Man Opens Safe Buried In Backyard, Then Police Knock On His Door

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The Yard

Matthew Emanuel, his wife and son have been calling their beautiful Todt Hill, Staten Island house their home for almost half a decade. They knew every nook and cranny of the area, save for this one partially buried box in their backyard. Nobody really dared to explore it or, perhaps, they weren’t really that interested in doing so. Regardless, that rusty old box was allowed to sit there for years, rust thickening as time passed.

But it’s unattended state would soon change when a huge storm hit the town and destroyed much of the Emanuel’s yard. As this forced them to renovate, it also meant finally dealing with that mysterious box. So they called a professional landscaper to get the job done and try to find out what that mystery container held inside. What happened next was a series of high and low points for the family that eventually led to the police stepping in.

Family of Three

Matthew Emanuel/Twitter

Matthew, his wife Maria, and their son have spent the last four years at this lovely house, so, naturally, they knew every nook and cranny the property has to offer. Some parts of the house had already gone through renovations but much of the architectural design remained preserved. They bought it an old house and they wanted to keep its original beauty while still ensuring that it met their modern needs.

Though some parts of the house had already seen some landscaping applied to them, there was this antique-looking metal box in one corner that they did not try to move at all. Half of it was buried and they really didn’t think much of it, thinking it was totally harmless and uneventful. They also didn’t think it would set off a chain of events that would bring a shock to all.

Nobody Bothered

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When they bought the house, it came with the mystery of the half-buried rusty box. However, it really wasn’t treated as anything close to mysterious by the Emanuels. It was just sitting there and nobody even bothered to try to see what it held inside, if anything.

In fact, all around it were some vines of poison ivy and weeds, which was another reason why none wanted to explore it. They had even started to throw mulch over the area. In short, that box was considered part of the backyard feature and they didn’t see anything out of the ordinary by its presence. This all changed one day when a storm came to ravage the area.

Massive 2018 Storm

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

It was one of the harshest snowstorms ever to hit Staten Island for decades and many were unprepared for the damage it brought upon homes and property. The Emanuel’s yard took a huge hit as the trees near their fence fell and damaged a large part of their area. Matthew’s family was forced to stay inside for several days until the strong winds and heavy snowfall died down, but they were also thankful that there remained safe through it all. Their yard, however, was another story.

Eventually, when spring came, it was time to head out and deal with damage that unfolded outside. Serious renovations were necessary for their yard. Amongst all the debris, there was one thing that somehow stood out. The rusty metal box had come out of obscurity and commanded their attention.

It Had To Be Done

CityNews Toronto/YouTube

The box everything had beed ignoring for half a decade had finally surfaced, as if calling people out to come look.

The yard needed plenty of work after the storm, and when the box made itself known even more, they had no choice but to get it out and inspect it.

Rebuilding

CityNews Toronto/Youtube

Perhaps one of the reasons why the snowstorm happened was to finally let the Emanuels know what the mystery backyard box held inside. When the springtime revealed that their yard would be needing serious renovation work and the help of professionals, it also made prominent its presence.

Given the amount of work that needed to be done, Matthew knew there was only one person to call who was an expert on the matter — the landscaper known as Bamboo Bob. It was the latter and his team who was tasked to unearth the metal box, and what they discovered later was nothing they could have ever prepared for.

Who is Bamboo Bob?

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Bamboo Bob is named so because of his stunning landscape work all over New Jersey and New York, particularly when using bamboo as primary materials. His real name is Robert Foley and Matthew had heard of his work through friends and local media.

He had always been excited over getting the opportunity to work with the artist — and now the time has really come.

Box vs Team Bamboo Bob

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Matthew knew what he wanted to do with his yard and told Bamboo Bob’s team about his vision. He had wanted to create a line of bamboo plants along the side of his property. One key reason is to keep wandering animals out, which is quite common in Staten Island. Deer, especially, hate bamboo, so having these lined up on the perimeter will help ensure they don’t get in.

When Bamboo Bob arrived to survey the location, his eyes landed upon the strange-looking metal box that was protruding from the ground. He wondered what it was and was surprised by Matthew’s answer.

Matthew’s Reply

CityNews Toronto/Youtube

Given Bamboo Bob’s vast experience landscaping different types of property, seeing things partially or completely buried in the ground was nothing surprising. After all, digging was part of their task as landscapers so what they saw at the Emanuel’s, while sparked their curiosity, didn’t set off any alarms.

