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Methods to solve The Chase
06-09-2018, 09:32 PM, (This post was last modified: 06-09-2018, 09:33 PM by nkown.)
Methods to solve The Chase
This is a long post intended to posit a solution method to find the Fenn treasure. I should say, Methods, as there are likely many that need to be woven together in order to unambiguously ‘solve’ the puzzle Mr. Fenn (and likely others! [I’ll get to that below]) have created. A number of seemingly opposing methods are explored on these boards but I haven’t seen anyone blend them together. This will be a not-rigorous overview at best -- there has been a ton written -- and does not include everything I think I’ve found. It’s meant as an idea-set of how someone will eventually find the treasure.

Fenn said that whoever finds the chest will have earned it. That suggests to me a level of complexity, that while straightforward, is not likely to be stumbled upon.

The Nature of Puzzles

It is instructive to look at a number of other treasure hunts and how they were solved in order to wrap our heads around how any human, not just Fenn, thinks about creating a treasure hunt. Here are a few famous ones, but there are many others:

• Masquerade -- a quintessential armchair treasure hunt. Look at this solution:

• The Secret by Byron Priess -- This solution may or may not be right, but illustrates the point I will make

• The Merlin Mystery --

In each of these, and many others throughout the ages, a blending of methods coexist in order to come together to convey hidden but embedded information. At the end of the Fenn treasure hunt we must be left with a precise enough solution that one can confidently go to a spot within the Rocky Mountains -- a giant landscape -- and find the secreted treasure which is physically tiny. Therefore, my first assumption is the Mr. Fenn spent a great deal of time creating this puzzle, just as he says he did. Why would a seemingly simple poem take over a decade to write? Because there is precise information that needs to be embedded, but done so such that thousands of people are likely to completely overlook it.

Ok… so these examples above are all obviously puzzles and here’s the key thing -- they TOLD THE READER UPFRONT that they were puzzle books. Fenn calls TTOTC and the subsequent two books “Memoirs”. Are they? No… I don’t believe they are. The entirety of what Fenn has created is a puzzle of a grand scale. He says he always viewed art -- visual art and sculpture -- as business and not aesthetics. But, he loves the art of language and he’s clearly having a ball watching the hunt unfold. Other writers have simply put out the books and left it go. Mr. Fenn, I believe, had a bigger plan to help it unfold and enjoys engaging in the process.

Nonetheless, what methods has Fenn used within the entirety of his body of works (3 books, interviews, videos, nearly 200 online scrapbooks, weekly questions, posts and comments on blogs, and more)? Here are a few:

Errors / Facts that are wrong:

It is exceptionally clear to me that the 85/15 rule of non-fiction has been pointed out by Fenn early in the TTOTC to let us know that this is certainly a constructed puzzle and in no way his actual memoir (which I believe is in fine print within the TC olive jar). Do some of the stories have a basis in reality? For sure. There is enough of his life in these stories to be accurate to time and place and ideas. But do I think he ever went to Borders book store or that Skippy stranded a plane or made a helicopter? No. At every step along the way the TTOTC has intentional errors and outright fabrications.

The whole body of work is intended as a puzzle.

Yes that means I believe that the SB’s, website from Dal, three books, videos, Q&A’s, and more are all equally viable sources of solutions and methods. I recognize that this puts me at odds with ‘poem purists’ but ask yourself -- would you spend thousands of hours producing more material that was meaningless, or worse a series of red-herrings, to the puzzle… or would it be more interesting to build the solutions and methods over a long period of time (see: SB numbering system below… had to be planned well in advance).

If you are new to the Chase do this… take any statement of fact in TTOTC, the online scrapbooks, the Q&A’s, etc. and check to see if it’s accurate, no matter how benign. As an example nearly every single chapter has easily verified mistakes that have been well documented by the blogs. A few:
Important Literature synopsis of books is wrong, Redford did write a book, quoted aphorism is incorrect and more
Postmarks have incorrect day of week throughout vs. date
Evett’s poem on page 75 is actually Nancy Bird Turner and words have been changed
Omar Khayyam’s poem on page 101 is re-ordered, partial sections of the original. Why change the order of the numbered stanzas?
That’s not the right math for making a horseshoe
Many, many more, a few of which are so subtle (Gardiner’s Island vs. Gardiners Island) that I read over them a dozen times without even recognizing it was something to be checked.

