SECRETS Found Inside Safe Deposit Boxes
Here are some astounding secrets revealed by safes and safety deposit boxes!Secrets
In a world where online banking is the norm, the use of safes and safe deposit boxes might seem a little old school. But, in reality, there are around 25 million safe deposit boxes being rented right now in the United States alone, and with that many tightly locked, valuable boxes, comes a whole lot of mystery.
From insane secret stashes of cash to creepy collections, and even Einstein’s eyeballs, let's unlock some of the craziest secrets revealed by safes and safe deposit boxes.
Safe deposit boxes, sturdy storage containers usually kept in bank vaults, have been widely used to store personal valuables since the 1860s, so it’s no surprise historical oddities turn up when they’re finally opened.
In early 2021, TikTok user Billy Holt and his partner Sean got their hands on an old safe deposit box unit that was on sale at an auction of an old bank that was closing down. Rules and regulations around the auctioning of abandoned safety deposit boxes vary from state to state.
While usually, banks are required to keep a log of and turn over abandoned safe deposit boxes to the state, it looks like this one slipped through the cracks and was only found when it came to clearing out the old building.
The couple had only intended to use the unit as a coffee table, but little did they know they’d bought far more than somewhere to place their cups of joe. The unit contained 30 safe deposit boxes that dated back all the way to the 1920s and the abandoned property was all still inside. Best of all, the bank gave Billy and Sean the keys to each box.
Documenting their finds on TikTok, the couple took it in turns to open each box one at a time, and boy was there some intriguing stuff behind those little doors.
While many boxes contained what you’d expect to find in a safe deposit box: personal documents and jewelry, others contents were nothing short of bizarre. The box labeled 113 contained a reversible little red riding hood puppet that could turn into grandma, as well as the horrifying wolf in grandma’s clothes.
The box marked 137 contained more creepy dolls. Why dolls like this would be considered worthy of a safe-deposit box is anyone’s guess, I just hope for Billy and Sean’s sake they aren’t haunted!
Most unnerving of all, to the couple’s disgust, the box labeled 103 contained what looked like a yellowing human tooth! Commenters were quick to tell Billy and Sean to send the tooth off for DNA testing just in case it belonged to a missing person, and while there’s been no update regarding this, it was more than enough to thoroughly freak them out.
While the mystery of this toothy tale is unresolved, for now, maybe there was some black-market tooth trading going on.
In the U.S., all states have what’s known as unclaimed property laws that require banks and safe deposit box centers to turn over abandoned property to the state. In most cases, this is usually because the owner has failed to pay the annual storage fee for their box for a certain amount of time or has not responded to notices from the bank to pay up on their box’s rent.
Once a box is declared dormant, it is sent off to the state’s Unclaimed Property Division who will open it up. The division is quite the treasure trove of personal trinkets and some of the finds are pretty insane.
In recent years, Colorado’s office has uncovered a whole host of unclaimed treasures including silver bars and a diamond, pearl, and emerald Tiffany necklace worth a staggering $150,000!
In Colorado, the necklace, along with any other items found in the mysteriously abandoned boxes are tagged and stored inside a mega-secure walk-in vault inside the state capitol building. There they remain unless the rightful owner of the property comes forward to claim their belongings.
In Colorado, most reclaimed items are worth a few hundred dollars in value but the largest reclaimed deposit box there had a total value amounting to a whopping $1.23 million, though that particular box’s exact contents weren’t publicly revealed.
Policy deviates from state to state, but if left unclaimed, states including Colorado, Texas, California, and Washington will auction off valuable items that have been passed over to the capitol. This will usually include things like fine jewelry, collectables, and antiques from safe deposit boxes, but will exclude documents with personal information on it, such as wills and other legal documentation.
However, not all boxes are filled with riches. The state of Utah, for example, has revealed some truly bizarre secrets inside safe deposit boxes. One box was reported to contain a full clown costume, another had a ski mask and handgun inside, and one even contained someone’s not-so-alive pet cat!
Sounds like someone took the ‘Schrodinger’s Cat’ thought experiment a little too literally. Let’s just hope, for the cat’s sake, it wasn’t alive when they put it in there.
In March 2021, the FBI raided the U.S. Private Vault Company in Beverly Hills without warning in March 2021, and seized safe-deposit boxes belonging to hundreds of customers. Turns out the U.S. Private Vault company had been actively encouraging its customers not to use their real identities, allowing customers to store the proceeds of criminal activity in a hard-to-trace manner.
But, of course, the FBI figured out something was afoot, resulting in $86 million being seized from 800 boxes in the raid, and in 2022, the US Private Vault Company pleaded guilty to money laundering.
