As Buried As The Treasure
2020 Darwin Award Winner
Confirmed True by Darwin
GUEST WRITER: James G. Petropoulos
(17 March 2020, Colorado) Michael Sexson, 58,
read of a buried treasure in a book authored by an eccentric and
controversial art dealer named Forrest Fenn. In The Thrill of the
Chase, Fenn claims that he himself buried two million dollars
worth of gold coins and other artifacts somewhere out in the Rocky
Mountains, and gives “clues” throughout the book, hinting at its secret
location in nine poetry verses.
Temptation was great for Michael. Although 350,000 others had gone looking
for the buried box, no one is known to have found it; worse, four men died
in the effort. Unlike the rest of them, however, Michael KNEW where the
treasure was buried, based on his interpretation of the “clues” in the
book…so he talked a 65-year-old acquaintance into joining him on a
treasure hunt, and their quest for quick riches began.
In February of 2020, they headed to Dinosaur National Monument on the
Colorado-Utah border. Michael was so certain he knew where the treasure was
that neither he nor his colleague prepared for an overnight stay in the
mountains, no doubt assuming that if they started early enough they would
be home by sunset, two million dollars richer.
Well, Michael was wrong. They found no treasure, and they lost their
bearings. Cold, hungry, and disoriented, the future looked grim for Michael
and his friend. Shivering and close to death, they were fortunately found
just in time by a search and rescue team who brought ’em down the mountain.
One would think that having survived such an experience, Michael would have
learned better…but he did not. One month later, having sufficiently
recovered, he set out for a second try!! Once more he sweet-talked
the 65-year old colleague into joining him because, treasure! THIS time
they would find it.
The unfolding COVID-19 epidemic had prompted intermittent closures of
Dinosaur National Monument, and hikers were cautioned that difficult
terrain should be avoided so first responders could remain safe in
quarantine. But that didn’t stop Michael. On Tuesday, March 17th, he left
Denver with a few candy bars, two bottles of water, a copy of Fenn’s book,
and the clothes on his back.
Just outside the park, the two men rented snowmobiles and loaded them onto
the bed of their pickup truck. The bemused rental agent watched the
unprepared treasure hunters drive off towards the remote northwest boundary
of the park, perhaps wondering how long the unlikely pair would last before
they returned. After nightfall, the rental agent alerted local
The search began. On the morning of Friday the 20th, they found Michael’s
truck. On Saturday morning they found the abandoned snowmobiles, and saw
that Michael and his friend had unwisely continued on foot. Saturday
afternoon they located the two men about a mile from the snowmobiles,
ironically at nearly the exact spot of the previous rescue a month
earlier. Michael was brought back down the mountain, but this time in a
body bag. His friend barely survived, and refuses to talk about their
ordeal to this day.
In June of 2020, the treasure was rumored to have been finally discovered, but this word came from the author Forrest Fenn himself, and he has not provided any further details as of the time of this writing. Fenn’s veracity has been questioned by, among others, the FBI, and several lawsuits have since been filed against him. Some speculate that the treasure, if it exists at all, consists of artifacts illegally harvested by Fenn; whatever the truth is, people will no doubt continue looking for the fabled treasure. If so, they had best proceed better prepared… or else find themselves in the same sorry predicament as Michael and the treasure trove… buried.