My town’s Geraldo Rivera Al Capone’s safe moment… almost

There was a little extra added excitement this year as my town prepared for the Memorial Day commemoration. It had recently been discovered that, screwed into the back of our veterans monument, was a time capsule. It was put there in 1987, and was supposed to be opened in 2000.

Apparently, we were told in a town email blast last week, the town missed the deadline.

My town’s veterans monument. Time capsule is around the back.

There was a lot of speculation as people met, vaxxed and ready for some fun, at the bakery and local store about what could be in the time capsule. The speculation was hedged, though, with low expectations, because, after all, 1987 wasn’t really that long ago. And it was supposed to be opened in 2000? Would everything really have changed so much in 13 years that the items would be that interesting? Hell, in 2000 I was still wearing clothes I’d bought in 1987. Hell, there were even coffee stains and crumbs on my clothes in 2000 that got there in 1987.

But still, it was something. After the Memorial Day service at the cemetery, the party would move down to the village. The time time capsule would be unscrewed from the back of the monument and brought across the street to the Village Green, where it would be opened in a time-capsule-opening ceremony.

I was even going to be there, camera in hand, to document the moment for the town newsletter, which I’m putting together this weekend and planned to save a spot for.

Time capsule (circled) attached to the back of the town veterans memorial.

You may be thinking this sounds like the opening chapter of a cozy mystery that’s trying a little too hard. Folks, towns like mine are where plots for cozy mysteries are born.  I can assure you, this is pure nonfiction.

Then, this morning, another email blast from the town office landed in my inbox. It had the disheartening subject line “Time capsule opening canceled.” No unnecessary capitalization. No overdone punctuation. No bolding and italics.

Something was obviously very wrong.

If you’re of a certain age, you may remember the hoopla around TV personality Geraldo Rivera’s televised opening of Al Capone’s safe in 1986. If memory serves, there was a lot of hype and speculation leading up to it. Everyone watched it on TV. (Yes, it was simpler time). When he opened it, it was empty.

That exquisite moment of deflation may have been in the minds of the good residents of my town who, in an abundance of caution as we like to say these days, decided to check the time capsule before Monday’s big opening.

“A couple of volunteers opened it only to find mud and water,” the email from the town office said.

If you’re like me, the empty time capsule raises more questions that a full time capsule would’ve.

Was it opened in 2000 after all, but no one remembered? That’s possible. The select board can’t even remember what they agreed to about shoveling the brick sidewalks when they approved them six years ago.

Did someone sneak over to the monument in the dark of night at some point over the past 33 years and unscrew it themself and take what was in it? Possible. It seems to just be secured by two Phillips head screws.

Full disclosure, I can see the back of the monument from my living room couch and don’t recall seeing any suspicious activity. Or any activity at all, come to think of it. But I’ve only lived here 10 years.

Closeup of the time capsule. Note the super-secure phillips head screws.

Whatever the answer, I find an empty time capsule much more intriguing than one that probably would’ve had a casette tape of Banarama’s  Greatest Hits, a pump spray bottle of Love’s Baby Soft and the Harry Hamlin Sexiest Man Alive edition of People magazine.

I’m often asked where writers get their ideas. I have an author event tonight where I betcha I’ll be asked that very question if I don’t beat them to the punch. This right here is it. When I read that email this morning, before all the other questions, the first question in my mind was, “How can I work this into my book?” And I’m not even writing a cozy.

EVENT NOTE: If I amuse you to the point you think you can stand listening to me for an hour or so, I’ll be the guest of Dover, New Hampshire’s, A Freethinker’s Book Store tonight at 7, via Zoom. If you’d like to check it out, register by clicking here.

About Maureen Milliken

Maureen Milliken is the author of the Bernie O’Dea mystery series. Follow her on Twitter at @mmilliken47 and like her Facebook page at Maureen Milliken mysteries. Sign up for email updates at She hosts the podcast Crime&Stuff with her sister Rebecca Milliken.
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4 Responses to My town’s Geraldo Rivera Al Capone’s safe moment… almost

  1. John Clark says:

    Suppose it was really a thyme capsule meant for a mysterious fellow named Herb?

  2. sandy neily says:

    I LOVED how you could see the memorial from your “couch.” And how your author brain churned on the whole thing. I’d love to listen in tonight but am at the DF library. Please send me a link to listen later. S

  3. itslorrie says:

    So many possibilities… I hope you use this idea.

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