Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Batavia man who died in Yellowstone was looking for hidden treasure

BILLINGS, Mont. — A 53-year-old Illinois man who fell to his death in Yellowstone National Park last year was looking for a supposed hidden cache of gold and jewels that has inspired thousands to hunt in vain across remote corners of the Western U.S., according to a report by park authorities.

Billings, Montana, news station KULR-TV reports that Jeff Murphy of Batavia was looking for the treasure that antiquities dealer and author Forrest Fenn said he stashed somewhere in the Rocky Mountains several years ago.

The investigation by Yellowstone officials into Murphy’s death was kept private, but KULR-TV obtained it through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The investigative report reveals Murphy’s wife told park authorities that Murphy was looking for the treasure when she called to report him missing.

Murphy’s body was found June 9, 2017. He had fallen about 500 feet down a steep slope.

The report ruled the death an accident.

The lure of the treasure, which is said to be worth nearly $2 million, has prompted thousands to comb areas of New Mexico, Yellowstone National Park and elsewhere.

Murphy is one of at least several people who have died while looking for the treasure. Two Colorado men died in New Mexico while searching for it.

The deaths have led some to call for an end the treasure hunt. Besides the danger to the treasure hunters, they note that search and rescue efforts for missing treasure hunters are costly.

Fenn has dropped clues to the chest’s whereabouts in a cryptic poem in his memoir, “The Thrill of the Chase.”

Treasure hunters have shared their experiences on blogs and have brainstormed about the clues.

–Associated Press

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