The Hidden Treasures Of The Lost Darwin Bank Vault

Light bulbs, a cockroach… and some mysterious safes

If there’s one thing you want to find in an old bank, it’s a mysterious room that’s remained locked for decades.

So when the Northern Territory government’s Michael Wells uncovered a ‘voucher room’ on the plans of the old Darwin Reserve Bank, the city became excited.

What could be inside this vault-like room? Money? Gold? Gold wrapped in money, wrapped in crocodiles?

The building currently houses a tourism company, Tourism Top End, but before that was used as a headquarters for the UN. But for at least 21 years, the solid steel door at the back – 100 mm thick - had remained locked shut.

“I asked around a little bit,” said Mr Wells from the Heritage Office, “and it turns out that no-one associated with the building can ever remember that door being open.”

It’s not the only mystery associated with the building.

Tourism Top End's Janine Fiddock told the ABC that staff believed the halls were haunted, by a ghost, who they called Toastie.

"Sometimes you smell toast when you come to work," Ms Fiddock said.

"There was a period of time where the same time every afternoon you would smell this smell of toast, and then it would just disappear. It was really quite frightening.”

So, instead of treasures untold, might this mystery room instead reveal unspeakable horrors? Perhaps a skeleton, its bony fingers wrapped around a knife… protruding from a toaster?

We needed resolution. So yesterday, the locksmiths came in. The full range of specialist equipment was needed: laptops, tiny cameras, drills, and this impressive thing that possibly only heavy-duty locksmiths and safe-crackers would know the name of.

Let’s call it a clampy-buttony thing
Let’s call it a clampy-buttony thing

With the government and media watching on with bated breath, the door finally swung open, to reveal… shelving.

BUT, that’s not all! Further investigation revealed some light bulbs, an old telephone, and a dead cockroach. (Did it like toast? Possibly!)

Plus there was a dusty ledger of loans, with a few entries dating back to 1985, which Mr Wells described as “absolutely pedantic”.

Most intriguing of all was a pair of safes – which none the large pile of keys left behind by the bank’s staff managed to fit.

"I didn't expect those other two safes, so we'll have to see if we can get them open," Mr Wells said. If only there were some professional locksmiths handy.

Mr Wells did shut down a couple of our major theories about what might lie inside.

"It's not a body, it's not big enough. And probably not gold bullion, because we were able to move them around."

Weightless? Sounds like a ghost to me. Have they found Toastie’s lair? Only time will tell.