What do an Academy Award, a painting, and a golden room have in common? They're all incredibly valuable, and they've all gone missing! Many famous items have mysteriously disappeared over the years, leaving us wondering what happened to these lost artifacts.
The Amber Room
Created for the first King of Prussia, Frederick I, this palatial chamber was once considered to be an eighth wonder of the world. The panels lining the room's walls contained over 13,000 pounds of amber and nearly 1,000 pounds of gold covering almost 600 square feet. The room was gifted to Peter the Great of Russia and moved to Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, where it remained until World War II.
When Germany invaded St. Petersburg, art curators tried and failed to move or hide the room, and it fell into the hands of the Nazis. They successfully disassembled the panels and moved them to Königsberg Castle. Until 1945, the amber room was displayed inside of the castle, along with other art looted by Nazi forces. When World War II ended and Königsberg Castle was destroyed in a Russian siege, the room was never seen again. Some believe it was destroyed along with the castle, while others say it was hidden in a mine or tunnel. If it is still around, pieces of the room could be worth millions for the lucky finders.
Half of Hitchcock's ‘The White Shadow'
Even great directors make box office bombs on occasion, and Alfred Hitchcock, best known for classic horror films like ‘The Birds' and ‘Psycho', is no exception. ‘The White Shadow' was written, directed, designed, and edited by Hitchcock in 1923, and it was an utter failure in theaters. In those days, film reels were highly flammable and expensive to transport, which meant that unsuccessful films were often destroyed instead of being sent back to the studio. Unsurprisingly, all known reels of this film disappeared after its run in theaters.
Then, in 2011, three of the six reels of ‘The White Shadow' resurfaced unexpectedly in New Zealand. A projectionist in the 1920's couldn't bring himself to destroy bad movies that weren't being sent back to the studios. He instead kept them, amassing a formidable collection in his garden shed. Among the films he kept was half of Hitchcock's movie, the only reels ever to be discovered. While the last three reels have never been found, there's hope for them being out there somewhere.
Artwork Looted during World War II
When Nazi forces attempted to conquer Europe, they weren't content to simply grab up land and take control of governments. In addition to pushing across the continent with military forces, they looted homes, museums, and universities for artwork. Often, the artwork taken ended up in repositories filled with stolen pieces located in as diverse places as salt mines, castles, and jail cells. Toward the end of the war, there was even a special group formed by the U.S. government to locate these caches, often called Monuments Men.
Even with all of the work put into hunting down plundered art, many pieces remain missing today. Included in the lost pieces are works like Klimt's ‘Portrait of Trude Steiner', which was seized from art collector Jenny Steiner and sold to an unknown person, and Degas' ‘Five Dancing Women', which is still missing despite a lawsuit which returned much of the stolen collection of which it was part.
The Contents of Qin Shi Huang's Tomb
Unlike other items on this list, we know exactly where this is located. However, getting into the tomb is another matter entirely. The first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, died in 210 BC. Prior to his death, he spent an exorbitant amount of time and money building an underground mausoleum that rivals the pyramids of Egypt. Measuring almost four miles in circumference and 228 feet deep, the tomb was made to be a complete city for the Emperor to rule in the afterlife.
Unlike the Egyptians, who entombed live people and animals with their dead rulers, the Emperor of China was buried with clay, stone, and metal representations of his retinue, including an entire army of terracotta soldiers. While some of the outer tomb was excavated after it was rediscovered in the 1970's, the inner tomb remains sealed. Legend states that the Emperor's resting place is guarded by dangerous traps and filled with rivers of mercury, which the ancient Chinese believed would bring eternal life. Soil samples taken from around it confirm a dangerous level of mercury is present inside making opening the tomb a deadly prospect. Because of the contamination, we may never know what lies inside or if the Emperor's body is really there.
Alice Brady's Oscar
In 1937, Alice Brady's role in the film ‘In Old Chicago' netted her the Academy Award for best supporting actress. Unfortunately, Brady was unable to attend the ceremony due to illness. Typically, nominees send someone to receive awards in their stead when they're unable to attend an award ceremony, and that was what seemed to be the case when a man stepped up on stage after her name was announced. He gave a short speech, took the award, and then departed, never to be seen again.
Unfortunately, this mysterious stranger was not Brady's representative, but an entirely unknown person with no connection to the actress. Though Brady was issued a replacement, the man couldn't be identified; her original award was never recovered. Some have speculated that the award never went missing and that the man was the director of ‘In Old Chicago', while others say that he was actually a friend of Brady's who dressed up as her in films while she was sick to help her hide he