3 Mind-Blowing Real-Life Scavenger Hunts

There Be Treasure Here

Updated 6/8/2020: The Forrest Fenn Treasure has been found! One of the greatest real-life scavenger hunts in history is over.

We first told you about Forrest Fenn in 2015 (find the original article below). He’s the guy who declared in 2010 that he had buried a chest of loot worth more than $1 million in the Rocky Mountains, and then published a poem with clues to its location. It took 10 years, but this past weekend Fenn announced that someone had found his treasure at last!

“I can confirm it’s been found,” Fenn told the Today Show on Sunday. “It was found by a man from back East, but he’s shy. He doesn’t want his name released.”

Fenn thanked the thousands upon thousands of people who have tried to find his treasure over the years, though he has mixed feelings about the end of this journey.

“I feel halfway kind of glad, halfway kind of sad,” he said, “because the chase is over.”

The original article from 4/21/2015 continues below:

We love scavenger hunts. They’re what we do.

Sometimes they’re what other people do, too. But in the case of these three real-life scavenger hunts, rich men or mysterious organizations capture the world’s imagination and lead avid hunters on years-long quests for buried treasure or unknown rewards. Check out these wild, unbelievable hunts that have actually happened—and are still happening today.

1. The Fenn Treasure

When he was diagnosed with cancer in 1988, millionaire art collector Forrest Fenn decided he would bury a treasure chest before he died. He survived the cancer, but in 2010 Fenn went ahead and buried his treasure anyway.

Thought to contain $1 million to $3 million in assorted jewels, coins, and more, the bronze chest is supposedly buried somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. After he hid his booty, Fenn released a riddle full of clues. It begins like this:

As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.

Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk,
Put in below the home of Brown.

Since 2010, Fenn has released more clues, including one as recently as January 2015, and a partial treasure map inside his 2013 autobiography. To this day, not a soul has found the treasure chest, though many have hunted for it—and gone so far as to stalk Fenn himself!

2. La Chouette d’Or: The Golden Owl

In April 1993, a Frenchman going by the name Max Valentin claimed to have buried La Chouette d’Or, the golden owl, in a secret location. The owl statue (actually made of bronze) could be found only with the help of 11 clues Valentin and a sculptor named Michel Becker released at that time. If recovered, the owl could be traded in for a fabulously valuable prize.

Despite valiant efforts—one person apparently bombed a chapel thinking the owl might be hidden beneath it—the owl has never been found. Valentin claimed one attempt came awfully close, as he reported finding evidence that someone had dug up the ground near the owl’s hiding place. Valentin died in 2009, but the mystery lives on.

3. Cicada 3301

A shadowy organization releases three mysterious code-filled scavenger hunts on the Internet to recruit highly intelligent individuals. It might sound like the wind-up for a Hollywood cyber-thriller, but truth once again proves stranger than fiction.

Cicada 3301 published its first test on January 5, 2012, then two more on January 5 in 2013 and 2014. Accompanied by a creepy cicada image and a cryptic introduction, each hunt, according to CBS News, “involved online images, cryptography, number theory, physical clues, phone calls, QR codes, and websites on the ‘darknet.’”

The purpose and outcome of Cicada’s three hunts remain unknown to this day (at least that’s what “they” what you to think), but the puzzles have captured the imagination of many—including the folks behind the CBS show Person of Interest, which featured a scavenger hunt inspired by Cicada’s work.

Image credit: Lead photo by Justin Wang on Unsplash