Who could resist peeking inside such a mysterious box? Hidden in the ramshackled attic of an old Scottish castle, the antique chest was hefty, dusty and large. In fact, you would need both hands just to lift its giant, creaking lid. So what was inside? Why, untold secrets and intrigue, of course.
Documenting the discoveries in photos and videos for imgur and YouTube, our intrepid explorer here goes by the online name of “annesrat” (though she is also known as “lumpytuna” on reddit). Interestingly, the castle where she found the chest, which she once described as “tumbledown” and “cold but beautiful,” has been in her family’s possession since the 14th century.
So, alone in the attic in the 21st century, annesrat gazed into the open chest. Inside, there was a mountain of paperwork, reams of documents, diaries and ledgers. There were accounts and logs, inventories and plans, and even an old leather satchel filled with schoolwork.
Some of the documents were bound in weathered folders, such as this collection of personal correspondence between a mother and son. Beautifully handwritten in spidery black ink, they were dated from 1775 to 1778 – more than two hundred years ago.
However, documents were not the only items of interest inside the chest. This piece of green, circular glass, for example, sparked much speculation on reddit. One poster thought it was part of an old telescope; another suggested that it was a filter used in painting; yet another said it was part of a starboard signal lamp.
Furthermore, this cross-stitch sampler was one of several artifacts from the chest related to sewing. The note attached read, “Sew’d by my Belov’d Daughter Grisel when she was five years and one month old.” And, let’s be honest, that’s pretty impressive for a young child. But then, as one commenter on reddit kindly pointed out, they didn’t have TVs, radios or computers to distract kids back in the day, did they?
Curiously, these colorful fabric buttons were perhaps related to sales orders for cloth, which were also found in the chest. “The sheets of buttons look a little like a sales sample,” wrote redditor greginni. “That, combined with the cloth purchase, implies that there was some sort of clothing business involved?”
“Lovely ginger hair,” remarked annesrat in her YouTube video. That’s right, this bracelet was indeed made from human hair. “In all the little chests, drawers and keepsakes of the house there is an abundance of human hair,” she also wrote on reddit. “Pleated, loose, in lockets, rings and ribbons…” In fact, much like modern photographs, these would have served as personal mementos.
“O virgin fair, how shall I address thee Or to begin to write,” began one random love letter found in the chest. It continued, “O be favorable and ease my anxious mind. O lovely maid, were I to reveal the secrets of my distress, you would certainly be kind to me and take some pity on my distress by giving me relief.”
“I know a lot of you on reddit really like your keys,” wrote annesrat. “Well, here’s a lot of them. They’re all bound together with a thick piece of rope.” Yes, that certainly was a massive bunch of keys – but what did they unlock? Padlocks, apparently. Lots and lots of mysterious padlocks.
Interestingly, these hand-painted flags didn’t appear to be national flags. In fact, they were maritime flags once used for signaling. According to redditor Timmyc62, “You won’t find many of these in today’s international marine signal flags, as they’ve since been standardized and changed quite significantly.”
Neither do they make them like this any more; these striking military uniforms could be at least a century old. They might have also been worth a pretty penny if they were indeed authentic. Unsurprisingly, they sparked a good deal of excited chatter on reddit.
Most posters recognized that this blue suit was a Royal Navy Commander’s uniform from the three gold stripes, or “braids,” and that executive curl on the third braid. And while the style of the suit has changed, the rank still comes with a huge amount of respect. Even Roger Moore as James Bond sported a commander’s insignia in The Spy Who Loved Me.
We imagine this rather handsome chapeau accompanied the naval uniform and may have participated in historic battles around the world. According to one commenter on reddit, TRB1783, who claimed to be an 18th-century historian, “It could well be from the Napoleonic Wars.” If so, that would date the ensemble to the early 19th century.
The real pièce de résistance, however, was this Victorian-era pith helmet, sure to make any steampunk green with envy. The insignia indicated that the helmet belonged to the “The Prince Consort’s Own,” a famous rifle regiment founded in honor of Queen Victorian’s husband, Albert. According to TRB1783, the helmet was worn with the red jacket.
Among the chest’s most intriguing artifacts, though, was a large red folder full of antique maps, plans and technical drawings. Several of them illustrated European fortifications, including Neuf-Brisach on the French-German border and the fortress of Kehl in Germany. According to one commenter on reddit called EntertainmentGuy, “They are not construction maps. But they could have had a military purpose!”
Also in a military vein, a number of the maps related to where historic battles and wars were found, including the American War of Independence. This intriguing cartographic production is titled “A Plan of the Operations of the King’s Army under the Command of General William Howe in New York and East New Jersey against the American Forces Commanded by General Washington.”
Additionally of particular interest to audiences on reddit was this German topography illustration that included tiny witches on broomsticks. In fact, the drawing is a well-known depiction of Brocken Mountain in Germany. gonky01 on reddit wrote, “Starting in the 16th century people believed it to be the location of a ‘Witches Sabbath’… and also home to quite a lot of mythical creatures.”
Amazingly, these drawings were done by a child, according to annesrat. “The date on the drawing of the schoolhouse says 1859 I think,” she wrote on imgur. Once again, it’s amazing what kids can accomplish when not distracted by modern technology.
Indeed, this chest seemed to have an endless stock of interesting paperwork: letters, maps, plans and now ship’s logs – all from different times. “There were about ten ship’s logs,” wrote annesrat on imgur. Surely this could take months or even years to pick apart. It’s amazing what you can find hidden in an attic.