All the Bizarre Things Our Readers Have Found on the Beach - Atlas Obscura
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All the Bizarre Things Our Readers Have Found on the Beach

Functional light bulbs, messages from the dead, and lots and lots of dentures.

You folks found a lot of dentures. (These were found by reader Tamara Lohrey.)
You folks found a lot of dentures. (These were found by reader Tamara Lohrey.) Courtesy Tamara Lohrey

Summer is the right time to wander aimlessly, and the beach is a great place to do it. But you have to watch your step: the ocean is always tossing up weird trash and treasures, from rainbow-colored plastic eggs to mysterious sea blobs.

Last week, we asked Atlas Obscura readers to share the strangest things they had come across on the beach. Wow, did you deliver. The ocean, as you experience it, has a sense of humor and a sense of mystery. It’s full of trash, gifts, missives, and artifacts. (Plus dentures—lots and lots of dentures. At least nine of you have found false teeth, and some of you have come across more than one set.)

One of your best beach finds: "A papier-mâché rhino, rather the worse for wear."
One of your best beach finds: “A papier-mâché rhino, rather the worse for wear.” Courtesy Laura McMillan

There was strange synchronicity in many of these tales. Two people found their own class rings, returned to them after days or years. Some came across things that others might interpret as garbage, but seemed to be speaking directly to them. Others participated in larger flotsam-based cultural events, and told us about scooping up a mysterious piece of Tjipeter gutta-percha, or playing the East River Piano.

Below are some more of our favorite finds, collected and spread out just for you. Happy reading, and may the ocean give you what you need.

Ceramic tiles, polished smooth by the surf and found on the Amalfi Coast by reader Andrew Silow-Carroll.
Ceramic tiles, polished smooth by the surf and found on the Amalfi Coast by reader Andrew Silow-Carroll. Courtesy Andrew Silow-Carroll

Gifts From the Sea

“I found a large blue laundry basket in good shape with labels in Japanese. I used it for many years.” —Que Estavia, Seattle, Washington

“In 1987, I found a gold ring with my name enameled in Hawaiian. Never questioned it.” —Mary, Alberta, Canada

“A coconut—in perfect shape, wrapped up in seaweed. We took it home, cracked it and it was nicer than any I bought in the store.” —Robin Read, Vancouver Island, Canada

"A double size mattress, in pretty good condition considering," found by reader David Stone.
“A double size mattress, in pretty good condition considering,” found by reader David Stone. Courtesy David Stone

“A Little Mermaid-themed plastic comb. I was tide pooling in a pretty inaccessible rocky beach on the central Maine coast, about an hour north of Acadia National Park. It was caught in the seaweed hanging off the ocean side of one of the rocks. This just struck me as really funny because of how thematically appropriate it was … My mother and I joked that it belonged to a young mermaid who was a huge fan of the movie.” —Alex Hale, Chicago

“A man’s Timex watch. The leather band was badly damaged by the salt, sand, and time, and the back of the case was corroded. True to their advertising, it was still ticking.” —Bob Sawyer, Duluth, Georgia

Dave Curtis's figurine of Lakshmi.
Dave Curtis’s figurine of Lakshmi. Courtesy Dave Curtis

“While holidaying in Durban, South Africa with Indian friends I came across a small soapstone figure of Lakshmi. She is the Hindu deity for wealth and prosperity, our friends were very excited by the find and encouraged me to hang on to it. I did as it was quite pretty and unusual as the waves had weathered it. In the passing two years my life has completely changed, leaving my well-paid job of 14 years to pursue more fulfilling lesser-paid work. I have become happier in these last few years than I have in my previous 35 years. I don’t suggest that the figure itself has had the impact but maybe implanted something in me that makes me think differently than before. I keep her on my desk with me when I’m working at all times and several times a week will spot her and think.” —Dave Curtis, Kildare, Ireland

A clam shell partially fused into a volcanic rock, found by reader Shawn Jefferds.
A clam shell partially fused into a volcanic rock, found by reader Shawn Jefferds. Courtesy Shawn Jefferds

Life…Finds a Way

“At Sydney Harbour in 1996, I found a glass bottle with a shellfish shell inside. Lots of rubbish goes in the harbor so I just assumed the creature washed into the bottle when it was small and grew too big to get out. Once it died the shells were left stuck inside.” —Dianne, Australia

