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Four strange things that could be hiding in your home

7 min read
12 Mar 2019

Whether you’re doing some home renovations and smashing down a wall, ripping up the carpet, or just going about your business, you may encounter something you didn’t expect to find. Some of it might be amazing, and perhaps terrifying, such as a beehive in the roof of a Queensland home[1]

Be sure to keep a lookout for these crazy finds around your house.

1. Snakes

Sometimes you might not find a serpent, it might find you. In 2018, tradesmen working on a property in Townsville encountered a snake in the toilet.[2] Snakes may slither in through an open door or window. There are also stories of snakes slithering up toilets through the pipes, though this is extremely rare.[3]

In January 2019, professional snake catchers warned pet owners to keep their cats inside and birds in their cages as two family cats were eaten by carpet pythons that had moved onto the property.[4] Earlier in the month, three people were bitten by snakes in Queensland in one night, which was attributed to snakes seeking cooler areas during the hot summer and an increase in housing developments bringing residents face-to-face with snakes.[5]

If you’re worried about a snake making itself at home in your property, there are some steps you can take to deter these unwelcome intruders:

  • Keep shrubs trimmed and lawns mowed to reduce cover for snakes to hide in.
  • Remove rubble, wood, or any piles of material that might make a nice dry home for a snake.
  • If you have a compost bin, make sure it has a secure lid. Snakes may lay their eggs inside compost heaps.
  • Have a fine mesh around ponds or aviaries, as frogs and birds attract hungry snakes.[6]

If you do see a snake on your property and it isn’t leaving anytime soon, do not try to kill it or handle it, as the snake may attack if provoked. Be sure to contact a professional snake handler to remove it safely.[7]

a dark coloured snake in a toilet bowl

Bear in mind, home insurance generally does not cover damage caused by pests, insects or vermin, so it’s important to take steps to prevent such incidents from occurring.[8]

2. Witch repellents

When renovating an old house, you might uncover a peculiar item in the walls, under the floor or up a chimney. Designed to protect the house from magic, ghosts and witchcraft, these items have a long history dating back to Australia’s colonial days.

Also known as ‘ritual objects, these witch repellents can include a single shoe on its own, a glass or stone jar containing nail clippings, bits of felt or leather and other grizzly bits, and in some cases, a mummified cat![9]

These rare, and in some cases disturbing, finds dates back centuries to European superstitious practices, but in some cases have been found in buildings constructed in the early 1900s.[10] It’s highly unlikely that you’ll find a ritual object in a modern home.

If you do find one, be sure to take some notes and a photo of it where you found the item and contact your local museum or state archaeological body, as even small items can be a significant part of Australia’s history.[11]

old, dirty, dusty shoe on the ground

3. Cash

In contrast to finding a mummified cat, the prospect of finding cold hard cash is an exciting one. Real life examples rival the scene from 80’s film The Goonies when the hidden treasure is found in the attic.

People have found cash hidden in walls, in hidden safes under floors, in attics, buried in the garden,[12] inside curtain rods and even fake pipes, drains and vents designed to conceal things.[13] If you’re working in the garden, landscaping or renovating your home, you might find some hidden money, but such cases are rare.

What do you do if you find money hidden away in your home? If you discover a sum of money, especially a sizable amount, you are obliged to try and locate the owner as best as you can, otherwise you could be found guilty of ‘stealing by finding’.[14]

Basically, it is an offence to try and profit from someone else’s property, even if it was lost or forgotten.[15] Further, if the money was the proceeds of crime or was stolen and hidden away, that can lead to you getting into further trouble.[16]

If you declare the money to local police and have attempted to contact the previous owner or find out who left the money behind, you may be able to keep it; if the police cannot ascertain who owns the money and have ruled out the possibility the money was from criminal activity.[17]

Australian money in hessian bag

It’s always best to be honest, and realise that in a rare case of finding a large amount of money, it’s unlikely you’ll be allowed to keep it.

