Losing Your Head in Taos…



At 60 years of age Arthur Manby had solidified his reputation as the most disliked man in Taos. Ten years later, July of 1929, his decapitated body was found swollen and stinking and riddled with blue flies and maggots on a cot in his beautiful Spanish Colonial hacienda near the Taos plaza.

Manby was a talented con man. Advanced by an easy smile and comfortable manner he quickly roped in one sucker after another. Everyone in Taos knew him. Most hated him. A few tolerated him. Many feared him. He spent most of his adult life conning, thieving and accumulating a fortune on the backs of everyone who had anything in northern New Mexico, and beyond. Real estate was his primary game. He also dabbled in mining schemes and even art cons.

Until things began to unravel, and while Manby was still thought to be legitimate, he ruled that part of New Mexico like a bad emperor. He took money for land he had no right to sell. He summarily evicted those who may have had a legitimate claim to the land. He sold stock in worthless mines. He had no conscience. He trampled the poor and conned the rich and he did it with the protection and encouragement of the corrupt government in Santa Fe. He had friends in high places and thugs in low places. But by the time he was 60 his luck and thugs were running low. He was in trouble financially. His schemes and the law were beginning to catch up with him.

By 1929 Manby was laying low, dodging lawsuits and victims of his schemes. He was beginning to look a tad frayed around the edges. His thinning white hair stuck out from his floppy hat in all directions. Signs of his syphilis were beginning to show. What goes around comes around!


The garden gate to the Manby hacienda in Taos

On a warm, late spring afternoon I stopped in at the old Manby hacienda out of  plain, morbid curiosity in the place. It’s now an art center where artists and tourists accumulate. They also have a coffee bar there and a fridge full of bottles of lemonade. A young man, 14 going on 20 and of dubious alertness was running the espresso machine. I asked him if he knew which room Manby’s body was found in. He looked up at me utterly confused.

“What body?”, he nearly yelled.

“Arthur Manby’s.” I said. “The guy who built this place and whose headless body was found here in 1929.”

“Jeez!” The kid replied. “I don’t know anything about Manby or a body.”

Once again it seems incomprehensible to me that a person would work in a place and not know all the juicy details about it. Where is this kid’s sense of curiosity and enthusiasm in macabre history?

My own fascination in the place stems from my interest in the location of Forrest’s hidden chest. Let me explain-

One of my first search locations was in a place on the Rio Grande known as “the box”. This is a deep gorge (canyon) with the Rio Grande at the bottom that starts where the river enters New Mexico and extends all the way past Taos. Up until this point the Rio is a warm running stream but once inside the box it gets fed by cold springs and it’s volume increases significantly. There are two very nice streams with Brown trout  that enter the Rio in the box. Each could be considered not far, but too far to walk from the start of the gorge. One is the Red and the other is the Hondo.

My first expedition to New Mexico was to search the confluence of the Red and Rio Grande rivers. This area matched up so well to the clues in the poem that I could not believe it wasn’t there…maybe I just missed it…

The one flaw in this area is access. The steepness and depth of the gorge gang up to make this a hike that’s a level of difficulty which doesn’t sound like Forrest’s game. The only access at that point is by foot and it’s at least a mile in and a thousand feet down…Would Forrest have carried 40lbs of treasure down into that hole…in retrospect, I doubt it.

So in June I wanted to check out the other confluence…the Rios Hondo and Grande. This area of the box is also steep and deep but the mitigating factor is the road that dives in and out with a bridge at the bottom. The John Dunn Bridge. The Hondo is apparently a great Brown trout fishery. The box is the canyon and all the other clues could be twisted to point here as well. “If it isn’t at the Red it must be at the Hondo”, I told myself.


The John Dunn Bridge across the Rio Grande is a spot once coveted by Arthur Manby

Now, what all this has to do with Manby is that at one time Manby  owned this area down at the confluence of the Hondo and the Grande. He built two bridges down there and later, when he needed some money, sold them to a tall, skinny fellow from Taos named John Dunn. John had a streak of bad luck when according to legend both of Manby’s bridges were washed away in a flood soon after he bought them. So John rebuilt one of the bridges and constructed a hotel down on the river. Served fresh trout for dinner every evening, improved the road on both sides of the river and charged a toll for people using his bridge. This was a pretty lucrative business because if you didn’t use John Dunn’s bridge you could add an extra hundred or so miles onto your trip to or from the railroad at Tres Piedras.


