As Imgur user Todirerl surveys his grandmother’s old ceramics room, he’s greeted by an unenviable sight. The space is completely cluttered with various objects, but he then notices a wardrobe in the corner. After opening the wooden doors, the curious man soon finds a safe, which contains a rather unusual note.
As Todirerl will no doubt attest, there’s a good chance that you could uncover some fascinating findings when sifting through the contents of an old house. Whether it’s vintage photographs or a collection of keepsakes, those items can make all the effort worthwhile. Yet for this keen online image sharer, his venture in August 2013 ended with a shocking surprise.
The ceramics room that Todirerl was poking around in his grandmother’s old house was long-vacant. In fact, it appeared likely that the space had remained undisturbed for years before he finally got in there during the summer of 2013. And judging by the cluttered state of the area, that isn’t too hard to believe.
Indeed, the room was filled with cardboard boxes all over the floor, alongside various pieces of artwork. In one of the corners, however, Todirerl caught sight of an old wooden wardrobe that was surrounded by junk. From there, he uncovered a truly remarkable mystery, which he would go on to share with fellow Imgur users.
While studying Todirerl’s treasure hunt, a familiar feeling may well take hold. Many of us can relate to finding something unexpected after searching through old belongings that have been packed up for storage. But in the case of this image sharer, he got far more than he bargained for.
Todirerl’s big discovery began innocently enough – when he poked his head into one of his grandmother’s old rooms. Subsequently, he took to Imgur to talk about what he found in the summer of 2013. In what proved to be his first post on the photo-sharing website, Todirerl captured the imagination of thousands.
Titled “Gravel Safe Unlocked,” Todirerl began his post with an image of the cluttered ceramics room. In addition to the cardboard boxes and artwork, the room also included a series of old wooden cabinets on the wall. Given how little floor space there appeared to be, several other items were stacked on top of them as well.
Todirerl then shared another photograph, which highlighted the hidden wardrobe in the corner of the space. He went on to investigate the contents of the large closet, but not even he could have predicted what happened next. To explain more, the treasure hunter then retraced his steps on the website.
Todirerl wrote, “While snooping around my grandma’s ceramics room, I found a surprise in a cupboard at the back of the room. The cupboard had a false bottom. Beneath that, the tiles were cut out and packed with gravel. [I] brush the gravel aside and it’s the top of a combination safe.”
Along the way, Todirerl snapped a couple of pictures inside the wardrobe. As he previously revealed, the lower section was mysteriously packed full of gravel upon opening. And after clearing the area out, he captured a shot of the safe, with the round dial standing out from the remaining grit.
Unsurprisingly, Todirerl was keen to take a look inside the mysterious safe. However, he was dealt a significant blow when he brought it to the attention of his grandmother. Even though the box was in her ceramics room, she didn’t know the combination to get it open, so she searched the house for potential clues.
“My grandma couldn’t find the code [in the end], so she gave me permission to open [the safe] up with force,” Todirerl recalled on Imgur. “My dad went ahead and took the safe out [of] the ground when I wasn’t around. He used a grinder to smooth down the edges. Then he pried it open.”
Todirerl was able to capture some images of his father in action, as he tackled the safe in the yard. Once he was done with the power tools, we were then afforded a better look at the box itself. The rectangular object was clearly metallic, but the lid displayed signs of severe rust.
With that in mind, Todirerl could finally get his hands on the safe. As he prised open the rusted lid, the Imgur user discovered many different items nestled away inside. With what he found, he was able to confirm that the box belonged to his grandfather, who had passed away some time before.
At first, Todirerl focused his attention on a large package, wrapped in what appeared to be black cloth. Due to the condition of the safe, that too was covered in dust and rust. Yet when he took a closer look at it, he was puzzled by a white mark on the front of the material.
Keen to clear up the mystery, another Imgur user offered up a potential explanation in the comments section of Todirerl’s post. According to the user, the markings did have a specific meaning. They wrote, “The symbol on the cloth is the Chinese character for double happiness, commonly used for weddings.”
