Jul 21, 2014
12:58 PM
The Connecticut Story

Mystery Surrounds Enfield Time Capsule; Will Medical Examiner X-Ray It?

Mystery Surrounds Enfield Time Capsule; Will Medical Examiner X-Ray It?

Photos courtesy of the town of Enfield.

It’s the stuff movies are made of.

In the beginning of July, construction workers at Enfield High School were digging in preparation for the high school’s expansion when they stumbled upon something unexpected—an 8-foot slab of concrete that appears to be a time capsule (right and below), possibly filled with mementos from the past.

But just how distant a past is now in question. (What looks like a larger marker reportedly has an interior vessel that holds whatever is in there.)

There is writing etched into the concrete that contains some difficult to read dates. Initially, as excitement about the find spread across town and was covered by the media, many believed the writing said "1843-1943" and "Do not open until 2043." This reading of the time capsule’s writing suggests it could date to the 1840s. However, town officials and a member of the Enfield Historical Society believe it says “1893-1993,” and possibly “Do not open until 2093”; this reading has given rise to a more likely theory about its origins—that it dates to 1993, the year of Enfield High School’s centennial.

See our story about a Connecticut student hoping to send a time capsule to Mars 

“I think what's written on the stone is 1893 -1993,” says Mike Miller, a member of the Enfield Historical Society who has been investigating the capsule. “If you look at the 1993 Enfield High School yearbook that's what's on the cover.” Miller adds that the capsule was likely buried as part of the graduating class’ centennial celebration in 1993, and that he believes the do-not-open-until date on the capsule is 2093, 100 years after 1993.

Miller notes that the graduating class of 1993 was a small one, and that no alumni have stepped forward to shed light on the mystery.

While researching the capsule, Miller has been working with Enfield Assistant Town Manager Derrik Kennedy, who will make recommendations of what to do with the capsule to the Enfield Town Council at its next meeting on Aug. 4. There is a question of how to continue investigating the capsule’s origins and whether to open it or honor the wishes of those who made it and leave it sealed till 2043 or 2093.

“This is a really exciting event to happen in town,” Kennedy says. “We have been contacted by the state medical examiner to assist us if we wish to X-ray the capsule. The state history museum has also expressed interest in helping us display anything that may be inside.  We are reaching out to members of our community who may know more about the capsule and hope they can shed more light on it.”

In the meantime, Kennedy favors Miller’s theory that it was buried in 1993.

“[That] would make more sense as there were school upgrades in the ‘90’s,” he says.

Beyond the yearbook evidence, Miller also points out that the capsule was found in the area of the high school where graduating classes would leave their class gifts.

“I graduated from the high school in 1977; that's where we left stuff, and there's been trees and things planted, and I think there's been some type of memorial added since then,” he says.

There have long been rumors in Enfield of a time capsule buried at the high school, and Miller says these rumors seem more likely to have persisted if the capsule was buried in the 1990s. On top of that, the Enfield Historical Society has a well-marked time capsule that was buried in 1976. Members of the 1993 graduating class would have been familiar with this time capsule and were perhaps inspired by it.

Miller thinks he can prove definitively that the capsule was buried in 1993 by examining clippings from that year in Enfield’s weekly newspaper as he suspects the capsule’s burial was a public event that was documented.

“I think the answer is probably in the newspaper from 1993,” he says.

As he continues to investigate the capsule, Miller says he is not trying to dampen any of the enthusiasm surrounding it.

“I'm sure that it's a time capsule. I just think that it's a recent time capsule,” he says.

For his part, Kennedy says that no matter what the Town Council decides on Aug. 4, this object from the past will play some role in the town’s future.

“No matter what we decide to do with the capsule, it will be going back in the ground for future generations to discover, learn, and enjoy,” he says. 

Contact me by email eofgang@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazine on Twitter, on Facebook and Google +

Mystery Surrounds Enfield Time Capsule; Will Medical Examiner X-Ray It?

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