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Old 05-22-2020, 10:22 AM   #1
Tubby
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Long read...

Last year, Shannon’s sister was cleaning her house out getting ready to sell it. She had their grandmothers safe that hasn’t been opened in 25ish years. The grandmother passed away several years ago and she was the only one that knew the combination. I was elected to bring the safe home and see what I could do with it.


Old Victor floor safe, weights appx 600#. They began making them in 1885 but this one was made at or a little after 1920. Reason why I know that will be explained later...

I got it moved and set it in my garage and researched in my spare time.

I knew of a guy not far from here that had a robotic safe dialer. I tried to get in touch with him several times but never got a response. I hope he’s ok as he was fairly old.

So, without his help, there’s not a lot of information online to help crack this type of safe as it doesn’t have a separate handle in order to “feel” for the gates. Luckily, there were two numbers marked on the dial. On a couple forums it said one number in particular was used more often than not as the last number. Knowing it was a 4 digit combination, knowing what could be the last number and having two numbers marked I decided to give it a try. Well, one of the marked numbers was the potential last number. I sat down in my garage and started in... beginning the turns to the left first, going thru the potential marked numbers in the sequence that normally happens with safes (4,3,2,1), no luck. Decided to begin the pattern going right.

Here’s where it gets weird... the supposed last number is 54. So I go thru a number sequence, stop on 54, try to turn the dial and there’s a lot of resistance... CLUNK! It opened!! I couldn’t believe it!! I texted Shannon a picture and told her that I wasn’t going to open the inner door until she got home from work. It took me a total of NINE minutes!



She gets home and she tells me that her dad said there’s supposed to be some gold bars in there. Turns out, there wasn’t. Mostly paperwork, old computer cassette recorders (pre-floppy discs), some jewelry (some valuable, some broken, some cheap) and a few coin collections.



Cue the eerie music...

This is where things go crazy. I knew better than to close the safe without verifying the combination. So I engaged the bolts with the door open. Tried the combination again... and again... and again... for an hour and a half. Switched things up in the number sequence, and the direction of the dial... no luck. So I decide to remove the doors inside panel to access the locking mechanism... I got lucky in more ways than one...




See those glass vials towards the bottom? That’s not a light... That’s tear gas! It was used as a booietrap. They didn’t start doing that until 1920. The wire is strung taught behind the locking mechanism and wrapped around one of the screws... so if someone were to try to break into the safe by “punching” the dial, it would put tension on the wire and POP! Tear gas!

Now cue the Mission Impossible theme music... I CAREFULLY remove the screws to access the gates. Everything is going smooth until the eerie music begins to play again... I turned the dial to verify the gate positions. Turns out, the combination I tried DID NOT WORK! I’m sitting there watching the dials and gates as I’m verifying the numbers on the dial. They weren’t even remotely close! Then I decided to try the combination by going the opposite direction on the dial for the first number. Everything works for the first 3 numbers. Once I got to 54 where it opened the first time, no go... I still can’t explain it because when I opened it the first time, I verified the number on the dial after it was open....

So, I tried both combinations numerous times to verify and they worked flawlessly. I closed the safe and tried both again without failure. Now begins the long process of cleaning and restoring this 100 year old piece of history.

Sorry for the long read but I honestly don’t know how it opened for me. Maybe Shannon’s grandmother was lending me a hand.


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Last edited by Tubby; 05-22-2020 at 10:39 AM.
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:27 AM   #2
savage1134
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That is awesome! Glad you didn't get gassed!
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:27 AM   #3
JustinJ
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Thats awesome.

Theres a podcast called "Stuff You Should Know". They did an episode on cracking safes and it was pretty interesting. Might check it out.
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:30 AM   #4
hog_down
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You sir, should go out and buy $20 worth of lottery tickets ASAP.

