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On March 16th, 2013, Redditor dont_stop_me_smee submitted five images of a large-sized safe vault (shown below) to the r/pics subreddit, claiming it was found in a friend’s new house in New Zealand that had previously served as a drug house, which naturally led to to extensive speculation as to what could be inside the safe.
Within the first 48 hours, the post garnered more than 41,000 upvotes, 3,100 points overall and 5,500 comments, while the Imgur gallery was viewed more than 1.6 million times. While many commenters in the thread seemed excited by the story still in development, some expressed skepticism towards its significance and speculated that the opening of this safe may not live up to its hype, even drawing a comparison to the live opening of Al Capone’s vault in 1986.
Within four minutes of the original post, Redditor MrSweatpantsJackson requested that the OP post results once the safe was open, to which Redditor dont_stop_me_smee responded with a verbal promise to deliver the finding. By the end of the evening, Redditor Tof1911 had possibly identified the lock as a Sargent and Greenleaf model 6630 and suggested the OP get a special stethoscope to try to crack the combination. Throughout the rest of the comments, the OP claimed that he contacted a safe expert to pay a visit and inspect it.
Between March 16th and 18th, dozens of questions about the safe were submitted to /r/AskReddit. Additionally, more than 100 safe-related image macros were submitted to the AdviceAnimals subreddit. Many of these posts contained very similar jokes, as illustrated in a March 16th post by Redditor ChrisTobin who compiled 14 unique instances of the advice animal character Confused Gandalf portrayed as someone who had missed the original post but become aware of its popularity on the site.
About an hour after the images were first posted on March 16th, Redditor red321red321 brought up similar stories about mysterious safe vaults that were posted on the site but never went resolved. The OP then replied with a link to the newly launched /r/WhatsInThisThing subreddit as a gesture of firm commitment to unraveling the mystery. Within the first 48 hours of launch, the subreddit accrued more than 62,000 subscribers. Redditors began sharing theories as to the content of the safe, while others divulged into their own stories about discovering locked objects, including those who had successfully opened them as well as people seeking help in getting their items unlocked. On March 18th, The Daily Dot and Business Insider both provided coverage on the subreddit and dont_stop_me_smee’s story.
Magic the Gathering Cards Hoax
On March 19th, Redditor Safeisbig submitted a post to the /r/WhatsInThisThing, which detailed his discovery of a sizable Magic: The Gathering card collection after calling a locksmith to open a safe that he had first discovered in September 2012. The post, which was accompanied by several photographs and videos of the card collection, received more than 3,000 upvotes and 1,500 comments within the first 48 hours. The curiosity peaked when fellow Redditor and Magic expert JubilationLee estimated that the collection could be worth up to $32,000.
However, around noon on the next day, Redditor TheKidd142 followed up on the post with a lengthy comment explaining why he suspected Redditor Safeisbig’s claim to be a hoax, citing his cross-examination of the OP’s Reddit handle and the YouTube account that was used to upload several videos of the purported collection. By 3 p.m. on March 20th, the post had been identified as a hoax and its original description redacted in strikethrough.
Opening the Vault
On December 23, 2013, the original poster appeared again on Reddit with pictures documenting his use of a torch to burn the vault open, revealing that it was empty, save for some shelves and a spider.
Though there have been previous queries for the phrase “Reddit safe,” there is a large spike in mid-March 2013, corresponding with the original Reddit post.
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