Man Finds Mysterious Box In His Garden And Solves 6-Year Mystery


| LAST UPDATE 03/06/2022

By Ray Zhang

Fairy tales and adventure books have fueled child-like fantasies of discovering hidden treasure… But what about when these stories come true? Matthew and his family were about to find out, upon the discovery of a random box in their garden.

The Family Abode

The Emanuels, including Matthew, his wife, and son, had been in the Todt Hill, Staten Island home for years. They took on countless home reno projects, redoing nearly every corner of their property… Except for one particular corner.

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Twitter via Matthew Emanuel

The Emanuel family's main priority was working on the house's interior. That's why the garden's renovation had been left on the back burner. Little did they know, there was a forsaken corner in the backyard, hiding something beneath the mounds of debris.

Meet the Emanuels

The Emanuel household was usually pretty uneventful. Matthew was an accountant by trade. His wife, Maria Colonna Emanuel, was a teacher, and their only child had yet to graduate. They were a typical suburban family, and Maria often used their Saturdays to fix up something around the house.

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Courtesy of Paul Liotta via Staten Island Advance

At first, Matthew didn't understand why Maria always wanted to renovate. But after some time, he found that he actually took pleasure in it. So, one day he confidently told his wife that his next project would be the dreaded backyard. As soon as the house was perfect, he planned to tackle the neglected landscape.

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The Unexpected Discovery

In the house's enclosure, their neglected nook became the area where they would throw stuff that they had no use for. There were also some poisonous plants that no one wanted to touch. However, Matthew's wife was had a specific vision, so she wanted the garden done as soon as possible.

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CBS New York via Youtube

In order to get started, they had to rid the area of all the old stuff they had thrown there. Once they had gotten rid of all the trash, they saw the decrepit case. The Emanuel's had always thought that this dreaded corner was filled with useless stuff, so they were surprised to see something hiding.

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The Untouched Safe

The box had clearly been sitting there for a few years. It was covered in rust and debris. That, plus the poisonous weeds, discouraged the family from approaching it. Once they realized this was a bigger job than they thought, they decided to push it off for another day.

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Twitter via Matthew Emanuel

Eventually, autumn passed, and the cold season brought about some intense weather. The strong winds tore the leaves off the trees, and their garden looked pretty chaotic. Soon, when Spring came around, Maria told Matthew that he simply had to deal with that awful corner.

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Pushed Off Until the Spring

Matthew continued to push it off, but the time to deal with the crusty box was approaching. One day, a lone deer walked right into the family's garden and started munching away at one of their bushes. Although the sight was adorable, it uncovered what that they were trying to hide… the rusty box.

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ABC News via Youtube

So much time had passed that the neglected patch in the garden became unavoidable. With all the trees and dead leaves in the way, it was easy for them to ignore it. However, the deer had eaten up a small section of their garden, exposing the rusty box.

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That Year's Spring Cleaning

The winter season had made their garden look like a disaster. After a few good days of work, Matthew hacked his to the back corner and the metal case. However, when he saw how much needed to be done, he decided to put it off again. After all, he had his work cut out for him.

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City News Toronto via Youtube

Matthew had big plans for the garden, but he needed a clean slate to do it. So, he started by cutting down all the surrounding foliage. Once the garden was completely empty, the box was in plain sight. It was an eyesore that he was desperate to get rid of it. The time had come to rid the garden of the box for good.

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Needing an Extra Set of Hands

There were areas of the garden that were simply unsalvageable. Matthew knew that if he was going to make the yard beautiful, he needed a professional. So, he did some research and tried his best to find the perfect person for the job. Lucky for Matthew, he found the ideal person.

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CBS New York via Youtube

Matthew was put in touch with a great landscaper. He called him up and requested him to check out the garden and see just how much work Matthew was in for. Little did Matthew know, this landscaper would become a significant part of the story. He was also a rather unorthodox gardener.

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Robert Foley, AKA Bamboo Bob

The earliest available date with the landscaper was the 28th of April. His passion for his business led Robert Foley to adopt the nickname, Bamboo Bob. He told Mathew that he would only respond if he was called by his nickname. Bamboo Bob had garnered quite a name for himself, as one of the best in landscaping.

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@bamboobob via Instagram

Bamboo Bob had worked across the state and beyond. He was known by just about everybody in the neighborhood, and Matthew couldn't wait to get started. Soon, Bamboo Bob himself would learn that this would be one of the most memorable jobs of his career.

