Detective work and good samaritans combine to successfully reunite just a fraction of the lost items on London’s tubes, buses and taxis with the rightful owners. Astonishing stuff has been lost and found on the London Underground – although not necessarily retrieved by its owner – to the tune of 220,000 items per year. Since 1933, Transport for London’s log indicates 15 million items are turned in across the 249 network miles that handle 4 million passenger journeys per day.
Sherlock Holmes and Baker Street
One expects large numbers of lost caps and mittens, keys and umbrellas, walking sticks and spectacles, schoolbags and school lunches, mobiles and wallets, but the reality goes way beyond such mundane stuff. Every day, about 1,000 items found on the tube or on London buses make their way to be tagged up at the lost property depot located, fittingly enough, across the street from the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street.
A tour taken around that basement collection revealed a puffer fish skeleton, dozens of baby buggies, wheelchairs, and crutches, a purple ball gown, and some favorites which have been decorating the storage rooms for years, including a four-foot Mickey Mouse and a collection of voodoo masks, as reported by TimeOut. One for the record books was an empty coffin, actually a prop belonging to a theatre group.
Two human skulls in a bag turned out to belong to a university professor using them for lectures. A pair of breast implants were returned to a London surgeon’s office. Other body parts found include a pair of false eyeballs, a prosthetic arm, and a mound of false teeth. A home vasectomy kit, a Peruvian wedding gown, a kitchen sink, six mannequins, World War II gas masks, a lawn mower, water skis, a grandfather clock, a parachute, a stuffed gorilla suit, and a samurai sword make the lost on public transit oddity list. Perhaps most surprising of all, the Lost Property Office reported that a suitcase with £10,000 in crisp new bills was turned in.
Two urns of human ashes were lost and found, one successfully returned to the brother of the deceased in Germany, the other connected to a daughter after much research and a television broadcast 10 years later. It’s not surprising that thousands of everyday lost items never do reconnect. Nearly 10,000 items were reported missing in the busy July run up to the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Mobile phones by the thousands
An explosion in numbers of lost mobile phones reflects the increase in their use; more than 15,000 mobile phones were turned in from trains, buses and tubes in 2013. Most go unclaimed. About 10 percent of lost clothing is claimed, and for jewelry, chances are even more slim at only one in 20 retrieved. There are about 27,500 handbags hanging around the lost and found. Eventually, after three months, everything is donated to charity, auctioned off, or disposed of in the case of perishables. Some 300 toys left behind at Christmas were recently donated to the Salvation Army for redistribution.
If you’ve lost something, get in touch. Transport for London’s Lost Property Office is located at 200 Baker Street, near Regents Park, with opening hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m on weekdays. You can easily detect it…it’s just alongside the Sherlock Holmes Museum.