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New Article About the Chase in The Detroit News

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  • New Article About the Chase in The Detroit News

    A fairly detailed article, but nothing particularly new. The only thing that caught my eye was when the reporter described the moment that Jack found the chest:

    "At one tree, Stuef noticed something protruding from the ground. . ."

    Jack did not comment for this story, so it may just be sloppy reporting. After all, the title of the article refers to "buried treasure."

    Original Source (Subscription Required)

    Alternate Source (WARNING: Access is free, but this website contains pop-ups and other nuisances. Use at your own risk)

    Article Text (I'll embed some of the images. Links to the remaining images and videos are provided and appear to be safe)

    Michigan man found buried treasure. Lawsuits, harassment then found him

    When Jack Stuef found a chest of gold and jewels in a Wyoming forest last year, he felt giddy. And it wasn’t just because he was suddenly a millionaire.

    Thousands of people participated in the treasure hunt for a decade. Stuef, 33, a Hazel Park native who flamed out of journalism and was struggling in medical school, outsmarted them all. The proof lay at his feet.

    The boost of confidence was so sweet he laughed one moment and cried the next.

    Alas, the good feelings didn’t last.

    Two days after the June 6, 2020, discovery, Stuef was named in the first of four lawsuits in federal court in New Mexico. The latest was filed last month.

    Searchers said in the legal pleadings that it was all a hoax, that Stuef never discovered the treasure or, if he did, he did so with the help of the person who hid it.

    Meanwhile, online sleuths are combing through the smallest details of his life, discovering and publicizing past peccadillos. Some naysayers are harassing his family.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	8a092ca3-e404-49a0-b382-eace6545318a-Stuef_and_Fenn.jpg Views:	4 Size:	198.7 KB ID:	341215
    [Image Caption] Jack Stuef, left, meets with Forrest Fenn after finding treasure Fenn buried in Wyoming. [Image Credit: Twitter]

    “Jack Stuef – Fraud?” was the topic of a treasure search blog.

    Stuef understood people’s disappointment over not finding the trove but said the accusations weren’t fair.

    “When they sue me, they cross a line,” he wrote on Medium, an online publishing platform. “Many bizarre, false, baseless and defamatory allegations have been made against me.”

    Stuef declined to comment for this story.

    His experience echoed what happened to Forrest Fenn, the man who hid the gold. During the search, people threatened Fenn's life, dug in his backyard, broke into his guesthouse and stalked his granddaughter, according to published reports.

    With the hunt over, the focus shifted from Fenn to Stuef. The question was whether he found a treasure chest or a Pandora’s box.

    Poem gives clues to hidden treasure
    [Image Caption] A map with the poem Forrest Fenn wrote in his book, "The Thrill of the Chase," that set off a decade-long hunt by thousands of searchers for a hidden treasure in the Rocky Mountains valued at between $500,000 and $1.3 million, or more. [Image Credit:]

    Fenn was a rakish art dealer from New Mexico who self-published his memoir in 2010. He wanted people to read “The Thrill of the Chase,” so it included a poem that gave clues to a hidden treasure.

    The clues were obtuse. Among them: “where warm waters halt,” “below the home of Brown” and “take it in the canyon down.” It didn’t help that the search area was so big — the Rocky Mountains from New Mexico to Montana.

    But people were undeterred. Armed with the rhyming treasure map in trochaic octameter, they joined the gold rush. They quit their jobs, drained their savings and ended their marriages, searchers said.

    [Banner] When Jack Stuef of Hazel Park discovered a treasure chest worth possibly several million dollars, he may have found more than he bargained for. [End Banner]

    They trespassed on private property, dug up graves and rappelled into canyons, according to published reports. Some were retrieved by search-and-rescue teams only to return to the same spots to be rescued again.

    Five people died. One fell off a 500-foot cliff, another suffered hypothermia after stranding his snowmobile, and three drowned while trying to cross rivers in flimsy rafts or by tying a rope to a rock, according to news accounts.

