I Never Want To Meet Whoever Owned Storage Unit 34

storage units
Adi Goldstein

I just moved in with my girlfriend about a month ago. After discussing it, she agreed that she would move into my place because it’s closer to our work and stuff. We’re so happy together, but we had to put a lot of our furniture and stuff away because there just wasn’t a lot of space.

To make things easier, I rented a storage unit. It seemed simple enough, we could use it to keep the excess stuff until we moved somewhere with more space or sold some of our things. I found a place just outside of Minneapolis that rented units and got a good deal. The owner, a pretty chill older guy named Larry, asked if we wanted management to clean the unit out before we got there. According to him, since they had no readily available empty units, the one he was offering to us had been used in the past and had never actually been cleaned out. Their records said that there had been no contact from the owner or account activity regarding said storage unit in over 20 years. The existing agreement on the unit had expired 15 years ago, so he had no problem renting it to us.

Since they charged a fee for cleaning it out for us, I told Larry no thanks. My friends and I wouldn’t mind cleaning out the unit. Especially since any items found inside would legally belong to whoever held the current lease. Not gonna lie, I was pretty excited to be playing treasure hunter and see what was inside.

What would we find inside? The possibilities were endless. It could be some jewelry we could pawn, or maybe want to keep. Maybe some old baseball cards of Babe Ruth that would be worth a fortune. Or perhaps some old forgotten sketch that was actually an original Picasso? Even if it was just some furniture, we could still sell that and earn some cash. No wonder people got so excited about this sort of thing. It was really like gambling.

My girlfriend and I got our unit paid for and went one Saturday morning to clean it out. We made sure to bring a bunch of our friends with us in case we needed their help. To ensure their participation, I made sure to bribe them with what always works, pizza. Right when we arrived, Larry was there to greet us.

“Right this way, ladies and gentlemen,” he said as he walked us to the unit, number 34. Larry was a short, squatter guy who sort of waddled across the pavement. He had the keys in hand to open the unit for us, as well a matching set I assumed would be ours. A short walk later, we were in front of the metal door to Unit 34. Larry opened it without much trouble and the door opened easily for us. I could feel myself getting excited to see what we might find. Christine, that’s my girlfriend, squeezed my hand in excitement.

He flipped on the lights as we took a look inside. At first, it looked to be a perfectly ordinary unit. A lot of whitewashed out cement walls and everything. A light bulb or two hanging overhead. Tons of room for stuff. The only things taking up any space were a few duffel bags scattered around, an antique style desk, two large cedar chests, and score, a small car! It was a small black sedan, an 80’s Ford model. Christine immediately pulled me in for a kiss, which I was thrilled to receive.

“Nice choice baby,” she smiled happily.

“Like I ever make anything else.” She rolled her eyes at this but didn’t say a word.

“I’ll leave you all to it. If you need anything you can find me in the office,” Larry said cheerily as he walked off. That was like firing the starting gun at the race for us.

We immediately jumped into it. From the outside, the car’s interior looked absolutely filthy. A ton of old fast food garbage and rags were everywhere. It also smelled a bit, which didn’t surprise me at all. I decided to save the car for last, since it probably required the most effort. I grabbed one of the duffle bags carefully and began opening it. It wasn’t real heavy. Just before I could unzip it, my girlfriend called to me.

“Ben, I think you should come take a look at this,” she said, sounding concerned. I immediately went over to see what she was talking about.

“What’s up? Are we rich?” I asked with a smile, but she didn’t return it. Christine had just opened one of the two cedar chests. Inside, there was a small collection of pistols and rifles. Also in the chest were a few serrated knives; the kind usually used for hunting.

“Oh, so whoever owned this must have been a hunter or something. No big deal. Maybe we can find a store or something who collects them.” But there was this look on her face that said she wasn’t exactly convinced. Before we could discuss it further, my friend Billy spoke up.

“Dude, no way, come see this! You should be able to make some cash off of these!” Good man. I quickly went over to Billy, who was standing by the old desk. “Watches are worth big bucks man!”

I high fived him as I saw what he was talking about. In one of the open drawers, there were probably about 20 different watches. Some of them looked pretty expensive, the old school kind. Most of them were wrist watches, with two or three pocket watches thrown in. Two of them were even Rolexes according to the label. I was psyched. I began taking them out of the drawer and placing them on top of the desk so I could take them with us. Then I began going through the other drawers to see what else I could find.

