Shipping containers have to a remarkable extent revolutionized the cargo transportation world. Modern container shipping traces its roots back to 1956 when the Ideal X made its maiden voyage with cargo containers aboard. For centuries before that, ocean freight had largely been frowned upon due to the associated high risks and costs. Everything from loading cargo to securing it was a nightmare and there were significant pilfering, damage and loss of goods.
This is what led a small trucker known as Malcolm McLean to start experimenting with container designs as he was sure there was a better way to it. This is what led to his invention of the patented fitting system that involved fixing containers to each other. With this system in place, the cost of shipping plummeted and this became one of the most viable methods for bulk cargo transportation.
Fast forward to the present and shipping costs are as low as 2.5 cents a unit for a voyage of 5,000 miles on sea. Contrary to the initial state where cargo was visible for all to see, the revolution has concealed container contents. Only when an accident or incident occurs does the public find out what is on board. These same containers also function as storage units and hold all sorts of weird things.
Let us take a look at some of the craziest things ever found in a storage unit or shipping container:
- Music Gear
A band from South West England known as Muse is renowned for their particularly loud performances. This is so in spite of the fact that they are only half the size of a typical rock band. The secret behind the three-man band’s powerful performance is the huge sound and other stage apparatus that they take to every single one of their shows.
They travel around the world with 25 shipping containers, each of which is 40 feet long, full of their music gear. This means that every time they dock they need 25 separate trucks to move their gear to the venue and several hours to unload and set up. According to the band’s stage manager, they start setting for a show as early as 3 am.
They say they have in the past considered moving the gear by airplane but this would be too costly as it would take quite a few massive Boeings to carry everything. The fact that containers are modular means that the band’s stage and everything else has to be built to fit the space. The best part of it is that the set can be moved pretty fast around the world. It also makes the load quite versatile as it can move from sea to rail to road with relative ease.
Muse is highly famed for its theatrical performances and come in third place as one of the rock bands that carries around the most luggage for its shows thanks to shipping containers.
- James Bond’s Luxury Car
Storage unit auctions have also led to a world of discoveries. One particularly auspicious man on Long Island bought one of them for $100 and could not have been prepared for the surprise that awaited him. The man and his brother opened the container and found a sports car in poor condition.
The vehicle had no wheels and its roof was dented. But upon authentication, it was found to be the original James Bond car from the movie “The Spy Who Loved Me”. It was in fact an amphibious Lotus Espirit even though its current condition was nothing close to the former glory. This discovery was made in 1989 and the car was auctioned off in 2013 for close to $1 million.
- Human Bodies
Unfortunately, there are numerous cases of bodies in storage units due to the privacy and convenience the facilities afford. George Gennai who lived near Seattle, Washington adds to the long list of people who bought a storage unit from an auction. But instead of finding a treasure trove as he had anticipated, he uncovered evidence for a murder case.
Buried beneath layers of landscaping plastic and 3-feet of clothes was a human skull in a trash bag. George immediately called the police who came and found a total of three bodies. The report from medical examination revealed the three to be Barbara Bender, a 35-year old mom and her two sons. They were last seen in 1980 loading up a U-haul truck just a day after Barbara had filed for divorce.
An investigation was immediately launched with her former husband Mark as the top suspect. He was arrested and confessed to the murders. He had killed his family and rented the unit to hide the remains. But after 12 years his new wife stopped paying rental charges for the facility and it ended up in auction. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison for the three counts of murder.
- Identity Theft Paraphernalia
Brandon Michael bought a storage unit at an auction in Denver, Colorado, hoping that he would find items to sell. Inside he instead found passports, hospital records and social security cards in bags and boxes. He also uncovered the equipment needed to counterfeit identity documents.
When he presented his find to the police he was instructed to throw the stuff away. He chose instead to take the items to a news station that started to investigate the strange story. It turned out that the documents had been stolen from a local hospital. The hospital carried out investigations as well and identified a suspect who had in fact been fired a while prior to this.