“After a heavy storm on the island of Senja in the north of Norway, I went for a walk on the beach and found several light bulbs, mostly quite old ones, some fluorescent tubes of 1m long. All of them were whole and one of them was still functioning when plugged into a socket!” —Oona Libens, Sweden

A Barbie head and torso, repurposed by a crab in the Bahamas and later found by reader Ellen Bulger.
A Barbie head and torso, repurposed by a crab in the Bahamas and later found by reader Ellen Bulger. Courtesy Ellen Bulger

“A whistle with a tiny crab in it. I put it back in the sea. I wonder if it found a better ‘home.’” —Marianne Davila, Northern Puerto Rico

“In Camp Osborn, south of Mantoloking, NJ, in the fall of 1975, the wind was stiff and blowing offshore. I noticed odd bits along the edge of the surf. There were dozens of exhausted butterflies that had been blown into the ocean and tossed back on the beach by the force of the waves. Some still moved, and I picked one up and held it in my hand as it tried to dry its wings. I stooped for another, and then another. Soon I had dozens and dozens of monarchs on my arms and shoulders and in my hair. I let them dry and rest as we walked along the strand. Soon I felt they were ready, and I carried them up to the dunes and deposited them in some bayberry bushes. As I left, I thanked God for the blessing I had just received. I often wonder how many of them made it all the way to Mexico for their annual migratory meet-up!” —Ron, Seaside Park, New Jersey

Prankster Ocean

“A note in a bottle that had been written about a year before. It had a man and a women’s name, the date, “May our love last an eternity,” and a phone number to call if found. The person who answered the phone was a friend of the man on the note. The couple had already gotten divorced … so much for eternity.” —Annie, New York

“Bikini bottoms. I was freediving near shore and I found them in the current. Did the person who lost their bikini bottoms walk away with no pants on after being unable to find them?” —Katie, Oahu, Hawaii

A mannequin head, thank goodness.
A mannequin head, thank goodness. Courtesy Dorothy Thompson

“In 2017, I was on an expedition cruise that stopped at Cinque Island in the Andaman Islands, a territory of India. I like to wander and take photos, which is what I was doing, quite alone, when I saw [what] appeared to be a human head on a stick. As I got closer, I was relieved to discover it was a mannequin head complete with hair. I showed the photo to a ranger and he said that it washed ashore and he stuck it on the stick.” —Dorothy Thompson, Wisconsin

"One beach-combing outing I found a part of a face. My husband and I suspect it may have something to do with CPR training."
“One beach-combing outing I found a part of a face. My husband and I suspect it may have something to do with CPR training.” Courtesy Jennifer Jeffers

“In the beginning of July, my family took a vacation to Anna Maria Island in Florida, and my mother was absolutely determined to find herself an intact sand dollar. It was the sixth day of our seven-day vacation, and our last day on the beach, so she was absolutely feverishly looking. I was floating out a ways on the paddleboard, and heard a high peal of hysterical laughter. I turned around to face the shore, and saw my mother, triumphantly holding a limp bit of what I thought was seaweed aloft, absolutely cackling. ‘What’d you find?’ I called out. ‘A sand dollar!’ she cried, almost doubled over with laughter. ‘I found a dollar in the sand!’” —Jordan, Kansas

"I hike the edge of the Hudson River between NJ and NY early in the mornings and find all sorts of weird washed up items... but the weirdest was a large portion of a spinal column."
“I hike the edge of the Hudson River between NJ and NY early in the mornings and find all sorts of weird washed up items… but the weirdest was a large portion of a spinal column.” Courtesy Jeff Wickliffe

Death…Also Finds a Way

“A few years back on the Eastern shore of Lake Michigan we found a dead calf on the beach. We were staying at a bed and breakfast and the innkeeper said, “Not another one. I guess my morning plan is burying it.” We theorize that it slipped into a Michigan or Wisconsin creek during heavy rains and drowned, or somehow fell off a boat.” —Lisa Rombes, Ann Arbor, Michigan

