There’s a certain gamble that comes with getting furniture secondhand. You run the risk of purchasing something that will fall apart once you get it home, or you might discover some other design flaw after the fact that will make you realize why the item was given away in the first place. It was exactly these questions that surrounded an otherwise nondescript used couch in a Salvation Army store.
For three college friends in New York, the couch they bought had something far more unbelievable concealed inside its fabric. It was something that would leave them utterly stunned — and then make them question their basic moral tenets.
1. Friends And Roommates
School friends Reese Werkhoven, Cally Guasti, and Lara Russo were living together in an apartment in New Paltz, New York, about 75 miles north of New York City when they found that a seemingly mundane act would give way to an incredible discovery. Reese was a third-year geology student at SUNY New Paltz, Lara had graduated, and Cally had graduated Mount Holyoke College in western Massachusetts.
The friends had all known each other since their high school days together. They were now in the process of refurnishing their apartment as young adults, and needed to fill the empty space in their living room. They had gone out on a furniture-hunting mission, and found the perfect item: a couch. But there was one pressing problem.
2. Worse For Wear
The three roommates found the used couch at a Salvation Army secondhand store. Before purchasing it, they measured the couch to find that it had the perfect dimensions for their living room. The couch was well in their budget, but the potential addition to their household wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of beauty. The problem was, it had a weird and unpleasant smell to it, and it was undeniably ugly.
Not only was piece of furniture less of a sight for sore eyes and more of an eyesore, but there was something particularly odd about the used couch. It was covered with lumps. Nonetheless, the roommates took it home, as it was the best option there. Little did they know what else they were carrying home with them.
3. An Odd Addition
Though it was the best bargain at hand, and it filled the room just right, the roommates were the first to admit their used couch wasn’t exactly top notch. It was the worst kind of secondhand couch, drab and highly unattractive. It was decently uncomfortable to sit on too, but it had cost just $20.
Obtaining furniture secondhand certainly has its risk factors. In some extremely unpleasant scenarios, the new owners of repurposed furniture can suddenly discover there are pests or worse that they inadvertently inherit with their new installment. With that in mind, these roommates would discover the secret hiding inside their couch’s cushions was unlike anything they could have expected.
4. Getting Used To It
Reese, Cally, and Lara adapted soon enough to having their unusually misshapen new couch as the centerpiece of their apartment’s living room. One month later, in April 2014, the three roommates were sitting on their beat-up couch, having an ordinary night of fun bonding time as they enjoyed watching a movie together.
But even after a month, their purchase still had its drawbacks. After spending the evening trying to get comfortable on the couch to no avail, they finally decided to take it apart because of the odd lumps on it. What they were on the verge of discovering would make them gasp from shock.
5. Identifying The Problem
First things first, the trio had to decide where to start. While the lumps were to be found across the expanse of the piece of furniture, the first part of the couch that needed to be rearranged if at all possible was the arm. There was a big lump on it that just made getting cozy impossible.
The lump could have been caused by any number of things, most likely a wad of stuffing or unfinished upholstery. As he examined it to figure out how to extract whatever was stuck inside the couch, Reese found a zipper on the arm of the couch — and opened it up.
6. Hidden Package
With some probing, the used couch finally yielded its incredible secret. To Reese’s surprise, inside the zipper wasn’t just unevenly distributed couch stuffing or a design job gone wrong. The previous owner of the couch had evidently shoved an envelope of sorts inside of it. Surrounding the envelope was a wad of bubble wrap, which obscured visibility of the contents of the peculiar object.
Perhaps there was some fragile artifact that was mysteriously preserved and kept intact by this bubble wrap. Perhaps is was something more sinister, or even dangerous. It defied explanation, and there was only one way to find out. Brimming with curiosity, the roommates unwrapped the package — and nearly fell through the floor with shock when they saw what it had been protecting.
7. A Cash Treasure
To their bewilderment, the bubble wrap inside the envelope was covering a fat stack of cash — to the eye-popping amount of $4,000. Reese immediately went berserk with excitement. The most money he had ever found in a couch was something to the tune of 50 cents worth of lose change. This discovery was nothing short of mind-blowing.
