by | Sep 4, 2019 | The Writer's Life, On writing | 6 comments

by Chris Goff

Who isn’t obsessed with treasure-hunting?

From the time I was a little girl and my father read me “The Story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” I have dreamed of finding treasure. The story comes from a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales known as the “Arabian Nights” or “One Thousand and One Nights.” It tells the story of a poor woodcutter out cutting firewood in the forest, who comes upon a group of 40 thieves, with a great fortune hidden in a cave in the forest. The cave is sealed by a huge rock, which opens when a thief uses the magic words “open sesame” and closes with the words “close sesame.” Ali Baba watches until all the thieves have gone, then he enters the cave and takes one bag of gold. As you can imagine, things go downhill from there.

A lot of fiction is written about hunting treasure.

THE GOLD BUG by Edgar Allan Poe is a short story about one man’s search for pirate treasure hidden by the notorious and real-life Captain Kid. TREASURE ISLAND by Robert Louis Stevenson tells about Jim Hawkins who finds a treasure map where X marks the spot. And nearly every Clive Cussler, Dan Brown and Steve Berry book written is about a quest for treasure.

But it was after The Real Book Spy named THE ORACLE, Clive Cussler’s and Rogue Robin Burcell’s book featuring the husband-and-wife treasure-hunting team of Sam and Remi Fargo as his June Rogue Recommendation, that I really started looking into treasure-hunting opportunities. From Geocaching (a new sport where participants use GPS to locate hidden caches of toys or trinkets) to sunken wrecks containing millions in gold and gems, I found a myriad of opportunities out there. Unfortunately, most of them require the seeker to be a professional treasure hunter—or at the very least have connections.

For example, History lists the following as six of the most famous missing treasures: Ark of the Covenant, Montezuma’s Treasure, Blackbeard’s Treasure, Treasure of Lima, Mosby’s Treasure, and Nazi Gold in Austria’s Lake Toplitz. There are shipwrecks with treasures as large as $133 billion yet to be found.

I finally stumbled on the Legends of America, a state-by-state list of treasure legends, ripe for the picking.

But, perhaps most intriguing of all, I discovered one opportunity planted in my own backyard…

The Fenn Treasure

In 2010, Forrest Fenn—a millionaire art dealer and former fighter pilot—claimed to have hidden a bronze chest filled with gold and valuables estimated at $2 million somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Then he wrote the following poem, containing nine clues, to help hunters find the location of the treasure:

         As I have gone alone in there                           If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,

         And with my treasures bold,                            Look quickly down, your quest to cease
         I can keep my secret where,                             But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
         And hint of riches new and old.                       Just take the chest and go in peace.

         Begin it where warm waters halt                     So why is it that I must go
         And take it in the canyon down,                      And leave my trove for all to seek?
         Not far, but too far to walk.                             The answers I already know
         Put in below the home of Brown.                    I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.

         From there it’s no place for the meek,             So hear me all and listen good,
         The end is drawing ever nigh;                         Your effort will be worth the cold.
         There’ll be no paddle up your creek,               If you are brave and in the wood
         Just heavy loads and water high.                     I give you title to the gold.
However, The Fenn Treasure does come with a warning label. If you go looking, please beware! Four people have died trying to find the 42 lb. bronze box. And, in 2017, Pete Kassetas, the New Mexico State Police Chief, publicly asked Fenn to end the treasure hunt because it was a danger to public safety.
I admit, I have not yet gone searching for the treasure. However, I have fleshed out the plot for a novel featuring a pair of treasure hunters scouring the San Juan Mountains for a bronze box of gold and gems worth millions.

Addendum: one of the Rogue Readers, Alex Lemaire, sent me a link to a post in Metal Detector Planet about some real-life treasure hunters most people know nothing about. It’s definitely worth reading! Thanks, Alex.

So, fess up! Have you ever dreamed of hunting for or finding treasure? And if you found a cache worth millions—or billions—what would you do with the money?

Me? I think I’d find an old hotel worthy of re-purposing and start a writer’s retreat.
Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Lisa Black

    What's not to love about a treasure hunt? And many classical mysteries deal with treasure hunts, only they don't call them that. It's the 'search for a McGuffin' plot where everyone is looking for a Maltese Falcon, the One Ring, the seven horcruxes, the Moonstone.
    Or for my brother, buried treasure is the stack of original Superman comic books he swears he left in the rafters of our first house.

  2. Robin Burcell

    I have actually thought how fun it would be to hunt for the Fenn treasure. (And if I was any sort of outdoors person, I might have!) I wonder if it's real. I mean, who buries 2 million just to see people hunt for it? He almost sounds like he could be a villain in someone's novel!

  3. Chris Goff

    There are those who think he is!

  4. Chris Goff

    As I was writing this post, I was thinking of that. So many things are a search for treasure of a sorts. Even the quest to find a true love, or the cure for cancer. Most would say treasure-hunting is about the finding gold or riches, but it's not always about the money.

  5. Rogue Women Writers

    What a fascinating piece, Chris! It reminded me of a treasure story I learned from an elderly family friend. He was a Col. in the "White Russian Army" that fought the Bolsheviks during the Russian revolution. He escaped the country dressing as a beggar, taking what he could in a pack covered with dirty clothes to get by the border guards. Finally making his way to this country, my parents met him and he became a regular visitor at our home when I was a child. He told us the story of his escape – and about how he took the family jewels and other valuables and buried them in the orchard behind his home in what was then the city of Petrograd – hoping to one day go back and retrieve it all. He never returned — it's still there (but alas, I have no map)….Karna Small Bodman

  6. Jamie Freveletti

    LOVE the idea of treasure hunting and even wanted to try Geo-catching, which sounds like fun. I'll definitely look into that list. Thanks!