Treasure Hunt Draws Thousands to Western US

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13 October, 2019

Thousands of people have headed to an area in the western United States to search for a hidden treasure.

A wealthy art collector and businessman from the area named Forrest Fenn says he hid the treasure. The searchers follow nine clues from a poem that Fenn wrote. They consider the poem their "treasure map."

The treasure hunters believe the prize could be hidden in a huge area that starts in New Mexico and stretches all the way to the northern state of Montana. The area covers a distance of about 2,000 kilometers.

Many believe the treasure is real. Others, however, think it likely does not exist.

An estimated 350,000 hunters from around the world have come to the area seeking the treasure. One of them is Sacha Johnston. She is a single mother. She is searching an area around the Black Canyon Campground north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

"When I started the treasure hunt, I was a stay-at-home mom with a baby," Johnston said. "Since then, I have become an expert in Southwestern history. I can tell you the direction based on the location of the sun, and I have become more in tune with nature."

Johnston says she thinks she has made good progress on guessing some of the clues. So, she has kept her search going.

Forrest Fenn spoke to VOA from his home in Santa Fe. The house is filled with priceless art pieces collected over his lifetime. He talked about volunteering to fight in the Vietnam War in 1968 and narrowly escaping death several times during his service.

Fenn said doctors found cancer in his body in 1988 and told him he only had about six months to live. So he decided to put pieces of gold, jewels and other valuables in a bronze box and leave it for others to enjoy after he was gone.

But Fenn ended up beating cancer. Years later, in 2010, he decided to hide the box. "I wanted to give people hope and something to look forward to. Maybe there is a pot of gold at the end of your rainbow if you go out and look for it," he said.

Speaking about the spot where he hid the treasure, Fenn only says, "it is not in a dangerous place."

His longtime friend, Marc Howard, has been looking for the hidden box for the past nine years. He said he thinks the clues are not as helpful as some people might believe.

"It's not easy, and there is always more to what Forrest says than meets the eye," Howard said. He added: "I'm a goldsmith. I would love to have a supply of gold that I didn't have to pay $1,500 an ounce for."

Howard says one thing he believes is that the treasure is hidden on public land. "Forrest considers the public land to be the land of the American people," he explained.

When asked whether he thinks people are close to finding the treasure, Fenn said he really has no idea. "It is possible my treasure chest could be found this afternoon, or it could be 100 years or 500 years. Who knows?" he said.

I'm Bryan Lynn.

Penelope Poulou reported this story for VOA News. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

in tune phr. in agreement or harmony with something or someone

rainbow n.a half circle with colors that sometimes appears in the sky when the sun shines through rain

ounce n.a unit for measuring weight, equal to 28.35 grams

chest n.a strong container with a lid to keep things in