Black Rock Hot Springs next to the Rio Grande

But bridges were not the only calling card to that spot. Manby also tried to improve a natural hot spring a few miles further down stream from the Dunn Bridge. It had been used by Indians and Spaniards and everyone else going back hundreds…maybe thousands of years. By “improve” I mean put a building around the spring and charge people to use it. What he ended up building was dark and frightening, so few people went there. Years later the building was torn down. The open-air spring is still there. It’s called Manby Hot Springs and is just down river from Black Rock Springs which is near the John Dunn Bridge.  Anyone can go down there and relax in either Manby or Black Rock…or just watch the river. They are both free and when I was there only one other person came by Black Rock.  An easy trail takes you past a cave and over to the pools of hot water at Black Rock. It was at one of these springs that I knew Forrest had hidden his treasure. It was here that I was intent on searching.

Being a fan of the “form follows function” adage I wanted to see Manby’s hacienda and conjure up some of his destiny before I started searching. I wanted to sit in the room where his headless torso was discovered and drink a lemonade and soak up the atmosphere… minus the blue flies and maggots. Karma to karma. Maybe Manby would tell me where, exactly to look.

So now I am in Taos, in Arthur Manby’s hacienda cum-art center cum-lemonade stand. I brought along an old map of the building showing where his body was found and where the dismembered head was ultimately discovered back in 1929. I was hoping the kid would allow me to explore the rooms. But that doesn’t look like it’s going to work out. He seems a bit upset by the whole notion of a headless body in his establishment. He keeps an eye on me like he’s ready to dial 911 if I should pull out a knife or start speaking in tongues. I can see the windows and a door across the garden that lead to the room I want to be in. I look around. Its right after school and three high schoolers are hanging out but that’s about it. They look like they are readying up to leave. I wait. They leave.

I place a couple bucks under my lemonade glass, pick up my camera and walk over to the door across the garden. There is no sign reading “keep out”, or “employees only”. I twist the knob. It opens. I walk in and close the door behind me. The room is narrow and long. Windows along the garden side let in soft light. Cafe tables and chairs mean this room is now used as an eating space. I wonder if the folks who dine here sense it’s ghoulish past.

I find a chair in a spot I identify as the most likely location of the infamous cot. I sit. I think Manby thoughts. I try to conjure him up. Nothing! I try harder. I close my eyes.  I focus.


The room – looking out toward the garden

Something happens. I hear a noise around my head. What is it? Flies! One is trying to crawl into my mouth.They are all over me. Something smells putrid. This is disgusting. I force my eyes open. My heart is pounding against my rib cage. The flies are gone. The air in the room smells like air in a room. What just happened? Did I actually slip back to 1929? I don’t want to do that again. I am a little freaked. I take a couple of pictures in the room and quickly leave the way I came in. I figure the whole episode up to an over achieving imagination. I find my truck over near the cemetery, hop in and drive away from Taos and stinking blue flies a little faster than the law allows.


Taos or Bust…


I’m off again to look for Forrest’s chest. This time back to New Mexico. I’ll tell you more about my “go to” spots a little further on…

I have 17 wonderful days to explore. But it takes 2.5 long days of driving to get there from here. So subtract 5 days from the 17  for travel. I like the drive though. I am from the generation that loves to get in my truck and drive off into new vistas and old towns. Stay off the freeways as much as possible. Stop along the way in mom & pop diners and test their apple pie. Nothing quite makes me happier than traveling down a two lane blacktop on my way to who cares. It’s like a metaphor for life I suppose. The future is all ahead of you with turns and twists and surprises galore. The present is on each side. Grasslands blossom into woodlands which evolve into mountains and trout streams and finally into wide main streets with curious place names like Dinosaur and Goliath and Mumps and Digger and Shack. Towns the developers haven’t reinvented yet. Towns that have escaped the call of Walmart and Burger King. Places proud of their history of bad guys in black hats and working women in low-cut, gingham dresses. Every mile there’s something or someone new. Traveling on the road is one of life’s fabulous offerings. I live for adventure…even small ones.

I just got my GMC van with 267, 000 miles, serviced and pronounced fit enough. This trip will put another 5-6K on it. I’m looking forward to checking out my new spots. They match the poem pretty well. I’ve had all winter to consider them. All of my spots are within 100 miles of Taos…except one. All are in or through canyons or streets named Canyon. There are Brown ideas with homes in the vicinity that mark the place to put-in. Some are remote, down twisty, red stained government roads amongst mountain scenery and pinyon forest. Another is not very far from the center of a small tourist town with several mom & pop apple pies to try. They are each unique, requiring a different interpretation of the clues in Forrest’s poem to find. Some I know are near blazes…of various types. Others will require looking for blazes once I get there. One blaze is on a stone carving of a bigger than life-sized stallion. Another is near an entirely different blaze than I have ever considered before.

I’m stoked.

