Long-lost treasure reveals history and mystery
When Lynnfield resident Charmayne Platt opened a purple shoe bag she found stashed underneath the floorboards of her attic stairs, she didn’t just unearth a treasure — she began a journey into history.
In March 2006, Platt, a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer who had since formed her own global property management company, CHHP Properties, was in Chicago when she received a phone call from her husband, Bernard.
Bernard, who had been searching for houses in the area, was taking a Sunday drive through Lynnfield when he stopped to tour a 1912 house for sale at 725 Salem St.
“He went in, and he called me up, and he said, ‘Char, this house is gorgeous.’ He said, ‘I know if we work on it, it’ll look even more beautiful … it has really good bones’ and then he said, ‘I see you smiling in every room.’”
Platt said she was convinced by her husband’s pitch and encouraged him to make an offer. Within a year, the couple began renovating their new home. They brought in a talented carpenter and joiner from England who renovated the house’s French doors and replaced some of its rotting beams and steps.
During a rainstorm one night, Platt and Bernard walked up the stairs to the attic when Bernard noticed that one of the steps sounded hollow as he walked up.
“My husband says, ‘I think this is a false step,’ he says, ‘It just sounds hollow.’ So he kind of looked at it, and sure enough, he could open it up, and it was like a little hiding place,” Platt said.
Finding what they believed to be nothing but an empty secret compartment, the couple carried out their lives normally. A few months later, when Platt and Bernard hosted Christmas Eve with their four children and two grandchildren — Caitlyn and Juliette — the family gathered in the attic, and Platt showed them the hollow step, letting them take a look inside.
The children did not find anything in the step, but when Platt decided to take a closer look a few days after Christmas, she felt something “furry” tucked away in the compartment.
“I took my hand out for a minute, gave it a shake, and then went, ‘oh my gosh, oh my gosh,’ I pulled out a purple Kinney shoe bag. I opened the bag just a little bit and when I looked inside, all I saw was tons of jewelry.”
When she opened the shoe bag, Platt found an array of expensive jewelry pieces, including a then-45-year-old Rolex watch, a number of cameo brooches, gold pins with amethyst details, and diamond bracelets.
Having served as a Mountie, Platt said her investigative instincts immediately kicked in when she found the treasure, and she was determined to return it to its rightful owner. She called her next-door neighbor and asked if he knew the house’s former owner.
Platt’s neighbor, Peter, told her that a man named Mark Healey had lived in the house roughly 12 years prior to her move in 2006. After noticing a money clip engraved “MH” among the jewelry, Platt called Healey’s workplace in an attempt to track him down. She found out that he had recently retired and left Healey’s former workplace her cell number after explaining that she found something of value in his house.
Roughly two weeks later, Healey called Platt and was able to list all of the items in the shoe bag. He said the items belonged to his mother’s family, and when he moved, he couldn’t find it and assumed it was left in storage.
“He came to the house, we had tea, and he named off a whole bunch of stuff in the bag. I was pretty confident it was his, and I said to him, ‘I will give you all of this. You have to promise me you will pick to wrap it up for Christmas and take a picture of your wife when she opens it because I want to see her reaction,’ ” Platt said. “He was so happy, and he sent me a beautiful box of L.A. Burdick chocolates.”
Roughly two years after returning Healey’s treasure, Platt returned to her attic once again to find a high chair for her daughter’s baby. She noticed water dripping from the attic roof onto the high chair tray and stood on a chair to inspect the leak.
“I put my hand up and felt where the water was, and, oh my gosh, a chain fell down,” Platt said. “I yelled down to my husband, and he came up… He got on the chair, and he pulled out four more little boxes of jewelry. We had a whole attic, and the jewelry was right where it leaked.”
In her second treasure discovery at 725 Salem St., Platt found multiple decoratively-engraved antique Waltham Watch Company pocket watches, more cameo brooches, a number of kilt and hat pins, earrings, and a long gold object with an amethyst on the end.
Platt said she called Healey upon discovering the jewelry to determine whether it also belonged to him. Healey, Platt said, did not recognize any of the newly-discovered objects. Unsure of who left behind her second attic treasure, Platt stashed the jewelry boxes away and carried on with her life.
It wasn’t until 2019 when Calvary Christian Church Pastor Timothy Schmidt approached Platt while she mowed her front lawn and informed her that President Calvin Coolidge was rumored to have frequented her attic.
“He said there was a lady here at the church a couple of weeks ago, and she really wanted to see the house. Apparently, she lived in that house, and when she was a little girl, the President of the U.S. came to visit all the time, and he would have bourbon and play with train sets up in the attic,” Platt said.
In October, Platt called the woman and learned that she did not live in the house, but rather, it was her husband’s childhood home. She said she hopes to give the woman a tour of the house the next time they connect, and perhaps uncover some clues about her attic treasure.