Clues in “Once Upon a While?”


But we believe there are hints – a matching pair in the preface Preston wrote, no less.

Learn more in our next live stream: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 at 1pm MST at:

Join the conversation!

The Events of May 18 and November 2.

In our YouTube channel live stream this coming week we are going to opine on the events of May 18, 2017 and November 2, 2017 and how they have affected Fenn. The presentation will be followed by Q&A from the live chat, in which we will express more opinions.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 1pm MT

If you care to join the conversation, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel at If you don’t care to subscribe you can go to

If you miss it, the live stream will be posted to our YouTube channel within a few hours after the live stream.

There is no charge for either.

The End Has Drawn Nigh.

The following are my opinions.

I have, on more than one occasion, said and written that the event on May 18, 2017 caused a change in Fenn. He was already tired of the “activity” around the effort to find the treasure he hid. May 18, to me, was the straw that broke the burro’s back. Soon after that, Fenn made a conscious decision to put distance between him and the search. Effectively, he went quiet, to the extent that it became a topic of conversation in the community.

There was, of course, a production effort to get the new book out, but most of the work was performed by Jessica, Susan and Lou – with a little help from Preston. The book, perhaps providing the opportunity for Fenn to pay down some karmic debt. Not that he has much, mind you.

But, if there was any doubt about Fenn circling the proverbial wagons closer to him, the book signing at Collected Works in Santa Fe on November 2, 2017 should put those doubts to rest. Call it his swan song.

(We streamed it. You can see it here.)

Here’s what I observed: a man who has made another conscious decision to spend whatever remains of his life not worrying about whether his treasure he hid is found or not. He’s done. We will cover the topic more in our next week’s live stream on YouTube. Subscribe here.

He will, I believe, go quietly, bravely, confidently, securely, proudly, happily, and with a great sense of satisfaction, into the night.

And, I believe he’s entitled to every bit of it.

Godspeed, Forrest Fenn. Thank you.

How Fenn Answers Questions

There is much excitement about the Fenn Book Signing Event at the Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico on the evening of November 2, 2017. Can’t be there? No worries. We’ll be live streaming it to our YouTube channel (

There is an expectation that Fenn will be answering some of the hundreds, if not thousands, of questions that searchers have been posing and posting on the various forums, like this one:

“How do you know that the poem can be correctly understood by someone other than yourself? Everyone who reads the poem has their own interpretation of what it means. So how do you know that someone will eventually interpret it in exactly the way that you intended? If you have never revealed the clues and their meaning to anyone else, no one has ever verified that they can be understood in the way you intended. And, it’s possible that no one will ever unlock the precise interpretation of the poem that you imagined. You say that the poem is ‘difficult but not impossible’ which means that you think it is solvable – but what makes you think that it is solvable? How do you know that the clues can be deciphered by other people in the precise way that you intended?”

I’m happy that I’ll be in the audience, with a camera pointed in Fenn’s direction, to capture the look on his face if or when he gets this one.

Which, by the way, will not elicit the answer (or four, as there are four different questions in the paragraph above) the searcher expects.

Fenn will likely respond with something like, “Everything you need to know to find the treasure is in the poem.” I categorize that one as one of his “pat answers.”

So, let’s talk about how Fenn answers questions. Because, he answers questions based on how they are asked. He does nearly the same thing for interviews with journalists or questions from searchers in an audience.

There are four basic types of Fenn responses:

  • The “pat” answer. Fenn responds in this way when he perceives that the question has been asked and answered many times before, i.e., “How old were you when you buried the treasure?” Fenn has answered that question enough times to have developed a pat answer that includes “…I never said I buried it,” and “…don’t go where an 80 year old man couldn’t go.”
  • The misdirection answer. Fenn responds in this way when he perceives that the answer to the question may provide the audience (of one or more) additional hints or clues to the location of the treasure. He may or may not precede the response with something like, “I don’t want to answer that question…” and then move on to what I call “misdirection territory.”
  • The “Yes” or “No” answer. Fenn especially likes questions he can respond to with a simple yes, or no (exclusive of, again, giving out hints or clues). But, it is rare that he doesn’t expand on the yes or no to provide additional information. Unless he doesn’t particularly like you.
  • The avoidance answer. You can tell when Fenn doesn’t like the question when he responds to the question with a question. Which, technically is a form of misdirection. His question is designed to do one of two things – shut you up, or move on.


