Locksmiths help man crack old, unlocked safe

Northeastern Security Safe and Lock Company volunteered to take a crack at unlocking the high-end safe from the 1800s.

Imagine renting an apartment in a 90-year-old house, then finding out there's a locked, unopened antique safe behind the wall in the bathroom.

With help from viewers, NBC 10 News secured a locksmith, and tagged along to see what's inside.

Northeastern Security Safe and Lock Company volunteered to take a crack at unlocking the high-end safe from the 1800s, which has numbers and letters on the dial, manufactured to keep the curious out.

"It's a unique challenge," said Joe Blum of Northeastern Security Safe and Lock Company. "[It's] exciting stuff."

Mike Dorf and his wife rented the two bedroom apartment on Charles Street in February. They moved from Maine, as they wanted be closer to family.

Two weeks after moving in, Mike decided to find a nearby McDonald's to have a cup of coffee.

By coincidence, he started a conversation with a man who lived in the same apartment 40 years ago.

"Amazing," said Mike. "Same house, same floor, and he walks me through."

The stranger told him the house used to be a funeral home. Before that, it was a bank, and previously something else.

The safe is hidden behind a small door in the bathroom next to the toilet.

"I pull the insulation away, and sure enough there's this huge safe," Mike said. "I can dream that there's something left over from the bank: bonds, gold, money. This whole thing is curious to me. I'm anxious to find out what's inside."

Mike's landlord, Rick Jones, had "unlocking the safe" on his list of "things to do."

"He was kind of joking around like, 'well, can I crack it and keep the money?'" said Jones, of Jones Development, LLC. "He was joking around and I was like, 'I don't think you can do that, and we'll probably work out something.' So, I was like, 'I'll give you 20 percent."

The company brought along a retired locksmith with a wealth of knowledge and intriguing experience. On Federal Hill years back, he said he opened a safe that encased millions of dollars.

"[There were] a lot of valuables inside - not only cash, but gold coins," Francesco Therisod said.

Minutes turned to hours, with the locksmiths carefully working their magic. But, no blow torches were allowed.

"You might burn the house down," said Jones. "A lot of these safes were booby-trapped, essentially. If you try to do damage to it, it'll either self-destruct inside or blow up."

Care was taken not to damage the antique too much. Four-and-a-half hours later, the locksmiths were able to line up the wheels of the lock inside.

With couple pounds of a hammer, it popped open.

"Bad news, guys," Blum said, with Mike adding, "That was part of the bargain."

Mike checked the drawers just in case.

"Not even a love letter," he said. "Nada."

NBC 10 learned that this is the case most of the time. But, it's "the sometimes" that keep the work from getting as stale as an empty compartment.

"I kind of expected this," Jones said. "Very cool though. I'm glad we did this."

Though it was disappointing, Mike plans to make the most of it.

"I'll put the copies of Victoria's Secret [in the safe]," Mike said with a laugh.

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