By Tim Binnall
A fascinating study from a University of North Dakota professor provides an enlightening look at the people who comprise the community of Fenn Treasure hunters. The now-infamous cache of riches said to be buried in the American southwest by eccentric author Forrest Fenn back in 2010 has captured the imagination of all manner of individuals over the last decade. While it has long been estimated that the number of people who have searched for the treasure is considerable, a newly published paper from UND professor Alan King reveals just how enormous and, for some, all-consuming the hunt has become.
The psychologist posted a specially designed survey at four prominent Forrest Fenn websites and, in turn, received responses from around 2,000 individuals. Based on the responses, the professor extrapolated that around two million people were aware of the tale and, of that group, a whopping 433,000 could be classified as serious treasure hunters. The level of commitment exhibited by the individuals who consider themselves genuine participants in the search is rather staggering.
According to King's research, more than 50% of the people had spent over $3,000 looking for the treasure and, among them, a jaw-dropping 11% said that they had expended over $10,000 to the hunt. Around 43% indicated that they have been studying the mystery for over five years and 38% said that their research into the case is a daily commitment. Given that level of dedication, it should come as no surprise that many respondents described exhibiting various symptoms of addiction.
Around 80% of the respondents said that they had gone so far as to conduct a 'boots on the ground' search for the treasure and, among that group, 13% indicated that they'd conducted more than 20 such expeditions. Among the dangers reportedly encountered by these individuals were a bear, a snake, a wolf, and perilous conditions involving water or high locations. Incredibly, two treasure hunters surveyed by King revealed that their quest "culminated in an emergency rescue with hospitalization."
Be that as it may, around 78% of the people surveyed said that the treasure hunt has had a positive impact on their life with around 66% saying that they have "gained new knowledge, skills, and/or abilities from the chase." As to whether or not they believe they will ever find the elusive riches, around 22 percent said that they were 90% sure that they would solve the mystery. Of that group, 10% of the people expressed absolute certainty that they will locate Fenn's hidden loot, which sounds like something of a recipe for disappointment since, as far as we know, there's only one treasure out there to find.