Through’t Keyhole: A look at some of the most bizarre uses for self-storage
20 of the strangest things found in self-storage units
Self-storage has become famous. Shows like Storage Hunters & Storage Wars have brought the business into the public eye, and in doing so, have made some self-storage celebrities, Jesse McClure among them. These people make very good livings from capitalising on forgotten and reclaimed bizarre uses for self-storage
The shows have regularly fascinated viewers with the value of some of the things to be found in self-storage facilities in the US and the UK.
So, in no particular order, we thought we’d take a look at twenty of the most bizarre things ever found in self-storage.
Michael Jackson records
One storage locker, previously rented by Michael Jackson’s Dad, was found to contain hitherto undiscovered and unreleased Michael Jackson recordings. Over 250 of them. Some of which featured Tina Turner. When the buyer of the self-storage unit looked into the history of these songs, it became apparent that they had been recorded when Jackson was between contracts, therefore meaning no record label could claim the copyright of them: leaving the lucky buyer with quite a gold mine.
A live hand grenade
One buyer, in Michigan, found a live hand grenade in a self-storage unit they’d bought at auction. The police were called and the Bomb Disposal Unit was sent out to safely dispose of the device. Fortunately, nobody was hurt during this incident.
It seems a fairly regular occurrence for the new owners of self-storage units to find urns containing cremated ashes in units that have their contents sold at auction. However, there have been reports of some seriously macabre findings in storage units over the years. Various high-profile murder cases, both in the UK and the US, have been found to include the storage of bodies in self-storage units (completely unbeknown to the operators!) for varying lengths of time. One unit in America had seen a body stored in it, inside a freezer, for over 19 years. Another, unit in Florida had apparently held the body of a family’s grandma for 17 years after her death, legally on this occasion, though still decidedly odd.
Aretha Franklin’s clothes
It’s believed that the reason these turned up at a self-storage unit in Michigan was a result of Aretha Franklin using the self-storage facility to store her belongings in, after a fire at her house. It must be assumed that they were eventually forgotten about as the unit stopped being paid for and was auctioned off as a result.
NASA rockets and countdown timers
A storage unit situated close to Cape Canaveral, in Florida, was auctioned off and was found to contain a NASA rocket and a countdown clock. The equipment had been stored in the self-storage unit as a result of the space programme they’d been part of being discontinued. This particular find even made it on to TV; it featured on Auction Hunters on Spike TV.
Nicholas Cage’s $1,000,000 comic
In 2000 Nicholas Cage’s house was burgled. After the event he reported his copy of Action Comics #1 – worth over $1,000,000 – to be missing. Over ten years later, the comic turned up in an abandoned self-storage unit. Fortunately for Nicholas Cage, the buyer of the unit contacted the same comic book expert to evaluate the comic that had sold it to Cage in the first place. The expert recognised it, Cage was contacted, and he has reportedly been re-united with his comic book.
Huge sums of money
The buyer of a storage unit in San Jose, California, was lucky enough to find over $500,000 worth of gold and silver coins and ingots in the locker he’d bought at auction. The precise origins of the haul were apparently never determined. What is known, however, is that having paid a comparatively measly $1,100 for the self-storage unit at auction, this lucky buyer was quids-in (or dollars, if you’re being pedantic).
A 1937 Bugatti 57S Atalante
Only 710 of the magnificent Bugatti 57S were ever produced (and only 17 of the Atalantes and 4 of the coupe model, the 57SC): they aren’t just rare, they’re extremely rare!
In 2009 after being bequeathed various things in his uncle’s will, Harold Carr’s nephew discovered a Bugatti 57S Atalante in a garage that had been used as a storage unit.
The car had originally belonged to racing enthusiast Earl Howe and after changing hands a few times, Dr. Carr bought it in 1955 for £895 (circa £15,500 today). Apparently it was driven for a few years and then left in the garage it was found in for over 50 years until his death.
The car recently sold at auction for over £3,000,000.
No, I don’t mean that David Hasselhoff turned up in a storage locker (although, if his face is anything to go by, he is being cryogenically frozen somewhere, between public appearances these days). I do, though, mean that a replica of K.I.T.T. was driven in to a self-storage unit in the UK fairly recently. You might be surprised how often self-storage units are used to store classic and expensive rare cars.