Let me tell you about one place. Not far from Elizabethtown. In a lovely, historic and accessible area. Following the clues in the poem will get you there…except the blaze. I’ll look for that when I get my boots on the rolling mountain scenery.  I’ve rejected this spot several times because it seemed so unlikely. Brown was the hardest part. But right now it all falls together. I know several others who have looked in Elizabethtown itself, but this is not their spot.It’s near Elizabethtown but not in it. Whether the chest is secreted there or not, I don’t know. But even if it is, even if this is the exact place where Forrest hid his chest two or three years ago…I may not find it. I might pass right over it without recognizing it. I could miss it. Lets face it, my chances of finding Forrest’s hidey place are miserably low…but I love the chase.

And, of course I am still curious about this headstone near the Red River. Could it be the “put-in” spot?


Thunder Eggs…


Aside from the black pirate patch over his left eye and the spar varnished peg leg he looked perfectly normal. I saw him in the parking lot in front of the rock shop in Eagle Nest, New Mexico.

I can’t pass up a good rock shop. The guys that run them are generally old timers who know more about the immediate countryside than a whole team of Wikipedia editors. I was in the area looking for “warm water halting” and “canyons down”. I spent three days on the Cimarron below Eagle Nest dam and didn’t find any treasure to speak of, at least not what I started out looking for. I did recover an Oris Chronograph watch that was laying in about two feet of fast moving river water, trapped by a boulder. Beautiful Swiss made timepiece. Titanium case. Probably fell off a fisher’s vest or out of a pocket. Who wears watches these days? The Oris was running fine. These things can withstand half a mile of water on top of them. The Cimarron’s 24 inches was not a threat. The crystal wasn’t even scratched. It looked brand new. I shoved it in my pocket and kept looking for a bigger treasure.

It was later that afternoon when I stopped at the rock shop. The guy with the wooden leg jumped around to the back of his dusty old Land Cruiser and pulled out a cardboard box of plain looking rocks. He picked it up with both hands and shoved the back door of the Cruiser shut with his peg. He looked to be about 50 and fit. A ring of dark hair and beard  framed his pale face. He was wearing a military issue field jacket in woodland camo and even though it was about 35 degrees outside he was wearing green shorts and one, well-worn leather work boot on his right foot. The whole effect reminded me of Mickey Mouse’s arch-nemesis, Peg Leg Pete. There was a bumper sticker on the back of the cruiser that read “keep the hell off my butt”. I followed him into the shop, but not too close.

When I got in, his beat-up box was on the counter next to the register. The shop was warm, not large but had a lot of open space. I said “hi” as I squeezed past the peg leg guy. He said “Hi, how’r the fish bitein?”

“I don’t know.” I said. “I haven’t been fishing.”

“Really, wasn’t that your white GMC down along the Cimarron this afternoon?”

“Yep, That was mine but I was just walking along the river.”

“Long walk. Your truck was there when I drove by at 6 this morning and it was still there when I drove by again at 5 this afternoon.”

“Its a pretty river.” I said

“It is this time of year before the hoards show up.” He replied.

“I take it your not a big fan of tourists.” I said.

“We need em.” He said stoically. “God bless em and their credit cards.”

“But?” I said.

“No buts.” He said. They come here from Texas and Colorado and they buy gas and eat at the cafe. They buy crap from Red’s across the street and occasionally they stop in here and buy a rock or two.”

“But?” I repeated.

“But they’re a pain in the butt. They clog up the roads and drive up the price of gas, punch potholes in the secondaries and make a huge mess out at the park.I need em…I hate em…such is life”

“So you probably don’t work for the Chamber.” I said.

“Naw!” He said and turned toward the door behind the register and yelled, “Shiela, you around? Got two customers out here. One might actually buy somethin!”.

From the back a woman’s voice yelled back, “Well don’t let him leave. I’ll be right there.”

I glanced around the shop. Plenty to look at. It was a good old fashioned shop. No giant tubs of garishly stained Brazilian quartz here. In fact, everything appeared to be of near local origin. There were neatly organized containers of nickel, jasper, amethyst, galena, feldspar, meershaum, fluorite, perlite, mica, agate, turquoise, hematite, quartz crystals and copper. Large sparkling geodes, fire opals, chalcedony roses, meteorites, fossils and ancient petrified wood slices made stunning displays. There were polished gems and raw minerals but no crystal balls or the other ridiculous toys that fill-up what often passes for a rock shop these days. Sheila had nice big tags attached to the front of each bin that told the name of the material, it’s chemical make-up and had a map that showed where it came from. Most were from the southwest but there were a couple of rocks from Arkansas and a tub of polished Petosky stones from Michigan. What wasn’t rock was made of wood. Wide planked, dark wood floors were scattered with Navajo wool rugs.  Clear, varnished knotty pine walls gave the place a cabinesque warmth. Photos of long-gone specimen miners and collectors were hung neatly on the walls. Everything was clean and dusted. There were some geology and mining books in the corner, a few gold pans and some locally made jewelry in a showcase by the counter, but mostly the shop’s space was taken up by rocks, gems, minerals and the peg legged guy. There was a small pot-bellied stove in the corner by the books and maps. Two, red overstuffed club chairs invited me to be comfortable. The fire radiated a pleasant, juniper scented warmth around the room. The whole place felt cozy and welcoming.

