the story (didn’t realize the significance until after I was done that this ties into the painting from the book). I worked it until I had a clear directional phrase that came out of it.

        Now I submit: Is this meaningful? Or just an amazing coincidence? All I can assure you is that I intentionally forced a solution.

          • I know. I woke up this morning and decided to create a completely random example of forcing a fit. I haven’t even eaten breakfast yet, and I’ve accidentally provided a book worthy cryptographical support for E. C. Water’s solve involving both boats and fairies:


            I can’t stress this enough, though. I manipulated letters until I forced a meaningful phrase out of it.

            From that, you’re all left to form your own conclusions 🙂

          • Jeremy – I think you’ve done us all a great service here. I think the main point ought to be, however, that in order to keep it going you have to be selective in the words you choose from the poem and then continually change key words in order to make them “work”. Wouldn’t you say that’s true?

          • Great question Spoon.

            I think my main point above all others is that if you’re going to use the Jefferson Cipher, in particular, you are absolutely going to get human readable phrases out of it, probably accidentally, and if you manipulate it enough you are going to get a phrase that substantiates what you want it to.

            There’s a lot of words in this post, and the comments I’ve added, but that’s a good summary.

          • @Jeremy – I tend to agree with this. Strictly speaking, Jefferson’s L&C cipher was intended for phrases, not selective tokens. Brute-force solving of the appropriate password of an encrypted wordset isn’t hard with a bag of words, but it is intended for a consecutive string of encrypted words.

            PS – I’m also an IT guy specializing in text mining and ruled out the Jefferson L&C cipher in my own research, but using chapter-start letters and separately the poem line letters and 9 sentence start letters. I did it for my own testing ignoring f’s advice about ciphers and codes. Another fun fact, on the Monticello.org site, their example of this cipher is incorrect. I wrote to them many months ago to correct it. 🙂

          • Good point E. C. It’s another reason why I wanted to come up with a longer key phrase to pass than just a single word or two. I think this example matches Briggs’ use more closely. He has a longer key phrase he’s running. I think, though, because he selectively chooses similar phrases to run them against (rattle, little, etc), that accounts for meaningful phrases coming out of extended text.

            So you’re not buying my cryptographical support of your solve, then? 🙂

          • @Jeremy – no, sir. I have faith in f’s direction that cryptography is not a part of the solution.

            As your time pertains to my hypothesis on James Joyce, I am interested from the perspective of the volume of (maybe forced) coincidences and correlations there appear to be. This includes hints like 10,200 ft corresponding to 10,200 first-run prints in the US of Ulysses, while 5,000 ft corresponds to f’s first-run print volume of TTOTC. Another example is f’s reference to 66,000 links corresponding to £66,000 first edition of Ulysses during an auction. Strange coincidences also include contents of the chest, e.g . 265 gold coins corresponding to 265K words in Ulysses, 2 Ceylon sapphires to an address on a tea bin, etc., and to the stories of TTOTC and a majority of the scrapbook blog posts having some significance when compared to James Joyce’s life and his works, e.g. f referring to himself as Bubba while Joyce refers to himself as Babbo. It’s worth an analytical look, if not just to argue against and convince me to get un-obsessed from this topic.

  14. My (1) Treasures (2) where (3) Canyon (4) Creek (5) cease (ends) (6) In (7) the (8) Wood (9) below the home of Brown (Brown mountain) at these coords 43.896269, -109.277241 just throwing that out there all !

      • Stormchaser371968, I am completely new to this. But that is almost exactly what I’ve come up with too. Just wondering if that area has been searched many times over since the poem and chase has been on. I love it!

        • Miles im fairly new to this also, i just got the book 2 days ago, i read it but nothing jumped right out at me, i have the poem memorized though lol.. i dont know its always possible but my feeling is i dont think a mathematician would be the only one able to figure it out..im trying to say simple. he once said who ever finds it will say why didnt i think of that. so not sure how to take it but keep simple.

          • he said in an interview video i watched, to read the poem over and over then read the book and go back to the poem then read the book again.. so im convinced theres clues in the book but i just cant pick them out yet 🙁

        • Grayling creek,stinking creek,watkins creek,red canyon,spring creek,nine mile hole,water hole,highway hole,mount waynes (these are a few places i highlited in the book as i read it)

  15. I admire your intelligence Andrew and Jeremy. If I were still searching I’d hire you to look at my solution. But I’m done and like Jeremy willing to give anything which may help others.

    “For ALL to seek”
    leads to another possibility: Forrest hid the poem clues in plain site; then overlayed cyphers to confirm, or camoflage the clues – for skilled logicians such as yourself to enjoy the puzzle.

    I fall into the “All” category without a logician’s brain and couldn’t begin applying decyphered key words. If my theory is correct the key word would be as simple as kee which is repeated many times in the poem. I do however believe (IMO) Forrest Fenn is a logician and genius; his poem has at least 9 layers to solve.

