They could tell the object was rusted, but they were surprised that the backhoe was struggling to remove it from the earth.
They watched as the hunk of metal eventually broke through the thick earth and was dropped onto their lawn. It had been stuck in the ground for four years, and they had no idea what they were about to uncover.
Matthew and his family sat around the kitchen table, enjoying the bright morning and the lovely view of their yard.
Their Staten Island property was something they cared for greatly. Lush shrubs and well-kept flower beds. There was only one major eyesore – something that drove his wife crazy.
She sipped at her coffee, glaring at the back of the yard. “When are you going to take it out?” she asked.
“When I have time,” he replied, trying to avoid another argument. “You had time to watch the game yesterday,” she commented. “It’s not hurting anything.” Another glare. “It’s so ugly.”
It was a conflict that every couple has encountered – an annoying, ignored task. It started as something unimportant, at least compared to the other landscaping that needed to be done.
However, now that everything was how they wanted it, Matthew was running out of excuses. Little did he know that Mother Nature was about to intervene … in a very sneaky way.
One brave deer wandered into their backyard and helped itself to some of the family’s lush foliage.
The shrubbery at the back, it seems, was extra delicious because, in the space of a couple of days, a huge chunk went missing. This was the first domino falling toward their unbelievable discovery.
Matthew tried to salvage the damage, but it was impossible. Either he had to replace the entire section, or his wife would make him sleep on the lawn.
It only got worse as winter ravaged their property, and the rusted item because all the more visible. Once spring came, he had no choice but to take it out.
Bob Foley of Touch the Earth Inc. was called in to clear the area with his backhoe. The brush came out with a fair amount of resistance.
“What about this?” Matthew asked, pointing at the metal lump. Bob leaned over. “It’s it a power box?” The last thing they needed was to be electrocuted.
“Not sure,” he replied. “Maybe.” His wife had also joined them, eager to see the major bone of contention finally leave their yard.
After Bob cleared enough space, he targeted the hunk of metal. But when he tried to pull it out, it was far heavier than expected. “It’s not a power box.”
Bob tried a second time. The motor revved, and the box finally rolled out onto the lawn. Everyone stared at it in shock.
His wife turned to him, slapped him on the arm, and said, “Oh my god! I can’t believe you let that sit out here for four years! I told you!”
It might have seemed like a plain and ugly metal box that had been severely weathered by the elements, but when it was turned over, they noticed that one side had a numbered dial.
Their minds reeled with possibilities. Stocks? Jewels? Money? Something unexpected? Whatever it was, they had to get inside and solve the mystery.
For so many years, the box, which turned out to be a safe, was abandoned above ground in the overgrown backyard of the Emanuel family home.
The safe was roughly two feet across and one-and-a-half feet in height. The safe weighed a hefty 100 pounds. And the contents inside… did not disappoint. One thing was for sure, this safe belonged to someone.
Bob and Matthew couldn’t help but wonder: why had someone buried the safe in their yard? But when the box was finally opened, it produced more questions than answers.
As the rusty old safe was pried open, both Matthew and Bob could not believe their eyes. This safe had incredible valuables inside, and even though water had damaged most of the contents, files and documents were kept safe in a plastic bag.
They knew that none of these things belonged to them. But what were they supposed to do? Although the items in the safe had survived, most of them were badly damaged.
“Can we keep it?” their son asked, already listing the things he wanted to buy. “No,” Matthew said. “It’s not ours.” They soon would uncover a mystery that had been surrounding their community for years, but they did not know that yet.
The safe contained tons of stacks of hundred-dollar bills, each bundle about four inches thick! There was also a small transparent zipped bag containing much more.
But still, as he saw the contents in the safe, chills went down his spine. Admittedly, he knew that all this must belong to someone. But who?
Matthew and Bob had stumbled across an absolute real-life treasure. The contents boggled their minds. Even though they had found an amazing once-in-a-lifetime find, they didn’t know the true value of what they had found… yet.
Many of the dollar bills were wet and of no use. Still, the surprises surrounding this incredible discovery were far from over.
Chunks of gold, jade, earrings, jewels, and diamond rings were also hidden within the safe. All in all, the amount that was discovered in the safe was worth about $53,000 altogether.
“We were freaked out,” Bob told Staten Island Live. “It’s something you can’t make up.” But that wasn’t all. There was one more thing that would cause this incredible find to make headlines.
