Home renovations often lead to startling discoveries, and those discoveries are often unwelcome and costly — foundation damage, mold, rotten infrastructure. For one Ohio couple, their dreams of transforming their 1940s Cleveland home into their dream home led them to a series of discoveries that truly were shocking. Unlike most home renovation discoveries, what this couple found was incredibly welcome, at least at first. But as they further investigated their home’s hidden spaces, their excitement soon turned to fear.
Years before, our couple had settled into a homey mid-century modern suburban home. As they settled in, like most homeowners, they began to renovate to make the home their own. Their first major project was to create more usable living space in the long-neglected basement and attic. Not long into their renovations, the couple made an astounding discovery — the first discovery among many. As the renovations progressed, the couple’s glee at uncovering their home’s mysteries was soon turned to horror. What they would find was so terrible that it led to an FBI investigation. But what home discovery, made in a sleepy midwestern suburb, could be so terrible that it would prompt federal investigators to get involved?
Our homeowners began their renovations in their home’s basement. As they began demolishing the old walls and ceilings to make way for the new, they noticed no warning signs that the basement was harboring secrets. The only thing unusual about the basement was the graffiti written on the walls. Undeterred by the white symbols scrawled on the surfaces of the basement, the homeowner set to work prepping the basement for improvements, taking pictures as he worked to document the progress of his project. As the homeowner began the daunting task of tearing down the aged dropped ceiling, he would soon be faced with a discovery that would have him calling his wife. The couple was about to discover something that would change their lives.
As the pieces of ceiling crashed one by one to the floor, our do-it-yourself homeowner noticed something. Hidden between the old white drop ceiling and the subfloor above was a case. The vintage looking gray and green case was propped against a pipe and squeezed perfectly between the rafters. Someone obviously had taken great care to hide the case. Home repairs brought to a sudden halt, the homeowner removed the case from the rafters and called his wife to come home from work. What he didn’t know was that his discover was certainly worth the disruption. What mysteries would lie within the case?
As he waited for his wife to return home from work, our homeowner carried the case outside. He continued to document the process, to be shared later on social media. The man noticed that the small case seemed incredibly heavy for its size, and he turned over ideas of what could be contained inside the case. Could he possibly conceive the size of the surprise waiting in that old green case?
With his wife home to share in the excitement of a mystery, the man carried the case to the back garden. Before opening the old case, the couple decided to prolong the fun by guesses what could be contained inside the unearthed case. The case was clearly old. He wondered if it could be full of antique sports cards. She wondered if it could be old recipes. Perhaps the case would contain priceless antiques. Maybe it would contain cash. The anticipation grew as the couple speculated what they would find. It was time to discover what was hidden within the case.
Excitedly, the couple opened the small case. Their first glimpse inside didn’t reveal much about the contents, or about the good fortune they would discover within. Inside the case were bundles of yellowed wax paper. The wax paper was clearly wrapped around rectangular objects of some sort. The couple would have to dig further to reveal the mystery of the little green case.
The man tentatively unwrapped the first bundle of paper. As he pealed away layers of wax paper, it became clear that the case was full of money. Old money. The first bundle of wax paper revealed a giant stack of $20 bills. The couple couldn’t believe their luck.
“These are all twenties! There may be a couple thousand here! We are freaking out at this point,” the man later told newspapers. “This doesn't happen to us! What do we do? Where are the cameras?”
And that was only one of the bundles. How much would their windfall total, and what would they find within the two other bundles of wax paper? Would it be more money, or would it be something even more valuable?
The couple’s excitement wouldn’t end with the opening of the first bundle. They hoped their good fortune would mean that there would be more $20 bills contained in the remaining wax paper bundles. Again, they began to delicately peal back the layers of old wax paper. To their shock, those bundles weren’t full of $20 bills. Those bundles were full of $50 bills and $100 bills. As they unwrapped the money, the couple’s astonishment grew.
“The second package didn't have any twenties. It was all fifties! What is going on here? There could be 5 grand here! Wait! The third package is 100s! This is out of control!” The man described later.
