The note (Image: Matthew Di Caterina/Facebook)

One night in October 1986, a student at the University of Adelaide in South Australia was working on a paper, when inspiration struck. The student, whose identity is a mystery, tore off a bit of paper, and started writing:

“This slip of paper serves as a time capsule for the first person to find it. As you read this, cast your mind back to 9:25 p.m. 14/10/1986. Ask yourself “where was i?” “what was I doing?” I was in the Barr Smith Library, writing an essay. Add the date you find this, on the back, and return the slip to be discovered again…and again…and again…”

Yesterday, Matthew Di Caterina found the note, the latest in a line of students to come across it. Eleven people before him had added their mark to the note after that first October entry: the book, published in 1976, was used regularly enough through the late ’80s that two or three students each year found the slip and decided to play along. 

There were no names, but, starting in 1987, the book’s readers added notes. It was one person’s birthday. A few were up late, or working on overdue essays. Everyone seemed to welcome a little break from schoolwork. 

After 1989, though, it seems the book fell out of use. There’s one entry from 2002; Di Caterina’s is the first after that. He posted his find on the “Overheard at Adelaide” Facebook group. He showed the library staff, too: the “reaction was pretty priceless,” he wrote. He’s not revealed what book he found the note in, though — it’ll be there as a surprise for some future student, one late night.

Bonus finds: An underwater city, an ancient six-foot-long sea scorpiongiant clams

Every day, we highlight one newly lost or found object, curiosity or wonder. Discover something unusual or amazing? Tell us about it! Send your finds to