“Grew up in New York City, on Coney Island. One day, in the summer of 1942, when I was 11 years old, I saw that the beach was completely covered with thousands and thousands of freshly killed dead fish piled high! Later I learned that German submarines were actively attacking ships bringing supplies to Great Britain. Apparently the pressure of an exploding torpedo killed all those fish, which immediately were washed ashore.” —Yosef Bar-On, Israel

Seal flipper bones, found by a reader in a particularly creepy pose on Bell Island, Newfoundland.
Seal flipper bones, found by a reader in a particularly creepy pose on Bell Island, Newfoundland. Courtesy Sarah Gunberg

“My 14 year old son and his friend were fishing and found a metal box. They had no idea when they opened it, that it held the cremains of a person. There was no information as to from where it came.” —Oksana, Delaware

“When I was three years old, I ambled up the Lake Michigan beach towards my parents holding something long and hairy. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a scalp. There had been a plane crash near Chicago about a week earlier. My father buried it. I don’t remember this, but it is part of our family lore.” —Marilyn Green, The Sea Ranch, California

A mysterious TJIPETIR block, which turned out to be a piece of gutta-percha from West Java, Indonesia, found by reader Lucia Pec.
A mysterious TJIPETIR block, which turned out to be a piece of gutta-percha from West Java, Indonesia, found by reader Lucia Pec. Courtesy Lucia Pec

Marine Missed Connections

“Underwater camera, [found on] Paradise Island in the Bahamas. The last photo was a head-on picture of a bull shark.” —Ted Ryan, New York

“A 50-year happy anniversary balloon. It would have been my deceased husband and my 50th anniversary that year. He had been gone since 1994.” —Charlotte, North Cape May, New Jersey

A television and a chair, tossed over to the other side of Texas by Hurricane Rita and found by reader Marie Finnegan.
A television and a chair, tossed over to the other side of Texas by Hurricane Rita and found by reader Marie Finnegan. Courtesy Marie Finnegan

“In the summer of 1981 my mother, brother and I went to Jupiter, Florida. I had graduated that year. My brother had already bought his class ring. He lost it at the beach. 3 years later when I moved to Jupiter I found the ring just playing in the surf!” —Stacey Henrikson, Rochester Hills, Michigan

“On a totally empty beach, a sand toy in the shape of a letter H, found by my 2-year-old daughter whose name starts with an H. Her grandmother had just died, and it was as if the she had sent her a toy to play with, using the sea as a conveyance.” —Martina Ebert, California

Experts think that this fossil, found on North Carolina's Topsail Island by reader James McKelvey, may have once been the toe of a giant sloth.
Experts think that this fossil, found on North Carolina’s Topsail Island by reader James McKelvey, may have once been the toe of a giant sloth. Courtesy James McKelvey

Unsolved Mysteries

“I see a clear bottle, pick it up and see there is a piece of paper inside. ‘WOW, a message in a bottle, cool,’ I say. I dig out the cork and pull the paper out. In large printed letters, ‘I am watching you from the dunes. Look over your shoulder. I will keep watching you until the time is right. Be aware. Can you see me?’ Creepy, huh.” —Tim O’Brien, Nashville, Tennessee

“Oranges! Dozens of oranges.” —Barbara Annis, Ann Arbor, Michigan

“Part of a yellow pull tab from an airplane life vest, in Kauai, Hawaii in 2013. Did someone have to use it?” —Mimi Schreiber, San Rafael, California

"A huge, strange rusted cylinder," found by reader David Harztell in Northern California.
“A huge, strange rusted cylinder,” found by reader David Harztell in Northern California. Courtesy David Hartzell

“We rented a house in Maine on Glen Cove last year. We were enjoying some beach time when this small paper Obi Wan Kenobi came floating up to us from the water (coated in something waterproof I assume). We decided to leave it for the next renters, up on some rocks away from the water line. Next day it was gone. We assumed that the water had taken what it gave up. No worries, right? About 3 days later, we were back on the beach, and the tide was all the way out. We were looking for beach glass, nice rocks, anything interesting. Imagine our surprise when out about 75 yards, standing on a rock, was our beloved Obi Wan, looking towards the ocean. We left him there, just staring off to sea.” —Theresa G, Honeoye, New York

Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity and length.