The attic is the kind of place you can usually expect to find old math quizzes from second grade, boxes of Christmas decorations, and a framed picture of dogs playing poker that has not been hung on a wall since the 1990s.
Attics are by their very nature a little quirky, a little creepy, and a largely forgotten part of most homes. As a result, you might find a surprising things or two in a rare trip up to the attic—perhaps that toy you asked for but never received, or maybe a picture of the family who lived there before.
But sometimes, people have found some truly bizarre items in their homes’ upper-most regions. Here are a few standout discoveries pulled from these basements in the sky.
Need a Hand? These Folks Found One in Their Tampa Attic
What child hasn’t imagined hunting around the attic one day and finding a box that contains relics of some past swashbuckling adventure? Florida man Mike Lopez had a taste of that far-fetched fantasy when he uncovered a box of honest-to-goodness pirate paraphernalia in his grandfather’s attic.
Lopez was doing some spring cleaning and uncovered a box that contained, to his great surprise, a weathered map of the Tampa area, old Spanish coins, and a mummified skeletal hand wearing a vintage ring. The shocking discovery did seem to line up with stories that Lopez’s grandfather told him and his sister about their great-grandfather, Ernesto Lopez, finding the treasure of pirate folk hero Jose Gaspar.
A local legend of the Tampa Bay area, Jose Gaspar was supposedly one of “the last of the old Spanish pirates” and each year the city of Tampa holds a massive pirate-themed festival, The Gasparilla Pirate Festival, in his honor.
Lopez had the contents of the box inspected by local antique experts who were able to confirm that the map was from the 1930s and the coins were genuinely from the 18th century but likely were not actual pieces of pirate booty. The hand was also a real human hand. But was it the actual hand of famed pirate Jose Gaspar?
The experts have said it is unlikely that “the legend of Gaspar is anything more than a children’s story or a folk tale that adds to the culture of the area.” That said, they also did not say they could definitively disprove that the hand once belonged to the mythical buccaneer. So, for all who want to believe, the adventure continues!
The Man Of Steel in Some Attic Insulation
Home remodeler David Gonzalez was working on restoring an old home in the small town of Hoffman, Minnesota, when he made a truly epic discovery: a 70-year-old copy of Action Comics No. 1. The comic book, first produced in 1938, is famous for introducing the world to Superman and ushering in an age of comic book superheroes.
Gonzalez discovered the comic book in the attic’s insulation that was stuffed with a wide variety of crunched-up newspapers from the 1930s. In a bit of drama worthy of its own graphic illustration, the comic was torn in a dispute between Gonzalez and a relative over the selling of the action hero artifact.
The imperfection (along with a few other quality concerns) meant the comic would not be fetching anywhere close to the all-time high for an Action Comics No.1—$2.16 million paid in November 2011.
But Gonzalez still made out quite well. The comic went for $100,000 at an auction and he had paid only $10,100 for the home. Additionally, Gonzalez describes himself as a “humble working guy” who believes that “money won’t by you happiness.”
A Lost Van Gogh Painting Was Found Again
How does an almost priceless work of art from one of the famous post-impressionist painters in history sit in an attic collecting dust for nearly 40 years? Just a bit of bad luck and a botched verification it would seem.
The Van Gogh painting had found its way into the possession of Norwegian industrialist and art collector Christian Nicolai Mustad after being sold in 1901. Mustad had always believed the work was an original Van Gogh, but the lack of a signature and the skepticism of a French diplomat caused Mustad to hide the piece in his attic.
Decades later, in 1991, Mustad’s family sought out the Van Gogh museum to verify the painting’s authenticity. They were told it was not a work of the artist.
However, after a two-year investigation and new research techniques, experts were finally able to give Mustad’s family the victory Mustad never had: confirmation that Van Gogh had painted the work of art, a landscape entitled “Sunset at Montmajour.”
Letters between Van Gogh and his brother confirmed the details of the painting, which was the first full-size Van Gogh canvas uncovered since 1928.
Did this German Attic House an Ancient Egyptian Mummy?