Where had the money come from? The bills were clearly old, with dates ranging from 1928 to 1934. But how old were the cases? How long had the money been hidden in between the layers of their home? And just how much would the old bills — some of which would turn out to be extremely rare — be worth.
It was clear from the style of the case and the shape and style of the money that the case was old. But how old was it? Where was it from? And how long had the money been hidden? Something in the case would give our homeowners some insight into the surprise that they had found. At the bottom of the case was an old newspaper. It was a copy of the couple’s hometown paper, The Cleveland Plain-Dealer. The paper was dated March 25, 1951. Based on the paper and the age of the bills, it seemed the Cleveland home had been hiding the fortune for more than 65 years. So how much value did the old bills have? And what mystery remained?
Many of the bills contained within the case were worth more than their face value. Some were star bills that had never been circulated, and they were all more than 70 years old. The couple consulted a lawyer and obtained help in ascertaining the value of their newly found treasure. In all, the money they found in the case was worth $23,000. The couple was thrilled with the windfall.
“This was a wild ride for us, and I hope you all enjoyed it, too,” the man would write as he posted his pictures on Reddit. “We are boring people and have been dumping our extra money to pay off our mortgage, and that is where this money will go too.”
The man set out to continue on with his renovations, but it would prove to be anything but boring.
The excitement of finding money in the basement soon subsided. After the man posted that final message on Twitter, he and his wife put their money in savings, paid some bills and prepared to press on with their renovations. The man’s predictions would prove completely wrong, however. This would be the beginning, not the end, of their home’s mysterious secrets. As they pressed on with their home renovations, the couple would find more surprises, more treasures and something horrifying enough to get the FBI involved.
The man once again set off to work on his basement renovation. Little did he know, that first case he found — containing $23,000 worth of old — bills wasn’t the entire mystery they would find within their home. As our Cleveland homeowner returned to the grueling task of demolishing the basement’s old drop ceiling, he would quickly discover another case hiding within his ceiling’s rafters. He couldn’t believe his luck! What mystery would this case contain? Would it be another unexpected windfall? Would they find thousands of more dollars to help with their bills and home renovations? Would this small case be the end of the mysteries they would find within their 1940s home?
Knowing the treasure that was within the first case, the couple didn’t waste any time discovering the contents of the second case. As soon as his wife arrived home from work, the man hurriedly opened the newly found case. While the outsides of the cases were identical, the contents of this case were slightly different. The couple wouldn’t find small bundles of bills wrapped in wax paper inside this case. Instead, they would find something much, much more exciting.
Instead of bundles of money wrapped in wax paper, this case was filled with money. The money was lined up in an orderly fashion, organized into denominations. It was instantly clear that this second case contained a great deal of money, perhaps even more money than was contained in the original case. The couple couldn’t believe their luck! They pressed on with the work of exploring the contents of the case. How much money did this case contain? Where had it come from? And what surprises still awaited the couple as they continued their home renovations?
The couple began counting the rows upon rows of bills in the second case. The total quickly surpassed the treasure held within the first case. The second case had clearly been so well concealed for a reason — it contained $45,000. Once again, the couple was amazed with their luck, but humbly determined to put the money toward the cost of their home and continue on with their home renovations. Little did they know that the small fortune they had discovered hiding in their basement’s ceiling was just the beginning of the mysteries they would discover in their home. And one of those mysteries would lead to FBI involvement.
The space behind the door
The shock of the second discovery put the couple’s renovations on hold. Now that they knew their house hid some serious, and valuable, secrets, they were motivated to discover spaces in their home that they had noticed but thought nothing of. The first space they felt was worth exploring hid behind a secret door. The door seemed innocent enough. It looked like any other utility access panel, and the homeowners believed that the door only opened to the space that housed the home’s hot water heater. After all, that is what their realtor had told them when they bought the house. With inspiration to explore, they decided it was time to look behind the small, mysterious door. Their curiosity would lead them to uncover their home’s biggest secret yet.
As soon as the couple opened the small, white door, they realized that they had been deceived, or that their realtor had been mistaken. They had been led to believe that they were purchasing an ordinary house, but that clearly wasn’t the case. There was no utility room hidden behind the small door. It wasn’t just a space large enough for a hot water heater. They discovered an entire room lurking behind their wall. Swaths of carpet along the floor indicated that the room clearly had seen use over the years. So why would someone take lengths to hide the room?