Opening the next drawer, I got a bit confused. No watches or valuables here. Just a bunch of old drivers licenses. According to the dates on them, they were at least 20 years old. The people they belonged to were pretty diverse; young, old, men, women, white, black, and from a bunch of different states. Why would someone need or keep these?

“Babe?” Christine called out. Her voice seemed much more afraid than it had last time. “What are these?”

As I walked over to her, I couldn’t help but feel a bit tense. Something felt wrong. She was standing by the duffel bag I was about to open. She had beaten me to it, but looked genuinely afraid of something. I immediately gave her a kiss and a hug to make her feel better, which she gladly accepted. When I kissed her, I could feel how uneasy she was.

“What is it?” I asked. Now she was really starting to concern me. Christine looked pale and so terrified. She didn’t say a word but reached down and pulled something out of the red and faded duffel bag. It looked like a stack of trading cards or something.

“Here,” was all she said as I looked at whatever it was. They were a stack of old pictures. Polaroid brand, the kind that automatically developed back in the day. As I looked through the pictures, I felt like I had just taken a cold shower.

At first, the pictures were of just random things. A campsite, a house, a minivan, a trailer, stuff like that. One of the pictures was of the same car that was in our unit. Except in the picture, it was way cleaner. Then, random people began to show up; people outside walking, fishing, and in an even creepier twist, some of them looked like they were sleeping.

Then the pictures got weirder. Pictures of masked men in orange ski masks began to pop up. In most pictures, they were flashing some of the knives and guns that I had seen in the chest. I could feel my heart rate beginning to pick up, but I tried to take a deep breath to calm myself down. This had to just be a joke, right? Only one way to find out, so I kept going.

Some of the people who had been photographed unknowingly were appearing again. But believe me, they weren’t unknowingly being photographed now. This time, they knew someone was taking their picture, and it absolutely terrified them. You didn’t need to say it, but I felt that they were all being held at gunpoint or something. You could almost feel the fear in their eyes, it popped out of the pictures. Some of them looked like they had been shaken awake or caught in the middle of something. I tried telling myself this was just more of a sick joke, but that didn’t seem to be working. Something within me didn’t buy it.

Just when I had thought it could not get any worse, it did. Now there were pictures of countless people; men, women, entire families, looking like they were being held hostage or something. They were all tied up with rope and everything. It was without a doubt the scariest thing I had ever seen. The guys in orange ski masks were back to pose with these people, the same way a fisherman or hunter might pose with a piece of game they caught. As I kept going, it was undeniable these pictures were no joke. I won’t tell you what exactly the last few pictures showed, but I truly hope the only time any of you has seen anything like it was during a movie. With a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, I realized something.

I had seen some of these people before. Just moments ago. On their driver’s license pictures.

Immediately, I dropped the photos. They scattered all over the floor, but I didn’t even notice. My hands suddenly felt dirty; I looked at them like they were contaminated or something.

“Don’t touch another thing,” I ordered to everyone in the unit without even looking up. “Look at those pictures. Christine and I will be right back.” Without even looking, I grabbed her hand and hastily walked across the lot to Larry’s office. Without knocking or anything, I barged inside.

“No deal, we want our money back. We did not pay for whatever the hell freak show is in there.”

“What?” He just sat there stunned.

“Call the cops and then go look at the pictures we found.” Christine stood beside me silently, her hand tightly gripping mine. Then Larry followed us to the unit. His reaction was about the same as mine. He immediately called the police and told them what was up.

The police came soon after and we told them what we found. Larry gave them all records he had for that account and that was it. Because of confidentiality agreements, he honestly had no idea what was in any of his units. The cops told us they would be in touch with anything they found. Christine and I promptly got our money back and left. Needless to say, we would be using a different place to keep our stuff.

A few days ago, we got an update. Some of the old drivers’ licenses matched up to a several decades old missing person cases. While I doubt they will, I hope they find out who had that unit before I did and what happened to the people whose stuff we found. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Teller of Tales. Author of The Heroin Heiress

More From Thought Catalog