Meanwhile, Todirerl went on to unfurl the rust-covered cloth, unveiling the contents of the package. At first, a very old-looking photograph on the left caught his eye. The discolored image captured a young woman standing next to a large open window, alongside what appeared to be a potted house plant.
As it turned out, that lady was Todirerl’s great-great-grandmother. From there, he found one more old photo in the package. This particular snap was of a man dressed in a very smart suit, sporting some stylish glasses. To complete the distinguished picture, he was also holding a vintage tobacco pipe in his right hand.
This gentleman in question was Todirerl’s great-grandfather, giving him a wonderful snapshot of his family’s past. But the surprises didn’t end there, though. After looking at the photographs, the internet user moved on to the next item inside the package. It was a brown pouch that was tied shut with a thin bit of rope.
To give you some indication of just how old this pouch was, it had a date printed on its front. In fact, the faded black stamp appeared to say “Georgia 1776.” At that point, Todirerl opened up the small brown bag, carefully emptying the contents before him onto a dark surface.
Incredibly, the pouch housed a beautiful gold pocket watch that looked to be in excellent condition. However, according to one Imgur user, this wasn’t just a standard timepiece. They wrote, “While it might be a minor point, the pocket watch seemed to have been wrapped in British Army issue barrel cloth.”
In addition to the watch, the pouch also held a large collection of stamps, ranging in size and design. Todirerl then revealed that some of those items were from countries that didn’t exist anymore. For instance, places such as Czechoslovakia, Zaire and the Soviet Union were all represented.
Once Todirerl was done with the pouch, he moved on to a couple of loose items in the package. He found a golden pen and a silver lamp – while noting, “Unfortunately not a genie’s lamp.” After that, the treasure hunter focused on the final few pieces, which were kept inside a plastic box.
Initially, Todirerl took out 13 vintage coins from the clear container. Much like the stamps, they were from various countries as well, including Cuba, Venezuela, New Zealand and Pakistan. Regarding the latter pieces of silverware, an Imgur user responded, “As a Pakistani, the Pakistani coins are VERY rare.”
Following that, Todirerl unpacked a medal from World War One, which came with a stunning metal crest. Then, the user pulled out a gold key too, although he had no idea what it was for. At that stage, all of the contents from the cloth package had been revealed, but there was still one last thing in the safe.
As we mentioned earlier, Todirerl was greeted by a note when he first opened the safe. The short message was written by his grandfather before the box was hidden, and it may even sound somewhat familiar to some of you. The scrap of paper read, “Abandon all regret ye who enter here.”
Todirerl certainly recognized the short passage, as he speculated what his grandfather was trying to say. “He left a message,” the user wrote on Imgur. “This is a famous quote from Dante’s Inferno, except instead of abandoning hope, it says to abandon regret. This is his way of playing around.”
While the contents of the safe were certainly eye-catching, the note from Todirerl’s grandpa added a unique twist to the tale. The idea that someone from the past can directly address you through an old note is fascinating. With that in mind, another example emerged in August 2015.
Earlier that year, a retired woman named Marianne Winkler was enjoying a vacation in Amrum, an island off the coast of Germany. Along with her partner Horst Winkler, she stumbled across an old bottle in April 2015. And upon closer inspection, it appeared to contain a written message.
The Winklers eventually made their discovery public later that summer, when Marianne sat down for an interview in August 2015. Indeed, the former post office employee informed the Amrum News website of what happened next. For her, the mere thought of finding something like this was already exciting enough.
“It’s always a joy when someone finds a message-in-a-bottle on the beach,” Winkler told the website. “Where does it come from, who wrote it, and how long has it been traveling on the winds, waves and currents?” Regarding the message that she uncovered, it apparently said “break the bottle.”
Initially, Winkler seemed a little hesitant to follow that particular instruction. She continued, “My husband, Horst, carefully tried to get the message out of the bottle, but there was no chance. So we had to do as it said.” From there, the couple pulled a postcard out of the broken container.