However, he was surprised at the owner’s response when he asked about it. All this time, Matthew had thought that it was an electrical box, which is probably why he didn’t bother to tinker with it. But he couldn’t have been more wrong. When they finally opened it, jaws dropped.

What Was Hidden In the Ground

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Bob’s crew made a plan to remove the box carefully from the ground in case it held something fragile or would fall apart in the process. When they laid the entire thing on the surface, it was clear that it was not an electrical box. One of his men inspected more closely to find cracks or any sort of opening and figure out what was inside.

At first, while trying to pry it open, they thought it would hold just random items. When the door opened, however, they held out a collective gasp.

It Was A Safe

Matthew Emanuel/Twitter

It was a safe. It had a dial on one side, which stunned the team even more.

There was something weird and special about this rusty old box they just unearthed, otherwise, it wouldn’t have been locked.

The Safe Was About 100 Lbs

Matthew Emanuel/Twitter

The safe was roughly two-feet across and one and a half feet tall, weighing around 100 pounds. Despite its heavy weight, Matthew was determined to find out its contents. After all, he wasted four years not knowing a thing!

Bamboo Bob and his team stood around the garden as they watched Matthew attempt to shift the safe around. He wanted to see if he could hear any of the safe’s contents jostling around inside. He didn’t get far but his efforts didn’t stop there.

Matthew Opened The Safe Using a Pickaxe

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Even with all the shifting, Matthew didn’t hear a thing coming from inside the safe. That didn’t necessarily mean it was empty, though. With the help of his landscaping team, he hoisting the safe up to the deck for further inspection.

The landscapers then went back to work reconstructing the garden while Matthew concocted a plan. He grabbed a pickaxe and smashed it into the safe. It worked, and he was able to peer inside the box. What he saw gave him chills.

The safe contained real-life treasure!

The Safe Contained Money and Jewels

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Matthew Emanuel could hardly believe what he was seeing. Inside the safe were stacks of hundred dollar bills, each bundle at least three inches thick. There were also zipped plastic bags containing hundreds of valuables: chunks of gold, jade, earrings, jewels, and diamond rings were among the findings.

They had literally stumbled upon a real-life treasure in Matthew’s own backyard, right there among the fallen trees and destroyed garden. But there was one small issue.

Up next: the issue.

The Money Had Severe Water Damage

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Even though he finally figured out the true purpose of the old rusted box in his backyard, there was a problem. The safe was not waterproof and many of the bills were severely damaged from years of neglect and exposure to the New York elements.

The cash was squished together from bad water damage, and Matthew realized that he had to work quickly if he had any chance of saving some of the money.

You won’t believe it, but there was more to be found in the safe.

Matthew Tried To Save What He Could Of The Money

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Matthew set to work trying to salvage what he could of the water damaged money, pulling bills apart and setting them aside to dry. The project was tedious and took several days. As he soon discovered, he wasn’t able to save a large chunk of the treasure.

The bills were falling apart and were too ruined to be counted as legal currency. Even excluding the ruined billed, Matthew never expected the sum of the dried bills.

The Cash Equaled $16,300

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After everything was said and done, there was roughly $5,000 worth of bills that Matthew was unable to save. But then there was the rest of it. Albeit slightly faded, the newly dried cash came out to be $16,300. That’s not even counting what the jewels are worth!

Now that Matthew salvaged what he could from the safe, the mystery was over. Right? Nope! There was more that he had yet to learn about the mysterious safe.

The Safe Couldn’t Have Been A Coincidence

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Even though it was exciting for Matthew and his family to find a real-life treasure, he was suspicious about how the safe came to be in the backyard. He felt as though it couldn’t be someone’s personal belongings that they put into a non-weather proof safe and forgot about either.

Although many people wouldn’t care about the safe’s origin, simply pocketing the findings and moving on, Matthew wasn’t finished. He believed there was something potentially illegal going on.

After searching through the safe, he found his answer.

He Took Inventory Of The Other Riches

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Now that the money was dried, Matthew’s next task was to take inventory of the rest of the riches. The amount of gold that was inside the safe was incredible and Matthew had to take out his kitchen scale just to make note of it all.

While he was in the middle of calculating and logging the rest of the safe’s contents, Matthew stumbled across something in one of the plastic bags that would change everything.

