On June 8, as media outlets across the globe were trumpeting the discovery two days earlier of a $2 million cache of gold and jewels allegedly hidden a decade ago by eccentric New Mexico author Forrest Fenn, Linda Bilyeu, ex-wife of Randy Bilyeu, a Coloradan who died searching for the treasure, swam against the tide.
"I believe he never hid the treasure," she told us. "He needed attention and this is how he got it. Fenn needed more attention, which is why he said the treasure has been found with 'no proof.'"
A week later, journalists have started hedging their bets about the end of the treasure hunt. On June 14, for instance, CBS pointedly noted that "Fenn has so far not provided proof that the treasure chest has truly been found."
Likewise, Fenn has not responded to Westword's repeated inquiries about the treasure and when he intends to offer details to substantiate his claims. But his June 6 announcement of the find was virtually evidence-free, lacking any information about where, when and how the booty was discovered, much less by whom. It reads:
"It was 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 more than 10 years ago. I do not know the person who found it, but the poem in my book led him to the precise spot. I congratulate the thousands of people who participated in the search and hope they will continue to be drawn by the promise of other discoveries. So the search is over. Look for more information and photos in the coming days."There's no telling when those days will come, if ever. There have been zero updates on Fenn's website, and the so-called "Thrill of the Chase" Facebook page, named for a poem said to contain clues about the treasure's whereabouts, hasn't showcased a new post since 2018.
Still, even though as many as seven people have died on the hunt, according to Linda Bilyeu (her ex-husband is one of four Coloradans that died looking for the riches), the fascination with Fenn shows no signs of ebbing even though the treasure has allegedly been found.
While Westword has received many notes from people who regard the treasure to be a figment of Fenn's imagination (one titled his take "The Thrill of the Scam"), we've also been inundated with messages from true believers, many of whom are sure that they now know where the treasure had been hidden and express frustration that they didn't manage to figure out the clues in time to find it for themselves.
The longer Fenn maintains his silence, the more competing theories are likely to surface. While Linda Bilyeu predicts that "now he will do another 'hunt' for his own ego," Fenn may have little reason to speak up...whether the treasure was real or not.