Rumors Abound…


Trying to squash a rumor is like trying to unring a bell. ~ Shana Alexander

I thought we’d try to explore some of the rumors and mysteries going around about the chest…it’s hider…it’s location. Many of these rumors and mysteries started with stories that have misquoted Forrest. Perhaps you have an opinion on some of these…or others. If so, feel free to comment. Please understand that not all rumors can be squashed. Forrest rarely remarks on rumors except to say that searchers should only believe the poem and what he has written in the book. There is a wealth of material both written and recorded using Forrest’s own words. There is also material surrounded in quotes which Forrest never said and never penned. So be careful what you believe.

Lets begin with a very misleading quote that appeared in one newspaper and two on-line journals in 2010. This was very soon after Forrest made his first public announcement and gave his first interviews about the existence of the chest. Those articles are still around today because, what once appeared on the web…stays on the web.

The chest is in New Mexico – Some searchers believe this to be an actual quote from Forrest. But it is not. According to Forrest this quote is inaccurate. Forrest has tried to correct the writer’s mistakes and has often said. “I never said it was in New Mexico.” In fact, he has written and said, “The chest is hidden in the mountains north of Santa Fe.” Although Forrest has never said that it is in New Mexico, conversely, he has never said that it is not in New Mexico.

The chest is in the Rocky Mountains – Forrest first narrowed the location of the chest to the “the mountains north of Santa Fe”. Later, he said “the Rocky Mountains”. It is not in the Appalachians nor the Cascades nor the Coastal Range nor the Sierra Nevada Range nor the Brooks Range. Wikipedia’s definition of the Rockies include only the mountains highlighted on the map below. This is the commonly accepted geographical region of the Rocky Mountains. Forrest would know this although he might be counting on us not to know it. Many people believe the Rockies extend into places geographers do not. The Rockies extend from Northern New Mexico northward to northern British Columbia. The Rocky Mountains do not exist in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, California, Saskatchewan, Oregon or the Dakotas. It’s also important to realize that the lines where the Rockies end and start are fuzzy. Please keep that in mind if you start ruling out areas that are very close to the Rockies or because the first source you looked at said that such and such a range is not in the Rockies even though it is very close. Forrest has also said that the chest is above 5,000feet and below 10,200 feet.

The Rocky Mountains. From Wikipedia.

The Rocky Mountains. From Wikipedia.

The chest is in Colorado or Wyoming or Montana or New Mexico north of Santa Fe – More recently Forrest narrowed the resting place of the chest to be in one of four states. There is a map of these four states in the back of his book, To Far Too Walk. He has stated that the chest is somewhere on that map.

At least 8.2 miles north of Santa Fe – Forrest stated on another blog: “The Treasure chest full of gold and precious jewels is more than 66,000 links north of Santa Fe.”

100 links = 1 chain
66,000 links = 660 chains
1 chain = 66 feet
660 chains = 43,560 feet (660 x 66) = 8.25 miles

300 miles west of Toledo – Forrest has stated that the chest is “more than 300 miles west of Toledo.” He has also said “300 miles southwest of Toledo”. He has since admitted that this is a relatively worthless clue and will not help anyone to locate the chest. He has also recently said that by “west of Toledo” he meant “generally”. In the same way that the chest is “north of Santa Fe”.

I was very confused by this clue when I first read it from Forrest. I felt that all of the Rocky Mountains were generally west of Toledo, OH. So it was hard to imagine how a clue like this could help. It just seemed like a “non-clue”, in the same category as “not in Nevada”. Then one day I had a conversation with Forrest. I mentioned my aforementioned reasoning for believing that the clue was generally useless. Forrest lit into me. He explained quite strongly how West was 270 degrees and not a general direction…as in “it’s over there”. After that conversation I went home and located every Toledo I could find in North America.  It occurred to me that to Forrest, as a military trained pilot, West would mean exactly 270 degrees. How could I not realize the import of that clue from the start? I dutifully drew a line 270 degrees from each Toledo and closely observed where these lines crossed the Rockies. I plotted and applied the clues from the poem. I looked for how following the clues in the poem could land me near one of these westerly headings in the Rockies. One line actually crossed a place I had been considering. I was excited. I sped out to this place. I searched. I moved north and south of the line to allow for miscalculation or improperly calibrated GPS. I spent five days exploring the area for any kind of blaze…none was to be found. I returned home and recalculated all my lines and set out once again to find a place where warm waters halt and etc. that could lead me to a place near one of my lines in the mountains…but  I was skunked again.