The man was concerned about what they would find lurking within the dilapidated and unexpected spare room in their home. After living in the home for several years, how could they not realize there was an entire room hidden behind the wall? The man told his wife to stay back, and he ventured on his own through the rough, dark room. As he crossed to the other side, he discovered that there were still more mysteries to be uncovered. As the man ventured across the space to the opposing wall, he discovered another door. This door wasn’t like the door to the supposed utility room. This door was locked with heavy locks. Clearly no one wanted this room to be discovered. With such high levels of security, what could be hidden inside?
At this point, the man knew he had to press further to discover what mystery his house was protecting. He wasn’t going to be stopped by a lock, no matter how heavy duty and intimidating. He got a hammer and went to work, determined to force his way into the room. His determination would soon lead to a shocking discovery. Would there be more treasure? Or would it be something more sinister? With all these mysteries on one house, surely something must be amiss.
After breaking the lock, the man opened the door and quickly realized that something was wrong in his home. While the treasures were fun and exciting, and a welcome windfall, what lurked behind this door was something that must be sinister. The setup of the room and the contents scattered around it made it immediately evident that this was no ordinary room. It wasn’t even a fun secret hideaway that someone had crafted. Whoever had last used the room was clearly up to no good. Intrigued, the man continued into the room to explore its mysteries.
The door opened up to another room, which must have been hidden for decades behind the walls of the Cleveland home. This wasn’t an ordinary room, however. The walls were all covered with a heavy soundproofing material and white plastic tarp. Why would someone choose to soundproof a room, hidden in the eaves of a home? Surely, it couldn’t be for any good reason. As the couple explored the space, they would uncover more artifacts that would give light to the room’s mysterious past… and warrant engaging the authorities in what started as a fun home renovation mystery.
Upon entering the room, the first artifact the man discovered was an old brown leather briefcase. Given the contents of the two cases found in the basement, the couple had a feeling that this briefcase would hold more treasures. But with the strange setup, and hidden nature, of this room, would treasure be found within the case, or would it be something far more disturbing? The couple would quickly find out.
The couple took a break to snap some pictures of the briefcase, as they were committed to documenting their home renovations and the mysteries those renovations uncovered. After snapping those quick pictures, however, the homeowners quickly opened the case. They were not disappointed in their discovery. The case contained what seemed to have been someone’s most prized possessions. The case was full of antique jewelry — watches, rings, 4 silver ingots — all of which seemed valuable. The briefcase also held envelopes stuffed with cash from a variety of foreign countries, as well as an antique wooden box. The case clearly contained someone’s worldly treasures. But what were they doing stuffed in a hidden room? Why had someone left them behind? The couple didn’t have much time to ponder or celebrate their exciting discovery; they had a feeling the room would hold more mysteries. It wouldn’t disappoint.
The couple soon discovered that the briefcase wasn’t the only case of valuable hidden in the secret room. Squirreled away in the corner was a black Sentry safe. With the intimidating setup of the room — what purpose could there be for covering a hidden room in soundproofing material and white tarp — the man was nervous to open the save, certain that it would contain something far more sinister than a few old watches and foreign currency. The man’s hunch would soon prove true.
The man forced his way into the safe. On top of the contents, there was a note that seemed to confirm the man’s suspicions. In dripping black ink, in rough bold writing, the note read, “Save yourself.” Was the note a warning to the new homeowners? Or was it merely a joke, a pun on being found inside a safe? The man would have to look further, and it seemed to indicate that something truly was wrong with the room. And the couple soon realized that the mysteries in their house might be beyond their bounds. What they would discover would have them thinking it might be time to call in the authorities.
As the man dug deeper into the safe, what he would find wouldn’t alleviate his worries. On the top of the safe, in white paint, were written two words: “Do not.” Do not what? The bottom part of the safe seemed to contain a series of old video tapes. Breathing deeply, the man removed the tapes from the safe. What would further inspection of the tapes reveal? What was hidden beneath?
