DIY Home Makeover Unearthed More Than They Bargained For

Taking on a DIY home project is never easy, especially if you’re working with a house that was built in the 1940s. The structure is never stable, there’s almost always mold, and it can be a long, tedious process. Despite all this, an Ohio couple went ahead with their own renovations.

Source: Pinterest / Flickr / Flickr

But they unearthed much more than what they bargained for when they began work on their basement. What began as several lucky and wonderful discoveries quickly turned creepy. So frightening, in fact, that the FBI was called in to investigate. Read on to see what they could’ve possibly discovered that warranted an FBI investigation!

A Home Renovation Project

When a married couple from Ohio bought a house in Cleveland that required renovations, they were excited at the prospect. The 35-year-old husband was very into DIY and felt confident that he could get the property into tip-top condition without too much of a problem. It was a big job, but he was capable – and they weren’t in a hurry, so he had plenty of time to complete the project.

The couple's house in Cleveland, Ohio
Source: Pinterest

The suburban house was fairly large, with two main floors and a large basement underneath, so the couple knew the entire renovation process would be pretty long. It could take years, in fact, so they had to be smart about how they approached it. They decided, therefore, to start with the top two floors and leave the basement for last.

Living the DIY Dream

It took quite a while to complete the renovations on the first and second floors, but eventually, the couple got there – and they were delighted with the outcome. It was exactly what they had envisioned when they first bought the property, and they both felt like they were living the dream. The husband had been documenting his progress the entire time, and the transformation was stark.

The husband was using a vacuum on the ceiling
Source: Pinterest

The renovation process had, so far, gone without a hitch. Sure, they’d had a few setbacks along the way, but nothing that they couldn’t easily cope with – and nothing that was out of the ordinary. It seemed like nothing more than a regular, run-of-the-mill home renovation project – and one that was going extremely successfully, no less. The couple had no idea what was waiting for them in the basement.

Turning to the Basement

After completing the renovations on the first and second floors of their home, the couple turned their attention to the basement – and prepared themselves for the hard work they’d undoubtedly have to put in for it to be transformed into the cozy space that they were visualizing. First, they decided to scope out the available room and see what they would be dealing with.

The basement is empty with the steps going down the side of the wall before they started work on it
Source: Pinterest

There was some graffiti on the walls of the basement, but it was faint and illegible, and the couple thought very little of it, assuming it had been a child drawing on the walls years ago. The husband was still taking pictures of everything to document his renovation project, and the graffiti was his first snap of the basement.

The Suitcase in the Ceiling

There was nothing to suggest that anything was shocking or sinister waiting for the couple in the basement, so the husband was unassuming as he started his work. However, as he began to tear down the aged dropped ceiling, he was soon faced with a startling discovery that would prove to be the start of an unimaginable chain of events.

The suitcase was nestled in between ceiling panels
Source: Pinterest

As huge chunks of the ceiling crashed down around him as he began the demolition, the DIY husband noticed something out of the corner of his eye that he wasn’t expecting to see at all. Hidden away between the ceiling and the subfloor – squeezed between the rafters and propped against a pipe – was a vintage-looking green and gray suitcase.

Wild Speculation and Suspense

With his wife now safely home, the man carried the suitcase into the back garden, where the big reveal would happen. Beforehand, however, the couple had a little fun and prolonged the suspense and anticipation by taking turns to guess what could be inside the weathered, unearthed suitcase. It was clearly old, so the husband predicted that it could be an old collection of sports cards.

The husband took photos of the suitcase while he waited for his wife
Source: Pinterest

The wife, on the other hand, thought that there was a chance it could be old handwritten recipes – or if they were lucky priceless antiques. Their speculation grew wilder and more adventurous until they both decided that enough was enough – it was time to open the suitcase and reveal its contents, whatever they may be. Little did they know what was in store for them.

The Mysterious Wrapped Bundles

Barely able to contain their excitement and anticipation, the couple opened the small suitcase. From their first glimpse, however, they weren’t able to gauge exactly what the contents were – they certainly didn’t have any idea what good fortune they were about to discover. Instead, they just saw bundles of aging waxed paper, which was disappointing – but then they noticed something.

