Treasure hunters have been left scratching their heads after an eccentric millionaire who sparked a decade-long deadly search for riches hidden in the Rocky Mountains died without revealing the location of his hoard.
Forrest Fenn, 90, passed away on Monday after a fall at his home in Sante Fe, New Mexico.
The art dealer and author had shot to fame over the last 10 years after concealing a $2 million fortune in the wilderness.
He had hidden clues in a 24-line poem and his autobiography ‘The Thrill of the Chase’ sparking a frantic search which saw 350,000 seekers from around the world descend on the national park and five men die during their searches.
Others were arrested for offences including digging beneath a roadside memorial, requiring rescuing after repelling 850 feet into the Grand Canyon and breaking into Fenn’s home and attempting to lug away a Spanish-style treasure chest.
In June Fenn, who created the hunt to “get families off their couches and into nature”, unexpectedly revealed that “a guy who doesn’t want his name mentioned from back East” had uncovered the booty.
He wrote on his blog the chest was uncovered “under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it” but neglected to mention where that was.
The Vietnam veteran would later release pictures of the chest and say that it had been found in Wyoming but many have questioned whether it even existed in the first place, reports the New York Post.
A Chicago attorney who said she’d spent tens of thousands of pounds on 20 trips to New Mexico even unsuccessfully sued Fenn.
Barbara Andersen has now filed another court motion saying she believes information is being witheld. “I think this smells beyond belief ,” she said.
Even his sudden death has been questioned by his legion of fans. He has once written how he admired his terminally ill father for taking his life and on Monday morning was found unconcious in his study, passing away later that day back at home after being discharged from hospital.
Florida massage therapist Miriam de Fronzo spend four years travelling to New Mexico on four occassions in pursuit of the bronze cache filled with jewels and coins.
She said: “It’s not resolved. Ninety percent of the treasure seekers don’t believe that this mystery has been solved.”
Others questioned why Fenn refused to explain what each of his clues meant or disclose the spot where the treasure was hidden.
Despite the death toll along a variety of treacherous routes Fenn had said it was concealed in a place where “an old man” could have recovered it with ease.
Many of his fans, 80 of whom gathered for a ‘Fenn Finale’ in Yellowstone National Park weeks before his death, remain loyal to him and hope more clues may be revealed in his will.
Writing on a Facebook fan page Mark Wallace said: “I have said from the start there was more to all this. Forrest was a brilliant man. It was worth every dime to be a part of such an epic hunt.”
But it is unlikely they will be allowed to attend the late riddler’s memorial service as his family have requested “extreme confidentiality” and his wife, Peggy, had previously confided to a friend she was “sick of the whole thing”.