Secret Rooms, McDonald's Fries, and Other Bizarre Things Found in Houses

Suitcase full of cash

Suitcase full of cash by Jeremy Johnstone (CC BY-NC-ND)

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Different types of coins
Photo by ferisworld/istockphoto

Take a Closer Look

Many people have found the occasional wrinkled dollar bill in a pocket when doing the laundry or forgotten snacks under the couch while cleaning. But finding a secret room or rare coins worth nearly a million dollars while renovating a kitchen is legendary. We found some of the most extraordinary and interesting things people discovered in their homes — from underground shelters and suitcases full of money to attic treasures and McDonald's french fries. Take a look at some of the most noteworthy and let us know in the comments if you’ve ever found something shocking in your own home.

Related: Cool Vacation Rentals with Hidden Rooms and Secret Passages

The money is on the shovel. Dig the money out of the ground
Olga Evtushkova/istockphoto

Buried Treasure

A couple in England found dozens of rare coins stashed under their kitchen floorboards during a recent renovation of their 18th-century home. The coins, which sold at auction for a whopping $852,380, were linked to a Hull merchant family called the Maisters. Dating from 1610 to 1727, the coins were likely used during the reigns of King James I to King George I and fetched way more than the $231,390 sale estimate because of their historical value and how they were discovered. The couple thought the coins were a piece of electrical cable and were stunned when they realized it was a "gold disc and there were hundreds more beneath!"

Related: Why Pennies Still Exist and Other Money Trivia

1903 Photograph of family
1903 Photograph of family by (CC BY-SA)

A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words

A young married couple found something chilling in the attic of a 108-year-old American Foursquare-style farmhouse bought during probate — so they were left with 3,000 square feet of the previous owners’ belongings to sift through. Among boxes collecting dust in the attic were a bunch of old photos thought to be from the late 1800s to early 1900s. Some of the people in the pictures looked dead. While it seems creepy now, in the Victorian era families would immortalize deceased loved ones by posing them for portraits, a notion called “mourning tableaux.” The couple has been trying to track down family members of those in the pictures, but in the meantime, they have framed and hung some of their favorites.

Related:Weird and Wacky Property Listings That'll Leave You Scratching Your Head

McDonald's fries
McDonald's fries by Mr. Blue MauMau (CC BY)

You Want Fries With That?

Whether drywallers were trying to cover up an on-the-clock lunch break or someone was intentionally trying to baffle a future homeowner, this behind-the-wall find is unusual: In April, an Illinois couple doing renovations found a half-eaten order of McDonald’s french fries from the ’50s or ’60s inside a bathroom wall — surprisingly well-preserved. Rob and Grace Jones first feared the find would be something gruesome, since it was wrapped in a towel. But it was just a side of crispy, brown fries and two burger wrappers adorned with the Speedee mascot used before Ronald McDonald’s heyday. The Joneses told CNN they would consider selling kept their fast-food find.

1760s Bible
1760s Bible by ThatPeskyCommoner (CC BY-SA)

A Holy Find

Finding a Bible in his aunt’s Florida attic, Phil Handy thought little about it — but started to hear rumblings that there was a Bible in the family dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War and started to wonder if that was it. To his surprise, the pocket-sized, hand-stitched Bible was confirmed as coming into the family in 1767 and filled lore from multiple generations. The 254-year-old family keepsake has since been restored to last generations more, Handy said.

Secret door behind a doorway
Secret door behind a doorway by jessamyn west (CC BY-NC-SA)

Don't Panic

A couple’s new home in Logan, Utah, had a bookshelf didn’t look quite right, so in February they tried to move it and discovered a hidden room. The room wasn’t mentioned on the property listing for the home, which was built in 1978. Inside the concrete room was a lone folding chair, making it look like a torture dungeon. When the homeowner shared photos on Reddit, a reader identified themself as a relative of the previous homeowner and explained that the room was meant to be a panic room, with its own power source, not a dungeon.

Blue Mosaic Bathroom Tiles
Blue Mosaic Bathroom Tiles by William Warby (CC BY)

Hidden Hot Tub

Mark and Jenny Ronsman bought their home in 2017, told by the previous owner that there was an old hot tub beneath the flooring in the home office. Three years later, the couple decided to see for themselves. To their delight, the former homeowner was telling the truth: There was a blue-tiled jacuzzi beneath the torn-up office floor that they planned to refurbish and use.

Suitcase full of cash
Suitcase full of cash by Jeremy Johnstone (CC BY-NC-ND)

Pay Day

You never know what you might find in your basement. Spiders, dust bunnies, forgotten boxes from when you first moved in — or maybe, if you’re lucky, a suitcase from the 1950s filled with cash. A Cleveland couple renovating their decades-old home in 2016 found within the walls of their basement a suitcase with $23,000 inside and a 1951 newspaper. The couple ended up using the money to pay down their mortgage.

Rag doll

Creepy Confession

Even before he finished unpacking in September in his new home in Walton, Liverpool, Jonathan Lewis decided to examine a boarded-up void beneath the stairs — and found a rag doll holding a note detailing how she stabbed previous owners in 1961, concluding: “Hope you sleep well.” Lewis’ real estate agent assured him that the kitchen had just been remodeled five years earlier. His friends suggested putting the house back on the market, but Lewis said he’d pull a similar prank if given the chance.

Justin Sullivan/Staff/Getty

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200

Some people taking up their flooring might uncover real hardwood; others could find cringeworthy linoleum. But in April 2021, one couple took up the flooring in their home and found a giant Monopoly game board — a perfect replica with accurate wording, pricing, and colors, although no oversized game pieces were anywhere to be found.

