5 Unbelievable Things Found During Building Renovations
You don’t typically expect to come into contact with relics of a past age while doing some casual DIY. That’s a job for archaeologists and their kits full of weird, gentle brushes. They’re the ones who are supposed to unearth bits of history, wipe off their tiny, circular glasses and utter a quiet “my god.”
As we should well know, though, humans leave an immense amount of varied detritus in their wake, and it’s not always where you expect it. So there’s plenty of times where all someone’s trying to do is retile a bathroom, only to suddenly be holding an old, very possibly disgusting, artifact. Sure, you could get lucky and find some old lockbox full of gold krugerrands, but not always. Sometimes, you find something just plain strange, like these five people did…
Generally, as an adult human, you want to be in possession of exactly 32 teeth. Any less, and your candy options are limited. Any more, and, well, you’ve got some questionable hobbies. At no point ever should you be wanting to share a room with 1,000 of them that no longer occupy a mouth. But unfortunately for some construction workers in Georgia, that was the exact contents of an enamel-based treasure trove they accidentally unearthed.
While renovating the Converse building in Valdosta, they knocked down a wall and were treated to contents that would make asbestos seem cozy — 1,000 crusty old human teeth. So what happened here? Was the house evolving? Had they accidentally busted out the wall of some sort of massive, building size mimic? The explanation was simple and disgusting: The building used to house a dentist named Clarence Whittington who apparently treated extracted teeth like used chewing gum.
From there, we’ll move to another unpleasant biological bit of the past. This one at least did have a purpose beyond saving money on trash cans, even if that purpose doesn’t hold up to any sort of modern scientific scrutiny. For most people today, witchcraft is extremely far down their list of worries. Health insurance costs too much to dedicate mental space to possible hexes.
Further back in history, though, the idea of getting hit with the evil eye was a serious concern, and so people would witchproof their house the same way you’d stick child-proof covers on a sharp coffee-table corner. For whatever reason, cats got tabbed as one of the most effective wards for a magic-proof home. Unluckily for them, the variety of cat that worked the best wasn’t “happy and well-fed,” but instead “mummified, and stuck in the walls.” As such, home renovations, especially in Britain, regularly de-wall dried-up kitties dehydrated for the sake of home security.
A Live Grenade
Finding a grenade in a wall is borderline ironic. Explosives and intact architecture are natural enemies, after all. So when a contractor in Ohio found a live hand grenade, pin and all, in the wall of a home he was working on, he had to take care not to dramatically accelerate the renovation schedule. He called the local police, who suddenly found themselves pulled away from their morning donuts into a sudden Hurt Locker scenario.
Their assumption is that the explosive souvenir was left behind by a past occupant who was a veteran, and that it was from either World War II or the Korean War. Personally, I’d prefer to uncover some priceless stolen art than an active F1 pineapple grenade, at least without a blast shield in front of me. In this case, it was able to be safely detonated, but sometimes, finding a grenade goes, well, exactly how you’d expect.
When I mentioned how terrified people of the past were of witches, I wasn’t underselling it. While it’s hard to beat the gross factor of magic cat jerky, that’s far from the only item that was stored in walls to send them packing. Another regularly unearthed form of superstition serving as house armor is worn shoes.
Why shoes exactly? One theory is that shoes carried the essence (read: stench) of the wearer. This bit (read: smell) of humanity might throw off attempted magicks, sort of like weird, magic chaff meant to absorb soul-seeking spells. I almost wish this was still a tradition, just so contractors a couple hundred years from now would still be unearthing mystical pairs of Jordans.
An Entire Ship
Bits and bobs are one thing, but dusting off a wholescale historical site is some next level shit. That’s exactly what a Skanska construction team working in Boston uncovered. They reported for another humdrum day of work erecting yet another 17-story office building designed to break the human spirit when they hit a pretty exciting obstacle: an entire ship from the late 1800s.
We’re not talking a couple moldy planks and sail scraps, but a remarkably intact if not seaworthy sloop, complete with silverware and barrels of lime for scurvy. How exactly did a ship end up not only on land but under it? That section of Boston wasn’t always so solid. It used to be mudflats that were eventually filled in to satiate the endless growth of the human species and their need for city to live in.
Eli Yudin is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @eliyudin and listen to his podcast, What A Time to Be Alive, about the five weirdest news stories of the week on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.