Lost and Found

Photograph by Walter Smalling

New York's Grand Central Terminal is the largest facility of its kind in the world. A train arrives at or departs from Grand Central every two minutes; every day half a million people pass through it. Once in a while one of them inadvertently leaves a little something behind.

If some unscrupulous person doesn't make off with it first, that little something is carried down to a small room tucked away in a remote corner of the terminal's lower level. In all, 15,000 items end up in Grand Central's Lost and Found every year. Last year 56 percent of them were recovered by their original owners. "Our goal is sixty percent,"says Steve Hutcher, the manager of the Lost and Found. "The low-value items—keys, one glove, a hat, stuff that no one comes looking for—are what drives our numbers down. When I got here, two years ago, we had three whole tubs filled with keys."

Photograph by Walter SmallingToday they've got it down to one tub. They still have several tubs of hardcover books. There's also a tub of cellular phones and pagers, a tub of eyeglasses, a tub of gloves, and a tub or two of compact umbrellas.

The terminal gets its share of expensive items, too. One day a purse came in containing two pairs of socks. "When we checked it out, we discovered that each pair of socks had five thousand dollars rolled up in it,"Hutcher says. The purse was quickly recovered. "We've had a couple of things from Tiffany's. And a ten-thousand-dollar fur coat. You'd be surprised—you actually get a lot of laptop computers. How could somebody leave behind something that valuable?"

And then there are the things that you would think passengers couldn't forget: prosthetic limbs, glass eyeballs, hairpieces, an urn containing a husband's ashes. "A huge, inflatable rubber raft," Hutcher says. "It's been here for two years."

Fred Chidester, who ran the Lost and Found before Hutcher, recalls, "A plastic surgeon once left two eyebrows and an earlobe."

Presented by

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Video

Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy."

Video

The Joy of Running in a Beautiful Place

A love letter to California's Marin Headlands

Video

'I Didn't Even Know What I Was Going Through'

A 17-year-old describes his struggles with depression.

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

More in National

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In