Back when you were a kid at some point in time you probably got bored and decided to go digging in your backyard for hidden treasure. Or maybe you were one of those kids that buried things in your backyard. Time capsules, little treasures, or maybe it was your hamster, Nibbles. In all of my childhood digs, I never found anything exciting. Sticks, stones, and a few rusty nails. Even as an adult we do yard work and renovations. That always has the potential of finding exciting items. The following nine people all found some pretty amazing things in their backyards. Most of the things they discovered I would love to find. A few of them would freak me out.
1. Back on December 2012, in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, Mack Reed decided to install solar panels. While opening up an underground access vault for an inspector, Reed and the inspector found an army-green bag. The bag was stuffed with approximately $175,000 worth of hash. The bag was filled with 60 jars, bags, and packages of all varieties of the herb. Realizing that whomever left the stash there could return at any time, Reed decided it would be best to call the LAPD but was told by the operator that everyone in his district was “out on an emergency.” The dispatcher then asked Reed if he could drive the bag to the station himself. As Reed, a former reporter for the LA Times said in his blog about the ordeal, he responded with, “Yeah, uhhh … I don’t think driving around with 20 pounds of drugs in my car is really a good idea.” A supervisor was sent out to investigate. When Sgt. Adrienne Legaspi arrived, Reed asked the sergeant how this could have happened. Legaspi asked if he ever made any posts on Facebook whenever he leaves town. Reed, realizing his error, responded that he, “might have posted a photo from the Grand Canyon over the Thanksgiving weekend.” Legaspi suggested that Reed remove the hatch doors completely, and show the bag’s owner that his secret has been found out, but he came up with a different approach. Fearing his kids or gardener would fall into the vault, he instead left a note. It read: “We found it and called the LAPD. They confiscated it and now are watching the place. Sorry.”
2. In 1978, two kids from Los Angeles decided to do what all kids who get bored and do at some point. They dig holes in their backyards. To their utter amazement they found a Dino 246 GTS Ferrari. With the help of local police officers and a small crew of men, the car was excavated. After a bit of investigating, it was discovered that the car was stolen four years earlier and buried in the yard by the thieves. (It was originally bought by Rosendo Cruz of Alhambra, CA in 1974.) Miraculously, nobody who lived in the area at the time reported seeing anything strange. The then-current residents also claimed no part in being involved with the engulfed auto. After removing the car from the yard, the Ferrari was estimated at approximately $18,000. That would actually be about $75,000 today. It was returned to the insurance company that had covered Cruz’s loss (and paid him $22,500) and subsequently put on auction. It was rumored a mechanic bought the car and moved without a forwarding address. Regardless, the car slipped once again into obscurity. That is, until a L.A. journalist ran a story about the missing Ferrari. The story caught the attention of a man named Brad Howard, the car’s current owner. He bought the Dino in 1978 from a local businessman who bought it from the insurance company. Why was the car buried in the first place? It is believed to have been an insurance scam. The thieves were to allegedly destroy the vehicle but loved it so much, they buried it and intended to retrieve it from the ground at a later date. Howard is still the proud owner of the metallic green Ferrari which sports a license plate that reads “DUG UP”. Too bad the kids couldn’t keep the car they dug up. Finders keepers, right?
3. Who hasn’t dreamed of finding gold? For a couple in the Sierra Nevada, this fairy tale actually came true! An unidentified couple was walking their dog on their property one day in 2013, when they noticed the top of a rusty canister poking out of the ground. The canister contained a bunch of gold discs and they took it home. After brushing the dirt off of the discs, they were almost perfectly preserved $20 gold coins dating from the 1890s. They hurried back to the location of their find and discovered a total of eight cans containing 1,427 coins with a face value of $27,980. The discovery was a coin collector’s dream: A total of 1,373 were $20 coins, 50 were $10 coins and four were $5 coins. The coins were minted from 1847 to 1894. About a third of the coins were in pristine condition and never circulated in the general public. It is believed that this is the biggest hoard of gold coins ever unearthed in the United States, and is valued at $10 million. The couple decided to remain anonymous, fearing treasure hunters would rip up their land. Coin dealer, Don Kagin, and numismatist, David McCarthy, helped evaluate and restore the coins (dubbed the Saddle Ridge Hoard) for auction. McCarthy claimed he worked until his fingers literally bled restoring and appraising the coins for sale. Kagin will reportedly sell them on Amazon.com sometime in the near future. Just how the hoard got buried there remains a mystery. In March 2014, the U.S. Mint stated that, “[they] do not have any information linking the Saddle Ridge Hoard coins to any thefts at any United States Mint facility.” So how did they get there?
4. Chris and Colleen Otcasek bought a house in Woodland Hills, California in 2013. At the time they were aware there was a special feature included in the backyard. A fallout shelter from the 1960s. The couple figured the shelter was just a hole in the ground. The hole turned out to be a time capsule. Built in 1961 during the height of the Cold War by nuclear engineer Alvin Kaufman, the shelter was perfectly preserved. The shelter supplies were still completely intact and they included aluminum foil, tissues, sleeping pills, cans of “multi-purpose” food, and eroding cans of coffee.
