This Strange Safe Found in Basement of 1940s Hoarder Home

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: Jan 08, 2024

In Portland, Oregon, a unique 1940s home stood out in a neighborhood of well-maintained properties. Its distinctive brickwork and visible neglect caught the eyes of Katie and David during their leisurely walks.

The house, in a state of disrepair, sparked their curiosity each time they passed by. It wasn’t just the architecture that intrigued them — it was the untold stories that the walls of this old house seemed to hold. For this couple, who had a knack for reviving old properties, this house presented an irresistible challenge.

The Journey Begins

Katie and David weren’t strangers to the world of home renovations. Their portfolio included fix-and-flipped homes in Washington and along the Oregon coast. Their latest project, the 1940s house, promised to be their most challenging yet.

Hoarder Stairs

Source: wolford_dreamhouse/TikTok

Armed with their experience and a “fix and flip loan,” they embarked on this new journey. Their plan? Renovate the house to a livable state within six months, refinance their loan into a real mortgage, and then, the real work would begin.


Unlocking the Hoarder's Haven

Nothing could have prepared them for what lay inside. The previous owners, who had lived there since the 1960s, were hoarders. Despite clearing out four dumpsters worth of items, the house was still overflowing with stuff.

Hoarder Closet

Source: wolford_dreamhouse/TikTok

The couple had to work with a hoarder clean-out company to tackle the monumental task of clearing out the property. This daunting task was just the beginning of unraveling the mysteries of the house.

Secrets in the Basement

Among the clutter and chaos, a surprising discovery awaited in the basement. Hidden under a pile of car parts and old appliances, they found a safe built into the concrete floor of a closet.

Hoarder Basement

Source: wolford_dreamhouse/TikTok

It was a part of the house that Katie hadn’t even known existed. This safe, locked and mysterious, hinted at secrets from the past waiting to be uncovered.

The Safe's Enigma

The safe was an enigma. It featured two locks and an additional slot, suggesting it was used for more than just storing valuables.

Floor Safe Camera

Source: wolford_dreamhouse/TikTok

Was it a relic from a time when trust in banks was low, used to store money and valuables? Or was it something more ordinary, perhaps related to the property’s utilities? The couple’s curiosity was piqued.

Social Media to the Rescue

Seeking insights, Katie turned to social media, sharing their discovery on TikTok. The response was overwhelming. Suggestions poured in, ranging from practical advice to historical context.

Floor Safe

Source: wolford_dreamhouse/TikTok

Some guessed it was a safe from post-Great Depression times, while others shared experiences of their own with similar safes. This digital brainstorming session brought them closer to understanding the safe’s purpose.


A DIY Approach to Mystery

Instead of the expensive option of hiring a locksmith, the couple opted for a more hands-on approach. They ordered a small scope that could connect to a phone, allowing them to peek inside the safe.

Floor Plan on Table


This DIY solution was in line with their practical, problem-solving nature and added an exciting twist to their adventure. They opted for this solution to see if it was even worth it to pay a more expensive locksmith to break the safe open.


Challenges of Renovation

The renovation was not without its challenges. The house was not just cluttered; it was also damaged by water, neglect, and pets.

Unfinished Wall

Source: Laurie Shaw/Pexels

The smell was so unbearable that they had to keep windows open to work inside. The couple faced the task of not only clearing out the clutter but also dealing with structural and cosmetic damage.


The Engineer's Legacy

The previous owner, an engineer, left behind a legacy of inventions and broken appliances. The house was a treasure trove of engineering projects, including multiple water heaters, washer/dryer sets, and refrigerators.

Black Claw Hammer on Brown Wooden Plank

Source: Pixabay/Pexels

This added an element of historical curiosity to their cleanup efforts, as each item held a story of the past.


Hoarding: A Wider Perspective

The issue of hoarding, as encountered in this house, is more common than one might think. Studies have shown that hoarding behavior is prevalent across various demographics, more so among older individuals and inversely related to household income.

Wrecked Home Furnitures Interior

Source: Wendelin Jacober/Pexels

This property was a real-life example of the challenges and complexities associated with hoarding.


A House Reborn

As the couple progressed with their renovation, the house began to transform. Each cleared room and repaired fixture brought them closer to realizing their vision for the home.

Person Holding Paint Roller On Wall

Source: Malte Luk/Pexels

The project was not just about restoring a house; it was about resurrecting a piece of history, giving it a new life and purpose.


The Journey Ahead

The journey with the 1940s house is far from over. The couple looks forward to continuing their restoration projects, bringing modern comforts to this historical home.

Floor Safe Interior

Source: wolford_dreamhouse/TikTok

As for the mystery of the safe remains, the couple has since confirmed that it is, in fact, an old safe holding nothing more than a few cobwebs. “This treasure hunt has ended,” the couple wrote on TikTok, “but the house has plenty more surprises and mysteries in store!”