6 Strange Inheritances & the Stories Behind Them

Updated

Strange Inheritances is a TV show on the Fox Business Network. The series examines unusual inheritances, and the host, Jamie Colby, tells the story behind them. 

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The show premiered in January 2015 and ended in April 2018. Over that span, there were 104 thirty-minute episodes over four seasons. Each episode told one story of a strange inheritance.

The host, Colby, traveled across the country to interview people who had strange inheritance stories. She also interviewed experts in the field who could add details about the bequeathed item. 

6 Examples of Strange Inheritances

While the following section describes some of the strange inheritance stories highlighted on the TV show, this section will describe different categories of odd inheritances.

1. When the bequeathed doesn't know the item existed

In some cases, the person who died knew they had a unique or valuable possession, but they didn't share this knowledge with anyone else. Instead, they quietly made arrangements for that item's ownership to transfer to a loved one after they died. 

2. When the bequeathed discovers a treasure among trash

We have all heard stories of people who found an item in grandma's attic worth a lot of money. Some families uncover treasures in those attic boxes or piled under a bunch of junk in the basement.

3. When the bequeathed inherits a prized possession

Perhaps your ancestor invested a lot of money in one prized possession. This item may have brought them great joy. At their death, the ownership is transferred to someone who may or may not have a use for or interest in the item.

4. When the bequeathed inherits a collection

Sometimes the individual items don't have a lot of value, but a collection of those items might. 

5. When the bequeathed inherits a headache

Unfortunately, some inheritance stories don't have a happy ending. Sometimes a person inherits an item or property that may come with problems that need to be solved.

6. When the bequeathed is a stranger

Perhaps the person who died had no close living relatives. In that case, the inheritance sometimes goes to family members who had little contact with the deceased before they died. 

In other cases, a person may leave their possessions to an unexpected individual surprised at receiving the windfall.

Stories From the Show Strange Inheritance

We took some time to watch a few episodes of Strange Inheritance. Here are some of the highlights. 

Original baseball cards from the 1880s

While you might be envisioning modern baseball cards that were sold with gum and had stats on the back, the original baseball cards were sold in the 1880s with sweets and tobacco. In the case of this strange inheritance, the deceased's family found baseball cards that were used as promotional items by their ancestor, who worked as a butcher.

These mint collection baseball cards were sold at auction.

Illinois property

An eccentric man living in Illinois was an outcast most of his life. So he wrote a will to leave his property and possessions to two relatively obscure actors residing on opposite ends of the country. 

300-year-old cello

Two sisters of a world-renowned cello player sold their father's cello made in 1707 by Stradivarius for an undisclosed amount of money. Their father originally purchased the instrument in the 1950s for $100,000.

Bonnie and Clyde's guns and personal items

Collections ranging in value are often handed down to the next generation. For example, in one episode of Strange Inheritance, the deceased's family inherited an extensive collection of Western memorabilia, including some of Bonnie and Clyde's guns and personal items. These items were taken from the death car after Bonnie and Clyde were killed by law enforcement.

Death Valley Thermometer

In another strange case, three sisters inherited the World's Tallest Thermometer located at the entrance to Death Valley. The roadside attraction cost $750,000 to build and was in bad shape when the ownership transferred to the sisters.

Exotic animal sanctuary

You probably watched Tiger King when the show was all the rage in 2020. Imagine inheriting a similar animal sanctuary, complete with animals that require expensive food and up-to-date, safe habitats. This scenario was described in one episode of Strange Inheritance.

Norman Rockwell painting

In this episode, the family knew that a Norman Rockwell painting was a part of their parent's art collection. In fact, the family knew the famous artist before they purchased the painting for $900. 

After the family's patriarch (and artist) was forced to leave his home for health reasons, the family let the Norman Rockwell painting be displayed in the Rockwell museum for safekeeping. Unfortunately, while the museum was on display, the family's patriarch died. 

Soon after, Rockwell experts examined the painting and realized it was a forgery. The deceased's family members were confused, as they knew that their father had purchased the original painting years before. They visited their deceased father's home and found a hidden compartment inside a wall. There, they found the original Rockwell painting.

Apparently, their father, who was also an artist, had painted the replica, which had been displayed in the Rockwell museum. The family sold the genuine Rockwell for over $15 million.

Gold mine

In one interesting episode, a man interested in the history of gold mines visits a Nevada town known for being a central location during the gold rush. He strikes up a conversation with an older woman, who appreciates the young man's interest in her life's passion. The woman, having no children, decides to bequeath her mine to the young man. This, of course, does not sit well with the extended family of the deceased, and they file a lawsuit.

The young man proves that the older woman was of sound mind when she wrote her will and retained ownership of what could be a valuable property. 

Celebrity autographs

An interesting collection of photographs and autographs was passed down to a friend during one episode of Strange Inheritance. The collector had gathered the photos and signatures during a life-long obsession with Hollywood and Broadway.

George Washington's wallet

A woman vows to keep George Washington's wallet in the family for as long as possible, as this was a treasured possession of her mother's. But unfortunately, the ownership of the historic item did not come without trouble, as the wallet was once stolen from the museum where it was held.

Father's diary

In one poignant episode, a daughter of a Holocaust survivor shows the host a written account of her father's experience during the Holocaust that she didn't know existed until after he died. The daughter learned that his father had another family – a wife and daughter – who he lost at a concentration camp during the war by reading the diary. 

Besides learning about her father's background, the daughter was also given an account of the art that her father produced that the Nazis had stolen. She took the information found in the diary and traveled to Europe to find her father's lost work. She managed to find many of the pieces her father had painted, and she donated them to museums so that others could learn about the Nazi atrocities by viewing her father's work.

Roadside attraction

A roadside attraction near the northern border of California was discussed in one episode. The attraction was in a grove of redwood trees. These trees had interesting growth patterns that made them even more amazing to view. 

The inheritance story described how a man returning from World War II purchased the attraction. He and his wife divorced, and the man left Northern California. The wife kept the business running. As she aged, her son returned to the area and helped her renovate and update the facility. After the woman died, the son took over ownership. 

During the final part of the broadcast, the son's daughter said that she planned to return to the site and dedicate her life to running the business that her grandfather had started. 

Lunar Bibles

Strange Inheritance tells the story of many unique collections that family members pass from one generation to another. In this story, the son of a NASA chaplain inherited more than a hundred Bibles that went to the moon.

How to Watch Strange Inheritance Online

Watching Strange Inheritance is as easy as doing a quick online search. You can watch the entire series on Fox. You can also view the series on Tubi, which is a free app that shows the program with only one commercial break. 

Have You Made Your Final Wishes Known?

Do you have an interesting collection that will need a new home after you are gone? Perhaps you have a mountain of possessions, and you aren't even sure if anything has value. Regardless of whether you have treasures or junk, it is wise to plan what happens to your possessions after you die.

You aren't alone if this raises your anxiety. Many others have had to make the difficult decision of what to do with their possessions, business, or property. 

However, it would be best if you talked with a trusted attorney to write a will or create a trust. Because as the host of Strange Inheritance says, "You can't take it with you!"

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