    Simple methods for ALL:

    1. crosswords in the poem
    2. forwards using definitions (Eng, Spanish, German: ff familiar w/all 3)
    3. backwards
    4. numerically
    5. tone frequencies matching the Kee of e “plain-site”
    6. plotting X,Y coordinates on a map; solving from the center
    7. Google earth “hidden in plane-site”
    8. converting poem to all CAPs looking for pictographs used like Mountain men
    (examples: U,Y=canyon, SS=water/stream, O=rock or cave, H=bridge, T=tree)
    9. building a key for NSEW directions within the poem using only the poem.
    10. phonetically vs correct spelling (afraid=afrad; snow=sno) “show it to a kid” ff

    Just for fun: forrest inclued Backwards in one line a sub-story about pirates
    (Gin-Warders night reaving barrels) A true pirate reference – maybe true, maybe for fun since it’s found backwards)

    Note: the fun is in the discovery.

    • 42,
      Do you have a source for the mountain man Caps/letters referring to landmarks? Just curious. That is interesting stuff in general. Dig that kind of history. Do you know of places where those markers exist, other than say..Indy rock? Thanks.

      • Hank, most mountain men couldn’t read or write like Osbourne Russel, nor could the indian tribes.

        If you were making marks in the dirt with a stick creating a map to show a river into a canyon… you might “draw” wavy lines like ss to show water and a V or U for a canyon. Y could be confluence of streams or trails.

        If you are looking for references outsdide of the f’s books, but that forrest is very familiar with, having studied ancient cultures, google 1.Runic Alphabet & 2. Native American symbols.
        One of the more interesting exercises I did was to change everything in the poem to Caps and look for symbols the ancient cultures used, which are closer to chicken scratch caps, than lower case rounded letters.

        I made a KEY of Ruinic and N.A. symbols in the poem. I didn’t quit until I could match up every letter of our alphabet with a ruinic or na symbol that made sense with the textual content of Forrest’s poem.
        It was time consuming, and moreover to test against a map, bog, or ge. You’ll have to put together your own key that works with your solution.

  16. Thank you Jeremy for pointing out that applying this cipher would produce many random things which could be interpreted as possible solves to the poem…..I think people do not completely understand that it is the randomness of this that makes it an impossible method of solving this puzzle…..I believe that Fenn mean’t it when he said no ciphers……if he did not mean this than I would really like someone to clarify this…..one thing that I do know is that Fenn would never give away a location in the book…..these are subtle hints….Because he mentions rattlesnake in his book….imo you can rule that out…..along with all the other places he mentions in his book. The biggest obstacle to solving the poem is searcher bias….this is where you think you have a location and then manipulate things out of the poem to fit your solve. This is not an easy thing to overcome….and we have seen it time and time again….people simply refuse to admit they are wrong…..sorry White – no chest = no solve.

      • Hi 42, I’m a runner. I subscribe to Runners magazine. I like to read about other runners and their adventures. So I stated thinking about FF and his interest in Louise and Clark and perhaps a fellow flyer like Amilia Earhart. She was having a house built in Wyoming when she was on her faithful flight. It was in a gorgeous forest in Wyoming, 35 or so miles away from a town called Meeteese. The only sound she would have heard would have been the Wood River. It set at the bottom of Brown Mtn.
        Let me know what you think… Or anyone else.
        Thanks Dal for this cool community of thrill seekers!

        • Hello Miles, I was hoping for a Montana connection. However, given Forrest’s keen interest in AE and his amazing collection of her memorabilia, I think you should pursue it fully. I know of the Earhart Meeteetse cabin. Sadly, I don’t think much of it remains. If you own F’s book “Too Far To Walk” take a close look at AE’s id card – IMO it holds location clues. The four Cornerstone letters of the poem are A.E.I.D
          further confirming importance.

          • Wow!! That’s so cool!! I’m actually 1/3 of the way through the book TFTW. (Maybe I’ll have to skip to those chapters! 🙂 this is addicting! I live in Utah, not far from Wyoming so I’ll be making a trip there shortly! Woohooooo!!!! Thank you!

          • 42 and Miles…there is a detailed search of the Amelia Earhart cabin by TomWhat…..it appears that he and a few others have combed this area pretty well…..just so you know.

  17. Betsy, I’ve thought a lot about F’s statement in Scrap Book 62…
    “Knowing about”
    head pressures, latin, …..cyphers etc will not assist anyone to the treasure.

    This is only MY OPINION politely stated. Most will likely disagree.

    FF said we over rate the complexity of the poem. So, I don’t think any one layer requires an advanced degree in logistics, cyphers, language or geography to understand it.

    However, It may require patience to carefully solve multiple layers which require basic logic and “thinking.” Many are simply reading the words and looking at maps or GE – which are the most adventageous tools, but only tools. Problem solving requires thinking. No one of Forrest’s intelligence and writing ability spends 15 years crafting a poem to finish 24 sentences that rhyme.

    “KNOWING ABOUT” those topics won’t assit anyone, because it requires no action to know about them. But USING them may assist one in solving the clues. It’s the clues which lead to the treasure. So, IMO this is a case of FF playing poker on the blogs and letting us believe he said “using” those methods wouldn’t assit one to the treasure. He said “knowing about.”