Then one day another searcher shared a note Forrest had sent about the “more than 300 miles west of Toledo” clue. In this note Forrest confessed that the clue was, in fact, “worthless”. So I wasted a lot of time drawing 270 degree lines out of a bunch of Toledos only to find out later that Forrest meant nothing by this “non-clue”. In my opinion Forrest is like the Navajo “Coyote” character. He is a trickster. But the clue is real because not only is the chest hidden in the mountains more than 300 miles west of Toledo…but also because all of the Rocky Mountains are generally west of Toledo (OH) by more than 300 miles.

Searchers have been within 500 feet of the chest – Forrest did say this and he was quoted in the Hemispheres story in January of 2013 by Margie Goldsmith. Some people think that this would be a huge clue to any searcher who was told this.  Is it in fact a huge clue…?

Forrest has said the chest weighs about 42 pounds. The laws of biology pretty much demand that a 79 or 80 year-old man is not likely to haul that kind of weight very far on foot. So my guess is that the chest is probably within striking distance of some kind of road. That being the case, how many people do you think have driven down that road and passed within a reasonable proximity of the treasure, never dreaming it was there? Mr. Fenn is pretty frugal with any new information about where the treasure is hiding. Further, there is no reason to assume that the searchers who were within 500 feet of the chest were ever told by Forrest just how close they actually were. It may have been you. If this is a clue, I don’t see how.

Folks have had the first two clues correct – Forrest did write this as a comment on my blog in the story “Stephen Returns to the Blaze”. His exact quote from the comment is as follows:

“some folks correctly mentioned the first two clues to me in an email and then they went right past the other seven, not knowing that they had been so close”.

My interpretation of this is that a lot of people write Forrest with their ideas for the clues in the poem. I think some hope that Forrest might say something like “By golly, you’re right. You’ve guessed it.” Of course Forrest would never say that but my point is that Forrest hears a lot of ideas that searchers have for the clues in the poem. And at least some of them have gotten the first two clues correct but then went on to incorrectly state the next seven clues. Forrest keeps telling us that we have to start at the beginning or to start with the first clue. That may or may not be “Where warm waters halt.” Furthermore, he has said that trying to find the chest by starting with trying to identify “Home of Brown”, won’t get you anywhere. He tells us we must start at the beginning and follow the clues in consecutive order to find the chest.

Map in book shows where the chest is hidden – Forrest has said that there is no secret “x” on that map (page 133) anywhere so don’t bother looking for one with a magnifying glass.

Double Omegas in the colophon of the book – It was once relatively common for publishers to add their marks in the colophon of their books. Today, those devices and the colophon itself is rarely used. Since Forrest published most of his books himself and since Forrest is a collector of rare books it would seem a logical guess that the double Omega in the colophon (page 148) of “Thrill of the Chase” is Forrest’s personal mark. This could be, but I have not seen the double Omega in his other books.

Another idea is that at one time writers used the Omega symbol (the last letter of the Greek alphabet) to signify the end of their story. But typically, only one Omega was used…not two. Forrest has not commented on those marks and so it is possible that they are meant as a clue. I once interpreted them to be a clue to look near the Horseshoe Mine. Others have suggested they are somehow a unifying remark about the burros he saved. I now believe them to signify promises made and the end of a story for Forrest and his closest friend.

Postmarks contain a numeric clue to the lat/lon of the hiding place – Some searchers have tried to use the postmarks printed throughout the book as a numerical code to reveal the lat/lon of the hidden chest. Forrest has not commented on the postmarks. Still a mystery.

