What I did not know, and what my friend didn't know was that there was a secret buried somewhere in this house. A secret that had been hidden for possibly 30 years.
Surprised, I pick it up to inspect it, my adrenaline jumps a bit and my heart (and mind) start racing. I think I may be in a squatters house, or maybe someone is stashing stuff here.But I stay and I keep shooting...the house is great, seems to have been abandoned a very long time, quite possibly early 80's.The kitchen counter and cupboards were full of old products and canisters, as well as old family photo's
Exploring the upstairs of the house was like walking through a time capsule, unfortunately holes in the roof had caused an advanced deterioration of the interior.
My friend who had discovered this home had been able to locate a deep history of this home and the family who lived here, but For privacy and ethical reasons I will not be sharing any of that story on this public forum, but let it be known, it's a very tragic story.
Following the death of the two elders in the home, the property was willed to their children, however the tragedy that struck the family had caused them to move from the house prior to their passing.
The siblings who took ownership of the property had also eventually passed away, passing the property to three siblings who have not kept in touch for years. Leaving the home in this condition for years.
I continue my explore of the house, documenting all of these old antiques that I'm finding
I get a phone call from my friend to ask me how things are going, and I tell him of what I have found. He is shocked, however he had a feeling when he was here that there was something more to be found in this house.
I tell him that I don't think we should make any quick decisions and lets sit on this a while. I tell him I will put what I found in side some old tins and leave it somewhere that he can go back and get it and we decide what to do. It is placed in 4 old tins and hidden
I tell my friend that the best option here, in my opinion is that we reach out to the people who own the property, his research had led him to locate the three siblings who own this land, and he was able to find a phone number.
I finished shooting the house and I told him I will call when done, so we can make a plan.
I called, did not block my number and gave my real name, it was very strange to leave this message.A few hours after my message, my phone rang and it was the woman we had been trying to reach, she sounded nervous - and so did I.I started by telling her how odd this must sound and she may not like the story at the start, but to please hear me out!"I am an urban explorer, I am part of a community who finds abandoned houses and takes photo's of them, I recently photographed an abandoned house in (town) and I believe it may be your family home"
We qualified the details to ensure I had the right house and the right person, and sure enough - this was her grandparents house where her mom grew up, and she had been to as a child."So let me get this right, you go into peoples houses, and you take pictures? That is so wrong!!!"I explain "take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints" and all that stuff, she eases up and says "okay, so tell me what you found" I tell her of the mattress, she knows the mattress, I tell her of the bag of money, she had no idea and she is in shock.I tell her we didn't want to leave it there for some kid or vandal to find and to steal, we want to return this money to the family, where it belongs, and she is the only family member we could find.
Her demeanor changed, she was apprehensive and nervous and she needed to talk to her husband, I said "you take your time with this, and just let me know." I also apologized for the situation and I understand her position.
30 minutes later she called back and asked me if we could meet that afternoon at the house, she had looked me up to confirm who I was and she had done some research on Urban Exploring, and she thought it was interesting!!So, it was agreed - she and her husband would meet my friend and I in 4.5 hours at the house, they would stop and get some fresh boards to seal up the house.
I told my friend that we should both bring our significant others, that would make the situation much more relaxed and legitimate, instead of two haggard looking dudes showing up to pass off the loot! The meeting time came, I arrived with my girlfriend just as our new friends were unpacking the boards, we were all very nervous! We went over to the house and we all went inside where she gave us a tour of the home, I showed her where the money was found, she told me who was in the family photo's.
We went back downstairs and my friend and his wife had arrived, we all exchanged handshakes and made our way outside to our cars, the woman shared some of the history with us and explained why the home is in this state. Her grandparents had died many years ago and willed the land to their kids (the mother of the woman telling the story), then our new friends mother passed away, and willed the land to her kids, there are three of them - one of them standing before us.
We gave her the money, every penny (my friend made sure she knew, not a dollar had been held back), she started to cry - overwhelmed by this random act of kindness, and by the emotions she feels being back at this house. We didn't pry or ask about family history, we offered a few hugs and just took in the moment. We posed with her for a photo, at her request, and after many many "Thank You" hugs we went on our way.
My friend and I (and our partners) went for a coffee to take all this in and talk about it...we all felt great and were happy to have made this decision. We all believed in karma, and there was never a thought that we should keep this money, someone owned this property and there was someone out there who should have it. We were lucky enough to have found that person.