That is awesome, thanks for sharing such a great story.
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:31 AM   #5
Uncle Saggy
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That’s **** cool


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Old 05-22-2020, 10:31 AM   #6
sboudreaux
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That's really neat, great write up too!!
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:32 AM   #7
Puncher51
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That’s awesome!! Glad you got it opened!
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:34 AM   #8
Chew
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Great story! I always knew u wuz a cracka
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:35 AM   #9
ccbrown50
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Very cool. Enjoyed the read.
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:38 AM   #10
Tomkat70
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Cool read thanks for sharing and congrats on the bounty.
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:45 AM   #11
Katch66
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Cool! Better lucky than good. Lol
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:49 AM   #12
ATXArcher
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Cool story. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:49 AM   #13
myway
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How cool is that! Were you aware of the possibility of the gas when you started? That is a very cool piece please share some photos when you complete the re store.
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:54 AM   #14
Tubby
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Quote:
Originally Posted by myway View Post
How cool is that! Were you aware of the possibility of the gas when you started? That is a very cool piece please share some photos when you complete the re store.
It never crossed my mind. Shannon's sister said her grandmother always said "don't mess with that safe, it has gas in it". She told me that when I moved the safe and I laughed it off thinking it was a way to keep the kids from messing with it.

Once I took the panel off and saw it, I told myself "oh hell". Yesterday I researched what it could be and a couple forums stated it was tear gas. Once reading that, I remembered movies about safe crackers getting "gassed" trying to break into a safe. I always thought that was a movie myth as you never heard about it... I guess its not a myth after all!

As far as the restoration, It'll probably be just a deep cleaning inside and out. I doubt I'll actually "restore" it but may look into that in the future.
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:56 AM   #15
Charrison
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Love these types of stories!
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:56 AM   #16
TxSon1836
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that is really cool! we will never know how it came open and i am sure a blast to the face of 1920s tear gas would be sooooooo much worse then getting hit with 2020 tear gas idk why i feel that way but feel its riht haha. congrats on getting it open! hope there is a safe restore DIY thread soon.
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:56 AM   #17
Go Pokes
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I have that exact same safe. Everything looks the same other than my interior door still has the keyed lock.
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:59 AM   #18
Tubby
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Originally Posted by Go Pokes View Post
I have that exact same safe. Everything looks the same other than my interior door still has the keyed lock.
I KNEW someone would chime in with the same type of safe!!! By chance is 54 part of your combination??

I debated on starting a thread a while back asking who had one of if they had any knowledge about them. I wish I would have but I'm kinda glad I didn't as it was an awesome experience in itself.
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:01 AM   #19
myway
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tubby View Post
It never crossed my mind. Shannon's sister said her grandmother always said "don't mess with that safe, it has gas in it". She told me that when I moved the safe and I laughed it off thinking it was a way to keep the kids from messing with it.

Once I took the panel off and saw it, I told myself "oh hell". Yesterday I researched what it could be and a couple forums stated it was tear gas. Once reading that, I remembered movies about safe crackers getting "gassed" trying to break into a safe. I always thought that was a movie myth as you never heard about it... I guess its not a myth after all!

As far as the restoration, It'll probably be just a deep cleaning inside and out. I doubt I'll actually "restore" it but may look into that in the future.
Man that makes it even cooler. I would have thought the same no doubt.
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:04 AM   #20
Go Pokes
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I don't think so...I would have to look though. I had no idea it had gas inside it. Guess mine could be a different year without gas...hopefully. Looks identical other than my grandpa painted it grey. It was still in my grandparents house when I bought it.
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:05 AM   #21
SmTx
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That tear gas is rowdy
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:07 AM   #22
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So what are you gonna do with the tear gas? So many possibilities come to mind.

Putting one under the toilet seat at deer camp could be awesome. Just make sure everyone had a big meal that day
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:09 AM   #23
Tubby
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Go Pokes View Post
I don't think so...I would have to look though. I had no idea it had gas inside it. Guess mine could be a different year without gas...hopefully. Looks identical other than my grandpa painted it grey. It was still in my grandparents house when I bought it.
If you haven't and you decide to remove the interior door panel, be careful! That metal is thicker and heavier than you think and will want to slide down as it's not sitting on much of a lip.
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:10 AM   #24
Tubby
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Originally Posted by AntlerCollector View Post
So what are you gonna do with the tear gas? So many possibilities come to mind.