At the time, the Winklers had no idea how old this postcard actually was, as it didn’t have a date. Instead, it bore a note – in German, English and Dutch – that said the person who found it would receive a shilling. To claim the prize, the message needed to be sent back to a specific location in Plymouth, England.
Specifically, the postcard listed the address of the Marine Biological Association, which first opened its doors in 1888. Curious, the Winklers then stuck the card inside an envelope and fired it back across Europe. When it arrived in Plymouth, the staff at the facility were left stunned.
The facility’s surprise was understandable. The postcard was one of over 1,000 sent by a former president of the organization – a man who held the post from 1904 to 1906. His name was George Parker Bidder, and he was attempting to test the currents of the North Sea. To explain more, the Marine Biological Association’s communications director spoke with U.K. newspaper The Telegraph.
“The association still does similar research today, but we have access to technology they didn’t have, such as electronic tags,” Guy Baker told The Telegraph. “Many of the bottles were found by fishermen trawling with deep sea nets. Others washed up on the shore, and some were never recovered.”
Baker continued, “Most of the bottles were found within a relatively short time. We’re talking months rather than decades. I don’t know when one was last sent in, but I don’t think it was for very many years. We think this bottle was one of the last batch [Bidder] sent out, in 1906, so that would make it 108 years old.”
Keeping that figure in mind, it’s believed that the letter might have been the world’s oldest “message-in-a-bottle” at the time. Furthermore, to fulfill the pledge, the Winklers did indeed receive their shilling from Plymouth a little later. Alongside the coin, they also got a note that simply said: “thank you.”
Of course, it’s fascinating to consider how these messages from the past now have such an extended reach into the future. Todirerl’s story, generated a fair amount of buzz as well thanks to being shared on the internet. A huge number of users flocked to read his post on Imgur back in August 2013. Since then, it’s earned over 248,000 views and more than 7,000 points on the website’s scoring system.
As the story continued to grow in popularity, outlets such as the Daily Star covered it on their website. Meanwhile, the Facts Verse YouTube channel dedicated a video to the viral tale in May 2019, earning over 22,000 views. These days, a simple message from the past posted on the internet can cause ripples far and wide. A very modern message in a bottle, you might say.
And one perfectly suited to this day and age. After all, the internet has long been obsessed with people finding and opening safes and vaults. In 2013, for instance, a man’s attempts to open a mysterious safe that was found in a basement made him into an instant internet celebrity. The discovery sparked furious speculation on Reddit and Imgur and even caught the attention of the mainstream press. Then, nine months later, the contents of the vault were finally revealed. So, in the end, was it worth the wait?
The saga of the safe began on March 16, 2013. This was when a Redditor known as dont_stop_me_smee uploaded a series of images to the online community Imgur. According to the post, his friend had just moved into a property somewhere in New Zealand that had been associated with crime. And in the basement? He found an intriguing mystery lying in wait.
The images depicted a sinister-looking area sealed with a heavy steel door. And beyond the door, among the clutter, was a substantial, locked safe, built into the wall of the house. There was clearly a large space locked behind it, too.
The door to the safe was protected by a dial lock marked around the edges with aging strips of brown tape. The Redditor suspected that the tape might hold a clue to the combination, although he couldn’t figure out how to crack the code.
So, intrigued by the mysterious safe but unable to open it, he turned to Reddit for help. It was the start of a story that would leave visitors to the popular site on the edge of their seats for the next nine months.
Dont_stop_me_smee wasn’t the first to stir up excitement about a mystery safe on Reddit, however. Two years previously, a user known as secretsafe caused a controversy when he promised to open live online a safe that he had discovered in his father’s casino. Sadly, this Redditor disappeared without a trace.
Despite this earlier disappointment, though, dont_stop_me_smee was inundated with advice after appealing for help opening the safe. In fact, the original post attracted almost 6,000 comments from users keen to see behind the locked door.