    • So Betsy, by saying;
      ” . So, IMO this is a case of FF playing poker on the blogs and letting us believe he said “using” those methods wouldn’t assit one to the treasure. He said “knowing about.”

      The way you are saying that means;

      Not in an out house or not associated with a structure means, it could be in a structure if there is no association of the chest itself to to the structure itself?
      Not in a grave yard, could mean inside a grave that is just not in a grave yard? Cemeteries are a free for all as well?
      WWWH is not a dam, but still could be the waters behind it?

      I’m not picking up what your putting down.

  18. Miles, the Earhart cabin location meets plenty of poem components to put together a solution there.

    Let us know how you do; and don’t forget to visit The Buffalo Bill Center in Cody.

    • 42mWhy buffalo bill center? And thanks Anna. I figured it has been looked at. But I still want to take a trip out there. This would be my 1st time searching…. So if just for the beauty and trill it will give me a beginning 🙂

  19. Thanks, Jeremy, for saving me the time of running my own statistical cryptanalysis of Forrest’s poem, searching for “English-like” words or phrases generated from meaningful keywords or phrases. I never bothered because Forrest explicitly said that ciphers were not involved. (It would have been great if they were: I’m an expert cryptanalyst.)

    I’m a bit annoyed that Andrew and others imply that the Lewis & Clark cipher or Jefferson cipher were invented by either of them. It’s just a simple Vigenere polyalphabetic substitution *employed by* Lewis, Clark, Jefferson and others. That said, encrypting English plaintext with an English keyword or keyphrase to generate ciphertext that *itself* looks like English is extraordinarily difficult, and impossible to maintain over more than a word or two. That’s the whole point of polyalphabetic substitution: it converts English/German/Italian/French/whatever messages with their inherent tell-tale letter frequencies (e.g. lots of E’s and T’s, few Q’s and Z’s) into a much flatter letter distribution. The encryption method is not meant to turn readable text into readable text. Forrest is skilled in many, many areas, but IMO it is highly unlikely that cryptography is one of them.

    To illustrate the folly of reading meaning into a garbled English-like “solution” using a particular keyword, if someone wants to give me a short series of words derived from Forrest’s poem (e.g. “tarry scant with marvel gaze”), I’ll be happy to do a brute force computer search for “interesting” output using a dictionary of ~110,000 potential keywords. Such a search takes only a couple seconds.

  20. “Andrew Briggs is just one of many searchers who claim to have solved Forrest Fenn’s riddle. His method, however, achieved a certain status and piqued the curiosity of more than a few searchers when Forrest Fenn said in a September 14th radio interview that:

    “He’s a pretty bright guy. He’s got a lot of it figured out, I… maybe.” (source)

    We don’t know what that means. Later in the interview Forrest states that he can’t find the treasure chest after reading Briggs’ email about his solve. There’s been no further clarification as of this writing (9/20/15).”

    What is it that f meant? I took the head on approach and transcribed much of the interview, listening to it over and over again… at least 50 times, probably more. I listened to intonation and followed the context of the overall conversation as it developed from one point to the next.

    What I concluded from f’s comments are:

    1. Andy’s approach will not get one to the treasure chest; he is not 95% there.
    2. Andy did correctly identify what some of the 9 clues in the poem are.
    3. The majority of people know that there is a word that is key (a code word – not f’s word choice, and I don’t think he is going to get in the way of how anyone wants to think at this point), but they know little more than it exists an/or is needed for determining a correct solution to the 9 clues.
    4. Those few who were in tight focus however long ago are still the few who are getting close; they just need to think the right things in order to finish it out.
    5. f will only know the treasure chest has been found if someone comes forward and tells him. Why will they? Anyone remember that IOU comment? I suspect he has incentivized the finder by leaving something in the chest to highly motivate contact with him of the find.
    6. f will not be releasing any more clues or useful hints because he has released enough to get someone to the chest. And thus f has been relatively quiet since the spring.

    And for disclosure purposes, “I concluded” is a direct substitute for IMO. Even clarified, some may still not fully understand that. 😉

  21. Interesting discourse here. Jeremy, thanks for the information that I would not have otherwise understood. I doubt that the method would help anyone. There are nine clues in the poem; follow the clues in order. Hmmm are the clues given in order in the poem or does one have to order them? One of the most important things I learned in elementary school is to read the directions and read them again to be sure I understand the directions before completing any task. There was one popular task that gave a bunch of directions involving micro tasks of calculations and such. The last part of the directions stated to ignore everything above and put your name at the top of the paper. It was amazing to see the number of people who did not read all of the directions first! Perhaps, it is time to re-read the directions before foolishly doing countless calculations! IMO of course.

  22. Ahh for some reason i cant let myself get involved in E=mc squared here.. the answer is right under our nose. as he said read the poem over and over then read the TOTC reread the poem and back to TOTC and the poem again, put ur self into his way of thinking and the answer will be there.

  23. i think what we need is a blog to dissect every paragraph of the poem starting with the first one, and every word in it and come up with the best take of it and work ourselves down. the first paragraph holds the actual starting point in my belief.

    • so with that being said!

