Abandoned storage units are the modern-day treasure chest. If the owner of a unit defaults on payments, the storage facility is allowed to auction off the contents of a unit to the highest bidder, who often buys whatever lies behind the metal door sight unseen. According to Auction Hunters, one of the reality shows that documents the world of storage unit auctions, in 2011 there were more than 50,000 abandoned storage units in America that held about $1 billion worth of items. Here are a few weird things found in storage after the lock on the unit was cut.
1. James Bond’s Submarine Car
In 1989, a man paid less than $100 to buy the contents of a storage unit at a facility in Long Island. When he and his brother cut the lock the next day, they found a white sports car—sans wheels, and with a dented roof—covered in blankets. When he drove home with the car tied to the bed of his truck, other drivers soon told him via CB radio that the vehicle was one of the submarine cars operated by James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me. The man, who had never seen a James Bond film, immediately rented the movie to see what all the fuss was about. Eight versions of the car appear in the film and, until then, only seven of the eight had been accounted for. The car was used for promotions when the film was released, but how it ended up in Long Island is a mystery only a secret agent can solve. Later, the car was purchased at auction by Tesla founder Elon Musk for almost $1 million.
2. A Human Leg
It was not your average backyard barbecue when Shannon Whisnant found a meat smoker in the storage unit he purchased at auction in 2007. Upon lifting the lid of the smoker, its contents were revealed not to be a slab of juicy pork ribs, but an amputated human leg. John Wood, the original owner of the storage unit, lost his leg above the knee after a plane crash in 2004. He said he was keeping the leg in the unit—which he lost after he fell behind on payments—so he could eventually be buried with it. Whisnant, who legally owned the meat smoker and its contents, initially gave the leg to the police, who sent it to a funeral home. And then things got weird(er): According to the BBC, "after making money by charging adults $3 and children $1 to look inside the empty smoker, Mr. Whisnant asked for it back. His request was refused by the funeral home, so he decided to try to persuade Mr. Wood to share custody and profits." Wood was not amused. "I just think it's despicable," he told the BBC. "I don't mind having the 15 minutes of fame, but I'm not looking to really profit off this thing. He's making a freak show out of it." The pair eventually went to court—TV court, Judge Greg Mathis, to be exact—and the leg was returned to Wood.
3. The First Superman Comic
In 2011, a man contacted collectibles expert Mark Balelo with an incredible story: He'd just bought the contents of a storage locker in the San Fernando Valley and found Action Comics No. 1—the first Superman comic—inside. He wanted to sell it, but it wasn't meant to be: The issue he'd found in his newly-purchased locker had been stolen from actor and comic book fan Nicolas Cage's home in 2000. Cage had bought the comic, valued at about $1 million, in 1995. Five years later, he had reported it stolen to his insurance company. Cage called its resurfacing 11 years later an act of “divine providence.”
4. A Rocket
While in Miami in 2011, cameras followed Allen Haff and Clinton Jones of Spike TV’s Auction Hunters as they bid $1500 for the contents of a storage unit. After making a purchase, the professional storage unit bidders load whatever they find of value into a truck to be sold later and donate or trash what remains. This time, a NASA countdown clock and rocket were what was found behind door number one. Haff and Jones met with a space memorabilia expert to authenticate the items before reselling them. NASA did not ask for their rocket back.
5. All of Burt Reynolds' Memories
Burt Reynolds might be the most famous of all pack rats. Over the course of his tenure in movies, the actor routinely acquired memorabilia and collected artifacts from his life that he stored in storage units. When he defaulted on payments in 1999, the contents of his unit were put up for auction. However, a group banded together, bought many of the items, and created the Burt Reynolds and Friends Museum so fans from all over could see things such as Reynolds’ honorary sheriff’s badges, Roy Rogers’ saddle and personal letters from other celebrities to Reynolds.
6. A Dead Body
In 2012, a family in Florida discovered that their grandmother’s remains had been stored in a unit after a deathbed confession from their mother, according to the Tampa Bay Times. When 95-year-old grandmother Ann Bunch died in a nursing home, her daughter, Bobbie Bennett Hancock, promised to take care of everything. However, rainstorms and a dysfunctional truck prevented Hancock from burying her mother, so Hancock took the body to her storage unit. But Hancock's ex-son-in-law cites grief and hoarding tendencies as the real cause. "Bobbie had trouble facing the fact that her mother was gone," Setlow told the Times. "They just couldn't part with her."
7. A Burglar
It’s hard enough to break into a storage locker, let alone out of one. In 2011, Ronald R. Dennis decided that stealing from storage units in St. Joseph, Mo. would be the perfect burglary: Few people, high potential for finding valuable goods. However, while Dennis was filling his bags with loot inside, a security guard outside saw that the door was open; unable to open the door further, the guard shut the door—and trapped Dennis inside. The police were called when the same guard heard Dennis trying to escape later.