    Doug Melching, who owns a demolition company in Norton Shores, spent $100,000 during his eight-year search for the stash.

    “I couldn’t wait to go,” he told The Detroit News. “It gave you something to aspire to. You could be in the wilds of the country. I always liked that type of stuff.”

    Melching, 68, lost track of the number of trips after 35. Three times he paid for a helicopter to drop him onto a mountain top, where he slept overnight.

    From journalism to medical school

    Stuef learned about the treasure hunt from Twitter in 2018. He was quickly hooked.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	cdf8859c-3305-4cde-890e-86c5dd30c6f9-jack.jpg?crop=815,1003,x0,y0.jpg Views:	3 Size:	175.0 KB ID:	341216
    [Image Caption] Jack Stuef signs a copy of a map that gave the search area for the treasure buried by Forrest Fenn a decade ago. The search area was the Rocky Mountains from New Mexico to Montana. Stuef said he found the treasure in a pine forest in Wyoming. [Image Credit: Dan Hedblom]

    He grew up in Hazel Park, where both parents were teachers. After graduating from Georgetown University in 2010, he stuck his toe in journalism — and nearly had it bitten off.

    He left an online magazine, Wonkette, in 2011 after writing a joke about one of Sarah Palin’s children having Down syndrome, according to news stories. The next year, he wrote a freelance story for Buzzfeed that wrongly described a popular internet cartoonist as a hard-line Republican.

    Looking for a new career, he enrolled in the Temple University School of Medicine but was overwhelmed by the amount of information students had to retain, he told a treasure search blog. He had to relearn the same material over and over again.

    For someone who had been insecure most of his life, the rounds in hospital wards were excruciating as doctors quizzed him and other students about their knowledge, he told the Mysterious Writings blog.

    “(It) really played poorly into my anxieties,” Stuef said. “Med school destroyed my self-confidence.”

    The only reason he continued studying to be a doctor was so he could pay his student loans, he told the blog.

    Puzzle maker or writer?

    To figure out the puzzle, Stuef first needed to understand the puzzle maker. And he quickly determined Fenn was no puzzle maker at all.,983,x 11,y0
    [Image Caption] Forrest Fenn, an art dealer, is shown at his home in New Mexico with some of the treasure he hid 10 years ago. The photo was released by Jack Stuef after Stuef found the treasure. [Image Credit: Jack Stuef]

    Other searchers said they scoured the poem for codes, riddles, anagrams, Latin roots, GPS coordinates hidden in words, believing they bore secret directions to the treasure. They saw Fenn as a mathematician, programmer or cryptographer.

    But Fenn didn’t strike Stuef as any of those things, he said on Medium. After reading the memoir, he believed Fenn was just a writer who wanted to be read.

    Indeed, others said they believed the whole reason Fenn hid the treasure was to draw attention to himself. His book gave out his phone number. He relished being interviewed by the press. He wrote not one but three memoirs. Some found him vainglorious.

    “It was all a game he was playing,” said Terry Coombs, 61, a California searcher who sued Fenn and Stuef last month. “He just wanted something to carry on his legacy.”

    Fenn told reporters he conceived of the treasure hunt after learning he was dying from cancer. He planned to bring the treasure to a secret place and kill himself there. He would publish the poem ahead of time, leading searchers to his bounty and body.

    But Fenn said he miraculously recovered. He changed his mind about suicide but not about hiding the treasure.

    (continued on next post)
    Last edited by Vertigo; 09-24-2021, 03:44 PM.

  • #2
    Where did Fenn want to die?

    Instead of searching the poem for ciphers, Stuef read it as a straightforward account of Fenn’s life. His task was using the poem to find the place that was so important to Fenn that he wanted to die there.

    He read all of Fenn’s books and every interview he had ever given, Stuef told Mysterious Writings. He learned where Fenn spent time in the Rockies and tried to match those locations to the vague references in the poem.

