Daniel Babarisi, at Outside,
Since 2017, I had been pursuing Fenn’s treasure, too, becoming a kinda-sorta searcher in order to tell the story of Fenn’s hunt in my upcoming book Chasing the Thrill, to be published by Knopf in June. I’d been in the trenches, read Fenn’s clue-filled poem over and over, ended up in places I probably shouldn’t have been, and gone to places where other people died trying to find it.
A decade ago, Fenn hid his treasure chest, containing gold and other valuables estimated to be worth at least a million dollars, somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Not long after, he published a memoir called The Thrill of the Chase, which included a mysterious 24-line poem that, if solved, would lead searchers to the treasure. Fenn had suggested that the loot was secreted away at the place where he had envisioned lying down to die, back when he’d believed a 1988 cancer diagnosis was terminal. Since the hunt began in 2010, many thousands of searchers had gone out in pursuit—at least five of them losing their lives in the process—and the chase became an international story.
So many people had invested and sacrificed so much in pursuit of Fenn’s treasure that it was possible the finder would face threats, be they legal or physical, from people who resented them or wished them ill.
And that was exactly what was beginning to play out.
This past June, Fenn announced that the treasure had been found by a man from “back east” who wanted to remain anonymous—even, once we were in contact, to me. So despite exchanging dozens of emails with the finder, and discussing the details of the chest and what locating it meant to him, I never pressed him about who he was, and he never volunteered.
Last week, he told me the situation had changed. Fenn had been targeted by lawsuits both before and after the chest was found, by hunters claiming that the treasure was rightfully theirs. One of the lawsuits, filed immediately after Fenn announced the hunt was over, also targets the unknown finder as a defendant, claiming that he had stolen the plaintiff’s solve and used it to find the chest. That litigation had advanced to a procedural stage during which the finder expected his name would likely come out in court. So while he remained guarded about his solve and the location where he discovered the treasure, he now didn’t mind telling me who he really was.
And that’s when I learned that a 32-year-old Michigan native and medical student was the person who had finally solved Fenn’s poem. His name is Jack Stuef.