What do dead bodies, burglars, nearly $1.5 million dollars and poison have to do with each other? All of these things have been found inside chimneys. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, really, since people don’t usually spend too much time looking up their flue (though they really should). Think about it; when’s the last time you inspected your own chimney?
Below are six of the strangest things found in chimneys.
#6 PROOF THAT DDT KILLS BIRDS
Researchers at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario made a strange discovery in a decommissioned chimney in a campus building – over fifty years’ worth of bird droppings. Researchers dug in (literally) and found that the bird droppings showed sharp decreases in beetles in the diet of insect-eating birds that frequented the chimney. The dramatic decline of the beetle population was due to the use of the infamous chemical DDT, which the beetles were especially susceptible to. This, in turn, lead to a decrease in the population of the swifts that used the chimney, further damaging the already notorious reputation of the DDT compound.
#5 MORE THAN £870,000 IN CASH
On the other side of the pond in the UK, police found £871,495 up the chimney stack in the Bradford home of Baber Bashir, a conman who had acquired his ill-gotten gains largely through an unspecified fraud. Found tucked in his chimney, the cash amounted to just around $1.8 million CAD by today’s standards, making it easily the most valuable chimney in Bradford.
#4 DEAD CATS AND SHOES
On the other side of the world in Australia, you might not be too surprised to find a dead cat or a shoe inside your chimney. Early Australian settlers were very superstitious, and often would hide either a shoe or, in some more morbid cases, a dead cat inside their chimneys. The practice is believed to have come to Australia by way of Britain from an ancient Roman practice to ward off evil spirits. Homeowners put these totems in parts of their homes where evil spirits might lurk.
Believe it or not, Santa can serve as an inspiration for more than just altruism. In Georgia, an Atlanta area teen took a page out of the red-suited man’s book when he tried to burglarize a home by slipping through the chimney. After spending ten hours overnight trapped in the flue, he finally cried for help and caught the attention of a neighbour who called the police. After getting pulled from the flue, he went from out of the fire and into the frying pan as he was immediately arrested.
#2 LETTER TO SANTA (1912)
On a lighter note on the Santa side of things, a Dublin, Ireland man found a note to Santa when cleaning his fireplace; but not just any note. This note, believed to be penned by Hannah and Alfred Howard, somehow survived 100 years on a shelf on the inside of the fireplace. Despite constant use of the fireplace throughout that entire time, the letter has only a small amount of burn damage and is in remarkably good condition. Featuring a detailed, if terse, list of toys and treats the two children desired, it ends with a friendly ‘Good Luck’, and has a few illustrations to go along with it.
#1 DEAD BODY (1984)
There’s no shortage of bodies found in chimneys, as they seem to make a good hiding place for less-savory characters, but this particular body has a pretty interesting history behind it. Joseph Schexnider, a former National Guard serviceman, was due to appear in court in 1984, an appearance that he never made. Known in his family for frequently skipping town, they thought little of it. For twenty-seven years, they presumed that he was on the lamb from charges of possession of a stolen vehicle. Then, in May of 2011, the local bank began renovating it’s second floor, previously used only as storage space. Inside the chimney they discovered Joseph’s remains. He hadn’t suffered any broken bones or apparent trauma, so investigators ruled the death accidental.
Chimneys are strange places – even though many households have and use them it’s rare that homeowners take a peek to see what might be hidden from view. Take a look, and maybe you’ll find something for us to feature in a future post! Although you probably won’t find any treasure, you should be checking for creosote build-up, for the safety of your family. Build-ups can be dangerous, and if they catch fire, they can burn your entire house down to the ground. Take a look up there today!
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