Similarly, the Scrapbooks are littered with more obvious mistakes:
Solstice is wrong date
Misspelled words
Price of art easily verified as incorrect
Fly Fishing errors -- sacrilege!
Literally dozens more...

Mistakes are not errors, and errors are not mistakes. These are the red flags that could be part of the puzzle and must be reconciled into an overall method of solve.

Word / Letter Count

Many armchair hunts utilize some form of this. Frankly, it’s not something I did manually… I used various computer programs to parse the poem and parts of the book and came up empty. And that’s probably because Fenn’s methods were actually both more simple and more subtle -- and required human contextual understanding to be revealed.

Yes, I’m a speaking of OH!’s 109 / 43 posts. I do not believe that all of them are internally valid (he data fits from time to time) but enough are that it seems clear that Fenn is pointing us to those numbers.

Let’s set aside OH!’s further conclusion that they are the start of GPS coordinates for now and just hold the thought that perhaps the word / letter count is a part of the overall solution.

Word Games, Type 1 -- Anagrams, Homonyms, Synonyms:

a) Fenn points out that sometimes a butterfly is a flutterby. (Anagram)

b) He also says that sometimes there is a write way to do something. (Homonym)

c) Using the wrong word altogether in a sentence that seems to make sense.

Throughout his writings Fenn plays with words. In the beginning of TTOTC he lets us know that he “tends to use some words that aren’t in the dictionary, and others that are, I bend a little.” Just after, he mentions a twelve year old seeing a little of themselves in a mirror (more on that later).

A huge number of searchers have parsed the poem using parts of speech, Anagrams and Homonyms. See: Deepthinkr and Rah as the two proponents that I like best.

Since Fenn himself mentions wordplay a great deal this seems another valid method to me that needs to be incorporated. I won’t go through the hundreds of possibilities that have been outlined by others.

Word Games, Type 2 -- aka Fennspeak

Fennspeak is the name that some in the Chase have given to his way of saying things that are intentionally misleading or ambiguous, but could mean something else entirely.

This is the Eats, Shoots & Leaves punctuation method and one that I’m a fan of for the Scrapbooks, Q&A questions, and interviews. I believe these hint at ‘how’ to do things or ‘where, generally’ the treasure may be.

One of my personal favorite examples is one that I haven’t seen written up anywhere, from SB172:

“I wonder if the owners of my home a hundred years from now will appreciate the dichotomy that stands just off the east end of my portal -- f”

Is he talking about his current house where he lives? Or his grave? Punctuation might help clear this up but it has been left intentionally vague.

Again, there are dozens of such examples catalogued. Four of my favorite subtle ones:
Not near a human trail
That if followed precisely…
General solve… he even puts “General” in quotes.
Discharged the explosives… discharged in the military sense?
Maybe a hundred more….

Word Games Type 3 -- Redaction, merging, revealing words

Many searchers have worked on the poem by finding words within words… Listen becomes “L is Ten”. Quest to Cease becomes Quest two C’s.

There are a lot of hidden words within the poem when you explore this method, especially if you are willing to take liberties with spelling (Knowledge vs. Knowlege) as Fenn does. A lot of the theories are interesting, but none have been applied in a way that is consistent and repeatable. Perhaps that’s why the poem requires more hints and clues… perhaps the puzzle is too vague to be solved because the word-play is too imaginative.

In many other armchair puzzles the ‘output’ of the clues or cipher is a combination of words, letters, and numbers that makes sense only when taken together. This could be the case with the poem, and if so it will definitely require more methods of confirmation.



I believe there is evidence for the use of opposites within the Chase puzzle. I have a few examples but the most striking one to me is the one most misquoted in the entire chase: 8.25 Miles north of Sante Fe.

Use the internet archive to look up the original quote on the MountainWalk blog and you’ll see that it was written by Forrwst Fenn. Here, in my opinion, we have two methods in one mini-puzzle: error as a flag, opposite as a pointer. The letter ‘w’ has replaced the ‘e’ in his name. w=e. Perhaps then that n=s?

So I’m I saying that the TC is 8.25 miles south of Sante Fe? Yes I am. I can hear you all groan -- but that’s not the Rocky Mountains.

Third level -- he never said New Mexico. Combine this with the Toledo quote and use an opposite… and perhaps you will find the Toledo mine west of the same Sante Fe, which is 8.25 north of a great spot.