Inside the sealed plastic bag, they found important documents. One of the documents was a receipt and value for a precious diamond ring. But as they kept searching the safe, the ring was nowhere to be found.
They had found so many valuables, but what was missing was the most important one. Had someone already opened the safe and only taken the ring? But why would they leave everything else behind?
While searching through the documents, they also found a water-damaged owner’s manual for an expensive watch. And that, too, was nowhere to be found.
Matthew and Bob knew that this could not just be a coincidence – it was obvious that the most valuable items were not there. Someone had been in this safe, but who?
As they searched through the safe in awe, they found something that would solve everything. Among the contents of the plastic bag, there was also a note.
When Matthew saw the letter, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Scribbled and handwritten, the note had an address on it. And he knew he had to get answers.
Naturally, he immediately had to find out where this address was. Pulling out his phone, he was incredibly surprised to see that it was right in his own neighborhood.
Little did he know that he was about to get the cops involved. And by doing so, he’d resolve something that had been a mystery for years.
Nervously, he knocked on the door. An elderly woman opened it, but still, Matthew had no idea what he was walking into. A potential crime, maybe?
Matthew went ahead and introduced himself, but instead of asking the woman if the contents of the safe were hers, he asked something else. “I have a strange question for you,” he said. “Have you ever been robbed?” The elderly woman looked at him, puzzled. Then, she said something that set an investigation in motion.
The elderly woman and her husband were robbed in 2011 by the so-called Ninja burglar. The burglar broke into her home after Christmas day when the couple was out of the house. But as soon as they returned home, they knew something was missing – their safe.
Could this possibly be the missing link to the crime? The safe contained essential documents and, of course, incredible treasures that the elderly couple kept dear to their heart. They thought they would never see any of it again, but was stolen safe, the same one that was in Emanuel’s yard.
Back in 2011, the neighborhood of Todt Hill was victim to the ruthless burglaries of “The Ninja.” He had gotten that nickname because of how stealthily he robbed houses and prowled the neighborhood as an unseen menace.
For over 10 years, the thief had robbed over 200 homes across Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. 160 of his targets had been right there in Todt Hill, Staten Island, and it said that he stole more than $4 million in cash and goods. But his end was near.
The community was in turmoil, but then in 2015, they caught the “Ninja,” and the residents could breathe easier. Still, this elderly couple never knew that their treasure might come back one day.
The Emanuel family invited the elderly couple to their home to investigate the contents of the safe. Never would they have expected such a rusty box to bring so much joy! As soon as the woman saw the jewelry, she began crying and shaking.
She was overcome with such emotion that she had no words. She immediately hugged Matthew as she still couldn’t believe her prized possessions had been found.
For so many years, she had lived with the trauma of losing her valuables and never imagined the day when they would return to her. The Emanuels returned all of its contents to them, but still, one more thing was left to resolve the mystery, once and for all.
Matthew knew that this had been a criminal investigation, so they all came to the agreement that the police should get involved. Moments later, the police knocked on their door.
To everyone’s surprise, the police officer who attended the call and house visit was the same cop who had investigated the burglaries so many years ago. Things were slowly starting to make sense.
The police knew the story all too well, and more so, they knew the elderly couple too. No one could believe how a poison ivy-covered “electric cabinet” would come to resolve so many mysteries.
The police set to making sense of everything before them. But although they would connect the dots, not everything would be clear.
There was one thing that did not make sense. The money had been recovered, and some of the jewelry too, but what about the diamond ring and the expensive watch?
As the Ninja Bandit was interrogated regarding the whereabouts of these two pieces, he quickly became nervous. He knew that now, he had to put more than himself in jeopardy.
It turned out the Ninja Burglar was not working alone, and in his absence — while he was in jail — this person was still terrorizing communities.
Police now knew that the thief had an accomplice, and it did not take long for the Ninja to tell them who it was. This person was detained and taken to jail, and it all started with the Emanuel family renovating their backyard.
You never really know what’s hiding on your land, but the Emanuel family brought a ton of happiness to an elderly couple who thought that they had lost their precious valuables so many years ago.
“A couple of people asked us, ‘Why did you return it?’” Matthew’s wife said. “It wasn’t even a question. It wasn’t ours.” But still, the family could not have believed their incredible luck. So, to treasure the memory, they put a statue of an elephant for good luck right where the box was buried. “I guess the reward is karma,” Matthew told CBS. “Good karma.” Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.