People often wonder what lies within the walls of their pre-owned homes, but the answer is usually “nothing.” It’s an exciting thought, though—renovating a century-old home only to discover wads of cash or priceless artwork stored away for one lucky person to find. Before you scoff at such a fantasy, we’re here to tell you that it really does happen—the finds, however, aren’t always what you’d expect. Here are some of the strangest things people have discovered within the walls of their homes.

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Before you scoff at such a fantasy, we’re here to tell you that it really does happen—the finds, however, aren’t always what you’d expect. Here are some of the strangest things people have discovered within the walls of their homes.

A Mother and Son

Finding any type of human or animal in your walls is never a good thing but, at least in this case, they were discovered alive. In 2007, a 6-year-old child named Ricky Chekevdia went missing during a custody battle between his father, Michael Chekevdia, and his mother, Shannon Wilfong. According to police reports, Ricky wasn’t allowed to go outside very often. His grandmother, Diane Hobbs, begged to differ—she said that the boy could rarely be found inside and spent the majority of his time away from the home.

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Whether Hobbs had something to do with it or not, police later found both Ricky and his mother crouching in the walls of his grandmother’s Illinois home, presumably so his mother wouldn’t have to fight the custody battle any longer. In fact, investigators found many makeshift hiding spots within the home, including a hole that had been carved into the floor. A judge later found that Ricky had actually been kept away from kids his age, school, and even medical care during his young life at the hands of his mother and grandmother. His father was relieved when the boy was found alive and was given full custody.

Priceless Artwork

Well, it’s thought that priceless artwork lies behind a wall in this case. Imagine asking Leonardo da Vinci to paint a picture for you, only to have someone else demand that it be painted over later.

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Dave Yoder/National Geographic Society

In 1502, an Italian man named Piero Soderini commissioned da Vinci to create a mural that depicted a scene from the Battle of Anghiari. The piece, referred to as “The Lost Leonardo,” ended up being a massive 10 feet high and 20 feet long. It was well appreciated in its home in the Hall of Five Hundred Palazzo Vecchio of Florence, until sometime in the 1550s when someone asked another artist, Giorgio Vasari, to paint another fresco (the Battle of Marciano in Val di Chiana) on top of it.

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Giorgio Vasari, “The Battle of Scannagallo” (c. 1554)

Fast-forward over 200 years to the 1970s, when University of California art diagnostician Maurizio Seracini discovered the words “cerca trova” painted onto one of Vasari’s murals; the phrase means “seek and you shall find.” Thanks to that small clue, Seracini believes that Vasari refused to destroy da Vinci’s work, that Vasari sought to preserve it in some way, and that da Vinci’s mural exists behind Vasari’s painting.

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Dave Yoder/National Geographic

Thanks to thermal, radar, and laser scans, it was later discovered that the space there is a gap less than two inches wide between Vasari’s mural and the wall on which da Vinci painted; a sample from the back wall contained some black residue that matched samples of paint taken from other da Vinci paintings, including the Mona Lisa. However, no one has yet to examine the space further to see if da Vinci’s original fresco is truly there, mainly because it could take destroying Vasari’s painting to do so.

There are ethical concerns around destroying one work of art for another, and there are some who believe da Vinci’s painting—if it’s even behind the wall in the first place—could be too deteriorated to make an excavation worth it.

Underwear

It’s definitely not the worst things you could find in your house, but it’s definitely pretty strange—especially when it’s underwear that shows clear signs of use. Ew.

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Throughout western Europe, it’s actually fairly common to find centuries-old underwear hidden within the walls of homes. In fact, it’s something they must’ve gotten used to seeing at some point, because most people don’t even care enough to tell authorities about it, most likely thinking they’ve found evidence of a squatter. Believe it or not, the practice of hiding underwear in the walls is actually something that can be traced back to the Middle Ages. According to the curiously named Deliberately Concealed Garments Project:

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Houzz

“The tradition of concealing clothes can be related to the practice of concealing other objects such as dried cats, witch bottles and charms in buildings. These types of objects have been discovered hidden in similar places. The concealing of these items including garments can be related to folklore and superstitious traditions relating to the ritual protection of a household and its inhabitants.”

Witch’s Bottles

Speaking of folklore and superstition, people used to be thoroughly convinced of the presence of witches. Whether you choose to believe it or not, they took it very seriously back then, and the evidence of just how seriously they took it has been unearthed.

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Wikipedia

They’re called witch’s bottles, although they’re not called that because the witches left them behind wherever they went—people left them behind to ward the witches away. They typically contained a smorgasbord of unsanitary objects like old fingernail clippings, urine, and hair, and usually included a heart-shaped piece of leather with a pin stick straight through the middle.

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Mike Pitts/British Archaeology

Though most of the witch’s bottled found over time had broken seals that basically destroyed anything inside, a bottle from the 17th century was found inside a London home in 2004, which gave historians a good—although completely disgusting—look into some of the practices of that time.

Snakes

No, no, a million times no. If you’re like us, the thought of a snake in the grass outside your house is enough to keep you indoors for a few hours—can you imagine finding out that your actual house was filled with them?

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In 2009, a couple in Idaho, Ben and Amber Sessions, had just moved into their dream home and were even expecting a child, who would obviously share their lives and space with them. If only it wasn’t that space because soon after moving in, the couple found out that the home they had been so eager to move into was sitting on top of something else: a large group of garter snakes.

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Though harmless, the snakes had access to the walls of the home and decided that they’d come and go as they pleased, much to the family’s dismay. What’s even worse is that the community knew about the snakes underneath the house, but the Sessions’ real estate agent convinced them that the house’s former owner made it all up to get out of their mortgage. That was clearly a lie, however, as Amber reported that they once caught 43 snakes in a day and even said that the “water tasted like how they smell.” Because they were tricked into signing paperwork acknowledging the snakes, the Sessions have considered filing for bankruptcy to get rid of the house.

A Secret Tunnel And Lots Of Black Mold

Finding a secret tunnel hidden within your home is the stuff of adventurous dreams, but they usually don’t include that tunnel being filled with black mold. In 2011, the Brown family moved aside a bookcase in their new South Carolina home and, much to their surprise, discovered a passageway hidden behind it. Instead of finding treasure or ghosts, they found a note that read:

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“You Found It! Hello. If you’re reading this, then you found the secret room. I owned this house for a short while and it was discovered to have a serious mold problem. One that actually made my children very sick to the point that we had to move out…”

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The note then encouraged the family to get in contact with the previous owner so they could discuss the situation more. Unfortunately, the mold took its toll on the Browns, as well, because they later had to move out due to mold-induced illnesses. Thankfully, though, they got back the money they paid for the house.

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