Michigan Med Student Found Over $1M in Treasure in Rocky Mountains
A controversial treasure hidden in the Rocky Mountains for a decade was finally found by a medical student from Michigan.
MLive reports that in June 32-year-old Jonathan “Jack” Stuef unearthed the treasure.
If someone isn't writing one already, this whole story would make a great movie. Back in 2010, retired Santa Fe art and antiques dealer Forrest Fenn hid a chest filled with valuables worth an estimated $1-$3 million somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, setting hundreds of thousands out in search of it.
Fenn wrote clues for finding the treasure in a poem in his memoir, “The Thrill of the Chase". According to the Associated Press, Fenn hid the treasure "as a way to tempt people to get into the wilderness and give them a chance to launch an old-fashioned adventure and expedition for riches."
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports an estimated 350,000 people have searched for Fenn's treasure over the years. Some quit their jobs. And some even died.
Before his death in September, Fenn had been sued multiple times. One treasure hunter claimed Fenn "deprived him of the treasure through fraudulent statements and misleading clues", according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Fenn revealed in June that the treasure had been found in Wyoming, but that the finder wanted to remain anonymous.
Well, we now know that person is Jack Stuef. His identify was confirmed this week in an article from Outside Magazine. Stuef graduated from Georgetown University in 2009 and worked for a period as a writer before starting med school. Stuef's current occupation and location in Michigan are not revealed.
Stuef tells Outside Magazine he learned about the treasure on Twitter in 2018 and basically became obsessed with finding it.
Shortly after Fenn's death, Stuef published an article on Medium coming out as "The Finder", though still remaining anonymous:
I am the person who found Forrest’s famed treasure. The moment it happened was not the triumphant Hollywood ending some surely envisioned; it just felt like I had just survived something and was fortunate to come out the other end. For so long, I thought I might be haunted for the rest of my days by knowing where the treasure was but being unable to find it. Would I still be out there in that section of forest 50 years from now looking for it? When I finally found it, the primary emotion was not joy but rather the most profound feeling of relief in my entire life.
I figured out the location where he wished to die (and thus, where his treasure was) back in 2018, but it took me many months to figure out the exact spot. This treasure hunt was the most frustrating experience of my life. There were a few times when I, exhausted, covered in scratches and bites and sweat and pine pitch, and nearing the end of my day’s water supply, sat down on a downed tree and just cried alone in the woods in sheer frustration.
I spent about 25 full days of failure looking for the treasure at that location before getting it.
In an update to the Medium article, Stuef explained why he had wanted to stay anonymous:
For the past six months, I have remained anonymous, not because I have anything to hide, but because Forrest and his family endured stalkers, death threats, home invasions, frivolous lawsuits, and a potential kidnapping — all at the hands of people with delusions related to his treasure. I don’t want those things to happen to me and my family.
So why come forward now? Well, some of those things have come to be. Stuef himself is now being sued:
The U.S. District Court for New Mexico has ruled that Forrest’s estate must provide some of my personal information to a woman I do not know and with whom I have never communicated who has brought a meritless lawsuit against me. This would make my name a matter of public record, so I chose to come forward today.
My family and I have prepared for the potentiality of this day. Since finding the treasure, I moved to a more secure building with guards and multiple levels of security, and I have taken appropriate measures to protect myself.
Fenn's grandson Shiloh confirmed Steuf as the finder on a website about the treasure hunt:
On behalf of my family, I am writing to confirm the identity of the person who found, retrieved, and now owns the treasure chest that my late grandfather Forrest Fenn hid in the Rockies over 10 years ago. The finder’s name is Jonathan “Jack” Stuef. Jack found the treasure chest as a result of years of careful searching, without any help from my grandfather, myself, or any other member of our family...
I cannot express to you the joy that my grandfather had in seeing his treasure hunt positively touch the lives of so many, and the excitement in his eyes when he saw that chest again for the first time since hiding it in the wilds of Wyoming. We wish Jack the best of luck, and we hope that the searching community will treat him with the respect that he deserves.
Stuef says he will keep the location where he found the treasure a secret: "The natural wonder of place that Forrest held so dear will be destroyed by people seeking treasure they hope I dropped on my way out or Forrest on his way in." As for the treasure itself, Stuef says it's in a secure location in New Mexico and will remain there until he sells it.