Frankly, he would have been glad even to find $5 in the furniture. But if finding that massive sum of money inside the used couch’s arm was exciting, what they would find next was simply unbelievable. The roommates had only just launched the first step in a incredible chain of events that started with finding the hidden stash in their furniture.
8. Sitting On Treasure
If this was what one lump had yielded, then the roommates surmised that the rest of the couch could be filled with wild possibilities. The roommates investigated the other lumps on the used couch, opening them up carefully one by one. Sure enough, they found envelope after envelope, crammed into every possible nook and cranny of the couch!
As it turned out, during the past month of begrudgingly trying to get comfortable despite the odd shape of the used couch, they had quite literally been sitting on treasure. Each one of the envelopes contained more and more bundles of cash. Their heads were buzzing deliriously with questions.
9. Stunning Sums
Reese, Cally, and Lara took the cash they had found in the sofa, and spread it all out on a bed. Feverishly, they counted out the stacks of $50 and $100 bills that they had found in all those envelopes. The results made them shout and jump up and down with utter disbelief.
The end result of their arithmetic was absolutely jaw-dropping. Their homely and unassuming used couch had ended up containing $41,000 in cash! They quite literally screamed so loudly at the finding that other building residents heard them. Their brains began to go wild with fantasy — but they hadn’t discovered everything the couch had to bear yet.
10. Hey Big Spender
Over the next few days, the roommates deliberated over what they’d do with the valuable finding from the couch. At first, they planned to split up the money evenly three ways, and thought of what different things they would like to purchase using their newfound fortune. The circumstances were so strange and so far-fetched that it was like a dream.
Reese said he would have wanted to buy his mom a brand-new car to surprise her and replace the crummy one she already had. As hard-working students and graduates, they also naturally wanted to pay back student loans, and set aside some funds to travel. Then, they found the last clue in the couch.
11. One Item Overlooked
There was, besides the loads upon loads of dollars, one more important clue inside the couch that would change everything. Cally happened to do a secondary search through the envelopes they had found. She retrieved one final envelope out of the stack — and there was another piece of paper inside it.
As she examined the paper, she saw that it was a deposit slip from a bank. She and her roommates had likely overlooked it during the initial frenzy of excitement while they were whipping out all the bills and counting them up. As it turned out, there was a name written on the deposit slip.
12. Shifting Gears
Instantly, any dreams of using the money to their own personal gain began to fade away. From that one relatively insignificant deposit slip, a new and far more complicated scenario had emerged. Now that they had a name to attribute to the used couch, it completely changed the nature of the find.
New moral questions suddenly arose. Should they investigate further to find out who this person was? Or should they just ignore it and keep the money? Whoever’s couch it had been, they could never know that these three were the ones in possession of the money. But the problem was, the roommates now believed they knew who the money belonged to — and it perturbed them.
13. Second Opinion
Her mind troubled by the moral dilemma of the unfolding situation, Lara called her mom to ask her what she thought about the situation. Hoping for some helpful suggestions and direction, she asked for her mother’s opinion about what the right course of action would be. What if, for example, it turned out the money had been ill-gotten, or the person was a bad character?
Her mom said that she trusted her daughter to possess a well-tuned moral compass, and that if she felt the original owner of the cash from the used couch was not deserving of it, then it removed any obligation of returning the money. Lara was even more confused now. What would they do?
14. Reaching Out
In the end, the roommates decided they had to make an effort to reach out. Reese’s mom helped find the woman’s name in the phone book. And after he got off work, Reese reached out and called her. When she answered, he proceeded to tell her that he had discovered something that might be hers.
The woman on the other line asked him sharply, “What?” When he explained about the finding in the used couch, she was flabbergasted — but she sounded a bit curt to him. She said she had a lot of money in the couch and really needed it. But Reese left the phone call feeling uncomfortable.
15. Setting Out
Something still felt rather uncertain about the whole situation. The woman on the phone had seemed rather short with Reese, and not as appreciative as he had imagined she would be. The way the phone conversation had ended managed to puzzle him even further. He and his roommates still asked themselves, was she truly deserving of this? Did they have an absolute imperative to return the money?
Still, during their somewhat awkward phone conversation, Reese and the woman agreed to set up a time and place to meet so they could return her money. The unsettling questions continued to plague the roommates as they piled into the car and headed off to find her.
