Forrest Fenn hid his $2 million treasure and left his clues. Tens of thousands look for it over the past decade. A few died in the process. Finally, someone found it … just a few months before Fenn passed away without revealing the finder’s identity. That last piece of the puzzle has finally been filled in. Will this be the end of the story of Forrest Fenn and the Fenn treasure?
“His name is Jack Stuef.”
And the name of the Fenn treasure’s finder’s finder is Daniel Barbarisi, a writer for Outside magazine. While not as dangerous, the path Jack Stuef took to becoming a treasure hunter was almost as interesting as the quest, including the reasons he gives for finally agreeing to reveal himself through Daniel Barbarisi.
“I’ve probably thought about it for at least a couple hours a day, every day, since I learned about it. Every day.”
Forrest Fenn survived cancer and became inspired to hide part of his fortune in the Rocky Mountains in 2010, leaving a verbal treasure map in his memoir in the form of a 24-line poem. As the hidden treasure become known, tens of thousands became anywhere from causal lookers to daredevil hunters who risked, and sometimes lost, their lives for riches based on the musings of an eccentric old man. Stuef tells Outsider he didn’t learn of the Fenn treasure until 2018 and immediately dropped everything and joined the hunt. “Everything” for the then 30-year-old included dropping out of medical school, a career path he chose after years as a humorist, including a stint for The Onion, and a controversial writer for Buzzfeed and Wonkette. Sound like one eccentric became fascinated by another, doesn’t it?
“I think I got a little embarrassed by how obsessed I was with it. If I didn’t find it, I would look kind of like an idiot. And maybe I didn’t want to admit to myself what a hold it had on me.”
Stuef seems to agree, as the hunt consumed his life. Fortunately, instead of losing his life or his mind or what was left in his bank account, he found the treasure. After picking up the chest on Saturday, June 6, 2020, in Wyoming, he went straight to Fenn’s New Mexico home, and the quest was over. Fenn released the news to the media but refused to give the name of the finder or where the treasure was found, saying only that he was a man from “back east.” Well, Michigan IS east of Santa Fe, isn’t it? Fenn later gave the general location of his hiding place as the northwest corner of Wyoming, but nothing more was revealed, and Fenn died on September 8th.
“Less than a day later, an email popped into my in-box. The finder had replied. He’d heard of my book project, he said, and he might be willing to talk to me.”
Barbarisi reveals a trick he employed to contact the unknown finder after Stuef wrote an anonymous ode to Fenn on Medium. While Stuef agreed to communicate, he refused to let Barbarisi reveal his identity … until he became involved in a lawsuit against the Fenn estate filed by Chicago real estate attorney Barbara Andersen, who alleged that she knew the real location of the treasure (she claimed it was in New Mexico) and the unnamed solver had hacked her texts and emails and found it first, changing the location to cover up the hack. The suit would involve Fenn’s heirs, who knew his identity and would likely be forced to reveal it, so Stuef let Barbarisi tell his story, complete with photos of him with Fenn and the treasure.
“It’s not an appropriate place to become a tourist destination. It has huge meaning to Forrest, and I don’t want to see it destroyed.”
While he still may end up in court, Stuef refuses to reveal the location where Fenn hid the treasure, per the late millionaire’s wishes. Fenn had one more wish that may be more difficult for a finder who has bills it could pay – he wanted the treasure to be put on permanent display. Stuef still has it, but he says he’ll probably sell it … possibly in individual pieces to others who participated in the hunt.
Obviously, with the lawsuit, the unsold treasure and the unnamed location, the Fenn treasure still has more secrets to reveal. Let’s hope no one else dies in the process.