    Click image for larger version

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    [Image Caption] A treasure worth between $500,000 and $1.3 million, or more, was hidden by Forrest Fenn, left, an art dealer from New Mexico who used the lure of the treasure to draw attention to himself and his memoir. Here, he is standing with treasure hunter Dan Hedblom at a bookstore in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The treasure was found by Michigan native Jack Stuef. [Image Credit: Dan Hedblom]

    After two months, Stuef settled on what seemed the right spot: a swath of land the size of a football field in the middle of a Wyoming pine forest.

    He returned to the spot 25 times over the next two years, he said on Medium. He eventually got a GPS device to ensure he covered every square foot of the dense foliage. But he still couldn’t find the treasure.

    On some days, sweaty, exhausted, out of water, covered with scratches, mosquito bites and pine sap, Stuef said he wept in frustration. He worried about being haunted the rest of his life, convinced he was in the right spot but unable to prove it.

    “Would I still be out there in that section of the forest 50 years from now looking for it?” he wrote.

    At one tree, Stuef noticed something protruding from the ground, covered by dirt and pine needles. He brushed the debris away to see a square object that was placed in a nook. He found his treasure.

    A feeling of profound relief washed over him.

    Anger in the (search) community

    The frenzy surrounding the treasure didn’t subside with its discovery. It may have turned up a notch.

    Fenn and Stuef declined to say exactly where the cache was found. They didn’t want the site trampled by a horde of people looking for valuables that may have spilled from the chest when it was placed in and taken from the forest, Stuef said on Medium.

    Stuef may have had a second reason. A searcher whose username was thecondor2 wrote on Reddit that the location of the treasure could cause legal problems if it was federal land, like a national park.

    Thecondor2 also said anyone who had searched near the site might file a lawsuit, claiming their information was stolen or that they solved the poem first by discovering the area before the finder.

    “The more I read (about the search), the more I think this is an absolute legal and tax s---show,” thecondor2 wrote in 2019. “Good luck to whoever finds it. You may find yourself living in court.”

    When Stuef and Fenn didn’t disclose the location, other searchers were livid. After spending so much time and money on the search, they yearned for closure.

    They also were suspicious.

    Some developed a theory that Fenn, 90, who died three months after the discovery, knew he was dying and didn’t want his family saddled with the negative aspects of the hunt. So Fenn randomly selected Stuef and pointed him in the right direction, according to the theory.

    Click image for larger version

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    [Image Caption] Toby Younis, a treasure searcher from New Mexico, shows the can of bear repellent he brought with him during a search along the Rio de los Pinos River in Colorado. [Image Credit: Toby Younis]

    “There’s a lot of anger in the (search) community,” said Toby Younis of New Mexico. “I didn’t know who (Stuef) was. Neither did anyone else.”

    Younis, 72, who co-ran a popular YouTube channel devoted to the hunt, made 34 trips during eight years of searching for the treasure.

    Stuef a proxy?

    Self-confidence always ran high during the treasure hunt, said searchers. Many were convinced they had figured out the poem.

    The confidence continued even after the hoard was found. Several of the lawsuits against Stuef seem to argue the gold wasn’t where they searched only because it was surreptitiously moved.

    “(It’s) nothing I can prove,” searcher Bruno Raphoz of France wrote in his legal pleading.

    In another lawsuit, Kyle Sandau of Washington said he tried to excavate the treasure from a New Mexico archeological Pueblo site once owned by Fenn. Such digging would have been illegal, said the New Mexico Office of Archeological Studies.

    Sandau, 48, who couldn’t be reached for comment, said in the lawsuit he would like to say nice things about Fenn and Stuef but that it would be used against him in the legal proceedings.

    “Therefore it’s best simply to be perhaps the worst that Plaintiffs can possibly be,” he wrote.

