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If you can decipher the clues in this poem, you’ll find a treasure worth $2 million

The eccentric millionaire has been offered bribes and gotten death threats. Yet, he holds steadfast, as this remarkable treasure hunt stands as his legacy.

Forest Fenn led an adventurous life. So when it came time to secure his legacy, he devised a modern-day treasure hunt the likes of which are usually reserved for mavericks, outlaws, and pirates. The 80-something year-old millionaire buried a treasure chest somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, most likely between Wyoming and Colorado, although it could be anywhere from Montana to New Mexico. It’s filled with gold, jewels, and impressive artifacts, estimated to be worth about two million dollars.


The mystery’s progenitor has provided a poem full of clues for anyone who has the brains, the heart, and the gumption to search for it. Thousands have tried and two have died, as clues—which look simple on the surface, quickly grow maddeningly difficult to decipher. Fenn, now 87, was a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War. Afterward, he became an amateur archeologist, self-taught, and set up a shop selling artifacts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

"I love antiques, particularly American Indian," he told NPR. One of his most prized possessions that once graced his collection was Sitting Bull’s peace pipe. He even once purchased an entire pueblo. In the ‘90s Fenn fell into controversy over it. Other Southwestern archeologists, criticizing how he’d excavated the pueblo site, called him a plunderer. Fenn, a self-described treasure hunter, dismissed them, and the controversy died down.

After building a name and reputation, he began to sell artifacts to prominent politicians and movers and shakers in Hollywood. His list of clients included Gerald Ford, Jacqueline Kennedy, Cher, Steve Martin, and Steven Speilberg. He earned millions and had everything he ever wanted. But there are some things out of the reach of money. In 1988, tragedy struck when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Fenn planned to hall the treasure chest up into the mountains to have with him at his final resting place. Instead, he beat the cancer, then began contemplating his legacy.

He wrote his autobiography called, The Thrill of the Chase. It in, he extends to the reader an invitation to share his enjoyment of treasure hunting by proposing his own. In the book, he’s written a poem filled with clues that will lead to the 10-by-10-by-6 inch treasure chest. The ornate Romanesque box weighs about 40 lbs., and contains a gold frog 1,200-1,500 years-old, gold nuggets the size of hen’s eggs, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, pre-Columbian jewelry, an impressive jaguar’s claw, and a Ming jade carving, along with a copy of his book.

Read the poem here:

Credit: Twitter.

Interpretation is the problem. For instance, is "Where warm waters halt,” a hot spring or where two rivers converge? Other angles have been proposed as well. How about “home of Brown?” Is this a brown bear’s den? But brown is capitalized. Is it then, the home of someone named Brown? Other clues are even more confusing, like “no paddle up your creek,” or “If you’re wise and found the blaze…”

Blaze usually denotes a marker. But perhaps here, Fenn’s being metaphorical. He said in an interview with NPR that not enough people pay attention to the first clue. In other interviews, he’s said the first four clues have been cracked, and at least one person has been within a few hundred feet of the chest.  

Fenn says some 65,000 people have gone looking for the treasure. Thousands still today pour over clues Fenn’s given in blog postings and interviews over the years. They also share tips and theories in their own blogs, and on Facebook and Reddit pages.

Fenn has said that the treasure is the Rocky Mountains and 5,000 ft. above sea level, but below 10,200 ft. It’s thought to be in a wooded area full of pine trees somewhere off the beaten path. It isn’t in a mine or any human structure. It may be in a natural one, like a cave. But that could be anywhere along the Rockies. He’s also said it’s in a place that he at his advanced age, can still get to.

Credit: The Thrill of the Chase, Twitter.

Two men actually died searching for the treasure. Pastor Paris Wallace, age 52, of Grand Junction, Colo. lost his life last year in search of the gold, while 54 year-old Randy Bilyeu, of Broomfield, Colo., died the year before. For the former, Fenn actually rented a helicopter and went out looking for the man. As a result of these tragedies, New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas asked Fenn to call off his treasure hunt, but Fenn refused. Instead, the eccentric millionaire says people should go in the warmer months, when it isn’t muddy or treacherous. Take the necessary precautions while outdoors, too. But even the most seasoned outdoorsman can find the Rockies hazardous, which is why one should always go with a buddy.

Fenn gets hundreds of emails a day asking for clues. He won’t give out any, so don’t ask. He’s also received threats and been offered bribes. And he’s had to call 9-1-1 three times, for intruders poking around his property. One man got arrested in front of the octogenarian’s house for harassment. Some even say, the whole thing is a hoax. But those who know him say the treasure is legit. “Somebody could find it this summer, or it could be a thousand years,” Fenn said.

For most of Fenn's treasure hunters, it’s been a positive experience, something that’s got them giddy for adventure, a chance to unplug and be a part of treasure hunting history. It's also helped many to witness beautiful scenery they may have otherwise missed. And that’s what Fenn wanted to do all along, inspire people to trek out into the wilderness and come to appreciate it. “I’ve had so much fun over the last 75 years,” he told People, “looking for arrowheads and fossils and strange things out in the forests and along the river banks, why not give others the opportunity to do the same thing?”  

To learn more about Fenn’s treasure, click here:

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Maps show how CNN lost America to Fox News

Is this proof of a dramatic shift?

Strange Maps
  • Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
  • Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
  • A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses

Dramatic and misleading

Image: Reddit / SICResearch

The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.

Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.

The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.

Let's zoom in:

  • It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
  • By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
  • Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
  • In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
  • Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
  • By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.

"Frightening map"

Image source: Reddit / SICResearch

This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?

  • "The end is near."
  • "The idiocracy grows."
  • "(It's) like a spreading disease."
  • "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
For others, the maps are less about the rise of Fox News, and more about CNN's self-inflicted downward spiral:
  • "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
  • "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
  • "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
  • "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."

Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:

  • "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
  • "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
  • "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
  • "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."

"Old people learning to Google"

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)

But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:

  • "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
  • "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
  • "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
  • "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."

A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.

The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.

One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.

Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.

It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.

CNN, Fox and MSNBC

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison

For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):

  • Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
  • MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
  • CNN: 706,000 (-9%)

And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.

The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
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