He Pried Open A Safe Concealed In A Secret Compartment, And Inside Was A Fascinating Time Capsule

Image: Imgur/todirerl

One day back in August 2013, an Imgur member who went by the username of todirerl was “snooping around” his grandma’s ceramics room. Eventually, his investigations bore fruit when he happened upon a surprise discovery. Stashed inside a hidden time capsule, there lay some long-forgotten yet intriguing fragments of family history.

Image: Imgur/todirerl

The room where todirerl found the capsule was a haphazard jumble of boxes filled with sundries and knickknacks. The shelves were packed with vases, candlestick holders and assorted statuettes, which had presumably been handcrafted by grandma herself. The area of particular intrigue, however, lay behind a nondescript cupboard in the corner.

Image: todirerl

Surrounded by a sea of clutter, a cupboard stood worn and dirty, its doors streaked with white plaster. Stacked precariously on top of it, musty old boxes appeared to contain jigsaw puzzles and art supplies. Ostensibly, there was nothing interesting about this storage unit. It was, by all outward appearances, unremarkable.

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Indeed, the interior of the cupboard was disappointingly dull, too. It was completely bare. Or, at least, it seemed to be. For, on closer inspection, it also appeared to contain a false floor. And underneath that, there was a gravel-covered hole. Outward appearances, it seems, can be deceptive after all!

Image: todirerl

Brushing the gravel away to the side, todierl found a rusty old combination safe. And he was apparently so excited by this that he immediately announced his discovery on the public discussion website Reddit. Under a subreddit thread entitled “WhatsInThisThing,” he wrote, “My grandma… thinks the combination might be written down somewhere.”

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A short time later, however, he posted a disappointing update. He wrote, “My grandma has looked all over and she can’t find the combination. On the bright side… she’s given the go-ahead to open it with force. I can’t get over to her house today but I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to open it tomorrow evening.”

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Meanwhile, todirerl’s dad decided to take the initiative. He took the old safe outside and set to work. First, he smoothed down the rusty edges with an electric grinder. Then, he prized open the lid with an old-fashioned chisel and hammer. No combination was necessary. And soon enough, he’d cracked it!

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Of course, the safe wasn’t the sturdiest construction to begin with. Not only was its surface deeply corroded – so much so, as it happened, that it resembled a block of rust – but its lock was completely ruined. Apparently, the combination dial was so old and delicate that it had broken apart.

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Todirerl then shared a photo of the unopened box on Imgur, accompanied by a one-line teaser which read, “What’s inside?” Of course, there was, by that point, fevered speculation about its contents. Commenters on Reddit had suggested it might contain everything from war mementos to Nazi gold to “Grandpa’s porn stash.”

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However, there was also a fair chance that the safe might not contain anything remotely of interest to anyone. Indeed, the discovery of a rusty old divider seemed to hint that there was no treasure lying in wait. But then, todierl opened it up properly and found that it was stuffed with all sorts of things.

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“Not empty!” todirerl proclaimed on Imgur. The box – which had belonged to todirerl’s late grandpa – was badly tarnished inside and out. But there was, in fact, an object safely preserved inside it. It appeared to be a mysterious black bundle, lightly dusted with flecks of orange rust.

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“Looks like a sealed package,” wrote todirerl. But a sealed package containing what, exactly? Money? Trinkets? Family heirlooms? The possibilities were endless. And naturally, if todirerl’s grandpa had deemed the package important enough to lock up in a secret safe, there was a reasonable chance that it might contain something valuable.

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On top of the bundle, there was a mysterious message. It said, “Abandon All Regret Ye Who Enter Here.” This was, in fact, an adaptation of a well-known line from Dante’s Divine Comedy which read, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” In the tale, this was infamously inscribed above the gateway to hell.

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But in this case, todirerl’s grandpa chose to substitute the word “hope” for “regret.” Explaining more, todirerl wrote, “This is his way of playing around.” Of course, his adaptation was also highly suggestive. By referencing Dante and his vision of hell, it suggested that the box might contain heavenly treasures. Or, at the very least, something pleasing.

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Indeed, the rust-caked bundle within the safe was wrapped in a black cloth with an insignia signifying “double happiness” in Chinese calligraphy. The symbol is featured frequently in Chinese marriage ceremonies. And wedding gifts, too, are often adorned with the double happiness symbol, usually in red but sometimes in black.

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That said, “double happiness” has also been used to decorate a staggering variety of everyday objects. And not all of them have been related to weddings. But in recent years, it’s been somewhat commercialized, too. Cigarettes, soy sauce and tableware have all featured the double happiness symbol as part of their branding.

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Furthermore, the figure which framed the double happiness symbol – which resembled a stylized stork or a crane – was something of a mystery, too. In western cultures, storks are often associated with fertility – a logical pairing if the bundle was actually a wedding gift. But in Chinese culture, cranes are symbols of Confucian wisdom.

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Having removed the mysterious bundle, todirerl gave the safe a final check. Aside from a few shards of rust, it was devoid of contents. And judging from its sorry condition, it was quite possible that no one had looked inside it for decades. Now, it was time to unwrap the bundle and see what – if anything – his grandpa had squirreled away.

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Upon opening the bundle, todirerl discovered a collection of personal little treasures. There were, for instance, photographic plates, a mysterious suede pouch, a pen, a plastic box and a lamp. And frankly, none of it appeared to be particularly valuable at first glance. But it did nonetheless look rather intriguing.

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Apparently, the first photographic plate was a portrait of todirerl’s great-great-grandma. If true, that could make the image around 150 years old. In fact, her ornamented dress in the pic did suggest the Victorian era. In any case, images such as this one did often serve as precious keepsakes – especially before the advent of modern photography.