However, the raid included the seizure of valuables belonging to many customers who were totally innocent and had to go through expensive legal proceedings to retrieve their forfeited goods from the FBI.
While the FBI did succeed in unmasking the corrupt company’s actions, questions of whether their sudden raid was in violation of customers’ private property remained somewhat dubious.
That said, the US Private Vault company isn’t the only one to conduct some dodgy dealings within their walls. In April 2011, the Metropolitan Police seized 6,717 safe deposit boxes from three different Safe Deposit Centers in London, England.
It took 11 days for police to search the boxes, uncovering fake passports, gold, cash, and other unsavory items linked to a whole host of crimes. Turns out these Safe Deposit Centers were in cahoots with numerous criminal organizations.
The pair behind the scheme were Safe Deposit Center chairman Milton Woolf and company director Jacqueline Swan. The pair funded lavish lifestyles by charging members of criminal gangs tens of thousands of dollars each for storing the spoils of their illegal activity.
More dodgy deposit boxes were found over in Canada in February 2014, when police seized almost $2.4 million in cash after conducting a search of three safe deposit boxes at two different banks in Toronto. The findings were part of a yearlong investigation dubbed Project Green Giant which followed an alleged shipment of another kind of green stuff from British Columbia to Toronto.
Due to their private nature, it’s no surprise that criminals often take advantage of safe deposit box companies, and sometimes it can happen right under authorities’ noses. For many years, local government official, John George Junior had been considered an upstanding citizen of Massachusetts.
During an inquiry into John George’s finances in 2015, however, investigators found more than $2.5 million in cash, Rolex watches and jewelry stuffed away in numerous safe deposit boxes in New Bedford and Fairhaven, Massachusetts.
And let’s just say all those expensive goods weren’t hidden away just to keep them nicely preserved; they were hidden because they’d been bought using taxpayer's money! In July 2015, John George Junior was sentenced to 70 months in prison for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from a taxpayer-funded transport company, which he also so happened to be in charge of.
In August 2015, a story began circulating online about a Phoenix couple who made quite the miraculous discovery while renovating their home.
Being quite the fixer upper, there was a lot of junk inside the home and while clearing through an old medicine cabinet Eddie and Angie came across a slip of paper. The paper seemed to contain the combination to a lock of some kind, and even though they hadn’t found anything to unlock, they held onto the little slip of paper, just in case.
Eddie and Angie continued renovating and after tearing up the old kitchen tiles, found a safe in the floor. Remembering the slip of paper with the code on it, they hurried to try the combination, and to their amazement, it worked!
Peering inside, the first thing that grabbed Eddie and Angie’s attention were the stacks of what looked to be one hundred-dollar bills. The bills totaled to a whopping $51,080 and were made up of mostly old $100 bills that dated back to 1969. Along with the bills was a sealed bottle of James E Pepper bourbon from 1960 worth around $350.
While the cash and bourbon had obvious value to them, the rest of the safe’s contents were much more mysterious. There was a copy of A Guide for the Perplexed by E.F. Schumacher published in 1977. The first page contained an old photograph with a strange note on the back that read: ‘Alan. I have a book you must read. I’ve underlined a few key passages. Your Friend. Vincent.’
The underlined passages within the book referred to maps and finding things, along with a map of Arizona with an ‘x’ marking the city of Mesa. Page 11 of the book contained an old looking photograph of a house beneath the sentence: ‘There yielded such fruitful results.'
The back of the photograph had a scrawled note on it reading: ‘where one tree becomes three’ – perhaps the location of more hidden treasure? The story made the rounds of many legitimate online media outlets, as web users scrambled to solve the mystery, but there was something fishy about the whole thing.
The website that originally broke the story, The Chive, had been known for pulling hoaxes since 2007. And, sure enough, the Chive’s company founder John Resig ultimately divulged the truth behind the incredible story: it was all fake! The only real secret the safe discovery story had unveiled was the fact that it’s still very possible to troll the internet with fabricated information.
They say that home is where the heart is, but for one Cleveland couple, home was where the heart skipped a beat after they made a truly shocking discovery during a home renovation project in October 2016.
While in the middle of removing the dust clad ceiling of his home’s basement, reddit user Branik12 noticed something a little bit odd. There, tucked into a dark corner and propped up by some ceiling beams was a lone green box.
Upon removing it, Branik noted that while the box wasn’t heavy, he knew there was something inside, the question was: what? After taking the box outside, Branik could finally see just how long the box had been hiding. It was caked in dust and was bound with a thick piece of dirty old string.
