SUBMITTED AUGUST 2016
I have been confronted by a few folks over the past six years who have claimed Forrest’s Treasure Hunt to be a big fat hoax and those of us who pursue it to be as clueless as Inspector Clouseau. “Forrest”, this small band of naysayers squeal, “is pulling wool over our eyes”, “a puppet master yanking our strings”, “a wealthy man teasing us working class stiffs with promises of gold and gems that never existed.”
Their reasoning seems to ride on a few self absorbed claims, to wit:
“I solved the poem but when I got to the chest’s location it wasn’t there, so it must not exist.”
“I am a puzzle master and I have an IQ of 162. The poem is unsolvable therefore the treasure does not exist.”
“No one would do such a thing as hide a treasure worth millions.”
“You all have been looking for that chest for years now. If it was real you’d have found it.”
You get the picture. And for proof that what they proclaim is fact, they offer the following evidence-
But fair is fair…so what proof do I have that the treasure is real?
So where are we? Forrest says that the only proof he could offer would be to take us to the chest, and he isn’t going to do that. So Forrest can offer no proof that the chest exists and those who believe it’s a hoax have no evidence that it does not exist. Is this a stalemate? Forrest’s word against the naysayers?
I think it’s more than that. Although I have no proof that the chest exists I do have some pretty convincing evidence that it does. Listen up!
Let’s begin at the beginning. Did the chest ever exist?
Yes. We have a couple photos of the chest. At least one with some gold nuggets and a lot of gold coins.
These photos were taken before the valuable contents were finalized so they do not show all the jewelry or many of the gemstones or other goodies that Forrest has told us are inside it today. We know where and approximately when those photographs were taken by a Santa Fe professional photographer. Further, we have eyewitness accounts from folks who saw the chest before it was hidden. Forrest says that over 100 people saw that chest when it was in his vault. I have personally met at least 10 people who saw the chest in Forrest’s vault before it was hidden. One of them is a close friend who also hefted the chest and agrees that it weighed around 40lbs. My friend tells me that the chest in Forrest’s vault was the same chest that is in the photos. He saw it several times and it usually had different items in it each time he saw it. One day when he visited Forrest it was no longer there.
So we have photos and first hand accounts from eyewitnesses that the chest did exist and that it was in Forrest’s home and then one day it was simply not there. We know without a doubt that the chest with treasure inside existed.
Could Forrest have actually filled the chest with millions of dollars in baubles and artifacts, gold coins and nuggets and then hid it without anyone knowing where?
To answer this question I’ll approach it like a detective…I am looking for Means, Motive and Opportunity.
It does not seem far fetched at all for Forrest to have access to the kinds of items he has described are in the chest. Forrest found, collected. traded, won and bought items from thousands of clients over 18 years in the art and artifact business professionally. Prior to that he traded and hunted items for at least 30 years as an amateur collector. Although he specialized in American western and southwestern items, his collection today includes objects from around the globe. He has owned individual items valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars and collections of items worth millions. Forrest, Peggy and the IRS are probably the only three entities that know precisely how much Forrest has made but his wealth has been estimated by journalists to be well over several million. Forrest had access to items beyond the ordinary. These items would be unobtainable by most of us. Further, Forrest has provided individual photographs and intriguing descriptions of many of the objects in the chest. It seems quite clear he had the means to obtain and fill the chest with the unique and valuable items said to be inside. Even more evidence of the likelihood that the chest is filled with valuable items can be had by viewing Forrest’s collection today. One quick walk through his office will inform even the diehard skeptic that Forrest has collected items worth millions of dollars. His personal collection is filled with thousands of beguiling and extraordinary artifacts.
Nothing focuses the mind like the ultimate deadline…impending death. Remember that this whole treasure hunt was planned by Forrest when he believed he had only a few months to live with an incurable cancer. He was going to take some of his collection with him. His plan was to fill the chest with a few of his favorite pieces, gold coins and gemstones and move it to a “special place” he had known about for awhile and at this spot next to his chest, end his life. He would die on his own terms rather than let the cancer slowly destroy his body and mind. His death bed would become a hidden cache like those left by earlier mountain dwellers, hundreds…even thousands of years ago. Forrest wrote a poem with clues to where he and his chest would be sequestered. His intent was to have folks look for his special place and the finder would be welcome to take the chest and it’s contents.
“….Take the chest but leave my bones alone.”
Forrest was motivated partly by admiration for early hunters, traders and travelers and partly by a desire to give back some of the experiences he has enjoyed.
