Forrest Fenn, the author and artifact collector whose book The Thrill of the Chase led fellow treasure seekers on a decade-long hunt through the Southwest, has died at the age of 90. Fenn died of apparent natural causes at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, police confirmed to CNN.
Fenn’s death comes just three months after his famed and notoriously treacherous hunt — outlined in a vague poem within his memoir The Thrill of the Chase — came to an end in June with the discovery of the $2 million treasure the author buried at a still-unspecified location decades earlier.
Since the publication of The Thrill of the Chase in 2010, an estimated hundreds of thousands of adventurers — 350,000 by Fenn’s own estimation — journeyed to the Southwest and Rocky Mountains regions in search of the treasure, with sometimes fatal results: At least two people died in search of the “Fenn treasure,” most recently in 2017, which resulted in authorities asking Fenn to call off the search.
“In the last couple years, two people have died, two have been rescued near death, several have had run-ins with local and federal law enforcement, and one told his wife today he was injured but not where he was,” the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office wrote in 2019. “These people were all near Yellowstone National Park and they were all looking for the Forrest Fenn treasure.”
However, the author relented. “My hidden treasure pulls families into the Rocky Mountains to search and hike, and observe the raw nature that is there,” Fenn told the New York Times in 2017. “They go home with a whole new perspective on what life is all about. In this troubled world, we need some of that.”
Fenn, an Air Force combat pilot during the Vietnam War, moved to Santa Fe in the early Seventies and operated an art gallery in the area. In the Eighties, following a bout with kidney cancer, Fenn’s interests shifted toward treasure hunting.
Amid lawsuits stemming from the search, the treasure was ultimately dug up by still-unknown parties in June, a site dedicated to the Fenn treasure hunt announced that month. Fenn also confirmed his treasure — made up of gold, jewels and other antiquities — had been unearthed.
“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 wrote in June. “I do not know the person who found it, but the poem in my book led him to the precise spot. I congratulate the thousands of people who participated in the search and hope they will continue to be drawn by the promise of other discoveries. So the search is over.”