Shiela came out from the back juggling three steaming mugs of coffee and set them down on the counter then ducked into the back again and yelled, “I saw you boys pull in and thought you could use a hot coffee on a cold day like this.” She returned a second later with honey in a plastic squeeze bottle shaped like a bear, a paper carton of skim milk and a few napkins and spoons.

Shiela looked about 50 and had a model’s slender body. She had natural grey hair, shoulder length, with a pink satin bow stylishly attached over her left ear and bangs that came down to just above her cobalt blue eyes. She was wearing a vintage Pendelton wool jacket over a blue turtleneck, a pair of snug fitting, faded jeans, matching blue wool socks and simple black clogs. Aside from the bow, her only garnishments were a pair of hand made turquoise pendent earrings and a thin band of copper on her right wrist. Feminine yet practical.

I took a mug of coffee and said, “I’m Dal, thanks for the coffee.”

“Your welcome. I’m Sheila.”

Peg leg looked at me and said, “I’m Jake.” Then turned to Sheila and said, “Thanks.” and took a sip.

I was a little disappointed that his name wasn’t Pete but Jake was pretty good too.

“So if you’re not fishin what are you doin around here this time of year.” Jake asked.

“Freezin his buns off, probably.” Sheila replied.

We all chuckled.

“I’m trying to figure out where Forrest Fenn hid a chest of gold and gems.” I said.

Sheila put down her coffee mug and said, “THEE Forrest Fenn?…from Santa Fe?”

Jake said, “Who’s Forrest Fenn?”

Sheila answered, “He’s that art dealer from Santa Fe that kept alligators in a pond at his gallery and was always doing something to shake up the town. He wrote a couple of gorgeous and very expensive books on Santa Fe artists. Oh…come on Jake. You remember him. He bought that ruin down south.”

Jake was trying to remember. He had his one eye closed and was leaning a little toward Sheila. She turned to me. Took a sip of her coffee and said, “I was in high school and worked on Canyon Road. I thought he was the most interesting person in the whole wide world.”

Jake asked, “Was that the guy that was a pilot in Vietnam?”

Sheila and I both said “Yes.”

“Oh yeah.” Jake said, “I remember his place. He’s an interesting dude.” and pulled his mug back up to his mouth.

“ I loved his gallery.” Sheila said. “When I was working on Canyon Road, the Fenn Gallery, around the corner, was the wildest collection of expensive fine art and books, old arrowheads and ancient pottery in town. I wanted to work there in the worst way. Winding hallways leading to different rooms. Very lovely. Very exotic. I could spend hours in there.”

“So what’s this about treasure?” Asked Jake.

“Well Forrest took about 22lbs of gold and gemstones and put them into a 20lb old bronze chest and hid the whole thing. He invited anyone to go looking for it. That’s what I’m doing.”

“Wow!” Said Sheila,

“How do you know where to look?” Asked Jake.

“He wrote a poem that has nine clues to where he hid it.” I said as I reached into my pocket and took out a copy of the poem I keep there. I placed the poem on the counter. Sheila grabbed it first and started reading it aloud.

When she was finished Jake asked, “How do you know there are nine clues in there?”

“He’s said as much.” I said. “And he’s written and said a few other things about where the treasure is located too.”

“So you think it’s around here?” Sheila asked.

“I think it could be.” I said. “But there are lots of places it could be. This is just one possibility.  I have a list of places I’ve looked and more where I want to look.

There was a short silence while Jake stared at the poem.

“I see how the Cimarron fits the poem, except for the part about being brave. There isn’t much scary or bad about that little stream.”

“Yeah.” I said. “That’s the line that makes a lot of places not work out. But you don’t know til you go there and see.”

“How did you get the poem?” Sheila asked.

“Thats the easy part.” I said. “Just go to Forrest’s web site. He has information there and links to interviews he’s given with the media about it.

Sooo…not to change the subject but what’s in the box?” I asked.

“Thunder Eggs.” Said Jake. He picked one out and handed it to me. “On the inside is Apache picture jasper. I get these from down near Deming. Nothing much to rave about like this but when you slice them up you get really spectacular scenes.”

Sheila held up a piece of already cut and polished jasper from the counter so I could see what Jake was talking about.