Fenn also mentions mirrors a number of times, both in his books and the SB’s (picture of him in the mirror, picture of mirrors in his bathroom, etc) which reverse images. Again, an opposite.

Could opposites play a role in the final solve as well? I think so. Could quickly down be quickly up? Perhaps. Could images need to be reversed as in my original examples of other puzzles… most probably.

Number Systems

Numbers are all over the chase and hard to prove as a method. But one fact makes me believe that they are important: The SB’s are numbered with both integers and decimals. That always struck me as very intentional.

At first I thought they might be runway numbers or radio frequencies for flight navigation. But then I put the non-integer numbered SB’s into a spreadsheet and plotted them. Sure enough, they form a visual pattern that is unambiguous. I don’t want to do all of the work for those who are unambitious and not willing to grind it out, but I’ll suggest that it will be worth your efforts.

Numbers pop-up elsewhere:

• bingo cards

• money

• serial numbers

• time

• many more references

Irreverence Suggestion -- Don’t follow instructions

This concept is a bit more vague but throughout his writings Fenn displays an irreverence for authority, the government, rules, and regulations. In his real life he did as well. It’s worth considering that some of the statements that Fenn makes as prohibitions are meant to weed out those searchers who are not willing to take risk and ignore the rules. You can be ethical and still be a rule-breaker. Fenn is, and I believe he wants the eventual puzzle-winner to be as well.

Many searchers hear “Don’t mess with the poem” and think “Ok, that means don’t change anything.” I read that in the context of what he has written and I want to send the teachers to get coffee so I can let the kids touch the art (you have to have read TTOTC to understand that one). DO NOT TOUCH are the only red letters in the book… and then he lets the kids touch the cold bronze. NB: perhaps that what he means by ‘worth the cold’.

Similarly, the long statement that “Knowing about head pressures, foot pounds, acre feet, bible verses, Latin, cubic inches, icons, fonts, charts, graphs, formulas, curved lines, magnetic variation, codes, depth meters, riddles, drones or ciphers, will not assist anyone to the treasure location, although those things have been offered as positive solutions,” tells me that those are all things I probably should be exploring.

Pictures / Drawings / Photos

Fenn includes paintings, illustrations, stick figure drawings, and photographs throughout the chase. It would be extremely unlikely to me that these would not play a role in the overall puzzle.

I’ve seen theories of mirrored images, folded images, hidden images, see through images, etc. but I’ve never seen one that is completely compelling to me as certainly information. The image on page 33 in Spanish Toy Factory seems the most likely to eventually match up with a solve as the arch of the arm, leg, and pointing seem so deliberate. But this is very subtle.

In the scrapbooks there are many images that are photoshopped, while others are arranged just-so (his desk, drawers, bathroom, etc). These seem to me to be more direct hints within the sub-puzzles (see below) of the Chase. These indicate to me a distinct puzzle within the puzzle and are places I spend time trying to decipher the clues. Why? Because if someone takes the time to photoshop or arrange an image there is implied (or revealed) intent.


I have long believed that within the scrapbooks lie sub-puzzles that are discreetly solvable and provable as non-trivial. Like an algebraic problem, once you solve it you can ‘check your work’ just as you were always taught in school.

Several scrapbooks present puzzles that can been solved and checked. These, I believe, lead you to an area that may contain the treasure or to a method of confirmation that may be used in the larger puzzle. Obviously, I don’t know for sure. However, I am quite confident that Fenn has created several of these and that they can be solved without knowing anything else about the chase. It’s exciting to find them and solve them and at first I thought that I had solved the whole of the puzzle. Alas, they are a small part, and that’s why, I believe, Fenn created OUAW out of the SB posts… to emphasize their importance to the eventual puzzle solution.


Fenn references time and dates often… and also leaves the time he hid the treasure intentionally vague. 79 or 80. Therefore, the date he hid the treasure might be important, and in turn that could mean that placement of the sun, moon, stars, shadows, etc might play a role.

The Autumnal Equinox is on September 22nd most years. There are 22 beads on the bracelet he’d like returned. There are 265 golden eagles in the TC… and the 265th day of the year is Sept. 22. There is an SB that mentions the Fall Solstice but pegs it in August (an error). Just one example of how time, in addition to place, might reveal a precise location.

Other Methods

There are two others methods that I’ve found that I have never seen mentioned in the blogs. I’m sure there are likely more. It would be fun to discuss what you’ve found in this topic that I’ve missed.