      As i have gone alone in there? (where)
      and with my treasures bold (what)
      i can keep my secrets where (where)
      and hint of riches new and old (what)

      in my belief this will be the place to begin wherever this is?

        • Thanks fund. I have never heard of a solution to this one, everyone is starting from begin and im not sure on that. i think begin comes after this first on is solved

          • so with line 1 of paragraph 1 where did he go alone? with his treasures bold? 2 of 1.. where and what? is the question here.

        • and another thing, in the poem he asks only one question with a question mark? hes asking us so why is it i must leave my trove for all to seek? hes asking a question here answer it is my thought on it..and my answer or thought so far is hes getting old. just my thought here is all but this question must be answered

        • Now here me out here ok, line 1 of 1 AS I HAVE GONE ALONE IN THERE! that line is pretty simple and cant be taken to many ways so where did he go alone and why did he go alone? my thoughts are such so far subject to change. ok here i am hiding a treasure hmmm where do i put the first clue where it will be safe? in a safe? in a vault? unlikely it goes with him.. so where else? the restroom No. so FF was a fan of art and is to this day so where do u keep it his treasures? could it be the Smithsonian? a museum of such for the start? he did like the movie (national treasure) and im my thinking would be a great start for something like this,,its secure for many years. I did do some research on it and Mr ff is in the archives of the Smithsonian just what is there i have no idea i can not get the info i need but i do know he has been there and affiliated with it..is it perhaps he put one of his paintings in there where we find where warm waters are i don’t know. if i was to do a treasure hunt i would surely go in there alone and place the starting point.

          • A museum of such could explain the whole first paragraph, i like to think outside the box on things but at same time i truly don’t think Mr ff made it so only a mathematician could figure out, after all he said give the poem to your kids? reason? because he writes and thinks like a child and is young at heart here hes saying a child could figure it out. keep your mind open but keep it simple

          • Stormchaser: we’ve seen the Museum theory before. If following your logic trail and ff’s treasures are in the Smithsonian, then what’s North of Santa Fe for all to seek? An empty box? trove other than treasures? In a museum like BBCW in the Rockies?

            On various blogs, others have speculated that the treasure, trove, title, & chest may be seperate items.

            Help me understand how your theory matches with what fenn said on latest interviews or in the book jacket of ttotc… (paraphrased) the treasure chest is a real object filled with gold and precious jewels hidden somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. It’s out there for you to find if you can solve the clues in the poem.

          • im in now way saying the treasure is ther by any means what im saying is the first clue may be in such a place..

          • Anna, what im saying is everyone wants to begin where the poem says begin, but is it the real beginning because you have an entire paragraph above it. you see? if this is the case why even have the first paragraph? its just to obvious here.. TOP TO BOTTOM everyone is completely skipping paragraph 1 and i dont know why?

        • i guess what im trying to say is FF said if u know where to begin, well i think if he ment it to begin at begin then why the first paragraph i the first place, theres a reason the first paragraph is there and the 2nd isnt where to start hence it not being found yet.. TOP TO BOTTOM folks

  24. So, did Forrest spend any amount of time learning to write computer coding during the 15 or so years he took a sabatical to write the poem? What about reading the book entitled Ciphers for Dummies?

    That’s what I thought – zip, zilch, nada.

    While you all are spinning fanciful tales about what Forrest might have done, I’ll be out there picking up the treasure. All right, in fairness, I haven’t solved the poem clues yet either, but I know for sure where I won’t be spending my valuable time.

    Outstanding work Jeremy on the coding! It’s nothing I do for a living, but I can follow along on some of it.

  25. Lewis and Clark and ciphers? This is getting harder by the day. Heck, I just struggled with the Jumble before breakfast…

    I think the treasure is near a UPS store somewhere, maybe close to a school (no paddle) where a creek and a railroad cross a busy street…possible where the school bullies beat up their victims (brave)…and near a wooden bench…probably about eighty feet behind it…it’s buried in some tall grass and a metal detector will help find it.

    I’m taking Forrest for his word…that the poem must be followed precisely to the treasure and it won’t be fond by accident. He claims the book has a few “hints” that will help you. Well it better have more than a few or nobody is going to find this thing.

    I know one thing…maps…has anyone checked in the lining of a fedora to see if a treasure map is tucked in there? That worked in City Slickers…I’ll be making my own treasure map soon and I’ll share it with everyone too. then the race to the treasure will really begin…

    • ok the only problem i have here is many, he said its no associated with any structure.. please keep that in mind and hear is why.. lets say your going to do what FF did ok? so the reason its not associated with a structure is bcause structures disappear after time they burn,change,get removed ect.. you see? he has said he hopes its not found for 1k years well surelly he wouldnt put a clue on something disposable? correct? prob more something permanent like a nature structure of such..

      • Im going to set up a treasure hnt i expect to last for 1k years, im going to put the first clue on a ups building ok, but the ups building might be a movie theater in 5 years you see here my thoughts?

  26. I highly recommend starting from the top down of the poem, not starting from paragraph 2. try putting some thought into the first paragraph and work your way down. keep an open mind and put urself in his shoes so you can try and feel what he did as he wrote this.