Branik, understandably, couldn’t take it any longer and slowly lifted the lid. The Redditor was greeted with a few packages wrapped in some old, waxed paper, and Branik could see that there was most definitely something green beneath. Tearing away the paper, Branik was confronted with stacks of 20, 50 and $100 bills all dated between 1928 and 1934!
With his incredible recent discovery in mind, Branik set back to work on the basement once again, but little did he know that his home’s secrets weren’t finished with him just yet. While continuing the work on the ceiling, Branik couldn’t believe his eyes when he spotted another green box!
The second box was about twice as heavy as the first and when Branik spied yet more green peeking through the box’s vents he knew that he was dealing with something very tasty. It was cash, again, and a whole lot more of it!
While there was no way of knowing who had hidden the cash, nor why, there was one big clue as to how long the cash was stashed for. Both boxes were lined using pages from the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, the Sunday 25th March 1951 issue being the earliest that had been used. This meant that these boxes had likely been hidden away for as long as 65 years.
After getting the old notes valued by an expert currency appraiser, the couple sold off the rarer bills found in their haul, some of which were worth around four times their face value. In the end the total came to an astonishing $45,000 which the couple swiftly deposited into a bank account.
An Unsafe Feud
They say that the more you have, the more you’ve got to lose, so when it comes to the mega rich, owning a safe deposit box is a pretty wise move for keeping prized possessions safe. But, as you’ll soon know, it’s not always so simple.
Billionaire businessman Mohammed Al Fayed owned one of the most famous, opulent department stores in the world, Harrods, from 1985 to 2010. While owning the most affluent store in all of London certainly has its perks, Mohammed made quite a few enemies, no one more so than Ronald “Tiny” Rowland.
Their feud started in 1985 when Tiny’s company lost out to Mohammed Al-Fayed in the battle for ownership of Harrods.
Accusations that Mohammed had lied about his wealth and background when fighting to gain control of the store were levied as Tiny began a sizable war of legality and defamation against Mohammed, all in a bid to bag Harrods for himself.
While there may have been some truth to the accusations, the feud continued unresolved for 10 years until, in December 1995, things span out of control. And it all came down to the contents of a safe deposit box. Things kicked off when Harrods’ director of security, Robert Loftus, showed Mohammed footage of Tiny visiting Harrods’ safe deposit box vault.
Tiny had rented the safe deposit box in the 1960s, way before Mohammed even owned Harrods, but the thought of his arch-rival having his very own Harrods safe deposit box under his nose, for reasons known only to domination-minded billionaires, made Mohammed’s blood boil.
One evening, the Harrods’ deposit box manager was told not to go through the alarm procedures for the night and to leave the security cameras switched off. Only those who were there that night really know what happened next, but what we do know is that soon after, Tiny reported the theft of the contents of his Harrod’s safe deposit box.
Among the treasures stolen, Tiny claimed to be missing emeralds, rubies, and ancient Tibetan coins, and he believed that Mohammed was behind it all. Tiny claimed that his belongings were being held to ransom by Mohammed, as a means to blackmail him into announcing that he had paid bribes to government officials to investigate Mohammed’s takeover of Harrods.
But, without the all-important footage from Harrod’s security cameras, there was no way to prove anything had been stolen rather than simply removed by its owner. Just months before the matter was to be settled in court, Tiny passed away in July 1998, but his wife was still on the road to revenge.
In November 1998, Mohammed finally admitted to knowing that Tiny’s safe deposit box had been broken into, but denied any personal involvement, claiming he had only found out afterwards. Even so, he still coughed up $2.7 million in costs and damages to Ms Rowland.
Safety in Numbers
In the town of Harrison, Arkansas, a mysterious 600-pound, heavy-duty, two-drawer safe cabinet had been sat in the back of the administration office inside Boone County District Courtroom for 52 years. The thing was, no one knew the last time it had been opened nor what the combination was.
At 10am on March 14th, 2017, the safe’s judgment day finally came, and folks gathered in the courtroom car park for the historic moment the safe would finally be cracked open. As local locksmiths drilled into the metal box, onlookers held their breath as they waited excitedly to see what was inside.
After prising the drawers open, the locksmiths found only a folded-up piece of paper inside. So, what was the unbelievable secret message on the slip of paper? A treasure map? No, it was the safe combination!
While the citizens of Harrison might have forced a thoroughly disappointing resolution to their locked safe mystery, another next code-cracking caper was all about good old-fashioned guesswork.
When Stephen Mills visited the Vermillion Heritage Museum in Alberta, Canada, he set his sights on a mysterious locked safe the museum had as part of one of its exhibits. The safe itself came from a local hotel operating in the 1970s, and by the time it was donated to the museum in the 1990s, no one knew what the code was, nor what was still inside.
