Ever wonder what weirdness resides behind those rollup self storage doors?
To find out, we questioned storage owners, managers and auctioneers to find the craziest contents ever discovered inside of a self-storage unit.
1. Now where’s the shoe cache?
Admittedly, storage managers only see a minuscule slice of the contents stored under their roof. But Tracy Johnson, the onsite resident manager at Security Self Storage in South Fargo, ND, will never forget the “sox box”.
“We had one 10×20 unit that was full of socks; boxes and boxes and boxes of brand new socks,” she recalled. “We ended up selling it at auction. It sold pretty easy because they were brand new.”
2. Willie Mays and unshelled “Peanuts”.
Auctioneer John Cardoza, the owner of Storage Auction Experts in Turlock, CA, knew the $10,000 worth of X-Men comic books visible within a Villejo auction unit would attract his collectors. But the unit’s real treasures were only revealed after hammer time.
“What we didn’t know was, there were some rookie baseball cards in there. The buyer sold those for $130,000 to somebody who flew in from England,” Cardoza recalled. “But behind them was some artwork by a guy named Charles Schulz, best known for his Peanuts comic strip. The guy who bought the unit went to a business insurer and they insured its contents for $1.5 million.”
3. Shouldn’t these be on a plane?
Forget snakes on a plane; imagine finding a couple hidden among the contents of a storage unit you just purchased at auction.
“The boa constrictor was about 12 feet long and eight inches in diameter; the albino python about half that. They were confined in dog carriers,” recalled Missouri auctioneer Sherrie Brunk. “The facility didn’t want to call the police because they didn’t want the news media to label them as a snake hotel.”
The snakes, dehydrated after enduring the lock-out for weeks, apparently survived on passing cockroaches. They eventually wound up in a pet store.
4. Just don’t take any bids from the beyond.
“Is everybody looking at what I’m seeing?” Cardoza asked his assembled bidders as the rollup door revealed an auction unit filled with coffins.
Naturally, the question on everyone’s mind was, are they empty?
“If I’m auctioning this and one of [the lids] rises, let me know,” Cardoza quipped.
The unit hammered out at $2,100. “Probably the buy of the day,” he reckoned.
5. Sell-by dates? We don’t need no stinking sell-by dates!
Sometimes a facility’s tenant mix creates opportunities too good to pass up, as Joe Buzzi, the owner of Northeast Storage in St. Johnsbury, VT, found out firsthand.
“I lease out a big building to Frito-Lay and they dump all their outdated chips in the dumpster,” Buzzi said. “The kids of one of my storage tenants took to stealing the potato chips out of the dumpster and storing them in their unit to eat. They had quite a pile of outdated chips in there.”
6. The diaper unit.
Auctioneer Rich Schur, the owner of Schur Success Auctions & Appraisal in Colorado Springs, CO, has seen – and now officially smelled – it all.
“My weirdest unit contained a collection of used diapers; literally bags and bags of used diapers,” he recalled “It’s disgusting, yet they paid to put it in storage. Why? Why? Why? Were they sending a message? I don’t know.”
7. Big hairy spiders.
Although Paul Heniff, the manager of Golden State Storage in Northridge, CA, raised pet tarantulas as a kid, he didn’t anticipate a surprise reunion in one of his auction units.
“The renter had pet tarantulas in aquariums inside his unit and he got locked out,” said Heniff. “The tarantulas were in there for a month or two, and when he finally paid up and came back, they were still alive.”
8. Paris Hilton’s “private” collection.
Is it unlikely that celebrity heiress Paris Hilton would default on an overdue storage balance of $208? Or that the Los Angeles unit in question would contain a treasure trove of explicit video tapes, photographs, diaries and assorted prescriptions? Or the couple who bought the contents at auction for $2,775 in 2007 would turn around and sell it for $10 million to the entrepreneur who used the contents to help launch ParisExposed.com, charging $40 to view her dirty laundry?
Cardoza is skeptical.
“The top reason someone loses their unit is lack of money, right? Well, logically, Paris Hilton could have bought that whole facility, the whole enchilada,” he said.
9. Two heads are better than one.
How weird does Florida storage get? Just ask Chris Rosa, the managing partner of Legacy Auction Services in Coral Springs.
“How about a two-headed snake in formaldehyde?” he quipped. “It was one of those oddities that you’d see in a museum or something.”
10. The L. Ron Hubbard motherlode.
Then there was the unit that John Cardoza sold to Manny the Hippie, a Haight-Ashbury celebrity who drove an old school bus powered by fast food French fry oil.
“The tenant was a personal assistant to L. Ron Hubbard, who founded the Church of Scientology, and inside were loads of old pictures of Hubbard. They also found some gold in there,” Cardoza recalled.
“Had he marketed it the right way, Manny could have retired out of that unit,” Cardoza said.