Dawn Philbin, the former hospital employee had been working with Paul Simmons, the owner of the storage unit to produce fake ID cards. The two were arrested and sentenced to jail.
There are shipping containers that conceal more fun secrets than the world would expect. This particular lot contains a dinosaur exhibition that spreads good cheer around the world. This historic exhibition comprises 14 life-size pieces that come disassembled and are rebuilt at every destination.
The collection began its world tour in the US and would move between shows using rail and road. They were last spotted in Edinburgh Zoo on a scenic hill awing observers young and old.
- A Burglar
A man named Ronald Dennis was found in a storage locker in 2011. He had identified the potential of storage units as an ideal place to loot since they are private and usually hold valuables. His idea was foolproof, almost. He timed his move perfectly, waiting for Saturday night to make the move. He made it to a local storage unit facility, cut the lock of the first one and made it inside.
But while inside a security guard doing his rounds noticed that one of the doors was open. He tried opening it further but failed, so he chose to close it completely, trapping the burglar inside. The next morning, a guard doing his rounds heard strange sounds from the unit and called the police. They came and collected the dumbfounded thief.
It is the custom at some ports to carry out tests on containers before opening them to confirm their safety. One such check in Italy came up with a surprising result. A radiation monitor used for the test yielded an unusual amount of radiation prompting an enquiry. Even though stranger things have been reported from shipping containers, what made this absurd is the fact that the radiation output reported was at the highest possible level.
On opening the container, the authorities found a small piece of copper that was essentially harmless. To date, no one knows what prompted that crazy radiation reading or even the source of the container.
- A Jet Engine
John Wilson bought a storage unit in 1994 for $400. The container was perfect in every way for use as a bridge on his property. It served its purpose faithfully for ten good years and he never once thought to look inside. But when he finally decided to, he was shell shocked to see what he had been sitting on the entire time.
Someone had mistakenly placed an original engine for the HMCS Athabaskan in the container. It in fact came complete with its logbook and all other documentation that would have been necessary to sell it. The value of the engine had however depreciated over the years from approximately $2 million to around $30,000.
- Nicholas Cage’s Comic Book
In the year 2011 someone bought a storage locker and found one of the most valuable collectibles ever: The first Superman comic. He called an expert in the field wanting to sell it. Unfortunately, this was not to be because the comic turned out to be stolen property. The expert who was contacted, Mark Balelo, happened to be the same one who had sold the book to Nicholas Cage. Cage bought it for $1 million in 1995 band reported it stolen in 2000. He was happy to get it back and termed the event “an act of divine providence”.
- A Human Leg
One Mr. Shannon Whisnaut could hardly have been prepared for the strange things he found in a storage unit. He had purchased the unit in an auction in 2007 and was elated to find a meat smoker in it. So one summer afternoon when he felt the mood was right for a barbecue, he took the smoker out and towed it home.
He prepared some juicy cuts and got ready to whip up a mean feast. On lifting the smoker’s lid, he was rather shocked to find an amputated human leg inside. He immediately called the police who came to the scene and initiated efforts to track down the owner of the leg. This turned out to be Mr. John Wood who was in fact the original owner of the auctioned storage unit.
He explained that he lost his leg in a plane crash in the year 2004. He chose to take it home after amputation and keep it in the unit o that he could be buried with it. But unfortunately he fell behind on payments and lost the storage unit.
This is where the story takes a weird turn. Even though Mr. Whisnaut gave the leg to the police, he later decided he wanted it back. He had been charging members of the public to take a peek inside the now vacant smoker. He must have decided to turn it into a fortune by placing the leg back in. The matter had to be decided in court and Mr. Wood got his leg back. In the realm of strange tales related to shipping containers this one has got to take the crown.
Anything on earth can be found on shipping containers and storage units. From serpents and tarantulas, to strange food and superstitious paraphernalia, the privacy inherent in the units makes it easy to conceal all manner of secrets. Imagine the things that are yet to be uncovered from these facilities!
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