If anything could top tales of legendary pirates and lost works of art, it may the story of 10-year-old Alexander Kettler, who was playing in the attic of his grandmother’s house in northern Germany when he found something unbelievable: a dusty crate containing a sarcophagus with a mummy inside. The boy’s father and grandmother, who helped open the mysterious crates, were stunned.
It was possible the Egyptian stowaway made its way to Germany via the boy’s grandfather who had spent time in northern Africa in the 1950s. After the find, the Kettler family was determined to discover how their family came into possession of such a thing, as well as if the mummy was an actual Egyptian artifact. A CT scan and X-Ray revealed that while the mummy was not a true thousands-year-old museum piece, it did contain actual human bones.
While the Kettler’s search for what brought this mummy to their attic, experts suggest the mummy may have been a relic from the days of European “Egyptomania”—a time when Egyptian culture was all the rage and upper-class types hosted macabre “Mummy Parties,” where an "expert" would publicly unwrap a mummy as a type of entertainment.
The Uncovering of What Might Be The Skull of a King
Some kings, like England’s Henry VIII, were known for taking off the heads of others. But a debate has raged in France in past years over a king who may have lost his.
It all began when a tax collector named Jacques Bellanger was approached by some TV producer journalists who had been on the hunt for the missing skull of King Henri IV.
Henri, grandfather of "Sun King" Louis XIV, ruled France from 1589 to 1610 and is historically regarded as a “good king” who put an end to brutal religious wars that had torn France apart. After his death in 1610, Henri IV was interred in a basilica outside of Paris, until 1793 when French revolutionaries dug up his grave and pillaged his remains.
Bellanger had purchased the skull from the wife of a French photographer who had spent much of his life trying to verify the authenticity of the the mummified head. The head was kept in a towel, in a box, in an armoire in Bellanger’s attic.
While initial tests seemed to prove that the head is indeed the real deal, doubters still claim that there is not enough evidence to confirm it for certain. The debate may keep historical authorities scratching their heads for years to come.
An Living Attic Relic of Relationships Past
There are clearly a lot of scary things one can find in an attic, but perhaps nothing is quite as frightening as what a woman from South Carolina uncovered in hers: her ex-boyfriend making himself at home.
The unsettling discovery began when the mother of five saw some nails that had popped right out of the ceiling. Noises suggested there may have been an animal scurrying around in the attic and the woman, known only as “Tracy,” called her adult nephew to help investigate.
When the nephew ventured into the attic he did not find any rodents, but he saw a rat (of sorts): Tracy’s ex-boyfriend was asleep on a mattress next to a heating vent that allowed him a view into Tracy’s bedroom.
The squatting scoundrel escaped before the police could arrive, but he had just recently gotten out of jail for stealing the Tracy’s truck just a year or so earlier. Authorities found some unseemly biological evidence that the ex had been staying in the attic for at least a few days, though they still have no idea how he was able to sneak through the house to make it up to his sinister upstairs sanctuary.
A Texas Family Finds a Bunch of World War II Love Letters and a Mystery
Sometimes attic discoveries can bring about a sweet surprise. In Lubbock, Texas, homeowner Andy Green was doing some repair work on a vent in his attic when he found something remarkable and called out to his wife Jessica: “I think I found something really cool!”
His find? A box of love letters written during World War II. They were written by Navy chief petty officer Dale Simpson to his sweetheart back home, Virginia Sims. The Greens arranged the old love letters chronologically to follow the very touching chain of events covering the couple’s courtship and marriage. They also revealed the deep thoughts of young Dale as he enters the service, says Jessica: “They have every emotion you can think of.”
The Greens set out on a mission to find the Simpsons (who were married in 1943 in New Mexico after Dale proposed in one of his letters). They soon learned that the couple had both passed away in the 1990s, but found the surviving family members who were enchanted by the emotional love letter exchange. Jessica recalled the surprise of one of the Simpsons’ daughters: “They didn't show affection out loud...you never would have thought that these words would have come out of my father.”
With pirate adventures, epic romances, creepy villains, and superheroes, the stories people can uncover in their attic can be every bit as compelling as the latest Hollywood blockbuster.