The contents of the suitcase
Source: Flickr

On closer inspection, it was clear that the yellowed wax paper was wrapped around rectangular objects of some kind – and there were three of these objects in total, although it wasn’t immediately clear what they were. The couple would have to investigate further to find out exactly what was inside the mysterious suitcase.

A Welcome Stack of Bills

The husband took out the object sitting at the top of the suitcase, and tentatively unwrapped it. As he peeled back the waxed paper, he saw there were multiple layers. Removing them one by one, it soon became apparent what he was holding in his hand – a fairly large bundle of old money. A stack of $20 bills, to be exact.

The wrapped bundles contained in the suitcase
Source: Flickr

The couple couldn’t believe their luck – they predicted that there must have been about $2000 in total. And that was just one bundle – there were three in the suitcase in total. They were both over the moon – home renovations don’t ever come cheap, after all, and they were overjoyed that they’d found some money that could possibly cover some of the costs. This briefcase wasn’t filled with $20 bills though. It was filled with $50 and $100 bills.

Opening Up a Can of Worms

This revelation opened up a can of worms. The couple had so many questions – who did the money originally belong to? Where did it come from, and how was it earned? Who wrapped it up and put it in the suitcase? And who hid it in the ceiling in the basement – and, most importantly, why? Unfortunately, the couple had absolutely no idea.

$50 and $100 bills fanned out on an old floor.
Source: Flickr

What they were able to ascertain was that the bills were old – they had dates ranging from 1928 to 1934. Other than that, however, it was all a mystery. The couple wondered whether the old $20, $50, and $100 bills would, in fact, turn out to be worth more than their face value, considering how old they were.

A Newspaper Provides Clues

Next, they turned their attention to the suitcase itself, in case it could provide some clues as to who and where the money came from. Maybe there would be a name somewhere on it. The husband had already predicted it was from around the 1950s, judging by its shape and style, but, unfortunately, there was nothing else that was of much help.

The newspaper found in the suitcase
Source: Flickr

Taking everything – including all of the waxed paper – out of the suitcase, he saw something at the very bottom of the suitcase that neither he nor his wife had noticed before. It was an old newspaper – a copy of The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, a paper from the couple’s hometown. And the date? 25 March 1951. It was more than 65 years old.

Experts Confirm Another Stroke of Luck

Judging by the date on the newspaper, as well as the dates on all of the bills, it was a fair assumption that the fortune had been stashed away in the Cleveland home for a long time. The couple decided to get the bills checked out by an expert, just in case they were worth more than their face value.

Old 50 dollar bills lined up on a glass table.
Source: Flickr

In another stroke of luck, they were. They were all more than 70 years old, and some were even star bills that hadn’t ever been circulated. The couple was dumbstruck – how on earth did they end up here, just to be unearthed all these years later? All in all, the money in the case was worth an impressive $23,000.

On a Wild Ride

Of course, the couple was thrilled. “This was a wild ride for us, and I hope you all enjoyed it, too,” the husband wrote on Reddit. “We are boring people and have been dumping our extra money to pay off our mortgage, and that is where this money will go too.” Little did he know, however, that this was just the beginning of their home’s mystery.

A photograph of the couple and their stacks of money sitting on the dining room table.
Source: Flickr

They enjoyed their moment in the spotlight for a little while. However, as there was great interest from their local community, that then spread further afield. Soon, local newspapers were covering their $23,000 story, then national newspapers, and then even news channels! They were the talk of the town, and people wondered whether their homes hid any secret cash.

Moving On and Pressing On

After a short while, however, the couple figured that life has to go on – so, once the excitement of their discovery had died down, it was time for them to carry on with the renovations to their basement. Little did they know that resuming the work would lead to even more surprises that had been hidden away, just like the green and gray suitcase.

A photograph of the couple and their stacks of money sitting on the dining room table.

As the couple pressed on with their home renovations in the basement, they would uncover more than they ever could have dreamed of. Little did they know that there were surprises and treasures to discover, as well as secrets and horrors that would shock them to the core. From the moment the husband found the old suitcase in the ceiling, their lives were changed forever.