Guatemala by Ekem (CC BY-SA)

A Mayan Marvel

Deep in the rural highlands of Guatemala, farmer Lucas Asicona remodeled his kitchen in 2005, peeling back the plaster of his colonial-era home — made of stone, adobe, and wooden boards — to make an astonishing discovery: 300-year-old Mayan murals. Asicona moved his wood burning stove outside and keeps people from touching the paintings to preserve an important piece of Guatemalan culture.

Modern Master Bathroom Light And Dark Grey Home Interior Real Estate Listing Straight On View Staged
Brandon Ruckman/istockphoto

Magic Mirror on the Wall

TikTok has brought us food hacks and other trends — and some serious horror movie vibes. New Yorker Samantha Hartsoe used the video platform to chronicle finding an entire vacant apartment behind her bathroom mirror in March 2021. When she hunted the source of a draft, it seemed oddly to come from behind her bathroom mirror, which she removed only to find a gaping hole that appeared to be an additional room. Naturally, she strapped a flashlight to her head with a headband (and grabbed a hammer to protect herself) before climbing in. To her surprise, she found an entire apartment that looked to be undergoing renovations. In an update video, she reported that the landlord had since plastered the hole and rented out the hidden apartment.

Grenade by Rama (CC BY-SA)

Here Comes the Boom

If you’ve ever felt the panic of your toddler holding a Sharpie or your kid running with scissors, that’s probably how Sherri Ristanovic felt when her son discovered a decommissioned grenade in their Windsor, Ontario, home. In July 2018, Ristanovic and 11-year-old Joshua were in the basement moving a filing cabinet when he found the grenade — which he initially thought was a toy until finding it weighed around 15 pounds. The Ristanovics called police, who evacuated a dozen nearby homes and brought in the bomb squad to properly dispose of the grenade (which they determined was hollow).

Fallout bunker
Fallout bunker by Honza Groh (Jagro) (CC BY-SA)

What Lies Beneath

When Chris and Colleen Otcasek moved into a home in Woodland Hills, California, they knew there was a bunker on the property, but always figured it was just an empty hole. In 2013, they were surprised to find a fully stocked fallout shelter 15 feet beneath their yard that had been installed in 1961 by previous owner Alvin Kaufman, a nuclear engineer who wanted to have a safe space for his family in case of a nuclear attack. The bunker held essentials such as canned food, a water tank, sleeping bags, magazines, board games — and a 30-year calendar already more than 20 years out of date.

Pile of old letters with envelopes

Letters from Home

Before Zoom, FaceTime, and even Skype, deployed soldiers relied on sending letters home to loved ones. In 2013, Hubert Sawyers III and wife Elise Sorise-Sawyers were remodeling the kitchen in their Detroit home when a hidden bag of war mementos fell from the top of a heating conduit. Inside the bag, the Sawyers found photos of previous owner Stanley Gargas from his time in the war, including his discharge papers and tons of love letters. Gargas was a 19-year-old ambulance driver for the U.S. Army who apparently had a robust love life while he served in Europe — there were pictures and letters from multiple women the world over.

Van Gogh Sunset at Montmajour
Van Gogh Sunset at Montmajour by Anam il Senzanome (None)

There’s Nothing Like the Real Thing

Norwegian Christian Mustad bought a painting that he believed to be by Vincent Van Gogh, but since it didn’t have the famous artist’s signature, it was rejected around 1910 as a fake. Mustad stored it away in an attic — where it was found and rejected again as fake in 1991. But in 2013, after analyzing its style, the materials used, and evidence from letters written by Van Gogh, the Dutch Van Gogh Museum confirmed that the painting was authentic after all. “Sunset at Montmajour” has come out of the attic and is now displayed at the museum.

UK terraced houses
UK terraced houses by Terry Robinson (CC BY-SA)

Conversation Piece, Not a Conversation Pit

Colin and Vanessa Steer uncovered a 33-foot-deep well in their living room in 2012, two dozen years after buying the Victorian home in Plymouth, Devon (in the United Kingdom). They noticed a slight indentation in the living room floor immediately, and when Colin Steer dug down about a foot while replacing floor joists he saw the well — but his wife made him cover it back up and hold off on exploring it further because they had three young children at the time. When he retired, Colin Steer brought in help and spent three days digging and clearing the well. Plans reveal that the well dates back to at least the 16th century, just after the end of medieval times. Five feet into the dig, he even found a sword that he assumes belonged to a peasant, since it was made up of old bits of metal. He stopped digging at 17 feet, but estimates the well to be around 33 feet deep. And although his wife says she hates the well, it’s been cleaned up and lit, and Colin Steer now has a trap door in the living room to access it.

Scary stone stairs

Check Under the Stairs

When 4-year-old Paislee Shultis was reported missing in upstate New York in July 2019, her biological parents, who did not have legal custody, were suspects. A dozen visits to the father’s home turned up nothing, and it took until this February for police to get a full search warrant — when they found an entire separate basement living space complete with bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen. One of the rooms was decorated with Paislee’s name on the wall, which her father and grandfather claimed was done in case the girl returned to their custody. Finally, an officer noticed a blanket wedged between a gap in the stairs. That led to discovery of the now 6-year-old hiding with her mother in a small, dark room hidden behind the stairs, which appeared to have been used more than once. Family members involved have received a slew of charges, and the girl was returned to her legal guardian and her older sister.

Creepy basement
Creepy basement by Crisco 1492 (CC BY-SA)

Murder Mystery

A contractor cleaning out a vacant home in Poughkeepsie, New York, uncovered something truly gruesome in 2013: the skeleton of a woman who had gone missing 28 years earlier. The remains of Joann Nichols were inside a plastic bin, inside a plastic bag, and wrapped in a sheet, according to the medical examiner. The body was hidden behind a false wall in the basement, making Nichols’ since-deceased husband a suspect in the murder.