Old coins, soda cans and the occasional piece of gold jewelry – metal detectors can, of course, turn up all kinds of trinkets, both worthy and worthless. Now and again, however, they uncover something truly unexpected and original, and this is the story of one such find.
This treasure hunter goes by the online name of Cornetto153, and his YouTube channel,“World War II Relic Hunting,” showcases the old battlefields of Europe and the treasures they contain. Now in January 2016 Cornetto153 was combing a forest in the Netherlands, filming an episode for his show, when he stumbled upon an unprecedented object.
His past discoveries include artillery shells and ammunition dumps – the decaying remnants, essentially, of skirmishes between Allied and Nazi forces. On this particular expedition, though, Cornetto153 had located the indentation of what appeared to be a foxhole or machine-gun position. Buried nearby, however, there was something altogether more unusual.
“Over here,” he said, casting his metal detector over the wet mulch of fallen leaves. “I got a very big signal.” What could possibly be producing such a large signal? An unexploded bomb? An artillery cannon? Or perhaps it was something the nature of which he could never have guessed.
“I already tried to dig it out, but look at it,” he said, tapping the surface with the head of his shovel. But whatever lay hidden beneath the earth was apparently very solid and quite large – and so Cornetto153 set about clearing the leaves.
Fortunately, the mystery object was not buried very deep. Brushing away the shallow covering of damp leaves and soil, Cornetto153 uncovered the outline of something flat, metallic and rectangular. This, indeed, was clearly an uncommon find.
“Looks like some sort of plate or something,” Cornetto153 speculated. “Look at that; what is that? It’s in the middle of the forest as you can see, in the middle of nowhere, there’s nothing else here.” Indeed, the object was as baffling as it was intriguing.
“There’s a handle over here,” the explorer continued. “Let’s open it.” And so, reaching down in his heavy-duty gloves, he gripped the handle and carefully lifted the plate. Hopefully it wouldn’t be wired to any Second World War grenades.
“Woah, what the hell? That looks like a treasure chest to me,” Cornetto153 exclaimed. “Oh my god; what is that?” Indeed, the object hidden beneath the plate was no abandoned war relic. In fact, it looked like something from the age of piracy.
As he lifted the treasure chest out of the hole, he noticed that it was tantalizingly heavy. Pillaged, perhaps, centuries ago from the New World, what swashbucklers’ plunder lay within? Gold, maybe, or silver? One could only imagine the dazzling booty stashed inside.
On closer examination, however, the chest was not as it seemed. For one thing, it was secured with a modern combination lock. Whoever had buried it here did not want it to be easily opened. So, Cornetto153 would need bolt cutters – or, indeed, the correct combination – to get inside.
Likewise, a second padlock was fixed to the rear of the box along with a trailing wire that tethered it to the inside of the hole. Thus the treasure chest could not be easily removed from the site – not, at least, without tools and planning.
At the other end of the box, curiously, was an empty plastic bottle with obscure numerical scales running along its sides. Was this a clue, perhaps, to the lock’s combination?
Examining the back of the chest, Cornetto discovered a faded sign with several paragraphs of typed words. By now it was therefore clear that this was no antique treasure chest but, rather, something else entirely.
“Congratulations you found it! Intentionally or not! What is this hidden container sitting here for? What the heck is this thing doing here with all these things in it?” Good questions, these; most people who stumble across the chest probably wonder the same thing.
“It is part of a worldwide game dedicated to GPS (Global Positioning System) users called Geocaching,” continued the notice. “The game basically involves a GPS user hiding treasure (this container and its contents) and publishing the exact coordinates so other GPS users can carry on a ‘treasure hunt’ to find it.”
In fact, Cornetto153 had inadvertently stumbled upon just one of thousands of hidden caches. A Geocaching player typically uses a phone app to locate the hidden treasures; then, on finding them, they remove or deposit the keepsakes inside and sign the logbook with their name and comments.
The game has some three million players across the globe, but it is still a relatively obscure pastime. Unsurprisingly, some caches have been mistaken for drug stashes by concerned citizens who summoned law enforcement agents for a closer look; others have even been investigated by bomb squads.
Unfortunately, since Cornetto153 didn’t have the code for the padlock, he was unable to open the chest to see what trinkets it held. Instead, then, he returned it to the hole. Prospective treasure hunters should know, however, that the objects in a cache tend to have a sentimental rather than monetary value.
“The real treasure is just finding the container and sharing your thoughts with everyone else who finds it,” proclaimed the notice. Indeed, it’s not every day you stumble upon something so unusual. Thanks, Cornetto153, for sharing your find – perhaps it will inspire more people to take up geocaching.
As we’ve seen, then, having a metal detector can help people uncover artifacts in the most unlikely places. And this is exactly what happened to an explorer who goes by the name of “WW2HistoryHunter” on YouTube. One day, he took his device to a remote patch of German woodland – and he came across a rather eerie-looking trap door.