Hitting the Double Jackpot

It wasn’t long before the husband hit the jackpot – another suitcase hidden away within the ceiling. Again, it was revealed as he pulled more sections down, and he couldn’t believe his luck. Could this really be a second suitcase jam-packed full of cash? Could they really be that lucky? In fact, could anyone really be that lucky?!

Retractable steps opened up from an attic doorway.
Source: Flickr

He managed to prise it out of its secure hiding space and gave it a once-over to see if it had any immediate clues as to where it came from and whose it was. There was nothing, however – just like the first. He wiped all of the dust and dirt from the top to look at it closer, but there was no name or engraving anywhere to be seen.

Inspecting the Twin Suitcases

This time, there was no internal debate as to whether he would wait for his wife to get home before opening the suitcase – there was just no way he could do it without her, considering the fortune they discovered last time. It was simply too exciting to miss out on. While he waited, he got out the first suitcase and snapped some photographs of the two together.

The two suitcases side by side
Source: Flickr

The two suitcases were almost identical – there was just a slight difference with the type of fastening used. Could it be, therefore, that the contents were identical too? Of course, he hoped so – another $23,000 certainly wouldn’t go a miss. There was a niggling thought in the back of his mind, however, that it was all too good to be true.

Blown Away Yet Again

A few hours later, as soon as the wife got home, the couple settled down for the big reveal – they weren’t about to waste any time finding out what was inside the suitcase. Opening it, they saw immediately that it was different, as there was no waxed paper. But they weren’t disappointed – what they saw blew both of them away.

The contents of the second suitcase, which his money just piled in and separated with paper clips.
Source: Flickr

Instead of bundles of money wrapped in waxed paper, the suitcase contained money lined up in an orderly fashion, organized into different groups. It was difficult to predict exactly how much was there, but it was clear that it was a lot. Again, the couple had no idea where it came from or who put it there.

More Than Just Pot Luck?

They’d never seen so many notes in one bundle in their lives, and they were blown away. On closer inspection, they could see that the notes had been grouped together according to their denomination – and there were all kinds there, from $20 bills all the way up to $100 bills. They couldn’t wait to find out how much it was worth.

A woman is holding a handful of $100 and $20 bills and counting them.
Photo by MosayMay / Shutterstock

Again, they enlisted the help of an expert to ascertain the second treasure’s worth; however, this time, they kept the news to themselves. After had, after all, attracted a lot of attention when they found the first suitcase, and they didn’t want the same kind of national coverage all over again. Plus, this was getting serious now – it seemed to be more than just pot luck.

A Second Fortune Confirmed

Much to their surprise – and delight – the windfall that was contained in the second suitcase surpassed that of the first. The couple couldn’t believe it, but the second fortune amounted to an impressive $45,000, taking their grand total to an incredible $68,000! They were both amazed – and, it’s fair to say, taken aback – but were humble with their new-found fortune.

Stacks of $100, $50, $20, and $10 bills were lying on a bed.
Source: Flickr

Instead of splashing out on fancy cars, luxury items, and exotic holidays, the couple put the money away safely to go toward the home renovations that they had been planning for so long. They thought perhaps now they would be able to make their home even better than they originally thought because they had so much extra money.

Hiding Secrets As Well As Treasure

However, it’s safe to say that now the couple knew the house they lived in was hiding some secrets – and treasure – they were motivated to look for more while they were completing the work. It couldn’t hurt, after all – and they were both excited at the prospect of finding yet another fortune nestled away in one of the nooks and crannies.

The basement before the renovation, without any floor
Source: Flickr

They speculated for a while as to what the house had been previously used for – or by. Maybe an old, rich couple owned it who didn’t want to keep their life savings in a bank. Maybe the money was acquired as part of a crime – possibly to do with drugs or illegal arms. The possibilities were endless, and the couple had fun guessing while they continued their renovations.

The Mysterious Basement Door

One thing that caught their attention, in particular, was a door in the basement. It didn’t look like anything exciting, and it wasn’t even a full-length door – it could’ve been a cupboard. When they purchased the house, their realtor had originally told them that only the hot water tank was behind it. As a result, they’d never thought anything of it – and they’d never had the need to look behind it.