But then he got well and that ruined his plans. So Plan B evolved. He already had the chest and the artifacts. Why did death have to play a part in the game?
As a child Forrest was given a great deal of freedom to make his own choices. Here are some examples:
Take-off on a horse-riding adventure into the mountains of Montana..no problem.
Skippy and Forrest cruising north thru four states in a not-so-fine jalopy to work out their own issues and finances..no problem.
A fishing guide at 13 responsible for guiding and feeding and getting everyone safely there and back..no problem.
Head off into the woods to log on your own with little in the way of provisions or back-up..no problem.
These are events that shape your life. No adults to run for when things go backward…you just figure it out and continue on. Forrest was very social yet terribly independent as a teen and those qualities stuck with him as an adult. He often had no assistance in figuring out how to do things. He just worked through it on his own. As a result, he became a very creative problem solver because there was often no one around to seek sage advice from.
As an adult Forrest enjoyed short adventures such as taking off from his military job to look for artifacts and meet up with others who collected and traded. Since Peggy was not always interested in these adventures Forrest often went alone. In the gallery business he would leave for days at a time on missions to acquire paintings or private collections. Even after he sold the gallery his collecting continued and his solo treks to procure items for his personal collection or information for his books took him away from home for days at a time. Peggy and the girls understood this part of Forrest’s character and were comfortable with Forrest leaving for a few days whenever he needed too.
Forrest leaving for a few days, even when he was 79 or 80 would not have raised any eyebrows among his family. In fact, for Forrest to stop heading out on small adventures would have been cause for alarm since he had been disappearing, on his own, periodically, from childhood. It is perfectly likely that he could have placed the chest and goodies in his car and driven, days if necessary, to the correct location and made two trips from his car to the hidey spot and then driven home with no one knowing what he was up to.
So Forrest had all the needed elements in a good detective novel to complete his mission..He had motive, means and opportunity.
But wait! There’s more!
To a trader or collector whose good name means everything when it comes to business opportunities an excellent reputation is something to strive for and protect. Forrest’s gallery was “Fenn Galleries”. He wanted his name attached to it. He wanted people to know who they were doing business with as well as what that person stood for. In the art business where scandal and forgeries loom large in headlines, trust is supreme. Folks who plunk down hundreds of thousands of dollars for a Chagall or a de Kooning want assurance that it’s the real thing. Yet, there are never any absolute assurances in the art business. Trust and reputation are everything. Folks who have trusted Forrest have invested wisely. His reputation as an honest dealer is supreme…even today, more than 25 years after he sold his gallery.
There are always naysayers and Forrest has been investigated more than once but nothing has ever come of any attacks on his reputation or honesty. Writers Michael McGarrity and Douglas Preston have both said to my face that there is no question in their minds that Forrest is honest in his dealings and that his treasure chest story is absolutely true. In fact, it appears that the only people who believe the treasure chest is a hoax, are those who don’t know Forrest. Perhaps they are skeptics because they know that they would never do anything like this themselves and simply cannot understand anyone who would.
It has been ridiculously tossed about more than once that Forrest created this treasure hunt to line his own pockets, that it is nothing more than a scheme to sell his book, The Thrill of the Chase and pocket the profits. Anyone who has done the slightest investigation into The Thrill of the Chase can see that there is no money in the sales of that book, nor any other, for Forrest. Forrest gave the rights to sell the book to an independently owned, small bookstore in Santa Fe called Collected Works Bookstore. They are the only bookstore that sells TTOTC new. When they sell a copy 10% goes to a Cancer Fund that Forrest started. The rest is theirs. Forrest does not see anything from the sale of those books.
Additionally, Forrest has all the money he needs. His worth is reputed to be above several million. One of his stated goals was to never sell anything where his best client paid him $100. So it’s unlikely that selling a $35 book that probably cost $25 to print and ship was an incentive to “line his pockets”.
What possible value could a hoax be to Forrest? His reputation is already well defined. Forrest’s stature as honest and trustworthy is beyond reproach by persons who know him well enough to voice a worthwhile opinion. A hoax would destroy his reputation forever.
We know the beautiful bronze chest rested in Forrest’s vault because many have attested to seeing it there. We have seen photos of it brimming with gold.
Forrest had the motivation, means and opportunity to hide that chest and therefore, likely did hide it. He has no need for any monetary reward that selling books might bring and he has divested himself of all income from the books anyway.
So it seems that even though we have no proof that Forrest hid the treasure chest, the evidence strongly suggests that he did…and that’s good enough for me to head out into the “wood” and try to find it.
It’s a lot of fun..you should try it too…