Overwhelming demand for a book offering clues to a hidden treasure chest worth millions has taken over the sole New Mexico store selling the memoir.
The book, “Thrill of the Chase,” is the self-published autobiography by Forrest Fenn, the 82-year-old art collector who first described his treasure last month on TODAY. The appearance generated so much interest that his website crashed within hours of his appearance.
Collected Works, an independent bookstore in Santa Fe, N.M., had been selling about 25 copies of “Thrill of the Chase” a month since its 2010 release. Within minutes after Fenn appeared on TODAY, the store started selling 25 books a minute, estimated the store’s co-owner, Mary Wolf. The store now has about 4,000 books on backorder.
“This is the first time we’ve done anything like this, where we were unprepared for the responses we received,” Wolf said. “The phone is still ringing off the hook.”
Fenn originally published about 5,000 copies of the book, which offers a map and a poem featuring nine clues. He has since ordered another 15,000 from his printer.
Fenn said he buried his treasure to help encourage Americans to get off the couch and explore the outdoors.
“Get your kids out in the countryside, take them fishing and get them away from their little hand-held machines," he told TODAY on his first appearance.
He then appeared a few days later to reveal a new clue: The treasure is hidden higher than 5,000 feet above sea level.
That failed to narrow the possibilities much, especially in mountainous New Mexcio, where Fenn lives and the treasure is presumably buried. The average elevation in the state is 5,700 feet.
But that didn't deter some people from seeking the fortune, including one Texas woman got lost after traveling to New Mexico. Chanon Thompson, a 33-year-old from Carrollton, Texas, spent a frigid night in the mountains of Bandelier National Monument but was eventually found by search and rescue crews and has since returned home.
Fenn, who has had a longstanding personal and professional relationship with Collected Works bookstore, said he will not profit from the sale of his $35 memoir. All proceeds will go to the store and a charity that fights cancer.
“I’m not making one penny from this book,” he told NBC affiliate KOB. “I don’t even get a return on my publishing cost because I didn’t want people to say that that the treasure chest was a fraud just to sell a book.”
Fenn said he hopes someone will eventually find his treasure, but doubts it will happen anytime soon.
“I’m not looking at this weekend or spring break. I’m looking at 100 years, maybe a thousands years from now,” he said. “If somebody finds it tomorrow, that’s fine, but they’re not going to happen upon it. They’re going to have to figure out the clues in the poem and it’ll take them right straight to it.”
Wolf said Fenn is the type of person who sealed most of his business deals with a handshake.
“He’s scrupulously honest. This is something that has given him a great thrill. It’s exciting to him to share his passion of adventure and discovery with others, especially young people,” she told TODAY.com.
“He’s living vicariously through people searching for the treasure. It wouldn’t be fun for him if there wasn’t a treasure involved. The excitement comes from the chance that someone will find it."