  27. Storm chaser, my fully completed solution starts at “As I have gone…”
    The first paragraph gives you longitude, the correct canyon by name, even the highway number, and side road number. I agree that you have to begin at the beginning to get to the right wwwh. I won’t discuss how to mine those things from the poem since everyone needs to determine their own methods; and few agree on the methods.

    • ok Anna, if what you think is correct give me a simple decode explanation of line 1-1 if u think its that complicate? and if you cant make the rest fit its because it doesn’t fit, as they said dont force it to fit. if its right it will fall right into place like domino’s.

    • i just like the fella on the beginning of this post with his blank and couldn’t figure it out, its called a dead end simply put IT DOESN’T FIT so move on as i have to different ideas use your imagination, don’t force it, FF has repeatedly said it will lead you directly to it. my theories alone always left me 1 short and just didn’t add up i guess i could write a book on them and sell it also.

  28. So the name of mountain can never change? Hmmmmmm…Mt McKinley….hmmmm…names of geographic features never change? I’m so confused now…Oh, and I really wasn’t going to look behind the UPS store…at least not for very long…

    I think imagination is better than knowledge to solve the poem. So I don’t believe cyphers or any of this other stuff is worth pursuing. But each to his own…I know one thing for sure that I have not seen anyone comment on and its in Bessie and Me…good luck…you’ll fall off your stool when you get it…there is another key clue in Surviving Myself…maybe more than one clue…they are pretty easy though so I’m sure everyone else already has got them…funny how that vast majority of people are dead in the book…they can’t really refute anything they said now can they? That’s what the first person narrative does for you. I always did them confused..me, myself, and I…hmmmmmm

  29. All below is IMO.

    I’ve described how I arrived at the cipher keywords in my e-book and my last post on this thread but many people seem to have missed what I was saying so here it is step-by-step.

    Some searchers have suggested I ‘threw’ hundreds of random keywords at a block of text and when one scored a result decided that this result was deliberately engineered by Forrest. This is incorrect.

    I suspected the block of text produced by assembling the nine ANSWERS may have been the output of a cipher. So I tried hundreds of words that stood out to me in TTOTC, Forrest’s Scrapbooks, blog articles etc to see if these worked as keywords to unlock the potential cipher.

    I used two short segments of text (‘little turtle’ and ‘spiderman’) taken from different places in the block of text assembled from the nine ANSWERS to test potential keywords. I was testing them manually so it would have taken ages to test keywords against a longer segment of text or even the whole block of text.

    The two segments I chose had different letter structure from different places so I thought covered more options than one segment from one place.

    NONE of the keywords I tried on these ANSWER segments produced any meaningful deciphered text. So I gave up.

    I still thought the block of text could be the result of the output of a cipher so I tried to work out the keywords based on the likely position of some letters in the keyword line of text adjacent to the first and second ANSWERS.

    For (somewhat lucky) reasons as described in detail in my e-book I decided the third letter in from the start of the first two keyword lines was likely to be the letter ‘E’.

    From this assumption I tried Forrest’s daughter’s name ZOE FENN as a keyword as her first name was 3 letters long so fitted with the E at the third letter position.

    This was pure luck as it dropped the word ‘FENN’ into the right place adjacent to the first two answers e.g. ‘RATTLESNAKE SPRINGS’ to produce the first meaningful deciphered text I’d seen anywhere. This didn’t prove anything or confirm anything. It could have been pure chance. But I thought it was worth pursuing as it was the only meaningful text I’d generated.

    Also the keyword segment ‘FENN’ wasn’t exactly irrelevant to the Thrill of the Chase treasure hunt. It wasn’t a random word I’d pulled from the ether.

    From this starting keyword segment I postulated a phrase to complete this starting segment so that the results made good sense in both the keyword line of text and the deciphered line of text. Again this didn’t mean anything or prove anything.

    What started to make the postulation for the first and second keyword lines look far more robust was when segments from these keyword lines were scanned against words in other ANSWERS further down the block of text assembled from the nine ANSWERS, they produced many more segments of meaningful text.

    This happened for multiple answers in multiple places within the block of text, as the keyword segments were contained within similar phrases repeated down the block of text.

    One of the keyword segments proposed was the word ‘INVICTUS’ I postulated that this was part of the second keyword line of text. Again not exactly a random word pulled from the ether. This word had obvious relevance to Forrest and The Thrill of the Chase. When this keyword was scanned against other ANSWERS further down the block of text it generated meaningful deciphered text in multiple locations.

    As I said in my last post there can be only two possibilities for the decryption I identified.

    Let me just re-iterate:

    Possibility 1.

    If I were to concoct the encryption result I put forward, the following would be required by me:

    Restricted by the 24 lines of Forrest’s poem, I had to pick out 9 lines to use as clues and come up with answers to those lines that fitted with Forrest’s areas of personal interest.

    For example two of the answers I identified are to do with comic characters – Forrest is a fan of comic books. Two are to do with Native American chiefs – Forrest’s interest here doesn’t need explaining. Two are to do with Native American / wild west fictional characters. One is to do with Clovis culture.

    I had to engineer these answers so they all contained the name of a type of creature.

