A 1917 Gustav Klimt painting worth $66 million was recently found inside a wall of the gallery in Italy where it went missing 23 years ago.
The mystery of how "Portrait of a Lady" got there in the first place is not really a mystery at all. Obviously the only explanation is that a nine-year-old boy, inspired by the 1996 film, Mission Impossible, staged an elaborate heist that involved dangling from wires in order to make off with a priceless work of art during the limited window of the gallery's renovation. He pulled off the whole operation effortlessly, only to be overcome with fear and regret as he realized that he didn't know a good fence that he could trust to move such a hot item. Thus began the 23-year task of getting a job as a gardener at the same gallery, finding the perfect hiding spot, and waiting for an opportune moment to "find" the stolen masterpiece.
Like I said. No mystery. Pretty straightforward. The same cannot be said for many of these strange and disturbing objects that people around the world have found inside their walls.
A Creepy Antique Doll
Reddit user optiplex7456
Reddit user optiplex7456 was replacing the front door of their house last year when this strange antique doll fell out of the wall above the doorway. They describe the doll as "mostly some kind of canvas with wooden legs. No face." It was stuffed into the wall along with a long strip of leather and may have been there since the 1880s. Generally what makes a doll creepy is the unmoving features and the cold dead eyes, staring at you. But the fact that this doll has no face at all and was just silently lurking there above the entrance to their home, somehow makes it all the more sinister.
Reddit's best answer to the mystery was that the doll was most likely an apotropaic object—which means it's part of a traditional practice of placing objects inside walls, usually thought to confer some sort of spiritual protection. Many stories of strange things found inside walls can be attributed to this superstition. Like, for instance...
Bottles Full of Human Hair, Fingernails, and Urine
Witch Bottles are one of the most common apotropaic objects. Since at least the 1600s people have been sealing them up and putting them inside the walls of their homes to ward off curses and dark spirits. Hair, fingernails, pins, and urine are the most common contents, though sometimes people have even found teeth inside. Imagine finding a bottle during a renovation and thinking it might be some sort of time capsule, or a fancy old liquor, only to find a bunch of old pee and hair sloshing around inside. Maybe the only thing more disgusting would be...
Just a Massive Cache of Human Teeth
Old-timey dentists in Georgia apparently had a creative way to dispose of their patients' disgusting, diseased teeth, which was to put them all inside a wall in what can only have be a deliberate effort to freak out some the poor construction worker destined to find them. That whole building must have smelled like morning breath. Though that's probably better than the smell of...
This is yet another case of apotropaic objects. Cats have long been associated with various magical abilities, and some people apparently think those abilities extend beyond death and have taken up the practice of placing dried cat corpses inside the walls of their homes. They've been found in older homes through much of Europe and the United States, which must make for quite a disturbing reveal, though maybe not as shocking as...
A Live Missile
A lot of veterans have brought back war souvenirs that they weren't really supposed to take. In some cases that means valuable works of art, in others cases live explosives. That's all well and good (i.e. ridiculously dangerous), but why on Earth would anyone put those explosives inside a wall? There must be some good reason, because it's happened in at least three instances, with a grenade, an anti-tank rocket, and even a 20-inch missile from the Korean war. At least they wouldn't stink up the place. They might even be worth some money to the right collector—though not as much as...
Even More Priceless Paintings
If you thought the Klimt painting in Italy was the first case of an important work of art being lost behind a wall, you were wrong. There are actually tons of cases of murals by famous artists being walled over—including a Da Vinci painting. But perhaps the best example was the Norman Rockwell painting—worth $15 million—hidden inside a wall to keep it from being seized during a messy divorce. It was discovered by the owners' son years later, but what really makes it amazing is the full replica that the man painted to replace it so his wife wouldn't be suspicious. It's not necessarily a moral thing to do, but it's not as bad as...
400 Barrels of Toxic Waste
John Currie, owner of "Currie Tar Products" in Ontario, Canada was not a fan of proper waste disposal. In order to save his business money, he preferred to just put up a concrete wall to conceal 400 barrels of carcinogenic "coal tar, creosote, and roof tar." They were discovered in 2017 by the new owner, years after Currie's death. Hundreds of thousands of dollars and weeks of cleanup were required to take care of it all. So it's probably a good idea to have some extra money (or a Norman Rockwell painting) set aside before you start your next home renovation.