The mysterious door in the basement
Source: Flickr

Now, however, considering their recent discoveries, they both wanted to open the door and see what was behind it with their own eyes. Of course, they were curious – if they’d found $68,000 worth of cash in suitcases stuffed into a ceiling, think of what could have been hiding behind a whole door. It was heavily locked, though, so had to be opened by force.

Revealing the Hidden Room

The husband set about breaking through the locks, which was no easy feat. As soon as they managed to get the door open, they realized that either they’d been deceived when they bought the house, or their realtor had been hugely mistaken. This was no ordinary door, and there certainly was no hot water tank behind it.

The mysterious door being opened with a dark view of the floor directly inside.
Source: Flickr

Instead, there was an entire room – and it was a large room; one you could store dozens of hot water tanks in. There was a carpet laid over the wooden floor in large patches, about four in total. It was clear that space had been used frequently in the past, judging by how worn the carpet patches were, but there was no immediate indication as to how.

Unearthing Some Dark Secrets

What was clear was that someone had gone to great lengths to hide this room – and this seemed a little creepy to the couple. Suitcases full of money is one thing, but a strange hidden room in the basement behind a door that looks like a cupboard is quite another. Who went so much out of their way to hide the room, and what was the reason behind it?

The creepy room behind the mystery door with different colored pieces of carpet on the floor.
Source: Flickr

They also couldn’t quite believe that, after years of living in the house, they’d never had a clue of the room’s existence. They’d assumed this entire time that it was some kind of utility room, with nothing more than a hot water tank hidden behind it. It was unnerving, especially as the door had been fastened with heavy locks. Why such high levels of security?

The Mood Has Changed

It was all a mystery, but they both knew they had to at least try to get to the bottom of it. There was a secret that this house was hiding – and it seemed as though it could possibly be a dark one. Finding the suitcases and the treasures within them had been fun, exciting, and exhilarating, but it had now turned into something completely different.

The secret room, soundproofed, under wooden floorboards.
Source: Flickr

Instead, the couple felt nervous and slightly apprehensive. Something just didn’t feel right, although neither could quite put their finger on it. How had the mood suddenly changed so much? Could this be something sinister? They knew that, despite their misgivings, they had to press further to try and find the answers to their many questions.

Plotlines from Horror Movies

They entered the room cautiously and took a closer look around. What they saw only unnerved them more. All of the walls were covered with a white plastic tarp as well as another material, which they both recognized as soundproofing. What had been down here that was making a noise that someone didn’t want to be heard?

The couple decided to search the secret room
Source: Flickr

Surely, whatever the answer to that question, it couldn’t be good. Plotlines from horror movies and crime documentaries started crossing their minds, and their uneasiness began to grow. Was this room linked to the money? If so, how exactly? They knew there must be some clues hidden within the room, and they were determined to find them.

More Treasure to Be Found

The first item that was found was an old, worn, brown leather briefcase. Considering the treasures that they found in the suitcases in the ceiling, the couple was hopeful that they were about to stumble upon more treasures. However, given their surroundings, they were dubious – and understandably so. Instead of riches, it could contain something disturbing, and they were feeling the pressure.

The antique jewelry found in the leather briefcase
Source: Flickr

Opening it, they felt a sense of relief when they saw the contents of the briefcase. It was full of antique jewelry – silver ingots, watches, and rings. They all looked valuable and as if they could have been someone’s most prized possessions. There were also multiple envelopes stuffed full with cash from countries all around the world, as well as a wooden box that also looked antique.

The Discovery In the Corner

Of course, this posed more questions than provided answers. Why on earth had someone put all these valuable items in a briefcase and then left it all in a hidden soundproofed room that was attached to a basement? However, feeling as though there was more to discover, the couple didn’t ponder for long. Instead, they continued to search the room.

The black safe in the secret room
Source: Flickr

Soon enough, the couple discovered that the old leather briefcase wasn’t the only valuable item hidden within the secret room. Tucked away in one of the dark corners was a black safe that was almost hidden from view. They approached it, and again a sense of foreboding washed over the couple as they began to try to open it.

