Most homeowners who have even just a small plot of land will feel the urge to make changes to it over time. They hire landscapers to dig, trench, uproot, and redistribute the vegetation for a fresh new look. Sometimes in the process of doing just that, they find a surprise they never expected.

After a harsh winter storm, Staten Island resident Matthew Emanuel’s backyard was left in shambles. He hired a team of landscapers to give it a complete overhaul, but what they uncovered while working left Matthew and his family scrambling for answers.

 For as long as Matthew Emanuel could remember, he enjoyed putting extra effort into the aesthetic appeal of his property. He was proud of his home in Todt Hill, Staten Island, and although he didn’t own a huge plot of land, it was always well-maintained.

He lived in Todt Hill with his wife, Maria, and son. For the four years they lived there, the whole family had spent countless hours decorating their small but cozy backyard, but it wasn’t until early 2018 they gave the whole thing an overhaul.

See, a harsh winter storm hit earlier in the year, and it decimated most of the vegetation in the Emanuel’s backyard. They had seen plenty of snowfall throughout the previous years, but this walloping did irreparable damage.

On top of all of it, once the snow completely melted, roaming deer ate up most of what was left. After years of ensuring their property looked immaculate, it was time to bring in a professional landscaper and give the thinned-out place a huge renovation.

Matthew did some research before he finally settled on a professional landscaper named Robert Foley, who also went by the nickname “Bamboo Bob.” He had decades of experience in the New York area.

The plan was to have Bamboo Bob place a large thicket of bamboo on one side of Matthew’s garden; the deer would avoid it, and it would offer the family privacy from their neighbors. However, not long into the process, Bamboo Bob and his crew came across a mysterious metal box.

It didn’t take long to see the strange metallic box was actually a safe. Matthew told Bamboo Bob he’d seen the top of it poking out of the grass but always assumed it was an old rusted electrical box. Bamboo Bob grabbed a hammer and cracked right into the safe.

Matthew, his family, and the whole landscaping crew were stunned when the safe broke apart. There, piled in front of them, were dozens of stacks of $100 bills and a bag full of jewelry. For four years, the treasure had been poking out of the lawn!

Unfortunately, Matthew quickly realized the safe wasn’t waterproof, and over the years, plenty of liquid found its way in and destroyed a lot of the money!

After counting all of the money in the soggy stacks, there was about $5,000 that Matthew wasn’t able to save. But, some bills dried, and those totaled a whopping $16,300 in cold hard cash! And, that didn’t even take into the account all the jewelry.

Everything wrapped up in the jewelry bag was made of pure gold. Matthew grabbed a kitchen scale and piled everything on, but as he was cataloging it, he saw a folded piece of paper at the bottom of the bag. This piqued his interest more than the gold.

Matthew unfolded the paper and was surprised to see an address scrawled on it. He assumed it was the address of the people who owned the safe. He punched it into his phone’s map, and the results completely caught him off guard. 

The address was nearby. In fact, he passed it by every day while walking the dog. He could even see it through the plants on his property. He had to find out why his neighbor’s safe had been lodged in his yard for so long.

A lot of people would have kept the money and jewelry. It had been there for four years, after all, so clearly, no one was searching for it, right? But, Matthew was honest, and two days after the safe was opened, he visited the address.

He knocked on the door and an elderly woman answered. Matthew cut right to the chase and asked, “Have you ever been robbed before?” The color drained from her face.

The old woman solemnly nodded her head and confirmed that the day after Christmas in 2011, she was robbed — of $52,000 worth of money and jewelry, to be exact!

From 2005 to 2015, Staten Island was hit with a string of serial burglaries by a man police nicknamed the “Ninja Burglar.” He robbed 160 homes in Staten Island, and many were located right there in Todt Hill — had he stolen from this woman, too?

While the specifics of the buried safe were unknown — if it was related to the Ninja Burglar or why it was in Matthew’s yard — were never uncovered, the woman confirmed the contents were hers. Matthew was elated — he told the local news the only thing he wanted out of the entire ordeal was good karma.

The Emanuel family wanted to commemorate the once-in-a-lifetime experience, so they had a ceramic elephant placed in the spot where the safe was found. It represented both the elderly woman reuniting with her items and the honesty and respect which the Emanuel family values.

 No one could have ever known this safe was filled with money and jewelry, and it very well could have stayed that way forever if the Emanuel’s never renovated their backyard. For more info on this story, you can check out the video below!