As a former journalist and documentary maker, when editorializing, I always ask questions that begin with one or more of the words how, who, where, when, what. I avoid using why unless it’s a hostile interview. I also avoid compound questions, i.e., “What were the conditions on the ground, and when did you realize you were in trouble?”

Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t apply to a Fenn post-book-signing Q&A.

If I was at the event, and I was going to ask questions, they would be short, non-compound, and elicit a “yes” or “no” response, upon which Fenn will provide additional information – if he likes you. If he doesn’t like you – you’re screwed anyway. That is a tactic very different from the one I would use were I a journalist with the opportunity to interview Fenn.

You’re more likely to get a useful response to “Does the sun ever shine directly on the treasure chest you hid?”

You are less likely to get a useful response to the a question like the one I cited above.



Photo Gallery | 2017 Pilar Recon | A Gypsy’s Kiss | The Hunt for Fenn’s Treasure | Shelley Carney & Toby Younis

The Intelligence Process – As Applied to the Search for Fenn’s Treasure

A Beautiful Mind

I spent five years in the United States Army from 1969 to 1974. Two of those years were spent in Viet Nam assigned to a firebase near the (then) town of Ca Mau, but I traveled all over the Mekong Delta in IV Corps. I volunteered for, and was assigned, to the U. S. Army Security Agency (ASA), a branch of the National Security Agency (NSA), and I held a Top Secret Crypto clearance. My primary Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was 98C – Traffic Analyst. I say primary, because I went through far more training in other courses and schools before going overseas. The traffic I analyzed and acted upon had nothing to do with cars or trucks. I wrote that so you know I have a good sense of what I’m about to suggest to you.

Intelligence is a process. It includes targeting, collecting, collating, analyzing, formulating, reporting, planning and action.

The most often heard phrase in that community is “actionable intelligence.” That means “intelligence in which the confidence in its accuracy is so high, that you’re willing to put American lives at risk.”

As an analyst, that concept significantly affects the way you work.

It means that you put each one of the above steps in context. But, eventually, there comes a point in the process where you have to decide whether or not you have to present your findings, conclusions and recommendations to the people who make decisions.

I have lost sleep over those matters. In times when expediency counted, I spent hours worth of self-reflection and in discussions with other analysts on whether to present my work. Being wrong, or not presenting a well-thought-out case, is not something you want to do. At best, it costs credibility. At worst, it costs lives.

But, this is just a treasure hunt, isn’t it? No lives at risk. No big price to be paid for a mistake in analysis and judgement.

So, what’s my point?

As a result of our vlog, we have received “intelligence” on where we should consider conducting searches for the treasure. Nothing really firm, mind you – mostly strings of random ideas and attempts to weave them together into coherency. Certainly, in my opinion, not actionable.

That’s my point.

We look at every one of our solutions we devise from the perspective of “would it pass the actionable intelligence” test? Could I present this solution to a group of people who have my best interest at heart, and expect them to, not only agree with my assessment, but, then, to take action on it?

Next time you find yourself in the midst of a “Beautiful Mind” attempt at determining where and how to finds Fenn’s treasure, stop.

Ask yourself, “Is this good enough to present it to a group of people whose decisions based on my analysis will put lives at risk?”

I know. There are no American lives at risk. It’s just a treasure hunt.

But, here’s a fun way to look at it: let’s say the treasure is a small nuclear device, and your job is to find it, and disarm it before it blows up part of the Rocky Mountains. How good would your solution to the nine clues be then?

New Poll: How Does Fenn Know the Treasure Chest is Still There?

I often ask myself how Fenn can say the treasure chest has not been discovered with such confidence. I’ve come up with a number of theories, some of which seem plausable, while other do not.

Here’s your chance to weigh in on the matter. Chose one from the selection on the list.

You will be shown the poll results after you vote.

The poll will be up for one month.