Amazingly, Our Slides Came Back


During the time that we lived in Westport, Connecticut, we had a burglary of our house. While I was at work and Joan went out for a brief time for shopping, a group of burglars broke into the house through the garage door. They took the TV, went upstairs and stripped pillowcases from the bed and filled them with whatever looked attractive, including Joan's jewelry case, the contents of the center drawer of the bedroom bureau etc. After being in the house only a few minutes, they left.

Among the things they took during their short visit were two leatherette-covered cases in the bedroom closet which must have looked like jewelry boxes too, containing all 1600 of our slides. This was all of our earliest pictures, including our wedding pictures (which had been taken by Tom and Peter). This was a major loss to us. Insurance could replace the blank film, but there was no way to replace the content of the pictures.

Also lost at that time were a number of other things of irreplaceable value, including my authentic gold Roman coin, one of three given to each of us three boys by Dr. Jacob Hirsch. And Joan lost almost all of her jewelry. While some of the items taken were eventually retrieved at the foot of a cliff in New Jersey (including some of Joan's checks with her address on them -- thus leading to us), most of the items were never found. Unfortunately, that also included the slides. I always had visions of the robbers in their car finally opening the cases, finding what was inside (which was VERY identifiable) and just opening the car window and tossing them out somewhere.

In any case, we mourned the loss of the slides and considered them lost forever.

Seven years later, after we had moved to Weston, Massachusetts, and then to Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Joan called me up at work at Bendix one day to say she had just received the following astonishing letter:

Brooklyn, N.Y.
May 5, 1976

Mr. Weil
1680 Laurelwood Dr.
City San Jose

Dear Sir:

About 5 years ago I went to Union City, New Jersey and I found under the snow, two small brief-cases containing a large number of negative films. I kept them waiting for an advertisement on the paper claiming them but it never came.
Two days ago, cleaning my closet I found the brief cases again and I opened both. To my surprise the above address was in.
If you are still interested in them contact me at my phone number (212) 522-0378 or write to me.
My address is
90 Schermerhorn
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11201
I contacted the police to get advise from them and they told me to write to you.
Sincerely yours,

I don't speak English because I am a Cuban. If you call me, please get an interpreter. Thank you.

Arnuflo Castelo


I immediately dug up someone around the office who could speak Spanish and called Mr. Castelo. We told him we wanted the slides and would immediately send him some money, both as a reward and to cover his expenses in sending the slides to us. When we received the slides we would send him again as much money for his troubles. He wanted to know how, if we lived in California, we had lost the slides in New Jersey and were now in Michigan! And we wanted to know how, if he didn't speak English, he had written the letter (he had a friend write it for him). We promptly sent off the money, complete with mailing instructions, and, several days later, the slides arrived, carefully wrapped for mailing. They were in virtually the identical condition that they had been in when I last saw them (some evidence of mildew and other dirt were already there before the robbery) -- except that about a dozen slides were missing. But the rest were back and in amazingly good shape.

Having received the slides, we sent off a thank-you letter, together with the rest of the promised money. It was returned as "Addressee Unknown"! That stumped us and alarmed us. What would have happened if our first letter and money had not reached him? But another phone call found him right where he should be and we re-sent the letter and money. We have not heard further from him, but presume that it was received.

We were also very lucky that the address he found on an envelope in one of the two boxes was from our San Jose house. The people who lived there were the only ones living in one of our previous houses who would have known where to find us. If the letter had been sent to any of the other houses we had lived in, it is doubtful that we would have ever received it.

As you can now see, it is a fascinating story and we were lucky to have something so valueless, but invaluable, returned to us from oblivion!

John W. Weil
June 10, 1999