Tin boxes marked only with a logo and the words, “Open me,” prompted police responses in Boston and Cambridge Saturday.
But for the passersby who heeded the directions on the mysterious objects, they found a small treasure: cold, hard cash.
Several containers were found throughout the region, including two in Boston and one in Cambridge that spurred law enforcement investigations.
“Boston Police are investigating whether these items were placed with malicious intent,” the department said in a statement. “Police are advising community members to exercise caution should they discover similar objects and to call 911 immediately.”
The mysterious objects are reportedly part of a global social experiment, with similar items having turned up recently in Switzerland, New Zealand, Italy, and Germany.
Here’s what we know about the boxes:
Where were they found?
Cambridge police responded to a report of a possible suspicious package Saturday afternoon, Jeremy Warnick, a department spokesman, told Boston.com Monday.
The discovery was made at the intersection of John F. Kennedy Street and Memorial Drive, according to The Boston Globe.
In Boston, the boxes were found at the Charlestown Navy Yard and at the intersection of Beacon and Tremont streets, the newspaper reports.
Warnick said the object found in Cambridge was similar to those found across the river in Boston.
“As a result, we did notify Boston and State officials and a broader investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding these incidents remains ongoing,” he said in an email Monday.
Amy Brown found one of the tin cans in Cambridge’s John F. Kennedy Memorial Park Friday while she was walking her dog, Bronson, according to the Globe.
She told the newspaper she thought the item could be “some sort of hoax or Candid Camera-type thing.”
Her boyfriend wrote about the discovery on Reddit and said that a sticker indicated the box was one of over 900.
“Either there are a lot of these things around (though no real reason to think they’re all in Boston), or that’s a real complicated red herring,” he wrote.
An Instagram page under the username snoopos, which shows several of the boxes in locations around the world, indicates another box was found on Boston Common.
What was inside them?
The box Brown opened and kept as well as the other one found in Cambridge each contained $50, while others apparently housed $10 bills.
A note included with the cash reads, “Today fortune strikes. You’ve found yourself lucky enough to come across this box. You can keep the box and the treasure it holds.”
Brown told the Globe she was shocked by the find, and said she wasn’t concerned the tin box included an explosive or that it was placed there with ill intent.
“I didn’t think someone was trying to blow up me, 28 geese, my dog, and two people next to me,” she said.
Warnick said while police determined the object they found was not suspicious, he advised the public should remain vigilant in similar situations.
“We want to make sure people are taking the proper safety precautions and notifying police in the event that they see any abandoned property that may appear suspicious to avoid any potential public safety issues,” Warnick said. “As always, we strongly encourage ‘see something, say something.'”
Who put them there?
A group supposedly based in Rome is behind the giveaway as part of a social experiment, Universal Hub reports.
A person claiming to be involved in the effort detailed the initiative in response to a story about the packages on the news website.
“Sorry for causing all the trouble, we did not mean to! We are doing a social experiment all around the globe in which we are giving away money in these boxes,” the person said. “The goal of it is to find out what people do with money they would not have had. We are more than happy that people already donated the money to charity.”
The snoopos Instagram page includes the logo emblazoned on each of the containers as well as a hint for more to come on Sept. 9.
In the meantime, other boxes were discovered in Germany and the Netherlands on Monday.