16. Inner Debate
The roommates drove up the Hudson Valley in the direction of the address provided by the alleged previous owner of the couch. However, for the entire duration of the ride, they remained filled with doubt. They had a deep discussion about morals and ethics, because the situation still left them feeling uneasy and unsure. What if they arrived and found out this was truly not a good person?
Were their skills of comprehension well enough tuned to be able to discern whether or not the owner was deserving of the money and was being honest? Would they decide right then that they didn’t want to hand over the money, and turn the car around?
17. Uncertain Arrival
Still trying to understand the scope of the good deed they were on their way to fulfill, the roommates had not yet made up their minds about the situation when they rolled into the woman’s neighborhood. It was rustic, and the conditions around them looked rough to say the least.
The sight was not particularly welcoming, as the woman lived in a community that had clearly once known better times. Everywhere, they saw “Beware Of Dog” signs, and security cameras posted to protect the properties. The house at the address that they were seeking had a porch that was an dilapidated gray, flaking with paint chips. Hesitantly, they knocked.
18. Welcome To Town
Now was the moment of truth that would confirm or dissipate their suspicions. The front door opened with a creak — and to their delight and immense relief, they were greeted by the woman’s daughter and granddaughter, both of whose demeanor immediately told them they were dealing with kindhearted, well-intending people.
The women ushered the students into the home and brought them to the grandmother of the family, who had been the original owner of the money in the used couch. When they met her face to face and showed her the bundles of bills, she burst into tears. Then she explained the backstory of how it all came to be.
19. A Story Of Loss
As it turned out, not only had the students done the right thing in reaching out, but even the money itself had far more than its cash value. It was laden with sentimental memories. The woman was a widow, and it had been years since she had lost her husband.
Her husband had a heart condition, and knew he would not live long. But before he passed, he gave his wife money every week, with the intention that she should store it away so she would have something to subsist with after he was gone. And naturally she knew where to put it.
20. Secret Stash
The grandmother had been compiling the savings money her late husband had given her, and stashed her envelopes of money inside the couch of her TV room — for 30 years! She had been sleeping on that same uncomfortable couch at the time. But then, she developed back problems that required surgery.
While she was in the hospital undergoing the operation and recuperating afterwards, her daughter passed through her apartment and tried to spruce things up in anticipation of her return home. She came across the beat-up old couch and got rid of it to make way for a new bed, not knowing what was inside the furniture she had given away. But that wasn’t all.
21. Watched Over
It had all happened purely by chance that the used couch had come into the right hands, and that the well-intentioned roommates had managed to find the bank slip with her name on it. The woman told the three students that she was convinced her husband was there in the room with them, watching down on them.
She truly felt he had intervened in order to help make sure this order of events had all played out properly, so that her life savings, wrapped up in the memory of her beloved husband, could be returned to her. Not turning the roommate away empty handed, she had something to give them for their efforts.
22. No Good Deed Unpunished
The students had driven all the way purely to make sure what they had found in the used couch returned to the right hands. They had no ulterior motives. Yet, defying all expectations, the woman rewarded the students — by giving them $1,000 out of her own savings. She felt they were absolutely deserving of it.
Even if they wouldn’t be able to pay back their loans, or buy a car or go on vacation as they had previously fantasized, it was a learning experience completing an act of righteousness. Gone were any of the doubts that had plagued them since they had learned of her identity. In fact, it caused a revelation for them.
23. The Power Of Kindness
The students felt great, thoroughly satisfied with what they had done, and humbled by the whole experience and the emotional reward that came with it. Though it had not been an easy decision to part with such an unexpected sum of money, they left with their moral compasses sharpened.
The three roommates felt that if they hadn’t resisted the temptation and had used the money without thinking, it would have eaten away at their conscience. Once they had learned of the elderly woman’s identity, they felt that they had taken the only course of action that was right. And others were taking notice.
24. Making Waves
On the fateful movie night that the three roommates had discovered the money in their used couch in the first place, their elation had not gone unnoticed in their area. Their neighbors told them the next morning that they had heard them screaming so loud and with such joy, they figured they had won the lottery.