Tear in the bottom of the page of fishing photos in the bookSome searchers believe the tear (page 122-123) was placed there purposely by Forrest and is therefore meaningful. Forrest has not commented on that tear. I don’t know what to make of the tear but honestly, is every little oddity in the book to be considered a clue? Still a mystery.

Letters “CE5” on latch of chest – In the photo of the chest on the back of the TTOTC  dustcover one can clearly see the engraving “C E 5” on the latch. Forrest has said that the “CE5” was placed on the chest by him and that it is an accounting code that tells him what he paid for the chest.

The chest is buried – Forrest has never purposely said the chest is buried. He has always attempted to say that it is hidden. He has gone out of his way to correct the language of interviewers who say that the chest is “buried” (on at least two occasions Forrest mistakenly said it was “buried”, but I believe those to be moments when he was simply repeating what an interviewer said and he mis-spoke). Conversely, Forrest has never said the chest is not buried. I personally believe the chest is not buried…but it is hidden from view.

Surrounded by trees – Forrest once wrote to a searcher that the chest was not hidden in a tree but that it was surrounded by trees.  I suppose it is useful to know that the chest is not in a tree but the notion that it is surrounded by trees is definitely not a clue. Everything is surrounded by trees if you go far enough out. This is exactly the kind on non-clue a trickster would deliver.

Special spot – Forrest has said the spot is special to him. I suppose any spot with a million or so dollars hidden in it is a special spot. But I have always thought that the spot was special to Forrest before he hid the treasure there. Knowing Forrest and knowing his background and history will help me know what kind of place might be special to him.

Begin with the first clue – Forrest has reminded us over and over to begin at the beginning. That the clues are consecutive and that starting in the middle will get us no where. Without getting this first clue, he says, we cannot expect to understand the rest of the clues.

Oddities in the poem’s construction – Folks have recognized inconsistencies within the poem. One having to do with rhythm and the other with rhyming. Most of the lines have eight syllables but not all…Is this important?
Line #2 has six
Line #3 has seven
Line #7 has seven

Only one word in the poem does not fit the rhyming sequence. Why is that? Some have suggested that Forrest did this on purpose and in order to get the real clues one has to repair those errors. Forrest has not spoken about the construction of the poem nor about those idiosyncrasies in it. But poetry is an art form, not a science. Many poems never rhyme at all. Further, Forrest originally began writing the poem in 1988 so he has had a lot of time to make sure it’s exactly how he wants it. It is totally plausible that Forrest simply wrote it the way he did because he likes it that way and we should just accept it and move on. Perhaps we should not be trying to alter it. Once when I tried to substitute words in the poem he wrote me back and said “Don’t mess with my poem.”

What does Forrest want to happen with the treasure once it is found? – Forrest shared this note with us that he sent to a new searcher who wrote that Forrest was his idol. I think it illustrates beautifully Forrest’s humor, self-effacing character and desire for the future of the treasure.

“Don’t see me as your idol, set your sights higher. And don’t get old, it’s overrated. If you plan to join the Indiana Jones club you must have the right kind of hat, one that’s been seasoned in the soil and baptized in vinegar and sea salt. Let curiosity be your motor and adrenalin your fuel. If you find my treasure please give a little to someone who must otherwise do without and let the remaining baubles be seeds for your next adventure. Keep me informed about where you are and what you are doing.”

To the point-

I believe that folks who have been looking since the search began in 2010 have no more practical knowledge of the place Forrest is describing in his poem than the person just beginning their search. To wit: No one has found it.

Bottom line is that people have all kinds of solutions to the poem. There is no “one way” to decode the clues. This is certainly by design. The trick is to find Forrest’s spot by decoding it the way he has imagined it. Just because the first way you follow the clues have not led you to the treasure does not mean the 29th or 47th or 123rd time will not. Clearly, the clues in the poem are cleverly constructed. Don’t expect to match wits with a successful poker player, trader and trickster and win in the first round but don’t give up trying to understand his interpretation. Keep thinking about it and keep learning about Forrest and how he thinks.

