A tourist has cracked the code to an ancient safe on the first try. The code to the safe, and the contents inside, had been a mystery for years.
Stephen Mills, from Alberta, Canada, was with his family on a camping trip. They stopped in to a small museum, also in Alberta. The Vermilion Heritage Museum had sought out numerous methods over the years to try and open a safe in their collection, with no success.
That changed when Mills took a guess at the code and had a try at the lock.
“We wanted to check out what the community has to offer,” Mills told CNN. “The museum was actually closed on the day we were there, but we managed to track down one of the volunteers, Tom Kibblewhite, who opened it for us and showed us around.”
Kibblewhite took them on a tour of the whole building, and then brought them to the basement, where the safe was located.
“It was like a time capsule, nobody had any idea of what was in there,” Mills said.
He explained the thought process that led to his success.
“I looked at the dial and I saw the numbers were running from 0 to 60. So I thought in my head 20-40-60. I did a particular combination which is three on the right, two on the left, and 1 on the right, tried the handle … and it opened!” he told CNN.
Kibblewhite was shocked at what he saw.
“I just saw him opening the door. And that doesn’t happen!” Kibblewhite said.
“My children kept screaming ‘we beat the code! We beat the code!'” Mills said.
Despite his success, Mills was ultimately disappointed.
“Unfortunately there wasn’t what we thought was there,” Mills said. “Some papers, old checks, a waitress’s notepad, and a receipt from the hotel, that’s it.”
Mills said the safe’s contents date back to the late 1970s.
The safe came from the Brunswick Hotel, CNN reported, which was open from the early 1900s to the late 1970s. The safe was locked when the museum received it.
He said he thinks he can put his safe cracking skills to good use.
“It was 100 percent a guess,” Mills said. “I was fully amazed. I stepped back a little bit and thought ‘I’m buying a lottery ticket tonight!'”
The Vermilion Heritage Museum houses artifacts and historical displays of early Vermilion, from the days of its exploration and early settlement. It also shows how early businesses and an early home looked, according to the website for the Town of Vermilion.
The staff of the small museum and its local community have been boasting via Facebook about the national attention the museum has been getting due to the safe crack.
Stephen Mills started a GoFundMe page to raise funds for the museum, and springboard off of the publicity surrounding his safe crack.
“Although there were only some old papers inside, the safe held a secret I didn’t know. The president of the board of directors for the museum reached out and thanked me for giving the museum the attention it needed to keep it alive,” Mills wrote on GoFundMe.
Apparently the museum staff had been having a hard time.
“They have been struggling to keep up with repair and operating costs. So I realized the secret the safe held was the opportunity to help the museum stay open and continue to share the rich history of the area!” Mills added.
So far, the GoFundMe page helped the museum raise $145 toward its $20,000 goal, which includes $50 donated by Mills.