    The case was dismissed.,2192,x0,y384
    [Image Caption] Barb Andersen, a Chicago lawyer who sued Jack Stuef for allegedly stealing her solution to the treasure hunt, shows herself looking for the treasure in New Mexico. [Image Credit: Barb Andersen]

    Another searcher, Barb Andersen, 48, a real estate lawyer from Chicago, said in a lawsuit that Stuef stole her solution by hacking and stalking her.

    When contacted by The News, she backed off her claims. She said she now thinks Stuef is a proxy to give the Fenn family time to get their finances in order before they reveal the person who truly discovered the hiding spot — Barb Andersen.

    “I know it’s hard to believe,” she said. “The fact I filed a lawsuit shows I’m in the dark, right?”

    Andersen’s belief that the gold was hidden in New Mexico is based on a photo on a treasure blog, she said. It showed Fenn’s old fedora, which had a hole in the shape of what Andersen believed was New Mexico.

    She wound down her Chicago law practice, put her furnishings in storage, sold her condo and, in May, 11 months after the treasure was found, signed a one-year lease for an apartment in New Mexico.

    She and her search partner, a border collie named Cupcake, now just await the Fenn family’s revelation of who the real discoverer is.

    “I was villainized by goofy YouTube people who smeared my name,” Andersen said about online critics. “I’m sitting here waiting to be vindicated. They’re going to look like fools.”

    Anonymity erased by lawsuit

    After finding the treasure, Stuef remained anonymous.

    Unlike Fenn, who reveled in the attention he received, Stuef is shy, he wrote on Medium. He also worried the people who harassed Fenn might turn their attention to him.,542,x0,y0
    [Image Caption] Barb Andersen was always accompanied during her many trips to New Mexico to search for an elusive treasure with her border collie named Cupcake. [Image Credit: Barb Andersen]

    But Stuef was forced to identify himself last year while fighting Andersen’s lawsuit.

    He has since moved to a more secure building protected by guards, he wrote in December. He learned local laws and will call the police if he receives unwanted visitors. He said he has taken additional measures to protect himself but didn’t elaborate. He didn’t say where he lives.

    Stuef asked a treasure blog to remove personal information about him and his family, saying he’ll probably be looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life, said the blogger, Kristy Cowling.

    Of course, finding a treasure trove isn’t all bad.

    Based on Fenn’s description of its contents, which included gold coins and nuggets and a gold bracelet studded with diamonds, emeralds and rubies, a searcher who compared them with similar items sold elsewhere estimated their worth between $550,000 and $1.3 million, according to “Chasing the Thrill,” a book about the treasure hunt.

    Given its connection to the popular hunt, the treasure will likely fetch more money than that, surmised the book.

    Stuef, who plans to sell it all at auction, will use the money to pay off his student loans, he said on Medium. Free of the need to become a doctor, he plans to leave medical school.,849,x0,y0"
    [Image Caption] Dan Hedblom of Minnesota, one of thousands of searchers for a treasure hidden a decade ago by Forrest Fenn, took this selfie in the area he had been looking, Yellowstone National Park in Montana. [Image Credit: Dan Hedblom]

    “I’m optimistic that this experience will still be a positive chapter in my life,” he wrote in December.

    Searcher Dan Hedblom of Minnesota met Stuef in July.

    Hedblom wanted to raise money for charity by selling an elaborately framed map of the four-state search area that was signed by Fenn. Stuef also agreed to sign it and met Hedblom at a lounge at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

    Seeing Fenn’s signature, Stuef paused before signing, looked at Hedblom and said he needed a moment, Hedblom told The News.

    When Hedblom later asked Stuef how he was doing, he said 90% percent of the emails he receives are positive but some people are hateful, attacking him and bothering his family.

    The bad, he said, overshadows the good.

    “I hate that the chase turned into this,” Hedblom said. “It’s really ruined a lot of this for him.”
    Last edited by Vertigo; 09-24-2021, 03:43 PM.


    • #3

      Thank you for sharing all this. It appears to represent a lot of effort on your part.


      • #4
        Thank you Vertigo.