Fenn sued

Forest Fenn sits in his study in 2018. 

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.”

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

(11) comments



Look on page 101 of the thrill of the chase book... It says " Fools" your reward is neither Here not There.....

so, It says it doesn't exist!!! He is a fraud. why do you think his grandchildren and kids are not looking for it? they know better. He is a fraud. a Trickster. a prank. Nobody will ever find it to prove it. ( that is what he is counting on). Do not spend any more money or time looking for it!!! what a waste of time! Ironic that he didn't have much time ... and you are supposed to spend your time on him! Get on with something better with your time! Charity for instance.. helping others.

Mike Muset

This sort of behavior is not new to the treasure hunt. Some people simply cannot accept that their interpretations are incorrect and behave childishly, like hooligans whose team just lost a football match.

What is worrisome for me is that the editor of a credible publication would even allow a story like this to be published. Crazy people are easy to spot and the editor should have noticed that.

Courtney Roberts

Hi there! I am a searcher of nearly three years. Forrest is a kind person whose objective was simply to get people to channel their energies into hiking, reading, fishing, research, and healthy family time outdoors. We can’t go suing people when things don’t go our way, especially those who have honorably served our country and given us all an absolute golden opportunity to enrich our lives. The Thrill of the Chase has been a gift to many folks, and I’m very thankful to Forrest for his book, his poem, and the opportunity. Nobody has found that treasure yet, that’s the fun of it...we get to keep looking.

Michael Grantham


Dik Mickle

Forrest Fenn is an "Old World" romantic catving his initials on the Trunk of Life. He has served his country with Honor and has been Blessed with wonderful childhood memories that Tom Sawyer would have been proud to reminisce. I for one have been captivated by his books, especially on the Ancient Ones, after all, life isn't about the easy times, it's more about the Internal Spirit that drives ones Perseverance. Thank God we have a Forrest Fenn to give us a challenge we can dream about archiving. Those that ridicule the messenger are missing the message. The real treasure is found in Forrest. Know Forrest and you'll find the Treasure. Peace~

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Chris Wilson

And you sound like one of those morons who literally searches for ANYTHING to interject their political beliefs into. No one cares. Trump 2020. The sooner you accept it the sooner you can stop stressing yourself out complaining about things you have no control over.

Chris Wilson

Two things wrong here; First- Santa Fe continues to publish this type of "they found it!" rubbish a few times per year now- and Second, the audacity of whatever low-budget attorney this lunatic used ACTUALLY had some poor secretary type up a FIVE PAGE complaint all based on NOTHING! If this guy had any real evidence to support his claims and "out" Forrest then he would share it with the community. I'll bet he's real proud this story made a headline. Too bad the outcome in court will fail just as miserably as he did trying to find the treasure. I hate quitters! Especially the sore losers like this j@ckoff who can't accept defeat. And OF COURSE he claims Forrest gave another searcher some help. What a complete idiot.

Tracey Davis

I agree with William. Sore loser and a creep. He won't get a penney.

William Price

This is just sad. I am a fellow searcher for the treasure. Forrest has done this from his heart. So many people feel entitled. Could you imagine being so wrong about something that it makes you angry enough at someone who is GIVING something away, that you sue him!? I'd say this is laughable because the lawsuit won't get anywhere and the person suing would look further ignorant, but this just isn't funny in any way. I can confirm that Forrest is a great man, with tons of integrity, and while he's not going to put an X on a map to tell you where it is, he's just as much not going to tell a specific searcher things to stop him from finding it.

Bottom line, (To the plaintiff suing) this speaks more of your character than anything. You were wrong, all have been wrong until this point. Channel that energy in coming up with a better solve to the poem's puzzle, and get out there and find it! Matter of fact, after this frivolous lawsuit you probably don't deserve it anyway. But the treasure still awaits the one who puts in the thought and work to find it.

Billy Price


Integrity? a man that will say it is hidden not buried.. but he is not saying it isn't buried? He talks in ways that will throw you off the path and does it on purpose. I don't think that is integrity. He didn't give anything away.. not found after 9 or 10 years.. and likely never found. Nothing is given away until you have a reciever. when will people see that it is not going to be found. He never intended it to be found. He just made himself a legacy like he wanted. Everyone knows his name .. as he loves being a name dropper. He met his goal.

The lawsuit won't get anywhere because he had the wrong approach. The real issue is that Fenn gives false clues and intentionally leads people astray. He contradicts himself all the time. Who made the rule that a non fiction book only has to be right part of the time?? It's non fiction !!! It should not have a percentage.. which is a testimony to his thought process. Lies, decieving comments and you are supposed to filter the percentage out? Wake up peeps. He is a pinnochio... and has conned all his life... even a con man is sweet.

William Price

The problem with your mindset is that you believe he's supposed to tell you where it's at. That's not a treasure Hunt. If you understand what a treasure Hunt is, or a scavenger hunt, or any of the like, they are GAMES. Maybe you got into it for the wrong reasons. He talks in riddles, the poem is made of riddles, the book was literally written FOR the treasure Hunt.

In my opinion, the people who get into this ONLY for a payday, and not anything else, will achieve 0% of what they set out for. If you like the fun, the challenge, the GAME, then you'll do much better in the hunt. I say this because that's how it's written. So if you don't do well with riddles, and puzzles, then you won't do well here. If you're expecting someone to give away multiple millions of dollars worth of their belongings, and you don't have to work for it, and expect them to hand it to you on a silver platter, I think you're in the wrong hobby. That's not how these things work. There have been several treasure hunts that have occurred in my lifetime, and not a single one of them was given away, it was earned. This will be no exception. So when I say he's giving this away, I'm technically wrong, because you do have to earn it, but he's GIVING you the opportunity to do so.

I don't know why you're so bitter, but it'd probably do you best to move on and leave people who are having fun doing this, alone. You're not helping anyone, you're not making anyone's life better, you just sound miserable. Why take place in something that makes you so miserable? That's a riddle I don't think I can solve.

If you don't think it's out there, don't look for it. Don't take part. Find a hobby that makes you smile. Have fun. Put your heart into it, and enjoy your life. There's so much fun and and joy out there to be found in things you enjoy. Wouldn't your time be much better spent, enjoying your life, instead of attempting to make others as miserable as you? It's a lose/lose Beth.

Take care


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