Chanon Thompson, a 33-year-old woman from Carrollton, traveled to New Mexico last week and wandered into the Santa Fe National Forest. She made it six or seven miles in, then she realized she couldn't find her way back, according to ABC News. She spent two nights in freezing temperatures before she was rescued by the New Mexico State Police.
Thompson was no mere hiker intent on enjoying one of America's few relatively unspoiled places. She was a treasure seeker, eager to get her hands a treasure chest stuffed with close to $3 million in gold and jewels hidden there.
That seemingly far-fetched idea, Thompson told police, was planted in her mind by The Thrill of the Chase, the 2010 autobiography of millionaire arts and antiquities dealer Forrest Fenn.
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Fenn, who probably not coincidentally happens to own the small Santa Fe publishing house that put the book in print, wrote that he planted the treasure after being diagnosed with cancer. He provided clues to its location in the book, including a poem which reads, in part:
Begin it where warm water 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.
That poem sent Thompson, and presumably other readers, scurrying into the mountains. The thought that they might be ill-equipped for a foray into the New Mexican wilderness or that the whole thing might either be 1)some dying old man's final epic middle finger to humanity; or 2)a clever ploy to sell books and drive traffic to his antiquities shop.
For his part, Fenn continues to insist the treasure exists, because of course he would. If the treasure really is sitting in the wilds, then there's no reason now to tell people it's not. And if he's just fucking with people, why give up just when people are starting to pay attention?