What I saw was a pink and red agate like material that appeared to show a desert scene with foothills dotted in green poplars. A yellow sun glistened on the left. It was very cool.

“That’s very cool.” I said.

“Tell you what.” Said Jake. I’ll trade you a thunder egg for one of your search spots.” He looked me straight in the eyes.

“I don’t think so” I said. “But tell you what. I’ll trade you the exact GPS location where you find these eggs for one of my search spots.” I looked him back straight in the eye.

“Deal.” He said.

I went to the van and copied a set of coordinates from my computer. I brought them into the shop and handed them to Jake. “The top one is the starting point…where warm waters halt.” I said. “The bottom set is my best guess about where the chest is by following the clues in the poem from that starting spot.”

“Good enough.” Said Jake and he handed me Sheila’s business card with the coordinates for the location of the eggs written on it.

“Perfect!” I said. “One more favor though. Do you have a loupe back there Sheila?”

Sheila reached for her loupe and handed it to me.I took the Oris out of my pocket. Flipped it over so I could see the back of the case and checked it out with the magnifier.

“Expensive watch.” Said Jake.

“I know. I found it in the river and it has an engraving on the back. Looks like a name, date and phone number. Date’s probably when they got it. Last year.” I said.

“Can I look at it?” Asked Sheila.

I handed it to her. She eyed it closely and hefted it. Took a small tool and tapped it on the crystal.

“Not a fake. Its the real McCoy.” She said.

“Whew-ee!” Said Jake. “That’s a 3 or 4 grand watch. Bet the person that lost it is pissed. I know a guy in Red River that’ll buy that from you.”

“No thanks.” I said. “I’ll probably hang onto it for awhile anyway.”

I put the watch back in my pocket and said goodbye, finished up the remains of my cup of coffee and headed out to the truck, jumped in, buckled up and pulled away. I drove about a mile west before I pulled off the road, grabbed my cell and called the phone number engraved on the back of the watch.


Is The Book Important?…

I get occasional email from folks out there who wonder how important the book (Thrill of the Chase) is in finding Forrest’s treasure. Why they write asking me about this is always a surprise. I mean it’s not like I’ve figured out all the hints and found the treasure. Seems like a better option would be to go right to the source and ask the only guy who really knows the answer to that question.

It turns out that many folks do. Forrest shared a couple of emails with me on this topic so I can share them with you. That way we all have the same information. It’s one way of getting the word out. So here goes…

This is a note sent to him just a couple of weeks ago. Names have been changed so no one will yell at me.

Dear Mr. Fenn,

We are a group of avid elderly bridge players in San Diego who after reading your book hope to find your treasure.  We are not into poetry as much as the memoir.  We realize the clues are in the poem, but were wondering if there isn’t at least one clue in each chapter.

Thank you for a great book



Forrest’s succinct response:


All of the information you need to find the treasure is in the poem. The chapters in my book have very subtle hints but are not deliberately placed to aid the seeker. Good luck in the search. f

In the past, Forrest has stated that the poem has all the information a person needs to find the treasure. But this email adds clarity to that message by saying that the book isn’t necessary. Its clues are subtle and apparently unintentional. He didn’t even deliberately place clues to the treasure in the book. Maybe that’s true but I think anyone searching for the treasure would be foolish not to know as much as possible about the man that hid it. There are most certainly clues in that book not only to the treasure but also to the interests, likes and dislikes of Forrest who made this great hunt possible. Besides, some money from each book goes to help someone with cancer pay their bills…

My advice is..get the book…and read it cover to cover…

Maybe we all need to take the approach of this writer.

Dear Mr. Fenn

In my last email I thanked you for writing this book but did not really explain why I felt this way. I believe everyone  must work hard for the things they want in life but everyone needs a dream to hang on to. I lost my husband several years ago and although my sons are grown men I want them to learn its ok to have a dream,

I have shared my book with them as well as I  belong to a group that is working on the book.

For me its does not matter if I find the treasure  It’s more about the fun of the hunt. 

I will not lie finding the treasure would make my life easier, as well as give me a chance to improve our small town one room library. But then that all falls in to the dream. But as I said before Thank You for writing the book and putting a dream out there.



Forrest say’s that letters like this one above make it all worthwhile for him.They probably make it a lot more worthwhile than letters like the following.

Dear Mr. Fenn,

You would not believe the day I just had, after staying up all night studying your memoir. After having stayed up all night the night before. 