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They Got to Work

Matthew contacted Bamboo Bob for that exact reason. He knew that bamboos would be the perfect addition to the garden. They provided a sense of seclusion and Maria loved the idea too. Bamboo Bob was just as keen to get started. So Bob got his team together to start the project.

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@bamboobob via Instagram

As the landscapers were working in the yard, they encountered the crusty metal case that was occupying the neglected corner. When Bob enquired about the bizarre metal structure, Matthew told him that it had been there for what felt like an eternity and that they had denied it for as much as they could.

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Nagging Questions

Bob couldn't help his curiosity surround the safe. Ignoring it was out of the question, as it was an obstruction to the garden plans. He asked Matthew of its significance, and Bob found the answer to be a little odd. Mathew told him about how they found the object and that it had been neglected ever since.

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City News Toronto via Youtube

Matthew told Bamboo Bob that he believed it was an electrical box that once held the power source for the electricity. However, Bob didn't buy it, and he could tell it was nothing of the sort. What he discovered was truly unbelievable and shocked the Emanuel family.

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The Excavation

The case was tightly crammed into the soil, so they had to excavate it. With the help of some machinery, it finally wiggled out of its place. The heaviness of the box was unexpected, it led them to believe that the box was holding more than they realized. At this point, everyone was curious to know what was inside.

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Matthew Emanuel via Twitter

The landscapers turned the box on its side. They placed bets on what they thought it was or who it belonged to. Mathew didn't have much information on the people who used to live in the house before them. However, now that they had a better look at the box, they realized that it was no electrical box.

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The Mysterious Item Was Revealed

The mysterious case had lock devices on its exterior, hindering the landscapers from cracking it open. The landscapers called Matthew to come and see their new discovery. But he was just as shocked as they were to see that this box that had been written off as trash was actually containing anything worthwhile.

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Matthew Emanuel via Twitter

They brainstormed different ways to get it open. After trying for a few hours, they realized that they were dealing with something that wasn't going to open without force. Now, there were just two questions left: what did the mysterious case contain, and who was its rightful owner? What happened next was unbelievable...

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It Weighed Over 100 lbs.

The mysterious item wasn't exactly small. It stood at about one and a half feet tall and two feet wide. It was also significantly hefty, weighing a good 100 pounds. Regardless of its decrepit state, Matthew was determined to crack it open and discover its remnants. At this point, he was desperate to know.

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Matthew Emanuel via Twitter

Bamboo Bob and his team were extremely curious once Matthew told them how many years the case sat undisturbed. Everyone surrounded the safe to take a look at what it held. They tried to shake it to see if the sound would reveal what was hidden, but of course, they had to open it and see for themselves.

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They Busted Open the Container

This wasn't a job for hands, they needed stronger tools. With the help of Bamboo Bob's staff, they tried with no avail to crack the container open. Eventually, Mathew brought out an old pick-ax from storage. With all his might, he began to hammer away.

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Howcast via Youtube

It took longer than they thought. So, Bamboo Bob redirected his staff to the landscaping task at hand, while he and Mr. Emanuel focused on the safe. They hit it over and over again. Eventually, the door popped open, and what they found shook Matthew to the core.

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The Bounty

Just like some of our childhood fantasies, Matthew found a real-life treasure in his backyard. He and Bamboo Bob were in shock. The first thing they saw were clusters of hundred-dollar bills. Each bundle was around three inches thick. But that's not all they found inside...

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Matthew Emanuel via Twitter

Once they got inside, they found a few plastic bags filled with jewelry. There were nuggets of gold, precious jewels, earrings, and more. Mathew was in total shock: this safe had been ignored for years, while all this money and treasure was just waiting to be found.

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"It Was Stunning"

"I thought it was an electrical box," said Mathew.  "It [the box] was really prominent when the deer ate away all the foliage. Hundreds, jewelry, diamonds, engagement ring. Dozens of rings, gold with jade. It was stunning," he continued. He couldn't believe he once dismissed this as an electrical box.

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Matthew Emanuel via Twitter

Had it not been for Maria's constant desire to fix up the house, or the deers that ate away at the bush, this box probably would have remained hidden for the rest of time. No one ever would have found this treasure, and the Emanuels would never have known it was even there.

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The Catch

The time outside took a toll on the container and its remnants. It wasn't waterproof, so a lot of the dollar bills were just not savable. Considering how long the box had gone without being touched, Matthew was surprised that any of them were still valid.