Things I think may be important but I have no real solution for:

• I’ve never seen a great solve for the postmarks. Independence days is a decent theory but it doesn’t get you much unless you tie it to the declaration of independence. I feel certain they will play a big role in the final solve.

• Other poems. There are actually quite a few poems in TTOTC and elsewhere throughout the puzzle. Some have errors, some do not. Some FF writes himself. It would make sense that these share similar traits or teach us a method of solve.

• Poe. He mentions Poe as an inspiration and of course Poe was a great puzzle maker and popularized the genre in the US long ago. Applying a Poe method, likely a variant, seems a good path but I have not found any robust linkage to the poem.

• Lists. There are a number of lists in the puzzle ranging from soda types to spices. Again, I’ve seen attempts at solving their usefulness but no real solves.

A Few Thoughts in General

• Fenn is well read and clever to disguise his intelligence as ‘folksy’. In TTOTC alone he quotes from a myriad of great writers, obscure poets, political science, aviation, and much more. Far from being ‘simple’ he’s broad and complex…. so is this puzzle or else it would have been solved by now. “Simplify” does not mean to be ‘easy’...

• Good puzzles present you with confirmations that you are on the right track. In addition to finding a ‘solve’ for an aspect of the puzzle, one should be able to find traces of confirmations that the puzzle-creator has intended. I believe I’ve found a few for the sub-puzzles, but not for the overall puzzle.

• Continuity is important. If the puzzle is not recursive in some way I’d be surprised. If it is not logical I’d be surprised.

• Metaphor alone will get you nowhere. Yes, it’s likely that once solved the ‘story’ of the poem will align with the journey of the search. But matching up WWWH or Canyon Down or HoB with random spots on a map that ‘sound’ good is not a puzzle… it’s just guessing. I’d say 98% of the posts I read online fall into that category and to me at least it’s easy to dismiss those as surface level thinking. However, the genius of the puzzle is likely that it works on that level as well, once complete.

What I Think But Don’t Know and Will Not Offer Proof Of

In no particular order and with no evidence I want to put some thoughts out there of what I actually think at this point:

• The TC is in Colorado

• Fenn flew that day to hide the chest. Skip ‘rental car’ records and look at tail numbers. He’s an aviator first and foremost. Weird if aviation does not play a role. There is a ‘write’ way to do something… Wright. Put in may be ‘to land’.

• The indulgence of FF is that his internment after he dies will be, well, entertained for eternity or until the USA is toast (mention of WWIII).

• The blaze is man-made and FF had a hand in its placement

• There is a trail named after an animal nearby

• The TC is hidden in ‘plain sight’ likely sepulchred (a word he used) within a bronze.

• The words “do not touch” likely appear nearby

• FF will be a mark that will indicate you are looking at the right spot.

• Wet because of physics = cool nights, sunny days → condensation

• Pinion is not a nut

• The keyword is Key… a word that is Key. And it’s a visual.

• His stick figures align with rough outlines of maps from overhead

• You can see the treasure from 12 feet but you wouldn’t know it’s the treasure.

• There are posts online made by FF that are not under his name but other clever names he makes up. These are important. One is amazing.

• FF had help in creating all of this. The evidence of that is, to me, overwhelming. But saying that two people can keep a secret if one is dead is a way of making sure that the focus stays squarely on him and others cannot mess up or be put upon. Yes, that means that I believe I have evidence in Dal’s posts that he knows more than he says. Esmerelda, Quasimodo, bell manufacturer name, and lyrics to a poem (stated as I intended) are all comments he’s made on his site that provide confirmations to puzzles.

Personally I think that several people are near the ideas of how to finish this off but that no one, including me, has put it all together. I’m extremely confident that it will be found near where I have searched and that it is actually critical to FF that this concludes before he dies, for his death will provide too much of a clue to the whereabouts of the TC.

I’ve tried at times to bring in some really smart people to aid me with these puzzles but the issue is that it’s a labyrinth of overlayed hints, clues, and sub-puzzles. You can’t begin the chase and do meaningful work quickly. One, instead, must actually read the books, understand his life and the war he fought, know his part of the West, and dabble in a number of similar fields before you can weave it all together. Ultimately, it may take a number of searchers who trust each other to actually make it to the end.

Finally, I believe the Title to the Gold is just that… and a bit more.

