If you’re renovating an old house, or you’re thinking of tackling your parents’ or grandparents’ loft for them, it’s natural to ponder what lies beneath blankets, boxes and crates. There’s an air of mystery and intrigue surrounding spaces that are rarely touched, especially when they date back hundreds, or even thousands of years, and stories you see in the media or hear at the hairdresser only serve to fuel that thirst for discovery. While many people venture into the attic only to find a few tired-looking Christmas decorations and some ornaments that have seen better days, there have been some quite extraordinary discoveries in abandoned houses and untouched attics over the years.
Many of us tend to throw stuff in the loft or the cellar without even thinking about it. We relocate boxes and bags and forget about them. If you’ve bought an old house, you’re planning to tackle your loft, or you’re doing your grandparents a favour, have you thought about the kinds of discoveries you may make when you open that infamous trapdoor? Of course, there’s every chance that you’ll stumble across things that don’t have much financial or sentimental value, but there’s always that minute chance of finding something remarkable. Take the example of the man who found a Caravaggio in a Jesuit community house. In 1990, Sergio Benedetti was invited to the house to take a look at a collection of paintings. At the time, he wasn’t expecting anything to arise from the visit, but that morning changed his life. As he cast his eyes over the works, one jumped out, a lost masterpiece by Michelangelo Merisi, better known as Caravaggio. Benedetti was sure that his inkling was right, and further investigations proved that this dusty painting was in fact, a bona fide treasure.
On a less romantic, more chilling and macabre note, is the tale of a journalist who stumbled upon the severed head of a French king when clearing out the attic of a retired tax collector. This unusual revelation resulted in the identification of the skull of Henry IV, who ruled the roost in France until 1610. Although this is not the most pleasant of found objects, there’s no doubt that it makes for an interesting story and a claim to fame that is truly unique.
If you’re thinking of clearing out the loft, it’s unlikely that you’ll unveil an ancient masterpiece or indeed, a French king, but there’s a good chance that you’ll find something of interest. Old photos, scrapbooks, and letters could give you an insight into the history of your relatives or ancestors, or even grant you access to a different family tree and the chance to become part of a new story if you’ve moved house. Who knows what could be hiding behind that door? If you’re clearing out an old house, or it’s been many years since you last dumped a bin bag of stuff up in the attic or in storage, and you’re intrigued, why not take a look and see if your loft is harbouring any hidden treasures?