Remember the story titled “The Everlasting Forrest Fenn” that appeared in the California Sunday Magazine last summer? The writer, Taylor Clark, visited Santa Fe early in 2016 to interview Forrest. After he wrote the story and his editor approved it for publication it went to a “fact-checker” whose job is to make sure the purported facts in the story are true and not simply the imaginative construction of the writer. So, the fact checker must contact someone who can authenticate the facts in the story. In this case that was Forrest.
California Sunday Magazine comes inside the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Examiner every Sunday, so potentially, a few million eyeballs browse the colorful, photo essay stories they publish.
I was perusing my files and ran across the following note from last May. I thought you’d find it interesting. Below is the fact-checker’s questions about “facts” in the story and Forrest’s factual replies. Do a little fact-checking on your own. Compare what Forrest wrote to what was actually written in the story. What do you think?
The California Sunday Magazine story is on our Media Coverage page on this very blog…
Look about three links down..
CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE MEDIA PAGE
The cancer in your kidney was in more than one spot?
It was under my kidney embedded in the inferior vena cava, which is the vein that takes blood from the lower body back to the heart. There was just one spot
Your cancer was removed in 1988?
My kidney was removed in 1988 and also the cancer.
You were shot down in an F100 over Laos? What happened? How did you survive that?
I was shot down twice in the F-100. The first time was in south Vietnam and the second time in Laos. I crash landed the first time on a small airstrip and walked away. The second time I parachuted into the jungle and was picked up by a helicopter the next day.
You’ve searched for artifacts in deserted canyons?
Deserted canyons is not a good phrase. I have looked for artifacts in the mountains and deserts of New Mexico, Wyoming and Montana.
You’ve sold moccasins to the Rockefellers and sculptures to the Spielbergs?
Yes, I sold antique Sioux moccasins to Peggy Rockefeller and Charlie Russell sculpture to Steven Spielberg.
Two years before you were diagnosed with cancer, your father was diagnosed with advanced cancer?
Yes, my father had terminal pancreas cancer.
And he took a handful of pills after he was diagnosed?
My father was given 6 months to live and 18 months later he took 50 sleeping pills
When you talked about facing death, you expressed that you’d rather die alone, but with dignity, and at first, you thought you might take sleeping pills at the site of your treasure?
Yes, since I was told I was going to die I wanted to do it on my own terms as my father had done.
So it would be fair to say that you sort of see this as a dignified way to go out, rather than sort of dying slowly?
I saw my alternative as being a hospital bed that would offer a temporary postponement with a hose in my nose, tubes down my throat, and needles in my arm. And with friends and relatives watching and crying. That was the last thing I wanted.
Initially, you weren’t really sure how you’d want to die?
I don’t understand that question. If I had my way I would die under a tree somewhere deep in a pine forest and let my body go back to the earth.
But then one night you were lying in bed when you got the idea for hiding the treasure chest and then leaving behind a poem. Correct?
But then the whole scheme was a disappointment because the cancer treatment fortunately ended up working?
Yes, I got well and ruined the plan.
However, you still liked the idea of hiding a treasure, so you stuck with that part of the plan?
The hidden treasure includes Ceylon sapphires and Alaskan gold nuggets the size of chicken eggs?
Yes, two nuggets weigh more than a troy pound each, and hundreds of smaller ones. There are two Ceylon sapphires, hundreds of rubles, 8 emeralds and lots of diamonds.
And while some of the things included in the treasure came from your own collection, you bought some of the things to add to the chest?
Even your wife didn’t know when you buried the treasure, correct?
I have never said I buried the treasure so please don’t say that. I hid the treasure, but that does not mean it is not buried. I just didn’t want to give that as a clue. My wife’s name is Peggy.
You hid it in 2010?
I have never pinned it down that close. I just say I was 79 or 80 when I hid it.
It took you two trips from your car to get all of the treasure to the hiding spot because it weighed 42 pounds?
So you were 80 then?
I was 79 or 80. I have a reason for not wanting to give an exact date.
And you kept what you’d done completely secret?
What I have done is no secret at all. My book describes it. The hiding place and when I hid it are secrets. I am the only one who knows where it is.
And even your daughters didn’t find out until you published your autobiography?
Yes, but I call it a memoir.
How long did it take you to refine the poem included in your autobiography?
I worked on it for 15 years, changing and rearranging words.
You originally had 1,000 copies published?
Yes, because I didn’t think anyone would want my book.
And you’ve now sold around 20,000 copies?
I gave the books to the Collected Works bookstore in Santa Fe, and they sold them. I have made no money and have not sold any of the books personally
And you gave rights to your book to Collected Works because you didn’t want to be accused of doing this for the money? Is that correct?
No, I did not give the rights or the copyright away. I gave only the books. I didn’t want anyone to say the hidden treasure is a hoax for me to make money on the book.
But the treasure is worth a lot of money, correct?
So that would be funny if people accused you of trying to make money off of this.
You are correct. I didn’t even get my publishing costs back.
You added to the gallery a brick-laid plaza, a gold-fixtured guesthouse and a sculpture garden with a scenic pond, correct?
The brick plaza is part of the big guest house. There were 3 other guest houses and the pond has 2 waterfalls.
And you did that by hand? You did that yourself?
No, I had contractors do it for me, but I helped.
And the pond once housed two pet alligators, Elvis and Beowolf?
Yes, but the name is Beowulf, not Beowolf.
Did you self-publish The Thrill of the Chase?
Yes, I have self-published all 10 of my books. The name of the company is The One Horse Land and Cattle Company.
Your walls are lined with age-cracked pottery, feathered headdresses and a case of arrowheads. Correct?
Age-cracked is not a good phrase. How about ancient pottery?
You grew up in Temple, TX?
Yes, born and raised
Your dad was the principal of the elementary school you attended?
As you were rising in the Air Force ranks, you realized you worked best as a schemer, working on your own?
I was not a schemer, but I knew that if I was to compete with PHDs and aeronautical engineers I had to out hustle them, and I did.
You left when they tried to promote you to colonel lieutenant?
I was promoted to Lieutenant colonel but turned it down and retired. If I had accepted the promotion I would have had to stay in the Air Force two more years, and I wanted out.
How, if at all, did your experiences in Vietnam impact the decision to leave?
When I was shot down in the Laotian jungle I had a lot of time to think. I kept telling myself that there had to be something better than this.
If you are interested in comparing some of what the fact-checker fact-checked, against what was eventually published in the story you can find a link to the California Sunday Magazine story on our Media Coverage page on this very blog…
Look about three links down..
CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE MEDIA PAGE