Forrest has said that the chest is not supposed to be easy to find. Whoever finds it will certainly have to work at it. Remember, Forrest has had since the ’80s to contemplate a description to his spot. We have only had since 2010 to dwell on how to decipher that description.

I’ll try to update this page over time so check back…


(last updated October 2016)

Coyote….Part One

Stuck in the wash…


© 2011 dal neitzel



You can ask me why I was looking for Forrest’s treasure in Coyote, New Mexico, but I won’t tell you.

I will say that I was there. Midsummer. Hot. Dry. Dusty.

The arid landscape smelled a little  like sage and a lot like sand. The heat was oppressive. The sun was relentless. The vista was endless. Red sand hills with scattered outcroppings of collapsing gray and pink cliff rock. Sage everywhere. The twisting road had deteriorated into a two rut jeep trail and was working its way toward becoming a single rut up ahead.  The engine was running strong but my truck was moving slow albeit a little faster than I wanted to go on this beat-up, washed out trail. If I stopped I’d be stuck. Keep moving forward was the only plan I had.

I had to duck my head to keep from smacking it on the roof. Tough on the ball joints. I was being cautious. I kept the speed up. In the past two minutes I had determined that this was not a likely road for Forrest to have driven when he hid his fortune. All I needed was a place wide enough to turn around so I could head back north, 10 miles to the town of Coyote. Grab a cold diet Pepsi and look somewhere else.

Up ahead I could make out one semi-standing building. Roof caved in. The remains of a ranch perhaps. Who would try ranching in this hard country? I remember thinking that I could probably turn around up there. That thought was interrupted when I felt my left rear wheel start to spin freely and the front swerve to the right out of the ruts. I was in a shallow, sandy wash. A little gas. Not too much. The truck was bogging down in the sand. One of those times I wished I had four wheel drive. But I don’t. I shouldn’t be here. But I was.

The truck slowed to its inevitable stop ignoring the fact that its wheels were spinning, It was now a no wheel drive vehicle. Stuck fast. Here I was. I could have turned around a mile back where there was a rusting, burned out hulk of a Dodge truck sitting in a wide spot in the road. But I had instead decided to go forward. I was, once again, nowhere. Buyers remorse. Good going!

I shut the truck down. Took my hands off the wheel and stared at the harsh, bright landscape. I could feel the intense sunlight pounding down on my left ear, left shoulder, left arm. A fly buzzed in the right window and exited the left. It was quiet. I was alone. I took a sip from my water bottle and slowly twisted the cap back onto the bottle while staring through the windshield at nothing really. Other than the dilapidated building about 200 meters ahead there was nothing to look at except undulating hills and multi-colored rock terraces.

Heat was building up in the unmoving air. Dust coated sweat covered my exposed skin. My jeans and t-shirt were soaked. It wasn’t cooling me down. Even my hands were sweating.

I took a deep breath and grabbed my  hat and camera. I lifted the door handle, leaned against the door frame with my left shoulder and grabbed my ice axe from between the seats with my right hand. The door opened and I let the momentum carry me outside to the soft red wash. There was no breeze, only heat. I was in sand right up to the tops of my shoes.

Both rear wheels were trapped in the red stuff clear to the rims. Even the differential was down in the sand. The right front wheel was set against rock just high enough to halt the movement of my old truck. Only the left front was clear. It would take some work with a shovel and some rocks or boards to get the GMC moving again. 12 feet back and I’d be on the uneven hardpan. Not badly stuck. Just stuck. I reached inside and grabbed my water bottle, took a gulp, screwed the top back on and tossed the bottle onto the damp driver’s seat as I turned and headed up the hill toward the building.