    I then had to look through Forrest’s output to find multiple confirmatory hints for those answers.

    I had to use encryption keywords relevant to Forrest such as ‘FENN’ and ‘INVICTUS’ within keyword phrases that in correct English had a meaning that celebrated Forrest’s legacy.

    I had to look through Forrest’s output for confirmation for these keywords (e,g, the keyword ‘INVICTUS’ – he quotes the poem ‘Invictus’ in the Moby Dickens bookshop video).

    I had to choose answers that when listed in sequence as a block of text allowed the same keyword segments to be repeated as a phrase down that block of text to produce meaningful deciphered text at multiple places within that block where the answers at these different places were made up from different types of word structure.

    I had to do this so that the 9 clue lines I chose in sequence from the poem generated a set of nine answers that when listed in sequence could be decrypted to produce a meaningful set of geographical directions that worked logically in sequence from start to finish.

    (If you believe I have done this I think I’ll take that as a compliment).

    Possibility 2

    Forrest started his riddle with a set of geographical directions that progress from a starting point to the treasure chest. With the whole English dictionary at his disposal he tried to create a meaningful phrase of text as the output to encrypting each line of text from these directions.

    The output phrases could be to do with any subject on earth. It didn’t matter as long as they were formed from standard English to disguise the cipher. Then, these ‘answers’ were referenced by a clue.

    Forrest concentrated on forming a complete phrase in standard English for each answer at the expense of some imperfections in the text of the underlying geographical directions.

    Here’s an example using the first clue

    The first line of text from the geographical directions, the phrase PC ON GREEN ED FR PUT TO, was encrypted to give a phrase with the same number of letters ‘RATTLESNAKE SPRINGS’. Then Forrest looked for a clue to reference this phrase i.e. ‘where warm waters halt’ and listed it within his poem. So the first clue was ‘where warm waters halt’. The first answer was ‘Rattlesnake Springs’. The underlying text of this answer was the first line of text from the geographical directions.

    ‘All’ Forrest had to do was list the nine clues in the right order anywhere in the poem so that the original geographical directions remained in the right order.

    If you remove the idea of a point-to-point treasure hunt from your mind, this solution is much easier to understand.

    If a Bookmaker was laying odds I know which of the above two Possibilities (1 or 2) he or she would put their money on.


    The White Knight (Andrew Briggs)

    • Or, Possibility 3: Meaningful text is easier to come about than you imagine it is. Again, in a single morning over coffee, I worked out the following (mentioned above):

      I took the last drawing in Thrill of the Chase and decided to use the keyphrase “AXE FENN MET NYMPHS”.

      (Woodland spirits such as fairies, sprites, and gnomes).

      Seemed an appropriate phrase for an environmentalist themed drawing.

      I ran that against “LITTLE BIGHORN”.

      Out comes: “KLONGBOATA”.

      OK, we’re looking for a long boat.

      Note, I chose “Little Bighorn” because I noticed in your solve that the “TTL” with “FENN” is going to match “ONG”, a good base no matter what you throw at it. I worked it a little, added some padding, created a story around a drawing in Fenn’s book, and put us in Montana. I even accidentally put fairies into the story (which matches a painting from the TTOTC). I worked it until I had a clear directional phrase that came out of it.

      This almost exactly matches what you describe your method to be. Say I pick “No place for the meek”, and answer “Little Bighorn”. I’m going to get “long boat” out it. I can stack the deck with 8 other clues and answers that “AXE FENN MET NYMPHS” fits by working “TTL” with “EFE”.

      Mr. Briggs’, I really do encourage each of us to not be advocates for our solutions. We should be their worst critics, because ultimately we’re the ones that incur the expense of going to look for it.

    • I should add: By being your own worst critic, I mean that you should have come to this conclusion all on your own. I shouldn’t have to point out to you. It’s just bad logic, I mean textbook bad logic.

      1) If P, then Q.
      2) Q.
      3) Therefore, P.

      1) If Forrest Fenn encrypted Rattlesnake Springs, then it should make sense when decryted.
      2) It makes sense decrypted.
      3) Therefore, Forrest Fenn encrypted Rattlesnakes Springs.


      My tests are just a fun way of trying to demonstrate that, but it doesn’t require tests. Smarter men than you or I developed these shortcuts for us.

      • Plus the usual disclaimers: That kind of logic (claiming certainty) is bad, but it in no way says your solve is wrong. Logic only forces us, again, to accept one of the following 1) Either Forrest Fenn encrypted all of these meaningful patterns into the solve, OR 2) Forrest Fenn encrypted some of these patterns, and the appearance of any others is merely coincidental, OR 3) Forrest Fenn encrypted none of the patterns, and thus all appearances are coincidental.

        But as our own critics, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to claim certainty or brush aside serious problems with our solve.

    • Hi Andrew Briggs, I’ve been following the conversation and find it very interesting. But I have to admit I only partially follow how to cypher the text. But may I ask you directly….do you think that you have found the Key to FF poem?
      I admire your hard work and diligence to solving the puzzle.

