Unless it’s in a time travel movie or a sci-fi novel, it might seem impossible for people from the past to talk to us directly. However, time capsules are capable of bringing a specific time period to life. Whether they’re hidden in bunkers or glass bottles, these lost treasures give us a fascinating glimpse into what it would be like to live hundreds of years ago – so let’s find out about the most incredible time capsule findings ever!
10: Steve Jobs Time Capsule
This time capsule might not be the oldest on this list, but it might be the most recognizable just by its name alone.
I mean, technically The Steve Jobs time capsule isn’t all about Steve Jobs. He just contributed a mouse he was using for his computer at the time.
The other items, which were buried at a tech conference in Aspen in 1983, were all part of a capsule titled “the future isn’t what it used to be”.
As it turned out, the creators of the 13ft long tube were kind of right, because when it was time to dig it up… they just couldn’t find it. The capsule was actually revealed 13 years late. The exact location was not found in 2000 when it was supposed to be opened.
As for what it actually contained, there were all sorts of 80s goodies. There was a recording of the Moody Blues and a Rubix Cube among thousands of other items. However, maybe the conference’s president donated the best find. He added a six-pack of beer for the workers who dug the thing up. How thoughtful!
9: Detroit Century Box
We obviously have our own ideas about what the future holds for humanity. What did people from 100 years ago expect our own time to look like? Well, now we know the answer, at least when it comes to people living in Detroit.
The Detroit Century box was buried in 1900 and dug up on the millennium to celebrate 300 years of the city. Among other items, it contained letters from Detroit’s most prominent business people and scientists. Those people had predicted what the world would look like when the capsule was finally opened.
Some of what they predicted has since been proven to be true, as they predicted we would find a way to turn our trash into energy.
However, much of what they assumed was a given has actually not come to pass. For example, they assumed it was only a matter of time before America took ownership of Canada.
They also predicted flying cars and an average lifespan of 140 years old, things which I think we all want to see in our future.
8: Oldest American time-capsule
The sad truth is that not every time capsule is opened when they’re supposed to be opened. In fact, many are never opened at all. Whether they’re buried and hidden too well or just forgotten about, many time capsules never see the light of day. However, in some very lucky cases, they’re rediscovered, and sometimes completely by accident!
That was the case for America’s oldest time capsule, which was buried by American Revolutionary, Paul Revere himself. Its creator buried it in the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House in 1795. It was removed and added to 100 years later. Then, people forgot about it until 2014 when some builders found it while fixing a broken water pipe.
© ABC News
It turned out to be a small metal box weighing around 10 pounds, containing an assemblage of commemorative items, such as 23 coins; a medal decorated with the head of George Washington; and five newspapers. One coin in the box, a Pine Tree Shilling, had a 1652 minting. It means that it was for the use of Massachusetts’ colonists, without the knowledge of the British monarchy.
The Washington Monument time capsule was also found completely by accident, when renovators looked behind the bronze plaque honouring the monument’s centennial. The capsule is from 1915, and contains a portrait of the writer of the Star Spangled Banner, as well as newspaper clippings and a copy of Washington’s farewell address.
7: 1950s mental hospital
When you think of time capsules, your first thought probably isn’t creepy – but trust me, this one definitely is. Buried in 1958, this capsule was found underneath a former psychiatric hospital and contained a pretty unnerving message from the doctors who worked there.
The capsule contained a film that showed much of the capsule ceremony, as well as a message from the doctors to the psychiatrists of the future. Sadly, the audio of most parts is unintelligible. However, it is clear that they are talking about the techniques they currently use on patients. At one point, they wonder how much of it is still relevant in the future.
You can probably guess this yourself, but the answer is not much. The two doctors reference electroshock therapy, which is relatively uncommon these days, but also something much scarier. They also mention using insulin shock therapy on patients – which involves giving them such a large dose of insulin that they enter a coma-like state for weeks.
It’s pretty interesting to see these practices were cutting edge back then. However, I for one am grateful that many of them exist no more.
6: Expo 70 Time Capsule
So in 1968, two Japanese companies, Panasonic Corporation and The Mainichi Newspapers decided to celebrate the 1970 Japan World Exposition. In the end, they decided to collaborate on two time capsules, each containing 2,098 objects and recorded items representing Japanese culture and the achievements of Japanese civilization.
It took over three years to plan and create. The two capsules were buried opposite Osaka Castle and are identical in every way, except for the date at which they can be dug up.
You see, the upper capsule was first opened in 2000, and will be opened every 100 years after that. However, the lower capsule will remain underground for 5000 years after it was first buried. The purpose of both is to present a picture of life in the 1970s, and they contain over 5000 items all-together.
These items range from physical art and literature to music, recorded novels, and images. All have been treated with super up-to-date preservation techniques. The upper capsule will be repackaged and cared for every time it is opened. Can people identify any of these items after opening it in 5,000 years? That is the real question!
Its surprising how many time capsules include alcohol. It turns out, whether it’s a crate of beer or a bottle of whiskey, adding a tipple for the people who discover your capsule is a pretty popular idea.