I decided to go and get my bearings and follow my hunch, and lo, the river was not snowed in.  There followed two trips to the summit above your spot looking for water high (I was thinking springs) followed by a dunking in the river, before I realized the folly of my ways.  No matter how fit anyone may be, those two trips to the high-country ridge had my heart pounding and the sweat pouring.  I saw a deer kill, and I swear I felt a mountain lion… 

Needless to say, this has been an utterly unbelievable journey, filled with twists and turns and stupefying synchronicities. No movie could ever do it justice.   I found your missing ball of string, in pieces I am sorry to say!  I am stout-hearted, but I found myself fearful when it came to extracting your chest from the spot on the bank.  I don’t want to damage anything, because I ‘ll probably have to use a pick on the rocks.  If I can prove to you decisively that I know the exact spot, will you help me with the logistics?

I am sitting where some of your story began.  My cell is ###-#### if you care to call.

Thank you for the white knuckles!


Forrest’s reply:

You’ve got me scared now because I was hoping the chest would not be found for at least a couple of years. I don’t dare call you for fear of giving you a coordinate or some other useful clue. Please let me know if you find the treasure. f

Am I the only person that senses the sarcasm in Forrest’s response? I’m pretty sure he doesn’t trust this guy to find his britches with both hands. Forrest, of course, enjoys playing with him as if he were a trout.

There are a lot folks who truly appreciate what Forrest has done not only with his treasure…but also with his life. As in this note from Jim.


Wow a fighter pilot. Must have been scary times. I hate seeing our nation suffering now too. Hey I wanted to ask u kind of a favor. If u can’t do it I understand. But I would Rilke to send you a check to your shop and maybe you can sign your book and send it to me? The reason is how much you inspire me, also so I can tell the story to my son and when he’s older we can go on the adventure together. That would be neat wouldn’t it? Well if you don’t wanna do that it’s ok, I’ll buy your book anyways. But I thought its worth a try to ask. talk to ya soon. I hope. 


Finally, this lovely quote from Forrest. I think it explains why he hid the treasure in the first place.

If I cannot enrich those with whom I interact each day and cause them to be better for my having passed their view, then I have wasted my turn. That I succeed in that endeavor is not as important as it is for me to make a solid try. For if the try is sincere I have succeeded in whatever failure resulted.

Like Betty wrote..He’s giving us all a dream with the Thrill of the Chase…


The Aura of Gold….

Okay…this is going to surprise some people and annoy others…

As you know I am a big fan of getting out there and having fun while looking for Forrest’s treasure chest. I am not generally into the woo-woo side of looking for treasure. I have little faith in psychics who believe they can conjure up the location of Forrest’s chest just by holding an object he has touched while I fork over some hard earned cash.

However, this doesn’t mean I haven’t tried it. Heck, after the thousands and thousands of hours I have poured into this search I must have tried just about everything at least once, and its all fun. I’m just saying that even though I’ve tried the psychic revelation route, its not on the top of my list of methods. I am suspicious by nature.

Here’s the problem for me. If someone has what they claim to be the perfect solution to finding the treasure, then I am not about to pay them cash money for the service. My friend Dr. Tomorrow is over 90. He’s a futurist and once said to me that he could say anything he wanted too about the future because he probably wouldn’t be around when they figured out he was wrong.

My point is… anybody can claim they know where the treasure is at. But psychics don’t seem to be interested in a deal where they only get paid if they’re correct. Here’s my deal; Psychics do their conjuring and I’ll split the treasure if we find it in the spot they summon up.

So far no psychic has been willing to take me up on that offer. Ignore for a second what this might say about me and concentrate instead on what this says about them. Why would a person turn down a perfectly good split of a treasure worth maybe a million dollars and demand instead a $75 up-front fee? Its clear to me that someone is trying harder to get their hands in my wallet than find the treasure.

But even more strange to me is why on earth anyone who claims they could conjur up the location of the treasure in the first place, just by holding something Forrest has touched, would not simply head out and go get it themselves. What do they need me for? Its true I have an object that Forrest has touched but so does everyone else who bought Forrest’s book. Every “Thrill of the Chase” book is signed. He touched every one. I once did a story on witchcraft and interviewed a self proclaimed witch who related several incidents that demonstrated her spell casting prowess. My last question was whether she had ever used her witchcraft for personal gain. She told me, reluctantly, that on one occasion she had placed a spell on her local gas station attendant to give her a lot of extra saving stamps every time she filled up.  So I know that these “unique powers” can be used for personal gain.

But tomfoolery and mysticism exist on lots of levels.  On my last trip out I spent some time in a touristy place crowded with what I refer to as woo-woos. If you’re from New Mexico you probably know where I mean. Its a colorful place occupied for the most part by spiritual folks who do a lot of yoga, meditation, chakra balancing and california massage. They don’t drink their coffee black in this neighborhood. Shop space is pretty spendy. Most of the restaurants are vegetarian and its easier to buy a pair of  $300 sandals than work boots. If you are into mushroom art, unicorn paintings and quartz crystals this is the place for you.

