As of 2018, an estimated 350,000 people have gone searching for a treasure chest laden with valuables that Santa Fean Forrest Fenn said he hid somewhere in the Rocky Mountains back in 2010.
Many quit their jobs to do so. Some died in the hunt. Others are still out there, feverishly searching for additional clues to the treasure’s location beyond what Fenn gave in a 24-line poem published in his autobiography, The Thrill of the Chase, and online.
But one Colorado treasure hunter who searched for the hidden booty feels he has been duped. So he’s suing Fenn for $1.5 million, claiming that Fenn deprived him of the treasure “by fraudulent statements.”
In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court on Monday, David Harold Hanson of Colorado Springs, Colo., says he followed the clues and “arrived at the location where the hidden items were.”
But then, he says, Fenn first issued “misleading clues” that led Hanson to move away from his search area and then issued “additional clues” that benefited someone else, who “found the items in question.”
The five-page complaint does not lay out specifics about the allegations, other than to say it is possible Fenn displayed “careless attention to additional clues” both publicly and privately, thus “prejudicing the plaintiff’s ability to find it.”
Reached by phone Tuesday, Hanson declined to comment.
The court complaint is the latest twist in a nearly 10-year-old saga that has captivated media and members of the public who either believe that something valuable is really out there or think it’s just a hoax.
Fenn, an 89-year-old Vietnam War veteran, author and artifacts dealer, has insisted it is not.
He said he hid a chest full of valuable goods in the wilderness in an effort to get people outdoors and give them the chance to take part in an old-fashioned adventure.
In 2017, he told The New Mexican the chest weighs 20 pounds and its contents weigh another 22 pounds. He said he delivered the chest to its hiding place over two separate trips, by himself.
The treasure hunt has drawn worldwide attention and brought a number of uninvited guests to Fenn’s Santa Fe residence, including a Pennsylvania man who, convinced the treasure was contained in a linens chest within the premises, broke into Fenn’s home in October 2018.
Fenn and his daughter, armed with handguns, kept the intruder at bay until police arrived to arrest him.
The search for Fenn’s treasure has spawned an annual Fennboree gathering of campers at Hyde Memorial State Park, at least two documentary films and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. The New Mexico Department of Tourism even produced a video about the search and posted it on a state website.
Fenn said in an email Tuesday he was not aware of the lawsuit and had “received no correspondence from him [Hanson] that I know of.” He said the treasure remains where he hid it ten years ago.
Hanson said in his complaint that he came up with the $1.5 million figure because it is half of the lowest publicized amount of the value of the treasure chest’s belongings — $3 million.
He said once the real amount is discovered, “said sum may be significantly adjusted.”