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Matthew Emanuel via Twitter

They continued to search the safe, and they learned just how damaged the valuables were. Matthew knew that if he had any chance of saving the items, he had to act quickly. So, he grabbed the safe and brought it inside the house. He started to dry each valuable individually.

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Matthew Tried to Salvage the Treasure

Matthew tried his best to save whatever he could. However, the money had suffered from some serious water damage. He meticulously pulled apart each note, one by one, but it was no small feat. It took him a few days just to carefully look at each item and see if it was even worth saving.

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City News Toronto via Youtube

The dollar bills were the main focus. Matthew obviously wanted to save as many as he possibly could. Some of them just broke apart, and no matter what he tried, they never would have been accepted as a legal currency. Only a few were left intact, but they still amounted to a great total.

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Stacks On Stacks

Upon inspecting the bills one-by-one, Matthew began counting the salvaged cash. Soon he reached $1000, and then another, and then another, and he couldn't believe that the value was a whopping $16,300. Not only was this a big number, but he hadn't even taken the jewels into consideration.

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Jonathan Cutrer via Flickr

The Emanuel family simply couldn't believe what their father and Bamboo Bob had found. The thought of this box being right in their faces the whole time was infuriating. Had they known about it sooner, maybe they could have saved some more cash. But the mystery wasn't over. In fact, the shocker was yet to come.

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The Puzzle Was Far From Solved

As the hype of this shocking discovery died down, Matthew's conscience started to kick in. He couldn't help but think about who this safe belonged to, or why it was there. These were obviously valuable items that someone had tried to protect. Who was the rightful owner of these expensive savings?

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Jonathan Cutrer via Flickr

For the average Joe, this wouldn't be much of a debate. Finders keepers, losers weepers, right? Well, Matthew couldn't let himself think like that. He couldn't stop thinking about whom this safe belonged to. He also thought that if he ever lost this kind of money, he would want someone would return it.

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Finding Out the Value

Now that the bills were tallied, the next step was figuring out how much the jewels were worth. There was so much gold in the safe that Matthew had to know if it was real. However, once he weighed it, he had a pretty good idea that it was certainly of value.

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Julio Maring via Youtube

Matthew carefully checked every piece. As he sorted through the items, he logged each of them one by one. He thought he was just about done when suddenly, he found another zip-locked bag at the bottom of the safe. When he pulled it out, he couldn't believe what he found - it was possibly the most important item.

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Finally He Found a Clue

Matthew knew he had to be careful because the water damage was pretty severe. He could see there was a piece of paper inside, but he didn't want it to tear. So, he slowly pulled the paper out and unfolded it. To Matthew's shock, the paper had an address written on the back.

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brewbooks via Flickr

He decided to check the address on his phone's map application. It turned out that it was much closer than he thought. Matthew knew that whoever lived at this address would bring him closer to solving the mystery of the neglected box. He checked to see how long it would take him to get there.

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Matthew Was Shocked

Mr. Emanuel found the exact location, and he couldn't believe how close it was. He was able to make it their by foot. It was a short stroll from his home, and he couldn't help but think about the number of times he had passed by this house without even thinking anything of it.

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CBS New York via Youtube

Although it was tempting to keep the money and jewels, Matthew knew what the right thing to do was. He knew that if he kept the money, he could close some bills, perhaps take the family on a fun vacation. However, he couldn't help but think about how he would feel if he was in the opposite position.

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He Went to the Address

Matthew decided he was going to go past the house and talk to the residents. On the 30th of April, he built the courage to go over. He knew they might find the whole situation strange, so he had to think carefully about what he would say. As nervous as he was, he walked over to the address.

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iStockPhoto via Shutterstock

As he made his way over, Matthew couldn't help but wonder if this was the right move. How could he word it without giving away what had happened? After all, if you told someone that you found a treasure, what could stop them from pretending it was theirs all along?

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Face to Face with the Victim

Before Matthew realized, he had arrived at the address. He didn't know what to expect, but he knocked on the door. To his surprise, an elderly lady answered and looked at him with confusion. At first, Matthew didn't really know what to say, he was just as surprised as she was.

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Matthew Emanuel via Twitter

Matthew politely introduced himself. On his walk over, he considered that the safe might have been stolen. So, he explained to the woman that he understood this was a strange question to ask, but the words had to come out. "Have you ever been robbed before?" asked Matthew. The elderly woman's expression suddenly changed.