I’m not. Instead I was walking around the plaza sampling various herbal smells wafting from the inviting storefronts. I was killing time waiting for a local dealership to finish replacing the ball joints on my truck. It was uncomfortably warm for a guy from Washington State…probably near 80 degrees. I found a place that sold cans of diet Pepsi for $3 and reluctantly  bought one to stop my eyeballs from drying out.

I am the kind of guy that can feel uncomfortable almost anywhere people hang out. There were a lot of people. I moved over to the shady, less crowded side of the plaza near a “precious gem” store that had some pretty spectacular examples of extracted mother earth in the window. They also had a small book rack and prominently displayed was a colorful paperback by a fellow named David Villanueva who calls himself a metal detectorist. His book is titled “The Successful Treasure Hunter’s Secret Manual”. Who among us could resist that title?

Right away you know its some sort of gimmick. Any book with both the words “successful” and “secret” in its title is trying desperately to appeal to my humanesque base instinct to get rich. Add the phrase “treasure hunter” and my knees start to wobble. Okay, I bought it. I’m a pushover.

One of the techniques that David details is finding gold is by its “aura”. There is a video on the book’s website that tries to demonstrate what this is all about. Basically, everything in the universe is said to emit an aura, humans, my truck, oak trees, muffins and precious metals are all supposedly capable of emitting auras. These auras can be seen by some people without aids (psychics). The rest of us need some sort of aid to see them. In treasure hunting they could be important because even if a treasure is hidden or buried it still emits an aura and if you can see its aura you can find the spot where its hidden. This all makes sense if you believe that things like gold actually do emit auras.

The key to David’s technique is that he discovered that a simple digital camera can see the aura emitted by gold. So, in theory, we could find Forrest’s gold treasure if it was hidden from our view by going to the location and pointing our digital camera at it. If we see the aura we know its there. If not, we go look in another place. This could save you from digging needless holes in the ground, wading foolishly into cold trout streams or crawling into non gold bearing bear dens.

Do I believe in this theory…not a chance!

One person wrote that the only real shortcut to getting rich in the treasure hunting business was to write a book about how to do  it. If you do, don’t forget to use the words “successful” and “secret” in the title.

…and ah..does anyone want to buy a slightly used paperback book and digital camera?


What’s Your Choice?…

Here’s the deal-

What’s your idea of a fun vacation activity; A or B…or maybe both ?

Napping on some sultry tropical beach while reading a lightweight mystery novel

Searching a stream for hidden treasure in the mountains north of Santa Fe
















If you chose “A” I’ll come back to you in a minute.

If you chose “B”..Bully for you because that’s all it takes to head out and look for Forrest’s hidden treasure

Get in the middle of a lovely place where the nine clues in the poem lead you and enjoy yourself while you search for 22lbs of gold and jewels inside a 20lb bronze chest…now that’s entertainment!!!

Now…you who are drooling over Photo “A”…All you have to do is head out on “B” for awhile…find the treasure and enjoy the rest of your winters napping away on the tropical beach of your choice because you’ll be RICH enough to retire and spend winters exactly where you want…

oh…and nobody likes to be miserly toward their friends…

Your friend, dal…

Forrest in the News….

On Monday and Tuesday KOB-TV ran a two part news story on Forrest and the treasure hunt. Gadi Schwartz was the reporter and he has put together a very nice resource page for treasure hunters HERE.

For some reason they seem to have taken down part one of the story.  So I’ve posted the videos on my website. The links are below:

Part one is a great interview with Forrest..pay close attention..you may learn something important.


Part two is Gadi and a crusty, old seasoned treasure hunter out looking for the gold.


Running in Circles…


If you’ve read Forrest’s “Thrill of the Chase” you probably remember the story about him agreeing to put the ashes of his friend and neighbor Olga on Taos Mountain in return for being granted her property at its appraised value. You might also remember that at the last minute Forrest decided while flying over the mountain with her ashes that the mountaintop was too barren and that Olga’s ashes would be much more comfortable down on the side where there are trees and squirrels and chipmunks.

Taos Mountain…or whatever its called

That story left a mark with me as I read it in late 2010 and I decided that one of the places I needed to look for his chest was on the side of Taos mountain. But there were two problems associated with the side of Taos mountain.

First, and most important, there is no Taos Mountain. This I found particularly annoying. There are the Taos Mountain(s)…A range that includes several high peaks, but no Taos Peak or singular such named mountain on any of my maps. Upon further investigation I read that there once was a mountain peak labeled as Taos. It was the highest peak in the Taos Mountains. But it was renamed about 60 years ago. Its now officially named Wheeler Peak.

