When local government officials of Ziebice, a small Polish village, looked up at one of the most prominent evangelist churches, they knew it was on its last legs. After standing for centuries, the old building needed a serious renovation if it was to survive.

The huge crew of construction workers tasked with revitalizing the structure were prepared for the enormity of the project. They were not, however, prepared to uncover a rare bit of history tucked away in a dark nook.

Renovating the Polish church was going to be dangerous. Construction crews were operating heavy equipment and working carefully on the scaffolding wrapped around huge spires… which were covered in several bullet holes!

G. Noculak

When brought to the attention of local historians, they theorized the bullet holes came from the Soviet Army after they invaded Poland in 1945, prior to the defeat of the Nazis. This, however, was far from the most interesting find.

Before the crew could dismantle the spire itself, they had to remove a small globe that rested on the very top. Once it was lowered to the ground, crews opened it up, and that’s when their jaws dropped.

Daily Mail

Inside the unassuming globe was a time capsule! No one had any idea it existed or how old it was. It was immediately brought to the attention of the Ziebice heritage organization, who couldn’t wait to crack it open.

The contents were carefully removed one by one and placed on a table. Local experts and historians sat around buzzing with excitement at the thought of what they might learn about the town’s history.

Gmina Ziębice / Facebook

Once everything was removed, the team realized there were so many more items in the capsule than they initially thought. It was meticulously packed so each relic would stand the test of time.

Gmina Ziębice / Facebook

Before any of the items would really get a thorough look, they were carefully dusted off with brushes to avoid any grime tarnishing them. This was too important a find to act carelessly with, no matter how excited everyone was.

Bartłomiej Paulus

The fact these papers remained so white blew the historians away! Some of these documents detailed the construction of the church and spoke about donors who offered up funds to help build it.

Gmina Ziębice / Facebook

It was this wax seal, which was popular on documents long ago, that ensured the papers stayed bound together while in the capsule, thus maintaining their condition. As more papers were read, more information was revealed.

Gmina Ziębice / Facebook

Apparently one of the notes was a friendly message from two local women who were kind enough to offer personal donations. While this was an amazing read, it was the date on the paper that stunned experts.

The time capsule was hidden in the spires globe in the year 1797! This was officially the oldest time capsule ever discovered on the entire continent of Europe. It was created when the town was part of the now defunct Kingdom of Prussia, and experts were excited to see what else it held.


A handful of coins were also stuffed inside the capsule, with the dates varying. Some were from the time the documents were written, while others were much more recent. Historians, however, had a theory behind the discrepancies.

Gmina Ziębice / Facebook

They proposed the idea that the capsule was actually found and removed around 1900 by church officials, who then placed coins of that era inside to indicate to future finders just how old everything was.

Wikimedia Commons

Marek Kowlaski, a member of the Lower Silesia Heritage Conservation, said, “These people wanted to tell us: we were here, we put our heart and life into this, and now you take it over and look after what we left here.”

Gmina Ziębice / Facebook

Mariusz Szpilarewicz, Ziębice’s mayor said, “It may be one of the oldest time capsules in the world. The oldest capsule in the world dates back to the 18th century and was discovered in Boston, Massachusetts. Our capsule is probably two years younger.”

The deputy mayor of Ziebice, a woman named Małgorzata Wołczyk, was equally as astonished. She explained after the contents underwent extensive conservation work they’d be handed off to a local museum for all to see.

Although the structure, which was built where a fifteenth-century castle once stood, did serve as an actual church, the building now served as a sports hall. Without the recent renovations, however, the capsule may have remained untouched for hundreds more years.

There have been suggestions by several of the historians, as well as town residents, to place copies of the documents inside a new time capsule and return it to the building. Of course, in creating a new time capsule, locals did have some concerns.


For instance, officials would need to pick the right items to bury. In 1957, Oklahoma locals similarly wanted to celebrate 50 years of statehood, so they built a time capsule. The results were devastating.

Bettmann / Contributor

City officials and locals wondered what they could bury that would give Tulsans 50 years later — on the state’s 100th birthday — an accurate depiction of ’50s life. Most time capsules, they knew, were about the size of a box. Oklahomans wanted to do bigger and better than that.