    • Andrew – I really think you need to back to square one. You are selectively ignoring and emphasizing things FF has said or put into Scrapbooks, etc. He wrote a book in 2010 with a 24-line poem in it. He intended for that to contain everything one needs to find the chest. He’s said as much. If he’d died the next day a person would have a legitimate chance of finding the chest.

      You selectively bring in esoteric references like Invictus and comic books which were introduced long after the book was published, yet you ignore his straightforward statement that ciphers or codes will not help anyone find the chest. That doesn’t make sense to me. Do you really think that he used a complex cipher such as your solution and then just inadvertently told us all that ciphers and codes will not help us? Slips of the tongue are one thing, but that blunder would be the all-timer.

      He has said that everything a person needs to find the chest is in the poem, or something to that effect. How and why someone would know to introduce keywords like Invictus or Spiderman is beyond me. They are not in the poem; they are not in the book. I see no way to reconcile his statements with your solution.

      The reality is, Andrew, that your considerable intellect may be making you myopic. These phrases you’re getting from ciphers are coincidences, IMO, and nothing more. I would say the same to the others before you that presented solutions with a myriad of coincidences (the solution based on James Joyce’s Ulysses comes to mind. No offense to the author of that theory, who also seems like a very nice and intelligent guy).

      You’re a gentleman and a scholar, Andrew, but I fear it is time for you to move past this.

      • Good points there Spoon (is this a Matrix reference?) and lest we forget that Forrest said, and I quote from memory here, “Briggs figured out a lot… MAYBE”. He said “maybe” right after.

        • Liviu – you are the second person to bring up the Matrix reference as it relates to Spoon. Too funny. No, it’s just a nickname I’ve had forever. Thanks for the positive feedback.

    • Hello White….Your first premise is incorrect…..this is a point to point treasure map….how do I know, because Fenn said so, I suggest you listen again, more carefully this time to his interviews. I don’t like to see people mislead…..

  30. All below is IMO.


    Yes, as Forrest said himself I have figured out most of it.

    But I haven’t figured out all of it, otherwise I would have the treasure chest.


    As I keep saying I didn’t run a decryption tool. I failed to get any intelligible output by manually deciphering the answers using a selection of keywords I thought were relevant to Forrest.

    I guessed the keyword phrase for the first line. This produced meaningful output that could have been by chance and could have been nothing to do with anything. But the same keywords worked to produce meaningful text on answer segments further down that had completely different word structure.

    The answers weren’t all the same word structure as the first answer. So this doesn’t fit with your ‘stacked deck’ theory.

    My logic was

    If P produces Q it’s some incredible coincidence that P also produces R, S and T and these describe a sequence of directions in logical order following on from Q.

    I postulated Forrest Fenn encrypted the first line Rattlesnake springs with a keyword phrase. It’s very unlikely that the same keywords for the decryption of Rattlesnake Springs e.g. ‘infamy’ could also be used to help decrypt later answer segments. ‘chicken ‘, ‘spiderman’ and ‘giant mammoth’.

    Keyword segment FENN in the first keyword line later helps to decrypt the answer phrase segments ‘in the’, ‘turquoise’ and ‘arrowhead’.

    For the second keyword line I guessed the keyword segment ‘invictus’. So again this could have by chance decrypted the second answer Little Snake Valley. But how come it also helped to decrypt ‘canyon’ and ‘cogburn’?

    Many of the deciphered lines I identified have some form of ‘text speak’ or phonetic spelling. Computers can’t do this. They can only work on what’s in a dictionary Therefore it’s obvious that a human created this encryption.

    The above is very unlikely to happen by chance. It had to planned, either by me or perhaps a clever person who took 15 years to do it.

    If you look at Figure 9 in my e-book it shows likely how the encryption was planned. I believe Forrest chose to use the keyword segment E FENN IN precisely because it WAS a good base to work with.

    There is no 3rd possibility. Either I created this encryption or Forrest created it. I did it or he did it. We’ll rule out your ‘fairies’ for now.

    With all the posts your submitting you have a funny way of showing that you’re not an advocate for your own solution.

    Remember Forrest stated that I had figured out most of the puzzle.


    The White Knight (Andrew Briggs)

    • Mr. Briggs, I have your book in front of me. You make it out to be that there was one magical phrase that fit all nine of the answers you decided were correct. When one didn’t fit, you simply came up with another. In fact, you used five:




      This isn’t reverse engineering a cipher. This is engineering a solve.

      Why stop at five? Why not six, or seven, or nine even? In fact, I’ve already suggested one for you. I know you couldn’t stop at four because that didn’t fit what you wanted it to, but where’s the line drawn?

      Not to quibble, but Forrest Fenn didn’t say “most”. I have no idea what he meant, but just in terms of methodology there’s absolutely no reason to conclude that it has anything to do with a cipher.

      I understand that you feel it does. All I can say to that is go get your gold. The $10 I sent your way, please, go get a pint at the pub, on me. No hard feelings.

      I can’t, in good conscience, say that what you’re doing is anything other than engineering though. Again, it’s textbook.

    • Andrew, I believe ff said, he’s got “a lot” of it figured out…maybe.