Putting one under the toilet seat at deer camp could be awesome. Just make sure everyone had a big meal that day
It's going to stay right where it is!!! I think it's cool to have an actual boobietrap!
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:11 AM   #25
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That's awesome!
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:16 AM   #26
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Cool. Play with the tear gas. Maybe we can get your son vick involved somehow.
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:16 AM   #27
twosixteens
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Guardian Angel?
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:16 AM   #28
Tjciranni
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That is really cool.
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:54 AM   #29
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That's cool stuff.
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Old 05-22-2020, 12:04 PM   #30
Big Lee
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The tear gas part is amazing. It might conceal the cure for Corona lol
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Old 05-22-2020, 12:20 PM   #31
louieagarcia
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Supercool!
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Old 05-22-2020, 12:31 PM   #32
roberts
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That is really cool. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 05-22-2020, 12:37 PM   #33
chrisgunguy
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Cool. Want to sell the safe?
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Old 05-22-2020, 12:50 PM   #34
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Wow!
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Old 05-22-2020, 01:03 PM   #35
Tubby
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Cool. Want to sell the safe?
No sir. It's been in their family possibly since it was new.
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Old 05-22-2020, 01:06 PM   #36
Snakelover
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Fascinating stuff!
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Old 05-22-2020, 01:06 PM   #37
Charles
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Cool story and cooler safe.
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Old 05-22-2020, 01:10 PM   #38
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Awesome, thanks for sharing!
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Old 05-22-2020, 01:19 PM   #39
texan16
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****, that's freaky and cool at the same time.
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Old 05-22-2020, 01:52 PM   #40
ETX-Deerslayer
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Absolutely love the history aspect of this story as well as all of the interesting twists and turns. Thanks so much for sharing!!! I want ZERO part of any tear gas, let alone... tear gas from 1920. . What are some of the oldest dates on documents...? That type of thing is interesting to me.


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Old 05-22-2020, 01:59 PM   #41
Tubby
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Originally Posted by ETX-Deerslayer View Post
Absolutely love the history aspect of this story as well as all of the interesting twists and turns. Thanks so much for sharing!!! I want ZERO part of any tear gas, let alone... tear gas from 1920. . What are some of the oldest dates on documents...? That type of thing is interesting to me.


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Oldest thing in there was a hand written letter dated 1904. It had been repaired several times with Scotch tape. There was also a birth announcement Shannon's grandmother had sent to someone when Shannon's mother was born in 1948. How it ended up back in the safe, I have no idea. It had a 3 cent stamp on the envelope.
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:05 PM   #42
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Cool story.


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Old 05-22-2020, 02:05 PM   #43
ETX-Deerslayer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tubby View Post
Oldest thing in there was a hand written letter dated 1904. It had been repaired several times with Scotch tape. There was also a birth announcement Shannon's grandmother had sent to someone when Shannon's mother was born in 1948. How it ended up back in the safe, I have no idea. It had a 3 cent stamp on the envelope.

1904 letter is really cool. Well done sir.


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Old 05-22-2020, 02:12 PM   #44
Tubby
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Originally Posted by ETX-Deerslayer View Post
1904 letter is really cool. Well done sir.


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Another thing that I found interesting and you probably will also...


When it first opened... the smell... you know, that old smell. Like walking into a 100 year old house. I know the safe isn't airtight but the smell hit me like a ton of bricks as soon as it cracked open.
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:16 PM   #45
bps3040
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Very cool. Love these type of stories
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:17 PM   #46
TX_Hoghunter
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Way cool.

-john
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:25 PM   #47
rtarcher
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Been in the safe cracking business for more than 20 years and I still learn something new almost every day. More times than not, those old safes never open, even with the "correct combination! Congratulations!

Todd
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:45 PM   #48
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Thanks for sharing...…………………….
Now, call Geraldo and rub his nose in it...…………...
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Old 05-22-2020, 03:22 PM   #49
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Awesome ness
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Old 05-22-2020, 03:42 PM   #50
3ChordTruth
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Cool story, and good pics of the safe. Getting those numbers to work, and not finding that tear gas the hard way I agree, Grandmother might have been around.
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