The old building near Coyote…

As I approached I could see that the crumbling structure was built into the side of a hill. Probably for the extra insulation. My guess was that this baked landscape was hotter than today for much of the summer and just as cold as Moscow in winter. What a challenging place to make a living. The roof was mostly caved in. The adobe was falling away revealing the red bricks and rough wood  framing. Solidly built. Darkened and fractured by exposure. At least 100 years old. Maybe much older. Newer additions and repairs. But it wasn’t a house or a barn. It was a store. It had wide multi-paned windows on each side of the center door.

Scattered around the front were boards. Possibly from a once inviting porch or wooden sidewalk. I poked at a couple of them with my axe and flipped them over to see what might be underneath. Nothing.

“Whatcha lookin for?” the voice behind me inquired.

“Jeese!” I nearly jumped out of my skin. The last thing I expected to hear was a voice. I turned quickly and found myself staring directly into the very weathered, very old face of an indian. He was wearing a red and brown striped, long sleeve shirt, quite faded from the sun. A red scarf was wrapped around his neck. His belt buckle was a large bear claw carved in turquoise and  laid in a big silver oval. His black pants were a little baggy and he was wearing scuffed black motorcycle boots with large silver side buckles. Patchouli oil scented the air around him. His loose white hair spilled down to his shoulders. In spite of the heat he looked cool and unaffected.

“Its okay friend. I don’t mean ta give ya a heart attack.” he said as he grabbed my free left hand and shook it.

“Scared the bejeezus out of me.” I said.

“Old indian trick.” he said,  “Sorry.”

I could tell that he was trying to keep from laughing.

“My name is David Yellow Hat” His voice was like a loud whisper.

“Your not wearing a hat” I said

“You white guys are damn quick” he said and then moved a little bit to the right so I wouldn’t have to squint into the sun while looking at him. His face was the color of old cordovan leather. He was a bit stooped but otherwise seemed fit. I could see no flab at all on his frame.

“Okay.” I said. “My name is Dal Neitzel.”

“What?”  His voice was soft and airy…reassuring.

“Dal Neitzel” I repeated.

“What the heck kinda name is that?” He seemed surprised at my name. Was he expecting someone else? Black eyes searched my own looking for lord knows what.

“Its German”

“What’s it mean” he asked

“I don’t know” I said.

“You white guys!” he said. “So what are ya lookin for with your fancy walkin stick?”

“Snakes I said”

“Snakes? Aint no snakes over here. Then he pointed over my shoulder toward an outcropping about a hundred meters behind me. “Snakes over there where they got places ta hide.”

“This your place?” I asked, pointing with my axe at the old store.

“Sorta.” He said. “Used to be a trading post for the tribe that  lived out here. It still belongs to the government I suppose. So I guess I own some of it.”

Yellow Hat turned toward the building and said, “Let me show you something. Come here.” and he carefully walked in through the open front door to the debris filled cavity that was once the interior of the trading post.

I followed him in. We went to the back of the room where two walls and an interior door still stood. As I followed I could see old coffee cans, powdered milk containers, some rotting remnants of flour sacks, a can of nails and other items it would be fun to dig around in. When I caught up to him he pointed at the door jam where there were some marks carved with names and dates.

“See this one down here?” he asked while pointing to a mark barely three feet up the jamb. “Thats Franklin Gower’s height from when he was 2 years old. That mark is from 1853. I knew this guy. He worked here when I was a kid. Pretty old then but I knew him when I was 7 in 1931. He was 80.  He used to take his wagon in to Taos to get food for the indians out here in the middle of winter and let me tell ya that was no easy trip.”

“Did you work here?” I asked.

“No but my family lived bout 5 miles west and the kids used to come out here and hang around til old man Gower would give us a penny candy and tell us about our ancestors. He was okay.”

I bent down to examine the names written in red pencil on the frame. Next to the entry for “Frank” I could see it also said March 14, 1853.

“They did that for all the Gower kids right up til there weren’t no more.”

The last date I could see on the jamb was about my height and had the name Frank and 1938 next to it. I rubbed my fingers across the jamb to feel the notches in the wood.

