Recently there was an inspirational story about a person who found a bottle in their basement, containing some mysterious scraps with writing that turned out to be a long-lost message from some concentration camp survivors.
But that is actually just the most recent in a long line of amazing, often ancient artifacts turning up in random places like garage sales or just collecting on the same shelf where somebody was storing their old comic books.
#5. The $800,000 Stradivarius Violin
Have you ever sat your coffee on top of your car, intending to grab it before you get behind the wheel, only to forget about it? Then you go driving off and it falls onto the road somewhere while you stare confused at your empty cup holder?
What would you say is the worst possible scenario for something like that? Other than, say, leaving your newborn infant up there?
That brings us to the story of The Duke of Alcantara, which is not a person but a 267-year-old Stradivarius violin (when an instrument is valued at $800,000, they tend to give it a pimp name). The violin was donated to UCLA at some point in its long lifespan, and wound up in the hands of David Margetts, the second violinist for the UCLA string quartet. He borrowed the violin on August 2, 1967 from the university for a rehearsal in Hollywood.
An $800,000 loaner? Yeah, UCLA apparently trusted the shit out of David Margetts.
They shouldn't have. He was on his way home and stopped to get groceries, leaving his car unlocked. When he got back, he was minus one violin and was in some serious shit with UCLA. Surely some thieves had stolen it, recognizing it for its rarity and extraordinary value! They were probably selling it to sophisticated international criminals that very moment!
Fast forward 27 years to 1994. A violin dealer repairing a (you guessed it) violin, realized that, holy shit, he was working on a Stradivarius two and a half centuries old and worth more than he made in a decade.
He looked up the particular violin and found out it had been missing from UCLA all this time. The violin was now owned by an amateur violinist by the name of Teresa Salvato, who had gotten it in her divorce settlement.
Wondering how the musical equivalent of that guy who always "totally has to show you a song he wrote" at parties ended up with an $800,000 violin, UCLA did a little asking around and found out the violin was given to Teresa's husband by his aunt... who found the Stradivarius on the side of a freeway one evening in 1967.
So what we were saying earlier, about the cup of coffee? Yeah, it appears that's what David did with the violin.
#4. The Declaration of Independence
Back when they wrote up the Declaration of Independence, somebody thought to make copies. Otherwise someone could leave it on top of their car or something, and the colonies would have fallen back under British rule.
Around 500 copies were printed on July 5, 1776. Now the original handwritten document is in the Smithsonian museum, but of the 500 copies, only 24 are still around today. So even those copies have a value that's hard to calculate, even though only the original has the National Treasure secret map on the back.
"If we don't solve this riddle, History will eat itself!"
Donald Scheer was a man who enjoyed picture frames. Fuck whatever was in the picture, he just liked the frames.
One day at a flea market he came across a painting of a farm scene. He was so taken with the ornate frame that he bought it for a whopping $4. Once at home, he hastily went to work detaching the worthless picture from the precious, precious frame, and that was when the frame fell apart.
Holding the broken frame in his hands and shouting whatever curse words frame collectors know, he found a small folded-up piece of paper. Upon opening it he realized that he was holding the Declaration of fucking Independence.
So we said it's hard to calculate the value of such a document, but it's not impossible: he sold it at auction for $2.42 million.
We have to wonder if he didn't run and dig that farm painting out of the trash, to find out what that shit was worth.
#3. The World's Most Famous Hatchet
Lizzie Borden allegedly committed two of the most famous murders in American history. Way back in August 4, 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts, Borden was a 32-year-old spinster who took a hatchet and went to town on her dad and stepmom.
She was tried and then acquitted for the murders, in a trial that became a media sensation in its day--and, in fact, it was the first media sensation murder trial. No one else was ever arrested or suspected of the murders, leading everyone to believe that ghosts did it, seeing as how back then ghosts and witches were blamed for 89 percent of all murders thanks to police who didn't like to do a lot of paperwork.
More than 70 years later, a woman was going through some of her father's things in the attic when she stumbled across an old wash basin containing a broken hatchet… and a freaking skull. A skull that had a huge hatchet-shaped gash in the side.
Instead of immediately assuming her father was secretly a killer, she sent the items to the Fall River historical society. It turned out the hatchet was, of course, the one Borden had allegedly used to hack her parents to death. And the skull? It Lizzie's father's.
The woman who found them was the daughter of Andrew Jennings, Lizzie Borden's lawyer (an apparently damned fine one, since Lizzie got off). It turned out that after the trial, Lizzie had given the hatchet head and her dad's skull to Jennings as a gift.
We're not sure if this is the worst or best gift in history, but apparently Jennings believed the former since he tossed the murder weapon and shattered skull in the old wash basin and forgot about them while they sat there in his house for the rest of his life. Say what you want about Andrew Jennings, but that man totally did not believe in hauntings.