The perfect idea came soon enough: they would bury a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere. “In our judgment [the] Plymouth is a true representative of automobiles of this century – with the kind of lasting appeal that should still be in style 50 years from now,” a local official said.

Public Domain

And since this was going to be a momentous Oklahoma occasion, they wanted to add a few extras inside the car. There were statements and prayers from officials, some wooden nickels, and even a recording of “Riding into Tulsa” by Ralph Blane, who also wrote “Meet Me In St. Louis.”

There were a few other goods in “Miss Belvedere” — the car’s nickname — that were of note: the contents of a woman’s purse, a bottle of tranquilizers, and a case of beer. After the goods were safely placed in the car, it was time to wish the car goodbye.

Public Domain

Before being placed in her tomb, she was coated with a preservative substance. It was used by the U.S. Army on their military vehicles during World War II, so you know it had to have been seriously tested.

The crew that created the bunker for the car was also responsible for lowering her inside. Workers, of course, had staged a few practice lowerings so journalists could get some pictures. This definitely paid off because the car made the cover of Life Magazine.

Once Miss Belvedere was coated in preservatives and lowered into the bunker, and once photographers had their fill of photos, the workers sealed up the capsule with some concrete. They never could’ve guessed what would have become of their capsule.

Time, as time does, passed. As the years went by, the general public forgot about the car. But not Buck Rudd, below, Tulsa’s County Court House’s building operations deputy chief. Buck remembered the car, and he was worried.

James Plumlee / The Oklahoman

“There’s a lot of traffic going by only 15 or 20 feet from that thing,” Buck said. “We’ve been curious to know if vibrations from the heavy traffic might have caused it to crack. If moisture starts getting in there, it’s going to cause things to deteriorate.”

James Plumlee / The Oklahoman

Nevertheless, Buck was excited in 2007, when Miss Belvedere was set to be unearthed. The crowd was gathered. People were getting pumped. They wanted to see this car. They needed to see Miss Belvedere. A new crew cracked open the bunker.

James Plumlee / The Oklahoman

It was apparent right away that Miss Belvedere was in the need of a makeover. Her coating was covered in slimy, red mud and this was only the beginning. The vehicle was sitting in several feet of water. It turns out Buck’s comments were prophetic.

James Plumlee / The Oklahoman

The Plymouth was protected, but the tomb wasn’t. The water turned this vintage machine into a rust monster. Her engine was ruined, the beautiful upholstery was a mushy mess, the white-walled tires were completely flat. And that wasn’t all.

The two-toned paint job that had looked so elegant all those years ago on the cover of Life had crumbled into rust and desolation. Unfortunately, we aren’t sure how the beer or tranquilizers fared. Locals couldn’t believe it.

The people who were still around from the original “Golden Jubilee Week: Tulsa’s celebration of Oklahoma’s semi-centennial” were supremely disappointed. Their fabled Miss Belvedere wasn’t what they’d hoped for. Still, the car, they knew, was special.

The Oklahoman

Though the reveal hadn’t gone as planned, people were still clamoring to see the vehicle. What was left of Miss Belvedere was displayed at the Tulsa Convention Center, and she had a steady stream of visitors. Somehow, she became a legend outside of Tulsa — even outside Oklahoma!


She had even more visitors at her next spot, a local Dodge dealership. “Tons of people have been in today to see it. People are calling from Kansas and Arkansas wanting to know if they can come down and see it,” Heather Cody, Dodge spokesperson said.

Since the ceremony, Miss Belvedere has been passed among a number of dealers. No one held on to her for too long. Eventually, she made her way to Wayne Lensing of Historic Auto Attractions museum in Roscoe, Illinois. Still, the car raised some troubling questions.

The Oklahoman

Namely, what would become of the car Oklahomans buried in 1998? They buried another Plymouth — a Prowler this time — hoping to open it in 2048. Did Tulsans learn about the power of water-proofing before burying that car?

We won’t know until 2048, but we’d like to think Tulsans in 1998 were weary of the harm citywide meltdowns could cause. They’d witnessed an event just a few states over that proved the importance of making sure public events go off without a hitch.

