We all dream of digging up buried treasure, let alone finding it in our own backyards. But for one Staten Island man, Matthew Emanuel, the rusted box he’d long ignored in his backyard wasn’t hidden underground waiting to be excavated. In fact, it was out in the open — though he would never have guessed the unbelievable contents it contained.
It was purely by chance and a few random acts of nature that led Emanuel to investigate the box he had always assumed was merely a random electrical cabinet. But when he smashed into it, the sight awaiting him was nothing short of heart-stopping. What he didn’t realize was that his discovery was only the beginning in a mysterious chain of events that would have unbelievable results.
1. Staten Island Suburbia
For four years, Matthew Emanuel, his wife Maria, and their family had lived in their home in Todt Hill, Staten Island. Yet for that whole time, even as they had decorated and explored every inch of their abode, one corner had been left untouched.
There in the corner of the yard, not even buried beneath the grass, was the most unassuming prize. The Emanuel family still had not discovered the incredible secret concealed on their property that would unravel an astonishing string of unresolved mysteries.
2. The Rusted Box
In the Emanuel family’s backyard, nestled in the ground by the side of their fence, was a random box. It had clearly not been touched or moved in a long time, as it was beat up and covered in rust.
Coils of stinging poison ivy had long covered the rusted box, so nobody had bothered to make an effort to check it out. In fact, the Emanuels had even been tossing mulch on it. But as things would turn out, something drastic was about to change.
3. Stormy Weather
By chance, elements beyond the Emanuel family’s control brought the mysterious box out into the open and compelled them to look at it. The winter storms in early 2018 had been particularly harsh. Heavy snow caused the trees lining the fence to fall over.
Then, roaming deer came by and munched up the remaining plants. The house’s biggest mystery, which had gone neglected for years, was now out in the open, exposed. As spring came, they couldn’t leave the garden in that state. What would they do about it?
4. At Their Fingertips
It had always been merely a glance away. The weird rusted box in the backyard was plainly visible from the window as they looked out from the family room, and they could see it from the front deck as well.
For years, they hadn’t thought much of it. It was just one of those things that didn’t seem to demand any attention, so they had put it out of mind. But now, there was no avoiding the mystery any longer.
5. Garden Renovations
The damage that the winter storm had caused meant Matthew would have to completely redesign everything in the back garden, and that meant working around the rusted box. The task was too big for him to do on his own.
Matthew Emanuel had to search for an expert landscaper. When he found one that suited his needs, he called him up and made an appointment. What he didn’t realize was that he had set in motion a chain of events that would have unbelievable results.
6. Bamboo Bob
The landscaper, Robert Foley, went by the name of Bamboo Bob, and made the trip to Staten Island in late April 2018. He had decades of work experience across New York and New Jersey, and he’d seen a lot of bizarre things in his time.
But despite all the random escapades that had happened throughout his years of work in people’s gardens and even zoos, what he was about to help uncover on Matthew Emanuel’s property was probably the most wild discovery he’d ever seen.
7. Work Begins
Matthew’s plan to restructure the garden was to put a small thicket of bamboo on the side of the backyard. Deer wouldn’t eat it, and it would act as a sort of wall so it might give the family some more privacy.
As Bamboo Bob and his crew began to work, it was only natural that he would come across the rusted box. But when he asked about it and tried to understand the story behind the odd object in the yar, Matthew’s response came as a huge surprise.
8. Unearthing The Mystery
Bamboo Bob had been in enough backyards and seen so many bizarre situations that he couldn’t resist digging up the box and figuring out what its true purpose was. Besides, the mysterious box was getting in the way of the workers.
Matthew told the landscaper he’d always assumed that the rusted box was an electric cabinet attached to the fence surrounding their property. He couldn’t have been more wrong, though. What Bamboo Bob and the construction workers were about to find would change everything.
9. The True Identity
Bamboo Bob and his crew excavated the box from the dirt and managed to loosen it from the soil. It was then that they knew for certain it was not an electric box at all. Matthew’s assumption for the past four years had been proven wrong.
Together, the men turned the heavy rusted box over to examine it more thoroughly for anything that could help them better understand it. Maybe it could have been chucked in the trash. But then they stumbled across something that immediately indicated what it was.
10. Not Just A Box
The box had a dial on it. It was obviously a safe. Bamboo Bob and his team showed it to Matthew Emanuel. The homeowner was nothing short of gobsmacked. The whole time he and his family had lived in their home, they could have easily found this.
