In the 1950’s it was time to air condition the big movie houses in Chicago. The Chicago Theatre was no exception. They figured the A/C equipment could be placed on the lower level directly below the main vestibule leading to the movie auditorium. The hallway was lined with large 4 by 6 foot wall vents with latice-like openings to distribute fresh air. In the process of opening the air chambers in the basement, they discovered hundreds of used wallets dating back as far as the 1920’s, covered in dust.
So your July Puzzler asked:
How did the wallets get there? And why were they there?
And now for the answer:
Pickpockets! The management concluded that it must have been pickpockets because there was no money in any of the wallets. Thousands of people would routinely crowd into the vestibule before they would be admitted into the theatre proper, allowing pickpockets to make the rounds. Also, the spaces in the lattice-work were perfect for the thieves to back up to and drop the newly emptied wallets through. I am also confident that the ornate decoration in the theatre helped to distract the victims’ attention as well.
Various kinds of identification cards, drivers licenses, and membership cards were found in the wallets. That information allowed theatre management to contact victims or their families all those years later and actually return many of the wallets.
Congratulations to all who guessed, or already knew, the solution. You are all awarded honorary membership in the Ancient and Venerable Order of the Bronze Wallet.