It was to the disappointment of many that wealthy antique dealer Forrest Fenn announced the mysterious buried treasure he'd hidden in the Rocky Mountains had been found. But “CBS This Morning” Anchor Tony Dokoupil cautioned that the announcement shouldn't be taken at face value.
"I think the treasure is 100% real. I don't, however, think it's been found," Dokoupil said to Inside Edition Digital.
Dokoupil has a theory about the coveted treasure that's gone unclaimed for the last decade. “Why I don't think the treasure has really been found is because Forrest told me his plan was to entomb himself along with the treasure," he said.
Fenn recently announced the "treasure was found ... the chase is over." He said the lucky person who discovered it did not want his name mentioned and is from "back East." He also shared three photos of what he said were of the chest, writing “It is darker than it was ten years ago when I left it on the ground and walked away."
But Dokoupil said the photos aren't "proof" that the treasure has been found, noting the pictures are undated, taken in an unnamed location and those that include Fenn are from before he buried the treasure.
"There's no proof that it's been found. He's offered none," he said. "And he's 89 now. It's possible that what he's actually doing is creating an opening for himself to complete the rather dark and bizarre plan he explained to me nearly a decade ago."
Dokoupil spent nearly a week with Fenn at his Santa Fe, New Mexico compound in 2012.
"He was dying for the publicity," Dokoupil said. "At the time, he'd written the book, 'Thrill of the Chase,' two years prior, and the only people who had mentioned it were little publications or an airline magazine, and he had no credibility as somebody who actually had a lot of collectible items, AKA treasure, and who would do something as crazy as invite people to find it.
"So, when I called, he was like, 'Please, come. I'll give you all the time you want.'"
The story was published in Newsweek. It was then that people learned of the chest full of gold and jewels stashed in a secret location, and that clues to find it were in Fenn's book. The article put Fenn's book and his treasure hunt in the national spotlight. Since then, many people have risked their lives to find the treasure. And some have even died.
"The real reason why I don't think the treasure has really been found is because Forrest told me that his plan was to entomb himself along with the treasure," Dokoupil said. "I think the treasure is in a location where an older man can still get to it and crawl or insert himself in and alongside the chest. I mean, that's how it was explained to me.
"You have a guy who's been collecting archaeology his whole life, is so in love with it he's hatched a plan to make himself part of that record for all time and invite the public in to try to find it and his bones," he continued. "I am confident it is not a hoax. Forrest wants to be remembered for thousands of years, and this is his way of doing so."