Documentary ‘Fenn’s Searchers’ Follows Modern-Day Treasure Hunters

Published: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - 2:55pm
Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - 5:27pm
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(Photo courtesy of Matt Maisano)
Forrest Fenn gave hints to the location of his buried treasure in a poem.

At the heart of many adventure stories is the hunt for buried treasure. The clues lead to an ancient tomb or a cave or a wrecked ship. And sometimes the treasure’s not even worth stealing, because it’s cursed — or it’s guarded by a giant dragon. 

That’s all fantasy, but the thrill of the hunt is very real. That’s why so many people have searched for a treasure chest rumored to be buried in the Rocky Mountains. A new documentary explores their adventure stories.

The film is called "Fenn’s Searchers," and it documents the journey of a few people who are searching for the treasure of a man named Forrest Fenn.

Forrest Fenn is not an outlaw or a prospector from the Wild West. He’s still alive. He spoke in the film about why he buried a treasure valued at at least $1 million.

“My motivation was to get the kids away from their texting machines, out of the game room, off of the couch. I want them to smell the sunshine,” Fenn said.

“He’s a lifelong adventurer himself,” said documentary creator Matt Maisano. 

“Because Forrest was an amateur archaeologist, over the years he’d gathered up many very interesting historical artifacts and valuable gold and amulets and necklaces and things like that.”

Then, Fenn says he put it all into a chest and buried it somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. No treasure map, but he did give clues in the form of a poem. 

Fenn read that cryptic poem on “CBS Sunday Morning.” The story was picked up by other major news outlets, too, and that’s when Maisano found out about it, and it blew him away.

“The way we live with modern technology and GPS and all kinds of technology, that’s making the wilderness much less unknown. Here you have this treasure hunt that this guy’s created in 2010, and now we’re in 2016. This does not happen,” he said.

Maisano and his wife started tagging along with a couple of these searchers last year. And he said there are thousands of them out there. They chat in online forums… They dig from Montana down to New Mexico. And they each have a story about why.

“And you’ve got people at all levels of involvement, from casually just looking online once in awhile, to people that go out and search for the treasure once a week: overnight, 9-hour hikes to these really treacherous, deep-forest locations,” Maisano said.

These searchers became the focus of Maisano’s film. There’s a woman who has searched 60 times around the same hill, and a man who joined up because he loves geocaching. 

“When I find the chest — and I will find the chest — I’m going to take a selfie,” said one searcher in the film.

Some of the searchers meet for annual camping trip just north of Santa Fe; the next one is coming up on June 4. Maisano will screen a rough version of his film there, and of course there will be digging for treasure. But Maisano will be digging for something else. 

“We’re going out there to kind of find an ending for the film,” he said. 

But he said the ending doesn’t have to be lifting the wooden lid to a trove of gleaming gold. It’s the journey that matters to him.

Fenn's Searchers Trailer from Matt Maisano on Vimeo.

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