5 Buried Secrets No One Was Supposed to Find
Dig into the ground, and there’s no telling what you’ll find. Maybe you’ll find the body of someone who was murdered. Or maybe you’ll find the body of someone who wasn’t murdered. Mostly, you find bodies, actually.
Just for a change, however, we looked up some cases of people who dug into the ground and stumbled upon stuff other than bodies. Even without finding a single human skull, they wound up pretty surprised.
One Town Dumped a Bunch of Silent Films in a Swimming Pool
In the 1920s, Dawson City in Yukon had a swimming pool. Then someone said, “That makes no sense, we’re in the Yukon,” and so, the town wisely converted it to an ice rink. The conversion didn’t work out, at first. It seemed they needed to try again, this time filling in the hole in the ground more thoroughly. They did so using 533 reels of film they happened to have from a bunch of movie screenings.
Normally, when a theater received a film reel from a distributor, they had to return it once the engagement ended. Dawson City, however, was so far in the wilderness that it got films years after they were released, by which time no one else wanted the films again. If they didn’t bury these reels in that swimming pool, the city might have ended up chucking them in the river or making bonfires out of them.
As it was, burying the films like old trash turned out to be the best way to preserve them. In 1978, construction workers found the films when planning to build a rec center on the old site. The permafrost had preserved much of the footage. Some of these were otherwise lost films, with no other copies remaining in existence. The collection also included such classics as 1915’s Wildfire (a Lionel Barrymore drama) and 1916’s Rolling Stone (a documentary about the band’s first 30 years).
Under the Twin Towers, We Found a Lost Ship
In the first season of Lost, the gang stumbles upon an old sailing ship, plumb in the middle of the jungle, far from shore. The show takes five years to get around to explaining it. Still, as someone points out when they first see it, it’s not the weirdest thing imaginable, and something like that could happen in real life.
A couple months after Lost concluded, people were poking around the site of New York’s former Twin Towers, in the process of constructing One World Trade Center. Beyond the towers’ wreckage was random detritus from years before, and among this, they found a 30-foot stretch of a ship’s hull. This was very strange and yet not unprecedented in NYC construction history. Back in 1982, crews not too far away were digging a site for a 30-story building and found an 18th-century ship. This one seemed just as old.
Much like with the Lost ship, years passed before we got more info. In 2014, scientists dated the wood from the hull to 1773, saying these were some of the same trees used to make Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. They found this by studying rings in the wood. It turns out tree rings aren’t just something you count to find how old a tree was when it died but an entire branch of science. The results of the study appeared in a journal called Tree-Ring Research. Yes, journals can get that specific — and if you don’t like that, you’re welcome to read Stuff magazine instead.
As for how the ship got there, it seems that spot was much closer to the water when the ship went out of service in (say) 1800. Sailors just ditched the ship instead of dismantling it, and it became buried, as all things must.
A Tank, Exactly What We Needed
This week marked the 79th anniversary of D-Day, which was one of three events from World War II we can count on everyone knowing. Back in 1962, within the first few decades after the war, Hollywood put together an epic about it called The Longest Day. Since not that much time had passed since the actual D-Day, they were able to stay pretty authentic when it came to set dressing. They used actual planes and guns from the war. They used original Allied uniforms, since the Allies had preserved those. They couldn’t use original Nazi uniforms, though, since Germany had destroyed all the ones they could find.
While the movie used troops and equipment lent by various militaries of the world, they also lucked into an additional piece. They shot on several actual Normandy locations, and when they were preparing one bit of the nook called Pointe du Hoc, they came upon a British tank buried in the sand. So, they shined it up and included it in the movie. Waste not, want not — that was the true lesson of World War II.
The Accidental Capsule
Time capsules are supposed to be found. That’s what they’re for. Still, one 1795 capsule took people by surprise.
Workers were fixing a water leak at the Massachusetts State House in 2014 when they landed on a box buried there. Rather than jackhammering through it, they called in trained reinforcements, who extricated it with care over the course of seven hours. The box was a time capsule, buried by Sam Adams and Paul Revere in 1795. It contained coins and documents from that time, as well as stuff that was old even back in those days, dating all the way to 1652.
This wasn’t the first fresh air the capsule had breathed since the 18th century. When the same building saw repairs in 1855, people discovered the box, opened it, inserted additional coins from their own time and reburied it. In 2014, Boston put the contents of the box on display, and then, in 2015, they placed some 2015 coins in there and buried it once more.
Here’s the really spooky part, however: During that recent resealing ceremony, officials looked up the men who created the capsule at the end of the 18th century. It turned out that both of them had died.
An American Flag Under an Australian Geoglyph
Sometime in June 1998, someone carved the following figure in South Australia. We know they must have carved it at that time because we have satellite photos from before then showing no sign of it. But we still don’t know who did it.
We also don’t know how they did it. People have doodled geoglyphs for thousands of years (consider Peru’s Nazca Lines), but those were drawn using broad strokes. This glyph, known as the Maree Man, after the town of Maree, uses precise angles, the kind that made investigators suspect the creator used GPS. This was in 1998, when generally only professionals had GPS access.
The one assumption we could all make about the Maree Man was that an Australian drew it. This was Australia, it looks like an Aboriginal man and that thing the guy’s holding looks like an Australian throwing stick — a woomera, not a boomerang; Australia has several different kinds of throwing sticks. Then an anonymous tipster told officials that something was buried 15 feet south of the Maree Man’s nose. It turned out to be a plaque. A plaque with a quote from an Australian, an engraving of the Olympic rings... and an American flag.
Why the flag? Was an American behind all this (rather than, as the most reasonable theory otherwise said, some Australian artist)? Would Australia and America now have to meet in battle, as had long been prophesied? It’s too late to ask those questions now. In time, the carving eroded away.
All things on the surface do that. To last longer, you have to go deeper.