As It Happens

Forrest Fenn says his $1M treasure has been found — but he won't say where or by whom

Sacha Dent estimates she has spent 10,000 hours scouring the Rocky Mountains for Forrest Fenn’s hidden treasure — but now she has to get a new hobby.

Woman who spent 6 years looking for the hidden treasure, says she has 'a lot of emotions' about it

In this March 22, 2013 file photo, antiquities dealer and author Forrest Fenn sits in his home in Santa Fe, N.M. (Jeri Clausing/The Associated Press)

Sacha Dent estimates she has spent 10,000 hours scouring the Rocky Mountains for Forrest Fenn's hidden treasure — but now she has to get a new hobby.

That's because the famed art and antiquities collector says the bronze chest full of gold, jewels and ancient artifacts that he claims to have buried 10 years ago has finally been found. 

"There's a lot of emotions that go with something like this ending," Dent, an amateur treasure hunter from Junction City, Kan., told As It Happens host Carol Off.

 "I accept that it's over and that I was not the victor."

A popular and sometimes deadly endeavour 

The story of Fenn's treasure goes back a decade. The 89-year-old claims he hid a bronze chest of items worth $1 million US in 2010. He posted clues to its whereabouts online and in a 24-line poem that was published in his 2010 autobiography The Thrill of the Chase. 

Fenn, who lives in Santa Fe, N.M., said he packed and repacked his treasure chest for more than a decade, sprinkling in gold dust and adding hundreds of rare gold coins and gold nuggets, pre-Columbian animal figures, with prehistoric "mirrors" of hammered gold, ancient Chinese faces carved from jade and antique jewelry with rubies and emeralds.

In a 2013 interview on As It Happens, Fenn evaded Off's attempts to glean information about the treasure's whereabouts, saying: "I'm not going to give any more clues."

Randy Bilyeu, left, died while searching for Fenn's treasure. His ex-wife Linda Bilyeu told As It Happens in 2016 that she believed he was misled by a hoax. (Submitted by Linda Bilyeu)

Hundreds of thousands of people have scoured remote corners of the western U.S. in search of the treasure. Some people quit their jobs to dedicate themselves to the search, and others depleted their life savings. 

Several people have died hunting for it, including Colorado's Randy Bilyeu, whose body was found in 2016 after he went missing along the Rio Grande.

In a 2016 interview with As It Happens, Bilyeu's ex-wife Linda Bilyeu speculated the whole enterprise was a hoax and that her former husband had died in vain.

Fenn has denied those allegations, but has never provided any evidence of the treasure's existence and still hasn't disclosed its location or the name of the person he says found it.

I called Forrest Fenn and verified myself, and he said it was found and I believe him.- Sacha Dent, amateur treasure hunter

Dent says she doesn't have any doubts that the treasure is real and that it has been discovered.

"I called Forrest Fenn and verified myself, and he said it was found and I believe him," she said. "He does say he will be releasing photos soon. So we, the public should be getting some proof that at least someone has the treasure chest."

Fenn declined an interview request from As It Happens.

He told the Santa Fe New Mexican on Sunday that a man who did not want his name released — but was from "back East" — located the chest and the discovery was confirmed by a photograph the man sent to him.

"It was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than 10 years ago," Fenn said in a statement on his website Sunday.

Dent says Fenn can't be held accountable for those who were harmed or killed searching for the treasure. 

"There were a few very bad situations for people. And unfortunately, in those cases, they put themselves in those situations," she said.

"But there's far more good that came from this incredible adventure that Forrest Fenn made."

Sacha Dent has been on 300 search missions in the Rocky Mountains — all to find Fenn's famous buried treasure. Now that it's allegedly been found, she's feeling a wave of mixed emotions. (Submitted by Sacha Dent )

She says the whole thing has changed her life for the better.

"It made me step outside my comfort zone, which was exciting, and I got the opportunity to experience quite a few things I wouldn't have otherwise," she said.

During her years of searching, she became friends with Fenn, who introduced her to her husband. The pair often searched for the treasure together, she said. 

During her years of treasure hunting, Dent, left, became friends with Fenn, right. (Submitted by Sacha Dent)

Dent says she's made 300 separate trips to the Rocky Mountains to follow leads — but she has no idea whether she ever got close to finding it.

"It's a double-edged sword. If I think I was a million miles off, I would be hard on myself for thinking I was too stupid to figure it out if I was close. It would be heartbreaking to know that I was just mere inches away from an incredible victory," she said.

"So I can't speculate on either, and I honestly hope I never find out."

Instead, she's focusing her energies on moving forward.

"While there's a great deal of sadness that I won't be looking for Forrest Fenn's treasure anymore, there's also a sense of relief that I'll have the time and opportunity to focus on some of these other adventures," she said.

"There's actually tons of armchair treasure hunters out there."

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview with Sacha Dent produced by Jeanne Armstrong.

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