Charles Darwin at a green chalkboard.

2020 Darwin Awards

Honoring Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, Darwin Awards commemorate those who improve our gene pool--by removing themselves from it in the most spectacular way possible.

As Buried As The Treasure
2020 Darwin Award Winner
Confirmed True by Darwin
GUEST WRITER: James G. Petropoulos

A Book That Buried Many (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 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 authorities.

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.

Submitted by: Harry Trickey

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