Jack Stuef said he decided to come forward because of an upcoming federal court order against Fenn's estate that would have made his name public

Forrest Fenn
Forrest Fenn
| Credit: Luis Sanchez Saturno/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP

The man who tracked down Forrest Fenn’s elusive treasure has come forward — and he’s a 32-year-old medical student who dedicated two years to deciphering Fenn’s mysterious clues.

Jack Stuef revealed that he was the one to find the treasure chest in June, a decade after Fenn, an antiquities dealer, hid it somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.

In a statement published to Medium shortly after Fenn’s death in September at age 90, Stuef recalled the incredible moment in which he finally found the prize, and reflected on his complicated feelings.

“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,” he wrote. “When I finally found it, the primary emotion was not joy but rather the most profound feeling of relief in my entire life.”

Stuef said he’d spent two years trying to crack the clues Fenn left in a poem in his 2010 book The Thrill of the Chase, and had determined that the location was the place where Fenn wished to die.

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Though Stuef figured out the location in 2018, he needed more time to determine the exact spot, which would end up being somewhere in Wyoming.

“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,” he wrote. “I spent about 25 full days of failure looking for the treasure at that location before getting it.”

Fenn announced that the treasure had been found in June, but respected Stuef’s wishes at the time to remain anonymous.

However, Stuef said on Monday that he decided to come forward because of an upcoming federal court order against Fenn’s estate that would have made his name public.

Stuef said he wanted to keep his identity hidden for safety reasons, and also revealed that he has no plans to share the treasure’s exact location, as he doesn’t want the special spot destroyed. The chest is currently in a vault in New Mexico, where Stuef plans to keep it until he sells it.

According to ABC News, Stuef is a Michigan native and medical student as well as a writer. He’s worked for the Onion and freelanced for BuzzFeed.

Fenn’s grandson Shiloh confirmed that Stuef was, indeed, the treasure’s finder in a post this week on a site dedicated to the hunt.

“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,” Shiloh wrote.

Fenn announced in 2010 that he’d hidden a treasure chest containing gold coins, nuggets and other loot somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, prompting a decade-long hunt that inadvertently led to the deaths of at least five treasure seekers.

Though Fenn never placed an exact dollar amount on the bronze chest’s value, it was reportedly estimated to be worth $1-5 million, and Fenn guessed that some 350,000 people had gone searching for it over the years, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.