5 of the weirdest things found in old houses

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Ιf you’ve ever owned one, you know how it goes. You know about nasty horse hair plaster in the walls, old garbage buried in the dirt floor cellar. You’ve found coins in your attic and old newspapers in the back of that built-in cabinet.

newspaper

But can you top these old house finds?

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1. Dead chickens stuffed in the walls

When the Bretzius family in Auburn, Pennsylvania opened up a wall of their old home to add some insulation, they found dozens of chicken carcasses inside.
“We were shocked, horrified, and disgusted,” said Kajia Bretzuis.

Interestingly, the poultry remains were found with spices and wrapped in old newspapers dated from the 1930s and 40s.

image from: wnep.com

image from: wnep.com

A local historian has suggested that the dead chickens and spices were part of some “pow-wowing or Dutch magic” which was used to heal ailments and ward off evil spirits.

Indeed, rural Pennsylvania before the Second World War was a hotbed of the Pennsylvania Dutch who had a curious mix of religious beliefs that included faith healings and folk magic. I did a post about a haunted house called Hex Hollow that was involved in some strange Pennsylvania Dutch murder hex incident.

But back to the chickens in the walls. The Bretzius family discovered that removing chicken carcasses from walls was not covered under their home owner’s insurance policy. Cleaning out the chickens and replacing them with real insulation cost the family about $20,000 and took several years to complete.

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2. A Van Gogh original in the attic:

A Norwegian man was more fortunate when he uncovered a landscape painting in the attic of his old house. He first discovered it in 1991 and although it looked distinctly like a Van Gogh piece, he thought it was a fake or imitation.
In 2013 the homeowner had the painting evaluated by art historian experts who used chemical analysis, x-rays, and letters that Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo describing the painting. They declared the painting a bona fide Van Gogh original dating back to 1888 and it has been named The Sunset At Montmajour.

 

image from: http://www.oddee.com

image from: http://www.oddee.com

The painting is now displayed as part of an exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. If it was sold at auction, the estimated the price the painting would fetch would be in the tens of millions.

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3. A Medieval well in the living room:

Colin Steer had lived in his old house in Plymouth, Devon in the UK with his wife Vanessa for 25 years before they made a find that would beguile British historians.
There was a distinct dip in the living room floor that always concerned Mr. Steer and after he retired, he finally had time to investigate. He started digging up the floor of his home – which dated to the 1890’s – and found an old well had been hidden under there for all those decades.
image from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

image from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

Some local research revealed that the well was part of a “watercourse” built in the 16th century.

Mr. Steer discovered a very old sword in the well that is thought to be from medieval times. He has installed lighting to illuminate the well and put a glass trap door over top.

image from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

image from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

While Mr. Steer is quite proud of his find, his wife is not so impressed.

“I hate the well,” says Mrs. Steer, “But I suppose it is quite a feature. When we come to sell the house I just hope it’s not a white elephant in the room.”

Nah, more of a conversation piece.

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4. Hitler’s secret record collection

Adolf Hitler

It seems that the Fuhrer Hitler was a bit of a hypocrite. Though he forbade certain types of music to be played by the people he ruled – especially music by Jewish composers – he actually kept a secret stash of outlawed records for his own personal enjoyment.

This was discovered in Russia in 1991 when Alexandra Besymenskaja, was sent to her father’s attic to retrieve a badminton racquet. What she found instead was Adolf Hitler’s personal record collection.

You see, her father, Lew Besymenski, was a former captain of the Russian military intelligence unit during the Second World War. In 1945, shortly after the fall of Nazi Germany, he went with his unit and looted to the Reich Chancellery in Berlin – the headquarters of the Nazi party.

Lew managed to grab some boxes of Adolf Hitler’s personal belongings that he kept as souvenirs.

image from: www.dw.com

image from: www.dw.com

The stack of records in his attic had been labeled with the word, Führerhauptquartier – German for Reich Chancellery.

Some of the composers found among the records in Hitler’s personal collection were Peter Tchaikovsky, Alexander Borodin and Sergei Rachmaninoff. All of these were labeled as “degenerate” and “subhuman” by the Nazis.

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Okay, did you think we could end this post without mention of mummified human remains found in an old house?

5. How about the 400 year old head of a king?

image from: www.medievalists.net

image from: www.medievalists.net

This is such an odd story – but 100% true.

After the death of notorious French tax collector Jacques Bellanger, a journalist with a television production company went snooping around in his attic based on rumors of the odd things that Bellanger had collected over the years. The journalist made the find of a lifetime: he pulled out the 400-year head of King Henry IV who had been dead since 1610.

Portrait of King Henry IV (left); and his 400 year old skull (right):

image from: www.theguardian.com

image from: www.theguardian.com

Apparently, Bellanger had somehow managed to steal or otherwise acquire the king’s mummified head and had hoarded it in his attic for decades.

As crazy as that sounds, scientists were able to verify that the skull did in fact belong to King Henry IV “based on a dark lesion above the right nostril, and a healed bone fracture above the jaw that matched a stab wound he received during an assassination attempt in 1594.”

Oddly – and what part of this story isn’t odd – the king’s head was found wrapped in a breakfast croissant.

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Moral of the story?

There isn’t one really. Except that you may or may not want to scratch below the surface of any old house you are wanting to purchase. Who knows what exciting, or expensive, or disgusting relic you might find!

3 Comments

  • Marnie says:

    Very interesting!!! In my old 1904 home we found an old bicycle wheel. It was buried under the house. We also found LOTS of old marbles, silverware and some bottles. I was always hoping for something more interesting…..but now I will be happy that there were no chickens!!!! or skulls or any other creepy stuff!!!!!
    Thanks for sharing!!!!
    Marnie

  • SB Smith says:

    Ewwww….chicken carcasses in the wall !…..
    The medieval well in the floor is very weird…The age of it is kind of creepy !

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