How sad for Taos Mountain. Once bearer of a proud regional moniker linked to a spectacular native culture and dominant alpine geography…now relegated to promoting a fair-thee-well, minor military botanist who’s exploits can only be recited by those who have climbed to the 13,161 foot summit of Wheeler Peak and read the memorial plaque or those who have looked him up in Wikipedia.

I decided that Forrest and many other locals often referred to Wheeler Peak as Taos Mountain even though all the maps I found used the new appelation rather than the older, more appropriate and dignified, Taos Mountain. I like to think that the mountain appreciated the informal protest against willy-nilly name changing. It was probably orchestrated by a national department of official place namers in Washington, DC who had never been out here but had a mandate from some blow-hard congressman to name something important after Wheeler.

Second, there is no way the clues in the poem, as I understand them, can get me to the side of Wheeler Peak. To begin, there is no canyon which you can follow down to get to Wheeler Peak. Since its the highest peak around it isn’t “down” from anything..except sky.

None-the-less I felt compelled to go to the side of Wheeler Peak and find where the squirrels and chipmunks play and look for Forrest’s chest. Problem was, I only had five days off. and it takes 24hrs of pushing the gas pedal to get there. 24 hours back again. I cannot drive for 24 hours straight. But I can drive for 12 hours straight, take a nap and then drive the other 12.

By my calculations I could drive on days 1&2, hike on days 2&3 and drive back on days 4&5. Maybe end up with about 44lbs of treasure in the back of my truck. Never mind that this could not be the place. Some devious power had taken control of my mind and prevented me from thinking logically about this whole location.

The thing about this that made it sound easy was that I could drive all the way up to 9,000 feet on a Forest Service road and then have to hike up only about 3,000 feet to the side of the mountain over about 7 or 8 miles. There was a particular trail I was interested in that follows a stream up most of the way and then I could cut over to two lakes stocked with trout that I wanted to admire. Stay the night near one of the lakes and then come back down.

As if this idea wasn’t goofy enough I also had to ignore the question of whether Forrest, at 79, would have hiked up this trail with something like a 45lb rock in his backpack. Earlier in my research I had decided to see what a load like Forrest’s chest felt like. I found a pretty good sized rectangular boulder that weighed less…about 40lbs. It was huge and didn’t fit in my pack so l trussed it all up with some rope and wore it like a pack. 40lbs is a lot of weight and something shaped like a treasure chest does not sit against your back very well. Its fairly tortuous for us modern hikers. In the good old days those lean and extra fit explorers would have thought nothing of carrying two 50lb rocks, or a boat or a horse up that trail. I, on the other hand, am not one of those tough, grizzled mountain men of the past. That 40lb rock was really uncomfortable. I was not about to carry it uphill for 7-8 miles and I didn’t think Forrest would either.

In spite of all the reasons why it was senseless to look on the side of  Wheeler Peak, I went.

Mount Wheeler area

Once again, I saw beautiful country completely unlike the wet rainforestesque woodlands of my home state. Also unlike the oxygen rich air that I am used too at near sea level. At 12,000 feet the O2 level in the air is considerably less. It affects your ability to work. It makes you breathe harder. It makes you tired quicker. I think it also made me dumber.

And did I mention the temperature swing? The temperature when I started was about 60F. It warmed up to nearly 78F. Pretty nice walking weather. As I ambled next to my stream the spruce and pine forest heated up and smelled sweet like fresh sawn wood as the resin warmend under the bark of tens of thousands of trees. I love that smell.

I brought plenty of water and a jacket. I did not think that I would need a sleeping bag. Instead, in the name of “lightweight”  I brought a nylon thermal blanket and a sheet of plastic. Dumb! By 11pm it was 40F and it continued dropping until 4am when my GPS told me it was 31F.

Shivering keeps me awake. Too dark to explore. So I watched the night sky, and what a sky it was. There are no lights to stiffle the view of stars out there. No glare to reduce your eyeful of the heavens. I have never seen so many night objects in the starry, starry sky as I saw that night next to Wheeler Peak. I saw hundreds of falling stars whiz toward earth. I saw constellations I didn’t remember the names of and old friends like Cassiopea and both dippers. I made up a few constellations of my own, like Elephant Jumping Hurdles and Monkey Wearing a Dress. I even watched a satellite cut lazily across the sky. It was simply beautiful…and humbling…and fun.

As soon as light began to flood over the mountain I started exploring again. I was somewhat tired and slow from the constant teeth chattering and lack of sleep.  By Noon I was through exploring and headed back down the trail. Of course I found nothing…At 6pm I was back in the truck and headed home. At 7PM I was close to dead so I pulled over for a nap. When I woke-up it was 2am and I still had 23hrs of driving to get home.

I promised myself on the drive back that next time my search areas would have to fit the directions in the poem…at least a little bit….


email me at: dal@lummifilm.com