Medical Student, 32, Is Unmasked As The Man Who Found Forrest Fenn’s $3M Buried Treasure Chest After Lawsuit Is Filed Claiming He Hacked Emails And Texts To Locate The Chest In Wyoming
Jonathan ‘Jack’ Stuef, a 32-year-old medical student and former journalist, identified himself as the person who now lays claim to Fenn’s stash of gold – which is said to be worth up to $3 million – in an article published in Outside magazine on Monday.
Stuef’s identity was also independently verified in a statement released by the Fenn family, but if he’d had his way, the Michigan native says he would have preferred to remain anonymous.
The identity of the man who solved the riddle behind late Sante Fe millionaire Forrest Fenn’s buried treasure chest and later located the long-hidden fortune in the Wyoming wilderness in June has finally been revealed.
But Stuef’s hand was reportedly forced by a recent federal lawsuit that was set to make his name public in court. The suit, filed in New Mexico in July, claims Stuef hacked the plaintiff’s email and texts to locate the chest – allegations he vehemently denies.
One thing Stuef is refusing to disclose, however, is the precise location where he found the treasure and the clues that led him to it.
‘didn’t want to see it turned into a tourist attraction,’ he told Outside. ‘We thought it was not appropriate for that to happen. He was willing to go to great lengths, very great lengths, to avoid ever having to tell the location.’
An image shared online Monday, Stuef is pictured with Fenn shortly after finding the treasure in June. Fenn later died aged 90 in September
Stuef says he spent two years searching for Fenn’s treasure, which included gold, jewelry and other artifacts believed to be valued anywhere between $1-3 million
The infamous hunt to find retired art dealer Forrest Fenn’s treasure began 10 years ago, when the he published a cryptic poem in his autobiography, titled the Thrill of the Chase, meant to lead prospective explorers to the a spot in the Rocky Mountains where he’d buried a stash of gold.
Fenn first came up with the idea in 1988 after receiving a cancer diagnosis that he thought was terminal. The mysterious spot where the treasure was secreted away was said to be a place where he had envisioned lying down to die.
The millionaire died aged 90 in September, but not before the Thrill of the Chase went on to inspire more than 350,000 hunters to venture out in search of the riches, covering grounds from New Mexico to Montana, with at least five people losing their lives in the process.
Stuef says he spent two years searching for Fenn’s treasure, which included gold, jewelry and other artifacts believed to be valued anywhere between $1-3 million.
He said he only learned of the hunt on Twitter in 2018 while attending medical school, but said he became disinterested in his studies because he began obsessing over the treasure’s location.
‘I’ve probably thought about it for at least a couple hours a day, every day, since I learned about it,’ Stuef said. ‘Every day.’
‘I think I got a little embarrassed by how obsessed I was with it,’ he continued. ‘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.’
The 32-year-old finally managed to do what thousands of others couldn’t by finding Fenn’s chest on June 6, 2020, just months before his passing.
The infamous hunt to find retired art dealer Forrest Fenn’s treasure began 10 years ago, when the he published a cryptic poem in his autobiography, titled the Thrill of the Chase, meant to lead prospective explored to the a spot in the Rocky Mountains where he’d buried a stash of gold
To decode the mystery, Stuef said he began intimately studying every Fenn interview he could find, trying to find secret meanings in the words the man spoke.
Though he declined to disclose to Outside how exactly he solved the riddle, Stuef said he didn’t use GPS or any other kind of modern technology in his search.
Before his death, Fenn agreed to keep Stuef’s identity secret at his request, describing the victor only as a ‘man from back East.’
Stuef explained that he wanted to remain anonymous out of concern for his family’s safety.
‘For the past six months, I have remained anonymous, not because I have anything to hide, but because Forrest and his family endured stalkers, death threats, home invasions, frivolous lawsuits, and a potential kidnapping – all at the hands of people with delusions related to his treasure,’ Stuef wrote in a post to Medium.
‘I don’t want those things to happen to me and my family,’ he added.
But last week, the circumstances surrounding Stuef’s anonymity changed.
Fenn had been targeted by lawsuits both before and after the chest was found, by hunters claiming that the treasure was rightfully theirs.
Many hunters, dissatisfied by the lack of disclosure from Fenn, even suggest that something nefarious was afoot, and that Fenn had never really hidden the treasure or that he had ended the hunt before it had even been found.
In one lawsuit, filed immediately after Fenn announcing the hunt had ended, also targeted the then unnamed finder of the treasure as a defendant, claiming he had found the chest by hacking her texts and emails.
That suit has now advanced to a procedural stage during which Stuef expected that his name would inevitably be read out in court.
After finding the treasure, Stuef said he has placed it in a vault in New Mexico where is shall remain in safe keeping until he decides to sell it
Contents from inside the chest are shown above in an image released by Stuef