Since then, visitors would try their hand at cracking the code. However, with the safe’s dial numbers running between zero and 60, the chances of guessing the 3-number-code correctly was a staggering one in 216,000!
When it came time for Stephen to give it a go, it started out as a little joke to amuse his kids. However, after plugging in a sequence of 20, 40 and 60, Stephen, his family, and the other museum goers were astounded when there was a click followed by the door to the safe swinging open!
And after more than 40 years of build-up, what was inside? Well, turns out, in this case, the mystery of what might be inside the safe ended up being a whole lot more exciting than the reality: an old employee payslip, and receipts for a packet of cigarettes and a burger.
While the contents might not seem all that exciting, the most interesting secret revealed in this case was Stephen’s hidden talent for code cracking!
In May 2014, a mysterious reddit user under the moniker ’lumberjack’ shared a series of photos documenting a saga of disconcerting discoveries. When lumberjack moved into his new home, he quickly noticed something that the realtor hadn’t told him about, a locked black door in the corner of his new digs’ basement.
After managing to open the locked basement door, he was met with a crawlspace. As lumberjack ventured further inside, he discovered something even more mysterious. The walls, floor and ceiling of the crawlspace were covered in soundproofing boards a well as several electrical outlets which seemed a little strange for a crawlspace.
Strangest of all, though, was a black safe box, sat alone in the darkness. Lumberjack didn’t give details on how exactly he managed to break into the safe but after opening it up, the inside lid of the box truly said it all: ‘do not’.
While the ‘do not’ sign on the lid was a little unnerving, when lumberjack looked closer, he found more messages that were nothing short of terrifying. The box was full of old cassette tapes, each one labeled with a number.
One of the cassettes had ‘no, no, no’ written all over it and along with the tapes was a disturbing note that simply read ‘save yourself’. In the reddit post, the mysterious lumberjack said that he was yet to watch the tapes for fear of what might be on them.
Things seemingly came to an unsatisfying conclusion when lumberjack, along with their original post disappeared from Reddit altogether. One Redditor claimed to have messaged lumberjack in a bid for answers.
The supposed reddit detective sol_and_sick claimed that Lumbrjack told him that his local sheriff had made him remove the post after it came to light that the tapes were part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
With no updates and no leads, Redditors could only speculate as to what really happened to lumberjack and those mysterious tapes.
Years went by, but, in a final twist to the story, a Reddit user, also going by the name of lumberjack submitted a post in a confessions subreddit in December 2021, with the post entitled: ‘I started a hoax that went slightly viral and then got weird’.
The poster, claiming to be the lumberjack from before, confessed to making up the whole thing to create hype for a found footage horror movie that never wound up being made.
While it looks like the mystery could have been solved, the confessions subreddit moderators quickly took the post down with no explanation, adding a whole new chapter to the mystery of the creepy crawlspace.
Einstein’s Eyes Stored In A Safety Deposit Box
When Albert Einstein died on April 188h, 1955, the world lost one of its greatest minds. But even after death it looked like Einstein had some things of his own to lose.
Just hours after the genius’ death at Princeton Hospital in New Jersey, pathologist Dr Thomas Harvey performed an unauthorized autopsy on Einstein’s body and while at work, he decided to look at Einstein’s most impressive asset, his brain!
While not a brain surgeon himself, Dr Harvey had his own brainwave while alone with the most impressive brain on the planet, why not steal it for himself?
While stealing the brain of one of the smartest men who's ever lived is one thing, Dr Harvey didn’t stop there. After jarring up all the brain bits, Dr Harvey went as far as to take Einstein’s eyeballs!
Dr Harvey kept Einstein’s brain for over 40 years but gifted the stolen peepers to Einstein’s esteemed eye doctor, Dr Harry Abrams. While the thought of being gifted your deceased patient’s eyeballs is enough to make your stomach turn, Dr Abrams was bizarrely delighted.
Having Albert Einstein as one of his patients had a big impact on Dr Abrams’ career, but keeping his eyeballs is more than a little creepy. In 1994, Dr Abrams admitted to storing Einstein’s eyeballs in a safe deposit box somewhere in New York City.
However, Dr Abrams died in 2009, and while the status of the eyeball box isn’t publicly known, it can only be assumed that Einstein’s eyes have become the property of Abrams’ descendants. At least, we can hope that’s the case.
The less pleasant alternative is that the box has truly been forgotten and abandoned. Which, of course, will one day result in a hell of a shock for the bank vault worker who opens up Abrams’ infamous safe deposit box, ready for auction only to find a pair of very famous eyes staring right back at them!
It’d certainly solve the mystery of where the eyes were hiding but all while scarring an unfortunate clerk for life!