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Contractor Tom Guelcher was recently restoring a porch on an old house in St. Paul when something unexpected fell out of a hollow wooden column.

It was an old, unopened bottle of whisky, hidden there years ago. Attached was a well-worn business card.

The name on the card: Tom Guelcher.

If this were a "Twilight Zone" episode, Rod Serling would step out of the shadows and introduce a story about time travel or doppelgangers or alternate universes. The real explanation isn't quite so otherworldly.

Over his long career, the 64-year-old has routinely hidden a bottle of booze under floorboards or behind walls or beneath stair treads while working on home repair projects.

"I put them in areas where eventually things get replaced," he said.

Sometimes he would leave a dollar bill or coin or a note: "Greetings from the past."

To Guelcher they were a sort of buried treasure or a time capsule to be discovered by some future house restorer.

"It's a little treat for a future generation of contractors who work on the house," Guelcher said. "It preserves a tiny piece of me to someone out there in the future."

Woodworker Tom Guelcher shares how he drank a bottle of whiskey that he found in a project that he was working on in a porch in Minneapolis.
Woodworker Tom Guelcher shares how he drank a bottle of whiskey that he found in a project that he was working on in a porch in Minneapolis.

Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

He estimates that there are about 30 or 40 bottles of liquor or wine hiding in the woodwork of old Twin Cities houses thanks to him.

But Guelcher, who specializes in restoring porches (, forgot he had stashed a bottle of booze nearly 20 years ago at this house in St. Paul's Crocus Hill neighborhood.

"I didn't remember putting it in there," he said.

Guelcher's helper, Mark Kolhoff first saw the bottle fall to the bottom of a half column on the porch as he was taking out the floorboards in mid-November.

"I thought, 'What in the world is this?' " Kolhoff said.

He saw amber liquid in a plastic bottle and thought that somehow a bottle of Murphy Oil Soap was left inside the porch.

When they pried the bottle free, it turned out to be Yukon Jack, the 100-proof "Black Sheep of Canadian Liquors," a concoction of Canadian whisky and honey.

Hiding something — often including a date — is a practice followed by many contractors, carpenters and remodelers, though it's not talked about much. Guelcher said he occasionally finds late 19th century newspapers hidden in old houses he's worked on. Once he found an old chisel that some long ago carpenter must have accidentally dropped and lost. Guelcher sharpened it up and uses it today.

Another time Guelcher found the remnants of a disassembled horse carriage, some ancient Schlitz beer bottles and motor oil for a new-fangled contraption called the horseless carriage all underneath the porch of an old house in the Kenwood neighborhood of Minneapolis.

"It's fun when you find something people leave behind," Guelcher said.

Fascination with artifacts from the past hidden in houses is why there's a Things Found in Walls Facebook group, and why Guelcher leaves stuff behind waiting to be discovered.

"I always thought, 'How cool would it be to find something in the past?'" he said.

But Guelcher said he hadn't heard of anyone finding one of his hidden treasures until he found one himself.

And what did Guelcher and Kolhoff do with the bottle of Yukon Jack?

They drank it at the end of their work day.

"It had aged so nicely," Guelcher said.