He Found An Address

ABDULLAH HAMMAM/AFP/Getty Images

The address could be for any number of locations but Matthew was hopeful that it led to the owner of the safe’s contents. After all, the address wouldn’t lead to the actual criminal, that’d be ridiculous! What he found during his GPS search left him shocked.

The address was closer than he ever could have imagined.

The Address On The Paper Was Close By

CBS New York

As it turned out, the address listed on the paper was very close by, enough so that Matthew wouldn’t even have to take his car. The owner of the old rusted safe’s contents wasn’t only on Staten Island but happened to be residing in the same neighborhood.

It dawned on Matthew that he had passed the house before, every time he walked his dog, as a matter of fact. It was then that Matthew knew what he had to do.

Matthew Was A Man On A Mission

Citynews Toronto/Youtube

Matthew Emanuel couldn’t keep the contents of the safe to himself, not after he found the address. It wasn’t his property, after all. So on April 30, 2018, two days after opening the safe and discovering its contents, Matthew walked over to the address he found scrawled on the piece of paper.

He had no idea who was going to answer the door, or if they were even the true owners of the safe’s contents. Worst case scenario, if this meeting went downhill, he could get the police involved. So he knocked.

An Elderly Woman Opened the Door

Matthew Emanuel/Twitter

Matthew had no way of knowing who was going to open the door or what was going to happen during the very strange conversation revolving around a potential crime. Even so, he didn’t expect an elderly woman to open the door.

Not wanting to be rude, Matthew introduced himself and got right to it. He even went as far as to ask the already hesitant older woman a question, “Have you ever been robbed before?” She immediately started shaking, a reaction Matthew was not prepared for.

You’ll never guess the woman’s story.

She And Her Husband Had Been Robbed Of $52,000

CBS News/Youtube

Matthew wasn’t sure if the woman was shaking due to excitement or pure terror. As it turns out, she confirmed Matthew suspicious; she had had indeed been robbed before. He couldn’t believe the story she was telling him about what happened years prior.

The night after Christmas 2011, a burglar broke into her home. By the time she and her husband had woken up, the criminal was long gone. The person had vanished along with $52,000 worth of money and jewelry.

The Ninja Burglar Prowled The Streets For Ten Years

Daily Mail/Youtube

Although Todt Hill is considered to be an affluent part of Staten Island, it has a frightening past. At the time of the elderly woman’s 2011 robbery, there was a masked person prowling the streets of the town. The press called him the “Ninja Burglar” because of his stealth and surprising success rate.

From 2005 to 2015, the Ninja Burglar robbed over 200 homes across Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. 160 of those robberies being in Staten Island, many of which were in Todt Hill. Could this be his doing?

Robert Costanzo Was Finally Caught

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In 2015, the authorities arrested a man named Robert Costanzo in Staten Island. He had a criminal past and was in court for something unrelated to the burglaries when he was finally charged with the break-ins. It took two years, but Costanzo finally received a sentence of 22 years in prison.

Although many people could sleep easier knowing he was behind bars, the elderly lady Matthew found had long lost hope. Police told her that she was most likely never going to see her belongings again.

Matthew Took the Elderly Lady To His House

Daily Mail/Youtube

Now that he knew this old lady had been robbed a few years back, Matthew had no choice but to bring her to his home. He wanted to see if she’d be able to identify any of the jewelry. He was truly amazed by how fast everything was falling into place.

It’s unfortunate that the safe had been sitting in his backyard for all those years. Now he was so close to unraveling the mystery, and only after two days.

The Woman Was Filled With Emotions

Jessie Jacobson/Flickr

The moment the elderly lady saw the jewelry and stacks of cash on the counter she was overcome with emotion. She instantly started to cry and shake, all while hugging Matthew. Now they both knew the truth.

For six and a half years she had lived with the trauma of having some stranger in her home while she slept, losing her valuables, and being told over and over that she would never see them again.

You’ll never guess what Matthew does next.

Matthew Returns Everything To Its Rightful Owner

CBS New York/Youtube

Matthew Emanuel returned all of the safe’s contents to its rightful owner. What started off as an old rusted box, covered in poison ivy and foliage, and pretty much forgotten, had suddenly turned in to a momentous occasion in a mere few days.

With the help of a bad winter, hungry deer, and a curious landscaper called Bamboo Bob, Matthew was able to help a lady reclaim some of the lost valuables that were wrongfully taken from her, solving something that the police were unable to for more than six years.