I believe the chest with all that gold is just a lure… but the treasure is what FF gives the finder beyond that. That’s how he knows it hasn’t been found… because the millions in gold is the fly, we are all the fish, and no one will turn down the actual offer.
06-09-2018, 10:11 PM,
RE: Methods to solve The Chase
Very thorough and well thought out.
06-09-2018, 11:18 PM,
RE: Methods to solve The Chase
This^. In our talks you mentioned plotting the SB's and what it revealed. I haven't taken the time to explore yet but pm me, if you will, how you plotted. You put succinctly what I have tried to explain and you did it well. I'd only add that there be more emphasis on the illustrated portion of puzzle. Something I'm not sure I've posted before but a what if that I've contemplated on the back burner is a time release puzzle. That the important hints are given out in intervals in such a manner that he will know the earliest it could be solved cause the lynchpin of the puzzle will be needed. He WILL release the lynchpin when planned as planned. My guess, with nothing but intuitive assumption and two comments he made, is that it comes after he passes. I hope I'm wrong cause I want to meet him. He's alot like my grandfather from what I can tell and we're from the same background, area of country and military. Poe, Carrol or both, a theme 100% for sure, lists, military and confirmation points. Roger over and out.
06-10-2018, 12:50 AM, (This post was last modified: 06-10-2018, 12:51 AM by Bet.)
RE: Methods to solve The Chase
Very nice summary of many different ways to solve the poem. One of the best posts I have seen on any of the blogs. Thanks for sharing.
06-10-2018, 05:33 AM,
RE: Methods to solve The Chase
Oh ho you named the word that I think is key also but just found it. I have to go now but my focus has been so intense that I was losing site of the goal and that is to know what I'm looking at, map it all while knot going crazy. If a fight breaks out over how to wrestle the truth from the poem, let it go, there are people paid to do that. Look closely and you will start to see the "landscape" of the map. Trust in a maverick and question the smallest of truths, there lies .. wait what was the question?
06-10-2018, 08:42 AM,
RE: Methods to solve The Chase
Very good write up, nkown. Thanks for sharing and I think many things you pointed out will be right on track. Happy trails...
-.-..The keeper of the key
06-10-2018, 10:34 AM,
RE: Methods to solve The Chase
nkown -
Did you steal my notes? (Nope they're still here.) Maybe at least half of your ideas I can agree with and have confirmed them on the ground.

Fenn put over 15 years of time and effort into working out the poem with it's clues. But people will be more amazed when they find out all the effort he put into all the hints he has given us in his book and other sources.
"Sometimes treasures are not gold, sometimes riches are not gold, sometimes a trove is not gold, and sometimes even gold is not gold."
06-10-2018, 10:57 AM,
RE: Methods to solve The Chase
Very good insight. It took me a bit to read through it all but I like the effort and perhaps these ideas may help with deciphering the winning solve.
06-10-2018, 11:15 AM,
RE: Methods to solve The Chase
I agree with about 85% of all of this and believe that you likely need some combination of all of these strategies, which is likely why this puzzle is impossible since the variables simply become too many coupled with the execution and logistics of finding something that small in an area that big. I'd also add that there are a lot of real facts that may adjust your approach. For example, he likely hid the TC in July 2010. He did not have his pilot's license at that time or his own plane.

There are other logical deductions that can be made to help outline the parameters of the game. For example, the start (WWWH) can be found with a basic solve and then several others have started at the same spot but with knowledge of how that spot connects to the overall poem. So there's some broader poem connection that you need to understand (not saying that I have any idea what that may be). Also, at the very least, the first two clues can be found from home. That means the remaining 7ish or so clues likely need to be solved using one of the methods above and then executed on the ground - so no word association-type solves for those latter clues. There are other ones as well that help outline the Chase.

You also have to account for the likely realties outside of all of this in that FF's computer has to have been hacked by now or that the regular website analytics make it easy to identify who FF is on these blogs, what he searches, what he reads, how long he spends on a particular post, etc. That means the TC may have already been located via those means or that all of that information is worthless - making this even more impossible than it already happens to be.
06-11-2018, 02:39 AM,
RE: Methods to solve The Chase
Or there is a mechanism which unravels the poem and some have only figured out part of it. As far as what he has ever said or written, remember the message may be false and that the hint lies within the words. Just my "open eye on" (opinion).

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