PEOPLE Explains: All About the Elusive $2 Million Treasure Hunt That May Have Claimed Another Life
A 31-year-old man is the latest treasure-seeker to disappear on the quest for Forrest Fenn's gold
A 31-year-old man is the latest treasure-seeker to disappear on the quest for Forrest Fenn’s gold.
“I believe that something sinister happened…” she told the outlet. “I am looking for justice for my brother.”
Ashby isn’t the only nature-lover who has gone missing looking for the treasure-chest that has been hidden for over six years and contains $2 million in gold and jewels.
Two men have died while searching for the treasure — Grand Junction pastor Paris Wallace was found in New Mexico’s Rio Grande River and Randy Bilyeu’s body was discovered near Sandoval County’s Cochiti Lake along the Rio Grande River.
The legendary box is rumored to be located somewhere in the Rocky Mountains – a cryptic poem in Fenn’s 2010 memoir The Thrill of the Chase hints at the treasure’s secret location.
“I certainly did not anticipate anyone was going to get killed, but I answer those people this way: If a hunter goes into the mountains looking for deer, and is lost, does that mean we should stop deer hunting? If someone drowns in a swimming pool, should we drain the pool, or should we teach people to swim?” Fenn, an antiquities dealer, told PEOPLE in 2016.
Ashby was last seen seeking the fabled treasure on a raft with friends along the Arkansas River on June 28.
“A photographer for the rafting company saw people coming down, having fun, when the raft flipped,” Fremont County Sheriff’s Office sergeant Megan Richards tells PEOPLE. “The bystander saw everyone get out of the raft, except for one person struggling and then he lost sight of that person.”
That photographer called police, but when officers arrived at the scene, Ashby’s reported friends had left. Search and rescue crews have been looking for him ever since.
“None of the party reported the disappearance, and his father learned on July 8th from a friend,” reads the description of a Facebook page dedicated to finding Ashby. “The only emergency call was a witness above the party that saw the accident. EMS searched that day and found nothing. They assumed he was safe since no one else reported the disappearance.”
On July 28 — exactly one month after Ashby went missing — Colorado State Parks and Wildlife officers alerted the Fremont County sheriff’s department to human remains discovered near the spot where Ashby disappeared.
The body is unidentifiable and undergoing DNA testing to confirm an identity. The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office can’t “say for sure” that it is Ashby, but they “aren’t currently looking for anyone else in the river,” says Richards.
Albritton calls her brother a “smart” man who loved to solve puzzles and riddles.
“So when he heard about Forrest Fenn’s treasure, of course, he was intrigued,”Albritton told ABC News. “He was an outdoorsman, he loved nature, loved to be in nature – a real adventurer. He also had the biggest heart. He would give anyone the shirt off of his back if someone needed it.”
In an excerpt (below), Fenn describes where hunters should begin looking for the treasure:
“Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.
From there it’s no place for the meek,
The end is ever drawing nigh;
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and water high.
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace ”
Fenn has released very few other clues.
“I never said it was buried. I’ve avoided that word. I hid it. I don’t mean to imply that it isn’t buried. I just didn’t want to give that as a clue,” he previously told PEOPLE. “It took me two trips in my car to hide the treasure. And I can tell you an 80-year-old man is not going to make a trip into a canyon, then come up and go down again. As for who else knows, I’m the only one. My wife doesn’t know.”
He says that it’s located above 5,000 feet and below 10,200 feet.
“The biggest clue of all is: Don’t look for the treasure any place where an 80-year-old man could not have taken it,” he adds. “That eliminates half the places where people are looking.”
Despite the enormous danger Fenn’s mysterious chest poses to treasure-seekers, the author, who estimates that upwards of 65,000 people have looked for his box of gold, has insisted that he will not reveal its location.
“There have been too many people looking. It would not be fair to them if we shut the thing down,” he said.