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Tails from the crypt: Furs found in a cellar

December 28, 2007|From the Associated Press

BELLOWS FALLS, VT. — Sam Haskins didn't ask for a fur coat for Christmas. But he got six.

Haskins, the new owner of a hardware store, made an unexpected discovery early this month when he started poking around the basement: a climate-controlled vault containing six fur coats, about a dozen suits and some dresses and hats, apparently untouched since the late 1970s.

"The fans were spinning and the furs were spotless," said Haskins. "Everything inside was very nice and clean. The fan was set on 65 degrees and that is exactly what the thermometer read. Everyone wants to know who has been paying the electricity bill."

Haskins, 56, bought J&H Hardware in May and the building -- a three-story structure on the village square -- in September. In surveying the basement, he figured that there might be usable space hidden behind a wall that had hinges on it.

With son Jeremy Haskins, 27, he rented an electric hammer and then a jackhammer and eventually broke through 18 inches of brick and mortar, 4 inches of wallboard and then a concrete wall to find the room once used by Royal Furriers, a business that closed in the late 1970s.

Haskins said he had no idea what the coats were worth, but he planned to have them appraised.

It was unclear whether anyone could step forward to claim a long-lost coat -- or whether anyone who did would be on the hook for 30 years' worth of storage fees.

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