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Sseveral specific details could be made out from this image. With a tangle of vegetation in the foreground, Todirerl’s great-great-grandma appears to be standing inside a tall window frame. Her left hand grasps a bunch of flowers, while her right hand appears to rest on a plant pot.

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In another photo, this dapper gentleman appears to be todirerl’s great grandpa. Many commenters on Imgur seemed to be greatly impressed by his swagger. “Holy hell, great-grandpa was a classy man!” wrote one user going by the username of CoeusDarksoul. Another, named nerdextreme, added, “Your great grandfather is so classy it hurts.”

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Indeed, a lot about this gentleman’s poise suggests impeccable taste. His attire includes a tailored suit with a buttoned waistcoat, a necktie with an ornamental pin, and round spectacles. With a casual but refined demeanor, he holds a smoking pipe in his right hand, with his left hand placed in his pocket.

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Image: todirerl

Inside the suede pouch, todirerl then discovered an object of potential value – a vintage Elgin pocket watch. This, quite possibly, might once have been owned by his stylish great-grandpa. Operating from 1864 to 1968, the Illinois-based Elgin National Watch Company was once the largest watch manufacturer in the world.

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Interestingly, an Imgur member called tevyethemad – who described himself as a “history major and First World War re-enactor” – had their own thoughts. They believed that the watch may have been wrapped in British Army barrel cloth. Such cloths were sometimes applied to gun stocks and barrels to protect hands and faces during cold weather.

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Also inside the pouch was a bundle of stamps – always intriguing, whatever their monetary value. Spanning both time and distance, stamps offer historical and geographical snapshots, as well as illustrated glimpses of national and political narratives. And they’re often simply beautiful works of art in and of themselves.

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This specific mysterious and colorful collection contained stamps from far-flung places such as Uzbekistan, Rwanda and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. It even included stamps from countries and regimes that are no longer in existence. Examples of such places were the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. Given all this, it was undoubtedly a cool find.

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As to whether or not they were worth anything, though, it seemed unlikely – at least, that was the consensus in the comment sections. One Reddit user called CommercialPilot wrote, “Those stamps look fairly modern… I don’t see any that particularly stand out as being valuable… Now the gold pocket watch… that’s the bread and butter.”

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But that wasn’t all. Not by a long chalk. This old lamp, for instance, looks suspiciously like something that might have appeared in Aladdin. But as todirerl conceded, “Unfortunately [it’s] not a genie’s lamp.” But we nonetheless hope that he gave it a little rub, just to make extra sure!

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Of course, such lamps were traditionally filled with oil. This was then burned using a wax or cotton wick inserted in the spout. But according to the website Mystic Sciences, they were also sometimes used for storing hashish. This might partly explain why oil lamps have long been associated with wish-granting jinns or genies.

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Elsewhere in the hidden compartment, todirerl came across a little plastic box. Upon doing so, he must have felt that the thing looked rather promising. Indeed, inside it contained a wealth of little shiny trinkets, including a collection of old coins. But were these as geographically diverse as the stamps?

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Indeed, the coins were from all over the planet. There were some from Venezuela, while others were from Cuba, Jamaica, Pakistan, New Zealand and Southern Rhodesia. This latter region is now known as Zimbabwe. Also, the dates on the coins varied widely, with the earliest having entered circulation in the 1920s.

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However, one Imgur user called IstealCommentsFromReddit was skeptical, having spotted a relatively late coin. This person wrote, “This safe is not too old. The coin from United Arab Emirates says that it is from the year 2007.” And their conclusion was quite harsh for todirerl. As they wrote, “Maybe this post is FAKE.”

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Of course, what everyone really wanted to know was if the coins were worth anything. Well, one Reddit user called Generic_Lad offered his two cents. He wrote, “You’ve got 3 silver coins, all of them worth about melt. Morgan dollar is 90 percent silver, South Africa half crown is 80 percent silver, Australian florin is 50 percent silver. The rest of them look to be low-value base metal coins.”

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Elsewhere in the compartment was an old key. An interesting object, to be sure, but what did it unlock? Well, no one knows. Another safe, perhaps, containing… another key? “Maybe that’s a key to open all of the other safes on Imgur,” wrote member xrawbrittanyx. Now that would be a special find.

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These medals were perhaps the most interesting objects found in the stash. Awarded for service, medals connect the personal with the political, the struggles of individual heroes with the wider theater of war. Their histories are invariably entangled with potent memories and stories – tales connecting current generations with generations past.

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One of these medals dated back from between 1914 and 1918. According to an Imgur member called kmikl, it was awarded to Commonwealth troops who served in the First World War. If so, it might confirm the theory that the pocket watch was wrapped in an old British Army barrel cloth.

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However, the second is something of an unsolved mystery – although different commenters have connected the lion on its crest to Norway, Scotland and Flanders. Of course, the lion is a very old, traditional symbol of valor and nobility. One of its oldest representations is the Lion of Judah in Judeo-Christian lore.

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Overall, then, todirerl’s find was amazing. While these objects may not have had great financial worth, thanks to their intimate association with deceased family members, their sentimental value was surely priceless. In some ways, they posed more questions than they answer. But that said, they did suggest that todierl’s predecessors were incredibly well-traveled.

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To bring things to a close, here’s another look at todirerl’s great-grandpa after an Imgur member kindly cleaned up the image. What an improvement, and what a stunning portrait. We reckon todirerl should copy his ancestors and pass all of this stuff down to his own kids when the time comes!

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