4. Drug residue

Speaking of illegal activity, finding out that your home is contaminated by residue from the previous owner’s secret drug lab is a concerning discovery. Drug residue in a home poses a serious health risk, especially to young children.[18]

The most common drug residue in houses is methamphetamine, also known as speed, ice and crystal meth. Australia has the dubious honour of having one of the highest rates of meth use in the world. Exposure to residue can lead to breathing difficulty, itchy skin, headaches, irritability, loss of concentration and other side effects.[19]

When purchasing or renting a property you suspect may have once been a meth lab, it’s recommended you perform a preliminary test using detecting kits, as cleaning a contaminated house can cost tens of thousands of dollars.[20]

Signs that the property may have once been used for cooking meth include:

  • Strong, pungent or sour smells like ammonia, rotten eggs, fertiliser or acetone.
  • The soil, pavement or driveway are discoloured.
  • Rigged or modified vents.
  • Increased security like extra locks on doors or barred windows.[21]

As meth use and production increase, home insurance providers are evaluating their policies, meaning you might be paying a higher excess or annual premium to include meth clean-up or related costs in your home insurance policy.[22]

men in protective suits stand outside a house

Hopefully, you don’t uncover these things in your home, whether renovating or not. If you are renovating your home, you can learn more about the risks of renovating to make sure you won’t blow the budget or void your insurance.

Sources:

[1] Apiarist strikes gold finding more than 50,000 bees in a bathroom brood and ‘monster’ hive packed with honey. Jennifer Nichols, ABC News. 2018.

[2] Huge Snakes Taking Over Toilets In Australian Homes. Mark Andrews, Elite Readers. 2018.

[3] Can snakes really come up a toilet pipe? Bambi Turner, How Stuff Works. 2014.

[4] Snake catchers urge pet owners to keep cats indoors for their safety and sake of wildlife. Patrick Williams, ABC News. 2019.

[5] Three people bitten by snakes overnight in Queensland. Aaron Buch, Brisbane Times. 2019.

[6] Who can remove a snake from my garden or house? Office of Environment and Heritage, New South Wales Government. 2018.

[7] Snakes: Frequently asked questions. Department of Environment and Science, Queensland Government. 2018.

[8] Simply Smarter Home & Contents Insurance: Product Disclosure Statement – Part A. Budget Direct. 2016.

[9] Ritual Objects. Ian Evans, World of Old Houses. 2007.

[10] Warding off evil with shoes and dead cats. Jeannette McMahon, ABC Newcastle, ABC News. 2012.

[11] Report a discovery. Queensland Government. 2017.

[12] Finders Keepers? People who have found stacks of cash hidden in their homes. Pauline Morrissey, Domain Australia. 2015.

[13] Crazy Places People Hide Money. Barbara Sedoric, Lasting Matters. 2018.

[14] ‘Finders Keepers’ or Stealing by Finding? Corney and Lind Lawyers. 2018.

[15] Stealing by finding – there is such an offence. Queensland Police Service, Queensland Government. 2014.

[16] Theft and Receiving. Legal Services Commission of South Australia, Government of South Australia. 2014.

[17] Finders keepers – what should you do if you find a large amount of money? Ugur Nedim, Sydney Criminal Lawyers. 2014.

[18] Illicit drug smoke houses. Healthy WA, Department of Health, Government of Western Australia. 2018.

[19] Meth Lab Decontamination Services. National Trauma and Crime Scene Cleaning. 2018.

[20] Our Dream House Was a Meth Lab. Australian Institute of Conveyancers NSW. 2017.

[21] Warning signs of possible meth use and production in your rental property. Meth Labs Australi. 2017.

[22] Insurers Crack Down On Cover For Meth Damage. Narcotect. 2017.

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Written by James McCay

James is a devoted husband, father, animal lover and history buff (particularly medieval history). He studied Creative and Professional Writing at QUT, and is often buried in a book. James also enjoys historical re-enactment, spending time with his dogs, and making furniture out of reclaimed wood. He hopes to make a positive difference for readers through his writing.

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