Millionaire antique dealer Forrest Fenn’s secret treasure chest - filled with HK$15.5 million in gold and jewels - has been luring adventurers to the Rocky Mountains since 2010, when he wrote a clue-filled poem he said would lead to the hidden riches.
However, the treasure hunt that he hoped would get people out in the wilderness has turned deadly - for a second time. On Sunday, officials found a body believed to be Paris Wallace, a pastor who had gone to a mountainous area of New Mexico searching for Fenn’s buried treasure chest last week.
New Mexico State Police Lt. Elizabeth Armijo told the newspaper that authorities found the body eleven kilometres downstream from the area where Wallace was believed to have been before he disappeared. His backpack was nearby.
“We are still awaiting positive identification on the identity,” Armijo told the Daily Sentinel in an email. “However, we believe, and all evidence thus far indicates, the deceased is Paris Wallace.”
Using GPS technology through his cellphone, authorities located the truck Wallace was driving near a bridge that crosses the Rio Grande river. Inside the vehicle, Armijo said that officials found a receipt from a local store for rope and other equipment. Search and rescuers also discovered a rock on the riverbank with a rope lashed around it, which led across the water.
News of the second death in a year tied to Fenn’s famed treasure hunt renewed calls for the ageing eccentric to shut the search down.
Nearly one year ago the body of another treasure hunter hopeful, 54-year-old grandfather Randy Bilyeu, was finally found six months after he disappeared in the same area. Search crews, including fellow treasure hunters and Fenn, looked for Bilyeu for weeks.
Below is the full poem that inspired the treasure hunters, as published in Fenn’s Memoir The Thrill of the Chase.
As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.
Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.
From there it’s no place for the meek,
The end is ever drawing nigh;
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and water high.
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.
So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know,
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.
So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold.
If you are brave and in the wood
I give you title to the gold.