Dinosaur Jaw Bone
In 2011 a storage unit at the University of Alberta was found to contain a prehistoric relic. When old store rooms were being cleared out, the jaw bone of a dinosaur was found!
Various items of rare and valuable sporting memorabilia have been found in self-storage units over the years. In North Carolina a unit that was auctioned contained some recruitment letters sent to Michael Jordan, one of which was from another sporting legend, Dean Smith. The items in the unit were sold at auction for a rather impressive $55,000.
Again, rare and collectible music memorabilia has been a stalwart of the self-storage unit auction over the years. One locker was found to contain a collection of previously unseen photos of The Doors frontman, Jim Morrison, taken in 1968.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, I suppose, given the fact that self-storage units tend to be considerably cheaper per month than rent on a residential property, various self-storage facilities have reported finding people actually living in their units.
In 2013 two children were taken into protective custody after they were found living in a storage unit in Ewing with their mother.
After the Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me, the iconic Lotus submarine-car, that reportedly cost around $100,000 dollars to build, was lost. That is, until it turned up in 1989, slightly dented and lacking its wheels, in a self-storage unit that cost $100 at auction in Long Island.
After restoration, the car did the rounds of various museums for 24 years, before being bought at auction in 2013 for £616,000, by Elon Musk, the tech entrepreneur behind Tesla Motors. Apparently he plans to make it work as both a submarine and a car - it previously only worked as a submarine.
A severed leg
And not just any severed leg. A severed leg in a smoker no less! This carefully wrapped leg had been placed in storage by the amputee, after it had been removed due to injuries caused in a plane crash. He had planned on having it buried with him. After the auction of the self-storage unit and the subsequent discovery of the leg, the new owner of the unit’s contents returned the leg to its owner. For free.
There have been stories of self-storage units being sold at auction that have been found to have completely inexplicable contents. One tenant filled his unit with old used tyres before disappearing forever. One unit went to auction containing nothing but a homemade iron box. Furthermore, one self-storage facility reported three tenants becoming locked in their storage units in the same week. On all three occasions the police and fire service were called to break them out.
Burt Reynolds’ life
When Burt Reynolds’ self-storage unit went up for auction, some of the weird and wonderful things that were found include: a horse carriage built by Dolly Parton; a letter from Burt’s doctor, detailing spleen surgery in 1955, which had been framed; the canoe from his 1972 film, Deliverance; and a bill of sale for Roy Rogers’ horse, Trigger. In fact, there was so much weird stuff in Burt Reynolds’ storage unit that it went on to be the foundation of a celebrity museum, created as an ode to him, in Florida.
Locked up girlfriend
One owner of a self-storage facility, in Michigan, reported that a man who had rented a self-storage unit from him had locked his new girlfriend in it, in a jealous rage, for three days to keep her away from her ex-boyfriend.
Over the years a tremendous variety of weird and wonderful collections have been found in self-storage units that have been auctioned. Ranging from more ‘normal’ collections of books and vinyl – the man with the world’s largest record collection, containing over 3 million records uses a climate controlled warehouse to house his – to the weirder end of the scale; things such as taxidermy collections, belly-button fluff collections, and some that are just too strange to put in to writing. Storage units seem to be the place to keep the weird collections of the world.
One of the seedier uses that self-storage units seem to regularly be the victims of, is that of the love nest.
Many storage facility owners have reported finding tenants engaged in extra-marital trysts inside their lockers, which, although technically not illegal, is a sure-fire way to get your contract cancelled.
One of the more famous incidences of the ‘self-storage-love-nest’ was uncovered in 2013 in Cleveland. Long-serving married Police Chief, Wes Snyder, was found to have been using a storage unit, hired in the name of his lover, Executive Director of local charity, Sharon Marr to carry out their illicit affair. Video surveillance footage showed that the affair had been carrying on for over 2 months and caused quite a scandal in Cleveland.
Store First: for all your self-storage needs
Here at Store First, although we implore you not to use our storage units for the vast majority of the above (if you really need it spelling out to you, here’re our T&Cs), we have state of the art self-storage warehouses, with fantastic additional facilities like meeting rooms and free wi-fi, that we’re confident can cater to all of your self-storage needs.
Give us a call today and see what we can do for you.