News started to spread around New Paltz about the extraordinary circumstances of their story and their act of charity. As a result, the online student newspaper of the State University of New York at New Paltz’s journalism department, The Little Rebellion, interviewed them. And then, the story caught like wildfire.
25. Humble Celebrities
From the student newspaper, the story gained far more traction, launching it into headlines in news on both sides of the Atlantic. The act of kindness that Reese, Cally, and Lara had done for the elderly widow resonated with people the world over because of its improbability and their strong moral core.
The roommates have since remained in touch with the family of the 91-year-old recipient of their act of kindness, and made plans to return and have dinner with her and her family. After all, the whole improbable saga was quite possibly a once in a lifetime experience for all parties involved. Turns out there are actually lots of random acts of kindness in the world, with similar stories and circumstances making the news too.
26. One Not So Ordinary Afternoon
It was during one afternoon in 2014 when Dave of Freaktography got off work early and decided to go explore an abandoned and dilapidated house. As soon as his friend told him about this house, and all the very special antique and historical items he could find there, Dave knew he had to go check it out as part of his hobby and love for urban exploration photography projects.
As soon as he walked into the eerie and decaying house, he noticed old artifacts and possessions lying everywhere in all of the rooms. It seemed as if someone had thrown all the objects around with no care in the world. Something was really strange about this place, but nothing could have prepared Dave for what he was about to find.
27. Walking Into The Past
Dave couldn’t believe his eyes. He found old photographs and clothes, and even dentures, which instantly brought some life into the abandoned place. They told a story and were proof that once actual living beings inhabited the house. By the looks of it, it seemed like the inhabitants of the house were forced to rush out for whatever reason and left everything turned upside down in their wake.
Dave stumbled upon old TV sets, calendars, tea, cigars, tools, ointments, and even a bag of marbles. But what caught his attention were Geography, grammar, and other notebooks laid neatly on a desk alongside some pens and an ashtray. After doing the rounds, Dave was about to go into the kitchen and then noticed something more pressing.
28. I Spy With My Little Eye
Just as Dave was going into the kitchen to take a shot of the mess and pieces of history left scattered on the counter top, he noticed a bed and mattress leaning against the wall. There was nothing unusual about the mattress, but rather what was sticking out from the corner of it.
On closer inspection, Dave noticed rolls and rolls of cash stashed into the bottom of the mattress. He froze, but he knew he couldn’t just leave it there without exploring further. So before taking any more pictures, Dave quickly ripped open the hole in the mattress and removed all the cash he found inside. Was this some kind of trap, or had Dave stumbled upon a missing piece of history?
29. Cashing In
After carefully removing the wads of cash from the mattress, Dave started counting through the money and found that the stash amounted to almost $7000 in US and Canadian currency. The rolls of cash were stacked together with elastic tape, while a small piece of paper listing months and dates from between the 196os to 1970s were secured on top of each roll.
While some people would have made a dash for it after finding so much money in an abandoned house, Dave knew that he had to stick to his principles and those of urban exploration which are, “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.” But who did all this money belong to and why was it stashed in the mattress?
30. First Piece Of The Mystery
After Dave left the house he called his friend and told him what he had found, and together they decided to track down the rightful owner and get to the bottom of how the money got there in the first place. After doing some thorough research on the house and the history of the property owners, they found a number.
A woman’s voice greeted them on the other side of the receiver, who turned out to be the previous home owners’ granddaughter. They told her the story and decided to meet up to give her the money. “We gave her the money, every penny…she started to cry – overwhelmed by this random act of kindness, and by the emotions she feels being back at this house,” Dave recounted to several news sources. Maybe she would be able to provide Dave and his friends with the answer they were looking for: why had her grandparents hidden money in such a strange place in the first place?
31. The Last Piece Of The Puzzle
After Dave and his friend spoke to the woman, exchanged a few hugs, and even posed for a picture together, they felt they couldn’t ask too many investigative questions without coming across as prying vultures. So they each said a few kind words and parted ways.
Only later did Dave learn that her grandparents must have collected and stashed away the money for years. They once owned a fruit stand, so all these savings were most probably from that. Since this miraculous urban photography discovery, Dave has shared the story on his Facebook page and called the album, “House of Treasures.” He has also shared it on his website, Freaktography.
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