Good Karma Was The Only Reward Matthew Wanted

CBS New York/Youtube

In his mind, there was no question of what he was going to do with the safe’s contents. Every piece of jewelry and each of the dollars he carefully separated and dried out were going to their true owner, his elderly neighbor. He also refused any type of award for returning the stolen items.

He told the press that they only reward he could hope for was good karma. After all, he was just doing the right thing! But he did make sure to do something so he never forgot the event.

There was one thing Matthew and his family had to do.

An Elephant Statue To Replace The Mysterious Safe

CBS New York/YouTube

Bamboo Bob had finished the backyard and the safe was back with its true owner. He and his family decided to commemorate the entire experience by placing a tiny ceramic elephant in the backyard by the bamboo.

They wanted to mark the spot of the safe, the memory of the mysterious box that was part of their yard for four years. And as a reminder that real-life mysteries can be solved and that treasure could be sitting right under your nose.

A first-time homeowner shared photos after he discovered a secret room and safe in his new house, and came to regret it…

Internet Post About A Secret Room Goes Viral, Homeowner Didn’t Expect This

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After moving into his first house in 2015, an Imgur user named Jerry shared his weird story of cleaning out the previous owner’s things. The old man had passed away, and the house was sold as-is, meaning it was in desperate need of some cleaning and a makeover.

As a first time homeowner, Jerry was okay with the house needing a little work. Little did he know exactly what he was getting himself into or what secrets he was about to discover.

Getting To Work On The Basement

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After two weeks of moving his things into the house and starting some much-needed renovations, Jerry set his sights on the unfinished basement. In his post, he claimed that the basement was full of junk that needed to be tossed to make room for his belongings.

Since the previous owner didn’t have any family close enough to come over and remove the items, it was up to Jerry to remove them himself — and there was a lot of stuff!

Sometimes there’s more than meets the eye.

A Secret Room Was Not Mentioned In The Listing

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While cleaning out the basement, Jerry noticed a large piece of plywood leaning up against the cinder block wall. Definitely out of place, he pried it off. Apparently the wood was hiding another room because Jerry discovered a gigantic hole in the wall where more cinder blocks should be.

As a new homeowner, finding a secret room that the real estate agent was unaware of was cause for a little bit of concern. What was inside?

A Crate, Boxes And Pouches Were Found

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The four-by-four room was full of boxes, crates, and tiny pouches littered across the floor. The room wasn’t connected to the house’s electrical circuit, so Jerry had to run and grab a flashlight to see what was inside the creates.

The place almost seemed like a bunker of sorts, but that didn’t make sense. Why wasn’t it cleaned out? It looked as though no one had been there in ages. Is it possible that the previous owner was hiding something?

You won’t believe what he found.

Of Course, There’s A Secret Safe In The Secret Room

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“At this point, I am a little shocked, and a little scared,” Jerry wrote. Curiosity got the better of him and he climbed through the small hole. The first thing he noticed in the tiny room were the gun casings stacked on top of one another. They were empty but plentiful. Why hoard empty casings?

That’s when he noticed something in the corner of the room. A Sentry safe, heavy and completely locked.

To Open The Safe Or Not To Open The Safe

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Jerry wasn’t sure what to do. Should he call the previous owner’s children to see if they know anything about the safe or the secret room? What if they wanted some of the items that were stored away?

He decided he was going to try and open the safe. Although it’s a bit unethical, the safe is technically his since he bought the house as-is. The only issue being, what if he finds something bad?

The Safe Isn’t Even His Most Interesting Find

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He put opening the safe on the back burner, deciding to investigate the contents in the room a bit further. That’s when he found hundreds of live rounds of ammunition. The scary part? They were all in unlocked cases and obviously stored here by the previous owner.

Jerry couldn’t tell if it was a collection or if they were hidden away in the basement for some alternative reason. Unfortunately, he was about to find out.

Dreaming Of Stolen Merchandise And Basements

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After further exploration, Jerry found more army-style bins that held similar items like the ammo. He called it a night, deciding that he would come back to the secret room in the morning. It was a lot to wrap his head around.

He would be in the right mood to tear apart the room after a good night’s sleep. He wondered what types of secrets and treasures were in the basement. What on Earth did he stumble across down there?

You’ll never guess what he found in the morning.

He Stumbled Across Military-Grade Equipment

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The next day brought new revelations to Jerry. He climbed back into the room to investigate the numerous boxes and crates scattered around, only to realize that most of them were labeled as military-grade.

