What is the strangest thing you have found while renovating a house?
My wife and I bought our house in 2003 and have slowly been renovating it. It's an old colonial built about 1930. Great bones but well used by at least a couple of generations.
I've renovated 3 of the 4 bedrooms. These are complete makeovers and it takes me months of ‘weekends". When renovating I pry off the large 7″ baseboards so I can clean them and run electricity behind them for new switches and outlets. The baseboards are removed through a window and taken to the backyard for sanding.
I was into my 2nd bedroom renovation and had removed the baseboards. There is a hollow area behind the baseboards that collect dust. I was vacuuming these out when I just happened to see at the back (6–7″ space, wall thickness) something that I almost missed. It was a Polaroid photo from the 1970's. I could tell by the ugly carpeting. There was a Christmas tree in the background however the subject if the photo was a young woman with her back to the camera and her dress thrown up over her head. She had no knickers on and was mooning the camera. A perfect "moon". You could see everything!
Anyway, we purchased the house from a gentleman who had lived there about 25 years. His wife had died some years before of lung cancer. He also had two daughters. Because of the vintage of the photo, it most certainly was the deceased wife. Someone has slipped the photo behind the baseboard from the adjacent closet of the room next to the one under renovation. My thought was that either the wife or her husband had put it there as a way of keeping their time in the house (and perhaps some naughty fun) "eternal".
Anyway, I scanned the picture and put it into a plastic container, along with a short note explaining the history. I placed the container back in the wall in the same place I found it.
A couple of months ago, my mum and myself decided to completely redecorate one room in our house. The room was previously used for storage, but as my two little sisters were growing up, we decided that it was time to give each of them some personal space.
The room was full of boxes, wine bottles (my father kept a wine cellar in that room as well), and paintings. Again, my dad was an art enthusiast, so he was buying quite a few painting every now an then, both from the auctions and antique markets.
When we got about half-way through clearing out the room, we discovered that there was a small alcove in the flooring. It was very small, and you would not even notice it was there, if you did not look closely enough. When we lifted up the piece of flooring covering the alcove, we uncovered a little box.
There was no name, no writing. When we opened a box, in anticipation of finding a treasure, we were a little disappointed – a considerable amount of dry pumpkin seeds, together with some other seeds, the nature of which was unknown to us. There was also a piece of yellow-tinted paper with the detailed instructions on how to grow them. The writing on the paper seemed to be that of a child.
It could not have been put there by one of us – we barely used this room and nobody was aware of that alcove even existing. The flat did not have owners for a very long time, before we bought it.
Seems nothing extraordinary, but the very fact of such finding was strange – why was it there? Who put it there? Why was it hidden? Why would you grow pumpkins in the centre of St. Petersburg? Pure interest, enthusiasm for plants, or some evil scheme?
Unfortunately, we never found the answer. The room was renovated. No evil spirit came as a result of us removing the box. We kept it and its contents – maybe one day, its owner might show up.
Maybe underwhelming, but still – a very bizarre discovery.
It was in 1990 and I was renovating an very old house in Dublin and decided to remove a chimney breast. It was a difficult job as you need to support the thing to stop it bringing the whole house down and you have to do it brick-by-brick.
I got the shock of my life as I opened it up and through the dust and soot I could see a full skeleton. I called the police and they came with a specialist team who slowly removed the surrounding debris (did a great job) to reveal the skeleton who'd obviously been there for years. The case was solved very quickly as we noticed the skeleton was wearing a gold medal around its neck. The police team moved in with their little brushes and solvents and cleaned the medal enough that we could read the legend "County Kerry Hide-and-Seek Champion 1880".
We have lived in the same house about 11 years now. The house was built in the 40s or so. Since it was built, there have been several major renovations and additions put on the house.
My dad is a jack of all trades and was helping to do a little repair work on some of our pipes a couple of years after we moved in. He needed to find out where the kitchen sink pipes came out in the basement. While down there, he realize the walls didn't seem quite right compared to those on the first floor. Upon further exploration, he realized there was a "secret" room behind a wall covered with pegboard. He pulled the pegboard off the wall and found an old door. It was a little room about 5'x7' that was tucked under a newer addition of the house.
The previous owner kept many boxes worth of old receipts from the business she had owned at one time. It took us years to get around to destroying all of those boxes of receipts. I now use the secret room as cold storage for certain plants during the winter, seasonal decorations storage all year round, and to keep the kids' Christmas gifts hidden away during the year. I do think it would be a great idea to use as a panic room, if needed. The heavy door actually locks from the inside of the secret room.
As an aside, I grew up in a house built before/during the Depression with a river in its backyard. As kids, we learned we had a secret room in our basement with two large vats used to make "bathtub gin" during the Prohibition and then float down the river. It's rather thrilling to be so close to a part of bootlegging history.
we purchased a 1903 chateau in France.
of all the weird things found 4 stood out:
a 100 years old 24 karat solid gold watch on the bottom of the well (we cleaned the mud from the bottom)
a stack of German newsppapers from 1941 declaring "VICTORY IN THE BATTLE FOR SMOLENSK" - the building was occupied by German army during the second world war. Needless to say, the victory was short lived - a year later Germans got their butts kicked in Stalingrad.
stash of munition left by aforementioned Germans in a hidden closet
a 115 years old septic tank (full of antique French s***) INSIDE the building, hidden under the basement floor. We opened it, pumped out, cleaned, cleaned again, clad with stone and it became the bottom of the elevator shaft.
My wife was cleaning out a wall where drywall was removed after our house flooded. She found about $300 in 50 dollar bills. All of the bills were from the exact same time period and were folded nicely. They were from 1973 the year the house as built.
We figured a worker had gotten paid, set the bills down and they got covered with drywall. He probably thought another worker had stolen his money.