The man removed the tapes and began to inspect them. The tapes seemed newer than the contents of the cases found in the basement or the briefcase found in the mysterious secret room. But they revealed little else. Five of the six video tapes were labeled, but the labels indicated little about the contents of the tapes. They were labeled with a mysterious and indecipherable series of letters and numbers: 194, 1195, 11195, IV, 95, V. Perhaps years and Roman numerals? That would, indeed, make the tapes much newer. This discovery proved too much for the man. He tried to put them out of his mind. Surely, these tapes were left by the previous owner, a practical joke meant to fool the next person who found the mysterious room. The man’s curiosity could only be put off for so long, and what he would find would have him realizing he and his wife were way out of his league.
Days and weeks passed after the man found the tapes. He hadn’t owned a VCR in years, so he had no way to view the tapes and get a feel for the secrets they held. The home’s mysteries proved too big to ignore, however. Based on the strange and mysterious contents of the briefcase, and the money found hidden in the basement, the couple simply had to know what was on those tapes. The man set out to a second-hand store to procure a used VCR. His curiosity couldn’t be kept at bay any longer. But would what he saw on the tapes have him regretting his curiosity?
The man hooked up his used VCR to his TV. With his wife by his side, he popped the first of the cassettes into the VCR and pressed play. The scenes he watched on the tapes were truly horrifying. The tapes gave the couple and insight into what had taken place in that mysterious hidden room in the attic. The money they had seen as a windfall, in fact, may have had a seedy, horrifying origin. As it turns out, the Cleveland couple’s charming old house was no ordinary house. It was something far darker. What exactly had the couple see on those old tapes?
The man’s curiosity led him to discover something he certainly wished he hadn’t. The contents of the tape were so dark that the man found the need to turn the tapes over to the authorities. What happened in his charming mid-century Cleveland home clearly required the attention of law enforcement, the man decided. He contacted the FBI, and the tapes were taken into custody by the FBI. The couple, along with their followers on the social media site documenting their discoveries, anxiously awaited the findings of investigators. Only time would tell what crimes were committed in the charming home and whether the perpetrators would be brought to justice.
The couple’s story had garnered a following on social media. Local newspapers, in addition to a few international news outlets, wrote about the couple’s windfall. What the newspapers wouldn’t dig into was the mystery of the secret attic room, the horrifying tapes and the federal investigation. As an eager audience waited for updates, the couple suddenly went silent. Not only that, but the old social media posts outlining the man’s discovery disappeared from social media. The couple, and their mystery, seemed to vanish into silence.
Months passed after the man’s social media posts outlining the couple’s discoveries. People posted questions on social media asking about him. Finally, the man posted on a comment thread. The details of his story were true, he insisted. The reason for the sudden silence and the disappearing posts was the ongoing investigation. The couple had been told by authorities that the tapes warranted a deeper investigation. The case was serious enough, the couple was told, that it couldn’t be publicly discussed or shared. Any details of the tape needed to be removed from the public eye. The mystery, it seemed, would continue. The suspense around the tapes would grow.
What was on the mysterious tapes? According to some sources, the tapes contained video of horrific crimes carried out in the creepy soundproof secret room hidden in the attic of the old Cleveland home. But what is the real story behind the tapes and the home’s hidden secrets? What did the crimes documented on those tapes have to do with the cases of money found in the basement ceiling and to the briefcase of treasure found in the hidden room? Where the presence of the money, treasures and tapes tied to the home’s past, or had they merely been hidden in the house by previous owners? For now, those questions remain unanswered, as the FBI investigation into the home, the tapes and the thousands of dollars’ worth of treasure found hidden in the home’s ceilings continues. But what became of our couple?
The surprise findings during their renovations, and the horrifying tapes, were a shock to the quiet, suburban life the couple enjoyed in Cleveland. After the disruption of the tapes, the couple would continue on with their lives. With the tapes in the hands of investigators, the couple would resume their renovations. While they held their breath to see what other secrets their home might hold, the remaining renovations passed smoothly. No other shocking discovers were made. Instead, they would turn their house into the home they envisioned, despite its seedy and somewhat horrifying past.