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The Elderly Woman's Tale

The elderly woman was clearly shaken up; Not by Matthew, but by her past stress. She explained to him that just over 6 years ago, she and her husband had been robbed. Although it was so long ago, she remembered it clearly because of how much they lost and how much it affected them.

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CBS News via Twitter

She revealed to Matthew that in 2001, on the evening of Boxing Day, a robber had broken into their home. They woke up in the morning to find that a few household items had been taken, but most devastatingly, the criminal had stolen their safe, holding about $52,000 worth of money and jewelry.

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A Criminal on the Loose

When this incident happened, there was a criminal on the loose. He was a well-known burglar in Staten Island because of his storied history. In 2011, before his identity was revealed, he was just some masked man that had gotten the nickname from his knack for crime.

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CBS News via Twitter

Between the years of 2005 and 2015, the Ninja Burglar robbed around 200 homes across Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. 160 of those robberies happened in the Emanuel's hometown. The elderly woman explained to Matthew that although she had no proof, she believed it was him that robbed them.

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An Interesting Turn of Events

The old lady had good reason to believe it was the Ninja Burglar. Back in 2016, the police apprehended a male by the name of Robert Costanzo. He had a criminal past, and after he was finally caught, he admitted to 200 other burglaries under his name.

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Confession Tape of Staten Island "Ninja Burglar"- District Attorney McMahon's Office

After evading his crimes for years, Costanzo finally received a hefty sentence of 22 years in prison. And though the elderly woman and her husband had a bit of closure since the suspect was arrested, they never got back their precious belongings and savings.

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Matthew Invited the Elderly Woman Over

Matthew knew for certain that he had found the rightful owner of the safe. The elderly woman's story filled in the gaps that he needed. He told her that he wanted to show her a few of the items to see if she recognized any of them. They walked together to his house, and Matthew told her more about what had happened.

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Courtesy of Paul Liotta via Staten Island Advance

Matthew told her that many of the items might be hard to recognize because of the water damage. He explained that the box had been lying in the soil for years, and although the situation was rather unfortunate, he couldn't believe how everything was lining up.

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She Was Overcome with Memories

The moment the elderly woman saw the jewels, her eyes filled with tears. Her hands were shaking as she daintily picked up the old necklace. She turned to Matthew and opened her arms for a hug. She told him that for years she had been pining over her and her husband's stolen belongings.

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Jessie Jacobson via Flickr

The woman had been told that the likelihood of recovering the items was slim. However, after her encounter with Matthew, she realized that they had been a few minutes away from her all along. She also told him that since the break-in, she and her husband were never able to recuperate what was lost.

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Matthew's Honorable Actions

Matthew told her that he was too happy that the safe was finally where it belonged. He apologized that this never happened sooner, but explained that he and his family always thought it was just debris and folliage. The woman continued to cry; she was extremely emotional as she sorted through the items.

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CBS New York via Youtube

Thanks to a spell of cold weather, Bamboo Bob, and an ax, the Emanuels went on the journey of a lifetime. Matthew felt even more excited to return the safe than he was to find it in the first place. It was also pretty impressive that he solved a case that police struggled with for years.

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No Ulterior Motives

Matthew Emanuel did an incredible thing. For some people, it would never have been a question whether to try and return the treasure or not. However, for Matthew, he knew that the right decision would be to return it. The woman offered him a reward, but he declined.

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City News Toronto via Youtube

He didn't need a prize to know that he had done something good. For him, to know that the items were back with the rightful owner was enough reward for him. It only took a matter of time before word of this bizarre story got out. People were amazed by Matthews's admirable actions.

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Welcoming the Press

After just a couple of days, the entire neighborhood was talking about the incredible mystery that Matthew Emanuel had solved. He received hundreds of calls from different news channels and newspapers, asking for an interview with Staten Island's favorite hero.

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City News Toronto via Youtube

Indeed, Matthew didn't want a bounty. However, this was such a life-changing event to him, he wanted to do something that would ensure he never forget that doing the right thing always feels better. So, he found a clever way to humbly remind him of the mysterious box.

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Commemorating the Story

Finally, with the help of Bamboo Bob, the garden looked almost perfect. However, there was still the hole in the backyard where the mysterious box once was. Matthew and his wife thought of a clever way to fill the space and remind them of this unbelievable lesson in morals.

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City News Toronto via Youtube

They replaced the rusty old safe with a beautiful ceramic elephant. For the Emanuel family, whenever they see this piece in their garden, it reminds them that no matter how much cash is on the line, you can never put a price on doing the right thing.

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