With that said, I’m not sure this next guy got the memo. An unnamed individual buried a whisky bottle under a New Hampshire City Hall in 1944, but he forgot to include the whiskey! Instead, he filled the bottle with a coin and some newspaper clippings, as well as a note apologizing personally for drinking the whiskey!
Construction crews in Scotland fared a little better, as a 121-year-old whiskey bottle they found was actually full. The bottle was in a rusted metal box hidden inside the cornerstone of a bridge, which was again discovered by renovators completely by accident! The box also included old newspapers and a paper scroll, but the real question was if anyone was allowed to drink the alcohol.
However, the reward for the weirdest time-capsule-related-alcohol mystery goes to this capsule in Washington state. Some volunteers found it inside an artillery shell, carrying a whole host of treasures inside.
Even though the magazines and lighters from World War One were pretty cool, some things were definitely missing, and there was a note to prove it.
The note simply said: Thank you for the brandy. So, I guess at least whoever discovered the time capsule first had a good time.
4: The Westinghouse Time Capsule
Another time capsule that is not to be opened for 5000 years is the Westinghouse Time Capsule, which is housed in what is called the Immortal Well. The capsule was buried in 1938 on the site of the 1939 World’s Fair in New York and is set to be opened in 6939.
However, the most interesting thing about the capsule is that we’re not even 100 years on from its burial, and yet much of it is already out of date. The capsule contains over 100 items, and yet many of them are already obsolete in our new modern age. Some are just quaint and harmless, like the tooth powder that we’ve since replaced with toothpaste, but some are downright dangerous. For example, there is a popular leather roof shingle with an asbestos coating to make it flame resistant.
However, some of the items are so charming that I kind of wish they’d make a comeback. I mean, toy cars will probably be popular forever, but the one in the time capsule is truly one of a kind. Made of tin, the spring-powered toy is hand painted and full of intricate gears. It’s arguably much cooler than the remote-controlled kind we have now.
3: Oldest message in a bottle ever found
Messages in bottles might be a cliché – but in real life, they come up far less often. That’s not surprising, as these days we have far more convenient ways of communicating. Those message bottles have to win the battle against the elements.
Many of the bottles that once existed have either been smashed or lost at the bottom of the ocean. The messages inside become so waterlogged that they’re no longer readable.
However, occasionally they do show up in miraculously good condition, and they usually have an awesome story to tell.
This bottle was found when it washed up on a beach in Australia and turned out to be 132 years old, making it the oldest message in a bottle in the world.
Even cooler, it was part of a German experiment to track shipping routes by the German Naval Observatory. It means that there might even be more out there somewhere.
2: The Crypt Of Civilisation
The Crypt Of Civilization definitely has the coolest name of any time capsule in this list, but it also has one of the most interesting stories. The proposal first came in 1936, 6177 years after the first fixed year in history – when the Egyptian calendar began in 4241BC. Professor and writer Thornwell Jacobs created the capsule. He wanted the same amount of time to pass before the future people could open it. It means that people in the far future can see its contents in 8113.
Obviously that’s a long time away, and so Jacobs couldn’t take any chances about what future humans would understand. Therefore, in addition to the 640,000 pages of microfilm in the crypt, the room also includes a wind-powered generator – and another machine for if the generator and microfilm reader breaks. There is also a machine that is capable of teaching any future human English, so they’re capable of understanding the many voice recordings in the crypt – which include everyone from Stalin to Popeye the Sailor.
There are some items in the crypt that make a little less sense, however. For example, I’m sure people in the future will not welcome the two mannequins standing by the door, and the plastic ornamental beetle they decided to include.
1: Paris Opera & MIT capsule
The Paris Opera is already famous for having a ghost that stalks around in the basement. But there is another ancient thing buried down there as well. That’s right, in 1907 a group of men gathered underneath the opera house, and began work on their own time capsule.
They buried the capsule in 1912 after putting inside 45 wax pressed records and a gramophone to play them on. Those men guessed the changes in recording technology before the capsule’s opening in 2012. So, they also added instructions on how to work a gramophone, and a host of spare needles to boot.
© NY Times
Here’s an interesting fact – you can now buy all the records of that capsule in CD form. Do you want to be vintage and channel the 1900s?
Composers at the Paris Opera House are not the only group of geniuses that have got together to make a time capsule though. In 1957, the president of MIT and a team of scientists buried their own and specified 2957 the opening year. Unfortunately, it was found a touch too early in 2015 – but the current president of MIT decided to honor their wishes and leave it well alone.
As for what it contains, it includes new coins and a copy of ‘A Scientist Speaks’. Also, there is a small container of penicillin. The tube had Argon gas to protect its contents. The gas ensures that everything survives until the due opening in 900 years or so.
Which time capsule findings are you most looking forward to people opening? And, Have you ever made a time capsule of your own? If not – what three things would you put in it to represent your life right now? Let me know in the comments down below!