For instance, user Tof1911, who claimed to work with safes, commented to say that the lock model was a Sargent and Greenleaf 6630. He recommended using a special stethoscope to crack the combination. Failing that, he posited, it could be opened by carefully drilling through the lock.
Other users added various factory setting combinations that they were familiar with from their own jobs in the hope that one might work. Another pointed out that without the handle – which appeared to have been ground off – the safe wouldn’t open even with the correct combination.
Of course, the post also drew the attention of plenty of amateur safe crackers, along with several more destructive suggestions. Yes, jackhammers, grinding wheels and plasma cutters were all put forward as methods of accessing the safe. The fact that the property was rented, however, meant that these were of little use.
In the face of online goading, dont_stop_me_smee was quick to reassure readers that his quest was the real deal. “I know Reddit’s history with safes,” he wrote. “If somebody comes up with a useful way to get into this thing I will try it tomorrow and post pics.”
He even started a new subreddit – a section of Reddit dedicated to a specific topic – to document the progress of his mission. And in just two days 60,000 people had subscribed to watch events unfold. This was clearly a mystery that had captured Reddit’s imagination.
However, as the weeks passed, dont_stop_me_smee’s updates became less and less regular. Meanwhile, the posts that had offered encouragement and helpful tips gave way to nastier comments filled with snide remarks. It seemed that Redditors felt as if they had been cheated once again.
Finally, on June 1, 2013, dont_stop_me_smee resurfaced. He posted on a different subreddit on the site seeking emotional support and revealed that he had recently lost his grandfather. With his priorities elsewhere, then, the mystery of the safe looked set to disappear into the annals of internet lore.
Then, in 2014, things took an unexpected turn. A new Redditor known as mantisnzl was browsing the site when, shockingly, a picture of his own basement appeared. Amazingly, he had unknowingly moved into the house with the infamous safe and had just discovered that he was now part of an internet phenomenon.
It was a moment that he won’t forget. After all, it’s not every day that you see a section of your own house being discussed on one of the internet’s most used websites. What’s more, he could provide those talking about it with the answers they wanted.
“[I was] dumbstruck,” he wrote. “[I] was sitting downstairs looking at it, drinking with mates, sucking at pool and thinking of ways to get in there. Come upstairs and there’s a picture of something in my house on the front page.”
Realizing just how many people had been waiting for a resolution, he decided to finally put the issue to rest. Hence, armed with a borescope, cutting blades, a drill and a crowbar, he broke his way into the safe just three weeks after first learning about its online fame.
So just what was the big reveal that thousands of people around the world had been waiting for? And did it finally live up to the hype? Sadly, the answer was a resounding “no.” In fact, the safe was empty save for a few spiders and cobwebs.
Online reactions to the revelation were mixed. While some, including mantisnzl, bemoaned the whole experience as a massive letdown, others were quick to see the humor in the fiasco. But even though the ending of the story was something of a disappointment, it has nevertheless left a lasting legacy behind.
For instance, the subreddit initially dedicated to solving the puzzle has since grown to more than 85,000 subscribers. And with the original mystery solved, it now attracts stories of locked objects from around the world. As for the safe that started it all? It’s since been converted into handy storage for mantisnzl’s stash of liquor.
mantisnzl wrote, “After an epic cleanout, it can serve to store enough liquor to drown the despair of any one of us that was hoping for greatness within.” Well, you can’t say fairer than that.
Thankfully, then, the walk-in safe now serves an actual purpose besides harboring spiders. Just look at the shelving unit that mantisnzl and co. found inside; it was the perfect place to store liquor bottles.
One of the shelves, however, remained empty. This is the place where mantisnzl listed his “priorities,” whatever they may be, in descending order. Could they have something to do with drinking, perhaps?
Fortunately, it seemed that the Imgur community approved of mantisnzl’s secret drinking den – to an extent. “This helps a little bit,” one commenter wrote, “I’M STILL HURT THOUGH.”
As for mantisnzl, he seemed to be enjoying the safe’s space, getting through his liquor in priority order. Who knows whether he ever closed the door, though; probably not, just in case.