In the modern era, the credit for the beginning of a new wave of treasure hunts goes to the British author and artist Kit Williams. He published his book Masquerade in 1979. In the beautifully illustrated volume, Williams revealed a series of puzzles which, if solved, would lead to an ornately decorated golden hare. Studded with diamonds, it was buried in the English countryside.
Williams’ book was a huge seller, shifting hundreds of thousands of copies around the world. Hordes of treasure hunters dug holes in English fields, parks and woods. Then, in 1982, one Ken Thomas stumbled upon the hare, apparently by fair means. Later it transpired that Thomas may have had inside information, although there was no suggestion that this had involved Williams.
The Masquerade cheating scandal was bad enough, but another treasure hunt has had much more serious consequences. American Forrest Fenn was 80 years old when he buried a chest stuffed with valuables somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. The trunk was said to contain gold, diamonds and other treasure with a value of $1 million.