The Everlasting Forrest Fenn
Five years ago, a legendary art dealer left his home in Santa Fe, traveled to an undisclosed location somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, and hid a 42‑pound chest filled with priceless treasure. Why?
In the summer of 1988, not long after doctors removed his cancer-plagued right kidney, Forrest Fenn began approaching writers with a curious proposal. As anyone at all acquainted with him knows, Fenn is a rare character — a swashbuckling former fighter pilot who hustled his way into a lucrative business selling art to the stars out of his lavish Santa Fe gallery — yet even by his own standards, the scheme he was suggesting was an odd one. Fenn, then 58, was looking for someone to write his biography, he said. Naturally enough, the book would include stories from his life: tales of being shot down in his F-100 over Laos, of searching for artifacts in deserted canyons, of peddling moccasins to Rockefellers and hand-carved corbels to Spielbergs. Yet this particular biography would have a secondary purpose. It would also act as a cryptic guide to a treasure chest that Fenn was planning to hide somewhere in the Rocky Mountains — along with his own corpse.
“I thought I was gonna die,” Fenn explained recently in his feathery Texas drawl. “I kept asking the guy who gave me radiation what my chances were, and all he would say was, ‘Mr. Fenn, you’ve just got an uphill battle.’” Two years earlier, Fenn’s father had also been diagnosed with advanced cancer, and he had taken what Fenn saw as the dignified way out: a handful of sleeping pills. Fenn already knew he didn’t want to wither slowly away either. “Dying is something I want to do by myself,” he said. “I don’t need any help. I don’t want somebody holding my hand, everybody’s crying — Jesus.” What he didn’t know was how to end things on his own terms. Read more at The California Sunday Magazine.