James Plumlee / The Oklahoman

Maybe the most noteworthy public event to go off without a hitch was an infamous event in Cleveland, Ohio when the United Way charity devised a brilliant fundraising and publicity event centered around… balloons. But not just any balloons. No, the United Way had a monumental plan in store.

Wikimedia Commons

Specifically, United Way planned to break the Guinness World Record for most simultaneously released balloons. Disneyland in Anaheim held the then-current record of 1.2 million, set the year before, below. Could that record be broken?

Elaine Isaacson / Orange County Register

Organizers of the event — including Treb Heining, a balloon artist, below — hoped so, but they also had greater ambitions for the stunt. They wanted to earn the city of Cleveland much-deserved recognition.

“I think this [event],” Treb told the local news, “is a prime example of what United Way is trying to do in terms of saying, ‘Cleveland, it’s your time. It’s time to say yes; it’s time to say it is a happening city.'” A noble goal, indeed.

John Kuntz / The Plain Dealer

So starting in March of ’86, Treb, United Way, and Cleveland started collecting permits upon permits and hammering out logistics. Finally, on September 27th, the potentially record-breaking day arrived.

Thom Sheridan / Flickr; Ballooniversity

Organizers suspended a net a city block long above Public Square in Cleveland’s downtown, which held the helium-inflated balloons. Over 2,000 volunteers from all over the city gathered underneath.

The volunteers spent hours filling up balloon after balloon, hoping to reach 2 million and shatter the record set by Disneyland. Shortly after the effort began, though, the disasters started piling up…

The Atlantic / YouTube

Volunteers filling up and tying two or three balloons every minute for hours straight accumulated blisters all over their fingers — many required bandages on their hands. Others faced worse problems.

One woman, for example, had tied a collection of balloons to her wristwatch, only to watch the helium-filled balloons eventually carry her jewelry away. And worst of all? Grey skies loomed on the horizon.

United Way called for an early release to make sure that the balloons weren’t hampered by rain. Only 1.5 million had been filled by 1:50 p.m., but that was still enough for the record. So, giddy, volunteers pulled back the net…

The Atlantic / YouTube

At first, the balloons dazzled the crowd looking on. Blue, red, green, and yellow balloons swirled upward in a gorgeous display. “It was beautiful,” one spectator said. “It looked like confetti going up.” But the joy lasted only briefly.

Thom Sheridan / Flickr

You see, the plan, as United Way saw it, was for the balloons to float up, disperse, then biodegrade. That plan looked like a success as the balloons wrapped around Terminal Tower, below. Then the storm rolled in.

Thom Sheridan / Flickr

A cold front pushed the balloons back towards the ground, where some clogged the streets of downtown Cleveland. Others littered the runway at Burke Lakefront Airport, grounding all flights. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

See, the Coast Guard had been out on Lake Eerie all morning, looking for two missing fishermen after their small boat washed up without them. But mid-search, stray, storm-swept balloons descended on the water.

There, bobbing like bright buoys in the water, the balloons littered the water. This made the Coast Guard’s search for the 40-year-olds, Skip Sullivan and Raymond Broderick, nearly impossible…

The Atlantic / YouTube

Imagine trying to find a head or spotting a life jacket in waters filled with brightly colored spheres. “It’s like finding a needle in a haystack,” one searching Coast Guardsman said. For two days, the Guard found no signs of the men.

Two days later, both men washed up on shore, dead. Their wives sued United Way, arguing their husbands might have been found, was it not the fundraiser. This was one of many lawsuits the balloons caused.

As weeks passed, popped and deflated balloons washed up all over the Eerie shorelines, even in Canada. The event was an unmitigated disaster — but at least they had the record, right?

Wrong. Guinness refused to recognize United Way’s record-setting event. The organization couldn’t allow death, destruction, and poor organization to taint their record books—so Anaheim kept the record.

In the end, United Way’s fundraising event failed, though they did bring publicity to Cleveland, whatever that was worth. As of 32 years later, the charity, thankfully, has no plans to re-attempt a balloon launch.