Why would an old man have all of this military equipment? Jerry knew right then that he had to open the containers to see what lied inside. The thing is, he was not prepared for what he found.

Civilian Marksmanship Program

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He found an empty rifle case that was marked “Civilian Marksmanship Program,” meaning the previous homeowner knew how to use these guns. Something wasn’t right, the previous owner wasn’t just collecting the guns and ammo, he was using them.

Maybe he had special military permission to have the items in his house? That didn’t seem right either, so Jerry decided to open the crates. The contents almost had him running out of the room.

Way More Ammo Than Any Civilian Needs

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Things got a lot more serious after Jerry opened the crates. Hidden in the room was an SKS air rifle, crates of blank ammo, two crates of rifle ammo, a box of 19mm military-grade ammo, a box of 8mm ammo, boxes of Wolf 39mm ammo, and a dead grenade.

That’s a lot of ammo for an old man. Why was it hidden away? The weirdest part is that Jerry’s strangest discovery is the most harmless.

Pennies?

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In one of the crates, he stashed a boat-load of pennies! So what was the connection between all of the military equipment and the pennies? They must be worth something, why else would he store such a large quantity?

They were worth hiding for some reason, Jerry just couldn’t figure out why. His concern started growing as he tried to figure out why the previous owner was hiding all of these things in the basement.

The End Of The World Is Upon Us

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Maybe they were doomsday “preppers.” People who like to be super prepared for the inevitable collapse of society because of war, a natural disaster, or the zombie apocalypse. They usually stockpile ammo and guns. But wouldn’t there be canned goods and water, too?

Also, some collectors like to save pennies from the pre-1980s because they were made out of copper. Something that could be used for trade, in case the dollar loses its value in the world.

Time To Circle Back To The Safe

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Now, back to the creepy, heavy-duty safe in the corner. Jerry couldn’t move it due to the weight, so he was going to have to figure out how to open it in the room. Cracking the code was out of the question, so he gathered his father’s tools to try and pry it open.

After spending way more time trying to pry the safe open than he would like to admit, Jerry finally called a locksmith.

Any Ideas Of What The Old Man Locked Away?

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Jerry took to his Imgur thread that was now gaining an audience following, telling everyone that the locksmith was going to come by the up-coming Monday and to stay tuned for an update. Seemed as though everyone was excited to see what was inside!

If the old man thought it was fine to leave military-grade guns and ammunition out in the open, what could he possibly have that warranted him locking it away?

And Then There Was Silence

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That was the last time the Imgur thread heard from Jerry. After the radio silence, the internet world began to hypothesize what happened to him. Some say he got the safe open, found a ton of cash, ditched the thread, and ran. Others say the viral story gave him some unwanted attention and that Jerry posted something he shouldn’t have.

Little did the spectators know that the latter is relatively close to the truth.

You won’t believe what happened to Jerry during his time away.

He Lives!

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After two years, Jerry took to the thread again, his subject heading reading, “UPDATE: If anyone remembers or cares.” He dives into the scary story of what his life had been like for the past couple of years.

Crazy things began to happen to him after the posts went viral, forcing him to go into hiding for years before feeling comfortable enough to go back online to finish his tale of the secret room.

Weird People And Late Night Disturbances

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First, two days after posting the story, strange-looking people rang the doorbell. Having no idea who they were or what they wanted, he didn’t answer the door. They stuck around for a few minutes before getting in their car and leaving.

The next night, something startled him awake, and his dog began to growl. That’s when something either hit his house or someone knocked on a door or window. Who does that in the middle of the night?

Then the scariest thing happened.

Wrongful Break-in Made Him Paranoid

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Two nights later, someone broke into Jerry’s neighbor’s house. Nothing was stolen, but it was very clear that the intruders were looking for something specific. It may have been pure coincidence, but Jerry is fairly sure the people who broke in next door thought they were breaking into his house.

What if they were tech-savvy enough to track where the posts were coming from? Thankfully, no one had been hurt, but Jerry was beyond paranoid.

After That Fiasco, It’s No Wonder He Moved Out

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Jerry told his followers that he would not reveal what he found in the safe, saying that he’s too paranoid about posting it online after everything that happened to him.

He has since moved out of the house, not wanting the new owners to go through what he did. The world may never know what the old man was actually preparing for, and the ending of this freaky tale leaves us with more questions than answers.