All those years, there had been a locked safe in the overgrown backyard, abandoned above ground, and they had simply ignored it and never bothered to investigate it. Now the obvious question racing through Matthew’s mind was, what could be inside that rusted safe?
11. Guessing Games
The safe was roughly two feet across and one and a half feet in height. It was heavy, up to 100 pounds. Still, despite its weight, Matthew now had to know the contents of the box he’d ignored all these years.
As Bamboo Bob and the work team stood by in the garden watching, Matthew started to try and shift the rusted box around as best as he could, wondering if he might hear the jingling of coins inside. But his efforts didn’t end there.
12. Breaking It Open
Matthew couldn’t hear anything inside that rusted box, but that did not necessarily mean the safe was empty. With the help of the landscapers, he lifted it up and carried to the front deck of the house to further investigate it.
As the landscapers continued their work redesigning the garden, Matthew was focused on an entirely different assignment. He took a pickaxe, and smashed into the safe. He peered inside — and when he finally saw its contents, it sent chills down his spine.
13. An Absolute Treasure
Matthew Emanuel could scarcely believe his eyes. The safe contained tons of stacks of hundred dollar bills, each bundle about three inches thick. There were also small zipped plastic bags containing hundreds of items: chunks of gold, jade, earrings, jewels, diamond rings.
It boggled the mind. Matthew and Bamboo Bob had literally stumbled across an absolute fortune in real-life treasure, right there among the fallen trees in the corner of an otherwise ordinary Staten Island backyard. But there was a huge problem with all those riches.
14. Water Damage
Even as Matthew Emanuel found the true purpose of the rusted box in his backyard, he was too late. The safe was apparently not waterproof. Many of the dollar bills were wet and damaged after years of neglect and exposure to the elements.
The stacks of cash were squished together, and Matthew quickly realized that if he were to begin to try and work at them, they were liable to fall apart. But the surprises surrounding this incredible discovery were far from over!
15. Saving The Treasure
Matthew set to work, painstakingly peeling the bills apart and setting them aside to dry. The project took him several days. Some of the bills could potentially be salvageable, but it would take hard work to see just how many of them there were.
As Matthew soon discovered, he wouldn’t be able to save a large portion of his newly found treasure. Unfortunately, some of the dollar bills were just too ruined to be counted as legal tender. But as the bills dried, he never could have guessed just how much they would amount to.
16. Counting The Cash
Soggy or whole, Matthew began to count the contents of the rusted box. All in all, there were roughly $5,000 worth of dollar bills that were too damaged and that Matthew, despite his careful efforts, could not save. But then there was the rest.
Newly dried, though slightly faded, he now had on his hands an eye-popping $16,300 in cash! Now the riches had been quantified — but the mystery was far from over. There was more yet to learn about the safe. Matthew was about to make a shocking discovery about the safe and its contents.
17. Acting On Suspicion
Even if it was exciting to have found real-life treasure, Matthew had a sneaking suspicion that it was no mere coincidence that this rusted box was in his backyard. He felt it couldn’t have been someone’s belongings that they had just stashed there and forgotten.
Many people would have merely pocketed the findings from the safe and been satisfied. But Matthew had a hunch that something far more sinister was at hand. As he went through the rest of the safe’s contents, he got his answer.
18. All That Glitters
The next task on Matthew’s hands was to take inventory of all the jewelry and riches that were also in the safe along with all those dollars. The amounts of sheer gold that Matthew had discovered in the safe were absolutely incredible.
Matthew needed to take out his kitchen scale just to take account of it all. As he measured and cataloged the contents of the safe, he came across another surprise. Inside one of the plastic bags was a piece of paper that would change everything.
19. The Next Clue
Matthew put the assorted jewels aside. He opened the plastic bag, unfurled the paper, and found there was an address on it. Naturally, he immediately knew he had to go look it up online and figure out where it led.
It could have been any number of things, but he thought it must be the address of the people whose jewelry had been locked up in the safe. No criminal would leave their own address with their stash! However, the search results left him utterly shocked.
20. Under His Nose
As it turned out, to Matthew’s great surprise and thrill, the address written on the paper stashed deep inside the rusted box wasn’t far away at all. In fact, it was close enough that he wouldn’t even need a car to get there.
Not only was it on Staten Island, but it was in the same neighborhood. What’s more, he realized that he happened to pass by that same home every time he went to walk his dog. Matthew knew then exactly what he had to do.
