Guerneville Mystery: Rusty safe discovered during remodel of River Theater

Wayne Freedman Image
ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Rusty safe discovered during remodel of River Theater in Guerneville
During the remodeling of the River in Guerneville, workers discovered a rusty, steel safe. It is a complex safe, with a combination dial and an inner key lock requiring two keys, which are missing. It's a mystery that has the locals talking.

GUERNEVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- From Guerneville, a mystery. It's about a small box that has survived a lot of history and in obscurity, we might add, until now.

It's a study of contrasts and toil.

"Usually old concrete is soft," muttered John Obertelli from behind a dusty, sweaty face.

In Guerneville this summer, the sun is out, the water and beach sublime, and for a week, those attractions might as well be in another universe because of a compelling and evolving mystery inside the old River Theater.

"Did you know it was here?" we asked owner Jerry Knight.

"No," he responded.

It is a concrete encased, hidden old safe. Knight had brought in Obertelli for some renovation work. As of Tuesday morning, they still couldn't get the safe out or open.

"This was made by the Hermann Safe Company," said Knight. "They're the same people who installed safes inside the U.S. Mint. Supposedly, it can't be broken. If you go on line and check you can't use nitroglycerin, cannot drill it, cannot cut it."

But they were teased by the old steel pennies someone left sprinkled around it, maybe for good luck. Knight likes to fantasize about what might be inside.

His theory is that if someone worked this hard to hide it, "Twenty dollar gold pieces. Silver dollars? The deed to the town?"

"Yeah, just like the mystery of it," said Obertelli. "The unknown. Yeah. All about the unknown."

Here's what we do know - whoever hid the safe here intended that it remain here. Anyone who takes a turn in the excavation encounters stubborn concrete laced with rebar. Five minutes of labor, and he's likely to become an expert on futility. But finally, Tuesday afternoon, the team got that safe to budge, tilt, teeter, totter, and then crash onto a cart.

The safe weighs at least 300 pounds.

"There is something inside," said Knight. "I know it!"

Now, does anyone know a verified safe cracker?