Behind Locked Doors: Unusual Finds in Self-Storage Units

Abandoned storage units have long held an aura of mystery and intrigue, captivating the public’s imagination through television shows like “Storage Wars” and “Auction Hunters.” And who could forget the scene in the classic horror film “Silence of the Lambs” where Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster, crawls into storage unit #31 in pursuit of evidence to capture a serial killer? 

The day-to-day operations of a self-storage facility are much less dramatic and frightening than what Hollywood often portrays. However, there are unsettling and curious aspects to any industry. Behind those locked storage unit doors, there can be a trove of hidden secrets — from the mildly odd to the spine-chillingly bizarre.

As we move into the spooky Halloween season, let’s cue up the creepy music and take a look at some of the oddities found in self-storage units. Perhaps one of them will inspire a horror flick coming to a theater near you.

1. Don’t Pull That Pin! Shows like “Storage Wars” have inspired folks across the country to explore self-storage auctions, in hopes of discovering high-value items they can flip for profit. But one Tampa resident got far more than he bargained for. After purchasing a unit at auction, he was shocked to find a live grenade inside. 

2. Unsolved One-Footed Mysteries. We all have interests that others may find odd, but we’re struggling to find an explanation for this one: A unit sold at auction in Miami held nothing but hundreds of left-footed shoes. We’re left with so many questions. Why only left-footed shoes? What happened to their mates? Were they all the same size? What happened to their owner? Why rent a self-storage unit for only shoes? 

3. Need a Hand? If a storage unit filled with one-footed shoes isn’t weird enough, how about a unit packed full of hands (fake ones, thankfully)? Whoever rented this unit was quite committed to their collection. They had everything from a large hand sculpture to a painting featuring a hand to dozens of tiny doll hands. They even had a realistic-looking phony human hand, stored in a jar of formaldehyde.

4. Creepy Crawlies. For many of us, cockroaches rank high on the list of most-loathed insects — yet someone felt compelled to carefully store an entire can of these critters in their self-storage unit. Did you know that although the average American cockroach is roughly just one-and-a-half inches long, the largest species of cockroach can grow up to six inches? Although we’re not sure how large these particular cockroaches were, a can full of cockroaches of any size is pretty terrifying. 

5. Anthrax and Animal Hides. A New York City choreographer and drum maker lived out his own personal horror story by unintentionally contracting a naturally occurring form of anthrax from working with unprocessed animal hides, which he used to make drums. After anthrax spores were also discovered in the man’s self-storage unit, where he stored his drum-making supplies, the entire multi-level facility had to be closed for decontamination. 

6. Well, That’s Rather Shocking. Armchairs, wheelchairs, dining room chairs, office chairs, rocking chairs, lounge chairs — these are the types of chairs we’d expect to find in a self-storage unit. One self-storage employee, however, reported that a tenant was keeping an electric chair in their unit. Who needs to visit a haunted house, when you have a self-storage unit featuring your very own execution device? We’re going to assume (and hope) that it was just a prop! 

7. The Next Thriller? The King of Pop left behind over 250 unreleased tracks, and some lucky individual found them in an auctioned self-storage unit that had previously belonged to the Jackson family patriarch. Could one of those Michael Jackson originals have rivaled “Thriller” and found its way into the score for a satirical horror film? We may never know, but this collection certainly ranks high as one of the most unique self-storage finds.

8. Ssssssss. There are no shortage of horror, thriller, or action movies featuring snakes (“Snakes on a Plane,” “Anaconda,” the original Indiana Jones film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” — just to name a few). But imagine this creepy plotline straight out of an actual incident report: Snakes stored in a self-storage unit manage to start a fire that devours multiple units and destroys other tenants’ belongings. Needless to say, there’s a good reason that self-storage lease agreements forbid keeping live animals and heat lamps in rented spaces.

Insuring Against the Unexpected

In the world of self-storage, insurance plays a pivotal role in safeguarding the interests of storage facility owners and their customers. Specialty self-storage insurance won’t necessarily ensure that someone won’t discover a unit full of snakes or anthrax-infected animal skins. But it can mitigate some of the financial costs of any resulting claims.

When it comes to insuring self-storage risks, no one has more class-specific expertise than MiniCo – nearly 50 years! Our exclusive Commercial Self-Storage program includes a team of experienced underwriters with unmatched flexibility in coverages, deductibles, and limits. With our specialty BOP and monoline solutions, MiniCo is positioned to customize coverage to meet your client’s needs. Contact us to learn more about MiniCo’s Commercial Self-Storage program and get a quote on our agent portal.

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