Time to “Save Yourself”

They obviously had no idea what the combination to the lock would be, so they knew that they would have to use force to break into the safe. The husband forced his way in, breaking the lock completely in the process. The safe was full, but the couple only noticed one thing immediately – something that stood out straight away.

The terrifying note from the safe that says 'Save Yourself' on lined paper.
Source: Flickr

Unfortunately, it was not an item of value or any kind of treasure. It was, in fact, a note that made both their stomachs knot. On white lined paper, in dripping, thick black ink were the words “SAVE YOURSELF.” Both the husband and the wife felt a chill run down their spine. Was this note a warning to them? Or had it been a warning to someone that was in this room previously?

Praying For It to Be a Prank

It crossed their minds that it could be some kind of joke or prank, but something in their gut told them that it was more sinister than that. Something just wasn’t right, and this note seemed to confirm that. The couple began to realize that there might be something seriously wrong and began to wonder what they should do next.

Some of the money, the jewelry, and the note they'd found so far
Source: Flickr

The obvious next step was to look at the rest of the contents in the safe – after all, they needed to know what they were dealing with before they took it any further. How bad could it really be? Little did they know that they’d only just scratched the surface and were about to make discoveries that would lead to them calling the authorities.

Do Not Save Yourself?

Suddenly, the couple noticed some words scrawled in white paint on the underside of the safe’s lid: “DO NOT.” Do not what? Again, was this meant for them, or someone who had been in the room previously? Either way, it was unnerving. Then the couple saw what had been lying underneath the “SAVE YOURSELF” note – multiple videotapes.

The warning 'Do Not' is painted onto the lid of the safe
Source: Flickr

This completely dumbfounded them both. What on earth could be on these tapes that required them to be locked in a safe in the corner of a hidden room of a basement in Cleveland, Ohio? It just didn’t make sense, as it was becoming clear that something untoward – or possibly worse – had occurred in this strange, secret room.

The Mysterious Coded Tapes

The husband removed the tapes and began to inspect them for any clues they might hold regarding what was on them and who put them there. Unfortunately, they revealed very little. They did, however, seem to be newer than the contents of the suitcases in the basement and the briefcase in the mysterious room, which seemed a little strange.

The tapes that the couple found in the secret room
Source: Flickr

There were six videotapes in total, and five of them were labeled with an indecipherable series of numbers and letters: 194, 1195, 11195, IV, 95, V. The couple wondered whether this could have been referring to dates, but of course, they could only speculate. The whole experience had gotten a little much for them now.

Just Trying to Forget

The couple decided not to watch the videotapes, as they were nervous about what they’d see – and discovering the strange secret room had unnerved them. They were both beginning to wish that they’d never stumbled across the strange hidden room and its mysterious contents, and tried to put the videotapes out of their minds.

One of the tapes which has 'No No No No No No' written on it
Source: Flickr

After all, they just wanted to get on with their renovation work, not become involved with something that was way out of their depth – and possibly illegal. Plus, what if they saw something on those videotapes that disturbed them, or they became involved somehow in something so disgusting? But forgetting about the tapes was much easier said than done.

Curiosity Begins to Mount

Over the next few days, both the husband and the wife began to dwell on the videotapes and wonder what was on them. They tried to be optimistic and even hoped that it was a kind of practical joke – something left by the previous owner to fool the next person that stumbled across the hidden room.

Someone is placing a VHS tape into a player.
Photo by Sinisha Karich / Shutterstock

They realized, however, that it was extremely unlikely. No one in their right mind would go to this much trouble for a silly prank played on someone you didn’t even know. Plus, it very much looked like whoever put the tapes there was trying to keep them safely hidden forever. Curiosity was mounting by the day, and it could only be put off for so long.

The Dark Secrets Revealed

After several sleepless nights, the couple couldn’t wait any longer. They simply had to see what was on the videotapes with their own eyes, no matter what they were. And after all, they both thought, what are the odds that they’re going to be anything other than old home movies or a practical joke?