21. On A Mission
Matthew Emanuel just couldn’t keep the news of the treasure to himself, not after the note he’d found. On April 30, 2018, two days after discovering the safe in his backyard, he walked over to the address that he’d found inside the increasingly mysterious container.
He had no way of knowing who might answer the door, or what the conversation could possibly conclude. In the worst case scenario, if this went wrong, he would possibly have to get the police involved. Nonetheless, he knocked on the door.
22. A Strange Introduction
Matthew had no way of knowing what to expect, knocking on a stranger’s door with a query related to a potential crime, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. An elderly woman opened the door. Matthew introduced himself, and then cut right to the chase.
Matthew then asked the hesitant woman a strange question: “Have you ever been robbed before?” It could have ended right there with a simple ‘no’. Yet as Matthew watched, to his shock, she started shaking. She was either terribly upset or extremely excited. Matthew was hardly prepared for her reaction.
23. Confirmed Crime
The elderly woman was beyond surprised by the question that this stranger had posed to her. Still trembling, she confirmed what Matthew had asked: she had indeed been robbed. The painful memory immediately resurfaced as she attempted to explain herself.
The night after Christmas 2011, a burglar broke into her home. By the time she and her husband realized what had happened, the criminal was far away — and $52,000 worth of money and jewelry had vanished. Could Matthew possibly provide the missing link?
24. Enter The Ninja
Despite its affluent reputation, Todt Hill had a frightening recent past. At the time of the robbery in 2011, Staten Island had been prowled by an unseen menace. They called him the Ninja Burglar because of how stealthy he had been — and how surprisingly successful.
From 2005 to 2015, the Ninja Burglar had robbed over 200 homes across Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. A-hundred-and-sixty of his targets had been in Staten Island, many of which were right there in Todt Hill. Could this have been his handiwork?
25. Ending His Reign
In 2015, a man called Robert Costanzo was finally nabbed in Staten Island. He had a criminal past, and was in court for something unrelated when he was seized for robbery charges. It took two years for him to finally receive his prison sentence.
But although the residents of Todt Hill could breathe easier, by that time, the woman Matthew had met had long lost hope. Police had told her she would never see her belongings again. Even more unbelievable that all of the developments up to that point, was what Matthew would do next.
26. Recovering The Treasure
Now that he’d proceeded even further in solving the backyard mystery, Matthew took the elderly woman over to his home to see if she could identify the contents of the safe. He was truly amazed by the pace of everything.
That rusted box had sat there for the four years he had lived in that home, waiting to be discovered, and instead he had ignored it. Now, just two days after learning its truth, he had nearly unraveled the puzzle. So what would she say?
27. Lost And Found
Sure enough, the moment the woman saw the jewelry and the stacks of thousands of dollars worth of bills, she was overcome with emotion. She instantly started crying, and hugged Matthew, still shaking. Now, at last, both knew they could believe each other’s story.
For six and a half years, she had lived with the trauma of losing her valuables and being told over and over that she would never see them again. Now here they were, right in front of her eyes. And what would happen next was astounding.
28. Doing The Right Thing
Matthew Emanuel returned all of the safe’s contents to its previous owner. What had started as a mere eyesore in his overgrown backyard, covered with poison ivy and forgotten, had suddenly morphed into an overwhelming moment of joy within just a few days.
With the help of bad winter weather, pesky deer, and the curiosity of Bamboo Bob, Matthew had managed to accomplish in less than a week what the police had not been able to solve in more than six years. So what would be his reward?
29. Instant Karma
In Matthew’s mind, there wasn’t even a question as to what he would do with the objects. Every single piece, and every dollar that he had taken such care to separate and dry, were returned to their rightful owner, his elderly neighbor.
Matthew refused to take any reward. In his mind, as he told the press, the only reward he could hope for was good karma. He was just doing the right thing. But he did something to make sure he’d never forget this life-changing event.
30. Remembering The Mystery
Now that their backyard had been renovated and the safe had been given back, Matthew and his family decided to commemorate the experience. They placed a ceramic elephant in the backyard, beside the bamboo that Bamboo Bob’s team had planted.
They wanted to mark the spot where they found the safe, a memory of that mysterious box that had been sitting there waiting for them to break it open. Now they knew that real-life mystery and actual treasure could always potentially be waiting right there, in plain sight.
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