A medical school student from Michigan has been identified as the person who found a treasure chest worth more than $1 million that retired art and antiquities dealer Forrest Fenn stashed in the wilds of Wyoming over a decade ago.
Jonathan “Jack” Stuef, 32, found the treasure in June, according to Fenn’s grandson Shiloh Forrest Old, who posted Monday on a website dedicated to the treasure.
“We wish Jack the best of luck, and we hope that the searching community will treat him with the respect that he deserves,” Old wrote.
Fenn, a decorated U.S. Air Force fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, left clues to finding the treasure in a poem in a memoir entitled “The Thrill of the Chase.”
Fenn at the time said he hid the chest filled with coins, gold nuggets and other valuables estimated in value at $1 million to $3 million in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe in either Colorado, Montana, New Mexico or Wyoming.
The poem inspired many to go treasure hunting — sometimes getting into precarious situations in the unforgiving Rocky Mountain backcountry.
Fenn said repeatedly the treasure wasn't in a dangerous or especially hard-to-reach place but at least four people died searching for the chest. Many others needed rescue, including a man who rappelled into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in winter.
Fenn announced June 6 that the treasure had been found but did not say who found it or where. He said in July the treasure was found in Wyoming and died in September at age 90 without identifying the finder.
Stuef, meanwhile, initially remained anonymous in an article published in September by Median, a platform that allows users to self-publish essays and other writing, in which he described finding the treasure but not specifically how or where.
A court order in a federal lawsuit against the Fenn estate prompted Stuef to identify himself to writer Daniel Barbarisi, who’d been in touch with Stuef for a book he has been working on. Barbarisi identified Stuef in an article published Monday in Outside Magazine and wrote that Stuef became obsessed with the treasure after learning about its existence in 2018.
“I think I got a little embarrassed by how obsessed I was with it,” Barbarisi quoted Stuef as saying. “If I didn’t find it, I would look kind of like an idiot. And maybe I didn’t want to admit to myself what a hold it had on me.”
Fenn’s grandson, Old, also cited the lawsuit as a reason for confirming Stuef’s identity. In the lawsuit, a woman who believed the treasure was hidden in New Mexico claims the finder succeeded by hacking her texts and emails, Barbarisi wrote.