“That one was the last Gower. Another Frank. He was killed landing on the beach at Guadalcanal in ’42. I remember him too.”

“Are you Navajo?” I asked

“You white guys!” he said. “Apache!  This is all Apache country round here. Beautiful ain’t it? If you know how, you can live back here pretty good.”

He turned and walked back out the way we came. Bent down and picked up a rusted metal fork. looked it over, dropped it and continued out the door. When we were out he grabbed my left hand again and started pumping it. “Im headed toward town so I better get goin.” He pointed again toward the red rock outcropping. “Snakes over there. If ya see me on the road when yer headed back, gimme a lift will ya?”

“Sure.” I said. “Hey, you want to go over and look at snakes? Then you can ride back with me.”

“No. I seen them snakes before.” He said. “But you be careful. Gotta head out.” And then he turned up the rut and headed out in the direction of my truck.

“Take care David.”

I watched him for a bit. You can always tell a guy who spent  life walking rather than driving or riding. Yellow Hat, at nearly 90, had a slow but comfortable pace. His balance was good. He looked fit with only a slight limp as he favored his left foot a bit. I guessed he didn’t even have a drivers license.

It took me about five minutes to walk up to the outcropping. I approached it carefully. Ever watchful for snakes. Although I wanted to see a couple I did not want to be surprised by any. I carefully walked among the broken stone that had peeled off the face of the outcropping. No snakes. I stopped and considered the heat. Probably too hot for them. Probably down in the cool cracks and small caves.

Petroglyphs carved into the red rock wall…

Then I saw them. About a hundred of them. Petroglyphs. Covering the entire flat front of the outcropping. Dozens were snakes but there were also horses and arrows and deer and things I couldn’t identify. Some were beautifully detailed. Many were simple as can be. There were a few dates. One was a drawing of a man in a cowboy hat. Next to it was etched “Frank, 1876”. There were a couple of women in dresses, covered wagons and something that looked like fire coming from the sky on a village. There were stories here. These things always fascinate me. I ran my finger through the deep lines of a warrior on his horse. How old? Some of the carvings had the same dark coloration as the uncarved rock face. Others were lighter…newer? Some could be conquistadors in armor. Some could be spacemen. They were all fantastical and exciting. This place clearly had been used for hundreds of years as some sort of gathering place. Meetings? Hunting? A village?

Then I heard it…or rather became conscience of it. My truck. I heard the engine race. I turned to look but the hills and outcroppings prevented me from seeing it in the wash. I grabbed my ice axe and ran toward the noise. The engine stopped and I heard a door slam shut just before I crested the hill by the trading post. A tad further and I could see it ahead. “That sneaky indian!” I said aloud to only myself. “Good thing it was stuck or I’d be the one walking to town”, I thought.

I couldn’t see anyone around the truck but it had changed positions. It was now facing the way it had come. Not the way I left it with the nose pointed toward the trading post. As I got closer I could see that it was out of the wash. It was back up on the hardpan pointed toward Coyote and ready to go.

I looked for signs of someone. I could see my own footprints in the rut up from the wash. No footprints headed down into it and no footprints around the van. No tire marks where someone might have made a 28 point turn to get the truck turned around. “How did he do that?”  I walked around the van. No prints but the ones I had just made. I opened the door and looked inside. There was a stick of cellophane wrapped hard candy in my cup holder. I haven’t bought stick candy in twenty years. I did not put it there. My water bottle was still in the driver’s seat where I tossed it. Keys in the ignition where I left them. How was this possible? It would have been an hours worth of work to extricate the van from that wash. I was a tad unnerved. I stood up on the running board. I could see for about a quarter mile in every direction except for the outcropping. No one was around. No boards were laying around. No rocks. I tossed my axe inside, climbed in, put my camera on the floor between the seats and turned the key. Started right up. I pondered the whole thing one more time. No solution. Then I smelled it. Patchouli oil lightly scented the air in the van….but how…and while we’re at it…why?