      Imaginative thinking that coinsides with your cypher:

      Forrest chooses words very carefully and could have been referring to spiderman/blackwidow hourglass – in the shape of a ‘lot’ or parcel of land in an hourglass shape.

      The hourglass (blackwidow) shape found on page 2 TFTW “toys are forever” is also the figure 8 symbol turned on its side representing “time standing still” aka eternity. You might look for section numbers 35=8; or for an hourglass shaped parcel.
      I found 3 in sw montana matching that description.

      IMO forrest is brilliant, an unusual thinker utilizing many spokes of thought linking to fortune’s wheel hub. Cyphers alone, won’t complete his wheel.

  31. Mr. Briggs,

    I think you’re on the right track to an alternative solution. I know almost nothing about ciphers, but I love word puzzles, and I’ve been working on the ‘word puzzle’ solution. There are some overlaps I wanted to tell you about.

    1. The ‘big lake’ appears to be Yellowstone Lake. In the word puzzle solution, ‘where warm waters halt’ is a play-on-words for ‘luke-warm’ waters, and the phrase becomes where ‘Luke stops’. It’s a reference to Luke Rd in Yellowstone National Park.

    As you may or may not be aware, the ‘Luke’ has a French homophone: ‘luc’, and it means ‘lake’.

    2. The solution to the word puzzle requires one to find three different locations. The clues for the beginning of the second stage of the word puzzle solution were 2 road circles, 2 bridges, 2 signs, 2 stars, and a single clue for hell.

    When I saw you found something that included 2 comic book characters, 2 Indian chiefs, 2 fictional characters, and a single Clovis culture clue, I knew you were on the right trail to finding an alternative solution. However, you’re missing a set of 2’s somewhere. The puzzle is extremely symmetrical–there were nine clues for the first stage; there will be nine clues for the subsequent stages as well.

    3. The end of the second stage of the word puzzle solution was this: To find the second location, go in the opposite direction. And, it includes the word ‘mirror’, no less.

    4. The ‘Lewis and Clark’ cipher: L and C. Roman numerals for 50/100. The code has an alternate name of Thomas Jefferson cipher: 20/10.

    These are representing ‘opposite halves’. When I saw ‘short hour’, I was put in mind of ‘half hour’.

    I wish I could help you with ciphers.

  32. I haven’t read the full length of this post, and as such am prepared to be flamed. I can categorically state though that the poem is NOT a Lewis and Clark cipher, and is highly unlikely to be any other kind of cipher. Ignoring the fact that using a Lewis and Clark cipher and ending up with a readable poem is near impossible, I wrote a programme that allowed me to run the poem through an indefinite combination of ciphers and could not find any useful output.
    The use of such a tool proved so ineffectual that I completely scrapped my initial plan of marketing the thing and simply considered it a fun challenge to have undertaken.
    If you have trouble believing this, simply look into ciphers a little and then consider how much you would have to tailor the initial input in order to end up with an actual poem as the encoded result. You could not achieve this result with a pre-given set of directions.

    I will leave this post at that and put my anti-flame suit on. lol.

    Happy hunting all 🙂


    • Take off your asbestos and Kevlar, Sid. Hopefully you are brining sanity to something that has gotten out of control. How anyone could think that any reasonable cipher could convert one long string of readable/logical text into another long string of readable/logical text is beyond me. The odds against such a thing are astronomical. 1-in-a number so large we could barely fit it on this screen. And somehow we’re supposed to understand which words from the poem to select, what the keywords are and where to change them throughout the course of the cipher?

      But reason, such as pointing out that FF has told us that codes and ciphers won’t help anyone, doesn’t seem to prevail here. This is just another case of someone getting so myopic that they lose perspective.

    • Sid,
      Why would you get flamed for stating the obvious….IMO.

      Those that resort to codes and ciphers can’t come to grips with their inability to figure out the problem…IMO.

  33. Sid,

    The given text of the poem was not the output of a cipher.

    Imagine you start with a set of geographical directions that are made up from nine lines of text.

    Lets say the first line of text from the geographical directions, says: PC ON GREENED FR PUT TO. This phrase is an imperfect construction because that allows it to be encrypted to give a phrase with the same number of letters that appears to be perfect English: ‘RATTLESNAKE SPRINGS.

    If you do a similar thing for all the other eight lines of text from the geographical directions you have a block of text that is the output of a cipher but is disguised because all the nine lines of text are perfect english and meaningful in their own right.

    You then make these phrases the answers to the nine clues that you list in the poem.

    The block of text created from the output of the cipher is the ANSWERS, not the clues.

    The clues point to the answers, the answers can be decrypted in reverse to the above to reveal the (somewhat imperfect) geographical directions.


    The White Knight (Andrew Briggs)

  34. Answering a question from an email:

    “Are you currently working a solve? Do you know where it is?”

    I have no idea where it is. I tried my luck earlier this year and had a really great time with my dad and two brothers. I’m done for the season and plan to not try and think about it over the winter. I may revisit The Chase next year, but if I only got that one trip it was well worth the adventure. Maybe Briggs will find it. Maybe you will! But I’m out for now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *