In a recent Washington Post story that appears destined to end up a sequel to The Devil and Sherlock Holmes some day, a millionaire by the name of Forrest Fenn, first claimed back in 2010 to have buried a genuine treasure chest somewhere in the world, full of $2 million worth of gold and jewels. And the solution to where the chest is hidden, claims Fenn, can be found in a short, 24-line poem that has now evidently driven a second enthusiastic treasure hunter to an untimely death.
Authorities recently found the body of a Colorado pastor named Paris Wallace, who went missing after embarking on a quest to find the buried treasure. His body (pending official identification) was found near a tributary of the Rio Grande river in New Mexico, seven miles downstream from where he was last known to be looking for the treasure in a mountainous, and dangerous area.
Wallace's death is all the more tragic for the fact that he was not the first to die in attempting to find the Fenn treasure, which is quickly building up a Maltese Falcon-worthy body count in its seven years of alleged existence. The first was Randy Bilyeu, a 54-year-old grandfather who was also found in the Rio Grande after earning a reputation as one of the "most enthusiastic followers" of Fenn's challenge – a group that is said to include tens of thousands, with none of them having been able to succeed in finding the treasure.
Fenn's goal with the project was to encourage people to enjoy the great outdoors, but in a recent blog post in response to the casualties he cautioned against taking any life-threatening risks in order to find the treasure:
"Please don't ever overextend yourself. I was 80 or about when I hid the treasure and it was not a difficult task. I will soon be 87 and I could go back and get it if I were so inclined, I think."
Bilyeu's ex-wife and de facto widow Linda Bilyeu is on record as thinking the treasure does not actually exist, but Fenn is standing by the poem he originally published in his memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, which has been supplemented by other clues offered over the years.