5. In August 2011, Wayne Sabaj was an unemployed resident of Johnsburg, Illinois who lived with his father. Sabaj was picking broccoli in his backyard garden when he found $150,000 stashed in a nylon bag. Worried that the money came from a robbery and that he would be charged, Sabaj turned the money over to police with the understanding that if the money wasn’t claimed by anyone else by the end of 2012, it would be his to keep. Both an 87-year-old neighbor, Dolores Johnson, and a Naperville liquor store owner stepped up and attempted to claim the money. Johnson, who suffered from dementia and died the following January claimed, “she had gotten rid of the money because it was cursed,” according to court records. A judge ultimately gave Johnson’s daughter the bulk of the money with a portion of it set to go to Sabaj as a reward. However, Sabaj, the man who once said that he, “spent his last $10 on cigarettes,” died 10 days before receiving the prize. Wayne Sabaj’s father, Kevin, received the money, but not before he went into cardiac arrest upon learning about his son’s death. Was it cursed, or was this all a coincidence?
6. Back in 1978, Gary Johnson was a junior at Rolling Hills High School in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. He was very interested in archeology. He noticed a large rock sticking out of the ground with a bone pattern in it. With the help of friends, he rolled the 1,000-pound rock (using logs) about 200 yards into his family’s backyard. After chipping away shale and dirt, Johnson called in an expert to get an opinion of his find. The expert deemed the fossil not very significant and the rock sat in the backyard for over 35 years. In February 2014, Johnson was watching the news and saw a piece about a 600-pound, 12-million-year-old sperm whale skull found at Chadwick School, which was just a few hundred yards away from where he found his fossil many years ago. Johnson called Howell Thomas, a senior paleontological curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. It was a good thing that he decided to get a second opinion. Johnson estimated the fossil to be 14-16 million years old. The fossil includes the jawbone and skull of a baleen whale and is one of only 20 known specimens of fossilized baleen in the world. “It is a very rare fossil and something that we actually go out looking for,” said Thomas. With the help the Sheriff’s Department, an all-volunteer team strapped the fossil to a steel trolley, and hauled the trolley with cables and pulleys from the backyard ravine, where the whale fossil spent the past three decades. It is now at the Natural History Museum where it is currently undergoing further study. I bet the first expert felt pretty foolish for his mistake.
7. In 2014, a Salt Lake City homeowner was trying to dig a pond in his backyard for a landscaping project when he discovered bones. Although the bones seemed to be human, the homeowner wasn’t entirely sure what they were and called the local police department. Police sent the bones to the state medical examiner where they ran further tests. Results concluded that the bones were not of a recent murder, but once belonged to a Native American who lived in Utah about 1,000 years ago. State officials are contacting American Indian tribes to determine heritage. The state Division of Indian Affairs will then perform further testing and eventually a sacred re-interment. I’m not sure how I would feel about living there after that discovery.
8. In 2007, a man known only as Andreas K. from the Austrian city of Wiener Neustadt, was digging in his backyard to expand his small pond. While digging he found treasure. It consisted of more than 200 rings, brooches, ornate belt buckles, gold-plated silver plates, and other pieces or fragments, many encrusted with pearls, fossilized coral and other ornaments. He made the find in 2007 but didn’t report it to the memorial’s office until he rediscovered the dirty objects in a basement box while packing up after selling his house in 2009. The objects are said to be about 650 years old and had so much dirt encrusted in them that their forms were barely visible. It wasn’t until after he posted pictures of his find on the internet that collectors alerted the gentleman of the potential value of his discovery. Andreas K. then put the treasures in a plastic bag and delivered them to the Bundesdenkmalamt (the Austrian Federal Monument Agency (BDA). The BDA called the find a “fairy tale” and added that it was a “sensational find.” Mr. K had no interest in cashing in on the treasure trove but was more interested in loaning his collection to an Austrian museum.
9. New developments are constantly being built everywhere. The developers who built homes in one Orlando, Florida neighborhood should have researched the area better. Thousands of homes have been built over a 12,000-acre area that was once a World War II bombing range. However, there are still souvenirs of the past that have been discovered in the area. Live bombs. The first bomb was discovered in 1998 near the running track of a local middle school. Since then, 126 rockets and bombs have been found on school property. Although no students have been hurt on the school grounds, two workers have been burned by the fragment of a bomb while doing repairs on the track. It’s not only the place that bombs have been found, but several have been found in backyards in nearby housing developments. Even though the Army Corps of Engineering have launched a $10 million cleanup of the area, there’s always the possibility of finding a bomb left behind. Home values have plummeted in the area and multiple lawsuits have been filed, accusing builders of gross negligence and seeking unspecified monetary damages.
If you think about it, there is a lot of land out there that has gone untouched for a lot of years. There is probably still a good amount of treasure out there waiting to be found. It could be in your backyard. You never know. Maybe you live in my childhood home and you will find my hamster, Nibbles, or some of my old matchbox cars and a Barbie head. Hey,one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?