Clambering between debris and fallen trees, the German relic hunter was deep in a forest when his metal detector emitted an unexpected signal. And so, brushing away the cold earth and leaf litter from the ground, he couldn’t believe his luck. “It’s a fricking door,” he exclaimed. “And I think there is some sort of structure down here…”
The relic hunter – whose YouTube channel “WW2HistoryHunter” has more than 140,000 subscribers – made the discovery while hiking in an undisclosed location in rural Germany. His past videos, meanwhile, have documented hidden World War Two locations such as strategic bunkers and ammunition dumps.
It was a bright but bitterly cold morning in December 2015 when this adventurer began his exploration of an area of German countryside where he hoped to uncover further WWII artefacts. Equipped with his metal detector and a pair of ski gloves, he subsequently began searching a forest for hints of buried relics and hidden structures.
“Today it’s a forest, but it didn’t used to be like that,” he explained in a YouTube video about his search. “They had a training facility here. They had all kinds of storage of armory and weapons.” Hence, it wasn’t long before the relic hunter began unearthing various intriguing objects.
Firstly, his metal detector signaled what appeared to be something “chunky” and “definitely iron” near the surface. He therefore dug a large hole and found what he believed to be a cap from a French hand grenade. This was then followed by a 1940 bullet cartridge.
However, there was something else buried down there. Something big. So the explorer dug deeper into the earth with a shovel and then bored into the hole with his fingers. The object he subsequently pulled out appeared to be an enormous shard of bomb shrapnel. “That’s because the Allies bombed this area to pieces several times,” he explained.
In contrast, his next find was a mystery. The pitch of the signal from the metal detector indicated a small object – a cartridge, perhaps. However, the object that he pulled from the earth was larger than a cartridge, and it also had an attachment shank and thread. “Could be a smoke grenade,” guessed the relic hunter.
Next, he found something even more unexpected: a delicate, paper-thin circle of aluminum. The relic hunter claimed that it was a top for a World War Two milk bottle. “Quite a special find actually,” he remarked. “You never find them in a complete state like that.”
Meanwhile, the landscape itself offered tentative hints of the past. Overgrown furrows and embankments appeared to indicate the location of fox holes, trenches and other wartime structures. Yet it was not here that the relic hunter found the door.
In fact, he came across the mysterious door later on while exploring higher ground among the trees. After clearing away a surface covering of earth, he located a large, square metal lid and what appeared to be a hatch leading to an underground structure – a hidden bunker, maybe.
Indeed, the European countryside hides a warren of German-built underground structures, particularly on the so-called Atlantic Wall in coastal areas. So what would the relic hunter find here? Inserting his shovel between the door and the frame, he opened the lid a small way.
However, the door would not open fully. Instead, the relic hunter peered through a hole in the corner. It was too dark to see anything, though, so he decided to cover up the hatch and come back another day. Of course, he’d been able to ascertain that there was a large structure down there, but he could not yet be sure exactly how deep it was.
Two months later, though, the relic hunter returned to the forest. This time, moreover, he was kitted out with a heavy-duty chisel, a crowbar, a hammer, some ropes and a ratchet. The total load of this extra equipment was around 30 pounds, which demonstrated how determined he was to open the door.
Unfortunately, this time it was even colder than it had been on his previous visit. “Some people have fun in the snow,” he said. “I’m not one of those.” Thankfully, though, it turned out that there was no snow in the upper part of the forest where he’d discovered the door. What’s more, he had it open in ten seconds using his crowbar.
Finally, the relic hunter was able to look inside. What would he find? A cache of ammunition? A Nazi control center? Or a hastily abandoned wartime bunker filled with the personal effects of German soldiers? “I have to say I’m really, really disappointed,” he admitted. “To be honest, I feel like an idiot.”
In fact, the “bunker” contained several large pipes and valves; it appeared to be part of a water system. Who and what the system supplied, however, was unclear. It may have been used for supplying local residences with drinking water or for irrigating crops.
Alternatively, it could have been built to service the nearby Nazi training facility. Searching the area close to the hatch, the relic hunter came across a mound. And after climbing to the top of the small hill, he found a second hatch, securely bolted down. The shape of the structure suggested a water tank, and on that basis he formed a new hypothesis in his mind.
According to the relic hunter, the presence of ammunition dumps at the facility would have posed a significant fire hazard. Therefore, the Germans engineered a technological solution – an “ingenious fire protection system” consisting of a web of underground pipes. It was this supposed infrastructure that the relic hunter claimed to have found.
Of course, there is no way to verify his hypothesis without further investigation, although it seems plausible. Ammunition bunkers typically feature some sort of flooding system, to be used in the event of fires. Moreover, why else would such a large storage tank have been installed in the middle of a remote forest?
However, if the relic hunter is right and those pipes were once part of an abandoned Nazi facility – whether to put out fires or simply supply drinking water – they must, at some stage, connect with its underground bunkers and tunnels. Perhaps a future episode of “WW2HistoryHunter” could follow where they lead.