The couple decided to play the tapes
Photo by TurboYoda / Shutterstock

With that in mind, they retrieved the videotapes and popped the first one into an old VCR. Pressing play, the couple sat back to watch the contents. Nothing, however, could have prepared them for what they saw. Immediately, it was clear: the seemingly ‘normal’ house in Cleveland, Ohio was keeping many dark secrets, and now the couple knew what they were.

It’s Out of Our Hands

The contents of the videotape were horrifying, and the couple couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was enough for them to wish immediately that they’d never found the room and its strange contents – but, of course, it was too late to think like that now. They quickly checked the next videotape, and it was much of the same.

An old VHS tape being played with the date in the lower corner and black and white fuzziness across the screen.
Photo by Grenar / Shutterstock

The couple knew that this was way out of their hands now – they’d have to pass all this information onto the authorities and let them investigate. Suddenly, the joy and excitement that they’d felt when they found the first two suitcases seemed a long way away – and they both wished that this crazy experience had finished there and then.

Contacting the Local Police

The couple contacted the local state police, which in turn decided this was a matter for the FBI. They knew it was serious, and agents were sent to the house immediately to check out the items that the couple found. Of course, they confiscated the videotapes straight away and took them back to the station for investigation.

The FBI is gathering evidence
Source: Flickr

They also inspected the hidden room at length and took statements from the couple regarding how they stumbled across it. They also took the safe, jewelry, watches, and the cryptic note – but, luckily for the couple, a lot of the original cash that was found had already been spent on their mortgage and renovations.

An Investigation By the FBI

Unfortunately for us, we may never know what was on those videotapes. After the police took them, the husband posted the entire story – along with the pictures he’d taken for documentation purposes – on Reddit, where the thread went wild. People couldn’t get enough of the story and wanted to know the contents of the tapes.

The FBI agents are setting up tents and digging in their back yard.
Source: Flickr

The police, however, instructed the husband to remove his story and not reveal what was on the videotapes as they were part of an ongoing investigation – and from what we can tell, the mystery hasn’t been solved yet as there have been no updates on the story published recently. Staying true to his word to the police, the husband has not posted any further details.

A Request for Silence

Although the original, step-by-step account of the crazy Ohio house experience is no longer available to view as a thread on Reddit, we were able to find a comment from the husband at a later date regarding the investigation with the police. He writes: “The reason why I took everything down was at the request of the Sheriff.”

A few FBI evidence response team members are walking around
Source: Flickr

“It’s a lot of stuff relevant to an ongoing case now, and they politely asked me to do it, so I figure that it would be wise to do so. If further news does happen and it’s figured out, I do have permission to scan the reports and show them online after the case is closed.” Fingers crossed he posts them when the case is closed!

Just a Matter of Speculation

Therefore, it is a matter of speculation as to what really went on in that house all those years ago – and it’s quite possible that we’ll never know. What we can safely say is that it must have been horrifying for the couple to contact the authorities immediately, and then for the FBI to launch an official investigation straight away.

The house that hides so many secrets
Source: Flickr

After all, if it had been a practical joke as the couple first suspected, they would have simply discarded the tapes and kept the cash and antique items that they found for themselves. Instead, their actions confirm the house was previously used for something sinister. I guess all we can do is wait to see if the FBI ever finds out the truth behind the money and the secret sound-proof room. Twelve years have already passed since the suitcases were discovered, so hopefully, it won’t take much longer.

The Home’s Unsolved Mystery

However, there is a plethora of questions that all this poses. Firstly, who even owned the house when all this was going on? Who put the money in the suitcases and hid them in the ceiling in the basement? How did they acquire the money in the first place? And if there were dark crimes recorded on the videotapes, were they related to the money in the basement?

Opening the suitcase that would change their lives forever
Source: Flickr

It’s also chilling when you think about the hidden room off the basement. Who would build such a thing, and why? Were people kept as prisoners down there and told to ‘SAVE YOURSELF’? Or were people killed down there – is that where the antique jewelry, watches, and foreign currency came from? Unfortunately, we may never know, but it really makes you wonder what went on in your home before you lived there.