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Modern Mysteries

Fifth person dies in hunt for Fenn's treasure

By T.K. Randall
March 26, 2020 · Comment icon 21 comments

Is Fenn's treasure really out there ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Daniel Mayer
Said to be hidden somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, the treasure is believed to be worth over $2 million.
Consisting of a bronze chest filled with gold nuggets, rare coins and jewellery, this real-life treasure trove was allegedly hidden at a secret location by art dealer Forrest Fenn.

A former United States Air Force pilot who recovered from a terminal cancer diagnosis later in life, Fenn published a book - The Thrill of the Chase: A Memoir - which contained a set of clues allegedly pointing to the treasure's location "in the mountains somewhere north of Santa Fe."

Several people have journeyed to the region over the years in an attempt to make their fortune however so far nobody has succeeded and as of this month, the hunt has claimed five lives.

The most recent was 58-year-old Michael Wayne Sexson who, along with a second man, had rented snowmobiles before becoming suck in snow near the Colorado-Utah border.

When rescuers arrived Sexson was pronounced dead, however his partner survived.
Another victim of the treasure hunt was 52-year-old Paris Wallace, a pastor from Colorado who sparked a major search and rescue operation after he disappeared.

It took multiple helicopters, dog teams and police officers to eventually locate his remains.

His death came one year after another Colorado resident - Randy Bilyeu - also died while searching for the treasure in a remote part of New Mexico.

"The backcountry and wild areas are open to explore," said spokesperson Sonya Popelka for the National Park Service and Dinosaur National Monument.

"(But) people need to be aware of their own limitations."

Source: CBS Local | Comments (21)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #12 Posted by Bed of chaos 4 years ago
He stated before San Lazaro Pueblo purchase "These sacred ruins need a guardian" (, The Robb Reader: Forrest Fenn). Afterwards "I have all the artifacts in my possession and will never sell them".
Comment icon #13 Posted by White Crane Feather 4 years ago
People do stupid things in the wilderness all the time. It doesn't matter what the activity it is. Well over 300,000 people have gone looking for that treasure. At five deaths, that it is only .6 deaths per 100,000. Those odds are most likely better than your home state’s murder rate. You have a greater chance of being killed on your way to work. How many fisherman die a year when they screw up on the water or on the ocean? Does that mean we should stop people from fishing? This constant urge society has to put bubble wrap around people because of selection bias is not only annoying, it is ... [More]
Comment icon #14 Posted by micahc 4 years ago
people make their own decisions.  they put on their big boy pants and decide to go look for a treasure.  I use to go with a buddy and look for gold. we found very little, but had a lot of fun doing it.  we were careful hiking but life is uncertain. if this was the 1840's many of us might be heading out looking for gold, and most would be disappointed but it would still be an adventure. People get hurt and some die every day hiking somewhere, maybe looking for gold, maybe looking for birds, vistas, who knows.  If someone obsesses I am sure if its not this treasure it would be something else... [More]
Comment icon #15 Posted by Bed of chaos 4 years ago
I bet the gold rush was a blast. Most of 'adventure'  came with cholera, starvation, exhaustion and crime. Also, I live in the mountains. You wouldn't want to die lost/alone out here. It would only be fun for the animals.
Comment icon #16 Posted by micahc 4 years ago
I use to live on Colorado and hiked all the time.  If I were younger I might go have a look.  I am sure most of the people looking are having a blast.  
Comment icon #17 Posted by little_dreamer 4 years ago
Normally you are supposed to notify other people when you go on a hike alone.  But maybe people don't want to give their location because they don't want to share where they think the treasure is?
Comment icon #18 Posted by micahc 4 years ago
I got curious again about this story since I saw the OP post. I played a few interviews of Fenn and he said do not search during the winter, don't go into dangerous places, and search where an 80 year old man can hide something.  I also looked on Wikipedia for the 5 deaths, and clicked the footnote to the source story and found it interesting. One was a 31 year old man who's family said he moved to Colorado to hunt for the treasure. He died in a rafting accident. Not sure he was actually searching when he died, but the fact he moved to Colorado for the treasure is enough for some to blame the... [More]
Comment icon #19 Posted by White Crane Feather 4 years ago
I have a great story about where the gold rush started. I went through a mini meteorite rush in the same exact spot with experiences in the same saloon and even swindlers. 
Comment icon #20 Posted by jbondo 4 years ago
Nobody is in "lockdown". I get tired of people using such an inaccurate term. Many states are observing a "shelter in place" request from the governors of said states. The people are essentially on an honor system. Now, if the many who seem to think they are not part of it and defy the request don't begin following the guidelines, then the virus will continue to spread and get worse. In essence, the selfish keep it going and apparently don't even care about their own families. My family does it's best to follow guidelines. My wife and I are both in jobs that are essential, so we work, but if g... [More]
Comment icon #21 Posted by jowasmus 4 years ago
My bad. You're right. Here most people are working, shopping, fishing, doing everything as normal. We've been  in shelter in place since last Saturday. I don't think people realize the meaning & nothing is being enforced. We only have 20 people sick here total & the 1 person from here that died, lived somewhere else, got sick somewhere else, & died somewhere else. I'm still not sure why we're counting that death. He didn't even live in the state & wasn't here when he got sick. As for a lockdown, I do know what people mean (shelter in place) when they say it. I also understand ... [More]

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