Clayton Sandell: Somewhere in the vast Rocky Mountain west near a stream in a forest or at the edge of a meadow people are hunting – br>br> Cynthia Meachum: Wait

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12-01-2018 ABC News Click Here
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Video transcript on ABC News interview with Forrest Fenn Clayton Sandell: Somewhere in the vast Rocky Mountain west near a stream in a forest or at the edge of a meadow people are hunting –

Cynthia Meachum: Wait. He could've stashed it under this end.

Sandell: – for a legendary supposedly hidden treasure worth millions to whoever finds it first.

Meachum: Let's go this way. Oh my god, I see bronze.

Sandell: Dal Neitzel and Cynthia Meachum are among perhaps thousands looking for this bronze chest said to be filled with a bounty of gold and rare artifacts. But only one man says he knows where it is.

Forrest Fenn: Here's a wonderful artifact. This is a lantern –

Sandell: Yeah.

Fenn: See the wick.

Sandell: Yep. Forrest Fenn is an 87 year old former military pilot turned wealthy antiques dealer. He claims in 2010 he hid the treasure somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Why would you do this?

Fenn: Well in 1988 I was diagnosed with what everybody thought was terminal cancer. But besides that we were going into a recession and I just wanted to give some people hope.

Sandell: Fenn's health recovered. Going inside the vault here. But the idea of creating a modern day treasure hunt stuck with him.

Fenn: There's 265 American gold eagles and double eagles. There's ancient Middle Eastern gold coins. There's hundreds and hundreds of gold nuggets. Two of 'em as big as a hen's egg.

Sandell: He says even he doesn't know what it's all worth.

Fenn: Writers have appraised it between one million and five million.

Sandell: Fenn estimates around 350,000 people have taken up the search. He says to find the treasure –

Fenn: Begin it where warm waters halt and take it in the canyon down.

Sandell: All you have to do is solve nine clues in his cryptic poem.

Fenn: Not far but too far to walk. Put in below the home of Brown.

Sandell: The treasure could be hidden anywhere in literally tens of thousands of square miles of territory anywhere from New Mexico to here in Montana. That of course assumes it exists at all. Some say it's a hoax.

Fenn: The story is real. The treasure is real. The, the treasure is hidden where I put it.

Sandell: Can you take me out there and show it?

Fenn: No.

Man from The Lure: It might not even be here in, in New Mexico.

Sandell: Today thousands of online forums, videos and documentaries like The Lure fuel speculation as endless as the landscape obsessing over Fenn's every word for the tiniest clue.

Man from The Lure: They'll be no paddle up your creek.

Fenn: I get between 100 and 120 emails a day.

Sandell: There's even the occasional death threat.

Fenn: This one guy called me. He said, he said, tell me where the treasure is right now or I'm gonna kill you.

Sandell: So far nobody has found it including Dal who runs a popular web site dedicated to finding the treasure. How many trips have both of you made trying to crack this one?

Neitzel: It's somewhere in excess of 65 different trips.

Meachum: I've made over 100 trips.

Sandell: But this time Dal and Cynthia are convinced the first clue –

Meachum: Begin it where waters halt.

Sandell: – leads to the Yellowstone National Park area known for steaming hot geysers and pools.

Neitzel: We're going to start where warm waters halt. And for us that's Madison Junction.

Sandell: It's also a place Forrest says he spent many summers as a kid.

Meachum: And I really believe it's at a place that has sentimental value to him.

Sandell: In September Dal and Cynthia each drove hundreds of miles to check out their latest hunch inviting Nightline along. So when you find the treasure how are you going to divide up? Are we talking thirdsies here?

Meachum: Well how about your crew?

Sandell: Well yeah.

Meachum: Exclude them. Never mind. Sorry.

Sandell: Okay. Fifths. Whatever.

Meachum: Okay.

Sandell: All right. Where have you brought us this morning?

Neitzel: This is Grayling Creek.

Sandell: So into the wilderness we go looking for something the poem calls a blaze.

Neitzel: If you've been wise and found the blaze, look quickly down your quest to cease.

Sandell: I don't know what a blaze is.

Neitzel: Neither do we. So I think it has to be something –

Sandell: Something in the terrain. Yeah.

Meachum: More permanent.

Sandell: Yeah.

Neitzel: A big white rock or a big white stone or a cliff or maybe even a mound of rocks.

Sandell: But just a few minutes later –

Meachum: To me that's the blaze.

Sandell: – they say they've found it.

Neitzel: Look quickly down –

Meachum: Your quest to cease. But tarry scant with marvel gaze just take the chest and go in peace. So –

Sandell: What does that mean?

Meachum: It means get your butt over there and start looking quickly down off that rock blaze and, uh, find the hidey spot.

Sandell: All right. As we venture deeper into the wild we're not alone.

Meachum: Oh my god there's a dead animal. It's a dead deer.

Sandell: So that tells you there's a bear in the neighborhood.

Neitzel: Who, who brought the bear spray?

Sandell: I do have some bear spray. The potential for danger, bears included, is real. And recently people have been literally dying to find Fenn's treasure. In June Paris Wallace, a Colorado pastor, was found dead in New Mexico. His wife says they liked to search together but the last time he went alone.

Mitzi Wallace: It was a great way for us to get out in nature, to have some quality time together.

Sandell: In 2016 Randy Bilyeu's body was found along the Rio Grande River. He'd vanished six months earlier. His family says while treasure hunting. And most recently 31 year-old Eric Ashby went missing in Colorado. His friends say he was searching for Fenn's treasure too. Fenn was in his eighties when he hid the treasure somewhere out here in the wilderness but he says he didn't put it anywhere dangerous. Still there may be those who are taking too many risks to try and find it. That's why New Mexico's top cop has asked for Fenn to call the treasure hunt off.

Pete Kassetas: You had talked about giving more clues, uh, and again I call for you to, to pull it.

Fenn: I'm not gonna give a clue to help people find the treasure. I'm gonna give a clue to try to keep them out of trouble. I didn't anticipate that people would, would die searching for my treasure but in the back of my mind it had to be logical that that could happen. Grizzly bears alone are something to think about.

Sandell: It weighs on you.

Fenn: A little bit. You know, I, I don't feel responsible. I don't, I don't feel like I'm to blame for any, any of those things that happened.

Sandell: Back with Dal and Cynthia –

Meachum: You see the big boulders over there in the ground?

Dal: Yeah.

Meachum: Let's go see if there's any kind of a place he could have shoved that chest in underneath that.

Sandell: No rock is left unexplored.

Meachum: This is even better but it's not there.

Sandell: There is no gold. But just as Fenn says he intended the quest comes with other rewards.

Neitzel: It's an adventure to go looking.

Meachum: And even if I was searching the same area maybe a dozen times every day was a new start.

Neitzel: It's definitely going to be found. Somebody's gonna, somebody's gonna figure it out.

Sandell: Fenn says some treasure hunters have gotten tantalizingly close.

Fenn: 200 feet. I know exactly where they were because they told me.

Sandell: That's close.

Fenn: Not close enough.

Sandell: Fenn says this may be his last TV interview.

Fenn: I just don't feel like I have anything to say anymore.

Sandell: So we had to ask – Is there any tiny little hint, any tiny little clue you'd like to leave us with? He's thinking about it.

Fenn: No.

Sandell: Okay.

Fenn: Well I will give you a clue – try to simplify if you can. That's good advice.

Sandell: Have you secretly given us clues in this interview that we should go back and parse your words?

Fenn: I've said more than I should've said.

Sandell: For Nightline I'm Clayton Sandell in Albuquerque.